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Is there a reason for morality? watch

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    Could you please offer me your views on the following issue which has become a burden on my thoughts?

    * Does morality serve a purpose whereby it is an end or is it a means to another end? By this I mean is morality pursued for its independent value per se or is it (in the context of modern social existence) merely a standard conformed to by citizens in a society to create order and afford universal rights to individuals to enable them to achieve other objectives e.g. wealth, fame, prominence and, less pertinently, a standard which is conformed to in order to avoid imprisonment (a certain degree of morality is enforced through the legal system).
    Postulating morality as merely a social tool, its significance is diminished. It becomes a tool used to effect a certain climate or to have a certain consequence; if the need for this consequence becomes void, therefore the need for the tool becomes void- there is no reason for morality per se.
    I feel a certain hypothetical situation would further clarify this issue: if you possessed a ring whereby upon wearing it you became invisible, unrestrainable and immortal (effectively rendering the external world inconsequential), would you act as though you were in a dream and forsake any ideas of morality? Or does a reason for acting morally still remain? (idea taken from Plato's Republic).
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    (Original post by Lucid87)
    Or does a reason for acting morally still remain? (idea taken from Plato's Republic).
    Of course it does. Morals form life guidelines and in a sense promote sanity; through morals we are able to establish what is right and wrong. So for a healthy mentality, some form of principles or morals need to exist. You're questioning a situation whereby the need for morality may not exist, when you're invisible, unrestrainable and immortal. But you still EXIST, no? So the form in which you exist is different to that of the rest of us...you still need a foundation for your mentality. On a wider scope, if there are others like this invisible, unrestrainable immortal, communication and interaction begins, which should be considered. Perhaps I place too much emphasis on morals.
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    Bertrand Russell said that although he could not prove it, he thought that the idea that a dislike of cruelty was simply a matter of taste, like a dislike for oysters, could not possibly be true. I felt the same once. Now I think that there is an externally existing morality: in part this is genetically determined- people who were reluctant to kill one another in their groups, but prevented those who would kill within the group or had inhibitions against killing their children tended to be more likely to survive and increase in number: a basis for morality to develop. Equally, the culture in which we are raised, which discourages killing, but reluctantly permits it if it seems necessary, has had the edge over other cultures. This is the result of years of "evolution" competing against other cultures.
    Your example is irrelevant to morality, i'm afraid. It simply asks if we would follow the moral dictates we were raised in if we could get away with it if we didn't- a question about individual psychology rather than morality.
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    I can sense a jurisprudence argument coming along here. Let me just browse though Lloyd
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    Surely morals are based on emotional reactions? In this way I suppose I agree with weejimmie, as it seems apparent that emotions are based on a certain logic that helps us to survive.

    But I have to disagree with Weejimmie that the example given of being indistructable (I can't be bothered to write out the whole list, except that in writing this I've already written than I would have anyway... bugger) is purely about psycology, because surely we have to realise that morals are an individual thing, but they are dictated by social interaction. For example (this again is a hypothetical situation):

    I find it morally acceptable to swear in public because my parents did so in front of me, and I found that there was no real consequence of these actions.

    My friend does not find it morally acceptable to swear in public, because when he did it in front of his parents, or when he observed his parents doing it, he also observed the perpetrator of foul language got a clip round the ear. That is to say my friend learned not to swear because swearing causes, on some level, pain (which could also be emnotional rather than phisical).

    However, the problem with this is that it suggests if my friend learnt to the contrary, that he could swear without fear, then he would then find it morally acceptable to do so. By extension, the aquisition of this magic ring would mean the consequences of crime that we are used to be would be null and void so one could perform any crime. I don't think this is likly to happen, and this is why:

    Humans are instinctivly social creatures. We need to talk. We need to hug and have phisicall human contact. We need warmth and love. As a guy with a very bad record of getting girl friends I can assue you that this is the case (I want a hug!!!). Just because the punishment becomes null and void for us, then we would still need the human interaction and so would be concerned about upsetting people and so not perform such illegal acts. In this way I believe (and I fully accept I may be completly wrong) this moral issue is one of sociology.

    The problem with my argument is people who believe they actrually have such a ring, or something like it. This group of people would include fanatic-suicide bombers who's belief that they are going straight to heaven gives them a kind of immortality (though I can not say whether this is right or wrong). I feel that perhaps religion is the key here, people believe they have a knowledge that there is a higher thing than people, than social interaction, and so they can justify to themselves not being nice to other people. Likewise in war times there is often propoganda suggesting that the enemy is less than human, so that our moral defences do not apply to them.

    This was kind of written as I thought it, so any feed back would be most welcome (also sorry about my poor use of colons).
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    Minor Deity:
    That is the problem- situational morality or absolute morality. When is something morally wrong, rather than accepted as unacceptable in a particular social situation? If people feel sufficiently strongly that something you regard as merely socially unacceptable- such as swearing- is morally wrong, do we have a duty to refrain from doing it? How far is morality a matter of courtesy? When I was a trooper I swore like trooper. On the other hand I was very careful never to swear in front of my children because i thought- and felt- the two situations were completely different. As i said, this wasn't morality but social acceptability in my eyes.

    With the ring of Gyges there is the question of power too; the possessor of the ring is become like a god: how far does mere human morality apply to them and have they gone beyond good and evil in their own and other peoples' eyes? The inhibitionary effects of upbringing would affect them for a time, but I think that eventually they would begin to think "I can do that so I will do that so it's good for me to do that."
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    If i have inferred correctly morals, according to you, constitute the 'foundation' for a healthy mentality, or even sanity. But how can this healthy mentality be indicated? Would you say a cruel dictator or a terrorist had a healthy mentality? I'm sure you'd say no, but how about an avaricious lawyer or banker? All these examples show morality has no influence on them, they serve themselves, and when they serve only themselves they have no consideration for morality (since, according to my stipulation, morality concerns 'everyone else')
    In any case only in a social and external sense could the 'healthiness' of their mentalities be observed, no? Therefore, as its effects are still projected onto the outside world, morality is still just a tool for a corporeal effect.

    Weejimmie:

    If i have inferred correctly, you assume there to be a certain genetic composition which causes morality (to an extent), I cannot see how this can be measured or/and be proven. Also, 'killing' to you is the only significant immorality, since it affects society as a whole. Nevertheless, notwithstanding these subjective opinions, i will still try to show morality as a tool (hence, not a reason for acting morally).
    You base your argument of current social trends on an evolution of a successful programme of morality being pervasive amongst inhabitants of a certain polity. If this were true, morality would be part of an (incomplete) evolutionary process and could be superseded (by something considered now to be immoral); the effects of morality you describe are still externally pragmatic (i.e. on a social level) and ultimately transitory, since morality is a period of evolution; lastly, how can morality still have the edge over other cultures, do you mean it produces a more successful society? Successful in amount of wealth (contrast with rich Arab states without popular franchise), successful in military strength (contrast with nazi-era Germany).. morality is still a tool to a certain social, external end, achievable through other means too- still no reason for acting morally per se, only a reason to perpetuate the status quo.

    N.b. please excuse my rushed responses
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    (Original post by Lucid87)

    If i have inferred correctly, you assume there to be a certain genetic composition which causes morality (to an extent), I cannot see how this can be measured or/and be proven.
    Nor do I. However, it seems a reasonable inference.
    Also, 'killing' to you is the only significant immorality, since it affects society as a whole.
    No. I used killing as an obvious example because most people would agree that it is wrong to kill except in very limited circumstances. It is the probably the most absolute moral injunction
    You base your argument of current social trends on an evolution of a successful programme of morality being pervasive amongst inhabitants of a certain polity.
    No. What every polity that has survived has is a tendency to refrain from large-scale pervasive internal killing. Even enemies have to be created and demonised, rather than simply being there as with many other species. I am comparing not only modern western society but every extant society against others which have vanished.
    If this were true, morality would be part of an (incomplete) evolutionary process and could be superseded (by something considered now to be immoral);
    Certainly, I think that this morality is something which has evolved, both in a Darwinian way, in that people who had it tended to liove longer and bring up more children, and through Lamarckian evolution which also applies to humans in a way. Our culture is both inherited and external to us so it is a form of Lamarkian evolution. Every alteration we make to what Popper calls World3 is inherited by our children nearly as effectively as if it were direcly and physically inherited.
    i think the killing inhibition, which must be broken down by alcohol, speeches, football, patriotism and other stimulants is much stronger than others. For example, female chastity was thought to be an essential virtue for a very long time in most societies. Now that there are effective contraceptives it has become a trivial matter of taste.
    the effects of morality you describe are still externally pragmatic (i.e. on a social level) and ultimately transitory, since morality is a period of evolution;
    Everything is ultimately transitory. If i think it is wrong to kill a harmless person because it is an absolute ethical injunction or because I am descended from ancestors with just those views and raised in a society which says that, it makes no difference. My opinion is unchanged and I do not kill them.
    lastly, how can morality still have the edge over other cultures, do you mean it produces a more successful society? Successful in amount of wealth (contrast with rich Arab states without popular franchise), successful in military strength (contrast with nazi-era Germany).. morality is still a tool to a certain social, external end, achievable through other means too- still no reason for acting morally per se, only a reason to perpetuate the status quo.
    This is, as I said, a common morality.I am not only talking about the society we live in. It does apply even in dictatorships: Stalin and Hitler had to persuade the people who did their killing- and perhaps themselves- that their victims weren't properly human or stood in the way of progress or that they deserved it. One reason why there are so many people in the world is that there is less internal competition, death and killing by neglect than there is with most species of animal. The very fact that these societies were destroyed over time by the allegedly weak and decadent societies they claimed to superdede is practical evidence that they were mistaken.
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    (Original post by Gnostic XXX)
    The idea of ethics - ie that objects and actions have inherent value judgements - is born of unconsciousness - ie a lack of awareness that one projects values onto objects, not neutrally read them from objects.
    Can objects have an inherent ethical value, let alone an inherent value judgment? Surely an ethical assesssment is based on actions by hypothetically deliberate actors.
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    (Original post by Gnostic XXX)
    Which is exactly why the concept of ethics is erroneous – ie actions\things don’t have inherent values.
    Things, yes, but actions? Strychnine is morally neutral. Feeding someone strychnine is not
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    (Original post by Gnostic XXX)
    “Theft is when somebody takes object without permission” is a description.
    No, it is a definition

    “Theft is illegal” is, again, a description.
    No. It says how theft is classified under a legal code. It is only true or false within that code.
    “Theft is wrong” is an evaluation.

    Descriptions are either true or false. Evaluations are neither true nor false.
    What of "The act of stealing is usually wrong."?
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    (Original post by Gnostic XXX)
    “Theft is when somebody takes object without permission” is a description.
    That's not quite true for the legal definition of theft.
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    (Original post by NDGAARONDI)
    That's not quite true for the legal definition of theft.
    *Reaches for the Theft Act* (1959?)
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    (Original post by Gnostic XXX)
    A definition is a description. “Triangles are three-sided plan figures” is a definition that simultaneously describes that which it is defining.
    In this case, yes. But with theft- or any other ethical or possibly ethical description or definition there are a great many complexities and ambiguities. To take your own example: "Theft is when someone takes an object without permission." Think about all of the underlying assumptions there- even if we accept it as a definition- and you will see that it is much more complicated than the definition or description of a triangle. This has nothing to do with morality actually, but applies to any complex matter- or word- and is worth thinking about in general- and in private!
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    (Original post by Howard)
    *Reaches for the Theft Act* (1959?)
    1968 and all the surrounding case law and further acts on theft (1978, 1996 I think).
 
 
 
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