Is Morality Man-Made?
My subject this evening is morality in general, and how we should think about it. I won’t be talking except incidentally about the correctness or incorrectness of particular moral principles. So If you came here to find out whether the president should be having sex with White House interns and if so, what kind of sex, I’m afraid you will be disappointed by what I have to say. But just like me, you have an intellectual interest in the whole important and often difficult phenomenon of moral belief and practice, I hope that you won’t be disappointed.
Before getting into my subject I ought to say something about the title of this talk and also something about where 1 am coming from in my views of morality. First, for the most part I am using the word “man” generically; that is, in asking whether morality is man-made I mean to be asking whether it is made by human beings and not whether it is made by human beings of the male gender. I do think that many historically important moral convictions are reasonably taken to unfairly favor males over females and to be due to males having been dominant in Western culture, but this is not what I want to talk about
As to were I am coming from. For many years I have regularly taught an introductory course in moral philosophy at the University of Utah. The philosophy department calls it Introduction to Ethics. Several years ago, one of the students in this class was a philosophy major who was a bit older than most of the other 50 or so students who were enrolled. He was bright and articulate and often contributed to the discussion in the first couple of weeks of the quarter. About three weeks in he came to tell me that he was dropping the class. He said that he found that many of the same topics would be treated in an advanced ethics class that he was taking. Then he added, “Besides I really feel uncomfortable in a class full of twenty-year-old Mormon kids.” I had to repress the inclination to respond, “But what about me? I feel the same way.”
These Mormon kids were clean cut, attractive, pleasant and generally intelligent young people. What made me uncomfortable was their bland assurance that morality was totally unproblematic, that there was no difficulty at all in knowing what was morally right and what was wrong, what was morally good and what was evil. Having taught and thought deeply about morality for many years, I, unlike them, find the whole subject to be immensely problematic. This may be due in part to my having a more skeptical turn of mind than those twenty-year-old students.
I do not, however, doubt that moral convictions, however problematic they may be, play an immensely important role in human life and conduct. People often do things that they would prefer not to do because they think that they are morally obligated to do them, and they often refrain from acting to satisfy strong desires because they think such actions would be wrong. We know this of private behavior, and we see it on the public stage. Right now with the United States again threatening major military actions against Iraq, you may recall that at the time of the buildup for the Gulf War, we were hearing stories about Iraq’s “elite Republican Guard” divisions and predictions that many Americans would be killed by them if war came. And many Americans opposed the war. James Baker, who was then Secretary of State, sought to unite Americans behind the President by saying, “It’s about jobs.” No doubt many wars are really about the control of resources and the relative well being of different groups, but Baker’s pronouncement hardly produced a ripple in American popular sentiment. It was only when we came to be persuaded that Saddam Hussein was a moral monster that the war and the sacrifices and deaths that it seemed to promise became acceptable. I use this example simply to remind you of what I believe that you already know. I’ll be doing a lot of such reminding in this talk, but-I hope-not so much that you will find everything that I have to say old hat.
Okay, then. Is morality man-made? Or to put the question I would like to consider more clearly, CAN morality be man-made?
You might be tempted to respond to this question like the guy who was accosted by the missionary of some Christian sect and asked whether he believed in infant baptism. “Believe in it?” he said, Why I’ve seen it with my own eyes!”
Well, what might we have metaphorically seen with our own eyes? I think that we can have in mind a number of different things when we contend that morality is man-made, some of them not so much about where morality comes from as where it does NOT come from. One thing we might mean-especially if we are secular humanists-is that particular sorts of behavior are not wrong BECAUSE they displease God and other particular sorts of behavior are not morally required of us BECAUSE they are what God wants us to do. Many of my young Mormon students wouldn’t have agreed with this, but I of course do. And as you probably know so have most, though not all, serious theologians, individuals whose religious commitment was central to their lives and thought.
I won’t go into the reasons why most theologians would have rejected the view that God’s will is the source of moral distinctions. But it is, I think, interesting to note that the belief that morality is not made by God is found even in the early pages of the Old Testament. We read in Genesis that God tells Abraham, the legendary founder of Hebrew monotheism, that he is travelling to see whether the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are really as bad as He has heard and that if they are He will destroy those cities. Abraham responds [New English Bible, Genesis 18. 23], “Wilt thou really sweep away good and bad together? Suppose there are fifty good men in the city; wilt thou really sweep it away, and not pardon the place because of the fifty good men? Far be it from thee to do this-to kill good and bad together; for then the good will suffer with the bad. Far be it from thee. Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” God says in response that if he finds fifty good men he will pardon the whole place for their sake and starts off again. But Abraham won’t let it go. He speaks again, saying, ‘May I presume to speak to the Lord, dust, and ashes that I am: suppose there are five short of the fifty good men? Wilt thou destroy the whole city for a mere five men?” God says if there are forty-five he won’t destroy it. Abraham insistently goes on-what if there are forty, then suppose there are thirty, then twenty, then ten? And at the end God says that “for the sake of the ten I will not destroy it.”
I think this is a lovely story, portraying Abraham, dust, and ashes that he is, as being much more gutsy and audacious than in other accounts of him. But the point of my telling it now is that the story clearly portrays morality as existing independently of God’s choices. Had God chosen to destroy Sodom even if there were ten good men in it, he would have been acting unjustly. So if in saying that morality is man-made we mean that it is not made by God, we see that there is at least some rather minimal acceptance of this contention in the Bible itself.
Another thing that we might be DENYING in saying that morality is made by man is that all or a significant portion of our knowledge of what is right or wrong must be acquired from ancient hallowed teachings that are said to be divinely inspired or perhaps from more recent pronouncements of individuals with special access to the divine understanding of things, whether the individual is taken to be a living prophet, or is Adam Swapp blowing up a Mormon chapel or Pat Robertson denouncing homosexuality or a Muslim ayatollah putting a price on Salmon Rushdie’s head or an Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem telling his followers that they have a duty to kill their prime minister Itzahk Rabin because he wants to trade away for peace the land that God gave the Jews.
Whether or not we agree with the moral pronouncements of such individuals, it seems obvious that their beliefs about how people should behave-however sincerely held-are not due to some special knowledge of what is right or wrong in human behavior but are at best expressions of their own moral convictions and at worst attempts to manipulate others or self-serving delusions.
And the ancient texts which are so widely cited in support of particular moral principles appear to be time-bound products of particular cultures.
The Old Testament is frequently taken to teach the law of retribution, which is often invoked in support of the death penalty. We do find it saying “whatever hurt is done, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound” [Exodus 21.23. But this primitive and brutal doctrine is contradicted by many rules which offer a far more nuanced, complex and detailed account of what is right and wrong in human behavior. The sacred text which shows us Abraham urging the judge of the universe to be just is in fact filled with requirements and prohibitions governing every aspect of human life, requirements and prohibitions that are regularly presented as being binding because they are commanded by God and are backed by his threats of punishment for those who break His laws and promises of rewards for those who are obedient
A striking feature of this system of rules is how detailed it is. Many of the rules have to do with cult requirements. Some of the other rules appear barbaric to much twentieth century moral sensibility. Others appear to be enlightened And many others appear to be simple good sense. God’s people are told to be concerned for the poor, the orphaned, the widow, the aliens in their midst. God is presented as saying, for example, that you shall not mistreat the widow or fatherless child (otherwise, “I’ll kill you with the sword, your own wives shall become widows and your children fatherless” [Exodus 22.24]. But he is also invoked as the backing of basic military hygiene. God’s people are told that when they are camped against an enemy they must set up a particular place to defecate and “with your equipment you will have a trowel, and when you squat outside, you shall scrape a hole with it and then turn and cover your excrement! Though somewhat primitive, this is the sort of the sort of thing that one might find in an army manual as being necessary for the health and well-being of troops in the field. But in the book of Deuteronomy, this is given a peculiarly biblical twist. The statement of the rule concludes, “For the Lord your God goes about in your camp to keep you safe and it must be kept holy”
These many rules are presented as being a part of the eternal order of things, some of them as being literally engraved in stone. But they are quite obviously the laws, practices, and customs of a particular people with a particular state of economic and social development at some distant time. There are rules concerning the treatment of slaves, other rules that treat an unmarried female as her father’s property until she is married. A man who has intercourse with an unbetrothed virgin is required to properly compensate the father for the damage done to this property. After marriage the female becomes the property of her husband. There are rules about keeping vicious animals and other rules requiring people to keep their wells covered so that no one will fall in. But the God who is presented as giving these commandments to a people wandering for years in the desert has nothing to say about insider trading on the stock market or air traffic control.
The culture-bound character of these commandments seems to become even more apparent when the rules of the Old Testament are compared to another mid-Eastern code, the code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi was king of Babylon roughly a thousand years (2067-2025) before any of the Old Testament was written down. His code was promulgated for use in law courts throughout the great empire that he ruled. The most complete text of the code was found engraved on an eight foot high stone slab, the back side of which has a low relief of the mighty king who stands in an attitude of prayer before the seated sun god, Shamash, who is handing the laws of the kingdom to him. While this is reminiscent of the much later account of Moses receiving the laws of his people from God on Mt. Sinai, the tablet itself ascribes the laws to Hammurabi, saying. “These are the just laws which Hammurabi the able king has established and (thereby) enabled the land to enjoy stable governance and good rule.”
When we look at these “just laws” we find, as we would expect, some overlap with the later Hebrew commandments. But there are also pronounced differences, and it is apparent that these laws are set out for a society that is much more advanced economically than that of the later Hebrews and socially more complex.
They distinguish between nobles, free men and slaves, and apparently between nobles of different rank. A man who puts out the eye of a free man, for example, is to have his eye put out. If he puts out the eye of a serf, he has to pay a fine, and the fine is reduced by half if the eye he has put out is that of a slave. Again, if a man strikes the daughter of a free man and she dies, his daughter will be put to death. But if it is the daughter of a serf or a slave girl, he only has to pay a fine. Unlike the Old Testament, many of the laws here require mutilation as a penalty. A son, who says to his parents, “You are not my father,” or “You are not my mother,” is to have his tongue cut out. A son who strikes his father is to have his forehand cut off. Misconduct on the part of a wet nurse can result in her having her breasts cut off. There is apparently a good deal of this in the Koran as well, but I’ve noted only one commandment in the Old Testament requiring mutilation: a woman’s hand is to be cut off if she comes to the assistance of her husband who is wrestling with another man by grabbing that man’s testicles.
Apparently adoption was a common practice in Hammurabi’s Babylon as many of the laws deal with it. Other laws regulate the charges of surgeons and veterinarians, payments for the storage of grain, and the quality of a craftsman’s work. Here too, however, there is nothing here about insider trading on the stock market or air traffic control, though we do learn that a priestess who opens a bar is to be drowned.
In briefly discussing these two codes I have been trying to support the conclusion that taken as a whole, each is man-made, equally time-bound products of particular cultures existing at a particular time and have no legitimate claim to transcendent authority.
So when I recently saw on the evening news the Salt Lake City Council meeting at which the ordinance protecting gay city employees from discrimination was repealed and heard a gentleman assure the Council that the ordinance had to go because “God does not approve of homosexuality,” my response was to think that what the gentleman took to be a divine ordinance was really man-made and to wonder whether he might have seen the matter differently if he had realized that it was.
So where are we? I’ve been looking at the Old Testament and the laws of Hammurabi very much as anthropologists or sociologists look at the customs, morals, and values of the societies and cultures that they study. A staple of twentieth century social anthropology has been the attempt to show how the values of cultures differ and how their different features have developed historically.
I would expect that none of you-perhaps no twentieth century Americans-would have any trouble thinking of Hammurabi’s code in this way. Let that priestess open her bar with impunity, but not of course in Utah. Other possible audiences of this talk obviously would be unwilling to agree to what I’ve said of biblical commandments. But what of you? Would you agree with my characterization of Old Testament commandments?
I was hoping that being the intelligent people that you are, you would agree. Now I want at last to move to the philosophical point of this talk by considering the question of whether El morality, including our own, can be thought to be man-made in this way. I will contend that it cannot.
If you encountered a course in moral philosophy somewhere down the line, you’ll recognize that what I have to say is connected to what the eighteenth century German philosopher Immanual Kant unfortunately but very influentially labeled as the distinction between hypothetical and categorical imperatives. I think we can understand what is at issue better if we avoid Kant’s terminology.
Consider rules of behavior that are obviously man-made, whether consciously or not, such as rules of etiquette. I want you to be thinking of behavior that violates these rules but doesn’t shade into what you would consider immoral. So if you find yourself thinking of the individual in my example as being depraved or morally blameable in any way, please construct for yourself an example in which your negative judgment is entirely within the realm of etiquette.
Suppose, then, that you find yourself at some public banquet. And imagine that the individual that you have been seated next to belches loudly, eats with his hands and doesn’t hesitate to reach over to your plate, run his fingers over your shrimp scampi and then lick them. And since he likes the taste he does it again.
What should we say of such a person? He’s crude, boorish, and offensive. Not someone we feel comfortable sitting next to, not someone to be invited to our parties, not someone we want our sweet little girl to date or our impressionable son to hang out with. Clearly not someone we’d ask to be a member of our club-if we happen to belong to a club.
But even as we feel such revulsion at this crude slob, we can recognize that the rules of behavior-rules of etiquette-that he’s trampling on are quite arbitrary. We can recognize that there are, or might be, times and places where such behavior is not only acceptable but required, places for example where a failure to belch loudly would be taken to indicate dislike of the meal, places where we’d by thought to be unsociable and standoffish if we didn’t do the sorts of things he does.
Indeed we recognize that even in our own society different folks have different strokes that behavior that is thought proper in one segment of it differs radically from what is thought proper in other parts. The British with their finally tuned class system are masters of such distinctions.
Recognizing that behavior patterns that we are comfortable with are arbitrary and man-made doesn’t change the fact that these are indeed our patterns. It doesn’t keep us from being acutely uncomfortable when dining next to that boorish young man. It doesn’t stop us from telling him that he ought not eat with his fingers (if we want to associate with decent folks like us or favorably impress his boss). But it does keep us from making any absolute judgments about those whose standards of etiquette are different from our own. We know that when in Rome we should do as the Romans do in matters of etiquette even if doing so feels odd or uncomfortable if we want to get along with the Romans.
Social anthropologists have often treated moral convictions as if they are just like rules of etiquette and have often drawn the conclusion that our culture is just one among many and its set of moral values similarly just one among many, neither better nor worse from a detached scientific perspective. Merely different, just as what counts as proper table manners is merely different from culture to culture.
I do not believe that morality can be thought of in this way. Earlier in this talk when I was contending that the commandments of the Old Testament simply formulated the beliefs of a particular people at a particular time I meant to dismiss the general claim that we should live and judge in accordance with them. My discussion was a way of arguing that we shouldn’t take that ancient book, as interesting as it is, to be an authoritative account of what is right or wrong in human behavior. And when I said that the gentleman at the City Council meeting who spoke against homosexuality was expressing a man-made doctrine, not the view of God, I meant to be dismissing his claim. To say that these views are man-made is to say that they are not what they claim to be. And if you agreed with me you too were being dismissive of them. But of course, like you, I have my own strong moral convictions. I believe, for example, that it is unjust, morally wrong, to indiscriminately destroy the innocent with the guilty as Abraham’s alleged to have said to God (though the Old Testament approvingly reports this being done over and over again) I believe, too, that gay city employees should be protected from discrimination. This belief is strongly reinforced when I observe homophobic families in Utah County attempting to keep Wendy Weaver, a respected and honored teacher for many years, from continuing as a teacher because she has discovered herself to be gay. I think that those families are wrong and that what they are doing is morally wrong. And I cannot think this and think at the same time that my own moral convictions are merely man-made. I take them to be rightly applied to the actions of those who do not share them as well as to the actions of those who do. You might or might not agree with me about the destruction of the innocent or the protection of gays. But whether you do or don’t, you too must take your own moral convictions to be true and not to be some arbitrary man-made rules, principles that you have acquired by growing up in a particular environment and being socialized into the ways of a particular family, religion, or culture. People might have quite different moral convictions in other places. But in the case of different moral principles we cannot say, for example, as can say of differing standards of etiquette, in Serbia do as the Serbs do.
We cannot say that “moral values are standards of right and wrong that have evolved through the process of people living together”. This view gives us something less than morality, something much closer to etiquette. At most it gives us the standards of the gang, the sect, the region, or the culture.
If you have been with me this far and agree that we must all take our moral convictions to be expressing truths which neither we nor any one else has made, you’ve arrived at what I take to be the deepest philosophical problems of morality, the question of how these principles can be built into the nature of the universe, as it were, and the question of how we come to know them.
As I look at the history of Western moral philosophizing since the time of Socrates in ancient Athens, I see a significant portion of it as a series of failed attempts to prove that some particular moral principles are correct and binding on all human beings. Since we can’t go through the history of moral philosophy, I’ll conclude by saying a bit about one of the earliest and most impressive of these failed attempts. I’m thinking of Plato’s great masterpiece, which is usually and misleadingly translated as the Republic. The work is a dramatic dialogue between someone named Socrates, who is essentially Plato’s stand in, and a number of individuals whose less than adequate views are used to develop Plato’s position. Plato starts here with the question, What is justice? What he is asking is how should human beings act in all of the various circumstances in which they might find themselves in their lives. The first serious answer to the question is offered by an open and agreeable young man who says with confidence that one should help one’s friends and harm one’s enemies. This is a moral principle which I suppose the ethnic cleansers of Bosnia would have embraced and which, according to classical historians, was what most Athenians of the time would have lived by, thinking as they did in the words of a saying of the period, it is better to be envied than pitied. Socrates’ adroit questions bring out contradictions in the young man’s view which result in his coming to conclude, much to his own surprise no doubt, that it is never just to harm anyone.
At this point a professional teacher and professional wise man breaks in, sneering that Socrates has been talking absolute nonsense and that justice is whatever benefits the strongest and most powerful individuals. He’s thinking of the rules of behavior that pass for justice, what the common people call just and unjust, as being established by the rulers of the community who are of course the stronger and most powerful, and as being established to benefit themselves. The wise man says that the behavior of the strongest and most powerful individuals, which is completely unjust according to these rules, results in their living the best and happiest lives. Many contemporary feminists would think this to be pretty close to the truth, but Plato does not. And in response to Socrates relentless and tendentious questions the professional wise man is very unwillingly forced to conclude that the just person is happy and the unjust person is wretched His unwillingness is due to the fact that his reputation is on the line but also no doubt to his being sure that individuals get ahead by acting selfishly, cruelly or dishonestly. This ends book E the Republic. At the beginning of book three two noble young man, identified as half brother of Plato, ask Socrates if he is willing to settle for a verbal victory, or really wants to persuade them of what the professional wise man has been forced to concede. These noble young men half believe and very much want to believe that justice-doing the right thing-invariably pays, but since they are not sure that it does they challenge Socrates to really prove to them that the just man is invariably happy. [WHAT THE CHALLENGE IS?] The discussion starts again with Socrates-or Plato-trying to show that doing well-doing the right thing-invariably results in one’s living well. Because of the terms of the challenge Socrates is forced to set aside the advantages that might sometimes come from having the reputation of being good person, and he’s forced as well to make no appeal to rewards and punishments after death, for as the two brothers say we really know nothing of what might happen after we die.
Since I don’t have time to go into the details of Plato’s argument, I’ll simply say that Plato gets to the conclusion that he’s seeking by a series of transparently bad arguments. How, indeed, could he get there otherwise, when the conclusion that doing the right thing invariably pays flies in the face of everything that we know of the world.
I’ve spent this much time on Plato’s Republic in order to lead up to one of the dominant themes of Western moral philosophy from the time of Plato until the seventeenth and really the eighteenth century. This is the belief that we are all ultimately egoists-that the dominant concern of every human being is his or her own well being, his or her own happiness and that rationality requires that we act always on this concern. Given this belief much moral philosophizing during all of this long period is devoted to trying to establish just what Plato was trying to establish, that morality invariably pays. This obviously became easier to argue when one could appeal to Christian beliefs in the hereafter in which every good deed would be rewarded, every evil action punished and the suffering innocent amply recompensed for their earthly sorrows.
In the eighteenth century morality comes to be seen by many thinkers as being concerned with the well being of other people. But we are still left with the question of how this morality comes to be a part of the nature of things and how we can come to know what it really requires of us.
Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream
Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report
“The basic difference between what are socially considered to be bad and good people is not one of kind, but one of degree, and of the ability of the bad to translate dark impulses into dark actions,” says Robert I. Simon, the Director of the Program in Psychiatry and Law at Georgetown University School of Medicine in his book with the same title as this article. “Bad men such as serial sexual killers have intense, compulsive, sadistic fantasies that few good men have, but we all have some measure of that hostility, aggression, and sadism. Anyone can become violent, even murderous, under certain circumstances. Our brains are wired for aggression, and can short-circuit into violence.
“There are dragons, and no one can run from them for very long.” Sticking one’s head in the sand or retreating into various addictions can be as painful or more disabling than the original dragons/problems. Psychiatrists aim to empower their patients by helping them to discover alternative, more problem-solving techniques. Autonomy and responsibility for one’s own life replace previous helplessness and destructive repetitions.
We must all struggle with the dark forces. In the Middle Ages, ecclesiastical thinking held that aggression and violence were caused by foreign, evil spirits besetting an individual. Now those of us who ascribe aggression and violence to sickness fall prey to the same flawed perception of man as did those earlier clerics. The great majority of violence and mayhem in this world is done not by the mentally ill but by individuals and entire societies not considered to be sick, at least not by any known measure of mental illness. Many among the Nazi executioners went home after a day of exterminating women, children, and old men and resumed quite comfortable and normal lives in the bosoms of their families. We must stare our own demons in the eye and learn to control them. The grand catastrophes of mankind and the evils of our everyday lives reveal that the greatest danger comes from denying that there is a beastly part of our humanity. Much of life’s work and play involves the necessary channeling of aggressive impulses, which permits us to take responsibility for our actions by facing and acknowledging all our feelings.
There is substantial agreement among professionals on the general aspects of what constitutes good mental health. Healthy people like and accept themselves, do not depend excessively on others for approval, and are not severely wounded by others’ criticism. A solid, integrated sense of self, neither grandiose nor despised, exists with relatively continuous, reasonably pleasant memories. Healthy people do not have to diminish other people to maintain a positive self-view. They acknowledge and accept personal shortcomings, and seek help from others when it is needed. They have internalized loving, nurturing parental figures who provide sustenance during times of crisis and inner support at times of failure (I would add to Simon’s observation that those who did not have such parents may find such support from important other people in their environment). They intrinsically reject suicide as a solution to life’s vicissitudes. There are values and standards that throughout life provide them with a moral rudder. These people are fair and adaptive, not harsh and punitive or cruelly and unbendingly righteous. Present is a clear but reasonably flexible sense of right and wrong. In the face of human suffering, healthy persons do not insist on compliance with trivial formalities. They accept guilt when appropriate without experiencing panic or immobilizing depression. Their consciences work in harmony with other aspects of the personality and are not full of holes that permit acting out destructive behaviors inconsistent with their value systems.
Their value systems emphasize proficiency at their work while aiming at realistic goals. They have no debilitating perfectionist or pie-in-the-sky goals that guarantee failure. They value cooperation and collaboration with others and enjoy competition but not by humiliating their competitors. Life is not a dog-eat-dog struggle but a positive challenge. Psychologically healthy persons enjoy their relationships with others. They can place appropriate trust in others as well as be trustworthy. Support and empowerment of friends and acquaintances is their hallmark. They curb feelings of envy and jealousy in deference to the importance of maintaining friendships. They do not desire domination of others. They esteem other persons in their own right and appreciate that we all must bear the vicissitudes of the human condition. They seek no personal advantage. While healthy people pursue their own self-interests, they do so with empathetic regard to the consequences their own actions might have on others. They each maintain good personal boundaries, knowing where he or she stops and another individual begins. They feel regret or guilt if others are unnecessarily hurt by their actions. They do not shift blame to others. Healthy persons can accept the darker side of their humanness. They can enjoy childish pleasure but at the appropriate time and within measure.
Strong indicators of emotional health are the abilities to withstand anxiety without falling apart or launching into drastic action; to delay gratification and tolerate frustration, when appropriate; to think before acting; to modulate impulses; to sublimate basic impulses. Healthy persons can love, that is, value and care for another person. Feelings of jealousy, anger, hate, and rejection are tempered by an overriding concern for the person who is loved. Sexuality in a relationship is empowering through a mutually loving, physical, and mental exploration of one another. The emphasis is less on finding the right person than being the right person. Work is a source of creative emotional growth and psychological refreshment rather a primary way of obtaining or maintaining self-esteem. It is folded into a broader fabric of life rich in sustaining relationships, recreation, hobbies, and spiritual quests. Healthy individuals can experience awe, joy, and wonder in relation to the world. Emily Dickinson wrote, “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” They find a sense of fulfillment and are not beset by regret and bitterness. Reality is perceived reasonably clearly and is harmoniously melded with the pleasure principle. They can accept professional help with their emotional problems. William Sloane Coffin succinctly stated, “I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and that’s okay.”
“It is our human condition to struggle against the dark demons,” says Simon. “It is the undaunted human spirit that strives to harness these demons in the pursuit and fulfillment of our human destiny.”