When I was in school, ethics was always so complicated. If one person is travelling on a train and another train is travelling with ten people in the opposite direction – AND THEY CRASH!!! Who should you save? I think this entire method of teaching ethics left me with the feeling that morality is just too hard to understand and the best we can all reach for is a simple opinion on what is right and wrong (hmmm, sounds dangerously close to relativism now that I look back).
It was CS Lewis who introduced me to a novel way of understanding what ethics actually is about. He described morality as a fleet of ships sailing across the ocean toward a harbour. In this little image, there are three profound ideas on the nature of morality.
Firstly, morality involves each ship in relationship to the other ships. This is the first purpose of morality. Morality helps us to “stay in formation” with the others around us. We can have a good community if we: don’t hurt others around us, if we don’t use them for our own ends, and if we treat others well. The first purpose of morality is to live well with others.