The hierarchisation of preferences is a practice better known as “being a Judgy McGudger”.
If there is only one thing possible, you have no choice. If you have no choice, whatever you take is automatically right because nothing else exists. In other words, in a Universe where varieties and differences do not exist, it is literally impossible for anyone to ever err, mistake, go on the wrong path or do anything reprehensible because no options other than “right” available. Such a Universe is, by necessity, very very small and also very very boring. No one wants to live there.
Thankfully, this is not that Universe.
We live on a tiny world with a lot of variety. This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that with great power comes great responsibility. When one only has one option, one does. When one has a plethora of options, one must choose.
This is a big problem! How can it be possible to choose? How can you pick one partner when there are 7.5 billion people on the planet? How do you know what to do at any given time when it is possible to do more than one thing?
The Universe is very skilled at solving problems and so came up with a solution : preferences.
As there is variety in what is possible to experience, there must be variety in what is experienced and to help sentient beings choose what they will experience, each sentient being was assigned a series of preferences and these preferences are all pieces in the gestalt (a whole greater than the sum of its parts) that is the being’s Nature.
But what does this mean for you personally?
It means that your Nature as whomever you are is to prefer what you prefer. It also means that the Nature of whomever your neighbour may be is to prefer what they prefer. Because, as mentioned above, there is a variety in what it is possible to experience and this causes a variety in what is experienced.
Each sentient being is aware of a variety of options presented to them amongst which they must choose. To do so, they hierarchize their preferences. They take the spectrum of options available to them in any given situation and they rank them according to which how convenient (that which makes the present problem easier and/or faster to resolve) these options are. Quickly, this translates to holistic templates wherein the beings decide that this frequently convenient option is overall “better” whereas that frequently inconvenient option is “worse”.
Notice how I day frequently convenient or inconvenient. No option is absolutely one or the other, which is a misconception humans often have that leads them to conceiving notions such as “sins” and “evil”. Even if a choice is inconvenient to the efficient resolution of a problem such as “how to be morally righteous” 99.9% of the time, there will always be that one (reoccurring) time where that option was the “better” choice, the choice which most efficiently and/or expediently solved the problem. It’s not that morality isn’t black and white, it’s that morality is all about the effective hierarchisation of preferences and that such an activity is less science and more art.
Morality isn’t black and white and it isn’t shades of grey either. Morality is spectrums of colour with all the shades, hues, tones, contrasts, effects and shadows they make possible.
Morality is the sum of generalised templates of holistic preferences applied to groups of similar (yet still different!) beings that regulate these aforementioned groups’ behaviours.
There are as many moralities existing as there are groups to create them. This is why some species snakes find it completely morally acceptable to eat their weakest offspring, which horrifies many human sub-cultures. Meanwhile, these same human sub-cultures find it morally acceptable to kill other humans due to the colour of their skin, which might horrify the aforementioned infanticide-prone snakes. These ableist snakes who might find themselves incredibly puzzled as to why perfectly healthy human hatchlings with dark scales are being ripped apart while the runts of the nest with light scales aren’t. But I digress…
The problem with generalised templates of holistic preferences also known as the pseudo-acronym “morality” is that it encourages the use of words such as “better” and “worse”. With enough time spent generalising, the beings making use of this morality forget that what they prefer – what is Nature to them – is not necessarily what is preferred (read: Nature) to another.
This forgetfulness leads to judgment. Indeed, when another does something the former does not prefer (read: would find inconvenient were they doing it themselves), the former becomes discomfited because they would not do such a thing and they tragically forgot that they are not the extent of all the variety in the Universe. Thus, they treat the being that is different from them as if this being were the same as them and tell this different being “this is a choice that is unpreferred/inconvenient/bad/against MY Nature and so, being whose purpose is to have preferences/conveniences/choices/Nature different than mine, you should not make this choice”.
It is truly excellent advice to tell yourself not to do things that are against your Nature. For example, if you are allergic to (read: are inconvenienced by) nuts and you advise yourself not to eat nuts even if they are only present in a small amount and presented in an absolutely sumptuous chocolate cake. Giving this advice makes you wise. Heeding this advice makes you worthy of being naturally selected to contribute to life. Congratulations!
It is truly terrible advice to tell another being not to do things that are against your Nature. If you see a squirrel eating nuts and you try to “save” them from the poisonous (to you) nuts, by capturing them and sticking them in a nut-free room and feeding them ramen and pop-tarts, the squirrel will die. Giving this advice makes you ignorant and, if you act on it, dangerous. If the squirrel takes your advice and willingly comes with you to that nut-free room and munches on the pop-tarts, it is a really really stupid squirrel with a tragic lack of self-preservation instincts.
When you say things like “I wouldn’t do that if I were you” or “it’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that if you did this instead of that you would be a better you” you are acting in ignorance. When you try to force another to heed your advice by denying them the ability to do whatever it is that they were doing or by punishing them for persisting in doing so, you are acting in dangerous ignorance.
This dangerous ignorance is at the core of every single discriminatory law, prejudiced action and (literally) bloody war that has ever come to pass in the history of ever. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you and so I must stop you from doing that” is the mentality that kills. A lot. Accidentally and out of good intentions, true! But still, people… Dead. Squirrels.