Ethics and Morality

The Good Person

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Modern Humans, Ancient Creatures

Both the good and the bad tendencies of mindbodybrain are innate properties that have useful functions, were not invented by modern society and are not going to change until the construction of brain changes. The dialogue between good and bad in human affairs is constant, predictable and universal.

When a baby is born, the family and local community begin to teach the emerging being what is going on here and now. They provide the local language, costumes, customs beliefs and the local science and technology. All adult humans have a technology to teach. While the local culture has an obvious impact on the appearance and behavior of emerging adults, the constant innate features of the human mind are pervasive and persistent. The variance in mental abilities within a local group will often be greater than inter-group variance.

The first principle of bodybrainmind is that each person has a repertoire of innate programs and some choice how the programs are going to be expressed. Innate programs have been called "instincts." The old definition of "instincts" -- behaviors that arise spontaneously and are not learned - needs modification since evidence suggests that innate programming has to be practiced and is molded by learning. The distinction between strictly innate and strictly learned behavior is artificial. Some innate programming is relatively fixed and cannot be changed by learning.

The distinction between constant features of the human mind and variable features is useful. Constant features are manifestations of innate brain structure and function. Variable features manifest the range of tendencies and abilities within a human group, the variations introduced by physical environments and the variations introduced by learning. Speech, for example, is a constant feature of the human mind; a variable feature of speech is the language(s) learned. A range of linguistic competence is determined by aptitude, learning and the physical environment.

All brains are equipped to learn. We can use computational metaphors to sketch in the territory of mind study, using concepts that are becoming generally known. The metaphors are not actual or real descriptions of how the brain works. When you are using a computer, you do not invent the programs themselves but you do learn how to use them. You do not have program a word processor, but you do have to learn how to use it. The more you learn about and use your word processor the better you get at using it

If you buy a computer with software installed, the operating system and the word processor seem innate to the system. This is roughly analogous to the human brain that comes with a word processor installed or, more precisely, it comes with installation routines that activate sequentially over several years, progressive "software" installation that is modified by practice. If a baby does not practice using the installed word processor, however, the progressive program installation will be abbreviated or aborted. In the brain, hardware and software are properties of the same physical entities. The distinction is helpful to recognize that the inborn properties of mind are modified by learning and learning is, in part, similar to software.

Cosmides and Tooby, Co-Directors of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California state in their course notes: "… all normal human minds reliably develop a standard collection of reasoning and regulatory circuits that are functionally specialized and, frequently, domain-specific. These circuits organize the way we interpret our experiences, inject recurrent concepts and motivations into our mental life, and provide universal frames of meaning that allow us to understand the actions and intentions of others. Beneath the level of surface variability, all humans share certain views and assumptions about the nature of the world and human action by virtue of these human universal reasoning circuits."

Many of the programs built into our brain have a special feature. They can be modified and elaborated by the experience of the individual. Brainbodymind is, therefore, an open-ended system that will evolve a unique identity in the lifetime of each individual. Humans live in a tense matrix of innate tendencies and experiential forces that modify or elaborate these tendencies. Individuation occurs as experience modifies some brain structures and coexists with old programs that persist regardless of the individual experience, because the older brain structures resist modification. We talk in terms of freedom, free will, and self-determination. These are all attributes of the open-ended possibilities of bodybrainmind.

As much as we might try, we are not going to able to show a distinction between sound and the experience of sound or light and the experience of light. As much as we might try to elevate objective evidence as existing separately out-there, we will never be able to go beyond the for-me-ness of human experience. The distinction between subjective and objective is relatively useful as long as you do not examine the distinction too closely. With close scrutiny, subjective and objective are similar and the only issue is how many humans agree on what it was that they experienced.

The modification of brain structure and function is "learning". Learning involves all experience and not just time spent in school. In fact, the learning achieved in school classrooms is relatively unimportant. Learning is dependent on the availability of the innate program that organizes and supports the acquisition of skills and knowledge. There is no chance of a newborn baby talking in coherent sentences even if both parents prompt him 24 hours a day. The baby and the parents have to wait until the brain has developed the language circuits; they emerge in a predictable sequence. Every normal baby first blows bubbles, coos and babbles, practicing language modules as they come online until the whole system is fully functional.

To modify innate mind programs

Everyone has to practice using his or her innate abilities to become good at anything. If you want to become a good killer, buy a gun and practice killing - an electronic simulator will do.

If you want to win the Nobel Peace Prize, practice communication skills, appeasement, and reasonable negotiation and learn to be compassionate.

Everyone has to learn tolerance and must practice controlling anger and aggression. If you want to become good at hate, practice telling inflammatory stories about other humans.

If you want to love and be loved, practice acceptance, appreciation and gratitude; stop developing malicious stories and blaming others.

Understanding how people and the natural world really work does not come easily.

If you want to understand, you observe, explore, study and protect the natural environment. You form and sustain alliances with other intelligent people.

Dedication to learning is required - sustained study, self-scrutiny and continuous practice of tolerance and understandings are the prerequisites to develop an insightful, compassionate, modern person. Learning is a life-long process.


  • The Good Person: Ethics and Morality by Stephen Gislason is a book in the Psychology & Philosophy series, developed by Persona Digital Books.

    Ethics is about the interface between selfish interests and actions and the common Both the good The bad tendencies of mindbodybrain are innate properties that have useful functions, were not invented by modern society and are not going to change until the construction of brain changes. The dialogue between good and bad in human affairs is constant, predictable and universal. When a baby is born, the family and local community begin to teach the emerging being what is going on here and now. They provide the local language, costumes, customs beliefs and the local science and technology. All adult humans have an ethical standard and a technology to teach. While the local culture has an obvious impact on the appearance and behavior of emerging adults, the constant innate features of the human mind are pervasive and persistent. The variance in mental abilities within a local group will often be greater than inter-group variance.

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