This article is related to a recent one I posted about applying subjectivity to morality. Here I intend to offer a rational foundation for the contention that the application of objective morality to child custody cases can be detrimental. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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From the time we were infants to young children we exhibited what Freud referred to as the Id. From hunger we cried, for affection we cried, for comfort from soiled diapers we cried. [An attuned attachment figure will recognize and appropriately respond to each of the three different cries] As we matured we grabbed whatever toy we wanted from the hands of a playmate. We were determined to have what we wanted when we wanted it. We lacked consideration for the inconvenience we may cause or the feelings of others.
Gradually discipline was introduced. Our desires were tempered through a system of rewards and punishments based upon mandates from our parents or other authority figures. It is a logical inevitability that the capacity for small children to accept instructions and warnings without subjecting them to their own as yet feeble logical powers does not develop without discipline. We present the abstract concepts of sharing, patience and virtue to the young “me want now, it's mine” brain. Thus begins the progression to morality.
Gradually most children are introduced to morality through the concepts of deism, theism and the organized cults. Much of this comprises societal standards and ultimately law. This is the object moral: You ought behave in this manner because it has been establish as right.
But the abstract as it relates to morals should return during the times of adolescence through maturation. Since man is wholly responsible for himself, as Sartre says, then he should individually be his own moral compass. The proper modality for moralistic determination is the pursuit of pleasure and the minimization of pain. Sartre is joined by other philosophers such as Bentham and Mill in this assertion.
Theist will argue that the subjective morality is not morality at all as there is no concrete moral code and if every man pursues his pleasures individually then morals don't exist. This proposition ignores consequence though. Epicurus espoused pursuit of pleasure noting that there is no such thing as divine punishment as we can observe. Instead Epicurus posits that virtue leads to the absence of pain and fear.
This proposition can be realized through proof of the immorality of eating meat. Montaigne argued that man was no more superior to other animals just as one culture was not over another. In essence Montaigne could be said to argue that if you believe the Nazi regime acted immorally by adopting a belief that the Anglo-Aryan race was superior to other races then the human race adopting a belief of dominion over the animal kingdom, which has a basis in biblical law, was equally immoral.
All invertebrates can feel pain and have feelings. Thus we are unable to differentiate ourselves from the animals who suffer through factory farming and gruesome slaughter techniques. Hypocrites will rationalize their immorality through arguing that man has self-awareness and an intellectual superiority unique to mankind. But if intelligence and self-awareness is the appropriate standard then one should be able to slaughter the mentally retarded and the comatose, whose intellect is subordinate to some primates or have no self-awareness, while maintaining a morally clean slate. Such contradiction cannot be reconciled though.
There is also an argument to be made that man is less intelligent than his surrounding fauna. One can observed flight patterns of birds or the movements of a school of fish who all move in a wave of congruence. Yet one doesn't need idly observe traffic in a busy intersection long to see a collision. Likewise few animals waste food while humans can readily be seen discarding food while most cannot feed themselves. While colonies of ants or bees work harmoniously together ensuring the survival of their respective groups humans steal from and murder each other. So who is more intelligent?
Now that it has been established that man is not superior to other invertebrates by any current measurable moral standard then let's apply the standard established by Epicurus: that virtue leads to the absence of pain and fear.
If actions are conscripted by moral stipulations and one seeks to maintain morality in an effort to conform to this code to reap its purported benefits and avoid the consequences of transgressions then pain and fear are the result. The acceptance of being an imperfect being leads to the anxiety of a potential transgression and the resulting discomfort from the elevated immunological response. Mill also proposed that right is pleasurable and wrong is painful.
Epicurus espoused pursuit of pleasure without divine punishment. Death was not to be feared as there is no afterlife. Many bodily pleasures have painful consequences and thus become self-correcting by the process known as the Law of Effect. Wisdom he argued was the greatest virtue. Thus wisdom – virtue supreme -- leads to the absence of pain and fear. There is solid reasoning in this proposition. Wisdom is not just knowledge but cognition of knowledge applied and resulting circumstances. Hence book-smart youngsters can still seem to achieve lofty feats of stupidity. They lack the experiences which produce wisdom.
Likewise, Wollstonecraft says that the good of society proceeds from the increase of reason, knowledge and virtue. This is in direct contradiction to the organized cults. These oppressive regimes restrict members access to knowledge, restrict reason with a preference towards “faith” – belief without reason – and shun “non-believers”.
An interesting concept was propounded by Kant who held that there was a universal moral law: your actions should be based upon what you can will everyone else to do. You can will some people to steal but not everyone. Thus, stealing becomes immoral.
Sartre said that because there is no god that man shall individually determine what is best for him. There is no moral guide. Man is wholly responsible for himself. As there is no guarantee that things will turn out for the best, man has the burden of knowing that his life is in his hands. This concept of personal accountability produces an organic moralistic character.
In my experiences I have seen support for the postulate of Seneca who, similar to Epicurus, insisted that the only good is virtue. Happiness is achieved by acting in accord with our internal guide and by being content with one's lot in life. Altruism and simple living are essential to correct living. Empiricus said that there can be no absolutes of good or bad if one is to achieve tranquility. He who has good will fear losing it, he who has bad will feel defeated, he who has neither will be tranquil. Those who have achieved tranquility and live the simple lives are often seen as consistent with most objective standards of morality but, more importantly, are intrinsically moral.
So how is this applicable to child custody litigation? The objective view says that parental fitness can be measured by adherence to an established moral code: particularly an ordained code of conduct presented as a societal standard. There may be various protocols for the objective such as cultists' codes, statutory law or guidelines adopted by Child Protective Services. The subject viewpoint contends that parental fitness is measured by the discipline of the child who adheres to his own moral code. That is when the parent has provided guidance to the child to help him elicit from self-awareness what is moral. Teasing a sibling and getting hit - pain inflicted from the hit was a result of the teasing and the child can then be prompted to deduce that teasing is improper because it can cause pain not that it is improper in the statutory sense.
If the child's self-regulated behaviour is not intrusive upon the rights or boundaries of others, but is not instilled by the fear of an unseen omniscient force who will exact some future revenge for transgressions, then it is a positive discipline. That is, the child is respectful of others through free-will: virtue. Thus, as Epicurus and Mill proposed, virtue leads to a lack of pain. This produces tranquility, a valued asset for a child who is experiencing the conflict of a child custody battle.
It is during this transition that children are at risk from a plethora of ills. A properly based moral guide – one based upon pleasure not fear – demonstrates the resolve of a parent to act in the child's best interest. The revelation to the court of this commitment to the child's well-being demonstrates parental fitness while adherence to a top-down moral protocol of an organized cult demonstrates neglect of a child's individual needs.
Courts are well aware of the potential for and effects of neglect of children during the challenging times of separation or divorce. During this time children often experience a form of neglect being “lack of supervision”. The unsupervised children are the ones most likely to engage in sexual relations, drug abuse and violent acts at greater rates than their counterparts who have caring parents. The other common form of neglect is “emotional disengagement”. While the parent may be physically present and supervising the child's activities the parent may herself be so emotionally drained that she is unable to engage the child. Depression, anxiety and mood disorders contribute significantly to emotional disengagement. A parent experiencing these issues may appear joyful or sorrowful regardless of circumstances which can confuse the child relying on appropriate emotional feedback to help guide his actions in a moralistic manner.
Thus, while a parent may profess fitness by an adherence to an objective standard imposed upon self and the child this is not congruent with morality. A child's upbringing based upon the individual nurturing and guidance of a self-regulated moral character, however imperfect at the time, will, over time, result in a more robust zeal for maintaining morality and consequently improved well-being.
When properly advocated for to a judicial officer capable of understanding this concept and the needs of the child a child custody and parenting time order consistent with the true best interest of the child should be achievable.
Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.
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