In a recent discussion Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative was mentioned. People can [and have] argued for and against the idea evoked by an 18th Century philosopher since before I was a gleam in my father’s eye, and likely will continue to argue it long after the memory of my existence is forgotten.
The problem with the KCI and other ideals of moral guidance lies in people, the people who would either live up to a code of morals or ethics or who would violate same. Simply put it’s easy to be ‘good and moral’ by the standards of a society when a person’s contextual framework is optimal.
What happens when an individual’s context isn’t optimal? The answer to that question lies within the individual, including how, when, and where the person grew up. Under ideal conditions the person who neither suffers from mental defect nor illness who also learned to place the sensibilities and needs of others on a par with her / his own will likely continue to act in an ethical manner even when it’s not directly in his / her best interest. This tends to explain why someone will run into a burning building to save a trapped child, even when the odds are against success.
Things tend to get problematic when the person who neither suffers from mental defect nor illness didn’t grow up under ideal circumstances, as many people do not. Many societies promote ethical ideals while rewarding the opposite behavior. Many people adhere to what is commonly referred to as ‘Prosperity Gospel’, or the thought that bad things don’t happen to good people, which leads to blaming people for the results of factors and / or events they have no ability to influence much less control.
Add in the very human need to be accepted by one’s peers, the length of time it takes the human brain to mature, and the reality that during childhood a host of different influences can and will shape a child’s perspective [in often unpredictable ways]. This tends to explain why raising a child is akin to throwing dice; some of the worst parents can raise some of the most ethical well-behaved people, while some of the best parents can raise some of the most despicable amoral people.
As a writer, if I’m fortunate readers will be entertained by my work. As a person, if I’m lucky readers will learn something from my work that will help them make the world a better place. In either case, it doesn’t matter if I have a fourteen-year-old daughter who is perfectly capable of handling work intended for adults, or a great-aunt Tilly who would be scandalized by same. It doesn’t matter if the adult content relates to a description of sex, murder, war, mental illness, and etceteras. What does matter is that if I include content intended for a mentally mature audience, I indicate it up front.
If you’re wondering what prompted this, consider the following. In my lifetime I have had the dubious privilege of observing people who were considered good and moral by their peers, people whose actions were at times heinous. My closest neighbor, a retired LEO [Law Enforcement Officer], has had the same dubious honor in a different venue. You’d be amazed at some of the creative justifications people can come up with in an effort to absolve themselves of any and all responsibility including subsequent consequences for their actions.
When in doubt, either check the mature content box or get a second opinion. After all, what the kid who grew up in a war zone can handle is not necessarily what the adult who grew up in an affluent household can handle.