Does morality exist? Oh noes! Philosophical discussion! :O | INFJ Forum

Does morality exist? Oh noes! Philosophical discussion! :O

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by DrShephard, Oct 19, 2011.

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  1. DrShephard

    DrShephard Community Member

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    I made this response to an atheist friend of mine who requoted "Morality is doing right no matter what you're told. Religion is doing what you're told no matter what is right! There are none more ignorant and useless, than those that seek answers on their knees, with their eyes closed....". I've recently found it interesting... that there is no logical explanation for why to choose rationality over irrationality. It gets down to a certain point... and then there is nothing supporting it except for personal preference. The same reason why people can't ever finish that game with children when they repeatedly ask "Why?". Anyway, I thought it was worth posting it in here and seeing what response I would get.

    ---

    Morality, morality, morality... What is morality? Dictionary.com defines it as "conformity to the rules of right conduct". But then what is right conduct? I feel like doing a thought experiment.

    Let's say that life didn't exist. A sun somewhere explodes - is that a moral or immoral thing that's happened? Neither, I'd think. Morality wouldn't apply. Morality doesn't apply to non-living entities.

    Instead, let's say that earth is here but there is now only one person living on earth. They are the last creature ever. They get bored. They decide to blow up a building because they've never seen a building explode before and are curious. They do it and the building explodes. Moral or immoral? Neither, I'd say. Morality does not exist when only one living entity is involved.

    So let's take a look at the mouse and the hawk. The hawk swoops down and snatches the mouse up. Talons. The rodent is killed and devoured, and isn't pleased about the situation while it is occuring. Is it immoral or moral for the hawk to have done what it has done? That's iffy. If moral, it is because morality is defined by nature. If immoral, then an ultimate morality exists... but all creatures can only survive as being immoral because they are violating the consent of other life... after all, plants naturally seek to live and vegetarians reign wholesale slaughter on them.

    Let's look at society. Killing is generally considered immoral. Some, however, wouldn't consider it bad to kill someone. So a question: Would killing still be considered immoral for a psychopathic killer who was naturally inclined to kill? If killing is immoral, then I would pose A (below). If killing is not immoral, then go to B (below).



    A. Let us say that you lived in a society, but they were generally under the inclination, be it naturally or socially, that it was moral to kill at least one person a year. Would you be committing an immoral act by not killing someone annually? Why or why not? How does it differ from the above example? One might argue that it is because one should not violate another person non-consentually. But, then, isn't the argument that one shouldn't violate another person non-consentually based on one's own subjective preference? And what would make that subjective preference more correct than another - someone who thought that it was preferable to kill another person, and that it was therefore moral?

    B. Well then, isn't morality a function of one's own preferences, values, and subjective opinion... in which case morality is redundant with personal opinion. Therefore, morality wouldn't exist. It would simply be preference? Then, wouldn't the desire of someone to kill you be as valid as your desire not to be killed?

    Please note: I am not advocating killing people. I don't like the idea of killing people. It's my subjective opinion, but I don't think it's a moral statement.
     
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  2. Radiantshadow

    Radiantshadow Urban shaman

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    I understand morality as simply being loosely agreed upon "universal" laws that try to promote well-being. If morality is social conditioning, the case for morality as a nifty illusion is made. It is a mob-enforced preference that changes with time and position. Sexism, elitism, ageism, etc.

    I believe Feodor Dostoevsky explored the roots of morality in Crime and Punishment.
    The only common moral creed I've found is not to harm others with one's morality, which is contradictory.
    Lines must be drawn within stances or everything is permitted. Hey, looky there! A paradox.

    Morality is a social construct, a glue to bind society together for "the common good". Thus, it's subjective and open to interpretation.
    The best definition I've ever heard for morality, from a genius friend, is "Do what's probable even if it isn't practical".
    Probability relies on observation, which we usually skew in our favor to feel better about what we see.
    Practicality also depends on where you're looking from.
    That is, there are only opinions.
     
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  3. GYX_Kid

    GYX_Kid Regular Poster

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    "The code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules"
     
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  4. bickelz

    bickelz BOINK

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    I try to stay away from using the word "moral" just for these reasons.

    As for the killing thing, we can take this one step further and ask what "kill" means. It doesn't necessarily need to be literally taking a life but could also encompass things like putting people down and killing their spirit (an interpretation of the 5th commandment I've heard). I know that sounds really silly but is it then immoral to make fun of people?

    I just feel like so many variables in these moral statements are so open to interpretation that you can make anything out of them that you want.

    There wasn't a whole lot of coherent logic in my post but I really don't think there is such a thing as a blanket morality for humanity. Although, I think that empathy is a good remedy for the problems a "non-moral" society would bring us.
     
  5. Jabberwocky

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    Morality is subjective, therefore its existence is subjective. You might not believe in an overarching, joined morality amongst all living things. Therefore morality, as such, does not exist in your view. Someone else might believe that all life is governed by strict moral guidelines (see most religions). For this person, morality would exist.

    In my opinion, all of philosophy and all of life is completely subjective. We can't depend upon other people's views of things because they don't see the world in the same way that we do. Cogito ergo sum, and all.

    ...That probably wasn't at all helpful to the discussion.
     
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  6. Sebastian

    Sebastian Perpetual Newbie
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    +1... and I'll probably not add anything helpful either, but I'll ramble anyway... EVERYTHING is subjective if you pull it apart far enough. To me the concept of "good" or "bad" are not fixed or written in stone, we invented the concepts.

    We spend our days surfing above the absolutes... discussing the ins and outs of things that are ultimately subjective... we take our stance and exist in a psychological framework that asserts our subjective world views as fact... when really nothing much of anything is fact... and that's the only fact I do know ;-) Ha... I just made that up because it sounds like one of my favourite movie quotes "Nothing's ever for sure, John. That's the only sure thing I do know".
     
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  7. barbad0s

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    Yeah.

    I believe morality only exists when a group of people have agreed on a set of preferences for conduct to follow. Often, groups of people around the world can come to similar conclusions - but also, pretty much every individual is going to have their own interpretation and breakdown of what morals their culture has imbued into them, as well as the extent to which they have been imbued. Considering all of this, I do not believe in the existence of "universal" morality, so I do not think in terms of moral/immoral when dealing with or judging other people.
     
  8. This

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    The only applicable moral is that of do unto others as you would want done to you, the reason why is because it creates a more harmonious balance in the co-habitual lifestyle that we all live on a day to day basis. If we say, lived alone in the wilderness the set of applicable morals would be different. Killing would likely not be a big deal as there would be no "risk" to the other inhabitants of our singular society, However since we don't live alone in the wilderness and people are inherently selfish this point gets outlined and drawn a "moral" around in order to protect our own best interests. When we say we are against killing we gain the motivation to say we are against it because we ourselves don't want to be killed and therefore create a society where such practices are condemned or otherwise punished.
     
  9. Feelings

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    I thought this shit through and broke it down hard not too long ago. Morals and ethics are nothing more than preferences. We like things to happen or be run a certain way. That's what it breaks down to. Once you begin to challenge your most deeply held beliefs and values, you'll see this.

    Let's look at murder, as an example. Murder being wrong is predicated upon the notion that life is good, and death is bad. However, that view is not, and cannot be, empirically proven. It's not a 1+1=2 sort of thing. It can't be scientifically proven. There's no basis to the assertion that life is better than death except personal preference. Even if you went so far as to assume that ALL living organisms PREFER life over death, that in and of itself doesn't prove that life is empirically "good". It simply means that there is absolute consensus on this preference.

    Let's say that everything died. Everything. All life, everywhere. Is that bad? Why? From who's perspective? Who would mourn it?

    This may make more sense if you ponder the "meaning of life" question. There's no absolute meaning of life. It's whatever you want it to be. There's no known purpose for the existence of any life in the entire universe at all. We're just here. What's the purpose of human beings? We evolved, and we will go extinct. So what? When all's said and done, it's as if we never existed. We're a blip on the very long spectrum of time (i.e. eternity). If our lives are meaningless, then why the hell would our preferences even matter?

    First you have to define the meaning of life (which is arguably not empirically defineable). And on THAT basis it can be built, what is right and wrong. There must be a reference point in order for the idea of absolute right and wrong to make any sense.
     
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  10. the

    the Si master race.
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    If you think this is supposed to welcome posters and spur civil discussion, then try again.
     
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  11. Faye

    Faye ^_^
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    A couple things:

    1. People who find it always acceptable to kill others constitute an atypical example, and the use of them in this discussion I would say is an informal fallacy. In general, killing of other humans within a society is thought to be immoral. Often times humans are not allowed into a society (at least historically) and are killed for that reason, but we could only concede then that an order established by nature, humans, or both must come into existence as the basis of morality.

    2. What 1 does not mean is that there exists no basis for morality because certain individuals (i.e. psychopaths) seem out of touch with that basis. Humans are both rational and emotional, and it appears that the hard-wiring of emotion does provide a basic morality that is not merely a function of rational preference.

    3. We need to be careful not to conflate the validity or possibility of an assertion with the strength of an assertion.

    4. So what we would need to do then is to try to determine whether or not it is logical to accept hard-wired sentiment and the duties and moral obligations that it implies. This is an obligation to ourselves and our own well-being as well as an obligation to others, and so it transcends the Hobbesian quasi-distinction between individual and society. No one is an island, and we have ample evidence that to live such a life of isolation and selfishness is to do great harm to oneself.
     
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  12. OP
    DrShephard

    DrShephard Community Member

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    Aheeeeem! The full sentence was:

    He attacked religious morality! I was simply checking his premises. Attempting a rational argument to see if there really is "doing right" or if right is a completely subjective term!

    I find it rather interesting when rationality can be used to undermine the validity of rational thinking itself. It's a paradoooooooox! THIS... SENTENCE... IS... FALSE!!

    But for cereal, I wasn't meaning to offend anyone. And here I thought I was quite polite! No swear words, no accusations of others.

    ...HAY WAIT ...is yous trollin'? ;)
     
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  13. OP
    DrShephard

    DrShephard Community Member

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    Thanks for the reply, Mr. Smarty Esoteric-pants. ;)

    What mainly concerns me is the variability in what is naturally (whether a product of genetics or past experiences) considered "moral" by a person (AKA good behavior). One thing that has always bugged me about the "The morality of a society is what is most commonly agreed on" stance that some take is that so many moral concepts seem cross with how people actually are. Rather than explain, I might give a conclusion I came to once during my machiavellian phase a few years back: "If I am to accept that morality and what I 'ought' to do is based on the commonalities about natural tendencies, then I would observe that it is completely normal and healthy and moral to backwards rationalize, hypocritically complain about others doing something while I do it myself, substitute thinking with finding reasons to justify my emotions, and abuse and take advantage of others as long as I can get away with it without getting into trouble."

    There is a rather large difference between "It is immoral to X" and "In this society, we consider it immoral to X". Such moralities are foggy and full of gray areas. Even if we all share general notions, the intricacies are full of conflict between people. One might say that murder is immoral or evil, but then what did God (assuming a theist stance) do to the residents of Sodom and Gamorrah? And is he/she/it immoral because of that? That's one example I could give, but not the only one. It permeates into all aspects of what we do. Going slightly over the speed limit, spanking, gay marriage, racism, angry outbursts, etc. The difference between the two statements at the beginning of this paragraph, however, causes a great distortion of the meaning of morality within our own minds when people start substituting the first statement for the second for easiness' sake.

    So, eventually it comes into my mind: All of this is silly and not based on anything, and so it is a jumble. So none of it is real and I should follow myself and regard the breaking of others' moralities based solely on how their response will make me feel and what the consequences might be.

    I do find it pleasurable to live around people (well, some of them), so I do. They would generally consider it moral to have a morality based on religious faith. I do not derive my morality in that way, and I'm fairly at ease to say so. I get a strange feeling when I say "Everyone's morality is a joke, and mine is a joke too." But I do feel better when I read one of the definitions of joke which, amended, is this: "Something said or done to provoke amusement; a thing laughed at rather than taken seriously."

    That's a cop-out I'm doing incidentally, abusing a definition like that, but I would say that the conflicts between us all are the things that make this world at least interesting. And what would be worse than something that is uninteresting?
     
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  14. Sebastian

    Sebastian Perpetual Newbie
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    And at the bottom if this rabbit hole is the assertion that you even have free will in the first place... That choice is even possible... Morality seems moot if choice doesn't exist.
     
  15. the

    the Si master race.
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    Ah I thought you were saying he found your statement so great that he requoted off of you.
     
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  16. Feelings

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    Ok, then the basis for absolute assessments on morality is the hardwiring in human brains. It's still based upon what humans prefer, what humans want for their own well-being. BUT, why is a human being's emotions important? Why is a human being's well-being important? Who is it important to? Well... human beings only.

    Everything boils down to what we want. We want to be happy, and feel good. But you can challenge the absolute empirical importance of THAT. It's only important because we want it.
     
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    subwayrider Into the White

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    No. Morality is a figment of our imaginations. Without a higher power (us), there can be no morality. No event or reaction in this universe is right or wrong-- it simply is. We are the ones who interpret the event, to conform to our preferences and preconceived ideas.
     
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  18. aeon

    aeon Amoureux des Chatons
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    I strongly disagree inasmuch as there exists masochists and people who seek to be abused. Given this and your applicable moral, it becomes an unbalance of disharmony, and a risk to one’s person.


    cheers,
    Ian
     
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  19. This

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    Yes, I had considered this before posting but I decided I can only really have control over my own morals which this outlook is indeed applicable to. To try and change the morals of others seems a frivolous pursuit at best and a destructive one at worst. So I guess in a way ones morals should be reflective of his or her character. I think for the vast majority of people this moral outlook would at least be "better" on the whole despite the outliers such as masochists.
     
  20. MemberOfSociety

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    Morality seems to me to be much more a "local" phenomenon, than human trait. Example: Within any society, it is not acceptable to wander around randomly killing people, but the question of morality is largely ignored when two societies go to war. It becomes acceptable to kill people in large numbers.
    Also, I believe morality is not limited humans, but rather seems to be consistent with any animals that tend to form packs, or herds, or groups. It's not often that you see zebras killing each other but on the other hand, if you have to many gold fish in the same bowl, one will always end up dead to establish equilibrium of the group in it's environment.
     
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