Secular Morality
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05-01-2015, 06:15 PM (This post was last modified: 05-01-2015 06:34 PM by gofish!.)
RE: Secular Morality
I haven't weighed in on this until now, if only because having studied philosophy on and off for all my life (formally at college and informal, through discussions with others such as philosophical groups, my father, clergy of different faiths and through my own enquiry), I've come to one conclusion: that you can't encapsulate all of the rich variety there is to find in philosophy into a single thread. Tongue

And seriously, I'm saying that in all humility: I really don't have the authority, deep research, intimate understanding (or these days, the will) to argue Kant versus Hegel, Ethical Egoism versus Utilitarianism, Chelsea versus Tottenham, Spy versus Spy....

Where would we start? Anyway, I dumped my text books and Sparknotes a long time ago. Smile

All I can say is this:

1. That when one engages in a study of ethics, one engages in a hunt for understanding every bit as challenging, exciting and rewarding as scientific endeavour;

2. If anyone wants to tackle specifics (like why Kant's categorical Imperative is flawed, or why I've got a thing for Ethical Egoism), then count me in.

"I don't mind being wrong...it's a time I get to learn something new..."
Me.
N.B: I routinely make edits to posts to correct grammar or spelling, or to restate a point more clearly. I only notify edits if they materially change meaning.
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05-01-2015, 06:34 PM
RE: Secular Morality
(05-01-2015 06:15 PM)gofish! Wrote:  I haven't weighed in on this until now, if only because having studied philosophy on and off for all my life (formally at college and informal, through discussions with others such as philosophical groups, my father, clergy of different faiths and through my own enquiry), I've come to one conclusion: that you can't encapsulate all of the rich variety there is to find in philosophy into a single thread. Tongue

And seriously, I'm saying that in all humility: I really don't have the authority, deep research, intimate understanding (or these days, the will) to argue Kant versus Hegel, Ethical Egoism versus Utilitarianism, Chelsea versus Tottenham, Spy versus Spy....

Anyway, I dumped my text books and Sparknotes a long time ago. Smile

All I can say is this:

1. That when one engages in ethics, one engages in a hunt for understanding every bit as challenging, exciting and rewarding as scientific endeavour;

2. If anyone wants to tackle specifics (like why Kant's categorical Imperative is flawed, or why I've got a thing for Ethical Egoism), then count me in.

I fully agree. It is a fascinating subject and full of gray areas. I don't pretend to know it all. I'm sorry if it appears otherwise.

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.--Voltaire.

"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." --Thomas Paine.
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05-01-2015, 06:38 PM (This post was last modified: 05-01-2015 06:41 PM by gofish!.)
RE: Secular Morality
(05-01-2015 06:34 PM)666wannabe Wrote:  
(05-01-2015 06:15 PM)gofish! Wrote:  I haven't weighed in on this until now, if only because having studied philosophy on and off for all my life (formally at college and informal, through discussions with others such as philosophical groups, my father, clergy of different faiths and through my own enquiry), I've come to one conclusion: that you can't encapsulate all of the rich variety there is to find in philosophy into a single thread. Tongue

And seriously, I'm saying that in all humility: I really don't have the authority, deep research, intimate understanding (or these days, the will) to argue Kant versus Hegel, Ethical Egoism versus Utilitarianism, Chelsea versus Tottenham, Spy versus Spy....

Anyway, I dumped my text books and Sparknotes a long time ago. Smile

All I can say is this:

1. That when one engages in ethics, one engages in a hunt for understanding every bit as challenging, exciting and rewarding as scientific endeavour;

2. If anyone wants to tackle specifics (like why Kant's categorical Imperative is flawed, or why I've got a thing for Ethical Egoism), then count me in.

I fully agree. It is a fascinating subject and full of gray areas. I don't pretend to know it all. I'm sorry if it appears otherwise.

Only a dick would pretend to know everything and don't worry, you didn't come across as a dick.

No offence meant here, but to my small brain, it's just that this thread is a little like saying "what do you think of science?" All I can say is "it's cool". Big Grin

That said, I think there's huge mileage in discussing how ethics has had to pull itself out of the theological porridge...

"I don't mind being wrong...it's a time I get to learn something new..."
Me.
N.B: I routinely make edits to posts to correct grammar or spelling, or to restate a point more clearly. I only notify edits if they materially change meaning.
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05-01-2015, 07:16 PM
RE: Secular Morality
(05-01-2015 06:15 PM)gofish! Wrote:  or why I've got a thing for Ethical Egoism
I prefer descriptive egoism (Psychological egoism) and as such I don't subscribe to morality or ethics.
Quote:Psychological egoism describes human nature as being wholly self-centered and self-motivated.
...
In its strong form, psychological egoism asserts that people always act in their own interests, and, cannot but act in their own interests, even though they may disguise their motivation with references to helping others or doing their duty.
Of course though, I admit, I will have much problems in convincing a person performing an altruistic act that they are acting out of self interest.

My position is not to be confused with Ethical egoism.
Quote:Ethical egoism is the normative theory that the promotion of one’s own good is in accordance with morality.

Quotes taken from the following article http://www.iep.utm.edu/egoism/
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05-01-2015, 07:23 PM
RE: Secular Morality
Ethical And Psychological Egoism
gofish!
Some University somewhere

Sometime ago

The word “egoism” is commonly used to describe negative behaviors, notably a preoccupation with one’s self and one’s own gain. Indeed the word “egoist” is often used as a derogatory term to describe someone who is self-centered and selfish. But in philosophy it describes, in a less emotionally charged way, theories that embrace the concept that one either does, or should act from self-interest (Baier, 1991). Here we consider two of the main forms of egoism: ethical egoism and psychological egoism, the latter of which we shall consider first.

As its name implies, psychological egoism posits that self-interest is a psychological phenomenon and that human nature is inherently self-motivated, a view that has been prevalent longer than the theory of psychological egoism itself (Moseley, 2007). This theory has immediate appeal: one does not have to look far to see behavior we might consider wholly self-motivated, be it one child taking another child’s toy, or an investment banker working hard to maximize his or her bonus. The so-called “strong” version of this theory holds that all motivation is inevitably and unavoidably self-centered and geared towards self-interest. However, this version of the theory has its critics, who might cite acts of apparent altruism (e.g. the child sharing a toy; a banker making charitable donations) or even freewill (Rachels, 2004); after all, if we do we not have the ability to choose how we act, why is that we still engage in ethical debate? Why would there be countless examples in history of consideration for others, leading to altruistic acts, such as those of Oskar Schindler in helping Jews to escape genocide (Steinhouse, 1994)? Far from being inconsiderate of others, research in psychiatry proposes that human brains have the in-built capacity for emotional empathy, to better inform an individual’s behavior and thus facilitate social cohesion (Blair, 2005). Indeed, a lack of this capability is strongly associated with anti-social behavioral disorders, such as psychopathy, the hallmark of which is self-centered behavior facilitated by a lack of regard for others. What would be the need for this emotional empathy if we were all clearly ruled only by self-interest? In a world governed by the strong version of psychological egoism, would psychopathy even be visible as a dysfunction?

A so-called “weak” version of psychological egoism therefore modifies a key premise of strong psychological egoism by allowing for seemingly altruistic actions that are, nevertheless, desired by the individual. This version might be used to explain, for example, the behavior of the banker making charitable donations or the child sharing the toy (i.e. they do it because it makes them feel good). However, in this theory, the choice remains one that is nevertheless self-serving and not an ethical choice (i.e. it is not done because it is ethically correct).

But perhaps the biggest challenge to psychological egoism as a cogent theory is that it is inherently a “closed” theory: one that can neither be verified as true, nor refuted. An individual’s own motivations are ultimately unobservable, as they are inherently private. Attempts to pry into this privacy are fraught with challenges (e.g. whether the subject is sufficiently self-aware to opine objectively on his or her own overt or hidden motivations). The theory is also simplistic and unable to shed light on ethical dilemmas, as it effectively reduces human motivation to the premise that “people do want they want to do”. As such, psychological egoism is at best an untestable assumption, as verifiable as an equally valid and plausible but opposite theory; that all human behavior is altruistic.

By contrast, ethical egoism discusses not what human nature is or is not. Instead it sets forth arguments for promoting one’s self-interest as a valid basis for ethical choices and behavior. It proposes that human interests are best determined, and therefore best served, by the individual themselves.

Ethical egoism builds on rational egoism - the theory that the pursuit of self-interest is always consistent with reason, as it is consistent with the rights of the individual for self-determination (Rand, 1964) - and ethical rationalism, which proposes that all compliance with moral requirements should be rational. As such, it provides a compelling argument for egoism, if you accept both of these theories. In its strong version, it proposes that it is always right and good that one pursues one’s own best interests, and indeed goes further to state that not to do so is always wrong (Baier, 1991). This, however, may lead to exceptions where not pursuing a non-beneficial activity (e.g. helping a road accident victim), simply because it does not serve self-interest, may not be just or moral. The weak version of the theory therefore allows for flexibility by stating that it is not necessarily wrong not to act in self-interest.

In a world where the individual is alone, the pursuance of self-interest can easily be seen as common sense: a person adrift on a lifeboat will need to ruthlessly pursue self-interest (e.g. obtaining fresh water and food) to survive. But when individuals need to coexist, there are challenges with this theory too. For example, in our imaginary lifeboat, now inhabited by two people, a limited supply of food or fresh water may create conflict between their self-interests (i.e. both need to acquire sufficient food and water to survive). Notwithstanding any delay to conflict through initial cooperation and resource-sharing, or fear of injury, a final and unavoidable shortage of sufficient supplies for two creates a conflict that cannot be resolved easily. To achieve resolution, one must either accept the non-universality of this principle (e.g. one inhabitant has to kill the other to survive), or abandon egoism (e.g. not take sole possession of the food and water). Ethical egoism is therefore not without its paradoxes.

Finally, in discussing egoism, one has to be clear on the difference between selfishness and self-interest, if only to avoid unnecessarily negative associations. Whereas selfishness is normally meant to convey a preoccupation with one’s own interests or pleasures at the expense of others, self-interest need not be “selfish”. As defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “a concern for one’s own advantage and well-being”, is not necessarily exclusive of the benefits to others. The generation of wealth, for example, can create opportunities for others (e.g. employment); helping neighbors can be self-serving in that it can yield benefits in future, where their reciprocal help is needed. But most of all, the issue of self-interest addresses a basic debate within ethics over the primacy of the individual’s right to self-determination, versus the view, grounded in Aristotle’s beliefs, that not all individuals have the capacity for determining what is in their best interest (Moseley, 2005). Self-interest is therefore holds a very valid place in the debate of the relative merits of ethical theories.

References
Baier, K. (1991). Egoism. In P. Singer (Ed.), A Companion to Ethics (pp. 197-204). Oxford: Blackwell.
Blair, R. (2005). Responding to the emotions of others: Dissociating forms of empathy through the study of typical and psychiatric populations. Retrieved November 18, xxxx, from the Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences Web site: http://www.nips.ac.jp/fmritms/conference...r_2005.pdf
Moseley, A. (August 2007). Egoism. Retrieved November 30, xxxx, from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Web site: http://www.iep.utm.edu/egoism/
Rachels, R. (2004). The Elements of Moral Philosophy (5th Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Rand, A (1964). Virtue of Selfishness. New York: Signet.
Steinhouse, H. (April 1994). The Real Oskar Schindler. Retrieved November 18, xxxx, from the University of Pennsylvania Literature of the Holocaust Web site: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/H...house.html

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N.B: I routinely make edits to posts to correct grammar or spelling, or to restate a point more clearly. I only notify edits if they materially change meaning.
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05-01-2015, 08:40 PM
RE: Secular Morality
There is always an objective component to morality. Like playing a game of chess there is always a subjective component (I want to, or I ought to win) as well as an objective component (the rules of the game, the "is"). The superiority of secular morality is that it addresses the objective component. It considers the impact of actions on people and their lives. Secular morality is (comparably) objective.

Religious morality is subjective and is based on edicts of long-dead figures, or supposed gods. It does not consider the objective impact of actions on the real world but instead considers their subjective impact on a god's hurt feelings. There is nothing objective about this.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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06-01-2015, 03:23 AM
RE: Secular Morality
Edit: Sorry I'm on my phone. This post is directed at 666 reply to me about Nazism.


But that is different in that it was a creed designed to harm other people. I agree perhaps as a base morality you might consider:

Lets try not kill each other.

But even then, that is too subjective. What is to kill? What is an "other".

Is it morally wrong *to the family* who has been raised all their life told that prayer has power to pray for the sick and wounded instead of seeking mmedical advice?

Immoral to you or I sure. But for them, to kill someone by denial of treatment is as moral act as they can think of. After all, once they do die they are going to be with Jesus etc anyway.

So what do we do, do we say we will enforce our morality of noone should die unecessarily if it can be prevented?

Then you get into the question of what is an other. Anti-abortionists think its the most moral thing in the world to "save" unborn fetuses even at the risk of the mother.

After all, they are only preventing someone from dying unnecessarily.

There will never be a true base morality. We can only swing from side to side depending on our culture and society. Hopefully we maintain a society where life is respected - but the problem is that so much of "religious morality" is based around the act of killing the other team - or at least fighting them.
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06-01-2015, 08:36 AM
RE: Secular Morality
(06-01-2015 03:23 AM)GenericBox Wrote:  Edit: Sorry I'm on my phone. This post is directed at 666 reply to me about Nazism.


But that is different in that it was a creed designed to harm other people. I agree perhaps as a base morality you might consider:

Lets try not kill each other.

But even then, that is too subjective. What is to kill? What is an "other".

Is it morally wrong *to the family* who has been raised all their life told that prayer has power to pray for the sick and wounded instead of seeking mmedical advice?

Immoral to you or I sure. But for them, to kill someone by denial of treatment is as moral act as they can think of. After all, once they do die they are going to be with Jesus etc anyway.

So what do we do, do we say we will enforce our morality of noone should die unecessarily if it can be prevented?

Then you get into the question of what is an other. Anti-abortionists think its the most moral thing in the world to "save" unborn fetuses even at the risk of the mother.

After all, they are only preventing someone from dying unnecessarily.

There will never be a true base morality. We can only swing from side to side depending on our culture and society. Hopefully we maintain a society where life is respected - but the problem is that so much of "religious morality" is based around the act of killing the other team - or at least fighting them.

What I am trying to do is to meet the challenge, posed by theists, that without God and the Bible, people have nothing upon which to base "morality". I think that this claim is false.

I think we have to start with a scientifically valid "theory" about what it is to be human--some basic principals on which to base an understanding of secular morality. It is scientifically valid that, although there are of course exceptions, human beings are social creatures, that, generally, human beings desire happiness and freedom from suffering, that humans have the capacity to experience happiness and to experience suffering, and that, at least initially, all human beings have an equal right to have happiness and freedom from suffering. This latter is not a claim that such a "right" exists but, that if it does exist, we all have that right.

This is the base--call it a philosophical base. Upon this (descriptive) base, we can build an understanding of what moral is--prescriptive behaviors. We must be careful, however, to not consider these prescriptions as dogmatically true. "Current evidence suggests..." rather than "Thou shalt not".

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.--Voltaire.

"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." --Thomas Paine.
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07-01-2015, 10:54 PM
RE: Secular Morality
Upon giving it further thought, morality is, generally, based on external prescriptions, but on internal desires. I don't refrain from killing someone because there are laws against it: I have no desire to kill anyone. The same can be said for stealing. Most of us, I would venture, don't steal from others because we do not desire to steal from others. Moral behavior is ingrained in us, by nature. This is why I shudder when a bible-thumping believer says that the only reason they refrain from immorality is because of God's commands. To base one's morality on promises of rewards and punishments is not to be moral--it is to be a servant.

Ghandi said, "I do not seek redemption from the consequences of sin, I seek to be redeemed from sin, itself."

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.--Voltaire.

"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." --Thomas Paine.
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11-01-2015, 10:54 AM
RE: Secular Morality
(07-01-2015 10:54 PM)666wannabe Wrote:  Upon giving it further thought, morality is, generally, based on external prescriptions, but on internal desires. I don't refrain from killing someone because there are laws against it: I have no desire to kill anyone. The same can be said for stealing. Most of us, I would venture, don't steal from others because we do not desire to steal from others. Moral behavior is ingrained in us, by nature. This is why I shudder when a bible-thumping believer says that the only reason they refrain from immorality is because of God's commands. To base one's morality on promises of rewards and punishments is not to be moral--it is to be a servant.

Ghandi said, "I do not seek redemption from the consequences of sin, I seek to be redeemed from sin, itself."

More further thought;

As an example, consider the man who hid Anne Frank in his attic, then lied to the Nazis in order to protect her. Did he commit an "immoral" act by lying? I think the answer is "yes, he did", but he did so in order to prevent an injustice which would have been greater than the immorality of lying.

This is the substance of "moral dilemmas".

When an immoral act is committed in order to prevent great injustice to others, it doesn't make the act moral, yet it is justified (the lesser of two evils!). We should not claim that our act has been transformed into a moral act, but, instead, that committing the immoral act was a more reasonable action.

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.--Voltaire.

"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." --Thomas Paine.
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