The Modern Moral Compass

On the importance of a moral compass and why it should guide your Judgments

Although science has undeniably provided us more and more accurate models of the universe, it has also come with a significant price. In a fascinating book, The Battle for Human Nature, Barry Schwartz detailed how, just over a century ago, the higher educational system in America taught moral philosophy, and in so doing it attempted to create a community of common values and shared aspirations. And yet, following the growth of science and its (in)famous insistence on the separation of ought from is, higher education became a place where people learned about how the world was, but were no longer taught how they ought to be. Schwartz argued that the result has been the loss of moral direction.

Instead of a moral compass, people have been given enormous freedom to construct their own lives and make their own moral decisions. Although this outcome has had many positive elements, it also has resulted in large numbers of people, at least in America, who are fundamentally unsure when it comes to their philosophy of life.

Schwartz believes we should return to teaching moral values, and engage in an active search for values that can guide the construction of greater societies. If the next generation is going to be successful in navigating the complexities ahead, and does so in a manner that results in richer, deeper, and more meaningful lives, we need more discussions and proposals about what can unite us in vision and transcendent purpose.

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”