Morality
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14-09-2011, 09:42 PM
RE: Morality
(14-09-2011 08:49 PM)myst32 Wrote:  "If moral truth does not exist, then everything is permitted."

Still a non sequitur of massive proportions.
What if the moral truth is that everything is permitted?

OK, you've now correctly identified what the author of the article says Parfit believes.

But I don't see it as a non-sequitur. If you don't believe in absolute moral truths--that is, if all notions of right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral are subjective--then it's impossible to identify any particular act that's wrong under all circumstances. No matter how heinous an act you can dream up in your imagination, you can always concoct some situation or culture or society in which it's just peachy. So in that sense, yes, everything is permitted.

That's what I imagine Parfit means. But I haven't read his work and I don't want to misrepresent him. Once I complete On What Matters, I'll be able to talk about his views with more authority. Wink

As for "What if the moral truth is that everything is permitted?" That would be saying that the truth about morality is that there's no morality--no distinctions whatsoever can be made between moral and immoral acts. Everything goes. I guess that's a logical possibility. But I wouldn't want to live in such a world.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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14-09-2011, 09:43 PM
RE: Morality
Can someone explain to me why everyone thinks that everything is binary?

Hey, Joe Bloe.

Quote:If a moral person has been living in a community and then moves away to live in isolation, do they suddenly become immoral? I say not.

No. Immorality requires other humans too.

Hey, Cufflink.

I'm very tired. I'll just say that yes, I am a subjectivist. I accept that you believe there are some moral absolutes, but I disagree. If there are moral absolutes, what are your feelings of Christian claims of possessing them? Is it possible that they in fact know those absolutes and are correct then that you cannot know morality without religion?

Quote:He believes that without moral truth the world would be a bleak place in which nothing mattered. This thought horrifies him. . . .

Beh. Regurgitated Hobbes. Without the rule of law the life of man would be nasty, brutish and short. But if one accepts that societies always have a moral code, that we can’t help but have one, then absolutes are unnecessary. There will never be a society without a moral code. What people like him fear is that they won't agree with it, or worse, will not benefit directly from it.

This is the same argument that Theists offer. Without God's morality the world is hell. I disagree with all of them. We always work something out and it is never an end point. It is constantly evolving.

Evolution precludes the ideal.

His subjectivist quote is reading like gibberish to me right now. Any insight to share?

Hey, Myst.

Everything in a society is an agreement. Morality, power, even reality.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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14-09-2011, 10:36 PM
RE: Morality
(14-09-2011 09:43 PM)Ghost Wrote:  If there are moral absolutes, what are your feelings of Christian claims of possessing them? Is it possible that they in fact know those absolutes and are correct then that you cannot know morality without religion?

Matt,

The claim that morality depends on religion can be easily refuted. Since religions don't agree on what is and is not moral (capital punishment? slavery? polygamy? abortion? acceptance of homosexuality? same-sex marriage? women showing their hair in public? ad infinitum), we would need pre-existing notions of morality to judge which religion is the right one to follow.

But as for the bigger question of how, if I claim moral truths exist, I go about identifying those truths . . . I'm obviously on shaky ground there. At least I'm not alone. Minds far greater than mine have wrestled with that question for literally thousands of years.

One thing I can't accept, however, is that everything is up to culture and society, in that as long as a society has reached the point where it's stable and functioning, the rules it operates by are moral. (That may be an over-simplification of what you've meant by "adaptive" in this context--if so, please let me know.) A society that accepts honor killing as a normal part of life can "work" for centuries, but I'll never be able to regard such acts as moral.

Perhaps the best I can say is that in thinking about these things, it's the journey that matters, not whether or not you reach your destination. It helps to encounter different thoughtful points of view along the way, so I thank you and others on the forum for those opportunities. But I think it's important to go on the journey, especially for us atheists and agnostics who don't have pre-packaged moral systems to fall back on.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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15-09-2011, 01:14 AM
RE: Morality
(14-09-2011 10:36 PM)cufflink Wrote:  One thing I can't accept, however, is that everything is up to culture and society, in that as long as a society has reached the point where it's stable and functioning, the rules it operates by are moral. (That may be an over-simplification of what you've meant by "adaptive" in this context--if so, please let me know.) A society that accepts honor killing as a normal part of life can "work" for centuries, but I'll never be able to regard such acts as moral.

So then we reach the position where, living in a society where we can't agree with the general/majority moral stance on various subjects creates friction/doubt.

For instance, I regard boxing as immoral, but it is accepted in probably every society on the planet.

My basic moral code is that I won't hurt/harm any other life form on this planet, to the best of my ability. Of course, I don't always succeed! I kill mosquitoes, fleas and ticks if they ever invade my space!

So, I'm often at odds with the morals of the society that I live in, which allows for many types of harm/pain towards others.

"To think of what the world has suffered from superstition, from religion, from the worship of beast and stone and god, is
almost enough to make one insane."

Robert G. Ingersoll
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15-09-2011, 08:32 AM
RE: Morality
Hey, Cufflink.

Quote:One thing I can't accept, however, is that everything is up to culture and society, in that as long as a society has reached the point where it's stable and functioning, the rules it operates by are moral.


For me the question is, "where do morals come from?" If they are the result of cultural evolution then they are absolutely up to the culture.

As far as the second half of your statement, I... want to disagree. Not quite though. A moral code needs to be functional for there to be cultural stability. But that doesn't mean that functionality equals morality. That's like Bush saying that 'torture isn't illegal because we do it'. A culture might consider something we consider abhorent, moral. That only means it's moral in that culture because there are no absolutes. It's not big M Moral, it's little m moral. It's immoral to another people. And it could be an accepted practice that is objectively immoral within the society or subjectively immoral. Take factory farming. We do it. A lot. Some people see no problem with doing what we do to these animals, some think it's simply immoral and some think it's immoral but do it anyway.

For me, saying that morality is a cultural issue is just an observation. I'm not prescribing anything.

If we say that there are moral absolutes and that we can denounce others for failing to meet them, then we have to be able to explain how we determined what those absolutes are. Otherwise we're just talking out of our ass. Which is what religious moralists are doing. They say there are absolutes and they know them because God told them what they were. If we promote moral absolutes without having a methodology for determining them, we're doing the same thing.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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15-09-2011, 09:42 AM
RE: Morality
Wow, a lot has happened since I checked this thread yesterday Smile

It's an interesting thread and I think there's been several comments that I will ponder on for a while.

(14-09-2011 09:26 AM)nontheocrat Wrote:  MAD,

I think the most obvious shifts in morality deals with slavery and the right to own another human being. Under Old Testament law it is completely within the law. Almost no one excepts it today. Another obvious shift in morality can be seen in how we look at racism. Once again, the Old Testament is built on racism (specifically the superiority of the Jews over other races).

For this part he uses the "it's not the morality that has changed, it's the way we view other people"-defence.

(14-09-2011 09:38 AM)myst32 Wrote:  
(14-09-2011 09:01 AM)MAD Wrote:  he thinks the morality of all human beings is an innate knowledge and that it was instilled in us by a god.

His conclusion does not follow from his premise. Even if you grant him that it is an "innate knowledge" depositing God as the cause is just wishful thinking and would require an insane amount of something called "proof". A lot of the basic morals like not killing can very easily be explained by evolution, no God necessary. Even if he does not "believe" in evolution almost any other scenario you can think up is more likely... say for example aliens deposited the knowledge when they seeded the planet with life as an experiment to see how we would use the innate knowledge they gave us. Highly unlikely... but more likely than God.

God is always the least likely conclusion.

Yup, I agree and I am currently having that discussion with him as well Smile

He is trying to convince me, or rather explain to me how he arrived at his conclusions and how that idea requires the least bit of faith to believe in since my idea that I posted about how morality probably evolved is not really possible to prove.
I have told him that my ideas are just pure speculation, I have said I think morality has evolved from our ability to feel empathy and our learned knowledge of the benefits of working as a group and thereby knowing/discovering that it is better for the group if everyone protects the rest of the group. From there some sort of morality have evolved.
I haven't really done any research into the subject but I don't think there's any scientific proof from where our sense of morality stems Smile

I have also told him that for me it would always be a gigantic leap of faith to all of a sudden throw in a being that we have absolutely no proof for no matter how sound the logic behind everything else we've got.

Hey Ghost:
Quote:
Quote:He's trying to argue that if we consider the person as less human than we are, then we use this to justify breaking the "law of morality".

Well he does have a strong point in that dehumanisation of the Other, the reduction of them from, as Martin Buber might say, "thou" to "it", has a profound effect on how we treat them.
Yes, I don't disagree with him that this is a way that some people can justify their actions whether they do it consciously or subconsciously.
I would say that it is part of what I consider morality how you view other people, in my opinion it is immoral to think that I am worth more than anyone else.
I am not quite sure what my view is when analysing it a bit more, is it immoral for someone who has never been though anything else than that another race is pure evil to think that he is better than them?
If there is such a thing as absolute morality, then I guess it is immoral.
If it's all dependent on culture and society I guess it could be moral.
If morality is based on firstly what objectively cases as little pain as possible to the greatest amount of living beings and secondly as much happiness/pleasure/positive progress as possible to everything than I guess it's immoral again Smile

Take care!
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15-09-2011, 10:19 AM (This post was last modified: 15-09-2011 10:29 AM by Peterkin.)
RE: Morality
(14-09-2011 08:36 PM)Joe Bloe Wrote:  If a moral person has been living in a community and then moves away to live in isolation, do they suddenly become immoral? I say not.

Not suddenly immoral. Gradually amoral.

It means that he sheds those social imperatives that no longer apply to his life-style, and replaces them with relevant behavioural pattern of his own.

Of course everything is permitted in a situation where nobody is in a position to forbid anything.

That doesn't mean the amoral person has to behave badly, or even wants to behave badly. It just means nobody is judging his behaviour or comparing it to a pre-set standard. Amoral simply means unregulated, like other solitary animal's activities: directed at survival first, comfort second and happiness third.

It's also possible for someone to choose solitude - as a pioneer, or hermit, or back-to-nature hippie -because current social mores fail to meet his personal moral standard; he thus needs to step outside morality in order to be as good as he wants to be.
Should we assume that the currently accepted definition of moral is the only possible definition of moral?

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15-09-2011, 10:29 AM
RE: Morality
(14-09-2011 09:42 PM)cufflink Wrote:  No matter how heinous an act you can dream up in your imagination, you can always concoct some situation or culture or society in which it's just peachy.

".....I wouldn't want to live in such a world."

Why not? Any world you are born into is going to seem "normal" to you. You can only make the statements above because you are imagining something outside of the norm and then comparing it with your current set of morals. If you were born into a world were all the morals were reversed you would say the same thing about this worlds set of morals and how you would not want to live in it. Your basing your position on a comparison were you are only familiar with the side you were born with and giving that side the weight of "truth".

When Columbus came to the new world he was appalled at the native population's morals. Especially how they treated there women. Native women had power... they could throw the man out of the house if they were unhappy with him. They were equal to the man. If you read his writings about it, you can get the sense that he wouldn't want to live in such a world. That is was too strange and primitive to him. However, it was not at all strange to the native people. To them it was the white man's morals that were strange. Either way both sets of people felt their set of morals were "normal" and "right" while the other sides was "strange" and "wrong". (Of course the white man had guns and horses... and we all know might makes right.) They can only make this determination though comparison. Each side will always give the set of morals they were born with, what is normal, higher weight when they make the comparison. Your doing the same with your statements above.

“We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.” Orson Welles
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15-09-2011, 10:49 AM
RE: Morality
Morality is essentially a set of rules that a person chooses to live by, and they are rules that may have been taught to us and/or rules that we have chosen for ourselves. While many moral codes are about dealing with other people (as many should be), that is not a requirement for something to be a moral code.

What a person thinks is "good" or "evil" is defined by that person's morality.

A person's morality is defined by what he/she thinks or believes is the proper objective of his/her life.

If a person believes that the objective of one's life is "to please God, embrace altruism, and prepare for eternal life in heaven," then that person's moral code will be radically different from a person who believes that life's objective is "to accumulate as many material possessions as possible by any means necessary," or another who believes that life's objective is "to provide a comfortable life for one's family and interact peacefully with all of the humans and animals living on earth."

Morals are not meaningless without society. While many moral codes are about dealing with others in society, others are not. If a person chooses not to drink alcohol because they believe they should not consume anything that may damage their body, and that to do so would be evil, that is a moral choice, regardless if they are living in a society or living in solitude.

Every person initially learned morals, either by intention (parents or caretakers teaching one's children) or by accident (parental/caretaker neglect that allows/forces a child to learn on their own). But one can choose to change one's morals over time.

A person does not need to take a moral position on everything. Whether one prefers green over yellow is probably not a moral issue for most people. Whether one should be able to murder another person is probably indeed a moral issue for most people.

The question "what are morals and how do they apply to people?" is not the same question as "what should one's morals be?" The answer to the second question is based on (as mentioned before) what one thinks or believes one's objective in life should be.

- Chip
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15-09-2011, 10:56 AM
RE: Morality
(15-09-2011 01:14 AM)Organon Wrote:  So then we reach the position where, living in a society where we can't agree with the general/majority moral stance on various subjects creates friction/doubt.

For instance, I regard boxing as immoral, but it is accepted in probably every society on the planet.

So, I'm often at odds with the morals of the society that I live in, which allows for many types of harm/pain towards others.

Exactly. This is the emotional component that Zatamon embraces. When you find the moral standard of your society wanting, you try to convince others to see as you see, feel as you feel. You may have to be hanged for these convictions, like John Brown, because the moral arbiters of your time can't deal with the issues as clearly as you do. but eventually, your view prevails.
This is how progress is made. This is the only way social progress is made.
Enlightenment consists of serial misfits with little candles.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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