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Science of Morality, Anyone?

 
 
coberst
 
Reply Sat 1 Nov, 2008 02:35 pm
Science of Morality, Anyone?

Where, in American culture, is the domain of knowledge that we would identify as morality studied and taught?

I suspect that if we do not quickly develop a science of morality that will make it possible for us to live together on this planet in a more harmonious manner our technology will help us to destroy the species and perhaps the planet soon.

It seems to me that we have given the subject matter of morality primarily over to religion. It also seems to me that if we ask the question ‘why do humans treat one another so terribly?’ we will find the answer in this moral aspect of human culture.

The ‘man of maxims’ “is the popular representative of the minds that are guided in their moral judgment solely by general rules, thinking that these will lead them to justice by a ready-made patent method, without the trouble of exerting patience, discrimination, impartiality"without any care to assure themselves whether they have the insight that comes from a hardly-earned estimate of temptation, or from a life vivid and intense enough to have created a wide fellow-feeling with all that is human.” George Eliot The Mill on the Floss

We can no longer leave this important matter in the hands of the Sunday-school. Morality must become a top priority for scientific study.




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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 Nov, 2008 04:41 pm
@coberst,
I am not sure what the term "Science of Morality" means...

Morality is clearly a human trait... it evolved. There is nothing different between our tendency to develop and follow moral codes and any other behavioral trait that resulted from our evolutionary history.

Of course, humans (and other primates) are social beings. We live in societies with distinct cultures.

There are basic psychological traits like "fairness" and "altruism" that seem instinctual. But it is the tendency to follow a system of morality that is human nature-- of course the specific rules of morality vary from culture to culture.

Nature has no sense of morality. Black widow spiders bit the heads off their mates. Slavery is common; wasps are happy to lay their eggs in unwilling hosts). Killing, rape, stealing have no meaning outside of human societies.

Of course on planets where humans don't live, the word "morality" simply has no meaning.

Other than evolutionary psychology (which may be an interesting area to discuss) I don't see how science can have anything to do, or say about morality.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 Nov, 2008 10:37 pm
@coberst,
I do not believe one can call it science when it involves morality, because different cultures have different moralities, and none are static. Social science probably comes close, but even then it's difficult to pinpoint morality as it pertains to cultures because of technology, science, communication, and travel.
coberst
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 02:47 am
@cicerone imposter,

I think that science was very cautious in approaching certain domains of knowledge because of the power of the Catholic Church. I think that in the nineteenth century efforts were begun, after the decline in the power of religion, on a science of morality. This effort was aborted because of the successes of the natural sciences and no serious efforts have taken place since then.

I think that we badly need a science of morality and everything that is entailed by a systematic and disciplined study of any domain of knowledge.

I am studying "The Sense of Beauty" by George Santayana, "Moral Imagination" by Mark Johnson, and "Art and Visual Perception" by Rudolf Arnheim. I have discovered that the study of values, morality is a species of value, has led me into a study of visual perception, the meaning of 'meaning', and the science of art.

The study of psychology and cognitive science has provided a foundation for this effort. I think that such studies must form the foundation of such an effort.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 10:58 am
@coberst,
I believe such a study is a lost cause. Just look at our countries politics of today; each side believes their side is "moral" and right for the majority.

The human brain is not capable of utilizing morals on a logical, universal, level.

Even within my siblings, we disagree on politics and religion.


coberst
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 01:08 pm
@cicerone imposter,

The human brain is capable of a systematic and disciplined study of any domain of knowledge. One reason that we have so much difficulty with moral judgments is because no one knows any thing about these matters beyond what they learned in Sunday school or from their parents who are ignorant of such matters also. Religion is not morality. We have allowed religion to take over this domain of knowledge and thus many of our wars that are fought in the name of religion.
0 Replies
 
RexRed
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 03:13 pm
@coberst,
Quote:
Where, in American culture, is the domain of knowledge that we would identify as morality studied and taught?


During the dark ages nearly all culture became stifled by the Roman Catholic Church. No offence to kind hearted and loving Catholics of today…

Among the fruit forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church were reading, writing, art, literature, science, philosophy, reason, and even ethics. The largest sexual orgies ever recorded in all of history are said to have been at the Vatican in Rome.

All of these cultural entities like literature, theater, social discourse, ethics and even a world view, needed to be rediscovered by those afflicted by these "dark ages".

These were times when it was illegal to write down your thoughts unless first approved by the church. It was illegal to write a piece of music that was not cleared by the church first. If one were to express culture in an untoward way they were persecuted by the threat of death. This was going on in the general populace while the church and clergy were themselves in near utter total decadence and disarray.

The Roman Catholic Church would have kept it this way if it were not for the gypsies. They roved around the countryside bringing new ideas to the people that they had dared not consider before. Much of these new ideas were old ideas preserved by mystics that opposed orthodoxy for various reasons. Because they roved stealthily from village to village, they never staying long enough thus they could not easily be pinpointed and caught. They were fast and had a network of spies in the orthodoxy that were sympathetic and often conspired with them.

Yet it was culture and average people that suffered and became poorer than dirt. There was such poverty that it led to the revolutions that later spread through the various countries of Eastern Europe. The Orthodoxy would have preferred to have left the world without theater and art. They possibly considered theater, sculpture, dance and athletic competitions etc… to be an idle device of the Greeks and preferred to leave it behind in the past with the Greeks. But the gypsies were becoming more welcomed to the cities and small towns than were the clergy when they came to receive penance and offerings for the church. So the church had a “public relations” problem on their hands.

This was when the Catholic “mass” was devised and implemented in the church. It is “as I have been taught” a reenactment of the actual crucifixion of Christ. So technically every “mass” strangely as it may seem, Jesus is re-crucified… So this was something to get up and go and see which provided a kind of cultural resurgence to say the least. It may be considered why the emphasis was placed on the crucifixion of Christ rather than the resurrection of Christ. Where the cross seems a deterrent by fear and intimidation where the resurrections seems to rely on ultimate innate justice.

This new Roman Catholic “mass” held in the various churches across the land enabled the church to keep a firm grip on the urban areas but there were still the many small villages left to garner back under their control. This was when they devised the idea of the “pageant wagon”. The pageant wagon was devised to mimic the gypsy occupation of the small villages that seemed to favor them over the church. The gypsies came with not only with new ideas but they often would bring thievery and intoxicating beverages, herbs and superstition.

As a response to the influence of the gypsies the Catholic Church built these wheeled carriages drawn by horses or men and they would travel from village to village. So we can see where had it not been for the gypsies the world may well have stayed in darkness much longer. So the church caved into its “no theatre” policy.

This church pageant wagon had typically three small stories, one under the main level which represented hell, the main level which was earth, and the roof or third level which represented heaven. The actors could move from story to story. By this means the church were able to teach its main objectives to even the areas beyond the urban dwellings.

By these two competing factors either the gypsies or the church the idea that a common person could learn to act and someday be in the theater became available…

One would be an even greater actor if they could themselves “read” and memorize their lines rather than just being told them.

Also there became the idea of stage, scene and set design and the wagon itself had to be built. Thus craftsmen, painters, sculptors, engineers, even stone masons were possibly employees to repair roads so the wagons could travel to the farthest most outer reaches of the known world.

The dilemma is not in the fact that the world has suddenly been reborn and we are not on the path to reason and true culture, but the dilemma is in what have we selectively decided to leave behind? What are the motives for leaving behind something we once knew collectively?

We have brought back art, we have bought back theatre, dance, literature beyond comprehension, we have now medicine and understanding of biology physics, we can answer down to thousands of digits of the decimal of pi.

Perhaps the only REAL thing “left” in the past was God? Along with God was left a kind of civility and ethical connectedness to creation.

We have had renaissances of “many” fields and disciplines of study but what renaissance is left unrealized? What did the church hide from us that we may have not rediscovered? What was the purpose of us all being made “dumb” and ignorant? What was so secret and dangerous that the world needed to forget how to reason, write and express ourselves freely and creatively? What is so powerful and dangerous about art?

The answer may lie in the concept of “God in culture”… Once God flourishes within the psyche of the general populace then culture will reach maturity. Could the church then become nearly obsolete?

Much of the plastic, disposable culture today is nearly all about self, wealth, outer beauty, and physical materialistic worship. God is often imposed upon culture but it is when culture begins to take a serious look at the empowerment of God “within” every person that the last “renaissance” will be discovered.

We will then have concrete answers, foundational and fundamental truths about who we are and our position in the total portrait of life. The world will transform into pure consciousness.

So the answer to your question as to where do we go to learn what has not been rediscovered is to just have faith that it will be understood one day, just as we take for granted “the wheel” we will all one day share the same idea of liberty and love fused into one new identity of hope.

The worse case is that we may never fully recover what was lost in the dark ages and the lack of unity, hate and evil in the world is evidence of its absence from the minds of those people left empty and “outside of the path of the traveling theatre”.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 03:37 pm
@RexRed,
Rex, I can probably agree with you that the Catholic Church was the major mover and shaker of societies all over this world. However, as you have pointed out, even those who were supposed to be the virtue of this man-made organization was itself guilty of sins against humans. The learning of theology or church doctrine has not improved mankind in any way; it may even have worsened it.

What I see are individuals stuck in their own little world society where we are brain-washed to believe certain moral "truths" as the guiding principles of our life. All that doesn't really matter, because each individual responds to their biology and environment in different ways. That's the reason so-called "good" parents can create a monster who destroys human "decency."

Chemicals in our brains can cause untold damage to the individual and others.

Some of us have been fully cognizant of our actions, and have lived according to the morays of our society, but I think we were just "lucky" to have been born with the right genes, enviroment, and self-determination.

Others are not so lucky.
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 06:41 pm
Well, of course, if you consider the various branches of philosophy as 'sciences' then there certainly exists a science of morality. It is called 'ethics.' A study of ethics, coupled with a study of mataphysics, yields some very deep thinking on the subject of 'morality.'

However, as both c.i. and ebrown p have both pointed out, any such study is necessarily subjective because of differences in human cultures. What is considered 'immoral' in one culture may well be the accepted norm in another. We consider incest immoral. Today that is a virtually universal taboo. But in ancient Egypt brother/sister marriages were not only accepted; they were mandated in royal families. There are many such examples. There are certain types of 'theft' that aren't even considered stealing in some societies.

The best we can do, I'm afraid, is to try and apply logical norms to specific situations. But, as you yourself, I believe, pointed out, morality itself is a human concept and, therefore, can't really have universal norms of the type that the hard sciences demand.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 06:50 pm
@Merry Andrew,
I also heard some years ago that Eskimos share their wives with other men - freely. I don't know whether that's true or not, but have heard the same thing several times during my life.
OGIONIK
 
  0  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 08:18 pm
@cicerone imposter,
thats what im talking about.

lol. seriously thats a big step, male possessiveness is very annoying.
0 Replies
 
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 Nov, 2008 06:30 pm
@coberst,
Quote:
Where, in American culture, is the domain of knowledge that we would identify as morality studied and taught?


Academia, for starters. They're called "ethics courses" and even some rudimentary internet research will show you that you can find them in just about any institution that has a philosophy department. With the advent of internet education it has also become common to find online courses in ethics as well, as a quick Google search will confirm. Many of these courses (both the online versions and the "real" variety) have little to do with religion--that is to say, ethics is taught in contexts that are not primarily religious.

Whether these courses meet your standard of "scientificness," I cannot say because I'm not clear on what you mean by a scientific approach to morality. But it would be quite misleading to suggest that no one in America is concerned with ethics. I can understand the desire to make the picture look as bleak as possible--so much the better for a Messiah to save the day--but if you are concerned with "scientific ethics" you should definitely be wary of letting ideology trump observation.
coberst
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Mar, 2009 09:24 am
@ebrown p,
Science helps us comprehend what the world is at this moment. If we decide it can be better we then can navigate to a better place.
0 Replies
 
coberst
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Mar, 2009 09:29 am
@Shapeless,
It seems clear to me that these posts indicate that we all have very different ideas as to the purpose and meaning of morality. Perhaps the most important domain of knowledge for our survival now that our technology places such great power into our ands and we have no science to help us comprehend why humans do the things we do and can we do better.

Another problem we have is a mutual comprehension of the meaning of the word "science". All this makes clear to me that our educational system is a mess that needs a great deal of work.

Religion has not supplanted morality they have been allowed to define morality. I seek a science of morality to define morality just as physics and chemistry defined many knowledge domains of our natural world. This sounds like a crazy idea because we have all grown up in a world that thought that morality was the business of priests, imams, preachers, and rabbis. A grave error on our part.

The problems that I see on the horizon are such matters of WMD, the consumption of the planet by bigger populations, a lack of water for those billions of people, a financial system that is at this moment collapsing, a world ecology that we are destroying such that at some point it may no longer be able to heal it self, etc.

If the people are not sufficiently sophisticated to comprehend these problems how can they be part of the solution?
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Mar, 2009 11:17 am
@Shapeless,
Morality is shaped for us by our culture. There are no real world standard except perhaps in the world of commerce, but they are also very flexible depending on who you are trying to do business with. How they are practiced are a whole new area of debate.
0 Replies
 
Shapeless
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Mar, 2009 12:24 pm
@coberst,
Quote:
It seems clear to me that these posts indicate that we all have very different ideas as to the purpose and meaning of morality.


My post, anyway, had nothing to do with definitions of morality. I was merely pointing out the error when you suggested that no one is interested in such a thing. Ethics courses are a dime a dozen. You may disagree with the kind of morality being taught in these courses, but if so then you might get a more substantive discussion going if you cite exactly what you find lacking in these courses. It'll be much more effective than simply shaking your head in rehearsed displays of resignation at the sad state of our world.


Quote:
Religion has not supplanted morality they have been allowed to define morality. I seek a science of morality to define morality


In other words, you want to replace one reductive and simplistic interpretation of morality with another one. As Cicerone said, such a goal is not only misguided but also impossible. In your goal to find a science to explain "why humans do the things they do," you often hem and haw about how the stupidity of the gray masses, corporate America, and other predictable clichés are preventing us from reaching that goal, but have you considered the possibility that human behavior isn't as simple as you want it to be and that you can't find a grand unifying theory explaining the motivations and desires regulating every single person regardless of time, place, or context? The only reason your psychoanalytical theories appear to work for you is because you never apply them to real life people. Rather, you restrict yourself to the safety of generalizations like "our society," "we humans," "CA (Corporate America)," etc.--abstract concepts that are infinitely malleable and which consequently put up no resistance to your or anyone else's theories.
0 Replies
 
 

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