Morality absent of religion
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31-08-2013, 01:31 PM
RE: Morality absent of religion
(30-08-2013 05:27 PM)evenheathen Wrote:  What I think you're trying to get at (and correct me if I'm wrong) is that morality is defined by those philosophical terms of good, bad, wrong, evil. These terms are concepts of the human intellect, but have no real meaning in nature, or the basic reason for morality. We ascribe those terms onto human acts to better define them today.
Yes, Absolutely agree with this.

Morality is a concept, an idea. Over thousands of years of theistic influence over our society, over our language we are conditioned to use these moral words, moral, immoral, good, bad, evil, ethics etc. We even think that way, we want to be a good person, we want to do the right thing. When we watch movies we want to see good prevail over bad.

(30-08-2013 05:27 PM)evenheathen Wrote:  Morality can be explained through evolution, that as a social species we do well to do what favors the pack, or "society". This is instinctual not because of an inherent sense of "right" and "wrong" or good and evil, but because of it's benefit to us in giving us a better chance at survival. Thus, morality is necessarily selfish at its root.

Let's take a look at the dictionary definition again.
(30-08-2013 07:44 PM)DLJ Wrote:  "[i]mo·ral·i·ty
Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior."
So it seems to me that you are trying too hard to incorporate this word into your previous paragraph. The word doesn't fit. Actually most people would claim that morality is altruistic at its root. I think it would be best to replace the word "morality" within your paragraph with the words "human behavior". Lets see how it reads now
(30-08-2013 05:27 PM)evenheathen Wrote:  Human behavior can be explained through evolution, that as a social species we do well to do what favors the pack, or "society". This is instinctual not because of an inherent sense of "right" and "wrong" or good and evil, but because of it's benefit to us in giving us a better chance at survival. Thus, human behavior is necessarily selfish at its root.
This sounds much better. No square pegs in round holes.
What we can conclude from your paragraph coupled with the dictionary definition of morality is that human behavior does not equate to morality. We are intrinsically selfish, but act towards social behavior because we are social animals and benefit from living within a society, especially one that treats us (and by extension all society members) well.

(30-08-2013 05:27 PM)evenheathen Wrote:  Now that life isn't as threatened by nature, our sense of empathy has grown into simple "good" acts that help to better society in general, and the term "morality" is generally used to describe such behavior.
Empathy does not have to be tied into the "moralistic" language. When we use the word "morality" we often are ignoring the dictionary definition. But rather than find a more befitting word, we often insist on using the "morality" word, because that is our conditioning. In the war of words, theistic influence has been strong over the last few thousand years.
Someone says us atheists don't have morals then our gut reaction is to feel insulted and insist that we do have morals. I prefer that I don't have morals, but instead use my thoughts, my ability to judge consequences for myself. My selfish reasoning, that if it doesn't impact me, then how is it my business and by extension my governments business? e.g. I am not gay, I would be repulsed by the thought of having sex with another male, but does that make it wrong? Does that give me the obligation to stop other people from being gay?
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31-08-2013, 02:52 PM
RE: Morality absent of religion
Stevil (or is that St. Evil?) Tongue

I like what you say above. Can you please expand upon one thing...

You say "use my thoughts, my ability to judge consequences for myself". What explains your actions when you don't have time to think e.g. pushing someone out of the path of an on-coming vehicle, i.e. the instinctive risk assessment / value judgement?

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31-08-2013, 03:46 PM
RE: Morality absent of religion
Okay, I think I understand the distinction you're making here. I'm not sure that it's necessary to do so but hey, it's your world and yes, I'll agree with it.

(31-08-2013 01:31 PM)Stevil Wrote:  
(30-08-2013 05:27 PM)evenheathen Wrote:  Human behavior can be explained through evolution, that as a social species we do well to do what favors the pack, or "society". This is instinctual not because of an inherent sense of "right" and "wrong" or good and evil, but because of it's benefit to us in giving us a better chance at survival. Thus, human behavior is necessarily selfish at its root.
This sounds much better. No square pegs in round holes.
What we can conclude from your paragraph coupled with the dictionary definition of morality is that human behavior does not equate to morality. We are intrinsically selfish, but act towards social behavior because we are social animals and benefit from living within a society, especially one that treats us (and by extension all society members) well.

Human behavior doesn't equate to the dictionary definition, at face value, no. But as I contended earlier, the very nature of morality stems from an evolutionary process of societal behavior. I guess it all depends on how you are using the word.

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

~ Umberto Eco
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31-08-2013, 08:07 PM
RE: Morality absent of religion
(31-08-2013 02:52 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Stevil (or is that St. Evil?)
St. Evil, I like that.

(31-08-2013 02:52 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Can you please expand upon one thing...

You say "use my thoughts, my ability to judge consequences for myself". What explains your actions when you don't have time to think e.g. pushing someone out of the path of an on-coming vehicle, i.e. the instinctive risk assessment / value judgement?
How do I explain instinctive behaviour?

This is a tricky question.
Is it built into our genetics? Is it muscle memory? Is it due to deep rooted philosophical stance? Is it based on the value we have on our own lives and those that depend on us?

I know instinct is much quicker than conscious thought. But certainly instinctive behaviour can be taught. Boxers for example need to train moves over and over and over until they become instinctive. A boxer that is thinking about every move is a boxer that is getting continually hit.

Is a person that believes deeply in the philosophical stance of altruism and humanism more likely to sacrfice themselves to save an unknown child?
I think probably they are more likely.
Myself, I have no interest in sacrificing myself for an unknown child. My life is not an insurance policy for children whom put themselves in danger. I have a wife and two very dependant children. My responsibilities are to them. If I sacrifice myself then I have failed them.

For my own child, I probably would. This of course is easy to say now.
If I was unfortunate enough to be in such a situation, maybe it is possible that I react differently to how I think I would.

But I do have values and principles. I wouldn't call them morality because they don't dictate what is right and what is wrong. I can't always spend hours thinking about all my actions. Analysis by paralysis. So I do depend on values and principles to speed this decision making process up. But they are not hard and fast rules for me. They are always debatable. And I don't expect others to live by them, I am not shocked when other people fail to live up to my values and principles.
My reasoning behind each value and principle is selfish. "treat others as I would like to be treated" why, because that way they won't see me as a threat, they won't attack me, they might even want to befriend me, I do like to have friends and allies. i want to live in a society that treats me with respect and doesn't oppress me or abuse me, so that is what I try to encourage via my own behaviour. I don't care if something is right or wrong. That distinction is irrelevant for me.
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01-09-2013, 01:33 AM (This post was last modified: 01-09-2013 01:36 AM by DLJ.)
RE: Morality absent of religion
(31-08-2013 08:07 PM)Stevil Wrote:  ...
Is a person that believes deeply in the philosophical stance of altruism and humanism more likely to sacrifice themselves to save an unknown child?
I think probably they are more likely.
...

The thing I was wondering about was which comes first? Does the belief follow from the instinct or is the instinct honed by the belief?

(31-08-2013 08:07 PM)Stevil Wrote:  ...
I do depend on values and principles to speed this decision making process up.
...

Spot on. That comment is getting added to my course spiel.
I have a section on 'Principles, policies and frameworks' and their purpose is to "speed this decision-making process".

In the course (about enterprise governance over IT) 'good' and 'bad' are also not "hard and fast rules". They are determined by determining stakeholders' needs and balancing three 'value objectives':
Benefits Realisation
Optimising Risk
Optimising Resources.

... which is pretty much as you described in your 'saving the child' comment.

You mentioned that your moral foundation was based on "treat others as I would like to be treated" i.e. the basis for reciprocity and justice.
There are other foundations for moral behaviour....

I've posted this many times before but it's worth mentioning again...

From Jonathan Haidt:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Ha...ons_Theory

From the link:
"Moral Foundations Theory considers the way morality varies between cultures and identifies five (later revised to six) "foundations" that underlie morality in all societies and individuals.
He names them using pairs of opposites to indicate that they provide continua along which judgments can be measured.

These are:
Care/harm for others, protecting them from harm.
Fairness/cheating, justice, treating others in proportion to their actions, giving them their "just desserts". (He has also referred to this dimension as Proportionality.)
Liberty/oppression, characterizes judgments in terms of whether subjects are tyrannized.
Loyalty/betrayal to your group, family, nation. (He has also referred to this dimension as Ingroup.)
Authority/subversion for tradition and legitimate authority. (He has also connected this foundation to a notion of Respect.)
Sanctity/degradation, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions. (He has also referred to this as Purity.)

Haidt found that the more politically liberal or left-wing people are, the more they tend to value care and fairness (proportionality), and the less they tend to value loyalty, respect for authority and purity. Conservatives or right-wing people, tend to value all the moral foundations somewhat equally.
Similar results were found across the political spectrum in other countries.
Haidt has also described the liberal emphasis on care as "one foundation morality", contrasting with the conservative moral balance."


Looking at the last three pairs, it's easy to see why religious people tend to be more conservative and atheists tend to be more liberal. Smile

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01-09-2013, 01:38 PM
RE: Morality absent of religion
(01-09-2013 01:33 AM)DLJ Wrote:  The thing I was wondering about was which comes first? Does the belief follow from the instinct or is the instinct honed by the belief?
That would make for an interesting study. What our brains come preprogrammed with.
Parents certainly get in there quick, teaching their kids how to be good little boys and girls. Santa only gives presents to the good ones.

(01-09-2013 01:33 AM)DLJ Wrote:  In the course (about enterprise governance over IT) 'good' and 'bad' are also not "hard and fast rules". They are determined by determining stakeholders' needs and balancing three 'value objectives':
Benefits Realisation
Optimising Risk
Optimising Resources.
You have to be careful when rolling out values into a company culture. People generally have their own values, principles and moral beliefs. They don't want their employer telling them how to think. However, selling it as a tool to align employees with the goals and the brand of the company, to speed up decision making, to reduce red tape and thus empower employees this approach may get their buy-in, recognising that they don't need to compromise on their own values, but merely the company is giving them more responsibilities with regards to making decisions on behalf of the company.

(01-09-2013 01:33 AM)DLJ Wrote:  You mentioned that your moral foundation was based on "treat others as I would like to be treated" i.e. the basis for reciprocity and justice.
Not quite. I have no moral foundation. Morality is a word about "right" and "wrong" whereas my personal values are not, thus morality is a poor term in description of my personal values.
I have very little interest in justice.
I want people locked up, fined, put on community service or put to death as a deterrent for others or in order to remove them from society, thus making society safer for me and my loved ones. But justice, in terms of "I'll make you pay for what you did" I have no interest in this.


(01-09-2013 01:33 AM)DLJ Wrote:  From the link:
"Moral Foundations Theory considers the way morality varies between cultures and identifies five (later revised to six) "foundations"

These are:
Care/harm for others, protecting them from harm.
Fairness/cheating, justice, treating others in proportion to their actions, giving them their "just desserts". (He has also referred to this dimension as Proportionality.)
Liberty/oppression, characterizes judgments in terms of whether subjects are tyrannized.
Loyalty/betrayal to your group, family, nation. (He has also referred to this dimension as Ingroup.)
Authority/subversion for tradition and legitimate authority. (He has also connected this foundation to a notion of Respect.)
Sanctity/degradation, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions. (He has also referred to this as Purity.)
Certainly I think Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, Sanctity/degradation are not things that I would support my government in enforcing.
I actually disagree with Care/harm to a degree because I am supportive of abortion, so I don't mind mothers killing their own fetus. Merely because I don't deem it any of my business.
For fairness/cheating, I'm not interested in justice. but I do think we need some consumer garantees so that people aren't getting ripped off.
Libertey/oppression. Government and society members need to avoid oppression if possible. So this one I agree most on. The implications of this one is that laws ought not be based on morality. But instead on tolerance, acceptance and compromise. Freeing society from descrimination on race, skin colour, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender etc leads to a more harmonious and safe society. Oppression leads to conflict and potentially war.
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02-09-2013, 08:34 AM
RE: Morality absent of religion
(30-08-2013 08:04 PM)evenheathen Wrote:  Okay. So essentially they are the same. However "morals" seems to hold more emotional weight than "ethics" in everyday conversation. Wonder why that is?

Probably for the same reason 'faith' is seen as a positive trait, but 'gullibility' is seen as a negative one.

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