Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
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21-08-2012, 11:50 AM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
(19-08-2012 10:56 AM)MACGRUBER7693 Wrote:  Me being an atheist compounds this problem. I have no absolute moral truth to fall back on and calm my worries. Has anyone struggled with questions like this in the past? How did you put your mind at ease?

Well, for one, it has nothing to do with you being an atheists. You might not have, are not fully aware of and understand, an absolute moral truth, but speak for yourself. I'm comfortable with, and aware of, morality and, aside from other people arguing and disagreeing, it's absolute by definition.

The problem might still be that it doesn't apply to animals, but that's alright with me, because that doesn't bother me.

I care about animals. I also care about our planet in general: plants, our oceans, the atmosphere, bacteria, fungus, mountains, etc. It might only be for selfish reasons, like these things both being beautiful and beneficial to me and to future generations of humans, but I care about them.

My mind is already at ease, but I guess my response would be similar to Peterkin, at least the first part of the response.

Morality is a construct of the human mind, derived from our ability to reason, and used in gaining understanding. It's metaphysical. It's not part of natural laws that govern the physical world. It's a construct derived from human rationality and used in understanding what course of actions we should take, not limited to, but more specifically, in regards to behaviors and treatment of other human beings.

You really have to separate the physical world from metaphysical construct. Nothing outside of morality can be looked at and defined in moral terms. If you murder someone, outside of morality, nothing is wrong with it. Basically what I'm getting at is: Inherent rightness and wrongness of an action and morality are not mutually exclusive. I think not understanding that is something that causes problems in understanding morality. Like I said before, it's a human construct and a metaphysical one.

There are actions that can be argued immoral an applied to other animals and things outside of humans, but you really have to look at things amorally for a minute and view things as life and struggle for energy.. survival. We eat things to gain energy from them, and regardless of morality, that is what we have to do to live and survive. I think a lot of people have to also keep in mind, that when eating, we are eating things that are alive or were once alive to gain energy. Even taking into account morality, a lot of the arguments about how we treat things we eat arbitrarily, and seemingly irrationally, attempt to take into account things like consciousness, pleasure, pain, happiness, etc. One of the things that could help you would be ignoring those things also. I personally think they are stupid and not a far stretch from religious. It seems like you are trying to rationalize things too much. I tend to respect the people that harm absolutely no life at all to eat and the ones that will eat anything. Anything in between, I tend not to throw much respect to, and that helps me a lot.

So, if I had to put together a checklist to help you out, it would look like this:
  • View morality as human construct
  • Apply human morality only to humans
  • View morality as absolute
  • Don't let morality, regardless of how you come to view it, conflict with survival/understanding nature and survival as separate from morality
  • Learn about and respect nature outside of humans, and if it makes you feel better you can work to help endangered animals, cut back on global warming, cut back on pollution, rescue animals, plant trees
  • Eat more fruit
    or
  • Eat Mor Chikin

The Paradox Of Fools And Wise Men:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ― Bertrand Russell
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21-08-2012, 11:54 AM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
(21-08-2012 11:50 AM)TrulyX Wrote:  
  • View morality as human construct
  • Apply human morality only to humans
  • View morality as absolute
  • Don't let morality, regardless of how you come to view it, conflict with survival/understanding nature and survival as separate from morality
  • Learn about and respect nature outside of humans, and if it makes you feel better you can work to help endangered animals, cut back on global warming, cut back on pollution, rescue animals, plant trees
  • Eat more fruit
    or
  • Eat Mor Chikin

No, you contradict yourself. If morality is a construct, it is not absolute.
Unless, of course, you propose a totalitarian world government to make it absolute.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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21-08-2012, 12:09 PM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
I thought that this discussion was petering out (or Peterkining out) as I was comfortable with everything I had said. Then I read your reply and was more than a little dismayed.

Above and beyond everything else, the most important mistake was this: you're comparing human morality with non-human morality. They are at very different levels (depending upon the species), but that does not mean that non-human animals are not using morality. This human-snobbery really irritates the bejesus out of me: humans are so much better than non-human animals, according to the Aristotelian Ladder (and all those who adopt such a principle).

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We are animals, too. We are more intelligent and are better at reasoning, but to insist that non-human animals have neither intelligence nor reasoning is (quite frankly) fucking bogus.

Now, more specifically.

(21-08-2012 08:17 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  I doubt there is a wide range of intelligence or self-awareness among the big cats,

Have you ever seen lionesses hunt down game? They don't just run and run, hoping to outrun the weakest of the pack. They use such amazing intelligence, positioning themselves and working as a team to work towards a common goal.

(21-08-2012 08:17 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  dolphins have no discernible empathy for fish, and certainly not for sharks

Morality is species-specific; that is to say, it is applied within a species. It involves reciprocity amongst social animals, so it is meaningless to try and apply it outside of that species. Extra-species morality exists (with humans, certainly) but that is a different ball-game with very different rules. Dolphins have no reason whatsoever to empathise with fish. Much as a cheetah has no reason to empathise with a gazelle.

(21-08-2012 08:17 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  lions are rather unkeen on other lions' whelp.

So? That's natural selection at work. Their morality doesn't abide by your morality. That doesn't mean that it isn't morality, because lions aren't human.

(21-08-2012 08:17 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  And bonobos, bright as they are, don't go writing up great sententious tomes on what's to be rendered onto gods and emperors, what constitutes purity of heart, how women shall dress and what sexual mores are fine in this regime but punishable by the death in the next.

See above, regarding snobbery.
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21-08-2012, 12:09 PM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
(20-08-2012 11:25 PM)Red Celt Wrote:  Sociopaths lack empathy. They can't empathise with other humans and are therefore isolated from the concept of social animals. In that regard, then yes... they are amoral at their core, but they can learn to adapt their behaviour and (sometimes surprisingly) do perfectly well in society. That's sociopaths. Psychopaths actually take that process to another level, inflicting harm on others for pleasure.

Consider

Still trying to work out whether my ex-wife was a Socio- or a Psycho-

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21-08-2012, 01:38 PM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
(20-08-2012 05:06 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  Other social animals have standards of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, which is passed largely unchanged* from generation to generation. I don't deny that all self-aware species have a sense of right and wrong action. All i'm saying is that they have no need to codify this network of obligations and prerogatives, and they are unaware of such a concept.

(*It gets changed by humans when we domesticate and subjugate other animals.)

(21-08-2012 08:17 AM)Peterkin Wrote:  And bonobos, bright as they are, don't go writing up great sententious tomes on what's to be rendered onto gods and emperors, what constitutes purity of heart, how women shall dress and what sexual mores are fine in this regime but punishable by the death in the next.

I don't think you are looking at the subject from the context in which these social animals live. As you’ve noted, Chimps and bonobos have no need to codify their particular morality. This is because they have no need for written or spoken language. Chimps and bonobos communicate verbally (pants, grunts, and calls), gesturally (face, hand, and body gestures), and through touch (grooming and hugging). This way of communication has suited them for millions of years. There is no need for morality to be written down because it is simply passed from one generation to the next just like humans did before the advent of writing. It has no reason to change because it works within their social environment. Their morality is similar to “living fossils” like tortoises. They haven’t noticeably chanced over millions of years because they are best suited for the environment in which they live. Since it works, how is it any less valid than the morality that works for humans in their environment? Anatomically modern humans were around for about 195,000 years before they began to write anything down. Does this mean human morality from that time had less value than it does today?

As I’ve pointed out in other threads, human morality evolved from that of our proto-ape ancestors. Chimps and bonobos serve as good models for what the social lives of these ancestors must have been like. They have a sense of fairness and reciprocity. Community members use consolation in order to avoid confrontation, and if a fight does arise, they reconcile with each other. They risk their own lives to save the lives of others. They even care for those who can’t care for themselves. These traits stuck with us as we transitioned to hairless bipedal apes. Anything beyond this is simply cultural morality. Each culture has different concepts of gods, purity of heart, dress codes, and sexual mores. The morals particular to these cultures are just like the morals particular to the great apes: they work in their own context. The only thing that would change these morals is if their environment changed. Therefore, if you survey the writings of any one culture, you will see that their notions of right and wrong change with the times. Therefore, codified morality is not infallible.
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21-08-2012, 01:39 PM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
(21-08-2012 11:54 AM)Chas Wrote:  No, you contradict yourself. If morality is a construct, it is not absolute.
Unless, of course, you propose a totalitarian world government to make it absolute.

Wrong. It's not contradictory. I don't understand what you think is conflicting, either.

If I wake up tomorrow and 2 = 5, then I'll understand what you are trying to say, but until then, I don't see a contradiction.

The Paradox Of Fools And Wise Men:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ― Bertrand Russell
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21-08-2012, 02:38 PM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
Okay. Apples and oranges are both fruit, but a tomato is a berry.

It's not the mean god I have trouble with - it's the people who worship a mean god.
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21-08-2012, 04:36 PM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
(21-08-2012 01:38 PM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  As I’ve pointed out in other threads, human morality evolved from that of our proto-ape ancestors. Chimps and bonobos serve as good models for what the social lives of these ancestors must have been like. They have a sense of fairness and reciprocity. Community members use consolation in order to avoid confrontation, and if a fight does arise, they reconcile with each other. They risk their own lives to save the lives of others. They even care for those who can’t care for themselves. These traits stuck with us as we transitioned to hairless bipedal apes. Anything beyond this is simply cultural morality. Each culture has different concepts of gods, purity of heart, dress codes, and sexual mores. The morals particular to these cultures are just like the morals particular to the great apes: they work in their own context. The only thing that would change these morals is if their environment changed. Therefore, if you survey the writings of any one culture, you will see that their notions of right and wrong change with the times. Therefore, codified morality is not infallible.

(21-08-2012 12:09 PM)Red Celt Wrote:  I thought that this discussion was petering out (or Peterkining out) as I was comfortable with everything I had said. Then I read your reply and was more than a little dismayed.

Above and beyond everything else, the most important mistake was this: you're comparing human morality with non-human morality. They are at very different levels (depending upon the species), but that does not mean that non-human animals are not using morality. This human-snobbery really irritates the bejesus out of me: humans are so much better than non-human animals, according to the Aristotelian Ladder (and all those who adopt such a principle).

We are animals, too. We are more intelligent and are better at reasoning, but to insist that non-human animals have neither intelligence nor reasoning is (quite frankly) fucking bogus.

First to Red Celt: It was Aristotle who called human beings "rational animals".

I find this quote by Descartes regarding 'rational animals' to be funny:

"Shall. I say 'a rational animal'? No; for then I should have to inquire what an animal is, what rationality is, and in this way one question would lead me down the slope to other harder ones."

Now to address both of you:

The problem is that you now have to explain that all animals that you want to apply morality to (other than humans) do philosophy. I think that is what Peterkin was trying to get at.

Human morality is philosophy, and it requires philosophy. It's not at all "snobbery" to suggests that animals don't have morality, unless it is first substantiated that animals actually do partake in philosophy, which would very well be illustrated through spoken and written language and mathematics, along with things such as..

"writing up great sententious tomes on what's to be rendered onto gods and emperors, what constitutes purity of heart, how women shall dress and what sexual mores are fine in this regime but punishable by the death in the next."

Those are all things that show that human beings do philosophy. It also shows that they make mistakes at it, but it does show that they do philosophy.

Saying animals have morality without showing that they do philosophy, or pointing out that human morality and animal morality are completely and fundamentally referring to different things (which I think Red Celt was doing), could be chalked up as incorrectly labeling animal behaviors with a human concept.

At the very least, because human morality is philosophy/metaphysics, you have to distinguish by saying human morality vs. animal morality. But, in the core discussion you have to realize that, unless the animals are doing philosophy, their actions and behaviors are just customary actions and behavior to be viewed strictly in terms of evolution/natural selection, and these behaviors are not technically morality.

The Paradox Of Fools And Wise Men:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ― Bertrand Russell
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21-08-2012, 04:45 PM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
(21-08-2012 04:36 PM)TrulyX Wrote:  First to Red Celt: It was Aristotle who called human beings "rational animals".

And it was Aristotle who created the ladder which separated humans from animals, to the same degree that animals were separated from plants and plants from minerals. This is a nonsense.

(21-08-2012 04:36 PM)TrulyX Wrote:  Human morality is philosophy, and it requires philosophy.

Utter nonsense. Define morality and define philosophy. When did humans become moral? When the first philosophers appeared? When schools of philosophy were created? When writing was created?
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21-08-2012, 04:51 PM
RE: Need advice on the morality of humans and nature.
Moral philosophy is derivative of biological morality, in itself chemical intelligence. Moral patterns emerge for the species, culture, individual. Killing is wrong, except for when isn't, like killing viruses and cockroaches.

What is really wrong? Not to think for yourself, not to love... but forget about preservation and salvation. Things are gonna change, and change is gonna suck, until it doesn't.

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