Zachary Antoyan is a political science junior and Mustang Daily liberal columnist.
Honestly, I don’t know why people lose their shit over Nutella. I just don’t think the chocolate flavored nut butter tastes all that great. And despite the overwhelming support at other schools, such as Columbia, that spend more than $5,000 a week and consume more than 100 pounds of the stuff per day, I can’t bring myself to favor it over regular peanut butter. Now, this isn’t exactly the most popular opinion, however, it is one that I feel entitled to having.
When it comes to preferences, our opinions can be very binary, in that we group objects into these “like” or “dislike” categories (I’m sure the reasoning process is much more complicated, but bear with me). The reasons for placing anything into these categories vary from person to person, and most of the time, the reasons are non-arbitrary. Now, we make hundreds of these value judgements every day; determining based on our preferences what it is we like and don’t like to eat, to watch or listen to. Whether or not I choose to enjoy the sound of Nickelback is of very little consequence, as are my convictions for having such an opinion.
This, however, is not the case when it comes to moral and political issues. My reasoning for preferring regular donuts over cake donuts should be relatively simpler than my reasoning for supporting broader marriage equality. And the process for determining our opinions on moral subjects such as marriage rights can be difficult, confusing and fraught with uncertainty. In order to make these decisions easier, we have developed moral codes and maxims that help guide us through the uncertainty. Oftentimes, these codes provide for us a clear direction on tough issues and we act or think accordingly.
In other instances, however, they can lead us into contradictory and even hypocritical moral conclusions that come about as a result of our own conflicting values. But there is pressure to come to a moral conclusion nonetheless. Our moral codes, in addition to making things clear, force us to similarly group these big issues into “like” and “dislike” categories.
The pressure to come to a decision on these tough topics is perfectly exemplified both in policy and in the policy making process. We have developed an institutional process to evaluate moral issues on the grounds of our values, and the decisions made at the governmental level obviously have far reaching implications for the rest of the nation. Our extremely slow, systemic and methodological process for creating law in no way mirrors the way opinions are formed on an individual level.
Our reliance on moral codes has made us lazy and complacent when we form an opinion on an issue. Additionally, recent research suggests that our reasoning is often so heavily influenced by outside factors that contradiction and hypocrisy is the norm when it comes to moral values and judgements. In favor of coming to a conclusion, in favor of adhering to some made up moral code, we forgo the necessary process of considering some, if not all, of the angles on a topic.
Take for instance: abortion. Abortion is an issue on which I have no opinion. I am neither in favor of it, nor am I opposed to the action. Of course, there are hundreds of arguments both for and against it, but there is yet one that could convince me that either is “right.” Both sides violate moral values that I support, and as such, I cannot find myself agreeing with either side. Our government provides the forum upon which these ideas, concerns and values can clash and be decided. We shouldn’t, however, allow dogmatic beliefs in simplistic, binary and otherwise dug-in moral codes to dictate our opinions. It’s OK to not have an opinion, and it’s OK to question and consider multiple angles on difficult issues.
This is Zachary Antoyan, sitting down. Have a fantastic week.