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Define Morality

 
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 01:29 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
You seem to be implying that you can't make a moral judgement without believing in an absolute Truth.

No, I'm implying that you can't make a moral judgment that isn't true or false (or at least true in part and false in part). Whether you believe it is true or false is immaterial to me.

maxdancona wrote:
Are you trying to argue that having a respect for moral differences between cultures means you can't be a moral person yourself?

No, because the consequences of one's actions, and whether people like or dislike these consequences, can depend on the culture in which one acts. This warrants some consideration of the culture. But I am arguing that, aside of these effects, there are no moral differences between cultures. All there is is different opinions among cultures about what is good and bad. I also believe that these opinions are either correct or incorrect, and that reason and evidence can determine which are which.
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 01:44 pm
So what's the difference between a moral absolutist and a moral relativist, in the end???

maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 02:18 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
I also believe that these opinions are either correct or incorrect, and that reason and evidence can determine which are which.


This is the key difference between your position and mine. Any system of morality is based on an unproveable belief about what has intrinsic value. All of the reason and evidence on top of that doesn't eliminate the fact that at the core of any system of morality is an article of faith.

I have already stated that I respect that Utilitarianism actually puts forward a basis form morality (namely the increase of total happiness). I appreciate that this basis for morality allows the development of a working social morality and that it can be used to derive most of the moral standards that I myself hold (although I question some of the intermediate assumptions about what would make people happy).

But the real problem with Utilitarianism is that it assumes that happiness is the only intrinsic value (or at least the dominant one). If any society ever chose freedom, or loyalty to a deity, or tradition, or social order, or anything else... you would consider that society to be immoral (in any area that contradicted with happiness).

There are some other implications of Utilitarianism that I imagine might make Joe unhappy... for example what increases happiness in a agrarian society would certainly be much different that what increases happiness in a post-industrial society. This might be interesting to explore.

The point is I don't accept happiness as having unique intrinsic value. It seems rather arbitrary, and it is easy to find human societies that have build functioning, prosperous societies on other value systems.
neologist
 
  0  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 02:24 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil Albuquerque wrote:
There is nothing particularly difficult about morality. If there was we wouldn't have any. What we have from it is what it suits us.
Finally said by one who has devoted many paragraphs to explaining its complexity.

Yes. The underlying standards, imperatives, or principles of morality are not difficult. Enlightened self interest, Golden Rule, Cause no harm, etc.

For a moment, apply the principle of "do unto others" to a family situation: Your child needs a simple operation to improve his health. It will be painful, but you allow him to experience the pain for the greater good - a simple application. But, what if the operation may cause the child to lose a limb? Or, suppose there are mortality issues involved? Now the situation is more complex. But the underlying principle has not changed.

So, I'm not sure. But we may be talking about the same thing, except using the words differently. You seem to be defining morality as a process. I think, perhaps, it is better defined as a set of standards or imperatives. Personally, I view it as absolute.

When we wish to describe the application of the absolute as it applies to a specific community, perhaps the term 'ethos' may be more appropriate, because it allows the kind of muddling that permits child marriage, for example.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 02:27 pm
@Olivier5,
Olivier5 wrote:

So what's the difference between a moral absolutist and a moral relativist, in the end???


The difference is that a moral absolutist believes their morality is based on some absolute truth that applies to every human being. Moral relativists believe morality is a social construct that is determined within a cultural context and isn't based on any absolute truth.

That is the basic difference. It gets a little more complicated when you consider that human nature evolved and there is a biological component to human behavior that is constant across cultures (i.e. fairness and bigotry).

If one group of humans (acting according human nature) creates culture A. And, another group of humans (also acting according to human nature) creates a completely different culture B with a different set of morality, there is no way to judge between them.

A moral absolutist would say her culture is right and the other culture is wrong (of course both culture A and culture B could produce moral absolutists).

As a moral relativist my culture informs my system of morality. But I admit there is really there is no objective basis to claim that my culture is superior. Of course this doesn't prevent the moral relativist from acting according to my own culture. It is just admitting that it isn't based on any absolute truth or real cultural superiority.
neologist
 
  0  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 02:41 pm
@Olivier5,
Olivier5 wrote:
So what's the difference between a moral absolutist and a moral relativist, in the end???
Moral standards, IMO, are absolutes.
Communities may habitually/historically apply or misapply standards until they become mores. Whether good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate, they define the ethos of the community. Ethos are relative by nature; they are related to morality in that they are the offspring of morality and human imperfection.
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 04:38 pm
@neologist,
Neologist,

Moral absolutism is a logical belief for anyone who believes in a God who rules the Universe. If God told me, for example, that I have to cut a piece of the genitals off of my children as infants, than that is the moral thing to do, no questions asked. I might try to figure out what the heck God is thinking... but I would have to admit that such a God is more intelligent than I and I would have to act in faith even when I didn't understand.

But, I don't believe in God. So, this doesn't apply to me. And, I don't see any absolute truth to take the place of a god when it comes to fixing a universal set or morality.

But I agree. For anyone who believes in God, moral absolutism is completely sensible.
neologist
 
  0  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 05:57 pm
@maxdancona,
So, you don't think an adage such as "treat your neighbor as yourself" has any worth as a moral imperative, considering it spans a number of beliefs, not all theistic?

Interesting.

You don't fully read other's posts, do you?
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 06:27 pm
@neologist,
I have fully read each post on this thread.

I assume you are referring to the Biblical mandate to "love your neighbor as yourself". I don't know what you mean by "spans a number of beliefs"... do you mean that it has value because it is believed by a number of religions/cultures?

There are lots of things in the Judeo-Christian moral system that are rejected in modern culture. Biblical morality is not strictly followed by anyone today. It couldn't be, purity rules are no longer applicable in our modern culture, killing girls for failing virginity tests is no longer acceptable. The Bible even condones genocide (something that is utterly rejected by 21st century Western cultures).

Religious beliefs provide a framework for an absolute system of morality. Judeo-Christian beliefs are no different.

There is a connection between faith and absolute morality. Otherwise the moral authority of God is meaningless.

neologist
 
  0  
Reply Mon 22 Jun, 2015 08:13 pm
@maxdancona,
Wow.
I suggest an admonition common to (according to Google) about 21 religions, not to mention its implied basis for the Hippocratic Oath, Enlightened Self Interest, Inalienable Rights, humanistic philosophy, and many aspects of the various social contracts of our world and you respond with a word smorgasbord.

Have you supposed that because the Bible contains a most eloquent statement of the admonition, it is somehow unworthy as a basic standard of morality?

Perhaps the sad state of world affairs can be attributed to folks not having the foggiest idea of how to determine what is good and what is bad save what satisfies their unenlightened self interest.
Frank Apisa
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 03:07 am
@neologist,
But if there are no gods (a possibility)...and no books that actually are "divinely" inspired...it means that humans (non-gods) are at the heart of all morality.

Right?
Fil Albuquerque
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 03:53 am
@Frank Apisa,
Frank Apisa wrote:

But if there are no gods (a possibility)...and no books that actually are "divinely" inspired...it means that humans (non-gods) are at the heart of all morality.

Right?



No we are not as the example I provided with animals can demonstrate.
Nature is.

What people want to call Nature is up to each one beliefs and pretty much irrelevant. "You" piss on my tree saying its God and "I" piss on your tree saying its nature is monkey talking for wannabe top pissers...
I am not bother some want to call it God, others are happy enough with Nature for coinage.

If I had to reduce it to 1 sentence, Morality is, the set of group behavioural rules that social species use to improve their survival skills.

...for the sake of a non vacuous repeating of the establishment I am yet to see someone talking of the evolution FOR morality in biology and evolution OF morality in culture.

People rather talk about it as if it was all given at once in 1 PHD we all are suppose to master from the get go...as usual nonsense !
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 04:22 am
@neologist,
Let me try to make my word smorgasbord a little more palatable.

God is the source of morality. God created the Universe and he established the rules that run the Universe. God created humanity and God decided how he wants humans to treat one another. God loves humanity and this love is what makes human life sacred. The rules set out by the Bible, and by the creation itself are all based on God's authority and God's love.

Do you agree with this Neologist?

(Of course, my point is that since I don't believe in God, this basis for morality is rather irrelevant.).



0 Replies
 
Olivier5
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 06:01 am
@maxdancona,
Quote:
The difference is that a moral absolutist believes their morality is based on some absolute truth that applies to every human being. Moral relativists believe morality is a social construct that is determined within a cultural context and isn't based on any absolute truth.

That is the basic difference. It gets a little more complicated when you consider that human nature evolved and there is a biological component to human behavior that is constant across cultures (i.e. fairness and bigotry).

Therefore the biological component acts as the absolute (the universal quest for freedom, justice, survival) and the cultural component is the relative side of it.
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 07:23 am
@Olivier5,
I don't know exactly what you mean by "universal quest for freedom". Every culture wants to be free from being subjugated by other cultures... but this is just part of tribalism. The "universal quest for freedom" referring to giving individuals freedom within a culture isn't at all universal. This is an important part of the mythology of modern western culture, but it isn't seen many other cultural contexts.

There are a few human traits that influence most, if not all, cultures. Almost all cultures support the raising of children, fairness for anyone who is part of the culture (but not outsiders), altruism (again this generally excludes "outsiders). Of course almost all cultures also support the violence against certain foreigners, vengeance and inherited class differences.

You could consider the traits that are "universal", meaning common across cultures, as moral. But, doesn't this defeat the purpose of moral absolutism?

If what humans do naturally is defined as moral, then anything humans do naturally is moral by definition.





Fil Albuquerque
 
  -1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 07:32 am


Sam Harris does a fair job in this talk.
Still he misses 2 or 3 things:

1 - History is a natural process, and thus, historical moral evolution is consequently just as natural.

2 - Lets use a meme of Star Trek, the prime directive...how can we tell if we ought to intervene in a natural process of cultural evolution ? We don't have enough data control to intervene in a cultural ecosystem and foresee unintended consequences.

3 - Finally and this is the most complex, who's to say that the least possible suffering is always the best choice ? Who's to say that a balance between suffering and happiness are not the necessary path for human life to have VALUE and MEANING at all ? Because to me, that, is exactly what it looks like we are in need of...it just so happens that we take for granted the 2 law of thermodynamics does such a great job on turning our life's miserable, that all we OUGHT to do is move away from it and manipulate our world to overcome it...it just seams so natural...after all that is the reason why minds have evolved isn't it ? That is the reason we have a march of progress going on...a march of civilization...well while all of this is true not so quick on the trigger.

We ought to remember that values do not exist in a flat world...pleasure cannot exist without suffering for contrast and knowledge itself is not possible when you don't have any reason to value A rather then B if both are equally good...

It seems quite obvious in an ideal world where suffering was completely extinct value would be non existent for lack of contrast...people probably, and I am not joking, would be investigating ways to get sick, feel pain, or even die...just out of boredom...

...so what does that inform us about how we ought to perceive suffering ?
Should we just let it roll if it is natural and has its place in our world ?
Well of course not...biological beings have evolve precisely to take on the challenge of fighting the 2 law of thermodynamics...of bringing order to "disorder"...but we should do it when we NEED to do so...this in turn has specific contexts...questions like when how and why we should enlarge the campus of what we consider our group must be related with the process of globalization which started unfolding since the XV century (classical account of History), and they have no easy answer...individual diversity is important...diversity of group behaviour, even more important...its a tricky business to bluntly state that we just ought to avoid suffering on lesser cultures period...this is in fact a new form of Colonialism...

Just my 2 cents. Thank you for your time.
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 07:40 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
That's an hour and twenty minutes Fil. Could you summarize the argument?
Olivier5
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 07:52 am
@maxdancona,
Quote:
You could consider the traits that are "universal", meaning common across cultures, as moral. But, doesn't this defeat the purpose of moral absolutism?

Not sure I see what the "purpose" of moral absolutism is, nor would I agree that every and all universal human traits are moral by definition. Yet there are IMO universal moral traits or capabilities among humans, such as the will to be free, or an innate sense of justice and injustice. Even the "us vs. them" thing, while hard-wired in us, is balanced by a natural curiosity and empathy for strangers.
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 08:15 am
@Olivier5,
Quote:
Not sure I see what the "purpose" of moral absolutism is, nor would I agree that every and all universal human traits are moral by definition.


Outside of your cultural bias, how do you decide which human traits are moral and which are not?

There are thousands of cultures that are all made up of humans and all are influenced by human nature. Yet there are great differences between these cultures as far as what is considered right and what is considered wrong.

How do you know that your culture is right and other cultures are wrong? Given the fact that the humans making up other cultures are just as human as you are, this doesn't allow you to judge between them.

A moral absolutist (in any culture) will say, "I know I am right because I am right. Therefore anyone who has different beliefs is wrong". As long as moral absolutists in two different cultures are equally human, the human nature argument fails to determine which one is truly right.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 08:16 am
@maxdancona,
You have to see it. But I have made a simple straight forward footnote criticism of the tricky points for some degree of contention with Sam...
Check above because I edited to get in my ideas on the subject. Apologies for the quick writing with shitty grammar and English...hopefully the points are of more interest then the form in which they are written. Thanks in advance.
0 Replies
 
 

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