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Morals & Ethics, Nature of Actions

 
 
Gouki
 
Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 06:43 pm
Is the individual the only legitimate judge of ethics? Are there any acts that are definitely right or definitely wrong? Question

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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 4,274 • Replies: 55
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extra medium
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 08:11 pm
hmmm....good question. At first qlance, it seems like there are a lot of things that are wrong acts. But looking closer, its hard to say.

How about this: most would consider it wrong to intentionally to hurt a baby. Let's make it simple and relatively innocent: I think we'd all agree its wrong to slap a baby's face for no reason, so it cries, and it leaves a red mark for some time...

But why is this wrong? Is it definitely wrong? It seems like it is. But who says? Me. So I guess that gets back to your question: the individual decides.

In general, I think its definitely wrong to hurt other living beings for no reason. Why though? Thats harder to answer.

It appears that while (hopefully) laws are decided in a democracy by representatives of the people, ethics as to what is right and wrong are decided by the individual.

Is there any action that 100% of humanity thinks is wrong? Doesn't seem to be. For example, seems like there are plenty of remorseless murderers out there who don't feel like they did anything terribly wrong.

I think everyone seems to have their individual brand of ethics. But we do try to define it as a group sometimes. ie, attorneys can supposedly get disbarred for unethical behavior (which has been defined by their state bar)...so on that level groups try to define it, but that may be taking a different meaning of the word. The individuals in the groups could still all have their individual & unique set of ethics...
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 08:39 pm
Before the usual suspects show up, i'd like to point out that the answers will of necessity be subjective, leading to a conclusion that your first statement is correct.

This is no slam at those who will show up. We got some high power In-tee-leck-chew-alls here, and this promises to be a lively discussion.

Although you registered some time ago, Gouki, let me say, welcome to the monkey house.
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Marquis de Carabas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 May, 2005 04:17 am
Setanta wrote:
Before the usual suspects show up,


Oooh me? Am I one of them? Anyway...

There are certain universals predispositions, which draw humans towards particular concepts in morality, which appear to be genetic. These predispositions can be overcome by cultural or religious morality but in most cases any culture or religion will conform to a majority of them, creating a sort of average morality that most people are nearby.

Morality is a bell-curve, amongst humans anyway.
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 May, 2005 04:49 am
Too add to the agreement above, morality is a word that is more like beige than white, it can mean too many different things for everyone to agree what it means.

This doesn't seem particularly important to me. I have ideas about the way people should behave. Whether or not they agree with it, I would think most people could understand it enough to call it something. Whether it would be 'ethics' is another question. So;

Quote:
Is the individual the only legitimate judge of ethics? Are there any acts that are definitely right or definitely wrong?


If you defined 'right' and 'wrong' we probably could. But that would somewhat beg the question...
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Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 May, 2005 05:25 am
Quote:
Is the individual the only legitimate judge of ethics?


Yes

Quote:
Are there any acts that are definitely right or definitely wrong?


No

There is just what happens and how we deal with it. Do what is needed and pay the price. So keep your blade of conscience sharp, because you never know what you'll be cutting.
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Terry
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 May, 2005 11:40 am
If you live alone on your planet, then you are the ultimate judge of ethics. Otherwise other members of your society have a legitimate claim - and duty - to educate you and help you develop your individual sense of ethics. Society also has the right and duty to judge those ethics if your resulting behavior impacts others.

I have only been able to come up with two absolutes:

1. Do not cause unnecessary pain.
2. Love and educate children.
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gardener
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 May, 2005 07:20 pm
Quote:
Is the individual the only legitimate judge of ethics?


Yes.

Quote:
Are there any acts that are definitely right or definitely wrong?


Yes.

In my opinion, right and wrong is a very simple and black and white issue. I understand that often sends people into a tizzy that it's not so simple, but if you take the judgement away from that statement, one is able to see that we make choices all day long, every moment, often it is a choice between between right and wrong. Sometimes we take the easier path, sometimes not. It doesn't make us a good person or bad person it's just the choices we make.

Right and wrong is eternal. It is fundamental, it doesn't change with society, with time, with what is acceptable at that time. Using a very simple e.g. of what I am trying to say, let's take lying. We as conscious human beings know that is wrong. But we lie, big lie, small lie, white lie. Lie to save our skin, to save embarrassment, to even help someone else -the famous "for a good cause" lie. But it is still a lie.

Now, to take that and say now am I going to hell for telling a lie, that is a totally different question. But to ask if the individual is the only legitimate judge of right and wrong, then yes. That is why we have a brain, a conscience. Which should be based on those fundamental eternal truths, not what someone else tells us is right and wrong. Whether we decide to use that intellectual power for ourselves or be led by others, that is also our individual choice entirely.

But that is just my opinion.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 08:32 am
extra medium wrote:
Is there any action that 100% of humanity thinks is wrong? Doesn't seem to be. For example, seems like there are plenty of remorseless murderers out there who don't feel like they did anything terribly wrong.

In these kinds of discussions, this argument always comes up: how can there be any objectivity in morality if not everyone agrees on what is moral and what is immoral? Unanimity, however, is not a prerequisite for truth. Just because some students fail math doesn't mean that two plus two might not necessarily equal four. And just because there is no universal agreement on what is moral doesn't mean that there's no such thing as an objective morality. After all, the lack of unanimity might just mean that some people are wrong.
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Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 08:56 am
Terry wrote:
Quote:
I have only been able to come up with two absolutes:

1. Do not cause unnecessary pain.
2. Love and educate children.


Define unneccecary pain. If you educate your children in history and all the cruelties of manking, can that be considered causing unneccesary pain?

Sending truckloads of food and medicine to areas where plague and famine rages sounds like a good plan. But what if you're only able to send enough trucks to keep everyone just on the brink of starvation, and only vaccinate people so their disease takes longer to kill them. Are you not causing unneccesary pain? This is the grim reality of such aid programs.

As for loving and educating your children. Sounds like a good ideal, but what if you're a nazi? The education you so lovingly bring you child will put him at odds with everything.

In any family the children are the true leaders. All decicions are made based on their well being. I say love the children and let them educate us.
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 09:20 am
joefromchicago wrote:
extra medium wrote:
Is there any action that 100% of humanity thinks is wrong? Doesn't seem to be. For example, seems like there are plenty of remorseless murderers out there who don't feel like they did anything terribly wrong.

In these kinds of discussions, this argument always comes up: how can there be any objectivity in morality if not everyone agrees on what is moral and what is immoral? Unanimity, however, is not a prerequisite for truth. Just because some students fail math doesn't mean that two plus two might not necessarily equal four. And just because there is no universal agreement on what is moral doesn't mean that there's no such thing as an objective morality. After all, the lack of unanimity might just mean that some people are wrong.


I'd like very much to agree with you Joe, but how would one know when they had got it right? Would it be demonstrable, like it is that 2 and 2 make 4? I did read you previous post on moral relativism (to the extent that it's moral, it is not relative, and to the extent that it's relative, it is not moral), but I was convinced only that the name is inappropriate for the concept, and that certain parties have made contridictory additions to the concept. It did not convince me that the concept that there is no objective morality is incorrect. (Unless, as I said earlier, you define morality more precisely than it is usually defined, which would beg the question).
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BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 09:40 am
Re: Morals & Ethics, Nature of Actions
Gouki wrote:
Is the individual the only legitimate judge of ethics? Are there any acts that are definitely right or definitely wrong? Question
Sad


there are as many answers to that question, as there are people on this planet.

as Terry says there are responsibilities involved with living in a society, as well as benefits; but, in the final analysis, part of that responsibility is to stand up against any rules, laws, or practices with which, after careful consideration, you disagree, and demonstrate by your own actions how an ethical person should, in your opinion behave.

[you can say what you like about how things 'should' be, but to sway an audience you must demonstrate, by 'being']
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 10:39 am
djbt wrote:
I'd like very much to agree with you Joe, but how would one know when they had got it right? Would it be demonstrable, like it is that 2 and 2 make 4?

According to Kant, for instance, morality is discoverable through reason. That seems eminently sensible to me.

djbt wrote:
I did read you previous post on moral relativism (to the extent that it's moral, it is not relative, and to the extent that it's relative, it is not moral), but I was convinced only that the name is inappropriate for the concept, and that certain parties have made contridictory additions to the concept. It did not convince me that the concept that there is no objective morality is incorrect. (Unless, as I said earlier, you define morality more precisely than it is usually defined, which would beg the question).

If you believe that there is no such thing as objective morality, then you either believe that morality is subjective or else you believe that there is no such thing as morality. If the former, then you believe in some form of moral relativism (call it what you will); if the latter, then there's no point in talking about morality at all. Which are you?
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 01:04 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
I'd like very much to agree with you Joe, but how would one know when they had got it right? Would it be demonstrable, like it is that 2 and 2 make 4?

According to Kant, for instance, morality is discoverable through reason. That seems eminently sensible to me.

But then Russell described Kant as 'a mere misfortune' which seems eminently sensible to me...

joefromchicago wrote:
djbt wrote:
I did read you previous post on moral relativism (to the extent that it's moral, it is not relative, and to the extent that it's relative, it is not moral), but I was convinced only that the name is inappropriate for the concept, and that certain parties have made contridictory additions to the concept. It did not convince me that the concept that there is no objective morality is incorrect. (Unless, as I said earlier, you define morality more precisely than it is usually defined, which would beg the question).

If you believe that there is no such thing as objective morality, then you either believe that morality is subjective or else you believe that there is no such thing as morality. If the former, then you believe in some form of moral relativism (call it what you will); if the latter, then there's no point in talking about morality at all. Which are you?


I'm honestly not certain. If we define 'a morality' as 'a system of beliefs about how one ought to behave', then clearly morality is subjective. If we define morality (or perhaps, for clarity, Morality) as 'the system of laws about how one ought to behave', then we have something objective, which may or may not exist.

Morality (capitalised or otherwise) is certainly worth talking about, whether it exists or not, since it affects, or belief that it exists affects, things (like my own experience) which I am confident do exist.

You say that morality can be discovered by reason. This implies that morality is something seperate, or external, to us. So would morality exist if there were no people? No living things at all? Are there universal moral laws which, applied in the context of humans become human moral laws? Or were moral laws created with humanity? If so, how?
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extra medium
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 01:08 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
extra medium wrote:
Is there any action that 100% of humanity thinks is wrong? Doesn't seem to be. For example, seems like there are plenty of remorseless murderers out there who don't feel like they did anything terribly wrong.

In these kinds of discussions, this argument always comes up: how can there be any objectivity in morality if not everyone agrees on what is moral and what is immoral? Unanimity, however, is not a prerequisite for truth. Just because some students fail math doesn't mean that two plus two might not necessarily equal four. And just because there is no universal agreement on what is moral doesn't mean that there's no such thing as an objective morality. After all, the lack of unanimity might just mean that some people are wrong.


Got it. So lets take for example a Nazi society. The people in power, in fact most of the people in society, believe it is morally "right" to imprison and exterminate certain ethnic groups.

There are a few "oddballs" that don't agree with the masses of people on this issue. But as you say, the Nazis can just say: "Well there isn't universal agreement on this, but so what? Look, we even have Science on our side! Our scientists are finding evidence to support us in this." Since these oddballs are such outliers and not in the mainstream, they must be wrong? The masses and those in power who believe genocide is okay are correct?

How do you decide who is right and who is wrong?

Oh, in certain parts of the southern USA the masses thought slavery was fine. Only a few strange ones seemed to think there was a problem with it.

Were the strange ones wrong?

______

So here & now today: Just because someone has an unpopular, even disgusting, morality--how can you say it is wrong?

Who decides?

The masses? Popular vote? Nazis or a society dependent on slavery?

Who is the Judge?

Where do you hang your hat of Judgement? On what authority?

I don't think this is an Ultimate Black & White Judgement of Right & Wrong that is infallibly correct.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 02:00 pm
djbt wrote:
But then Russell described Kant as 'a mere misfortune' which seems eminently sensible to me...

Well, ol' Bertie was certainly full of himself, wasn't he?

djbt wrote:
I'm honestly not certain. If we define 'a morality' as 'a system of beliefs about how one ought to behave', then clearly morality is subjective. If we define morality (or perhaps, for clarity, Morality) as 'the system of laws about how one ought to behave', then we have something objective, which may or may not exist.

I am content with the first definition, although I'm not sure if there is any significant difference between the two.

djbt wrote:
Morality (capitalised or otherwise) is certainly worth talking about, whether it exists or not, since it affects, or belief that it exists affects, things (like my own experience) which I am confident do exist.

It might be worthwhile to discuss, but it wouldn't be a philosophical discussion. It would be psychology or sociology or anthropology or religion, perhaps, but not philosophy.

djbt wrote:
You say that morality can be discovered by reason.

I would say that morality, if it can be discovered at all, can be discovered only by reason.

djbt wrote:
This implies that morality is something seperate, or external, to us. So would morality exist if there were no people? No living things at all? Are there universal moral laws which, applied in the context of humans become human moral laws? Or were moral laws created with humanity? If so, how?

Asking whether morality would exist without humans is somewhat akin to asking whether mathematics would exist without numbers. Without humans, there is no need for morality, and thus no cause to ask if morality exists or not.
0 Replies
 
extra medium
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 02:09 pm
How about the case of one human living alone out in the forest for his entire life?

Is there a need for morals & ethics when one is utterly alone?

Are morals & ethics only applicable, or do they only come in existence when one starts interacting with society?

I was thinking about this & The 10 Commandments once. Take a person living in a cave alone. He never interacts with humans. Almost all the 10 Commandments become obsolete!

Its almost as if the 10 Commandments are just sort of rules for interacting with society and others. Oh there's that love me thy god & no idols, but other than that, its all social stuff. Even much much of our religions become obsolete when there is no social interaction...
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 02:15 pm
extra medium wrote:
Got it. So lets take for example a Nazi society. The people in power, in fact most of the people in society, believe it is morally "right" to imprison and exterminate certain ethnic groups.

There are a few "oddballs" that don't agree with the masses of people on this issue. But as you say, the Nazis can just say: "Well there isn't universal agreement on this, but so what? Look, we even have Science on our side! Our scientists are finding evidence to support us in this." Since these oddballs are such outliers and not in the mainstream, they must be wrong? The masses and those in power who believe genocide is okay are correct?

How do you decide who is right and who is wrong?

Oh, in certain parts of the southern USA the masses thought slavery was fine. Only a few strange ones seemed to think there was a problem with it.

Were the strange ones wrong?

Whenever someone misunderstands one of my posts so profoundly, so thoroughly, and so comically as you have done here, extra medium, my first reaction is to review my post to determine what it was that I did that might have caused such an utterly wrong-headed response. Seeing none, however, I am left with the conclusion that the fault is entirely yours. I never said that the majority was always right; indeed, I never said anything about majorities at all. I merely said that a lack of unanimity may be evidence that some people are wrong, rather than evidence that everyone is right in his or her own way.

extra medium wrote:
So here & now today: Just because someone has an unpopular, even disgusting, morality--how can you say it is wrong?

How can you say it's right?

extra medium wrote:
Who decides?

The masses? Popular vote? Nazis or a society dependent on slavery?

Who is the Judge?

Where do you hang your hat of Judgement? On what authority?

As I pointed out before, morality is based on reason.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 02:25 pm
extra medium wrote:
How about the case of one human living alone out in the forest for his entire life?

Is there a need for morals & ethics when one is utterly alone?

No.
    A totally isolated individual has no duties to anyone but himself; thus, if he transgresses his own moral beliefs, his harm is self-inflicted. Nothing, therefore, compels him to refrain from immorality, since he is always free to acquiesce in his own wrongdoing. At worst, then, his bad acts may lead to a bad conscience, but in this it would be as if he had sinned in his dreams.
0 Replies
 
extra medium
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 May, 2005 02:33 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
Seeing none, however, I am left with the conclusion that the fault is entirely yours.


Exactly. The fault is entirely mine, and your morality and ethics are utterly flawless. How simple!

Morality is easy! If anyone wonders what is moral, just ask you. Yay! Razz


joefromchicago wrote:
As I pointed out before, morality is based on reason.


joefromchicago,

This is a central part of my point: Who defines reason? You?

Plato was a master of reason and found slavery reasonable.

The Nazis argued they were reasonable to practice genocide.

Some slave owners thought they were quite reasonable in owning slaves.

What is reason? Who defines it?

Ask 100 people what is reason, and you may get 100 different answers.

Many western european "scientists" and even mathematicians, steeped in reason, for centuries naturally saw that whites were the superior race and other races were naturally inferior. They didn't consider themselves racist. To them, they were simply being utterly reasonable. Its all based on reason. The Age of Reason included some of the most insane social constructs the world has ever witnessed.

Who is Reasonable? Big Brother?

Yes, that must be it. The Government is Reason. ??
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