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    (Original post by Glowy Amoeba)
    Animals who don't have our laws and governments live in tribes dominated by the alpha individuals.
    There is an instinctual social way of being... that the alpha male role is a part of. They all look after each other, mothers care for their young, mates do not wish to be seperated. It's not some crazy free-for-all because of their instinct, not because the alpha male has some master plan to control everyone.

    We would be no different if society were to crumble and dissolve tomorrow. There would be no real harmony: the weak would submit to the rule of the strong to keep on living.
    If you think like this.. then are you trying to imply that womens rights, human rights, anti-racism etc. etc. is not out of compassion but simply out of some kind of control and power thing?

    The state is just the alpha male tribe in a more complex form. The strong individuals protect the weaker ones in exchange for part of their freedom. That is basically what government is: the exchange of freedom for security. Thanks to our expanding brains, this initial social contract has evolved tremendously, but it is still has the same principle at heart, with morality to smooth the gears of social life.
    compassion and empathy play no role in government?

    While it is usually hard to determine whether the chicken or the egg came first, it's obvious in this case that we learned to care for each other in order to survive and not the other way around.
    No, evolution does not work like that. Animals that developed a sense of care for their kind due to mutation had the advantage of surviving longer... they didn't go, "oh, if we care for each other we will last longer". If mothers instinctually care for their young (which they do) it's not hard to imagine a species instinctually caring for others of it's kind. Humans are born with these instincts.... there wasn't just a cave man who woke up one day, realised that life as a murderer sucked and put plans in place for the rest of humanity to adhere to a social construct. Social constructs are a development of our natural instincts.

    Guilt and shame are there because they make social life so much more easier by preventing dissent and individualistic acts such as crimes.
    because they made*

    as I explained above, emotions are evolutionary advantages... not a means to an end. They didn't come into existence for the purpose of preventing crimes.... they existed without a purpose and then benefited mankind and so became a thing that we pass on through our genes.

    Our brains adapted to our specie's needs
    I don't know if you just word things badly or if you believe incorrectly. Nature does not adapt anything to anyones needs. The brain didn't say "i'm gonna adapt to this species needs" it was due to natural selection.

    It's fun to believe that humans are naturally good even when times are tough.
    I don't believe in good and evil. I believe in common human emotions (which people tend to label as "good").

    But "Good" (and "Evil") is just one of our inventions to ensure survival. It doesn't mean that emotions are valueless, but they remain illusions.
    I think you have some big misunderstandings. Why do you act as though everything is some kind of massive atempt to ensure our survival? As though the government only cares about survival. Good and evil developed as an idea before any kind of advanced society... and they are simply words attached to differences in human behaviour. Good being what the majority of people feel and bad being what the minority feel (or don't feel as the case may be).

    How are emotions illusions? Illusions of what? They exist as chemical reactions in our brains. They are what make us content and what make us thrive in life. They have been an aid to survival, but within intelligent self conscious human beings that don't exist simply to reproduce any more they are (often) they are our goals in life and our reason to do anything. Life without emotion is pointless.... so they are hardly illusions.
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    (Original post by bramz19)
    This. For all the grandiose posturing and pretentious "morality is non-existent" posts in this thread, everyone that wrote those posts will go and behave in a perfectly moral way later. Sure, 'society' imposes certain things upon us, and we thoughtlessly accept these things, but the point is that we always will accept them because, by and large, we are nice people. So stfu. Sigh.
    i won't dispute that our actions are governed by empathy.

    But morals are just rules made by man. I think few things, if anything, are truly inherent. Much of what we deem normal is just determined so by society, or the community we live in.

    why are you being so vague.

    you think there should be no rules? or you think rules can't exist in society? or you think they don't exist in society?

    it doesn't really matter if you simply think there should be no rules (and i don't know why you think that). The fact is that people care about human life and their property and such things... so they have made rules. The rules exist because people came together and agreed on what they do and don't like. That IS subjective morality.. that is what it is... so you can't say morality doesn't exist... because it's happening.

    I think you mean that objective morality doesn't exist, which i agree with.
    morals I agree are just social rules, created by man. The difference is there is no absolute/cosmic morality. Much of what we value is just arbitrarily created by society.
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    Its an absolute social construct.
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    (Original post by edanon)
    ....
    You've misunderstood my post... but it is true that I've used the wrong words like "need" and "learn" when I'm well aware that evolution isn't a conscious process but a series of adaptations. It makes writing simpler, so let's not get bogged down in semantics. Basically what I'm saying is that emotions, instincts, our entire social nature are adaptations to external pressure and the need to survive. Compassion and empathy are central to society and government because it allows our species to thrive and prosper. So being compassionate has huge practical advantages. Altruism is fundamentally a form of pursuing one's self interest. We feel compassionate and friendly to others because we have no choice: we can't impose our will on others and living as an outcast is too difficult for the powerless. This is what I was saying when I talked about good and evil: I know those are superficial notions. Our entire lives are power struggles for our survival, whether we like it or not. It is indeed a crazy free for all, although things seem tame on the surface. Even things like women's rights are only well perceived because of the advantages it confers to society. Besides such causes further the interest of a group of people so it is a good example of a control and power thing.

    Being self conscious only increases our will to live and to perpetuate our thinking self. However since we are self conscious, emotions are no longer tools to ensure survival but have evolved into something else altogether. Pleasure in life keeps us going as sentients, like you said. This is truly a miracle
    Ultimately our lives are pointless with or without emotions. Still, I'm happy with my life despite the absence of meaning, because I know that meaning is a product of our brain wiring. Also the sheer improbability of life itself is reason enough to be content.
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    Morality exists only as a human construct. I believe in Prescriptivism, and the feelings that are held by the majority become the social norms, hence why we have cultural relativism. Nothing is intrinsically right or wrong in itself, but only as a part of our society. Morality DOES still exist however, but I stll hold my non-cognitivist beliefs.
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    (Original post by Ross Templeman)
    I must disagree with many of the contributors to this thread. I would say that the foundation of morality is objective and is intimately connected with the notion of dignity, rather than say compassion or some conception of the social contract.

    I have no religious beliefs, but I have difficulty not believing in an objective basis for values. A basis that exists regardless of human opinion or whether a particular individual or society recognises it or not.

    With regards to taking an objectivist stance I would SKETCH an argument as follows:

    There are various kinds of abstract propositions (such as those of mathematics and logic) whose truth or falsity can be assessed by humans. However the truth of these propositions does not depend on specific contingent features of the natural world, they are objectively and eternally true, regardless of anyones personal opinion. However they are frequently applicable to understanding and analysing the world. This is sufficient to establish that important truths exist which do not need to be materially constituted or based on feelings.

    In order for moral designators such as "should" or "obliged" to make sense as concepts in their own right, rather than as shorthand for "it is a convention that one does..." , it is important that the foundation of morality should not depend on human free choice, arbitrary inclination or personal opinion. This suggests that any adequete foundation for morality must be based on universal judgements, just as mathematical and logical judgements are.

    With regards to having dignity as the foundation of morality I would SKETCH an argument as follows:

    If a moral sytem is to give substantial meaning to ethical concepts such as "obligation" then the foundation if morality must be something that cannot be altered or switched off by human will and must be something so intimately connected to the concept of a person, as to automatically endow personhood with intrinsic value. Emotional fellings and sensations satisfy neither of these conditions generally.

    When I ask myself what could possibly satisfy both conditions I am inclined to believe that the question almost answers itself, and that personhood itself has intrinsic value without needing to depend on anything else. The word "dignity" is a shorthand for this idea.
    Fascinating post. After all, it is doubtful whether there is a reality without a sentient being to perceive it, hence making personhood the most important and in fact only thing that can really be said to exist.

    What bothers me with your argument is that "value" and "meaning" are constructs of our brains and wholly dependent of our particular human subjectiveness. Since morality depends on those two concepts, I can't quite picture how it can be present in the realm of objectiveness like mathematical and logical constants are.
    To make matters worse, even logic and math are perversely limited to our own subjective existence. Concepts require sentients capable of abstract reasoning to think of them.

    What I recommend is taking an entirely practical approach to morality, by making what helps us stay alive and conscious the most efficiently the moral path. This seems logical if personhood is the most valuable thing. However since we have so many consciousness close to each other in a physical realm, it is a truly difficult taks to determine what helps us thrive.
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    (Original post by Glowy Amoeba)
    You've misunderstood my post... but it is true that I've used the wrong words like "need" and "learn" when I'm well aware that evolution isn't a conscious process but a series of adaptations. It makes writing simpler, so let's not get bogged down in semantics. Basically what I'm saying is that emotions, instincts, our entire social nature are adaptations to external pressure and the need to survive. Compassion and empathy are central to society and government because it allows our species to thrive and prosper. So being compassionate has huge practical advantages. Altruism is fundamentally a form of pursuing one's self interest. We feel compassionate and friendly to others because we have no choice: we can't impose our will on others and living as an outcast is too difficult for the powerless. This is what I was saying when I talked about good and evil: I know those are superficial notions. Our entire lives are power struggles for our survival, whether we like it or not. It is indeed a crazy free for all, although things seem tame on the surface. Even things like women's rights are only well perceived because of the advantages it confers to society. Besides such causes further the interest of a group of people so it is a good example of a control and power thing.

    Being self conscious only increases our will to live and to perpetuate our thinking self. However since we are self conscious, emotions are no longer tools to ensure survival but have evolved into something else altogether. Pleasure in life keeps us going as sentients, like you said. This is truly a miracle
    Ultimately our lives are pointless with or without emotions. Still, I'm happy with my life despite the absence of meaning, because I know that meaning is a product of our brain wiring. Also the sheer improbability of life itself is reason enough to be content.
    Government is just a social contract (which is the only real reason governments exist), and there is no true reason why governments must act in accordance with compassion/empathy. We have politics since there is no universally agreed way in how we should be governed, or what interests a government should promote.
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    I'm glad you agree
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    (Original post by Ross Templeman)
    I must disagree with many of the contributors to this thread. I would say that the foundation of morality is objective and is intimately connected with the notion of dignity, rather than say compassion or some conception of the social contract.

    I have no religious beliefs, but I have difficulty not believing in an objective basis for values. A basis that exists regardless of human opinion or whether a particular individual or society recognises it or not.

    With regards to taking an objectivist stance I would SKETCH an argument as follows:

    There are various kinds of abstract propositions (such as those of mathematics and logic) whose truth or falsity can be assessed by humans. However the truth of these propositions does not depend on specific contingent features of the natural world, they are objectively and eternally true, regardless of anyones personal opinion. However they are frequently applicable to understanding and analysing the world. This is sufficient to establish that important truths exist which do not need to be materially constituted or based on feelings.

    In order for moral designators such as "should" or "obliged" to make sense as concepts in their own right, rather than as shorthand for "it is a convention that one does..." , it is important that the foundation of morality should not depend on human free choice, arbitrary inclination or personal opinion. This suggests that any adequete foundation for morality must be based on universal judgements, just as mathematical and logical judgements are.

    With regards to having dignity as the foundation of morality I would SKETCH an argument as follows:

    If a moral sytem is to give substantial meaning to ethical concepts such as "obligation" then the foundation if morality must be something that cannot be altered or switched off by human will and must be something so intimately connected to the concept of a person, as to automatically endow personhood with intrinsic value. Emotional fellings and sensations satisfy neither of these conditions generally.

    When I ask myself what could possibly satisfy both conditions I am inclined to believe that the question almost answers itself, and that personhood itself has intrinsic value without needing to depend on anything else. The word "dignity" is a shorthand for this idea.
    Everything is subject to individual interpretation, including morality.

    Which moral values are axiomatic?
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    An ethical person knows that it is wrong to cheat on their partner, a moral person would not cheat on their partner.
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    I think if it doesn't hurt anyone it's still classed as moral.

    You can hurt yourself or someone who consents to or can gain pleasure from said pain (ie rough sex is still not 'immoral')
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    (Original post by edanon)
    i was under the impression that we instinctively feel guilty about specific subject matter. i.e. mother is being attacked, i feel crap, i will cry.
    Well then that's where we disagree I guess. Your example isn't really relevant because it isn't a matter of guilt. A relevant example might be that (according to you) a person would feel instictively guilty after say stealing change from a tramp even if that person had lived in isolation up until that point. I find this unlikely.

    (Original post by edanon)
    i've read that it's understood that sociopaths lack something in their brains... CT scans for proof yadda yadda. i don't think i argued that their lack of emotions is the result of an understanding? i just think that they lack the emotion and that they only behave because society tells them what is wrong and right and if they break those morals then they will recieve the consequences of jail etc.
    'otherwise you're admitting to social norms being the only reason you wouldn't kill? in which case you're a sociopath.' This is what you said, and I'm saying it is an understanding that leads to people like myself to be of the view that social norms are the only reason we wouldn't kill (along with a genetic disposition to find these norms). So really you are saying that their lack of emotions is the result of an understanding?

    it's semantics. "we generally feel this way, so we would not like people to do this" has devloped into "this is morally wrong". Technically, there is no such thing as universal morality, but when people say "this is wrong" they simply mean (even if they don't know it) that they feel it is wrong and so want to stop it.

    In this respect, as a word for common humanity, morality does exist. In the sense of it being some kind of universal rule.. no it doesn't exist.
    So you agree that morality is simply an individual opinion? If morality exists in this form is it not useless? If not, why not?

    Sorry for the late reply, I'm going out now but I'll reply tomorrow if you reply. Good debate!
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    Simple thought experiment:
    If God were to reveal himself to us (the Judeo-Christian one ie. the all-knowing one) and then declared that it was good/right to murder. Would you change your opinion?

    If you're currently thinking 'No' then morality comes from human empathy.
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    (Original post by Ross Templeman)
    Are mathematical truths dependent on a brain performing certain computations? If so then presumably mathematical laws can be violated as long as no one is looking? This seems implausible. If I think of the number 5 (say) and I consider taking away another positive number from it, is it really possible for me to genuinely arrive at a number larger than 5? Presumably not. But what is it about my brain which uniquely prevents this from being so? I would contend instead that the arithmetical law is simply true. It was true before I considered it, it is true after I finish considering it.

    Wth regards to things like values being constructs of the brain generally, I have never seen a demonstration of this proposition and it to seems implausible. It is possible for two different parts of the brain to be stimulated simultaneously and yet for me to have two distinct sensations at once. Since the laws of physics prevent action at a distance, it seems inconsistent with the laws of physics to regard mental events as being constituted by neural computations alone.

    Also, I would say that a distinction must be drawn between needing to be experienced to in order to be directly known on the one hand, and being true or existing on the other.
    It just seems to me that numbers themselves and mathematical laws are an arbitrary construct of our minds. After all, our consciousness shapes the universe by separating it into separate objects evolving through time when there is no way to ascertain whether such delimitations actually exist or if there even is such a thing as a delimitation. Without such separation of space and time, geometry, arithmetic, all mathematical concepts would be effectively inconceivable. The number five and any number larger or smaller than it would not mean anything. We do not know enough about our surroundings to determine whether or not the laws of logic or physics are immutable. Truth is a shaky idea at best, especially when faced with the possibility than there is an infinity of universes so I must disagree with your last point as well.

    Our understanding of the human brain is too limited to come to conclusions about the substances of mental events, yet I agree with you that there is more to mental events that physical manifestations. Descartes' idea "I think therefore I am" seems to attest to this. However I must restate my opinion that values and meaning are artificial creations. The term value itself implies the presence of emotion: desire, preference, the creation of a hierarchy of importance that separates material and immaterial objects. I find simply no compelling reason to believe such a concept has any substance outside our own heads. Same goes for meaning, which is closely associated with value and is one of the things we find most valuable.
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    I don't believe in an objective morality (does anyone? - perhaps the religious), I tend to try live by the Golden Rule. I think I might be too moral though, perhaps too kind and considerate, but I'm not sure.
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    It's nice to think that morality is something external to our minds, but really it's just a collection of values and axioms required to construct a certain type of society or culture.
 
 
 
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