11
   

Morality is not about behavior.

 
 
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 11:20 am
Many of the threads I am in have to do, in some way or another, about morality. It seems to me that in these discussion, a common mistake is made when asking me a question about my sense of morality.

The question is phrased... "Would you sleep with that attractive movie star?"

This question has nothing to do with my sense of morality. I have no question that, as I have made marriage vows, it would be immoral for me to sleep with anyone other then my wife. So the question then has nothing to do with my understanding of morality... many people (if not all) do things that they understand to be immoral.

So there two completely different questions.

1) What is your system of morality (or rules do you use to distinguish between right or wrong)?
2) How do you behave.

Many of the arguments about morality seem to imply that most people act completely in accordance with their own morals. I believe this is completely false... I know that I sometimes do things I know is wrong. And, I know enough people to believe that acting against one's own morals is quite common.

Humans have the ability to justify any behavior by bending, twisting or even changing their own understanding of morality in a way to justify whatever they did. To me this is a bad thing to do. It is self-delusion, and heck; when I do something I know I shouldn't, I figure I should at least own up to it.

When I use the term morality-- I use it to signify what I understand to be right and wrong. For the most part, my behavior matches with this, but it doesn't have to. I can have a strong sense of right and wrong, and still do things I believe are wrong. Or I could do things that you believe are wrong, but in my understanding of morality are "right".

 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 11:37 am
by eliminating all the god crap, the ten commandments are a reasonable way to live

FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.' i think there is lee way with this one

SIX: 'You shall not murder.' pretty straight forward

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.' probably a good idea, but **** happens

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.' again, pretty straight forward, extenuationg circumstances may apply, ie stealing food for hungry children

NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.' try not to gossip, but hey, i'm only human (or so they tell me)

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.' only a problem if it leads me to break rule #8
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 11:49 am
@djjd62,
You are off topic already DJ.

This is about the differences between your understanding of morality, and the way you behave.

Jebediah
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 11:51 am
Some related reading:

http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/jfb/huckfinn.pdf

I don't feel like it's as 1-dimensional as you are making it out to be. Huckfinn's understanding of morality is that it is wrong of him to let Jim go free--

" I tried to make out to myself that I warn’t to blame,
because I didn’t run Jim off from his rightful owner; but it warn’t no use, conscience up
and say, every time: ‘But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could a
paddled ashore and told somebody.’ That was so - I couldn’t get around that, no way.
That was where it pinched. Conscience says to me: ‘What had poor Miss Watson done to
you, that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single
word? What did that poor old woman do to you, that you could treat her so mean? "

But clearly in this case his sympathies were correct, not his understanding of right and wrong. So that definition of morality doesn't work. There is a long history of people having ideas about what is right and wrong that are in fact incorrect. Read Himmler's comments about the holocaust for a harsh example.

You have to keep your understanding of morality open to correction.
djjd62
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 11:54 am
@ebrown p,
not really, those six points illustrate my concept of morality

how i behave is indicated by my remarks in red, there are things i'd let slide, honouring of parents, adultery and coveting are three i don't see as being big deals

as each post is only 65000 characters, i couldn't begin to detail every one of my lapses in morality
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  0  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 12:03 pm
@Jebediah,
Quote:
There is a long history of people having ideas about what is right and wrong that are in fact incorrect


This doesn't make sense to me.

No one has yet come up with a way to tell which ideas about what is right and wrong are "correct" and which are "incorrect". You have your ideas, and clearly you think people who disagree with you are "incorrect"... at least you leave open the possibility that your ideas might be the ones that are incorrect.

For this discussion, let's assume that modern Western morality is (by definition) "correct". That way we can have the interesting discussion on the topic about what it means that your behavior doesn't always match understanding of what is morally "correct".

The Huck Finn passage is relevant... and is a cool point. I had forgotten about that passage.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 12:05 pm
@djjd62,
DJ, what is interesting is your sense of right and wrong. If you believe that adultery is wrong, then that is relevant to the discussion.

My proposition is that there are things that you believe are wrong (in the moral sense of the word), but that you do anyway.

When discussing morality... what you "believe" is more important then what you do.


djjd62
 
  2  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 12:16 pm
@ebrown p,
i think it's tacky, but not wrong, hell i've done it relationships (not marriage)

i guess if push came to shove, murder would be the only thing i could say is truly wrong in the moral sense of the word, and as far as i know i've never committed it

everything else has varying degrees of right and wrong, theft for instance, stealing a pack of gum while being wrong is something i could live with (and have when young), embezzling a pension fund i couldn't do
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2010 12:22 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
. . . The question is phrased... "Would you sleep with that attractive movie star?"

This question has nothing to do with my sense of morality.
I have no question that, as I have made marriage vows,
it would be immoral for me to sleep with anyone other then my wife.
So if u fell asleep in a crowded theater, u 'd become immoral ?





David
0 Replies
 
xris
 
  3  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 05:37 am
Morality is a darned sight more than not stealing or acting beyond your concepts of good behaviour. I see self admiring Christians who think they are gods example but their politics stink. The good samaritan, a good example, is the hero who brushes into one poor guy and helps him out..... but then refuses to accept the responsibility he holds to all those in need. I can never understand a christian who admires the capitalist ideology and screams at socialists as if they were the devils child. Socialism in its true sense is the politics of Christ. Share without judgement , treat the least as the highest. Condemn not, lest you be judged..I could go on.
jgweed
 
  2  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 06:33 am
It isn't like we have some set of morality we believe in and then another set we actually and purposefully follow. Morality is always used to test (guide) our own actions.

But at the same time, moral rules are always stated in a universal manner, although most have "escape clauses." For example, "thou shalt not kill" has all sorts of exceptions built in; the right of self-defence is generally recognised as an exception (or a moral rule of a "higher order"), or we find that rules can conflict (stealing bread to keep one's child alive).

The strength of application of a particular ethical rule can be judged by listing all the special cases for not following it (not including the all-too-human excuses like "just this one time"), and its place in the architecture of morality in general determined.
kennethamy
 
  2  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 07:04 am
@jgweed,
jgweed wrote:



But at the same time, moral rules are always stated in a universal manner, although most have "escape clauses."For example, "thou shalt not kill" has all sorts of exceptions built in; the right of self-defence is generally recognised as an exception (or a moral rule of a "higher order"), or we find that rules can conflict (stealing bread to keep one's child alive).





The rules of morality are universal, because they are supposed to hold true of everyone. Everyone should not murder (not "kill") and everyone should not steal. What you mean is that (you don't think) they should be held in an absolute way so as not to make room for exceptions like your stealing bread example. The distinction between "universal" and "absolute" is very important and is often confused. It is moral relativists who deny that moral rules are universal, but they need not (although they may) deny that moral rules are absolute. By the way, the "science" of applying moral rules to particular circumstances is called "casuistry". Killing in self-defense is not an exception to the moral rule thou shalt not murder as long as killing in self-defense is not a case of murder. That simply is a matter of what we mean. But whether the rule against stealing should be applied in the example you cite, is a matter for casuistry.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 07:22 am
Morality must be more than the narrow confines of behaviour, was that the question ? Personal morality can not be confined to simple rights and wrongs.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 07:25 am
@kennethamy,
The Rules of Morality are not Universal-- but this is not a thread about that. There have been several threads about the failure for anyone to come up with a Universal standard of morality that doesn't depend on a specific cultural context. But this should be discussed elsewhere.

For this thread, pick a Standard of Morality... it doesn't matter if it is universal or not.

My hypothesis is that the Rules of Morality that you claim to live by don't always dictate your behavior. There are many things that determine human behavior... our sense of morality is only one factor.

I believe that even given an absolute belief in a Universal Morality, that examples where any human acts against this morality are common.

This word morality best represents an understanding of what is right or wrong.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 07:31 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

The Rules of Morality are not Universal-- but this is not a thread about that. There have been several threads about the failure for anyone to come up with a Universal standard of morality that doesn't depend on a specific cultural context. But this should be discussed elsewhere.

For this thread, pick a Standard of Morality... it doesn't matter if it is universal or not.

My hypothesis is that the Rules of Morality that you claim to live by don't always dictate your behavior. There are many things that determine human behavior... our sense of morality is only one factor.

I believe that even given an absolute belief in a Universal Morality, that examples where any human acts against this morality are common.

This word morality best represents an understanding of what is right or wrong.


Lots of people fail to practice what they preach. I suppose you can call that "hypocrisy" if it weren't so solemn a term for what is often not solemn. But who doesn't know that?
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 07:44 am
@kennethamy,
Sure Kenneth,

What I am talking about can correctly be called "hypocrisy". I am proposing that this form "hypocrisy" is a common part of human behavior. I believe we all do it. There are all sorts of forces that drive human behavior, conscience is only one of them.

What I am interested in are the times when our actual behavior conflicts with our understanding of morality.

As KG points out, there are loopholes. I believe that people twist even their own rules of morality to justify things that in their heart they understand is wrong. It seems better to me to avoid this self-delusion and to just accept the fact that we, as human, sometimes act against our own morals.

kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 07:53 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Sure Kenneth,

What I am talking about can correctly be called "hypocrisy". I am proposing that this form "hypocrisy" is a common part of human behavior. I believe we all do it. There are all sorts of forces that drive human behavior, conscience is only one of them.

What I am interested in are the times when our actual behavior conflicts with our understanding of morality.

As KG points out, there are loopholes. I believe that people twist even their own rules of morality to justify things that in their heart they understand is wrong. It seems better to me to avoid this self-delusion and to just accept the fact that we, as human, sometimes act against our own morals.




If you are asking for the causes of hypocrisy, I think that would be long story. I don't know anyone over the age of about four who does not know that people sometimes fail to do what they think they and others ought to do.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 08:17 am
@kennethamy,
I am more interested in the meaning of morality.

The Huck Finn example (that Jebediah raised) is an interesting case. He did something that you and I would agree was the "right" thing to do by helping an escaped slave. Even he did it, he was violating his own sense of morality... he believed he was doing the wrong thing. Was this an act of hypocrisy?

Another interesting case is Thomas Jefferson and slavery. Thomas Jefferson understood that slavery was against his own moral values. He still owned slaves.

kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 08:24 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

I am more interested in the meaning of morality.

The Huck Finn example (that Jebediah raised) is an interesting case. He did something that you and I would agree was the "right" thing to do by helping an escaped slave. Even he did it, he was violating his own sense of morality... he believed he was doing the wrong thing. Was this an act of hypocrisy?

Another interesting case is Thomas Jefferson and slavery. Thomas Jefferson understood that slavery was against his own moral values. He still owned slaves.




Huck Finn was psychologically (but not morally) torn between the morality he had been taught and brought up with, and internal feelings of his own we often call "conscience". That was not hypocrisy. For he no longer believed that the morality he had been taught was the correct morality. It was just difficult for him to reject his customary beliefs even when he now believed they were mistaken. He was not having a moral crisis, but a psychological crisis.
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2010 08:38 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
My hypothesis is that the Rules of Morality that you claim to live by don't always dictate your behavior. There are many things that determine human behavior... our sense of morality is only one factor.

I believe that even given an absolute belief in a Universal Morality, that examples where any human acts against this morality are common.

You're kidding, right? That's your position? That people don't always act according to their own sense of morality? That hardly qualifies as even a minor revelation.
 

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