Real moral obligations make us super heroes, not resentful

My cliff notes from Your “shoulds” are not a duty:

Some worry that taking away their “shoulds” will lead them to do the morally wrong things, even though:

Moral relativists usually have no trouble remembering that their narrow, short-term desires (for comfort, pleasure, etc.) are internal, but many seem to forget that their wide, long-term desires (flourishing, less suffering, etc.) are also part of them.

The only reason to do the right thing is internal: Because you want to. What external forces are there? (Assume atheism, then) None.

But, the concern still makes sense: Our internal desires are often conflicting. Take the should compulsion away, and what’s to keep you from giving into your lazier impulses? This will be addressed in future posts.

But also, people resent shoulds for feeling like obligations they don’t really want. For example, working a job you hate because you need the money. To resent these obligations is to treat the shoulds as external, out of your control to fix.

Don’t resent the bad option for being better than the worse option — if you must resent something, resent the situation.

If you feel yourself resenting shoulds/obligations:

  • Remember “The shoulds were made for us, not us for them.”
  • Recall your obligations are in your power.
  • Stop thinking of your shoulds as an objective list of things you ought to do to be perfect, and will be judged against if you don’t.
  • Realize that if an imperative is unrealistic for you, psychologically, physically, or emotionally, then it is no obligation over you. In other words, if your sense of obligations seem impossible and that makes you feel bad, focus on how their impossibility invalidates them as obligations for you.
  • “Encountering an actual moral bond feels … like a privilege“. Like an internal fire. Joyful. Like something real that you touch, or that touches you, and your choice is already made.
    • (Fun link: “It feels like executing a Screw The Rules I’m Doing What’s Right trope“)
    • Contrast the feeling of resentment toward some task, with the feeling you’d have if you had to make a big sacrifice, but it meant saving the world!
  • For all of these reasons, if you feel resentment towards a should, it is a false should.
  • A real should is one that makes you accept that you’re on the right path.

Drop the shoulds that are a burden, and keep only those that are left that make you feel peacefully resolved.

Those moral impulses are not a reminder of your grudging duty. They are a reminder that you value things larger than yourself. They are a description of everything you’re fighting for. They are the birthright of humanity, they are your love for fellow sentient creatures, they are everything we struggle so hard to send upwards to the stars.

They aren’t a duty. They’re an honor.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.