What makes up the ideal person?

What makes up the ideal person? The conception of what is valued differs from person to person, group to group and time to time. Across all cultures and throughout recorded human history, there seems to have been a sense of right and wrong. This sense of value and rational judgment seems to have emerged long ago in human history and evolved over the millennia. The Biblical story of the first man and woman may be about the dawning of the awareness of good and evil in the human species, marking a great evolutionary advance in the human journey from its previously more instinctual and animal nature. This myth, along with others, may be symbolic accounts about the dawning of human awareness of right and wrong, the first signs of new emanations of human consciousness that would increasingly distinguish humans from other primates. What we might call the birth of moral intelligence.

The guidance recorded in the Bible and the many other holy books of other traditions might be the first attempts at teaching this now morally conscious humanity how to best use and live with this new and developing moral consciousness. In these traditions, moral intelligence was often seen as a gift and reflection of the creator and a responsibility of humanity to use wisely. Developing morality and moral intelligence was seen as one of the primary purposes of life. In these societies, the moral person was held in high regard. The rewards of moral intelligence were to be experienced in both this world and in existence after death. In fact, one of the main purposes of life was to develop this spiritual quality, as their condition in the next world was dependent upon their use and development of their moral intelligence in this world.

In the modern world, these traditions and the role of morality and moral intelligence have been challenged. Many of the moral teachings of these faiths and religions seem outdated, unnecessary and even harmful to our consumer-driven and narcissistic culture. They are seen by many as culture- and time-bound strictures imposed upon a present-day culture that does not need or want them. Intelligence is generally highly valued in modern societies, but intelligences that get one ahead materialistically and individually are considered more valuable than a moral intelligence that promotes ethical ideals such as truth, love and justice. The lack of morality can be seen in the recent economic, ecological and political crisis in the world. As conditions worsen, the need to develop moral intelligence in the general population will become a growing concern.

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About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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