The Role of Mind in Recognizing Ethics

The Role of Mind in Recognizing Ethics

Human being has an innate power that –if used properly– can recognize moral codes and follow them in the interest of the society and perfection of his soul. It knows wrongness too and considers it to the detriment of his life in this world and the Hereafter as well as the society. This precious innate power is called practical wisdom or the conscience. The Holy Quran considers this recognition as an innate sense.

وَنَفْسٍ وَما سَوّاها* فَأَلْهَمَها فُجُورَها وَتَقْواها* قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكّاها* وَقَدْ خابَ مَنْ دَسّاها

By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; Truly he succeeds that purifies it, And he fails that corrupts it![58]

This invaluable force exists more or less in all humans and can be used in ordinary conditions, provided inhumane forces have not overcome human wisdom. Unfortunately, some people are so much surrendered to carnal instincts, such as selfishness, lust of position and property, greediness, wrath, hatred, and revenge that they forget their human spirit. Therefore, the light of their pure instinct is darkened and they cannot recognize virtues and vices; they even sometimes consider vices as virtues. That is why human being always needs the guidance of selected infallible individuals to brighten his nature and help him know virtues and vices.

These selected people are the prophets (s) and infallible Imams (`a). Since the infallible Imams (`a) have perfect mentality and are away from faults and wrongdoing, they completely recognized ethical values and their outcomes in this world and the Hereafter. They followed these values and invited others to them too. They also knew ethical vices and their undesirable consequences in this world and the Hereafter. They avoided the vices and forbade others from them too. Therefore, practical wisdom and ethical conscience –in addition to the Holy Quran and Prophet’s (s) traditions– can be considered a source of infallible Imams’ (`a) ethical knowledge. The thousands of traditions about ethics, which are recorded in tradition books, are rooted in this rich infallible source.


[58] Surah Al-Shams (91): 7-10.