18
   

Define Morality

 
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 08:53 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
The only difference between you, me and Joe is that we have three different views on where morality comes from. I believe it is a social construct, you believe it comes for a Utilitarian principle of the greatest happiness, and Joe hasn't really specified where morality comes from. I wish he would explain it...

I've participated in countless threads on A2K that revolve around the question of morality, but it is seldom that someone actually expresses an interest in my views on the subject. Even here, you don't ask me, you ask Thomas. Nevertheless, I'll be happy to satisfy your curiosity.

I believe, like Kant and many others, that the basis of morality is reason. So, by the way, do you, but your reason leads you to conclude that there's no such thing as morality, just a set of social customs collectively labeled "morality." My reason, on the other hand, leads me to conclude that, if there is such a thing as morality, it must be universal, objective, and absolute. Moral relativism, in contrast, is incoherent and unworkable. To the extent that it is moral, it is not relative, and to the extent it is relative, it is not moral.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 08:55 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
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).

Yes. For a particularly drastic example, I consider the moral doctrines the Bible and the Quran to be, on balance, evil. Are you saying I'm mistaken?

maxdancona wrote:
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.

There's only one way to find out: Ask Joe. Based on past conversations with Joe, I think Utilitarianism has many traits that make him philosophically-unhappy, but I doubt this is one of him. If I remember correctly, Joe subscribes to an eclectic theory of morality that most closely resembles John Rawls's concept of fairness. Rawls, in turn, has an eleborate and (in my opinion) somewhat muddled thought experiment to establish where moral rules come from. In the end, his bottom line is that we should maximize the welfare of the weakest, worst-off stakeholder. In your child-marriage example, that would be the child brides, so Rawls would side with them in a microsecond --- and so would Joe.

I don't know where Rawls stood on moral relativism. But there's no doubt that different states of economic development have different effects on who the weakest parties in a society are, and how they are affected by its rules and institutions. I doubt Rawls would have a problem with social rules and institutions coming out differently to account for that difference. Rawls and Joefromchicago have several problems with Utilitarianism, but I don't think this is one of them. Needless to say, Joe can speak for himself if he wants to.

maxdancona wrote:
The point is I don't accept happiness as having unique intrinsic value.

That may be true for you, but it isn't true for me.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 09:01 am
@joefromchicago,
Ah. Our posts crossed.

I think it's important to point out a crucial word in your sentence, "My reason, on the other hand, leads me to conclude that, if there is such a thing as morality, it must be universal, objective, and absolute. " That crucial word is "if". It is perfectly consistent to believe that morality is universal by definition, and that no such universals actually exist. But if I believed this was the case, that would lead me to moral nihilism, not moral relativism.
Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 09:09 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil...I was responding specifically to Neo's statement:

Quote:
...the Bible contains a most eloquent statement of the admonition...


It applies to anyone who asserts that the "general morality" of the Bible (the "morality" dictated by some God) is somehow superior to the "general morality" devised by humans.

The supposed general morality of the Bible (or any scripture) may just be humans deciding what is good and what is not.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 09:44 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
I think it's important to point out a crucial word in your sentence, "My reason, on the other hand, leads me to conclude that, if there is such a thing as morality, it must be universal, objective, and absolute. " That crucial word is "if". It is perfectly consistent to believe that morality is universal by definition, and that no such universals actually exist. But if I believed this was the case, that would lead me to moral nihilism, not moral relativism.

I agree. I think there are only two consistent positions with regard to morality: either it exists and it is absolute, objective, and universal; or else it doesn't exist at all. I can't conceive of any in-between position that is logically defensible.

And you're right: I don't have a problem with utilitarianism in the example that Max provided. Indeed, the fact that utilitarianism identifies happiness (or, more accurately, utility) as the primary virtue is one of its greatest strengths. There are other problems with utilitarianism, but that isn't one of them.
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 09:52 am
@maxdancona,
A possible counter to my own first argument is that cultures will intervene in other cultures when they will intervene and that is just as much natural...of course that is a perfectly valid argument but it doesn't warrant any more moral validity then to opt out. If anything I thrust more in nature at large then in human natural judgement...if it is fated that globalization will end up destroying cultural diversity for the sake of normalizing moral behaviour to the winner standards so be it...Darwinism at its best...it just I won't be the one advising that move to anyone. I am way far from having any degree of confidence on what ought to be done. Moreover if people are really concerned with what happens in Yemen and other nations in similar situations, then start changing the way economy works from sustainability up to equal rules for everyone. If you want others to change the way they think first give them the conditions to live so they have time to spend learning on how to become better morally...we westerners have plenty of free time and money to spend with moral issues with a full belly...others are not so lucky. First sustenance, then healthcare and finally wisdom...not the other way around.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 10:09 am
@maxdancona,
A possible counter to my own first argument is that cultures will intervene in other cultures when they will intervene and that is just as much natural...of course that is a perfectly valid argument but it doesn't warrant any more moral validity then to opt out. If anything I thrust more in nature at large then in human natural judgement...if it is fated that globalization will end up destroying cultural diversity for the sake of normalizing moral behaviour to the winner standards so be it...Darwinism at its best...it just I won't be the one advising that move to anyone. I am way far from having any degree of confidence on what ought to be done. Moreover if people are really concerned with what happens in Yemen and other nations in similar situations, then start changing the way economy works from sustainability up to equal rules for everyone. Like Einstein once suggested we need global governance. If you want others to change the way they think first give them the conditions to live so they have time to spend learning on how to become better morally...we westerners have plenty of free time and money to spend with moral issues with a full belly...others are not so lucky. First sustenance, then healthcare and finally wisdom...not the other way around.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 10:20 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
Praxis speaks. It seems to me we don't give a rats ass to what Yemenites are doing with their children...there might be good natural reasons for such behaviour I don't know for sure if at this point in time we should or should not enlarge our notion of group belonging...one thing I know with confidence, ironically we speak about it publicly because on others eyes it seems elegant to homogenise the standards in a linear account of events and current understanding of how morality works, we look smart when we talk about consistency...but with so many variables to take into consideration on what the REAL role of morality might be if any beyond OUR group survival, any ones guess is as good as any other.
0 Replies
 
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 10:29 am
@maxdancona,
Quote:
Outside of your cultural bias, how do you decide which human traits are moral and which are not?

Nothing cultural can be achieved outside culture... It would be illusory to try and rid oneself of cultural biases. The best one can do in practice is try and refrain from moral judgement where one is out of one's own culture, but even that in my experience is often an illusion, or a form of hypocrisy.

The day a slave comes to you and asks you to help him, what do you do? Assuming you could help him, do you tell him to deal with it from inside his culture? He KNOWS that slavery is banned outside of his culture and accepted inside it; that's PRECISELY why he is reaching out of his own culture and calling upon you... He is saying: "My culture is ****; help me leave it". Are you going to reply with a rebuttal on how important it is to stick to one's own culture?

I suppose not. So your relativism will not really matter there. It can only matter in practice when looking at fairly menial issues like what food is allowed and not, what forms of sex are allowed and not, etc. I could try and eat jelly one day, if I really cared, but I would have a hard time owning a slave.
0 Replies
 
neologist
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 03:57 pm
@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?
Interestingly, the Bible supports your take:
Quote:
Romans 2:14–15
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.
And, this was my reason for citing many diverse sources.

Sheesh! How hard is it to understand?
Your kid is hungry. You (most of you) take food off your plate to feed him.
A basic moral concept.
Sure, it doesn't always survive the negative circumstances in which we find ourselves. But that does not alter the concept.
neologist
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 04:03 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil Albuquerque wrote:
. . . I thrust more in nature at large then in human natural judgement...i. .
Can't argue with that
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 04:22 pm
@neologist,
neologist wrote:

Your kid is hungry. You (most of you) take food off your plate to feed him.
A basic moral concept.

Is that in the Bible?

I know that Yahweh makes his followers eat their own children for not obeying him and following all of his commandments (Leviticus 26).
neologist
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 04:46 pm
@InfraBlue,
neologist wrote:
Your kid is hungry. You (most of you) take food off your plate to feed him.
A basic moral concept.
You wrote:
Is that in the Bible?
That would be Matt 7:9-11
Again, you wrote:
I know that Yahweh makes his followers eat their own children for not obeying him and following all of his commandments (Leviticus 26).
Apparently, the consequence for disobedient Israel was not altogether different from the consequence for those Canaanites who burned their children to Baal.

Rotten world, ain't it?
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 06:46 pm
@neologist,
neologist wrote:

Fil Albuquerque wrote:
. . . I thrust more in nature at large then in human natural judgement...i. .
Can't argue with that


I will reply supposing this was aiming at sophisticated sarcasm...

I know, I know how it sounds...but for starters, (and now I will reply like Sheldon would) I don't think my judgement for better or for worse is "normal" as it doesn't represent the average human judgement so to an extent I can pseudo exclude myself from the process... and second your use of my final "I" quote gave it to much away...which in turn makes it to much condescending...you didn't hit bulls eye measuring me...not even with my typical to many dots.

In case I am seeing to much patterns in your intention in the reply disregard the above, although you would have a fantastic line there to mock me when reading it from a normal pov.
maxdancona
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 07:38 pm
@neologist,
Quote:
Apparently, the consequence for disobedient Israel was not altogether different from the consequence for those Canaanites who burned their children to Baal.


Really, you are going there Neologist.

God who ordered the killing of Canaanite children in what would now be called a genocide (although some of the subjugated people were kept as slaves).

The God of the Bible is a horrible example. His actions would be judged quite harshly by any modern understanding of morality.
0 Replies
 
neologist
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 07:39 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
If you meant what you said, I straight up agree.
I think you have not yet realized the degree to which we agree

Would it unnerve you to discover a level of agreement with a door knocking, bible thumping Jehovah's Witness?
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 08:17 pm
@neologist,
I can resume you where we do disagree for sure, and make some guesses where we might agree:

Your "god" is to personal to my taste. My God is a machine or a big finite very complex number...
I don't believe in Consciousnesses as anything other then a very clever trick.
I don't believe in Free Will.
I don't believe in Infinity. (although I do believe in something sort of similar, loops)

We probably both agree there is a ruling order in Reality. Structure.
We probably both agree in perfection closure and completion.
We both believe in complexity and beauty but you antropormorphize it while I abstract it.

I agree that our disagreement might not be that fundamental although for most people it might seem huge.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 08:52 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
...and yes, as skitzo as it might sound to a naive look at the matter, not believing in agency, consciousness, and free will, still is compatible with a hard deterministic evolutionary theory of morality that accounts for happiness, purpose, and beauty !

PS - (frustrated zeroing forum troll please go visit Santa and stay there)
0 Replies
 
InfraBlue
 
  0  
Reply Tue 23 Jun, 2015 09:45 pm
@neologist,
Although they both deal with feeding one's children, the idea behind your Matthew quote is different from what you propose.

The world has gotten a lot better since the times of Leviticus.
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  0  
Reply Wed 24 Jun, 2015 10:04 am
This one is a killer !
 

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