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What is morality? watch

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    (Original post by XcitingStuart)
    I think there are (quite a few) biological bases to morality (more core principles), again differing between different people, but very much of it is environmental (socialisation), like determining the (quite big) nuances.
    Your methodology is flawed. You're implicitly assuming that what people think of as moral simply is morality. However, this is question begging. You cannot assume what the nature of morality is in order to show what morality is - that's a circular argument.
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    (Original post by Ya Dunno)
    I agree with you that there has to be some form of justice in the world that separates what is right or wrong. But I also believe morality is not intrinsic but governed and installed in us through our environment and upbringing. We justify our morality on a subconscious level based on our teaching and values not that someone else might interpret that in the same manner.

    Morality is subjective, and even if you see murder from sleeping with another mans wife as "morally wrong", based on your teachings from this society, someone in the Middle east may see this as a terrible sin and under the law of that country sentence him or her to stoning, now you may say how "disgusting", how could they be so barbaric, but someone in his/her shoes who has been brought up to believe that adultery should be dealt with in death, and that is what is considered "morally right", then who are you dictate or oppose his/her opinion? this is how he/she was brought up to conceive as the correct form of treatment.

    I still feel morality has now place in society and is just a form of one's own interpretation and which can be altered to fit another persons agenda.

    I think we should just agree to disagree on this one? as you feel morality fits in this world and I am against that based on my review and analyzing.
    What we think is moral, for most people, is indeed not at all intrinsic and is influenced by others massively, yeah, I agree. But that doesn't mean there is no right or wrong. It just means that most people's conceptions of right and wrong will be massively over-simplified and not veridical. When one says morality is objective, typically what one means is that there are moral facts AND those moral facts are made true by something other than the opinions of human beings. For example, it could be some empirical fact about the event that the moral fact talks about. Rather than merely - this is right because my mum thinks it is right, or this is right because the judge that it is right, or this is right because the constitution is right. Aka, we have to work out what is right and what is wrong - this is a science that needs to be done!

    In the second case that uncivilised brute probably also believes that scripture is an infallible truth and likely a bunch of other superstitious nonsense. All of which they believe not because their IQ is leagues lower, but because of the environment that they were brought up in. Do you think I am justified in questioned their queer believes concerning physics? If I am, then why am I not concerning ethics? So what if their belief system means that they has different beliefs than me - that's all the more reason to go and debate with them so we can figure out whose beliefs systems are better. After all that's precisely how science works! If this is not the case and we simply concede either that moral truths are non-existent or that what is morally true is merely a reflection of what a certain person or group of people believe to be morally true then how can we actually progress society? The result of either belief is that there is no longer an objective way to argue that our society that we live in is "better" and thereby more "desirable" than the society that they live in, for what one finds desirable is based on one's underlying moral beliefs. But can it not be the case that people are susceptible to delusion? After-all if I ask many poor Brazilians how happy they are with their lives they will generally state that they are happier on a scale of 1-10 than your average Briton is, yet, objectively your average Briton has a higher quality of life. Therefore people can delude themselves. The same can surely occur with regards to ethics. People thinking that their way of life is optimal when really they just refuse to think rationally because of their upbringing and various other phenomena that are frankly quite easy to explain with psychology.

    Regardless, if you try and adopt nihilism or relativism, which are terms for the two other cases possible outside of moral objectivism then how can you argue that a more "ideal" society than the one at present exists? Ideal for whom and in what way if not morally? It seems to me that even now in contemporary society the law is created with morality as its underpinning. Of course I am not saying that what is moral is what the law says. The law doesn't dictate morality, but the state, it seems to me, is a thing because the crafted and maintaining of one is a moral duty of us humans and the law comes from that and is a way to enforce moral revelations onto us.

    I view moral truths as akin to mathematical truths. We aren't born with the knowledge that pi = 3.14... to 164 digits... We have to decipher that. And some people will say, no! You are wrong, pi is not of that value. And they may have empirical evidence to prove that it cannot be such. And so we refine our value of pi until it perfectly explains that which it is meant to. Furthermore, despite being very real, objective truths pertaining to morality just as there are to mathematics, niether morality or mathematics talk specifically about the world since all mathematical and moral facts about an object that exists are reducible to descriptive properties possessed by other objects that exist.

    The same can be said about ethics, although because ethical truths directly affect how every human should act I feel that politics gets in the way of ethical research quite a lot. This is a shame but only natural since humans are naturally megalomaniacal. Regardless, moral truths themselves then are a thing and they are true by virtue of a given scenario's own properties. I.e. If you inflict more pain than pleasure to a person in an act then the act is bad. Of course that's massively massively simplified. But the point is that it is the properties of pain and pleasure changing as a result of your act that makes your act bad - it truly is bad and what makes it bad is not the opinions of any human or humans. Hence moral truths are objectively true. This doesn't imply that we can ever know moral truths for certain - just like we can never know for certain scientific truths about reality. We will never know if electrons actually exist. It is not possible. That doesn't mean the claim that electrons exist is neither true or false, it just means we will never know which is the correct answer for certain. But lacking certainty certainly doesn't stop us researching something. Science has always lacked certainty but look at the progress it has allowed us.
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    (Original post by TorpidPhil)
    What we think is moral, for most people, is indeed not at all intrinsic and is influenced by others massively, yeah, I agree. But that doesn't mean there is no right or wrong. It just means that most people's conceptions of right and wrong will be massively over-simplified and not veridical. When one says morality is objective, typically what one means is that there are moral facts AND those moral facts are made true by something other than the opinions of human beings. For example, it could be some empirical fact about the event that the moral fact talks about. Rather than merely - this is right because my mum thinks it is right, or this is right because the judge that it is right, or this is right because the constitution is right. Aka, we have to work out what is right and what is wrong - this is a science that needs to be done!

    In the second case that uncivilised brute probably also believes that scripture and likely a bunch of other superstitious nonsense. All of which they believe not because their IQ is leagues lower, but because of the environment that they were brought up in. Do you think I am justified in questioned their queer believes concerning physics? If I am, then why am I not concerning ethics? So what if their belief system means that they has different beliefs than me - that's all the more reason to go and debate with them so we can figure out whose beliefs systems are better. After all that's precisely how science works! If this is not the case and we simply concede either that moral truths are non-existent or that what is morally true is merely a reflection of what a certain person or group of people believe to be morally true then how can we actually progress society? The result of either belief is that there is no longer an objective way to argue that our society that we live in is "better" and thereby more "desirable" than the society that they live in, for what one finds desirable is based on one's underlying moral beliefs. But can it not be the case that people are susceptible to delusion? After-all if I ask many poor Brazilians how happy they are with their lives they will generally state that they are happier on a scale of 1-10 than your average Briton is, yet, objectively your average Briton has a higher quality of life. Therefore people can delude themselves. The same can surely occur with regards to ethics. People thinking that their way of life is optimal when really they just refuse to think rationally because of their upbringing and various other phenomena that are frankly quite easy to explain with psychology.

    Regardless, if you try and adopt nihilism or relativism, which are terms for the two other cases possible outside of moral objectivism then how can you argue that a more "ideal" society than the one at present exists? Ideal for whom and in what way if not morally? It seems to me that even now in contemporary society the law is created with morality as its underpinning. Of course I am not saying that what is moral is what the law says. The law doesn't dictate morality, but the state, it seems to me, is a thing because the crafted and maintaining of one is a moral duty of us humans and the law comes from that and is a way to enforce moral revelations onto us.

    I view moral truths as akin to mathematical truths. We aren't born with the knowledge that pi = 3.14... to 164 digits... We have to decipher that. And some people will say, no! You are wrong, pi is not of that value. And they may have empirical evidence to prove that it cannot be such. And so we refine our value of pi until it perfectly explains that which it is meant to. Furthermore, despite being very real, objective truths pertaining to morality just as there are to mathematics, niether morality or mathematics talk specifically about the world since all mathematical and moral facts about an object that exists are reducible to descriptive properties possessed by other objects that exist.

    The same can be said about ethics, although because ethical truths directly affect how every human should act I feel that politics gets in the way of ethical research quite a lot. This is a shame but only natural since humans are naturally megalomaniacal. Regardless, moral truths themselves then are a thing and they are true by virtue of a given scenario's own properties. I.e. If you inflict more pain than pleasure to a person in an act then the act is bad. Of course that's massively massively simplified. But the point is that it is the properties of pain and pleasure changing as a result of your act that makes your act bad - it truly is bad and what makes it bad is not the opinions of any human or humans. Hence moral truths are objectively true. This doesn't imply that we can ever know moral truths for certain - just like we can never know for certain scientific truths about reality. We will never know if electrons actually exist. It is not possible. That doesn't mean the claim that electrons exist is neither true or false, it just means we will never know which is the correct answer for certain. But lacking certainty certainly doesn't stop us researching something. Science has always lacked certainty but look at the progress it has allowed us.
    Oh come on you must be kidding me:bored:? you expect me to read all this at suck peak times of the morning. Sorry but I can't it's way too early for this!!
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    (Original post by *Deidre*)
    I think there are two ways of viewing morality, subjective and objective. I'm a Christian, but at the same time, there are views that if someone doesn't follow them, that doesn't label them immoral. But to many Christians, it would. But there are objectively moral things like the laws we govern with...it's immoral to murder, to steal, to kidnap, etc. Objective to me, is when we all can pretty much agree on what is moral.
    You're massively over-simplifying the notion of objectivity/subjectivity in this debate. This is not a debate about the universality of moral beliefs, which is rather simply whether or not what everyone believes to be moral is the same worldwide or can be the same worldwide because that debate is purely empirical and anthropology tells us that moral beliefs is not at present universal. That's a fact.

    The subjective/objective debate concerns the question - Can moral claims be true and if so what makes them true? There are three broad responses to this question.

    The first is moral objectivism which is the most intuitive view by far and suggests that moral claims can be true and thereby there are moral facts and that these moral facts are made true by something other than the opinions of any human or group of humans. Different objectivists will argue about what exactly it is that makes it true.

    The second is moral subjectivism. Moral subjectivist approaches concede that moral claims may be true but what makes them true is either the beliefs of the person making the claim, the beliefs of the person considering the morality of the claim, the beliefs of an ideal observer considering the claim, the beliefs of a deity on the claim, the beliefs of a God on the claim. Do you see the similarities? Subjectivist views all argue that some sentient being, or a group of sentient being's beliefs about moral claims are what dictates whether or not they are true or false.

    Thirdly you have the non-cognitivist approaches which simply outright deny that moral claims can be true in the first place. There are numerous different reasons for them doing this based on their own separate theories, but this is the other approach one may take.

    (Original post by Ya Dunno)
    Oh come on you must be kidding me:bored:? you expect me to read all this at suck peak times of the morning. Sorry but I can't it's way too early for this!!
    Why the hell are you always up so late if you ain't willing to philosophise XDCheck out the other post as it clarifies the debate quite well I think.
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    (Original post by NYU2012)
    Your methodology is flawed. You're implicitly assuming that what people think of as moral simply is morality. However, this is question begging. You cannot assume what the nature of morality is in order to show what morality is - that's a circular argument.
    To take a slight tangent - why do you think this fact that you've illustrated is so hard to recognise? I find the response and that methodology which you correctly noted as flawed, by Stuart is extremely common. Why?
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    (Original post by NYU2012)
    Your methodology is flawed. You're implicitly assuming that what people think of as moral simply is morality. However, this is question begging. You cannot assume what the nature of morality is in order to show what morality is - that's a circular argument.
    My arguments might imply such ("think of... ...morality"), though I don't see how.
    Nor do I believe such.
    It's quite hard to put a definition to the word "morality", kind of like "a set of morals/values", only not making a distinction between those morals/values, e.g. in the context of "what determines morality?"

    How can I assume what the nature of morality is, when there is a definition for which there's a general consensus?
    And if we do go the semantics route, wouldn't it be "presume"? ("presume" meaning "to assume in all probability", because there's the general consensus upon the meaning.)(From "semantics route" this was just covering that avenue.)

    And how am I trying to show what morality is?

    I was merely saying (can't check post on app atm, so off memory) that a(n albeit tenuous) link can be made to objectivity, I believe, and was saying what determines a morality, a set of morals with no distinction between, was I believe both biological factors, socialisation, and the ability for independent thought (outside the influences of society and culture)(what I attribute to independent thought anyway.) Both biological factors and effects of culture and society etc. vary between the individual, and the ability of independent thought also, for reasons I haven't expanded upon.)

    (Thus, in my eyes, the circular argument you mentioned is not applicable.)

    I might be able to see where you're coming from (on the other hand I'm not sure I understand it), but I still disagree.

    (Think most of what you said isn't relevant.)
    (Is it about me now saying I make no distinction, then saying that these factors still determine (affect)[different] moralities? If you go that route I'd still disagree, ‘cos we'd have different meanings of the word.)

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    (Original post by TorpidPhil)
    You're massively over-simplifying the notion of objectivity/subjectivity in this debate. This is not a debate about the universality of moral beliefs, which is rather simply whether or not what everyone believes to be moral is the same worldwide or can be the same worldwide because that debate is purely empirical and anthropology tells us that moral beliefs is not at present universal. That's a fact.

    The subjective/objective debate concerns the question - Can moral claims be true and if so what makes them true? There are three broad responses to this question.

    The first is moral objectivism which is the most intuitive view by far and suggests that moral claims can be true and thereby there are moral facts and that these moral facts are made true by something other than the opinions of any human or group of humans. Different objectivists will argue about what exactly it is that makes it true.

    The second is moral subjectivism. Moral subjectivist approaches concede that moral claims may be true but what makes them true is either the beliefs of the person making the claim, the beliefs of the person considering the morality of the claim, the beliefs of an ideal observer considering the claim, the beliefs of a deity on the claim, the beliefs of a God on the claim. Do you see the similarities? Subjectivist views all argue that some sentient being, or a group of sentient being's beliefs about moral claims are what dictates whether or not they are true or false.

    Thirdly you have the non-cognitivist approaches which simply outright deny that moral claims can be true in the first place. There are numerous different reasons for them doing this based on their own separate theories, but this is the other approach one may take.

    Why the hell are you always up so late if you ain't willing to philosophise XDCheck out the other post as it clarifies the debate quite well I think.
    Subjective morality and view points don't begin and end at religion and spirituality. Atheists hold subjective views, as do religious people. I think your view is your own, and you are entitled to it, but the trouble with these types of 'debates' is they become religious vs non religious, and subjectivity can encompass more that those two categories.
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    (Original post by XcitingStuart)
    How can I assume what the nature of morality is, when there is a definition for which there's a general consensus?
    There's a difference between what morality is and the nature of morality. Morality is, on most theories, a set of rules that ascribes value to certain actions. That isn't, however, the nature of morality. The nature of morality is meta-ethics, or rather, when or what conditions, if any, make moral propositions true.

    I was merely saying (can't check post on app atm, so off memory) that a(n albeit tenuous) link can be made to objectivity, I believe, and was saying what determines a morality, a set of morals with no distinction between, was I believe both biological factors, socialisation, and the ability for independent thought (outside the influences of society and culture)(what I attribute to independent thought anyway.) Both biological factors and effects of culture and society etc. vary between the individual, and the ability of independent thought also, for reasons I haven't expanded upon.)
    Again, this seems to be a statement of "people have different opinions on what is morally good/bad" and proof of that is found in their different moralities. But this pre-supposes a certain meta-ethic, one that cannot be proven.

    For example, some psychologists like to argue that morality is subjective or cultural because they can point to different moralities. This methodology is profoundly flawed, and any psychologists making such claims has a profoundly concerning understanding for methodology. What the psychologists is actually measuring when they look to people's different moralities, is actually people's different thoughts about morality. They aren't actually viewing the nature or being of morality, merely people's opinions about what is or is not moral.
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    (Original post by TorpidPhil)
    To take a slight tangent - why do you think this fact that you've illustrated is so hard to recognise? I find the response and that methodology which you correctly noted as flawed, by Stuart is extremely common. Why?
    Perhaps an lack of familiarity with meta-ethics; perhaps a lack of understanding of social science/scientific methodology or methodological limits. It's common for psychologists to claim that morality is subjective because they view different moralities in different cultures or different individuals. But I'm unsure how an observance of different moralities gives rise to a belief about the nature of morality - it seems to be a failure to recognize false beliefs or the possibility of false consciousnesses.
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    (Original post by ILovePancakes)
    There are no such things as morals :moon:
    There are investment of millions by large and small businesses as well as multiple govt. to instruct on "proper" responses to ethical dilemmas and issues to reflect not just a positive image for a company or govt. program but to institute stability within said company and program.

    several groups (more than religious) instruct and demand "moral" behavior to build on a community and develop personal well being. Mental instability is recognized among those who have acted "immoral"

    above acts suggest morals is a thing and a thing of importance. have you not dealt w/ morality in your own life?
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    (Original post by NYU2012)
    Perhaps an lack of familiarity with meta-ethics; perhaps a lack of understanding of social science/scientific methodology or methodological limits. It's common for psychologists to claim that morality is subjective because they view different moralities in different cultures or different individuals. But I'm unsure how an observance of different moralities gives rise to a belief about the nature of morality - it seems to be a failure to recognize false beliefs or the possibility of false consciousnesses.
    May morality be "graded" or measured upon a scale?
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    (Original post by da_nolo)
    May morality be "graded" or measured upon a scale?
    Are you asking might things be more or less good or bad? It's possible - but I can't you anything close to a definitive answer. That would depend on what is meta-ethically true, and no one knows the answer to that.
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    I don't believe there is such a thing as an objective morality, i.e. An inviolable set of rules set down by a God. Morality appears to be subjective and something that we've come up with to live more cooperatively and harmoniously with each other.
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    (Original post by Ya Dunno)
    I actually think the word is rather void as there are no consequences to your actions if you so choose to do an action which society deems as "morally wrong". It just is, it's an action based on human nature, not morals. That's if you don't believe in karma or god, then morality has no right or wrong, it just is.
    I would say karma does exist its not a belief
    The actual meaning of karma is that whatever act you commit you immediately deal with the consequences of it internally
    Where a person is very selfish in their life, they will get themselves into this habit of treating people like that and that can have negative consequences for their own wellbeing

    This idea shows how there are consequences to our actions and so morals matter at the very least on an individual level for the person committing acts

    At the same time I agree with you that an act is based on human nature and this is why I say we have morals but we don't judge because behaviour just is
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    (Original post by NYU2012)
    This sounds like a fallacious argument from ignorance: "There's no evidence for it, so it must be false."

    There's no evidence for any form of morality (or lack of morality such as nihilism); so your point here is vacuous.
    lol, you clearly dont fully understand what nihilism is.

    Anyhow, cool, in that case, I'll believe in objective morality when you bring me evidence unicorns exist.
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    (Original post by NYU2012)
    These are contradictory claims. Either morals are 'built in' or they're subjective. Make up your mind.
    No its not contradictory, you misunderstand.
    The basis for morality are built in at a cortical level, but at the same time, are relatively subjective in that there is significant variation, as belief systems determining morality can be manipulated and change over time.
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    (Original post by *Deidre*)
    Subjective morality and view points don't begin and end at religion and spirituality. Atheists hold subjective views, as do religious people. I think your view is your own, and you are entitled to it, but the trouble with these types of 'debates' is they become religious vs non religious, and subjectivity can encompass more that those two categories.
    What do you mean by a subjective view? Do you mean an opinion? Do you mean a view that cannot be factually true or false? Either way, yes, atheists hold both, as do theists. But our opinions on this debate are not like that as this debate has clear cut answers that are either true or false. Also, whether one is a theist or an atheist doesn't force you to be a moral objectivist or subjectivist or non-cognitivist. I for example am a moral objectivist despite being an atheist, whereas the majority of atheists seem to prefer moral non-cognitivism. Quite a few theists are moral subjectivists since they believe in divine command theory. It is possible to believe in a God like deity and be a moral non-cognitivist too. Religion is only tangentially important to this debate.

    If you're arguing that the term subject is used incorrectly here... Well, that's just how the term is used within academic meta-ethics. Hey, terminology can always be improved, but that doesn't undermine an argument made on this topic...

    (Original post by MAINE.)
    lol, you clearly dont fully understand what nihilism is.

    Anyhow, cool, in that case, I'll believe in objective morality when you bring me evidence unicorns exist.
    Moral nihilism is very different from existential nihilism. For some reason the term nihilism gets thrown around a lot in different parts of philosophy each time with different meaning, but his use of moral nihilism was correct in that case. I know you like Nietzsche so you probably are thinking of existential nihilism when he says that, right?
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    (Original post by MAINE.)
    lol, you clearly dont fully understand what nihilism is.
    I know what nihilism is, perhaps you don't. Nihilism is the belief that for any moral proposition P, P is neither moral nor immoral objectively, and has no truth value either objectively or subjectively

    Anyhow, cool, in that case, I'll believe in objective morality when you bring me evidence unicorns exist.
    Fallacious argument from ignorance. Just because it cannot be proven doesn't mean it isn't true. Moral nihilism, subjectivism, etc. cannot be proven true either. It's as rational to accept any one of them, but irrational to deny the possibility of any of them.
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    (Original post by ImNotReallyMe)
    I would say karma does exist its not a belief
    The actual meaning of karma is that whatever act you commit you immediately deal with the consequences of it internally
    Where a person is very selfish in their life, they will get themselves into this habit of treating people like that and that can have negative consequences for their own wellbeing

    This idea shows how there are consequences to our actions and so morals matter at the very least on an individual level for the person committing acts

    At the same time I agree with you that an act is based on human nature and this is why I say we have morals but we don't judge because behaviour just is
    Wha do you mean by the person immediately deals with the consequences of it internally?

    Say there's a psychopath who kills for pleasure, what consequences is he dealing with the second he murders someone? Especially as you're insinuating that those consequences are products of a conscience.
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    Morality, assuming itexists, is a set of binding commands that allows mankind to distinguish betweenright & wrong and identify what should or should not be done. From what wecan observe, all societies (regardless of geographical, chronological, etc.separation) seem to share in a common “moral code”, which would suggest theexistence of a universal, objective moral law that is present independent ofmankind’s existence. It’s nature, therefore, is that it is inherent, universal,objective, and that it entrusts in mankind an obligation to do “the rightthing”. Yet does the fact that morality is inherent, universal, objective, andbinding (i.e. we have a duty to do what is right by this “moral code”) enableit to skirt the existence of God? It seems, however, that the contrary is true.The existence of morality, and its nature necessitates the existence of God –such is the conclusion of the Moral Argument.Thereare two types of moral argument: the theoretical and the practical. Thetheoretical moral argument (posited by the likes of H.P. Owen, John Newman, andC.S. Lewis) uses deduction to argue the existence of God, whereas the practicalmoral argument (as posited by Kant) explores the idea of obligation to showthat the existence of God is a logical necessity. Yet is this really the case?Does, in other words, the moral argument succeed in proving the existing ofGod?Thetheoretical moral argument is as follows. We, as humans, encounter experiencesof morality and its nature during our lives (e.g. it feels as if we – and thosewho we encounter - are dutifully bound by virtue of a common “conscience” to dothe right thing, and also as if we – and those who we encounter – feeluncomfortable when we do the wrong thing). Furthermore, it seems as if allhuman communities (past, and present) share a common notion of what is rightand what is wrong. Therefore, it is argued, morality (i.e. the moral law)exists independent of mankind as something objective and absolute. In order forthere to be such a law, there must be, by definition, a moral law-maker who hasthe power to create it. Only God, however, is capable (by virtue of his nature– i.e. omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, etc.) of creating an objectiveand absolute moral law. Therefore, it is argued, that God must exist. This isflawed.“If, as is thecase, we feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened at transgressing thevoice of conscience, this implies there is one to whom we are responsible…ifthe cause of these emotions does not belong to the visible world, the object towhich our perception is directed must be supernatural and divine- JohnHenry NewmanNewmanargues to God from the idea of the conscience. He recognizes that there seemsto be something intrinsic in all men that regulates behaviour by rewarding“moral” actions (through positive emotions) and punishing “immoral” ones(through negative emotions such as guilt and shame). He proceeds to infer thatthe conscience must be the voice of God within us, thus necessitating theexistence of God. Yet Newman’s argument makes far too many assumptions to beconvincing. Since, Newman claims, the conscience is “more than a man’s own self”, and that “the man himself has no power over it, or only with extremedifficulty...he did not make it…he cannot destroy it”, the existence of theconscience proves the existence of God. Newman, however, is arguing from a positionof faith and thus fails to consider a secular explanation for the existence ofthe conscience (e.g. the socio-biological advantage of being biologicallyconditioned to respond positively to actions that are conducive to promotingtrust and mutual benefit within a community– “moral actions” – and to respondnegatively to actions that are conducive to the contrary – “immoral actions” sinceit is beneficial in assuring mutual survival). Instead, he assumes that theconscience is indicative of a “being exteriorto ourselves” (i.e. God) as it is a product of said exterior being. Thisassumes that God exists necessarily (as an intelligent designer or a FirstCause), which is demonstrative of circular reasoning. Furthermore, the verycommonality and nature of morality (and the conscience) seem to be indicativethat it is merely an evolutionary adaptation that has a genetic origin. Indeed,studies in animal behaviour (cf. CanAnimals Be Moral?) have shown that social mammals (e.g. rats, dogs,primates) can choose to act “morally” or “immorally” – evidence that moralityis not proper to humans and that both it and the conscience can be explainedbiologically. This shows that the nature of morality is not such that Godexists (as an alternative explanation that does not invoke a transcendent,omnipotent, divine being can be used to explain the phenomenon that is morality– which, according to Occam, is a superior one by virtue of simplicity) - thereforeNewman’s argument fails to prove the existence of God.Itis, however, argued by Hal Herzog that animal “morality” is rooted in instinct.This, he claims, is distinct from human morality, as human morality seems to beinformed more by conscious choice than by instinct. The distinction is evidentif we are to assess, as it were, the flip side of the coin – immorality.Ifwe observe the atrocities being carried out (and those that have been carried out)across the world (e.g. Syria, Nanking, Hiroshima, Rwanda, the Holocaust, and soon) we are able to discern an aspect of morality (i.e. extreme immorality),which is proper only to human beings. From this we can, through empiricalinduction, determine that there exists an exclusively human capacity for(extreme) immorality. “A beast can neverbe as cruel as a human being, so artistically, so picturesquely cruel”writes Dostoevsky, alluding to this facet of morality which only humans seem tohave the capacity to achieve. If this is true, it can also be argued that therealso exists an exclusively human capacity for (extreme) morality - this canalso be empirically verified (e.g. St. Francis, Mother Teresa, FlorenceNightingale, Dr. David Nott, and so on). Such capacities imply that there is aconscious choice to act in a biologically untoward manner (i.e. doing good forthe sake of doing good & doing evil for the sake of doing evil), whichanimals lack. Therefore it seems that it is this predilection for autonomousvirtue (or vice) which characterizes human morality and distinguishes (but doesnot separate) it from animal (biological) morality. Where on earth, this beingthe case, does this morality comefrom then?Kantmakes a distinction between what we considered to be animal morality (i.e.“moral” in consequence, but “biologically selfish” in intent) and humanmorality (i.e. “moral” in consequence and in intent – good for the sake ofgood) by separating autonomous actions (dispassionate, moral actions performedout of a conscious sense of duty) from heteronomous actions (emotive actionsthat are selfish in intent and, thus, can never be moral). This is instrumentalto Kant’s version of the moral argument - dissimilar to the theoretical moralargument proposed by Newman and his ilk (Owen & Lewis). In addition, theaspect of autonomous virtue (or vice) mentioned in the previous paragraph isconsidered within the structure of the practical moral argument. Moreover, Kantexplains how the practical moral argument is logically superior to thetheoretical one. Kantreasons that if God did exist, then he must exist outside the phenomenal realmand hence any objective knowledge of God is unavailable to us (since we existwithin the phenomenal realm). In addition to this, Kant proposes that the humanmind determines the way in which we experience reality, thus it is impossiblefor us to know “things in themselves”but only as we perceive them to be. This nullifies the inductive reasoning thatclaims it is possible obtain knowledge of God from an experience or feelingencountered in the phenomenal realm. This renders the theoretical moralarguments void (by virtue of being invalid). However, Kant claims that we mayobtain knowledge of God if we consider our sense of morality (right, wrong,duty, good, and their opposites). This forms the basis of the practical moralargument.Thepractical moral argument is as follows. Morality is based on duty (i.e. what weought to do). We are under obligation to be autonomously virtuous (i.e. dutyfor duty’s sake). Reason suggests we ought to act according to the categoricalimperative (“an unconditional moralobligation which is binding in all circumstances and is not dependent on aperson’s inclination or purpose”). A duty to do something implies anability to do said thing (ought implies can). We ought to aim for the summum bonum (the life of moralityrewarded by happiness), and, because ought implies can, the summum bonum must be acheiveable. However,we know cannot know empirically that the summumbonum is achievable because it is often the case, according to 2Pac, thatthe “good die young” (i.e. bad thingsfrequently happen to good people). Therefore it is only an omnibenevolent andomnipotent God who can guarantee that we attain the summum bonum. Thus if morality is to be at all meaningful, we mustassume that God is the guarantor of the summumbonum – if not in this life, then in the next. Hence, because ought impliescan and there is no can without God, the moral argument necessitates theexistence of God. Or does it?
    Goodness is one thing with me and another witha Chinaman, so it’s relative. Or isn’t it?” questions Ivan Karamazov.Indeed, Dostoevsky raises an important issue with the moral argument in The Brothers Karamazov – no two peopleexperience the same version of morality (as Kant argues, no one can ever seesomething as a thing in itself, merely a personal version of such thing).Despite this, it can still be argued that the notion of morality is fairlyconsistent throughout a given population. Yet the variation in morality,however, is both greater and more prominent between different cultures. It is,for example, perfectly acceptable (if not just) to stone a woman to death forwearing jeans or driving a car in certain parts of the Middle East; thispractice, however, would be considered intolerable and barbaric anywhere else.Another example would be the fundamentally differing attitudes towards raising(disciplining) children. It is commonplace in parts of East & South Asia(or part of Asian culture) for a parent to be more demanding and critical oftheir children (the infamous “Tiger Parent” style of raising children asdetailed by Amy Chua), whereas this form of parenting would be thought of ascruel and abusive to parents in the West. It is the very contrast between thesetwo styles of parenting that has gained popular attention in China, resultingin a series entitled “Tiger Mum & CatDad”. Indeed, the “Cat Dad” character (representative of the more nurturingstyle of parenting commonly employed in Western culture) has been subject toharsh criticism by viewers who frequently question the character’s masculinityand diminish his role in society. Unsurprisingly, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother drew similar flak from readers inthe United States, who questioned Chua’s method and likened it to child abuseand torture – it was, in their culture, immoral.

    In 1950 a study wasconducted by Solomon Asch to determine the effects of the pressure of socialconformity. Volunteers were shown two cards – one with a single vertical lineand another with several. They were then asked to point out which two lineswere of the same height. In the control experiment, no problems wereencountered (i.e. volunteers answered correctly each time). It was when othervolunteers (these “volunteers” were actually hired by Asch to answerincorrectly) were present that discrepancies started to occur. On average theerror rate rose from under 1% (when the volunteer answered independently) toover 37% (when placed in the same room as other “volunteers” who were allgiving the same incorrect answer). This study enforces the idea that moralityis shaped by social pressures.

    We can also, forexample, consider the citizens of AppenzellAusserhoden and Appenzell Innerhoden(two Cantons within Switzerland) during the late 20th Century whenthese two regions of Switzerland did not recognize women’s suffrage until 1989and 1991 respectively, despite global support for women’s suffrage (at thetime) amounting to over 95%. Evidence of what psychologists term the “insulteffect” (where exposure to vehemently contrary viewpoints serve only to inflameand re-affirm your certainty in the validity of your conviction). “It’s the majority who decides what’s crazy and what isn’t” (Journey to the End ofthe Night, Celine) - yet more evidence to suggest that social pressureslargely shape morality. It seems, therefore, that the case for the existence ofan objective, universal moral law is undermined; giving rise to the suggestionthat morality is merely a form of social indoctrination. Hence if the basis foran objective, universal moral law is not substantiated, then the nature ofmorality does not necessitate the existence of God.

    If, however, we areto assume the existence of a universal moral code that informs the notion ofmorality held by all different cultures (i.e. an almost indiscernible bottomlayer or “base strata” of a universal morality that underpins all variations ofmorality) then, by virtue of its nature, God’s logical existence is necessary.Yet ethical theories can exist without needing to invoke the existence a divinebeing.

    Ethical theories suchas Utilitarianism and Virtue Ethics do not require the existence of God. Yet indoing so, neither Mill, nor Aristotle reduces morality to a subjectivephenomenon of social indoctrination. Utilitarianism claims that man isnaturally inclined to act in a way that maximizes utility and that if he is nothe is conditioned to do so by various sanctions (both external and internal,neither divine). Indeed, even the Virtue Ethicist will not claim that moralitynecessitates the existence of God.
    Inconclusion the nature of morality is such that God does not exist. Morality canbe explained naturalistically. In fact despite admitting that man has a moralobligation, Freud disputes that it is objectively binding and argues that it isan epiphenomenon of the mind. According to Freud, our sense of moral duty andthe “voice of conscience” stems from the subconscious section of the humanpsyche which he termed the “Super Ego”. This is yet further evidence to demonstrate that morality and consciencedo not necessarily require the existence of a transcendent, omnibenevolent,omnipotent, omniscient deity. Both are phenomena that can be reasonablyexplained using psychology and biology.
 
 
 
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