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Embodying Morality Through Mirrors: An Analysis

Morality itself is a distinction of right from wrong that is held on a specific person or on society and its aspects. This moral code is a guide to conduct, which can fall under various rules of judgment from religion, societal influences, or the self. Through morality, one can be conducted to make decisions or process thoughts while holding oneself at the standards by which one is governed. 

However, according to Gert, Bernard, and Joshua Gert in "The Definition of Morality,” “not all codes that are put forward by societies or groups are moral codes in the descriptive sense of morality, and not all codes that would be accepted by all moral agents are moral codes in the normative sense of morality.” Morality, over time, has changed and our reality of right from wrong is not the same as how it used to be in the past or how it will be in the future. In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, for instance, Gloria Anzaldúa crafts a narrative that is about re-evaluating the natives and the conquered that has occurred during history in a consideration through value. Specifically, there was this level of engagement with the world where the strong or elite would take the “bad” of good v. bad to be something needing overcoming or reformation. This is partly what drives our desire to overcome, as our good v. bad is evolved to be good v. evil. In essence, that which seems “right” in terms of the status quo and the morality of the conqueror is being seen in a new light from the point of view of the conquered. In this, evil is called to what seems “good” to overcome power, physicality, and morality as seen through multiple lenses rather than one which is glorified.

There can also be a consideration for the relativity of morality. Morality as such, with all of its human history, is ingrained in multiple areas of religion and early writings. It is only around the end of the 19 century, interestingly, that we have taken morality into consideration for values and aesthetics. The entire field of “right” and “wrong” behavior has been relatively new to societal considerations and academic developments. In anthropological theory, society has arranged itself in all sorts of different ways with multiple systems of morality being conditioned by history, the weather, our environment, etc. Because these things are so different, we as humans should make no judgment on what is truly “right” because of how quickly the idea can change and cause disagreements.

Through this research, it can be stated that a mirror can be thought of as the embodiment of morality. When we look in the mirror, we are looking at ourselves, so it may be stated that we are the only ones who are looking at our “true self” or the self that we have seen through mirrors as we have grown and changed over time. Through our growth comes our ability to shape and influence our morals, which have also been influenced by our surroundings and the era or time period in which we have lived in to create something unique and personal only to the individual who sees it. The mirror, symbolically, provides us with an immediate look at our development from the moment we begin looking at ourselves to the time we look away.

We allow ourselves, generally, to be seen by others only in instances where we feel we are able to do so. However, in these cases, it is entirely plausible, in a theoretical sense, to just paint a different image of ourselves to suit the situation. When speaking to a friend or family member, one may feel as if they are able to open up more and talk about the things they are feeling. Even so, as one is able to confront their emotions, one is also able to mask and pretend. This can also be identified if someone is speaking to a psychologist, who is an individual that is meant to unmask and provide assistance. One may hide certain facts about their life or how they are feeling for a multitude of reasons, such as not being entirely comfortable or not feeling able to accept those realities of life or thought as truth. Conversely, when an individual looks in a mirror, they are viewing themselves through themselves, and in essence, only they know who they “truly are” and where their opinions, thoughts, and morals lie. It can be argued that other people can also see others through mirrors, but the masking and hiding of one’s “true” self is still possible even as presented through the embodiment. 

When we look at ourselves, we are seeing that “self” through our own eyes into our own soul. With Plato’s account of virtue in the Republic, an argument is made that the soul is immortal, and how evil for the soul is vice and injustice. These items do not destroy the soul, but they create decay. This decay is most visible in the non-visible sense, but only to ourselves. Fundamentally, when we look at ourselves in a mirror, it can be stated that we are possibly looking into ourselves, into our mentality, and into our morality. We witness our souls and their state firsthand, so only we may judge if our soul has decayed or maintained itself pure while also having the judgment to decide whether we are morally “good” or “evil” to the standards by which we uphold ourselves today. Another argument can be made for the hypothetical that the mirror is cracked or in multiple pieces. In this analysis, one can state that we are only looking at fragments of ourselves that are broken. When our soul has decayed, the mirror, in this instance, is an embodiment of the soul to which is the embodiment of the state of our morality through the “visible” sense. 

Recent evidence conducted in Caleb J. Reynolds, Kassidy R. Knighten, and Paul Conway's "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is deontological? Completing moral dilemmas in front of mirrors increases deontological but not utilitarian response tendencies" reported two studies in which research participants were to make a choice after being given ten moral dilemmas. Each issue involved making an action that would achieve a certain outcome, but the action itself would be harmful. These included low-conflict moral dilemmas and high-conflict moral dilemmas, while the participants had to indicate in which instance they felt that causing harm was justifiable. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to make the decision facing a mirror, while the other half did not. The results showed that facing one’s own reflection while making a decision to the moral dilemma influenced moral judgments. According to Tara Well in “Mirrors Reflect Moral Character - How Does Looking in the Mirror Influence Moral Decisions?” they, “displayed more harm-avoidant response tendencies than those who faced the non-reflective side of mirrors. However, the mirror manipulation did not impact outcome-maximizing response tendencies.” As such, if the embodiment were to be taken further, an individual could “test” themselves and their morality in a controlled situation, in this case, looking in the mirror before making the decision to a moral dilemma. Through this action of “self-checking,” an individual is recognizing themselves, both physically and mentally, and will have a moment of self-consideration to what their decision will be. 

When an individual looks in a mirror, they are viewing themselves through themselves, whether it is in developmental aspects or through present decisions. Because of this, the embodiment of morality may be best described through a mirror, and the best representation of this embodiment comes from the personal test of “checking” oneself before making a decision to a moral dilemma.

You can often find Endry working on her courses, hanging out with friends, and drinking Coka Cola (usually simultaneously). A blue enthusiast and organizer at heart, Endry is always decorating and cultivating new aesthetics. Lover of drawing and painting, poetry, self-care, and all things style.
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