Morality for Dummies

Hambydammit
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Morality for Dummies

What is morality?  It's a simple question, isn't it?  Morality is right and wrong.  It's acting good or bad.  It's a description of the way people ought to behave.

Of course, thinking people realize it's not nearly as simple as that.  This thread is in no way intended to be a complete explanation of morality, but it's a good place to start for the basics.  There will be a much more comprehensive book page coming up in the future, but for the time being, I want to address one aspect of morality in particular.

If you've followed my writing at all, you know that I simply won't listen to a "should statement" unless I know what's at the end of the sentence.  You should act this way towards your neighbor... so that X, Y, and Z happen.

This is the heart of morality.  People behave in a certain way towards other humans because the net result is a compromise, of sorts, between competing desires by not only both people, but all the other people who might be affected.

To cite a simple example, we can ask why I don't just bludgeon people to death with a beer bottle when I see them in a bar.  The obvious answer is that I don't want to go to jail, but there's more to it than that.  Assuming no cops, and no laws against doing it, I'm still unlikely to do it.  For one thing, I like having friends.  Living alone is, well.. lonely.  If I have a reputation for randomly bludgeoning people to death, my circle of friends is going to be a bit slimmer than those of people who tend to keep their friends alive.  Furthermore, if I ever want to have a girl get naked and put herself in a compromising and vulnerable position for me, she's going to have to have reasonable assurances that I'm not going to kill her, or it's going to be a lot more difficult to arrange the little tryst.  Furthermore, I hope to be able to go to a nice house and sleep in a nice bed tonight.  I can't afford that if I don't have a job.  People are going to be a lot less likely to hire me if I kill people all the time. 

I could go on like this for a long time.  There are a LOT of very good reasons not to kill people, and it turns out that people very rarely kill other people.  Here's the nasty kicker to it, though.  When people do kill other people, they have very compelling reasons for it.  Most murders are crimes of passion.  We are all familiar with the rage that comes with being dumped, or cheated on, or rejected, or whatever pushes the rage button for us.  It's a little disconcerting to admit that this is a reason to kill someone because it sounds like we're giving people permission. 

That's where the difference lies.  We don't give permission.  That's why murderers go to jail.  Nevertheless, they had a good reason for killing.  It is the same with every act that we consider moral or immoral.  When we do good things, we do them because there's a good reason for it.  Same for bad things.

"Morality" is simply the word we use to explain the cause/effect relationship between behaviors and consequences.  If we impose negative social penalties on someone for committing a certain act, we say that it's bad.  If we reward the act, we say it's good. 

Theists are not immune from this, though they claim vigorously that they are.  Christians, in particular, say that morality is something higher than human experience.  Some things are good just because they are, and we do them regardless of consequence.  This silly error misses the obvious point -- If some things are naturally good, regardless of their consequences, then we do them because they are good regardless of consequences!  The act is still based on cause/effect.  If I give to charity because I can observe that people who have what they need are less likely to steal, I am in the same boat as someone who gives to charity because God says so.  The only difference is that one of these two motivations has a real world correlation, and the other does not.

Theists, by insisting that morality is removed from material cause/effect, set up a meaningless cause/effect relationship, thus negating the functionality of acting morally!  They have a reason, just the same as materialists, for acting morally, only the reason is removed from the cause/effect chain, and therefore cannot be evaluated in terms of its beneficial or negative effects on either the actor or the people around him.

Thus, theist morality, like all concepts contingent on something other than materialism, fails to answer the very simple question:  Why?  The answer, "because it's good," leads to a circular argument where "good" has no referent, and is therefore meaningless.

 

 

 

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Bueller?......Theists? ... 

Bueller?

...

...

Theists?

 

...

 

 

Is this thing on?  (tap) (tap)

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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EXC
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Morality is Selfishness.

Hambydammit wrote:

What is morality? 

Morality is the desire to force other people to act in ways beneficial to the individual or group preaching a behavior standard. This done by means of fear, guilt and deception.

Any attempt to define morality another way is an example of the imposition of morality.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Quote:Morality is the desire

Quote:

Morality is the desire to force other people to act in ways beneficial to the individual or group preaching a behavior standard. This done by means of fear, guilt and deception.

Any attempt to define morality another way is an example of the imposition of morality.

Wow.

This is so incredibly wrong that I can't even figure out where to start, so I won't bother at this time.  This view certainly makes a lot of your other statements about human nature make a lot of sense.  It's just too bad it doesn't line up with the empirical data.

 

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EXC wrote:Any attempt to

EXC wrote:
Any attempt to define morality another way is an example of the imposition of morality.
Points for trying to shut down any counter-argument Sticking out tongue

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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Your example in the bar is

Your example in the bar is not morality. It's just people acting in their own self interest without any thought of morality. People will behave this way without any morality training or inward sense of morality. There is just an inward sense for survival. Behaving this way is how the individual believes is best for his survival.

 

When the issue of morality is pushed, it's always people with a religious or political agenda to control others. If people can be free from religion and politics and be free to think rationally, their would be no to have a debate about moral standards. We'd all be free to act if ways that maximize our enjoyment  of life and survival.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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EXC wrote:Hambydammit

EXC wrote:

Hambydammit wrote:

What is morality? 

Morality is the desire to force other people to act in ways beneficial to the individual or group preaching a behavior standard. This done by means of fear, guilt and deception.

Any attempt to define morality another way is an example of the imposition of morality.

As I have done before, EXC, I see you have a strong point but I would add clarification to it.

What you are speaking of is probably not morality and I will show you why.

I would establish morality as a basis thus, for an example:

First lets take the most obvious road with- killing- and assume that it is universally true that killing is good.

so (A). Killing is good (universal statement)

(B) Good, by definition, is desirable.

(C) Killing entails death.

(D) (A)&(C) Death is Good

(E) (C)&(D) Death is desirable.

(F) since (A) is universal (E) is universal and death is desirable to me. {FALSE}
 

By contradiction I have proved that killing is not good. This is not by any means a watertight proof that killing is wrong, or should not be done. We can slip out of this logic either via removing the universality condition from (A) and thus negating (F) as a non sequitur or via declaring (F) true.  But it is watertight in terms of morality. Universally, if your life is valuable to you, killing is immoral - ie Not Good. The referent for good is your own opinion on the value of your own life, and because it's a universal statement and you are in the universe, what goes for you, goes universally - Killing is immoral QED.

Now, because this only establishes under universal conditions that are equal to your conditions that killing is not good, some people might consider this argument to be weak, or insufficient.  But Morality is not defined by its strength or sufficiency, so this is morality, regardless of what you expect or may have hoped morality could be. Nothing more needs to be established to ascertain morality here; the argument includes a referential standard of good and it applies universally. To obtain any more than this is to establish law, not morality. What you are referring to I think, is the establishment of law by adding extraneous matters to the logical basis of morality. Thus it's probably law you disagree with, rather than morality. And we use the same argument to establish why you find law to have immoral consequences:

(I) Law is Good

(II) Law is therefore desirable.

(III) Law entails the restriction of one's will by outside agency.

(IV) (III)&(I) Restriction of one's will by outside agency is Good.

(V) (IV)&(II) Restriction of one's will by outside agency is desirable.

(VI) (I)&(V) Restriction of one's will by outside agency is desirable to me. {True/False}

Conclusion - to whatever extent VI is true for you, that your agency restricted by another is desirable, law is good and therefore moral to you.

Compare this with:

(a) Morality is Universally Good

(b) as in previous versions of the argument.

(c) Morality entails Good.

(d) c&a

(e) d&b

(f) a&f Good is desirable {definition of Good} ; ..... to me

Conclusion- morality is tautological, and entails no referent other than one's own self. Morality cannot be immoral.

But killing can be immoral, and stealing can be immoral and all this can come from universal logic, built on this tautology it does not have to come from God. There are two ends holding up the tautology of morality - Universality and Desire - and they are both empirical.

Of course we've all seen this argument before, it's the Jesus commandment - do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  When expressed logically the jesus commandment looks to me like simple straightforward truth, I don't see any supernatural or causeless influence in it, myself, and I don't know where the apologetics who claims morality comes from God get that from.  To me, that idea just stands as undeniable evidence of the purely deliberate post hoc rationalisation which is the absolute nature of apologetics.

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Of course, morality goes

Of course, morality goes further than extreme cases such as killing. Our individual morality defines how we behave on a day to day basis.

Of course it has been shown time and again that morals do not come from the bible.

Take 2 coworkers: one works hard, does a good job and treats his/her coworkers with respect because he/she has a good work ethic and just believes it is the right thing to do.

The other does the same because he/she is worried about getting in trouble with the boss and being judged.

Similar outcome, but I would argue that person 1 is a better person. In addition, person 2 has not actually shown their true colours, just behaving out of fear.

Obviously in this anecdote person 2 is using religious morals.

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Hambydammit wrote:To cite a

Hambydammit wrote:

To cite a simple example, we can ask why I don't just bludgeon people to death with a beer bottle when I see them in a bar.  The obvious answer is that I don't want to go to jail, but there's more to it than that.  Assuming no cops, and no laws against doing it, I'm still unlikely to do it.  For one thing, I like having friends.  Living alone is, well.. lonely.  If I have a reputation for randomly bludgeoning people to death, my circle of friends is going to be a bit slimmer than those of people who tend to keep their friends alive.  Furthermore, if I ever want to have a girl get naked and put herself in a compromising and vulnerable position for me, she's going to have to have reasonable assurances that I'm not going to kill her, or it's going to be a lot more difficult to arrange the little tryst.  Furthermore, I hope to be able to go to a nice house and sleep in a nice bed tonight.  I can't afford that if I don't have a job.  People are going to be a lot less likely to hire me if I kill people all the time. 

This all ties in quite well with the stuff I'm reading about at the moment regarding morality that has a basis in evolutionary natural/sexual selection, would you agree?  If so, have you ever come across any serious unknowns or flaws in it?  It seems pretty solid to me so far.  The most interesting contention I've come across was the question as to why we don't feel the same protective/emotional bonds to every sperm that doesn't make it to the egg, or that gets thrown away in the trash in the middle of a tissue, or every egg that is 'wasted' when a woman has her period.  I think this might have been brough up by Alister McGrath in "The Dawkins Delusion" but I can't remember for sure where I read it.  To me, without looking up an expert response to this, I would think there are a couple of reasons, the first being we can't easily detect these cells with the naked eye and secondly they don't represent the same investment in resources that an actual baby that has been born does.

Hambydammit wrote:
It's a little disconcerting to admit that this is a reason to kill someone because it sounds like we're giving people permission. 

That's where the difference lies.  We don't give permission.  That's why murderers go to jail.  Nevertheless, they had a good reason for killing.  It is the same with every act that we consider moral or immoral.  When we do good things, we do them because there's a good reason for it.  Same for bad things.

I agree, I think I would say it's a "reason" not an "excuse"

Hambydammit wrote:
"Morality" is simply the word we use to explain the cause/effect relationship between behaviors and consequences.  If we impose negative social penalties on someone for committing a certain act, we say that it's bad.  If we reward the act, we say it's good. 

I'm not sure I follow this bit.  It looks like you are saying we define a certain act as good or bad based on the positive or negative social rewards or penalties we impose on the act.  However, that would seem to be indicating that the good and bad acts are good or bad only arbitrarily if we don't already know they are good or bad before we have a system that imposes those rewards or penalties.  I don't think this was what you were trying to communicate, was it?  The basis for an act being considered good or bad must surely come before the socially imposed consequences.  This is where I think evolution comes to the party, and which I think agrees with your first paragraph that I quoted.  We have a general feeling about morality which is similar, but not entirely identical to most people all around the world.  Most civilisations come up with many of the same laws, like "don't kill your own" and things like that have pretty obvious evolutionary roots.  The differences in morality I think come from being in environments that we didn't evolve in, i.e. modern cities and living in modern cultures with high population densities, etc.  It is these factors and the divisions in morality that I think are some of the major reasons for major conflicts between different populations of people.

I see religion as one of these major obstacles, seemingly lapidary boundaries between people, to a global culture that would allow us to see everybody as "one of our own" and would cut down on out-group hostility. 

 

Hambydammit wrote:
Theists are not immune from this, though they claim vigorously that they are.  Christians, in particular, say that morality is something higher than human experience.  Some things are good just because they are, and we do them regardless of consequence.

Love the circular reasoning, it's good because it's good Smiling  "Because God said so" is such an unfulfilling non-event answer.  I think when a theist next gives me that I'll have to respond with "But why do you think God said that?" I guess the answer will either be "God works in mysterious ways" or the reason for it being good will have to rely on something back in the material universe.

 

Hambydammit wrote:
Thus, theist morality, like all concepts contingent on something other than materialism, fails to answer the very simple question:  Why?  The answer, "because it's good," leads to a circular argument where "good" has no referent, and is therefore meaningless.

 

Agreed Smiling


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Morality for dummies: 1) I

Morality for dummies:

 

1) I want to have an enjoyable life and to live comfortably.

2) Here are a bunch of things other people could do for me to assure me an enjoyable, comfortable life. These would be very good for me. I like them, and approve.

3) Here are a bunch of things other people could do to ruin my enjoyable, comfortable life. These would be bad for me. I do not like them. They must be avoided.

4) I should make some kind of rule that all people do as much of (2) for me as possible and never any of (3).

5) They would probably not do this, because making my life as easy as possible is not in the self-interest of all people.

6) But it is in the self-interest of me, and I am a person...

7) They probably do not like the idea only because I exclude myself from all these rules.

8 ) If I expect them to follow these guidelines but do not follow them myself, that would make me a hypocrite.

9) Additionally, to not follow them myself would completely contradict my point that these are the things that all people should do and should not do, since I am also a person.

10) Therefore, these guidelines should maybe apply to everyone equally and mutually.

C) If this is done, not only will my life be as enjoyable as possible, but so will the lives of the others.

A place common to all will be maintained by none. A religion common to all is perhaps not much different.


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Eloise wrote:As I have done

Eloise wrote:

As I have done before, EXC, I see you have a strong point but I would add clarification to it.

What you are speaking of is probably not morality and I will show you why.

Well, it's tongue in cheek. The whole concept of morality is kind of bullshit. Humans always act in ways that they believe will maximize our pleasure and survival, just like any other animal. But, we are social animals so we seek cooperation and affirmation of others. In a healthy functioning societies and individuals, you would have a natural balance between individualism and socialization. "Do unto others" would be the rule.

 But just as in dogs, some members seek to be top dog. Other members seek to get something for nothing. To me religion and politics are tools for the top dog and something for nothing crowd to get what they want. They dupe the naive with the notion of morality causing God to be pleased, giving one heaven instead of hell. Politician do the same thing just with promises they can't fulfill in this world. But you see the pastors and politicians pushing a morality are usually the worst at following this standard.

So the Theist concept of morality is be good to please God and get him to help you out and get heaven not hell. But this is just a self seeking goal, just as bad as any criminal. They'll rob a bank to get a big payoff(heaven), or not rob a band to avoid jail(Hell). So this is BS. Religion tells people to not be selfish so they can get a selfish reward later.

Many Atheists will say be good for goodness sake. Man can be moral just because it's the right thing to do. This is BS too. People need a carrot or a stick to behave in certain way.

So called immoral behaviors are really a problem of socialization. Criminals have psychopathic disorders. They lack empathy for others because they derive no pleasure or affirmation from being empathetic. They often derive pleasure from the misery of others. They may have a paranoia such that they believe they must commit a criminal act to survive. So is this a moral failing of criminals? They are acting with the same motivations(pleasure and survival) as anyone else. No, it's a problem of socialization. Never being taught and never being made to learn how to thrive in society without resorting to behaviors destructive to others.

So in summary, the concepts of moral and immoral behavoirs are BS. They should be replaced with terms like proper socialization and dysfunctional socialization. This is the way to look at human behaviors scientifically and rationally. Morality like religion is an archaic concept belonging to a pre-scientific era.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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D

D


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Perhaps here's a good way of

Perhaps here's a good way of putting it:
Morality might force you to over-come immediate desires, i.e. immediate passing self interest, but actually serves your interest in the long run as it is more in your interest to be a positive part of your community rather than to satisfy passing impulses.
So morality would be selfless as in going against the desires at the forefront of your mind in favour of looking after community as a whole, but that actually serves your interest in the long run.

Do you agree with Hamby now?


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Strafio wrote:Morality might

Strafio wrote:

Morality might force you to over-come immediate desires, i.e. immediate passing self interest, but actually serves your interest in the long run as it is more in your interest to be a positive part of your community rather than to satisfy passing impulses.
So morality would be selfless as in going against the desires at the forefront of your mind in favour of looking after community as a whole, but that actually serves your interest in the long run.

Well that's just a trade-off between immediate pleasure and long run gratification/survival. The concept of morality has been so polluted by religion/irrational thinking. Moralists say human behavior that benefits and not harms societies can only be obtained though fear and guilt. It's a concept that deserves to be thrown into the garbage pile since we can now understand human behavior though scientific study and rational thinking. There is no need for morality causing mankind to feel fear and guilt.

Strafio wrote:

Do you agree with Hamby now?

He's the one who disagrees with me, but he won't tell us why.

I don't necessarily disagree with him. His arguments are hard to understand, so I'm not sure if I understand them well enough to disagree. Religion poisons everything. So the understanding of human behavior has been polluted by these concepts of morality, universal good and evil.

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Quote:To cite a simple

Quote:
To cite a simple example, we can ask why I don't just bludgeon people to death with a beer bottle when I see them in a bar.  The obvious answer is that I don't want to go to jail, but there's more to it than that.  Assuming no cops, and no laws against doing it, I'm still unlikely to do it.  For one thing, I like having friends.  Living alone is, well.. lonely.  If I have a reputation for randomly bludgeoning people to death, my circle of friends is going to be a bit slimmer than those of people who tend to keep their friends alive.  Furthermore, if I ever want to have a girl get naked and put herself in a compromising and vulnerable position for me, she's going to have to have reasonable assurances that I'm not going to kill her, or it's going to be a lot more difficult to arrange the little tryst.  Furthermore, I hope to be able to go to a nice house and sleep in a nice bed tonight.  I can't afford that if I don't have a job.  People are going to be a lot less likely to hire me if I kill people all the time.

If I may be so bold, something I'd like to add here:

Take note of the amount of abstraction and complexity required for a person to solve even this one relatively simple moral problem for themselves. We have to account for not only the immediate possible consequences of the action (What if I lose the brawl, and am killed myself? What if the bar patrons start co-operating to eliminate me as a group before I can whittle down their numbers? What if someone escalates to a better weapon than my beer bottle? Etc...) but also weigh the stakes based on the social dynamic we're embedded in (What will this do to my bank account? What will this do to my marriage? What will this do to my physical sex appeal? What will this do to the new clothes I just invested in? What will this do to the economy? Etc...). Humans are the only species on Earth with the capacity for such abstraction of cause and effect - which is why we're holding the moral compass, and other animals are not. A cat who kills someone isn't 'bad', and not simply because God says animals are exempt: the cat had no capacity for abstracting how it's actions might impact the world. It simply acted based on notions of immediate, instinctual, cause and effect. Inanimate objects, like bullets or falling debris, are similarly exempt, based on their lack of mental capacity.

I just wanted to mention this before a theist decides to jump in and demonstrate how 'clever' they are by claiming that this doesn't differentiate human morals from other animal morals.

Quote:
"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
February 27, 1940


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phooney wrote:  The most

phooney wrote:

  The most interesting contention I've come across was the question as to why we don't feel the same protective/emotional bonds to every sperm that doesn't make it to the egg, or that gets thrown away in the trash in the middle of a tissue, or every egg that is 'wasted' when a woman has her period.  I think this might have been brough up by Alister McGrath in "The Dawkins Delusion" but I can't remember for sure where I read it.  To me, without looking up an expert response to this, I would think there are a couple of reasons, the first being we can't easily detect these cells with the naked eye and secondly they don't represent the same investment in resources that an actual baby that has been born does.

Okay, I realise this is a major digression, but I couldn't help wondering when I read this, what about PMT in women and sexual frustration in men for a possible  example the presence of emotional bonds with our own gametes? Were it so, of course, the context for such emotions would be almost purely unconscious with just a surface reaction visible in the psychological expression. I can't help thinking that it fits the protective instinct rather well, basically sperm must be released to give them a chance to fertilise, they have a limited lifespan as a gamete and the longer you wait the less chance they have, likewise PMT coincides generally with the timeframe in which the opportunity for fertilisation of the egg is passing or has passed. In both cases an emotional reaction is visible in the human consistent with the period of time over which their gametes are 'dying'. It's a strange and random connection to make, I know, but there you go, that's what I thought. Sticking out tongue

 

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EXC wrote:Well that's just a

EXC wrote:
Well that's just a trade-off between immediate pleasure and long run gratification/survival. The concept of morality has been so polluted by religion/irrational thinking. Moralists say human behavior that benefits and not harms societies can only be obtained though fear and guilt. It's a concept that deserves to be thrown into the garbage pile since we can now understand human behavior though scientific study and rational thinking. There is no need for morality causing mankind to feel fear and guilt.

What do you mean 'just'?
Personally, I think that some guilt and fear is necessary.
I mean, if you were to hurt someone then you should feel guilty right?
But you're right that the fundies go over-board with it and put guilt and fear where it just shouldn't be.

Quote:
I don't necessarily disagree with him. His arguments are hard to understand, so I'm not sure if I understand them well enough to disagree. Religion poisons everything. So the understanding of human behavior has been polluted by these concepts of morality, universal good and evil.

I actually disagree with this.
Morality is like everything else - we never had a perfect understanding that was polluted, it's more that over the ages people have come up with different ideas on how to make sense of it all. Although I agree that many of the current religious views of morality have too much superstitious baggage attached.

 


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Sorry dude, I just couldn't

Sorry dude, I just couldn't keep a straight face after reading this:

Hambydammit wrote:

There are a LOT of very good reasons not to kill people, and it turns out that people very rarely kill other people

What?  People kill each other all the time, man.  I don't know if we just have very different perceptions of what "rarely" entails, but I would say that people kill other people far too often. 


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jmm wrote:What?  People

jmm wrote:
What?  People kill each other all the time, man.  I don't know if we just have very different perceptions of what "rarely" entails, but I would say that people kill other people far too often. 
As a value judgment, yes - people kill one another far too often.

However, if you look at it from a more objective viewpoint:

In my city in 2003 there were 9 homicides. The population at the time was 152,000. Given the number of possible interactions among that many people over the course of one year, 9 homicides and murders constitutes "rare". So, under fairly typical conditions Hamby is correct, it just doesn't happen with much frequency.

In fact, expanding to include anything the FBI would consider "violent crime" for 2003, there was only an 0.59% chance of being a victim of violence over the span of that year.

 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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Hambydammit wrote:What is

Hambydammit wrote:

What is morality? 

Morality is the general guideline of acting in accordance with the great unspoken Social Contral. Morality is basis underlying the ability for one human being to trust other human beings so that interaction between members of our species outside of our own immediate family group (tribes, clans, etc all being largely analagous to lion prides, wolf packs, etc) does not break down into antagonism and violence.

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JillSwift wrote:In my city

JillSwift wrote:

In my city in 2003 there were 9 homicides. The population at the time was 152,000. Given the number of possible interactions among that many people over the course of one year, 9 homicides and murders constitutes "rare". So, under fairly typical conditions Hamby is correct, it just doesn't happen with much frequency.

In fact, expanding to include anything the FBI would consider "violent crime" for 2003, there was only an 0.59% chance of being a victim of violence over the span of that year.

Just to reinforce this point, 9 homicides with a population of 152,000 is approximately 6 homicides per 100,000 people. Before anyone decides that this low crime rate is anomalous or somehow due to the relatively small size of the city, New York City's murder rate for 2006 was 7.3 per 100,000 people (and in 2007, 6.05 per 100,000 people), and total violent crime rate .64%, not appreciably higher, despite a population of almost 8.2 million.

494 murders in all of 2007, among over 8,000,000 people works out to less than 0.00000016875 ( (494/365) / 8,000,000) murders per person, per day. I'd call that reasonably 'rare' in situations where the normal social contract is in operation.

"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons." - The Waco Kid


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Quote:Take note of the

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Take note of the amount of abstraction and complexity required for a person to solve even this one relatively simple moral problem for themselves.

Yes.  Exactly.  Precisely.  You couldn't be more right. 

This complexity is, plain and simple, THE reason humans have a moral sense.  Complex society would be impossible without it.  So, EXC, to begin to answer your question (There's more.  I'm not refusing to answer.  I'm taking my time so that my answer is as complete and accurate as possible.) you have indicated numerous times that morality is something that is forced on people, and that people are forced to do things that are against their will or against their best interests.  On the contrary, our moral sense is nothing more and nothing less than the evolutionary adaptation to our ability to think in abstracts.  The reason society holds together is that regardless of laws and social customs, most people do the right thing most of the time.

Curiously, if you look at it from one perspective, humans are by definition inherently good creatures.  If we were not, there would not be society.  The existence of culture is the proof that most of the time, almost all humans do those things which are a balance between their own interests and others' interests.

Oh, and Kevin's excellent point about the complexity of a single (seemingly straightforward) question demonstrates exactly why there cannot be such a thing as absolute morality.

 

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Quote:This all ties in quite

Quote:
This all ties in quite well with the stuff I'm reading about at the moment regarding morality that has a basis in evolutionary natural/sexual selection, would you agree?

Yes.  This is just a philosophical explanation of the sociobiological reality.

Quote:
If so, have you ever come across any serious unknowns or flaws in it?

Unknowns, yes.  Flaws, no. 

The unknowns are kind of difficult for me to explain because they get into straight up neurology, which is not my strong suit by any means.  Basically, I haven't seen any behavioral or psychological flaws in this explanation, but there are gaps in the understanding of how we got from point A to point B, and how/why our brain processes certain moral ideas.

Quote:
The most interesting contention I've come across was the question as to why we don't feel the same protective/emotional bonds to every sperm that doesn't make it to the egg, or that gets thrown away in the trash in the middle of a tissue, or every egg that is 'wasted' when a woman has her period.

I find this to be an interesting contention only insofar as it's a hidden attempt to get to "Abortion is Wrong!  GOD SAYS SO!!!!"

Quote:
I think this might have been brough up by Alister McGrath in "The Dawkins Delusion" but I can't remember for sure where I read it.  To me, without looking up an expert response to this, I would think there are a couple of reasons, the first being we can't easily detect these cells with the naked eye and secondly they don't represent the same investment in resources that an actual baby that has been born does.

Yes.  Each individual is a kind of superorganism.  We are a conglomerate of trillions of individual cells, each performing their own function.  In the same way, a society is a superorganism, with each individual person performing its own function.  The analogy only extends so far, but we have thoroughly documented superorganism behaviors that transcend individual behaviors.  Of course, war is the easiest example.  Males become expendable by the thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, for the larger goal of conquering this territory or eliminating this threat or capturing access to this resource.  While we mourn individual losses, and we make a very big deal about looking very sad on the News Reports, war is still a human universal.  Clearly, the larger goal is more important than the individual losses.

In a similar way, the larger goal of getting one sperm into an egg makes the expenditure of a few million cells (remember, we have trillions!) insignificant.  A woman has a few hundred thousand eggs (if memory serves) but can only get pregnant six or seven times in an average lifetime.  Those eggs are already sentenced to death.   The only question is which six or seven will live.

Consider also that a male who inseminates a female with exactly one sperm has a chance of approximately 0% to be a father.  The huge numbers are necessary not only to ensure insemination, but also to present a good enough army in case there are competing sperm already moving towards the egg.

Quote:
It looks like you are saying we define a certain act as good or bad based on the positive or negative social rewards or penalties we impose on the act.

Nah.  You've got it ass-backwards.  Moral instincts developed before society.  They must have, or we wouldn't have society.  The language of morality - right, wrong, etc -- is simply the language that explains the behaviors we already do.  In the same way that logic is not something that people made up, but rather a codification of the way we think, morality is not a human invention.  It's a language game (Props, Strafio!) we use to describe the way we already behave.

Quote:
The basis for an act being considered good or bad must surely come before the socially imposed consequences.

Yes, and the socially imposed consequences are based on the way we already behave.  It gets trickier the more abstract the moral prescription becomes, which is why everybody agrees that murder (as opposed to justified killing) is wrong, but we can have bloody wars over things like whether the killing of a slave ever constitutes murder.  Oh, the irony.

Quote:
The differences in morality I think come from being in environments that we didn't evolve in, i.e. modern cities and living in modern cultures with high population densities, etc.  It is these factors and the divisions in morality that I think are some of the major reasons for major conflicts between different populations of people.

Precisely.

Quote:
I see religion as one of these major obstacles, seemingly lapidary boundaries between people, to a global culture that would allow us to see everybody as "one of our own" and would cut down on out-group hostility.

It truly pains me to say this, but there will never (in this species) be a global tribe.  One of our strongest instincts is to form the strongest societies as insulators between "us" and "them."

 

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Strafio wrote:What do you

Strafio wrote:

What do you mean 'just'?

You seem to have this religion inspired notion of behaviors being good and evil, that there exists some universal arbiter of what actions are good and what are bad. I believe actions should only be view in terms of just their benefit and harm, without moral judgements since there is no arbiter what is good and evil.


Strafio wrote:

Personally, I think that some guilt and fear is necessary.
I mean, if you were to hurt someone then you should feel guilty right?

Again a Theist inspired notion that guilt and fear are necessary. People need a sense of duty to fulfill social contracts to not harm others. If my intent not to harm, why feel guilt? I should feel a sense of regret for not knowing my actions would harm. There are instances when I should do harm, i.e. when the others do not fulfill a social contract toward me. This is how self-defence and rebellion against government can be justified. There is no God/higher power that I've offended that I should ever feel guilt or fear.


Strafio wrote:

Morality is like everything else - we never had a perfect understanding that was polluted, it's more that over the ages people have come up with different ideas on how to make sense of it all.  

What is a correct definition of morality then?

In a post religious world, shouldn't human behaviors be viewed just in terms of benefit and harm to the individual and society? Shouldn't moral codes for behavior be replaced with social contracts requiring individuals to respect the rules for behavior and requiring society to repect the individual's liberties?

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Hambydammit wrote: So, EXC,

Hambydammit wrote:

 So, EXC, to begin to answer your question (There's more.  I'm not refusing to answer.  I'm taking my time so that my answer is as complete and accurate as possible.) you have indicated numerous times that morality is something that is forced on people, and that people are forced to do things that are against their will or against their best interests.  On the contrary, our moral sense is nothing more and nothing less than the evolutionary adaptation to our ability to think in abstracts.  The reason society holds together is that regardless of laws and social customs, most people do the right thing most of the time.

I don't think we have evolved with a sense that things like murder and stealing is wrong. We've evolved with a sense of fairness. This sense of things being a contract a trade. So, I don't have an impulse to murder someone unless they break the social contract not to threaten or harm someone. Then my impulse is to murder and harm others. It's a sense that they are being unfair and are breaking a social contract, so I am not bound by any moral code because they broke the contract.

So I don't have a moral sense that a particular action is right or wrong. The action must be judged in the context of whether all the parties are being fair in their fulfilment of their social duty. I only have a sense that people should be fair in reciprocating each other with equal treatment.

The reason society hold together is that we have contracts, people ususlly follow the contracts and people that break contracts are punished. Nothing to do with people having a moral code they follow because of guilt and fear.

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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Hambydammit wrote:Quote:The

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
The most interesting contention I've come across was the question as to why we don't feel the same protective/emotional bonds to every sperm that doesn't make it to the egg, or that gets thrown away in the trash in the middle of a tissue, or every egg that is 'wasted' when a woman has her period.

I find this to be an interesting contention only insofar as it's a hidden attempt to get to "Abortion is Wrong!  GOD SAYS SO!!!!"

I thought that too, Hamby.  To me, morality is absolute, but only in the terms of the logic I gave above. What logically proceeds from Morality as, say, 'universally desirable' is that 'desirable' and therefore 'good' needs an absolute referent which pertains universally. All we have as humans in order to refer to good, is our own self. So while morality, it would seem, should be what 'everyone wants' the best morality an individual can achieve logically is to say, if morality is what everyone wants it then I must necessarily want what is moral and if I do not want it, then it can't be moral.

The thing that I think most makes abortion such an issue is that if you look at it, say you are absolutely free of all circumstances whereupon you're faced with the moral dilemma of abortion, you're not facing any pregnancy issues at all, when you're in this position and have no contact with any aspect of abortion, do you Want abortion? Probably not, I mean, there's nothing really very nice about abortion, it's an invasive and potentially dangerous surgical procedure before you even begin to think about the other unsavoury aspects of it. Suffice it to say, abortion is not really what everyone wants, so it's not really moral.  But what is it that people actually don't want here, is it abortion? cause people most certainly do want an abortion if they are faced with the situation in which they have to consider that choice, or is it the iceberg which abortion is just the tip of that we don't really want.

Clearly, I think, it's the latter of these two, and its the latter which, I also think fails hardest against a test of morality = what everyone wants. More people don't want abortion to be the only option for desperate people, than want abortion to be an option. More people don't want potential parents to be in desperate situations at all, than want those who are desperate to have abortion as an option.

The closer you get to a truly universal moral standard the closer you get to taking every aspect of a persons life into account. Absolute morality is synonymous with absolute idealism.  If abortion is a moral failure then truly everyone in potential indirect contact with abortion is responsible for that failure, because of the idealistic nature of morality. This absolutely includes anti-abortionists, whether they like that or not, it's the truth. If we are to test abortion against morality then we must test everything which abortion entails against morality. The result is that abortion entails things deep in the heart of every society the collective endeavour of every human.

Perfect morality can not be achieved by pushing against consequences which do not stand up to moral judgement. We may not desire abortion for our race, but we desire the desperation which entails abortion even less, and we desire capitulation to our physical and social environment which entails desperation and consequently abortion, even less than that. True universal morality then, entails rising above the imprisonment likewise entailed in the human condition, and abortion itself is an attempt to do just that.  So where does abortion stand morally then? When freedom from desperation is the top of the morality chain and abortion is in essence attempt to free ourselves from desperation, what then?

You can't have morality without idealism, and you can't have idealism without actually addressing the ideal. Like with the example of killing I gave above, the moral argument against killing isn't strong or foolproof. It can fall into a paradox if you're faced with a fight to the death, whereupon if you value you your life it's moral to save it, but in valuing your own life it's not moral to kill the other person. When anti-abortionists treat morality as though it were a foolproof argument for what should and should not be done under any circumstances they are making a big mistake. You can't say having an abortion is immoral, while people do want to have abortions, you can only speak of morality in terms of the ideal nature that it logically represents. A universal good, which, in at least one way, pro-choice is a thing closer to than anti-abortion.

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Quote:Oh, and Kevin's

Quote:
Oh, and Kevin's excellent point about the complexity of a single (seemingly straightforward) question demonstrates exactly why there cannot be such a thing as absolute morality.

*Strightens tie. Gets smug asshole smile*

Why, thank-you.

Just for giggles, though, let's explore this a tad further. Instead of dealing with our abstraction of the world, let's deal with an absolute ruling: 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'.

A theist is likely to argue that this commandment is easily the equivalent to an atheistic moral deduction, like in the previous example (actually, most are likely to argue that it is completely superior, as a law laid down by our almighty creator). Afterall, anyone in a bar following the commandment is also not going to bludgeon anyone to death with a beer bottle.

This is misleading. 'Thou Shalt Not Kill', unlike a reasonable moral conclusion, comes before the problem is even examined. I'm going to use a mathematical analogy here:

When solving a math problem, you must always look at your variables before you can accurately solve it. It is accurate to assert that 2 + 2 = 4. It is not accurate to assert that 4 = 2 + 2. Yes, 4 may equal 2 + 2, but 4 may also equal 1 + 1 + 1 + 1, 3 + 1, 8 - 4, 6 - 2, etc. In otherwords, 2 + 2 is not the only equation you can use to reach the conclusion of 4.

If it's 'Thou Shalt Not Kill', and that's the end of the discussion, we have some very serious problems. What about people who have killed others by accident? What about people who have killed others in self-defense? What about people who have killed others by virtue of a consenting contract ('We're enemies at war', 'We're sword dueling to the death', 'I'm undergoing a suffersome demise and wish to be euthanized', etc)? The absolute moral law does not make any logical exceptions here - God said 'Thou Shalt Not Kill', that's that, and killing another human being is wrong no matter what.

In otherwords, fuck the moral problem. For all intents and purposes, it may as well not even be there, and certainly there is no point in exploring it. 4 can only be represented by adding 2 and 2 together. If you do it any other way, you're wrong.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg, as well as a layman's take on a very complex matter, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt. I encourage you to take a very sincere look at that list of commandments you hold dear, however, and consider how much explanation you've been given as to why these rules are absolutes.

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"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

- Leon Trotsky, Last Will & Testament
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Bump Where the hell did

Bump

 

Where the hell did Susac go?  I thought sure he'd jump on this thread.  I started this because I was tired of waiting for the whole Prostitution thread to load.

(sigh)

 

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Quote:What logically

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What logically proceeds from Morality as, say, 'universally desirable' is that 'desirable' and therefore 'good' needs an absolute referent which pertains universally.

This is so vague.  What do you mean by 'universally desirable' and 'desirable' and 'absolute' and 'pertains universally'?

Quote:
All we have as humans in order to refer to good, is our own self.

What do you say to the proposition that a lone human cannot act morally or immorally?  (By lone, I mean there is no chance that any action of his will have any effect on another human.)

Quote:
So while morality, it would seem, should be what 'everyone wants' the best morality an individual can achieve logically is to say, if morality is what everyone wants it then I must necessarily want what is moral and if I do not want it, then it can't be moral.

Who is 'everyone'?

Do you understand what I was saying about superorganisms and counterintuitive behaviors?

Quote:
The thing that I think most makes abortion such an issue is that if you look at it, say you are absolutely free of all circumstances whereupon you're faced with the moral dilemma of abortion, you're not facing any pregnancy issues at all, when you're in this position and have no contact with any aspect of abortion, do you Want abortion?

I'm afraid you might be falling into the same trap that Susac did about prostitution. 

I hope you're smart enough not to make the argument that one must be in a certain position to make objective evaluations of it.

Quote:
I also think fails hardest against a test of morality = what everyone wants.

I'm pretty sure you're making the same mistake.  "What everyone wants" is not equal to morality.

I'm not going to address the rest of this, because I'm having flashbacks to your opinions of true spiritual seekers, and it's making me twitch.

 

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Hambydammit wrote:If you've

Hambydammit wrote:

If you've followed my writing at all, you know that I simply won't listen to a "should statement" unless I know what's at the end of the sentence.  You should act this way towards your neighbor... so that X, Y, and Z happen.

How strong are you claiming that "X,Y,and Z" will happen? Is this a conditional relationship (If you act as you should, then such-and-such will follow)? I find that it is difficult to anticipate the ramifications of a moral decision before the ramifications occur. Or in other words, I think that a person won't know what follows a moral decision until it is followed by it.

Quote:

Theists are not immune from this, though they claim vigorously that they are.  Christians, in particular, say that morality is something higher than human experience.  Some things are good just because they are, and we do them regardless of consequence.  This silly error misses the obvious point -- If some things are naturally good, regardless of their consequences, then we do them because they are good regardless of consequences! 

Are you thinking of the Heaven/Hell motivation for theists? I agree that this alterior motive behind good behavior can be problematic. Are you doing what is "good" because you know you are going to get something (for yourself) out of doing it? If so, then you aren't following through with a "good" action regardless of the consequences. Rather, you are doing the good action (whatever it may be) because of the consequences. Is this what you are pointing out Hamby?

Quote:

The act is still based on cause/effect.  If I give to charity because I can observe that people who have what they need are less likely to steal, I am in the same boat as someone who gives to charity because God says so.  The only difference is that one of these two motivations has a real world correlation, and the other does not.

I'm not sure this is completely centered around the same conception of morality. However, I still think that both examples can be grounded in the real world. The person who gives to charity to cause a decreased need to steal in another person is operating under a different moral code, probably something like utilitarianism. Whereas, the God believer could be seen as operating under a type of sympathy or empathy mindset (perhaps a Kantian moral philosophy based on imperatives) purely attempting to lift up another persons physical existence. (Of course, I am not suggesting that only theists can behave this way. Anyone can.) In my mind, the motivations between the two acts are completely grounded in the "real world" at this point. One motivation is operating under a cost/benefit analysis, like utility per/act. While the other, is operating under a concern for the other person's situation in the physical world (i.e. Following some moral axiom that no one should ever starve to death.)

Quote:

Theists, by insisting that morality is removed from material cause/effect, set up a meaningless cause/effect relationship, thus negating the functionality of acting morally!  They have a reason, just the same as materialists, for acting morally, only the reason is removed from the cause/effect chain, and therefore cannot be evaluated in terms of its beneficial or negative effects on either the actor or the people around him.

From a naturalistic perspective, I would agree that the theist's causes/effect relationship (considering Heaven/Hell) can be seen as meaningless. However, if you consider a theist's moral chain of cause and effect, from a more metaphysical perspective, you will not notice the effects permanently absent from the 'consequence' output of a particular act. Rather, the theist's 'consequence' is (presumably) held off till later. So the theist chain of cause/effect would appear full of cause............(insert forthcoming effect) cause............(insert forthcoming effect) cause............(insert forthcoming effect) .... etc. The delay of an effect does not seem, to me, to rend a relationship meaningless.

Quote:

Thus, theist morality, like all concepts contingent on something other than materialism, fails to answer the very simple question:  Why?  The answer, "because it's good," leads to a circular argument where "good" has no referent, and is therefore meaningless.

 

From a materialist perspective Hamby, what does "good" mean (i.e. refer to)? Is good the positive consequences followed by a certain action? I ask because I find no reason to see why the materialist based conception of good can avoid the circularity that you charge the theist perception of committing. I grant that this may be because I've missed something in your argument. Please explain a bit more concerning this idea of circularity because it seems that the theist can avoid be circular in many different ways (i.e. adopting a type of Kantian explanation dealing with universals and imperatives [axioms].)

 

 

 

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


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Quote:How strong are you

Quote:
How strong are you claiming that "X,Y,and Z" will happen?

With the same strength that I claim that natural selection will tend towards beneficial adaptations given enough time.  Our moral sense doesn't stem from a 1:1 correlation between act and consequence.  It stems from a strong tendency for certain kinds of behaviors to have an overall beneficial effect when everyone does them.

Quote:
Or in other words, I think that a person won't know what follows a moral decision until it is followed by it.

I'm afraid you may not understand what I'm saying.  Our "moral sense" is an evolutionary adaptation.  Our reason allows us to try to predict consequences of actions.  The two are separate.  In other words, I can use pure reason to predict the consequences of firing all of my employees and starting from scratch, but regardless of whether or not it's the correct decision for the business, I will still feel a twinge of guilt.  This is moral sense vs. reason.

Moral sense exists outside of consequence.  If you tell me to hit you in the face as hard as I can, no amount of reason will be able to overcome my innate sense that I'm doing something wrong.  Even if you tell me that you'll get paid a thousand dollars if you can talk me into hitting you, I'll still feel a little bad about it, even though it's obviously the correct thing to do.

Quote:
Are you thinking of the Heaven/Hell motivation for theists? I agree that this alterior motive behind good behavior can be problematic.

Partially.  To some theists, I believe this is a real perceived consequence, and that it is their motivation for doing certain acts.  However, it's more akin to creating an empty set to describe an occupied set.  Sociobiology and evolution explain right and wrong very well, and there are logical, empirical results to a particular action.  When we invoke an outside source like God, it removes real causality and replaces it with a meaningless term.  In other words, we still act morally for exactly the same reasons as anyone else (instinct and reason), but we create a cognitive disconnect in our reason.  In other words, God becomes the ultimate source of morality, making our reason more susceptible to errors, since we will insert our unjustified beliefs about god in place of empirical data about consequences.

Quote:
In my mind, the motivations between the two acts are completely grounded in the "real world" at this point. One motivation is operating under a cost/benefit analysis, like utility per/act. While the other, is operating under a concern for the other person's situation in the physical world (i.e. Following some moral axiom that no one should ever starve to death.)

In practice, yes.  Everyone is always operating under some materialist model, and anyone, theist or atheist, can believe that their model (utilitarianism, cost/benefit, etc...) is better.  My point is that theists, by inserting a non-empirical, overarching factor into their rationalizations, are actually removing valid reason from morality.

Quote:
Rather, the theist's 'consequence' is (presumably) held off till later. So the theist chain of cause/effect would appear full of cause............(insert forthcoming effect) cause............(insert forthcoming effect) cause............(insert forthcoming effect) .... etc. The delay of an effect does not seem, to me, to rend a relationship meaningless.

Yes.  The theist would certainly see it that way, but the reality is that morality must be entirely materialist, for we have no other way to comprehend it.  Our moral sense (instinct) is entirely constructed from natural selection.  Our reason, if it is valid, is entirely based in materialism.  By inserting a non-empirical, unquantifiable, epistemologically meaningless end-goal of heaven, or spiritual perfection, or whatever else they invent, theists are effectively removing the validity from reasoned actions.

Quote:
I ask because I find no reason to see why the materialist based conception of good can avoid the circularity that you charge the theist perception of committing.

If "good" is seen as a fixed characteristic, it would be a circular argument, but I claim no such thing.  An action does not have "goodness" in the same way that a plant has "greenness."  Good and bad are necessarily tied to both the perception and reality of dynamic circumstances.

Consider: Today, a child will be run down by a speeding driver, killing the child.  That's bad, right?  The only thing is, that child was mentally disturbed, and was carrying a gun he found in his dad's cabinet.  He was going to kill six of his friends.  One of those friends will discover a cure for AIDS, but only because of the death of that child.

Right now, ask the mother of the dead child.  It's bad.  Ask the police.  The dude's going to jail.  He is a bad person.  Ask the guy himself.  He feels awful about killing a child and thinks what he did was wrong.  Ask the historians in twenty years, and maybe things will be different.  Probably nobody will completely exonerate the driver, but they will grudgingly admit that the results were for the best.  In a strictly rational framework, there is no question that assuming the goal of saving as many human lives as possible, killing that child was good.  Our moral sense, however, won't let us go that far.  This is akin to me punching you in the face to help you get money.

Each of these people has their own set of criteria, and the act falls somewhere on a continuum of really really awful to really really great.  The "goodness" of the act is an abstract.  It's not an empirical reality.  Moral sense is not tied to a strict cause/effect chain.  Rather, it's a conglomerate of adaptations that gives us an approximate sense of an event's acceptability based on our instinctive behaviors.

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Please explain a bit more concerning this idea of circularity because it seems that the theist can avoid be circular in many different ways (i.e. adopting a type of Kantian explanation dealing with universals and imperatives [axioms].

I suppose I'll eventually have to address Kant, but I'm not going to do it yet.  It's sort of like dreading a trip to the dentist.  Kant assumed so much that it's hard to know where to begin calling him bad names. 

The simple difference between a theist's circular argument and a materialists' linear argument is this:

THEIST: A thing is good because of God.  What is God?  Good.  What is good?  God.  ad nauseum

ATHEIST: This thing is good because it saved lives.  Why is saving lives good?  Because I want the human race to continue, and saving lives promotes that.  Well, is saving lives the ultimate goal?  Well, no, but I think it's one of many good goals.

Materialists who understand this don't get hung up on trying to defend something as inherently good, for we know that good is a perceptual abstraction, not an empirical quality.  Does that clear it up?

 

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Golden Rule, improved

Eloise wrote:

Of course we've all seen this argument before, it's the Jesus commandment - do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  When expressed logically the jesus commandment looks to me like simple straightforward truth, I don't see any supernatural or causeless influence in it, myself, and I don't know where the apologetics who claims morality comes from God get that from.  To me, that idea just stands as undeniable evidence of the purely deliberate post hoc rationalisation which is the absolute nature of apologetics.

Eloise,

As per usual, your post is logical, entertaining, and educational. Thanks.

I've never liked the Golden Rule. Sure, it's OK for a starter morality, as it's easy to follow. I believe there're some issues with it.

For instance, in an S&M relationship. the top is definitely not doing to the bottom what the top would have done unto him/her. This breaks the Golden Rule, but I think in a good way. So, I'd like to offer up my "improved" golden rule:

Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. It's not a very grammatical statement. I'm working on that. But the idea is simple: I'd rather have people treat me as I like to be treated, rather than them treating me as they like to be treated. True, it certainly takes a bit of effort to understand how a person likes to be treated. (My wife, for instance, insists I treat her like a queen. I mean, literally. I have to say, "Yes, Your Highness," and, "No, Your Royal Majesty," and whatnot. But then, she informs me that's the way all wives are treated, so I guess it's not that bad. And Slave Night is a lot of fun.)

Although I'm being facetious in my presentation, I'm perfectly serious about my quibble with the Golden Rule. It allows people the leeway to think, "Well, if I hadn't accepted God into my life, I'd certainly want someone to come up to me and browbeat me into submission." Or selling Amway. Or what-have-you.

I'll have to work on a formal proof for that, rather than using anecdotal examples.

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I don't understand your

I don't understand your reply at all Hamby, it seems like you have looked through my post rather than at it. Nothing in your reply seems to follow at all....

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
What logically proceeds from Morality as, say, 'universally desirable' is that 'desirable' and therefore 'good' needs an absolute referent which pertains universally.

This is so vague.  What do you mean by 'universally desirable' and 'desirable' and 'absolute' and 'pertains universally'?

As per my previous post in this thread which I'm sure I directed one to in the paragraph somewhere, didn't I? I am also sure I expanded on this in informal language in the next paragraph as well.  You've detached this one sentence from its main given references and then asked me?? why it's vague.

To reiterate I gave my basic logical argument for morality thus:

1. if x is good universally then it is moral

2. if x is good it is desirable (definition)

3. If x entails y then y by extension is good

4. y (by 3&2) is desirable

5. If 4 to 1 then y is desirable to me.

So the argument is, if morality is good universally (this point is arguable but if you wish to argue it then point to a meaning of right action which is not, by definition universally good) then any consequence of moral action is desirable to me at least. If it is not at least desirable to me then I have ruled it out of morality because it is not universal. The point about universality rests on the definition of right. Right is universally the same. 4+2 wether you express it as 4+1+1 or 2sets of 2 + 1 set of 2, or whatever, the right answer is universally true.  Right remains the same universally, being in the universe means you can eliminate what is not universally true via yourself, if it were universally true it would be true for you. If it's not QED it is NOT universally true. This is not a difficult deduction and I don't see how it is vague.

 

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
All we have as humans in order to refer to good, is our own self.

What do you say to the proposition that a lone human cannot act morally or immorally?  (By lone, I mean there is no chance that any action of his will have any effect on another human.)

I have no issue with that proposition. I think it possibly true, however it is not evidently true in the basic human experience so a logical moral construct is still relevant to the empirical universe even if it were true.

 

hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
So while morality, it would seem, should be what 'everyone wants' the best morality an individual can achieve logically is to say, if morality is what everyone wants it then I must necessarily want what is moral and if I do not want it, then it can't be moral.

Who is 'everyone'?

Do you understand what I was saying about superorganisms and counterintuitive behaviors?

Yes I do understand, the will of a superorganism is not the same as the will of an individual and they run counter to each other. I was going to go to those extremes in my post, but I thought this thread was morality for dummies. Not morality for deep intellectuals and so didn't.  However, I did note how close I was to that point at least twice in my post, not the least of which in the last paragraph where I pointed out the high ideal of the human superorganism as rising above the individual human condition places pro-choice in a morally superior position to anti-abortion in at least one consequence. You seem to have ignored that altogether.

 

 

hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
The thing that I think most makes abortion such an issue is that if you look at it, say you are absolutely free of all circumstances whereupon you're faced with the moral dilemma of abortion, you're not facing any pregnancy issues at all, when you're in this position and have no contact with any aspect of abortion, do you Want abortion?

I'm afraid you might be falling into the same trap that Susac did about prostitution. 

I hope you're smart enough not to make the argument that one must be in a certain position to make objective evaluations of it.

I'm absolutely not making that argument. My point is that actively seeking out desperate circumstances is not generally desirable to humans, this is not even a bit like saying you must be away from desperate circumstances in order to evaluate them better. The reason behind my making this point is to show how the human  societal superorganism does actively seek out desperation which is, by the first logic I proposed, immoral - thus meaning that anti-abortionism is not vindicated of the moral failure (abortions) that it is claiming.

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Hambydammit wrote:This

Hambydammit wrote:

This complexity is, plain and simple, THE reason humans have a moral sense.   

OK Hamby, if humans have an moral sense, explain the folling with me. We have a moral sense that killing is wrong, so most people would find kill a health dog immoral. Yet these same people find no problem with killing a cattle to eat. Yet many vegetarians do have a moral problem with kill animals for food. Why is our morality so selective when it comes to killing animals? If we have an absolute moral sense about things, why is it not universal, why are there some many exception and moral dillemas?

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nigelTheBold wrote:Eloise

nigelTheBold wrote:

Eloise wrote:

Of course we've all seen this argument before, it's the Jesus commandment - do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  When expressed logically the jesus commandment looks to me like simple straightforward truth, I don't see any supernatural or causeless influence in it, myself, and I don't know where the apologetics who claims morality comes from God get that from.  To me, that idea just stands as undeniable evidence of the purely deliberate post hoc rationalisation which is the absolute nature of apologetics.

Eloise,

As per usual, your post is logical, entertaining, and educational. Thanks.

I've never liked the Golden Rule. Sure, it's OK for a starter morality, as it's easy to follow. I believe there're some issues with it.

For instance, in an S&M relationship. the top is definitely not doing to the bottom what the top would have done unto him/her. This breaks the Golden Rule, but I think in a good way. So, I'd like to offer up my "improved" golden rule:

Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. It's not a very grammatical statement. I'm working on that. But the idea is simple: I'd rather have people treat me as I like to be treated, rather than them treating me as they like to be treated. True, it certainly takes a bit of effort to understand how a person likes to be treated. (My wife, for instance, insists I treat her like a queen. I mean, literally. I have to say, "Yes, Your Highness," and, "No, Your Royal Majesty," and whatnot. But then, she informs me that's the way all wives are treated, so I guess it's not that bad. And Slave Night is a lot of fun.)

Although I'm being facetious in my presentation, I'm perfectly serious about my quibble with the Golden Rule. It allows people the leeway to think, "Well, if I hadn't accepted God into my life, I'd certainly want someone to come up to me and browbeat me into submission." Or selling Amway. Or what-have-you.

I'll have to work on a formal proof for that, rather than using anecdotal examples.

Fair enough, mind if I express that logically?

1. universal good is reciprocal.

2. reciprocity is facilitated by exchange of information (participant)

Now we have either - C) universal information exchange exists, or c) universal information exchange does not exist.

From which we draw a conclusion that a universal good can or can not exist if it is defined as necessarily reciprocal.

It is a fact that universal information exchange exists, however, for the most we do not imagine it to be of a nature accessible to the macrobeing which would give us-

C/a) universal information exchange exists outside of the scope of human conscious reasoning.

Concluding that - Morality (right = universal good) does exist but is inaccessible to human consciousness, therefore humans must be inherently incapable of morality.

Sadly I just deduced the Calvin model of human depravity. Yuck! Here's to hoping you can point me out for misrepresenting your argument. Sticking out tongue

 

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nigelTheBold wrote:Although

nigelTheBold wrote:

Although I'm being facetious in my presentation, I'm perfectly serious about my quibble with the Golden Rule. It allows people the leeway to think, "Well, if I hadn't accepted God into my life, I'd certainly want someone to come up to me and browbeat me into submission." Or selling Amway. Or what-have-you.

I forgot to mention, and I'll put it in another post because it's kind of away from the stuff in the other post - almost all common proselytising fails the morality test I outlined in two ways. 

The first way:

As Hamby put it in his first post, morality is describable using the conjunction of action and consequences and you really cannot completely describe a moral concept without linking action and consequences in some formal reference or you just get vague proclamations which have no counterpart in reality. That is you can just say thou shalt not kill is a moral statement, but if so you can just as easily say thou shalt not breath is a moral statement and you'd be equally right.

So saying, in your examples you suggest that a one might say it is moral to approach others on the street and browbeat them into joining your church because in hindsight having been a member of the church it is something I'd like someone to do for me.  If you put that to the test assuming what they have actually reasoned is to say:

Proposition (X): my faith is desirable to me because it has entailed x, x is desirable to me therefore it may be universally good, therefore right, therefore moral

(X) is an empirical consequence of the action. The empirical consequence can be used thus:

(A) That a person experience X is good

(B) That a person experience X is desirable

(C) That a person experience X entails that a person is introduced to X

.... and so on desirable to me therefore moral; easily proven.

This is all good and logical and can well be what the proselytiser is telling themselves. But it does not really represent proselytism.

Proselytism looks like this:

(A) That a person experience X is good

(B) That a person experience X is desirable

(C) That a person experience X entails that a person is introduced to Y

.... so now D E and F will ask if (Y) is desirable but the problem with Y in proselytism is that it's almost never empirical - usually it's hell or god or salvation or the holy spirit something equally intangible that the person can not possibly know if they desire or not. Because they cannot HONESTLY answer the question - do I desire Y? Y cannot be put to a morality test and proselytising cannot be found to be anything at all, let alone moral or immoral.

A street preacher CAN conclude that it is moral to say come to my church because we do charity work with the homeless, its great I feel great about it and such, or come to my church because we have a welcoming community which takes care of each other so you too can have good friends around you who will always be there for you in a crisis.

However, one CANNOT conclude that it is moral to say - come to my church and be saved so you don't go to hell. What is 'saved' and what is 'hell' that you can refer to your own desire for it? To argue for just about any popular proselytism one can only beg the question a little more. You can never logically conclude that something which you cannot possibly know if you desire or not is moral by the Jesus commandment. 

The second way:

The proselytiser can make the same original proposition:

Proposition (X): my faith is desirable to me because it has entailed x, x is desirable to me therefore it may be universally good, therefore right, therefore moral.

and from that they can offer:

(A) That a person experience X is good

(B) That a person experience X is desirable

(C) That a person experience X entails that a person experience Y

And so on and so forth experiencing Y is desirable to me therefore the double negative elimination applies (not not moral) assume it's moral.

But we have a problem again with Y and it's not that you don't know that the person will like it, it's that you cannot guarantee Y for the other person. Y entails a special set of conditions which are in no possible way repeatable because they are not objective. Y is a personal subjective experience with an exact pattern of action and consequence, it cannot be repeated by someone who is not you.  For example the evangelist might say "in the year 199n I was a drug addicted prostitute and I felt the hand of god upon my shoulder and I turned to the light, never looked back and I want the same experience for everyone."

How could one propose to make such a thing happen?

Quite simply you can't. The experience requires insurmountably special personal subjective conditions. And the evangelist might say, "well that's okay when that person meets god their experience will be good and moral" but there is no way to know that. If you look at the logic again it says Y is desirable, one can ONLY conclude that Y might be moral, not something closely emulating Y, or started in the same fashion as Y. There is no basis for that. The only thing that passed the moral test was Y, your exact experience. So the proselytiser must absolutely know they can guarantee Y (which is impossible) or it fails the Golden Rule.

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Hambydammit wrote: With the

Hambydammit wrote:

 

With the same strength that I claim that natural selection will tend towards beneficial adaptations given enough time.  Our moral sense doesn't stem from a 1:1 correlation between act and consequence.  It stems from a strong tendency for certain kinds of behaviors to have an overall beneficial effect when everyone does them.

If evolution followed this natural selection tendency, could it be possible that some of our moral sense (currently) is actually not beneficial to everyone? For example, could an aspect of our moral sense arbitrarily been passed along generation after generation while actually having no benefit to our species or moral sense? Do you think you it's possible for our moral sense to be defective or "still working out the kinks" in relation to the possibility of undesirable characteristics being passed on? These are not challenges to what you have said; rather, I am postulating them in addition to what you said.

Quote:
Our "moral sense" is an evolutionary adaptation. 

Why did we evolve a moral sense? Can you recommend some reading to me if you don't wish to explain perhaps a very long answer to my question. I will be willing to do some reading. Just a side question, hypothetically, could evolution have evolved moral rules instead of a moral sense?

Quote:
Moral sense exists outside of consequence. 

Can you perhaps say more about this? I don't have a problem with it, I just want to know more about your position.

Quote:
Sociobiology and evolution explain right and wrong very well, and there are logical, empirical results to a particular action.

This is a little too strong. The "very well" part is what I am I having reservations about. How do you see sociobiology and evolution explaining right and wrong very well? Perhaps 'explaining', in the way you use it, means something different than what I am considering it to entail. Do you mean explain in a formal sense of analysis and evaluation? Or do you mean it in an informal sense. For example, an informal sense could be a question and answer format. Question: What should I do? Answer: (Insert sociobiological/evolutionary explanation.) I find that I only have a problem with your claim that sociobiology and evolution explain "right and wrong very well" if you used 'explain' in this informal sense. If, however, you used 'explain' in the formal sense, (an account or analysis) then I agree with you; sociobiology and evolution can provide a nicer analysis.   

 

Quote:
  When we invoke an outside source like God, it removes real causality and replaces it with a meaningless term. 

I am still having trouble with this idea of causality in relation to your sociobiological and evolutionary moral perspective. In my mind, a causal connection is a kind of 1:1 correlation with a few select outcomes in the consequence slot. One of the typical problems with sociobiological/evolutionary moral perspectives is the idea that moral relatavism quickly ensues. For instance, What should I do in a particular situation? Well, you will just have to see based on the situation and extraneous factors. Hence, if a type of moral relativism is present (or required), I find that it is infeasible to recognize moral decisions and consequences in the realm of causality. The possible outcomes are always changing for a particular act because of the many factors affecting the outcome. If I am mistaken in my thinking, then I think that the area of misunderstanding is causality. Feel free to clarify.  

Quote:
In other words, God becomes the ultimate source of morality, making our reason more susceptible to errors, since we will insert our unjustified beliefs about god in place of empirical data about consequences.

I agree that there are problems with having God as the source of morality. I have not, personally, found a complete resolution to these problems. I think you (a person who adheres to a sociobiological/evolutionary moral source) will always have an advantage in this respect when discoursing on moral theory.

 

Quote:
In practice, yes.  Everyone is always operating under some materialist model, and anyone, theist or atheist, can believe that their model (utilitarianism, cost/benefit, etc...) is better.  My point is that theists, by inserting a non-empirical, overarching factor into their rationalizations, are actually removing valid reason from morality.

Would they be removing valid reason, or merely removing sound reason? I tend towards a sound removal, but you may see it is as, nevertheless, a removal of validity because of your naturalist philosophy.

 

Quote:
The theist would certainly see it that way, but the reality is that morality must be entirely materialist, for we have no other way to comprehend it.  Our moral sense (instinct) is entirely constructed from natural selection.  Our reason, if it is valid, is entirely based in materialism.  By inserting a non-empirical, unquantifiable, epistemologically meaningless end-goal of heaven, or spiritual perfection, or whatever else they invent, theists are effectively removing the validity from reasoned actions.

I can agree that theists may be adding uncessary, possibly muddling information, but I don't see how this can remove validity (in practice). I find that this gets at the heart of the problem with moral theory: there is a practical result vs. theoretical cogency "see-saw effect." I agree that it would be best to have both, but it seems that when one wants a better practical result, the theoretical aspect suffers. While, when one wants a better theoretical coherency, some of the practical results wain. How do you feel about the looming threat of a kind of "see-saw" effect within moral theory and practice?

 

 

Quote:
If "good" is seen as a fixed characteristic, it would be a circular argument, but I claim no such thing.  An action does not have "goodness" in the same way that a plant has "greenness."  Good and bad are necessarily tied to both the perception and reality of dynamic circumstances.

I have a strong concern with moral relativism. I'm not sure why exactly, but it seems so fleeting to judge based on the moment. Can you attempt to explain how moral relativism of this kind is not something to be concerned about?

Quote:
Consider: Today, a child will be run down by a speeding driver, killing the child.  That's bad, right?  The only thing is, that child was mentally disturbed, and was carrying a gun he found in his dad's cabinet. 
 

Did the driver see the child have a gun?

Quote:
He was going to kill six of his friends.  One of those friends will discover a cure for AIDS, but only because of the death of that child.

A couple things, how can we know these things? I know that this is only an example, but I find the omniscience a detriment to your example. Otherwise, I like where you are going.

Quote:
Right now, ask the mother of the dead child.  It's bad.  Ask the police.  The dude's going to jail.  He is a bad person.  Ask the guy himself.  He feels awful about killing a child and thinks what he did was wrong.  Ask the historians in twenty years, and maybe things will be different.  Probably nobody will completely exonerate the driver, but they will grudgingly admit that the results were for the best.

How would one know the things necessary to exonerate the driver? If they were present in the trial, wouldn't this be taken into account? In addition, the motives that the driver had for hitting the child would greatly figure into the moral status of his hitting the child. If he hit the child out of concern for others, then that thickens the right vs. good plot. However, if he merely hit the child out of negligence, then I wouldn't call it moral; just lucky.

Quote:
In a strictly rational framework, there is no question that assuming the goal of saving as many human lives as possible, killing that child was good.  Our moral sense, however, won't let us go that far.  This is akin to me punching you in the face to help you get money.

How would our moral sense not let us go that far? It seems perfectly possible to atleast credit the man for saving lives if he knowingly interceded the due killings. It would be like the person who shoves someone out of the way of a piano and subsequently breaks their arm when they hit the pavement. Should the person have charges brought against them for breaking the child's arm? Or is it that the broken arm doesn't matter because the man was trying to save the child from a falling piano that would have surely killed him?

Quote:
Each of these people has their own set of criteria, and the act falls somewhere on a continuum of really really awful to really really great.  The "goodness" of the act is an abstract.  It's not an empirical reality.  Moral sense is not tied to a strict cause/effect chain.  Rather, it's a conglomerate of adaptations that gives us an approximate sense of an event's acceptability based on our instinctive behaviors.

Morality is so drenched in connotations that this explanation grinds against my brain. I know it's not you, Hamby, it's just that damn word 'Moral'. A new word would really help me not have so many reservations.

Quote:

The simple difference between a theist's circular argument and a materialists' linear argument is this:

THEIST: A thing is good because of God.  What is God?  Good.  What is good?  God.  ad nauseum

Agreed. This is not a good thing.

Quote:
ATHEIST: This thing is good because it saved lives.  Why is saving lives good?  Because I want the human race to continue, and saving lives promotes that.  Well, is saving lives the ultimate goal?  Well, no, but I think it's one of many good goals.
I need something broader when you say "This thing is good because _______." Something like a Socratic definition outlining necessary and sufficient conditions for a things goodness would be interesting.  

Quote:
Materialists who understand this don't get hung up on trying to defend something as inherently good, for we know that good is a perceptual abstraction, not an empirical quality.  Does that clear it up?

 

Yes a little. I think some more time will do even more towards clearing things up.

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


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Quote:If evolution followed

Quote:
If evolution followed this natural selection tendency, could it be possible that some of our moral sense (currently) is actually not beneficial to everyone?

Yes.

Quote:
For example, could an aspect of our moral sense arbitrarily been passed along generation after generation while actually having no benefit to our species or moral sense? Do you think you it's possible for our moral sense to be defective or "still working out the kinks" in relation to the possibility of undesirable characteristics being passed on? These are not challenges to what you have said; rather, I am postulating them in addition to what you said.

Yes.

Yes.

I understand.

Quote:
Why did we evolve a moral sense? Can you recommend some reading to me if you don't wish to explain perhaps a very long answer to my question. I will be willing to do some reading. Just a side question, hypothetically, could evolution have evolved moral rules instead of a moral sense?

 Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation  

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Ridley (Paperback - April 1, 1998)

 

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by moral rules and moral sense.

Quote:
Can you perhaps say more about this? I don't have a problem with it, I just want to know more about your position.

We each have an individual moral sense that evolved because it helped us as a species.  There are many events that involve neither the benefit of the species nor the infringement upon another individual, yet we often feel our conscience (I use conscience as equivalent to moral sense) tugging at us anyway.  Our moral sense is not unlike a shotgun approach.  Instill humans with the sense to never do such and such, and it will be fine, because even though it will occasionally be ok to do it, the overall benefit of never doing it outweighs the advantage of not feeling guilty when it's ok to do it.

Quote:
If, however, you used 'explain' in the formal sense, (an account or analysis) then I agree with you; sociobiology and evolution can provide a nicer analysis.  

Yes.  I mean that science has explained why we have morality.

Quote:
One of the typical problems with sociobiological/evolutionary moral perspectives is the idea that moral relatavism quickly ensues.

This is because of an equivocation, where sociobiologists mean something different by moral relativism than do um... transcendental moralists.  I just made that term up as a catch-all for anyone who thinks that morality is something other than an evolutionary adaptation, and a completely material, natural phenomenon.

The thing is, morality is completely relative because it's dependent on an individual perspective.  However, the problem of moral relativism is a philosophical construct that doesn't line up with the data of human existence.  Morality is relative, and humans do not descend into anarchy.  That's because each persons' individual assessment of morality is not arbitrary, but governed by our nature.  So, ironically, morality is absolute in the sense that it is innate in each of us, and that we do not have the power to arbitrarily declare what it is or change it in ourselves, but it is relative in the sense that there is no single correct answer to a moral question unless there is context and perspective.

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The possible outcomes are always changing for a particular act because of the many factors affecting the outcome. If I am mistaken in my thinking, then I think that the area of misunderstanding is causality. Feel free to clarify. 

Again, an act does not have goodness in the way a plant has greenness.  It is possible for an act to be both good and bad, or even good, bad, and neutral.  An act can change with time, and a unique act can change in the minds of people after the fact.  Causality is separated from morality, though morality is linked to causality.  We have the moral sense not to kill our family because the most successful of our ancestors did not kill their families, and over time, our genes instilled positive emotional rewards for developing strong bonds and negative emotions for killing our family.  The cause of our moral sense regarding killing is objective, tangible, and factual.  However, our moral sense is removed from causality with regard to an individual act.  If I kill a man in self defense, I will most likely still feel guilty for killing a man, even though the cause/effect chain is clearly in favor of me killing him.

Thus, any individual act may or may not have the cause/effect relationship that is behind the moral sense associated with it.

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Would they be removing valid reason, or merely removing sound reason? I tend towards a sound removal, but you may see it is as, nevertheless, a removal of validity because of your naturalist philosophy.

A sound argument is both valid and true, so removing validity is removing soundness.

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I can agree that theists may be adding uncessary, possibly muddling information, but I don't see how this can remove validity (in practice).

In practice, many theists do the right thing despite having unsound reasons for doing so.  Remember, an unsound argument can yield true results.  It is just unreliable for the purpose of evaluating predictions.

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I agree that it would be best to have both, but it seems that when one wants a better practical result, the theoretical aspect suffers. While, when one wants a better theoretical coherency, some of the practical results wain. How do you feel about the looming threat of a kind of "see-saw" effect within moral theory and practice?

I don't understand what you're asking.

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I have a strong concern with moral relativism. I'm not sure why exactly, but it seems so fleeting to judge based on the moment. Can you attempt to explain how moral relativism of this kind is not something to be concerned about?

I think I've already addressed this.  Relative morality does not mean arbitrary morality.

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Did the driver see the child have a gun?

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A couple things, how can we know these things? I know that this is only an example, but I find the omniscience a detriment to your example. Otherwise, I like where you are going.

I'm illustrating how over time, and from different perspectives, the perception of an act can change.  It's just a rough example, not an argument.

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How would one know the things necessary to exonerate the driver? If they were present in the trial, wouldn't this be taken into account?

You're taking this example too seriously.  The trial isn't an issue.  What is an issue is demonstrating how a bad act can have good results, and that our perceptions of the act don't necessarily change with the results.  I'm showing that cause/effect chains are not chains... they're huge nets with thousands of strands, each affecting the other in subtle ways.  We cannot, therefore, assign a strict cause/effect explanation to a single act in an absolute way.

This is an example of our morality not syncing with reality.  In the end, killing the child was a beneficial act, but there's no way this poor guy will ever reap the rewards.  He will be in jail.  Our approach to morality is general, not specific.  In fact, most people will agree that even though the results were beneficial, the man did a bad thing.  Our moral sense trumps cause/effect.  Because of how incredibly complex cause/effect is, there will always be instances where our moral sense is wrong, and yet we stand by it.  This is why it works, and why it's not perfect.

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It seems perfectly possible to atleast credit the man for saving lives if he knowingly interceded the due killings.

That's just it.  He couldn't know that his act would be beneficial.  Nor could the judge, or the families involved.  Morality is removed from cause and effect.  You've judged him yourself already.  IF he knew that killing the child was the best thing to do, he would be doing a good act, but if it was accidental or absentminded, or if he was talking on his cell phone, it was a bad act, regardless of the outcome.

Our moral instinct against killing our tribe's children is extremely strong, and without omniscience, we must take the position that any killing without immediate and apparent benefit is wrong.  Clearly, this will not always work, but it works most of the time, and creates social order.

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Morality is so drenched in connotations that this explanation grinds against my brain. I know it's not you, Hamby, it's just that damn word 'Moral'. A new word would really help me not have so many reservations.

I understand.  It's a terrible word.  What I'm trying to get across to you is that there is a drastic difference between cause/effect in the objective physical world and the abstraction of morality in the minds of participants and witnesses.  Our moral sense is fixed and individual, yet we are each part of a superorganism, and we are all slaves to our collective human nature.  In a very real sense, morality doesn't exist.  People act how they act, and we use the word 'morality' to ascribe value to actions, but the web of human interaction is so complex that an on/off label of good or bad is woefully inadequate to describe most actions.  It's a very imperfect, shotgun approach to behavior, but from a superorganism perspective, it works damn well.  (Of course, the superorganism doesn't particularly care about any individual, so the failures of the shotgun approach aren't particularly important.

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I need something broader when you say "This thing is good because _______." Something like a Socratic definition outlining necessary and sufficient conditions for a things goodness would be interesting. 

That's just it.  I can't give you such a concrete answer because there are too many variables.  Just for shits and giggles, suppose we assign a hundred categories to an act, such as "Furthering personal safety," "Protecting those who might someday protect us," "contributing to the safety of many" "contributing to the happiness of one" "contributing to the happiness of many," etc...  and we examine a particular act, where all of the consequences are known for a reasonable amount of time afterwards.  We can rate the act based on how much of each category it contributed, and we can give it an overall "morality score.'  The problem is that each of the 100 criteria are not going to be objectively equal, and we're not going to have any clear cut way to assess which should be the most heavily weighted.  In fact, for each act, we'll have to come up with a unique scale.  It's like in football.  We don't award a punter a salary based on how many tackles he makes.  Both punts and tackles are crucial to the game, but to the punter, tackles are extraneous.  All he's worried about is punting.  In fact, it would be detrimental for him to try to start tackling people.  What's good for one is bad for another, but both need to be good at what they do for the benefit of everyone.

Oh, and sometimes games are won when the punter tackles the guy who's beaten everybody else and would score if not for the punter.  In this situation, it's imperative that the punter tackle, even though on most plays, it would be horribly wrong for him to do so.

 

 

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Hambydammit wrote:The thing

Hambydammit wrote:

The thing is, morality is completely relative because it's dependent on an individual perspective.  However, the problem of moral relativism is a philosophical construct that doesn't line up with the data of human existence.  Morality is relative, and humans do not descend into anarchy.  That's because each persons' individual assessment of morality is not arbitrary, but governed by our nature.  So, ironically, morality is absolute in the sense that it is innate in each of us, and that we do not have the power to arbitrarily declare what it is or change it in ourselves, but it is relative in the sense that there is no single correct answer to a moral question unless there is context and perspective.

 

This is a pretty nice 'in a nutshell' response to when theists say "If morality is relative rather than objectively from my magic dad, then who is to say who's morality is better?  We might as well all go out and kill everybody!"

 


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Quote:This is a pretty nice

Quote:
This is a pretty nice 'in a nutshell' response to when theists say "If morality is relative rather than objectively from my magic dad, then who is to say who's morality is better?  We might as well all go out and kill everybody!"

I'm particularly fond of the punter analogy because it sets the scene for a follow up question.  The theist is likely to object by saying that football is not analogous to morality, but he's going to have a damn hard time explaining why.  Both are complex systems where certain actions sometimes lead to good results and sometimes to bad.  The primary difference between morality and football is that the end goal is clearly delineated in football, and it's unclear in morality.  An even better analogy is sport in general.  If everyone plays a sport, different acts will be good or bad, depending on their sport, and someone playing football will have a different set of ideals than someone playing golf.  They will strive for different things, but each, in his own way, is moving toward the goal of competing well.  Like morality, it's not arbitrary.  You can't just decide you're playing your own sport if you want any recognition from the group.  You have to be part of a team, or at the very least, be in a league of individual competitors.  (Of course, sometimes new sports are invented, but they're still sports.. just new ways of competing... )
 

The nature of sports is set.  You can't invent a sport where the goal is not to do something better than an opponent, or a set goal.  It wouldn't be a sport.  Whatever sport you play, you will be following a general innate pattern to which all sports must hold by virtue of being sports.  In the same way, humans are moral creatures, even though their approach to morality can be different.  Also, people can argue all day about whether or not baseball is an inherently better sport than football, and what they'll find is that their vehement disagreement comes from a different idea about what is most important in sports.  Is there a "best sport?"  Not in an absolute sense, but if you ask for a sport that best exploits the virtue of running speed, perhaps there is.  Same for any of the sport virtues.  Are some sports more damaging to the players than others?  Of course.  Does this mean they're bad sports?  Not necessarily.  The players put the rewards of the sport above the potential for injury.

This is not a perfect analogy, but it is good for beginning to understand how morality can be relative and yet not have any chance of descending into anarchy.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Hambydammit wrote:The

 

Hambydammit wrote:

The thing is, morality is completely relative because it's dependent on an individual perspective.

 

I see how this is how things are. However, I am contemplating the possible importance of distinguishing 'morality' from 'what is moral'.

[ Just a subtle disclaimer before I go on. I am not considering God as the moral "objectifier." Please consider any considerations of God out of your criticism on what I have said.]

'Morality' is in my mind; it is my take individual take on moral dillemmas that I encounter. But, it seems that 'what is moral' somehow transcends the individual and passes into the objective realm from out of the subjective. I realize this may be pushing things a bit far, but nevertheless, please hear me out.

'What is moral' seems to stand out as a more black and white distinction. 'What is moral' is the answer to "What should I do?" In this sense of 'what is moral' there appears to a limited amounts of answers to the question of "What should I do?" This, to me, is what 'what is moral' entails; it is recommendation of what anyone, in a certain situation, should do when considering "What should I do?"

Hence, 'morality' is subjective; whereas, 'what is moral' is objective, or in other words, universally applicable to anyone.

I realize that I may be wrong in my distinction, or fail to elucidate them completely. For this reason, please consider what I have a mere thought experiment and not a proclamation of great understanding or "truth."

 

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each persons' individual assessment of morality is not arbitrary, but governed by our nature.

I can apply the distinction here to, essentially, what you've said: Each person's individual assessment is 'morality'. While 'what is moral' is governed by one's nature as a human being.

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So, ironically, morality is absolute in the sense that it is innate in each of us, and that we do not have the power to arbitrarily declare what it is or change it in ourselves,

I understand this as describing 'what is moral'.

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but it is relative in the sense that there is no single correct answer to a moral question unless there is context and perspective.

I understand this as describing 'morality'.

phooney wrote:

This is a pretty nice 'in a nutshell' response to when theists say "If morality is relative rather than objectively from my magic dad, then who is to say who's morality is better?  We might as well all go out and kill everybody!"

Phooney, I hope that you didn't take me to be suggesting what you noted here as a common response from a theist. I find that moral relativism is problematic because it doesn't provide a simple or consistent answer to the question "What should I do?"

I don't in anyway find that ensuing anarchy is a compelling critique of moral relativism; I have more confidence in the human organism than that.

I'm not saying that there can't be an answer given in a moral relativist framework; instead, I am saying that the answer that one must give to someone who asks "What should I do?" will not receive a simple or consistent answer. Hence, if the framework of 'what is moral' is theoretically relative, an abstract answer can never be given. For example, without the specific situation and factors available, anticipating and providing an answer before someone is already in a dilemma, seems completely lacking in a relativist 'what is moral' framework.  

 

 

Oh and Hamby, I tried to understand your football analogy, but I couldn't grasp it. Can you explain it one more time? I have a personal interest in your analogy because I was my football team's kicker.

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


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phooney wrote:This is a

phooney wrote:

This is a pretty nice 'in a nutshell' response to when theists say "If morality is relative rather than objectively from my magic dad, then who is to say who's morality is better?  We might as well all go out and kill everybody!"

What the Theist don't get is that if morality comes from God and/or government, then the only morality is:

Might make right.

So if your only acting with some moral standard in fear of God, you really don't have any morals except to save your own skin. God can murder, steal, torture or whatever and he is right, holy and totally moral. Why? Only because he is the most powerful being in the universe.

So how can a Theist ever say they have any other morality?

 

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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jread wrote:Phooney, I hope

jread wrote:
Phooney, I hope that you didn't take me to be suggesting what you noted here as a common response from a theist. I find that moral relativism is problematic because it doesn't provide a simple or consistent answer to the question "What should I do?"

No, jread, I was thinking more about several other conversations I'd had, I wasn't referring to yourself at all.  Smiling


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I'm really wishing I had

I'm really wishing I had time to read/respond to this....  I'm hoping to do an independent study this on the question of morality, and theist/atheist positions, studying Kung, and Nietzche.  Shoot me a PM if you have any suggestions for readings by atheists on morality. 

Cheers...

 

 

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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 The Red Queen: Sex and

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Quote:I'm hoping to do an

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I'm hoping to do an independent study this on the question of morality, and theist/atheist positions, studying Kung, and Nietzche.

It would be a lot better if you studied people who were privy to the last century of science.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

http://hambydammit.wordpress.com/
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