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What is MORALITY, the concept? Let’s be philosophers.






Which best fits your personal thinking?
This subject is “over my head” but I wish you all the best in plodding through it. (Maybe I’ll check back later to see if anything makes sense to me.)
6%
 6%  [ 1 ]
I would be capable of discussing this subject, but I don’t have the time to spend thinking so deeply right now. (Maybe I will later.)
20%
 20%  [ 3 ]
This subject looks difficult but I’m going to give it my best shot at helping the group think through some things anyway.
46%
 46%  [ 7 ]
Wow! I love this subject! I believe I can contribute some good answers and good questions.
26%
 26%  [ 4 ]
Total Votes : 15

The Philosopher Princess
(If you want to write on the subject of morality, but don’t want to try to meet the strict requirements here, another thread {a sibling thread} has been set up for that purpose, plus much more: Discussion ABOUT the “What is morality?...” thread.)

This topic is for thinkers, for people willing to work through abstract, sometimes complex concepts. It is open to everyone, except those not willing to take time to be sincere and thoughtful. Questioning and humble statements are fine, as long as they fit the sincere and thoughtful criteria. (For example, a single question or assertion -- without accompanying explanations as to why you even bring it up -- will usually be deemed as not fitting the criteria.) I also expect the utmost of courteous behavior in all posts, especially those in disagreement. Smile

I post here just the beginning of a longer piece located at http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/ethics.htm. Italics is in original. Bold and color has been added by me. I also turned some longer paragraphs into multiple paragraphs.

I’m setting this topic up as an open philosophical META discussion on morality. In other words, this is not to discuss what your particular morality is (i.e., not what you think are “right” and “wrong” moral behaviors, not about what mores you would like society to follow.).

Discussion of what is right and wrong thinking at the metaphysical level is pertinent, however, because these are the fundamentals upon which the various moralities depend. This is about what you think morality, the concept, is; from where you think morality comes; and how people do, and can, figure these things out.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy wrote:
Ethics

The field of ethics, also called moral philosophy, involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Philosophers today usually divide ethical theories into three general subject areas: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.

Metaethics investigates where our ethical principles come from, and what they mean. Are they merely social inventions? Do they involve more than expressions of our individual emotions? Metaethical answers to these questions focus on the issues of universal truths, the will of God, the role of reason in ethical judgments, and the meaning of ethical terms themselves.

Normative ethics takes on a more practical task, which is to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. This may involve articulating the good habits that we should acquire, the duties that we should follow, or the consequences of our behavior on others.

Finally, applied ethics involves examining specific controversial issues, such as abortion, infanticide, animal rights, environmental concerns, homosexuality, capital punishment, or nuclear war. By using the conceptual tools of metaethics and normative ethics, discussions in applied ethics try to resolve these controversial issues. The lines of distinction between metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics are often blurry. For example, the issue of abortion is an applied ethical topic since it involves a specific type of controversial behavior. But it also depends on more general normative principles, such as the right of self-rule and the right to life, which are litmus tests for determining the morality of that procedure. The issue also rests on metaethical issues such as, "where do rights come from?" and "what kind of beings have rights?"
Quote:
1. Metaethics

The term "meta" means after or beyond, and, consequently, the notion of metaethics involves a removed, or bird's eye view of the entire project of ethics. We may define metaethics as the study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts. When compared to normative ethics and applied ethics, the field of metaethics is the least precisely defined area of moral philosophy. Two issues, though, are prominent: (1) metaphysical issues concerning whether morality exists independently of humans, and (2) psychological issues concerning the underlying mental basis of our moral judgments and conduct.

1a. Metaphysical Issues: Objectivism and Relativism

"Metaphysics" is the study of the kinds of things that exist in the universe. Some things in the universe are made of physical stuff, such as rocks; and perhaps other things are nonphysical in nature, such as thoughts, spirits, and gods. The metaphysical component of metaethics involves discovering specifically whether moral values are eternal truths that exist in a spirit-like realm, or simply human conventions. There are two general directions that discussions of this topic take, one other-worldly and one this-worldly.

Proponents of the "other-worldly" view typically hold that moral values are objective in the sense that they exist in a spirit-like realm beyond subjective human conventions. They also hold that they are absolute, or eternal, in that they never change, and also that they are universal insofar as they apply to all rational creatures around the world and throughout time.

The most dramatic example of this view is Plato, who was inspired by the field of mathematics. When we look at numbers and mathematical relations, such as 1+1=2, they seem to be timeless concepts that never change, and apply everywhere in the universe. Humans do not invent numbers, and humans cannot alter them. Plato explained the eternal character of mathematics by stating that they are abstract entities that exist in a spirit-like realm. He noted that moral values also are absolute truths and thus are also abstract, spirit-like entities. In this sense, for Plato, moral values are spiritual objects. Medieval philosophers commonly grouped all moral principles together under the heading of "eternal law" which were also frequently seen as spirit-like objects. 17th century British philosopher Samuel Clarke described them as spirit-like relationships rather than spirit-like objects. In either case, though, they exist in a spirit-like realm.

A different other-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of morality is divine commands issuing from God's will. Sometimes called voluntarism, this view was inspired by the notion of an all-powerful God who is in control of everything. God simply wills things, and they become reality. He wills the physical world into existence, he wills human life into existence and, similarly, he wills all moral values into existence. Proponents of this view, such as medieval philosopher William of Ockham, believe that God wills moral principles, such as "murder is wrong," and these exist in God's mind as commands. God informs humans of these commands by implanting us with moral intuitions or revealing these commands in scripture.

The second and more this-worldly approach to the metaphysical status of morality follows in the skeptical philosophical tradition, such as that articulated by Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and denies the objective status of moral values. Technically skeptics did not reject moral values themselves, but only denied that values exist as spirit-like objects, or as divine commands in the mind of God. Moral values, they argued, are strictly human inventions, a position that has since been called moral relativism.

There are two distinct forms of moral relativism. The first is individual relativism, which holds that individual people create their own moral standards. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, argued that the superhuman creates his or her morality distinct from and in reaction to the slave-like value system of the masses.

The second is cultural relativism which maintains that morality is grounded in the approval of one's society - and not simply in the preferences of individual people. This view was advocated by Sextus, and in more recent centuries by Michel Montaigne and William Graham Sumner. In addition to espousing skepticism and relativism, "this-worldly" approaches to the metaphysical status of morality deny the absolute and universal nature of morality and hold instead that moral values in fact change from society to society throughout time and throughout the world. They frequently attempt to defend their position by citing examples of values that differ dramatically from one culture to another, such as attitudes about polygamy, homosexuality and human sacrifice.

There are unlimited starting points for our discussions. Maybe an easy one would be to state whether you fit closer to the other-worldly or the this-worldly thinking (as described above), and why. Also consider, what else of the above you consider to be true, or false, and why.
TheSk8ingFreak
Ethics... That's a toughy! Well let me start by saying this is somewhat of an oxymoron considering you are asking people to try to collectivly work together to figure out what ethics is (are)... this makes little sence considering that what ethics REALLY are, are what people believe they should and should not do. But to be more spacific (and less confusing) Here are the two main types of ethics.

Quote:
deontology: When a person makes a decision about an action based on a set of personal rules of right and wrong. Deontology tells us that people should do “right” things (being honest), and not do “wrong” things (stealing) for the sake of following ethical rules. This can cause problems, if doing the right thing has a negative outcome. For example, if you are honest about the whereabouts of someone being sought by the police and wrongly accused of a crime, the effect is that an innocent person will be arrested. Another problem with deontology is that what one person believes is “right” might be “wrong” to another person. There are no clear rules that all people agree with.

utilitarianism: when a person chooses a behaviour or action that will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people affected by the action. It does not matter if the actual behaviour is “right” or wrong”, the amount of good or harm to others helps make the decision. Utilitarian arguments are based on meeting a specific goal, and not on following rules of right and wrong. If a person were faced with the decision of shoplifting, a utilitarian argument would say that the person should not shoplift because it may cause harm to the store owner, the employee, and other customers. Since a large number of people might be harmed, the person should not shoplift.

I like to think of myself as more of a utilitarianism...ist(?) because I don't always do what is right I do what will have the least negative outcome.

BUT WAIT! you say. Doesn't that mean that you're decisions ARE always right because that is your ethics?!? Well yes I suppose that is true... but that will definatly both agree and disagree with ethics of different people. So, again, the goal of this thread is to find common ground on what ethics is right? Well good luck achieving the impossible, because although two people might agree on many moral points, just one difference can send the people into conflict, (which is what cause conflict, difference in point of view) So maybe you can get alot of people posting what they think is right or wrong on this thread... but who's it to decide who is right?

Good Luck (honestly) Smile


NOTE: Two types of ethics info is found at: http://www.curriculum.org/csc/library/profiles/9/html/2POIITB.htm
parokya
Looks heavy but the concept is not difficult to understand. I am glad that the article identifies ethics with morality as it should be.

Morality is to me simply: the correspondence of human actions with the laws of morality. If there is a natural law, there is also a moral law that is normative for human acts. Human acts are acts that human beings deliberately do as opposed to mere acts of man (like a twitch of the eye). Deliberate actions, since these flow from concrete human decisions, can either be in accordance with the moral law or not. When it is not in accordance with the moral law, then the act is called "immoral".

The moral law is the principle or norm of conduct that right reason discerns in human nature. It too is based on the natural law but as understood in its moral implications. When one does an immoral act, therefore, one is doing something that is similar to a man who jumps from a building in defiance of the law of gravity. Thus, if you point a gun to your head now and try to pull the trigger -- that is if you are in your right mind -- then you'd find it difficult to do so. Even your body will resist the idea because it would instinctively preserve itself.

Of course, what I just said can be easily criticized by those who think that there is no natural law. Because, you see, the moral law theory assumes that everything has its proper place, that there is order in the universe and that this order can be understood by human reason as having moral implications. (There, I've just given you the blade to use against my main argument) Wink
The Philosopher Princess
Please notice that I’ve edited-in some text in the first part of the first post, above, specifying a sibling thread that is now open for discussing things about morality that might not fit the strict requirements here. Over there, people have a lot of freedom to say what they like however they like. (For example, while I feel I need this announcement here, responses to this will be more appropriate over there. Smile)

I have a post to TheSk8ingFreak ready to go next. Thanks for yours, parokya. I’ll study that a bit later.
The Philosopher Princess
Wonderful, TheSk8ingFreak! Welcome to Frihost. I’m honored to have your 5th post be on this topic. Very Happy

The below is long; if you want only one part to respond to, one suggestion is just the last segment, including its question. (Of course I hope you’ll at least read this whole thing. Wink)
~~~~~~~~~~
TheSk8ingFreak wrote:
Well let me start by saying this is somewhat of an oxymoron considering you are asking people to try to collectivly work together to figure out what ethics is (are)... this makes little sence considering that what ethics REALLY are, are what people believe they should and should not do.

Very interesting! I’d like to be more specific on what I mean by concepts worded such as work together as a group. First, I contrast them with specify for the group -- of which a topic that asks posters to “tell us who your favorite singer is” would be an example. But I also contrast them with topics that encourage back-and-forth debating at a surfacy level, but are not particularly trying to encourage people to spend time getting to the deeper stuff, and thus making progress towards a goal. I agree my goal for group work might be futile, but I thought I would give it a try anyway. (Two people’s thinking posts have shown up, so that is a start.)

Now to address a very substantial part of what you said above. There is a big difference between:
(1) Discussion Type #1 -- individuals each saying what they think people ethically “should and should not do”, and
(2) Discussion Type #2 -- individuals discussing ways of discussing #1, such as coming up with language, axioms, structural discussional methods, etc.

An example of #1 is:
Maria says “because God says we should follow the Bible, murder is wrong”, while
Jose says “there’s no proof of God; I say murder is wrong because otherwise humanity can’t survive”, while
Juanita says “I don’t know about God, but murder is okay as long as they deserved it”.

An example of #2 is:
Carlos says “can people like Maria, Jose, and Juanita ever agree that morality always starts with themselves, whether or not they believe in a supernatural being?”, to which
Vicente responds “no, because they...”, and
Rosa responds “yes, because they...”.

This thread is about #2 , not #1. Smile We’re not discussing what is right and wrong. Instead, we are “above and looking at” people who are discussing what is right and wrong. I am not saying this is easy. But this is one kind of thing that philosophers do.

So, the issue you raised on this (and my response) was actually very relevant to #2. Now to the rest of your post.
~~~~~~~~~~
Here’s yet another excellent question you raise:

TheSk8ingFreak wrote:
who's it to decide who is right?

My answer is that both/all “sides” of a (seeming) conflict work to break up the conflict into components until various parts must be agreed to by all sides because they are too obvious not to agree. Here’s an example.

Maria and Jose from above seem to disagree, and at one level they do. Can’t you just imagine them arguing further on whether God exists or not? But they also could discuss things rationally (especially when someone “outside” of them points to this agreement that they could come to): “Hey, you know what? Murder is really the issue of morality, here. We can separate out our disagreement on God, but agree that when it comes to people’s behavior (morality) on murder, murder is always wrong.”
~~~~~~~~~~
TheSk8ingFreak, the concepts/definitions on “deontology” and “utilitarianism” you offer are worthy of considering here.

Here’s a question for you. Staying true to those definitions, would it be possible for a person to be both a deontologist and a utilitarianist?

It seems to me that someone could carefully decide that what is to be considered right and wrong is to be utilitarian about everything. They decide that being altruistic towards as many people as are affected by an action is what should be considered right. And thus, when they act utilitarian, they are also following what they personally consider to be right (as a deontologist would).
TheSk8ingFreak
Hey, I would love to respond to what you have said here, but (rather unfortunatly) I am obligated to go camping with my family for the entire week. But I will think about what you have said while I sit on the beach wishing I was back home. It might also give me some time to look through the dictionary to figure out some of the language you used in the post. This is nothing against you, its just that my ninth grade education doesn't really help me all that much when trying to read a document writen by someone with a far higher level of intelligence! Razz Anyways, I'll be back friday.
A Daily Cup Of Chai
Interesting topic for disscusion.

I would say I take more of an other-worldly view, more specifically, that God created morals which humans can either follow or not, but when they don't their intuitions let them know. But I also would say that some cultural and otherwise societal and individual moral values have been invented separatly from God's moral laws by humans. An example of this could be some societies' call for suicide of widows or unsuccesful warriors in order to not disgrace the family. This would also account for differences in societal values while keeping with my personal views.
The Philosopher Princess
parokya, I think I am fairly well following you.

parokya wrote:
If there is a natural law, there is also a moral law that is normative for human acts.

I would love to get an example of the above -- even 2 or 3 if you’re up to it. I would use these examples to delve into the rest of your cool stuff.

Am I correct to expect such an example to be a set, i.e., including something that fits the natural law part, along with something that fits the moral law part, where both are associated with each other?

(Note that I am only looking for examples that you say fit your definitions and explanations. Other people’s examples are not going to help me understand what you mean, unless you embrace them as well.)
~~~~~~~~~~
parokya wrote:
Human acts are acts that human beings deliberately do as opposed to mere acts of man (like a twitch of the eye).

How do you determine what the (potentially “gray”) line is between what is deliberate and what is not deliberate? For example, if a person is a certifiable kleptomaniac (meaning, at least some people believe the person can’t help stealing), do acts of stealing by that person fit immorality or not?
parokya
[EDIT: The Philosopher Princess fixed the quote tag problem.]

The Philosopher Princess wrote:
~~~~~~~~~~
parokya wrote:
Human acts are acts that human beings deliberately do as opposed to mere acts of man (like a twitch of the eye).

How do you determine what the (potentially “gray”) line is between what is deliberate and what is not deliberate? For example, if a person is a certifiable kleptomaniac (meaning, at least some people believe the person can’t help stealing), do acts of stealing by that person fit immorality or not?

that is a question of imputability if we are talking about a kleptomaniac. Related to the question of deliberate action is the question of whether the morality of an act is imputable to an agent or not. You see, also the circumstances of an action is to be taken into consideration. Like for example a question about marriage: are the persons who wish to enter into marriage capable of commitment? If they are not, then the marriage is null and void.

Your other question about the natural and moral law...

There are no "boxes" where one can categorize something as "natural" or "moral". The moral order is discernible by reason from the natural order. thus, you find moralists arguing that the homosexual act is immoral because it is against the natural order.
The Philosopher Princess
That’s a nicely responsive post, A Daily Cup Of Chai. I’d like to address just the first part, for now. Before that, I have a note, not pointed at you, but to posters in general.

{Important note about “religious talk”} Let me state that what I bring up next might have the potential to lead some people into “religious talk” that is off-topic for this thread. But talk about God and religious stuff can be on-topic, if morality, the concept is the main focus. I have a suggestion to help readers and posters know the difference. When it comes to anything “religious”, you could pretend that you are discussing these topics at a worldwide conference where representatives of many religions other than yours are also attending. The goals of the conference do not include converting each other to each others’ religions, but do include goals external to that.
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A Daily Cup Of Chai wrote:
I would say I take more of an other-worldly view, more specifically, that God created morals which humans can either follow or not, but when they don't their intuitions let them know.

Good. Keeping your view in mind, please consider these 2 kinds of people:

(1) People who do not believe in any gods.

(2) People who believe in a different God (or gods) than you, and thus who believe in a different set of other-worldly godly morals. These people presumably even get a different set of intuitive feelings about what is “right” and “wrong”, because they have undoubtedly learned about their god(s) from human mentors who also believe in the same.

Question: In your view of other-worldly morality, would those #1 and #2 people be acting immorally if they aren’t following what your God set forth as being moral? Whatever your answer, please explain why.

Another question: Take a person who fits either the #1 or the #2 category. If that person acts in 100% complete consistency with the moral actions set forth by your God, however they do so without believing in your God, are they still being 100% moral? In other words, does being moral include just the actions, themselves, or does it also include a mental acknowledging whence the morality came?
make_life_better
Sorry that it's taken so long to get back to this. But I guess (I hope?) that this will be a long-lasting and slow-burning thread. Don't anybody be put off by a slow turnover of posts here... but maybe I'm pre-empting the Princess' view here!

Right then... I'll try to throw some more thoughts into the arena. Forgive me if some of this sounds a little naive, but I am afraid to use complex-sounding words like "normative" because (1) other readers may not understand them and (2) I'm not sure that I know what they mean either! But see my comments below about the lack of a good universal language for ethics and morality - I'm guilty of not using any commonly agreed language for this because I simply don't know it!

It is possible that at least some of morality and ethics (probably the basic concepts/laws/codes) comes from some "other-worldly" origins or place. Then large parts of them are added, extended, rewritten or adjusted by the culture or society in which we live. So we have a hybrid - part fundamental and shared across cultures, and part specific to each culture or society. But we still would like to know where they come from and why we have them at all.

This "other-worldly" origin is not of course a physical place - just that there aren't really good words for the idea in English unless we write an essay on it...This "other-worldly" origin is similar in a way to the concept that a lot of fundamental mathematics is just "out there" and it is being discovered rather than being created. However, mathematics has a nice concise and precise language for describing it, and would seem (so far at least) to be independent of the observer.

Ethics and morality however are much more difficult. They don't have a clear, precise and unambiguous language. And they don't have the nice property of independence from the observer's perspective.

To explain a little further, most people and cultures believe that killing is wrong, stealing is wrong, etc. This feeling is sufficiently universal for that to be an interesting phenomenon in its own right. How is it that so many widely different cultures (even those with wildly different religious beliefs, for example) seem to share some basic common moral and ethical views?

Many would claim that morals and ethics are just a human construct or invention, others would claim that they are given by God or equivalent and beaten into us through our culture in our childhood. Still others would claim that religions themselves are just human inventions. In any case, this still leaves the fact that some of the most basic moral and ethical "laws" are commonly shared by diverse cultures.

There is even a good argument that these "laws" are actually artifacts of our evolved nature - that there are effectively genes for morality and ethics that have been incorporated into our DNA because they offered some evolutionary advantage.

The real complexities and differences start to appear when we move away from the most basic moral and ethical "laws". These start to be interwoven with the cultural traditions and norms of each society in complex ways, so that it is hard to untangle the origins of any given culture's morals and ethics. However maybe there is even a possible role for the scientific method here - maybe if we could untangle a few cultures' moral and ethical codes and see where each of the influences appear, we could try to predict the moral attitudes of another culture or society based on other features of that society.

Finally (for now?) there is the problem that (once we get away from the hard-core basics) morals and ethics are also highly dependent on the context. For example, stealing is wrong. But what if the thief is starving and near death and (s)he is stealing to stay alive? What about stealing to keep their starving child alive? What if they are stealing back something that was previously stolen from them? What if the victim is vastly wealthy? What if the victim is a liar or a cheat or worse? Stealing is still wrong, but we intuitively start to feel degrees of right and wrong, mitigating circumstances, etc.

The problem is that how we start to stack up these mitigating circumstances is strongly interwoven with the viewer's own perspective (are you or do you align yourself with the thief or the victim?) and the culture we have been brought up in.

I don't know if any of this helps push the discussion further forward... this is quite hard to write about without resorting to just stating your own beliefs and biases!
parokya
The Philosopher Princess wrote:

Another question: Take a person who fits either the #1 or the #2 category. If that person acts in 100% complete consistency with the moral actions set forth by your God, however they do so without believing in your God, are they still being 100% moral? In other words, does being moral include just the actions, themselves, or does it also include a mental acknowledging whence the morality came?


This is an interesting question. If morality is based on a moral order that is in turn discerned from the natural order then God-talk need not enter into any discussion on morals. In fact, we can even bracket moral God-talk and concentrate on what the history of philosophy says about the question of morality. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics ... there should be a discussion on them too.
parokya
You made quite a few interesting comments. I quote them here and make my comment.

make_life_better wrote:

It is possible that at least some of morality and ethics (probably the basic concepts/laws/codes) comes from some "other-worldly" origins or place. Then large parts of them are added, extended, rewritten or adjusted by the culture or society in which we live. So we have a hybrid - part fundamental and shared across cultures, and part specific to each culture or society. But we still would like to know where they come from and why we have them at all.

This "other-worldly" origin is not of course a physical place - just that there aren't really good words for the idea in English unless we write an essay on it...This "other-worldly" origin is similar in a way to the concept that a lot of fundamental mathematics is just "out there" and it is being discovered rather than being created. However, mathematics has a nice concise and precise language for describing it, and would seem (so far at least) to be independent of the observer.


It is unfortunate that for lack of words you've used "other-worldly" although what you seem to be saying is similar to what I've posted above about the moral order that is discerned from the natural order. But I'd wait for further clarification on this.

make_life_better wrote:

Many would claim that morals and ethics are just a human construct or invention, others would claim that they are given by God or equivalent and beaten into us through our culture in our childhood. Still others would claim that religions themselves are just human inventions. In any case, this still leaves the fact that some of the most basic moral and ethical "laws" are commonly shared by diverse cultures.


Morality as "human construct" would depend on the assumption (perhaps coming from some Kantian understanding of practical reason) that it is the SUBJECT that creates the moral categories. This can be made to harmonize with the idea that you explain later about a kind of "baggage morality" that is passed on from one generation to another. Again, there is also the idea that morality and laws comes from a social contract between the weak against the strong and which has developed throughout the history of human society. Was it J.J. Rousseau who suggested this? All these theories depend on the assumption that it is man and society as a whole which "creates" morality. In this sense, the natural order doesn't have anything to say. However, these theories of morality fail to explain why morality isn't a cultural phenomenon alone. If each culture has its own morality, why is it that murder is seen as immoral across varying cultures? Different moral traditions are explained by these "subjective theories" but the agreements among cultures cannot be taken for granted.


make_life_better wrote:

Finally (for now?) there is the problem that (once we get away from the hard-core basics) morals and ethics are also highly dependent on the context. For example, stealing is wrong. But what if the thief is starving and near death and (s)he is stealing to stay alive? What about stealing to keep their starving child alive? What if they are stealing back something that was previously stolen from them? What if the victim is vastly wealthy? What if the victim is a liar or a cheat or worse? Stealing is still wrong, but we intuitively start to feel degrees of right and wrong, mitigating circumstances, etc.


This sounds like the circumstances of morality I have described above. Although when you mention the word "context", it would look as if you are pointing to a specific theory: "Situational ethics." Again I'd wait for further clarifications coming from you on this area, especially since you add the following:

make_life_better wrote:

The problem is that how we start to stack up these mitigating circumstances is strongly interwoven with the viewer's own perspective (are you or do you align yourself with the thief or the victim?) and the culture we have been brought up in.


Could you give an example of this? I find it interesting.
parokya
The Philosopher Princess wrote:


parokya wrote:
If there is a natural law, there is also a moral law that is normative for human acts.

I would love to get an example of the above -- even 2 or 3 if you’re up to it. I would use these examples to delve into the rest of your cool stuff.



Sorry, I forgot to give more examples. Here are three. The first thing I mention is a relationship that is natural and it will be followed by something moral and immoral

1. The natural relationship of parents to children --> parricide is immoral; reverence to parents is moral.
2. The natural inclination of every man to worship gods or God (we call this religion, I think) --> to inhibit any man from worshipping is immoral; respect between people of differing religions is moral
3. The natural link between sex and procreation --> inhibition of procreative powers in the act of sex is immoral (if you will accept the natural-->moral continuity); marriage as the natural context of sex is moral (since procreation leads to children who can only grow into productive members of society within a stable household where there is a father and a mother who makes it their life-long commitment to share the burdens of raising a family.
The Philosopher Princess
(Meta-notes to TheSk8ingFreak and make_life_better are on the sibling topic.)
~~~~~~~~~~
parokya wrote:
The Philosopher Princess wrote:
Another question: Take a person who fits either the #1 or the #2 category. If that person acts in 100% complete consistency with the moral actions set forth by your God, however they do so without believing in your God, are they still being 100% moral? In other words, does being moral include just the actions, themselves, or does it also include a mental acknowledging whence the morality came?

This is an interesting question. If morality is based on a moral order that is in turn discerned from the natural order then God-talk need not enter into any discussion on morals. In fact, we can even bracket moral God-talk and concentrate on what the history of philosophy says about the question of morality. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics ... there should be a discussion on them too.

Interesting, yourself Smile! Believe it or not, as a general rule, when I am caused to think about thinking about “other-worldly concepts”, Plato comes to my mind first. But, when morality is the more specific context along with “other-worldly concepts”, then I think of God first, given that the latter is discussed publicly so much as being the basis of many people’s philosophies. (Most people do not go around these days saying they are Plato-based, even though I think a good number probably are to some extent, because they say some similar things that do not match other philosophies.)

Plato was really big on the notion that concepts exist outside of human knowledge. This would include such seemingly insignificant concepts as “chair” and “book”, and such seemingly significant concepts as “good” and “moral”.
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Here’s something for you. Consider for a moment, only the various people who accept the existence of “other-worldly concepts” (i.e., not including those people who require concepts to be “this-worldly”).

Question A: What things would be similar about their philosophies and yet not depend whether they were God-based, Plato-based, etc.?

Question B: What things must be different, given the different starting bases?

To Question A, I think one answer is that all of them believe that it is possible that at least some “other-worldly” truths can somehow be injected/transferred/conveyed/translated from other-worldly into this-worldly. (This is quite an important belief.) Because otherwise, how would they believe that humans can even know about such concepts, much less use some of them in a practical way as a moral course of life? (And then this leads to: Wow! How do these other-worldly-to-this-worldly translations happen?)

To Question B, one answer that comes to mind is that differences will depend on whether the other-worldly basis is an interactive participant or not. For example, those who believe that a god is actively sending them information will go in one direction (including needing to personally meet, know, and interact with their god). On the other hand, there are those who believe that, while the concepts exist “outside” of humans, they do not depend on any supernatural being interactivity, and instead are just “there”; these people will go in another direction in learning how to get “the truth” transferred from other-worldly to this-worldly.
~~~~~~~~~~
(There’s a world of more good stuff in your writings yet to be analyzed by me. And I also haven’t even begun on make_life_better’s deep stuff yet.)
parokya
The Philosopher Princess wrote:

Question B: What things must be different, given the different starting bases?

To Question A, I think one answer is that all of them believe that it is possible that at least some “other-worldly” truths can somehow be injected/transferred/conveyed/translated from other-worldly into this-worldly. (This is quite an important belief.) Because otherwise, how would they believe that humans can even know about such concepts, much less use some of them in a practical way as a moral course of life? (And then this leads to: Wow! How do these other-worldly-to-this-worldly translations happen?)

To Question B, one answer that comes to mind is that differences will depend on whether the other-worldly basis is an interactive participant or not. For example, those who believe that a god is actively sending them information will go in one direction (including needing to personally meet, know, and interact with their god). On the other hand, there are those who believe that, while the concepts exist “outside” of humans, they do not depend on any supernatural being interactivity, and instead are just “there”; these people will go in another direction in learning how to get “the truth” transferred from other-worldly to this-worldly.
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"All men desire to be happy." Let us start with that...

Question: How did man know about happiness? Did he know about it before he was born? If that is not the case and man would like to find it, how could he recognize it when he does find it? Without previous knowledge, man would never know what happiness is.

Plato's solution: The world of ideas. Man has fallen away from it and can only know ideas such as "happiness" through reminiscences.

Aristotle's solution: Abstraction. Through particular manifestations (e.g. feeling of well being, a smile on the face ) that are associated with "happy" one is able to form the idea of "happiness."

Let us transfer this to the issue of morality and ethics...

We can begin from the experience that we already have some inkling of what is wrong and what is right. Where does this come from? I think the whole of moral theory would like to give an explanation to that. Since a lot of explanations are offered, we can only choose the best possible explanation: the one that plugs up all the holes, so to speak.

To go back to the question of ThisWorldly and OtherWorldly bases for morality... The "gods" have always been active in giving direction to human beings. AFter all, in the most ancient traditions of mythic religions, we -- the humans -- were created as slaves of the gods. Hence, in older civilizations certain things were taboo precisely because the gods prohibited them.

Atheists like Plato and Aristotle (oh yes, the original meaning of atheist is not really "people who don't accept the existence of god or gods" but "people who have taken away the myth from the gods") have taught civilization to move away from the old mythical-based moralities, away from taboos, and make use of human discernment to make decisions and act responsibly. Cool
The Philosopher Princess
Two thoughts come to me immediately (not yet having had a chance to consider it all).

parokya wrote:
"All men desire to be happy." Let us start with that...

When you say “Let us start with that...”, do you mean:

(1) "All men desire to be happy." is an axiom that you believe to be true? or

(2) "All men desire to be happy." is an axiom that you are posing hypothetically for us to consider (whether or not it is true)? or

(3) Something else?
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parokya wrote:
We can begin from the experience that we already have some inkling of what is wrong and what is right.

Yes. Along with this, however, I think that it will become extremely important to separate out:

(4) “what is wrong and what is right” due to reality
(e.g., it is wrong to expect to make friends with a wild adult boar because the reality is that it’s likely going to kill you before a friendship can occur) from

(5) “what is wrong and what is right” due to imposed human (moral) law
(e.g., it is wrong to encourage someone else to murder, even if you think it will help you).

In other words, we need to de-conflate (into #4 & #5) if we’re going to get to the point of understanding what’s going on with “what is wrong and what is right”. Because, what if, for example, the inklings of what is right and wrong that we already have only fit in the #4 category?

(One may think that the #4 category does not have to do with morality. But I contend that there are things in the #5 category that also should not have to do with morality. That would call for even more categorization.)

More, later! Thanks! Smile
parokya
The Philosopher Princess wrote:
Two thoughts come to me immediately (not yet having had a chance to consider it all).

parokya wrote:
"All men desire to be happy." Let us start with that...

When you say “Let us start with that...”, do you mean:

(1) "All men desire to be happy." is an axiom that you believe to be true? or

(2) "All men desire to be happy." is an axiom that you are posing hypothetically for us to consider (whether or not it is true)? or

(3) Something else?


Let us take it as something true.
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The Philosopher Princess wrote:

(4) “what is wrong and what is right” due to reality
(e.g., it is wrong to expect to make friends with a wild adult boar because the reality is that it’s likely going to kill you before a friendship can occur) from

(5) “what is wrong and what is right” due to imposed human (moral) law
(e.g., it is wrong to encourage someone else to murder, even if you think it will help you).

In other words, we need to de-conflate (into #4 & #5) if we’re going to get to the point of understanding what’s going on with “what is wrong and what is right”. Because, what if, for example, the inklings of what is right and wrong that we already have only fit in the #4 category?

(One may think that the #4 category does not have to do with morality. But I contend that there are things in the #5 category that also should not have to do with morality. That would call for even more categorization.)

More, later! Thanks! Smile


I think you are overplaying the issue. Why cite extreme cases like befriending a boar (would anyone?) or encourage murder (no one would like to encourage "murder" but some people would pay that another get killed. For these, to murder someone would be different from killing someone. "Murder" has legal implications you see. Smile )
Victoly
I am short on time, and hope to respond to this in greater detail later, but there are a few short things that I would like to say:

Firstly, the word to describe someone who believes in utilitarianism is "utilitarian". There's no -ist word. :) Also, in reply to one of the posts above on the subject, the notion that humans desire happiness first and foremost is by no means axiomatic and requires some form of argument or proof before it should be accepted.

Secondly...

parokya wrote:
thus, you find moralists arguing that the homosexual act is immoral because it is against the natural order.


I know this is a bit off-topic, but you won't find (m)any reputable moralists claiming that since homosexuality is very much a part of the "natural order": homosexuality has been a part of the human species for as long as our recorded history exists and also exists within many other animal species. Homosexuality is quite natural, and any serious moral thinker of naturalist persuasions would most certainly realize this.
parokya
Victoly wrote:

I know this is a bit off-topic, but you won't find (m)any reputable moralists claiming that since homosexuality is very much a part of the "natural order": homosexuality has been a part of the human species for as long as our recorded history exists and also exists within many other animal species. Homosexuality is quite natural, and any serious moral thinker of naturalist persuasions would most certainly realize this.

Wait a minute now, homosexuality for me has a very strict meaning: it refers to a life style that encourages sexual acts between people of the same sex. If I was not clear before, I make it clear now. The homosexual, homosexuality and the homosexual act are not the same. Please keep this distinction in mind.

To the claim that "homosexuality is quite natural" I beg to differ. If this were true, it wouldn't be an issue now.
The Philosopher Princess
...putting my thread Facilitator “hat” on...

Victoly and parokya, everything you two have said above concerning homosexuality is on-topic. However, out of the many possible examples of which to apply meta-morality discussion, I’m going to request that this one not be continued here. That is because there have been so many discussions recently on Frihost (here and other places) on the naturalness and the morality of homosexuality that I think it might become too redundant here. So, thanks, for your understanding. And, again, everything you have said up to now is fine. Smile

Could I instead interest you guys in some polygamy? (Razz)
The Philosopher Princess
parokya wrote:
The Philosopher Princess wrote:
parokya wrote:
"All men desire to be happy." Let us start with that...

When you say “Let us start with that...”, do you mean:

(1) "All men desire to be happy." is an axiom that you believe to be true? or

(2) "All men desire to be happy." is an axiom that you are posing hypothetically for us to consider (whether or not it is true)? or

(3) Something else?

Let us take it as something true.

Okay, thanks. That assertion is something I recognize as being something that a fair number of people believe. Now I’ll go back to your original assertion.
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parokya wrote:
"All men desire to be happy." Let us start with that...

Question: How did man know about happiness? Did he know about it before he was born? If that is not the case and man would like to find it, how could he recognize it when he does find it? Without previous knowledge, man would never know what happiness is.

If it is true that "All men desire to be happy." as you assert, then how can there be a valid question about whether or not a man could recognize it when he finds it?

In other words:

Arrow If one desires something, then he must know what that something is; otherwise his desire must be for something else. (Maybe he wouldn’t know where to find “it”, but if he is desiring “it”, he at least should be able to recognize “it” if and when found.)

Arrow But if someone might not know “it” if they have “it” or could do something to have “it”, then he may have some kind of desire, but it is not for “it”.

This is not just word play I’m doing. There is an issue of what exactly your term “happy” stands for when you assert "All men desire to be happy."

(And, by the way, that is a good starting point for many good discussions.)
parokya
The Philosopher Princess wrote:

Okay, thanks. That assertion is something I recognize as being something that a fair number of people believe. Now I’ll go back to your original assertion.
~~~~~~~~~~
parokya wrote:
"All men desire to be happy." Let us start with that...

Question: How did man know about happiness? Did he know about it before he was born? If that is not the case and man would like to find it, how could he recognize it when he does find it? Without previous knowledge, man would never know what happiness is.

If it is true that "All men desire to be happy." as you assert, then how can there be a valid question about whether or not a man could recognize it when he finds it?

In other words:

Arrow If one desires something, then he must know what that something is; otherwise his desire must be for something else. (Maybe he wouldn’t know where to find “it”, but if he is desiring “it”, he at least should be able to recognize “it” if and when found.)

Arrow But if someone might not know “it” if they have “it” or could do something to have “it”, then he may have some kind of desire, but it is not for “it”.


Precisely. That is why I presented the solutions of Plato and Aristotle to the question. (See the original post)
The Philosopher Princess wrote:

This is not just word play I’m doing. There is an issue of what exactly your term “happy” stands for when you assert "All men desire to be happy."


Just to bracket the question "What is happiness" for the moment, here is an article from Zenit that I have posted in a blog. What we are interested here is the method of reflection, what you call, meta-ethics. I posted the observation with regards to your discussion on "this-worldly" and "other-worldly" bases of morality. If I understand Plato and Aristotle correctly, both are possible. But you see, if we employ Ockham's razor -- which scientists use as a standard -- there can only be one basis of the moral law, not two. And that basis the moral philosopher must decide on in the light of which is more probable (scientists choose on the basis of probability, not certainty).

Now here is the hitch...

If one decides on the basis of morality from two possibilities then ultimately, all that we say about ethics and morality will depend on what is judged to be probable based on present knowledge. In other words, everything we will say about ethics and morality will have to be derived on what we think is probably the basis of morality: whether it is "this-worldly" (Aristotle) or "other-worldly" (Plato, please, not the Ten Commandments).
parokya
The Philosopher Princess wrote:

Could I instead interest you guys in some polygamy? (Razz)


I'll be interested. So is the discussion on monogamy vs. polygamy? So who's going to post the parameters of the discussion?
The Philosopher Princess
parokya wrote:
The Philosopher Princess wrote:

Could I instead interest you guys in some polygamy? (Razz)

I'll be interested. So is the discussion on monogamy vs. polygamy? So who's going to post the parameters of the discussion?

You are welcome to set such parameters -- as long as they fit within the original, meta-morality context. We aren’t looking for which is more moral, but, for example, how such morality might be figured out validly. Also, it could be, but it’s not necessarily “monogamy vs. polygamy” because competing with those would be bachelor/bachelorette-hood. I’ll say a couple things on this and see what you might add.

Within a context of marriage, and the sub-context of monogamy vs. polygamy, it can be fascinating to study how it is that various cultures will require the former, and other cultures will (practically) require or at least allow the latter. A question is why do these cultures -- both made up of the same species of human beings -- come to different morality consensuses?

Is it a matter of figuring out what’s “practical” first, and then a matter of designating the marital structure that fits that “practicality” to be the one that’s moral? For example, what caused Mormons to begin supporting polygamy? Some people explain Mormon history as recognizing their religious founder, Joseph Smith, first being a personal partaker of and proponent of polygamy. Then, when he started recruiting for his religion, he mostly recruited women, and coming along with that was stating unequivocally that polygamy was moral. In other words, it wasn’t that there was a polygamy-supporting religion first, and then he partook. It was that he partook, and then founded a religion that was made to be consistent.

In another context, it’s interesting to observe Christians who say that they follow their Christian Bible. But the Bible seems to make no bones about supporting polygamy in numerous parts of it, yet many of the followers will state unequivocally that polygamy is wrong. So, how and why is it that they seem to have a contradiction there?
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Potential Posters: We welcome you here, but please remember that we must stay at the meta-morality level. Don’t talk about what you think is right and wrong. Talk about what you observe of others on how they determine what is right and wrong.
Bikerman
parokya wrote:
Looks heavy but the concept is not difficult to understand. I am glad that the article identifies ethics with morality as it should be.

Morality is to me simply: the correspondence of human actions with the laws of morality. If there is a natural law, there is also a moral law that is normative for human acts. Human acts are acts that human beings deliberately do as opposed to mere acts of man (like a twitch of the eye). Deliberate actions, since these flow from concrete human decisions, can either be in accordance with the moral law or not. When it is not in accordance with the moral law, then the act is called "immoral".

A few problems - the first sentence is a tautology since it defines morality in terms of morality. Second, where would this 'lawful' law come from - presumably a divinity ? In both cases it seems to assume that morality is in some way a fixed ideal. My own experience is that morality is a much more flexible and changing entity than you suggest. What was correct morality in (say) bilical times is no longer such today to a very large extent. Different questions and different relationships to the individuals, groups and cultures in society evolve naturally and, with them, shoft both the moral climate in the first instance and, ultimately, the accepted moral code.
The rest of the paragraph is, I'm afraid, another tautology, since it defines immorality in self-referential terms.
Quote:

The moral law is the principle or norm of conduct that right reason discerns in human nature. It too is based on the natural law but as understood in its moral implications. When one does an immoral act, therefore, one is doing something that is similar to a man who jumps from a building in defiance of the law of gravity. Thus, if you point a gun to your head now and try to pull the trigger -- that is if you are in your right mind -- then you'd find it difficult to do so. Even your body will resist the idea because it would instinctively preserve itself.

Of course, what I just said can be easily criticized by those who think that there is no natural law. Because, you see, the moral law theory assumes that everything has its proper place, that there is order in the universe and that this order can be understood by human reason as having moral implications. (There, I've just given you the blade to use against my main argument) Wink


Not really, since your argument fails long before the end. Your second paragraph defines morality (again) in terms of human nature whereas you had previously made the case for a specifically separate moral and ethical law. No offence but I think you need to consider the argument a bit more before committing to post. I do the same myself sometimes - get ahead of my fingers.

To be a bit more positive, I'll attempt my own definitions.
Morality - the social reflection of individual ethics across a group, society, or organisation. The details of content and context are very often assumed rather than explicitly agreed or stated, and many will differ from the 'agreed' morality on one or more issues. The group or society acknowledges the presence and necessity for such a code but, in reality, rarely consider it when deciding on issues which require an ethical judgement. The core of this 'agreed' morality forms a legal system in a country or state and the less defined and more debatable elements of this moral code are used by individuals and groups often to define themselves within the overall country in which they live. In essence, then, morality, I would argue, is a social construct and owes very little to either a 'divinity' or, indeed, to any individual concept of ethics. It is, to this extent, a self creating and perpetuating system of rules (both written and unwritten) that changes with time and is often difficult to define at the edges.

Ethics - the personal sense of right and wrong that each individual would seem to have to at least some extent, excepting, perhaps, extreme sociopaths and even then I would probably not agree.
This is a personal code and, as such, varies quite widely within even a homogoenous culture or group. Within multiethic countries such as ours there are often extremenly wide differences in ethics and this is dealt with by incorporating the most acceptible ethics into the social morality and legal system. The more contentious areas are generally left to individuals or families to debate and enforce.

Cheers
Chris
Bikerman
Hmm......Surprised nobody has picked me up on definitions yet Smile

OK...I'll debate myself then.
Anti-me: Ethics is, by normally agreed definition the more 'general' agreed system so you appear to have it backwards in your definitions..
Me: Good point. Ethics comes from the Greek 'ethikos' meaning system of living. Morality comes from the Latin 'moralis' first coined by Cicero in a translation of the Greek 'ethikos') meaning 'pertaining to manners' or, more loosely the 'proper behaviour for a person in society'. One could argue that in fact both terms are different cultural words for the same basic concept. A generally agree definition in modern times has morality as being more concerned with the individual, however, for utilitarian reasons, as demonstrated by the argument:
[quote]it is not useful to adopt a definition of “morality” as meaning the code of conduct accepted by the members of a society because in many large societies, not all members of the society accept the same code of conduct. Nor is it useful to adopt a somewhat more general definition of “morality” as the code of conduct accepted by the members of a group because it is not only always possible, it is often the case, that not all members of any group accept the same code. A natural outcome of these problems is to switch attention from groups to individuals.[quote]

This consideration leads to a new descriptive sense of “morality”, which is taken to mean that guide to behaviour that is regarded by an individual as overriding and that he wants to be universally adopted. [See R. M. Hare, Moral Thinking]. My point is that I don't accept this modern revisionism. Morality, to me, is intended to mean the societal code of conduct rather than the individual one. Some perceive a problem though.
Quote:
When “morality” is used in this descriptive way, moralities can differ from each other in their content and in the foundation that members of the society claim their morality to have. A society might have a morality that is primarily concerned with practices not related to other persons, e.g., which days must be devoted to certain rituals, and might claim that their morality, which is concerned primarily with ritual, is based on the commands of God. Or a society might have a morality that is concerned primarily with sexual practices, and claim that their morality, which has this concern, is based on human nature. Or a society might regard morality as being concerned primarily with practices that minimize the harms that people suffer and claim that their morality, which has this concern, is based on reason. Many societies have moralities that are concerned with all of the above and that are claimed to have all three of the above foundations. But, in this sense of “morality,” regardless of its content, or the justification that those who accept the morality claim for it, the only universal features that all moralities have is that they are put forward by a society and they provide a guide for the behaviour of the people in that society. In this sense of “morality,” morality might allow slavery or might allow some people with one skin colour to behave in ways that those with a different skin colour are not allowed to behave. In this sense of “morality,” it is not even essential that morality incorporate impartiality with regard to all moral agents, those people whose behaviour is subject to moral judgments, or that it be universalizable in any significant way.

I don't accept this argument, however, because I am taking a different philosophical position. It is true that most philosophers don't use “morality” in the sense of 'a code of conduct put forward by a society' which is, admittedly, a descriptive sense, some philosophers do. I'm taking the position of the 'Ethical relativist'. In so much, I would deny that there is any universal normative morality. There are philosophical and also linguistic justifications for this.
Only when the term “morality” is used in this descriptive sense is there something that it actually refers to (a referent); namely, a code of conduct put forward by a society. If “morality” is taken to refer to 'a universal code of conduct that would be endorsed by all rational persons', then there is no referent for the term “morality.” By this I mean that although I agree that many speakers of English use “morality” to refer to such a universal code of conduct, such persons are mistaken in thinking that there is anything that is the referent, i.e. any such entity as the subject of the term. Linguistically speaking, 'referent' is the concrete object or concept that is designated by a word or expression. Without a referent, the word or expression is philosophically meaningless. Morality must, therefore, refer to identifiable groups within society and cannot be taken as something 'universal'
Anti-me: OK...I see your argument that morality must refer to groups of people rather than some universal 'ideal', but that does not refute the claim that this relative use of the term leads ultimately to a moral relativism which has the effect of fragmenting society into a group of individualists who each justify their actions in terms of a personal world-view.
Me: Not at all. Even if it did, this would not be more potentially destructive than what has happened under conditions where a univeral morality was taken and accepted as a guide. cf 1930s Germany, cf 1940/50s Russia (Stalinism), Cambodia 1950s (Pol Pot). The argument you use is that a universal definition of the term 'morality' is ultimately good for society because if individuals are left able to define their own behavioural codes then this would lead to chaos or other social catastrophe. I argue that this is not the case and it is actually quite patronising.


Cheers

Chris
The Philosopher Princess
Thanks for your contributions to our discussion Very Happy! I can’t address them all at once, so I’ll start with just one thing.

Bikerman wrote:
In both cases it seems to assume that morality is in some way a fixed ideal. My own experience is that morality is a much more flexible and changing entity than you suggest. What was correct morality in (say) bilical times is no longer such today to a very large extent.

Yes, as times change, many things change about what humans think and do -- and that’s true concerning individuals and the aggregates of all humans. But would you be able to acknowledge that a person could hold a particular morality (a set of moral rules) that they would reasonably believe was the right one for all times? Before answering, please consider my example. And realize that I’m not challenging your particular morality, but putting light on some others’.

Example: In the U.S. Civil War times (before, during, and somewhat after), many white people thought of black people as inferior to themselves -- even so far as they supported black people being lynched just for being black and no other reason. Now let’s “look” at a hypothetical group (which I’ll call “G”) of white people today in the U.S. who do not believe that black people are, or ever have been, inferior to white people. The G people hold a morality that includes a rule that it’s morally wrong to lynch black people just for being black.

When we -- you, Bikerman, and I -- look at this situation, we recognize that the times in C.War days were very different than today for whites and blacks. But when we analyze the morality of the G people, it seems to me that we can see that the part of their morality on lynching blacks is something that is timeless. The G’s and we can recognize that times have changed, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was okay to kill blacks back then, while it’s not okay now.

The G’s might say, “We know our ancestors were brought up differently than we were, but they were wrong to kill blacks for being black.”

In other words, people can take note of differences without condoning what they consider to be immoral. There are some moral rules that -- whether we agree with their validity or not -- we should be able to recognize that for others it is reasonable that they are moral rules for all times, not just certain times.

This leads to a question: Should the moral rules that depend on the times be separated from, and analyzed differently from, the moral rules that are supposed to be true for all times? If so, how would we do that?
The Philosopher Princess
Bikerman wrote:
Morality - the social reflection of individual ethics across a group, society, or organisation. The details of content and context are very often assumed rather than explicitly agreed or stated, and many will differ from the 'agreed' morality on one or more issues. The group or society acknowledges the presence and necessity for such a code but, in reality, rarely consider it when deciding on issues which require an ethical judgement. The core of this 'agreed' morality forms a legal system in a country or state and the less defined and more debatable elements of this moral code are used by individuals and groups often to define themselves within the overall country in which they live. In essence, then, morality, I would argue, is a social construct and owes very little to either a 'divinity' or, indeed, to any individual concept of ethics. It is, to this extent, a self creating and perpetuating system of rules (both written and unwritten) that changes with time and is often difficult to define at the edges.

In this approach to morality, since, as you say, the “details of content and context are very often assumed rather than explicitly agreed or stated”, then isn’t it true that no one -- literally, no one -- can ever know if what they are doing is moral or immoral?

In fact, for that approach, since no one can ever know it, in a certain sense, it doesn’t exist. Note that there are many things in reality that exist whether or not humans know they exist (for example, some distant planet we haven’t yet discovered exists even though we don’t know about it). But something that depends on human knowledge -- i.e., the kind of morality in your definition above -- can’t exist without that knowledge.

If we take your definition as precisely as possible, it seems that nothing can ever fit it. Or maybe we could say it differently, namely, that the definition contradicts itself so cannot be a valid definition.

Contrast that with a morality that comes from a Divinity. If there is such a thing as a Divinity who defines the moral rules for humans, then those moral rules exist whether or not humans (yet) know them.

(But there are also other ways to derive moral rules that are different from both of those two ways, the two ways being (1) your “social reflection of individual”s and (2) from a Divinity.)
Bikerman
The Philosopher Princess wrote:
Thanks for your contributions to our discussion Very Happy! I can’t address them all at once, so I’ll start with just one thing.
....
as times change, many things change about what humans think and do -- and that’s true concerning individuals and the aggregates of all humans. But would you be able to acknowledge that a person could hold a particular morality (a set of moral rules) that they would reasonably believe was the right one for all times? Before answering, please consider my example. And realize that I’m not challenging your particular morality, but putting light on some others’.
That's fine...and I'm quite comfortable with being challenged so don't feel you have to hold back from doing so.
(My initial answer to this, btw, is no, but I'll certainly read on).
Quote:

Example: In the U.S. Civil War times (before, during, and somewhat after), many white people thought of black people as inferior to themselves -- even so far as they supported black people being lynched just for being black and no other reason. Now let’s “look” at a hypothetical group (which I’ll call “G”) of white people today in the U.S. who do not believe that black people are, or ever have been, inferior to white people. The G people hold a morality that includes a rule that it’s morally wrong to lynch black people just for being black.
The problem I see here is that the group G may be basing their ethic on all sorts of different reasoning and reach the same conclusion without sharing the same chain of reasoning or internal ethical sense. Many slave owners, for example, would completely agree that lynching was a terrible thing to do, but their reasoning may well be simply commercial.
Quote:

When we -- you, Bikerman, and I -- look at this situation, we recognize that the times in C.War days were very different than today for whites and blacks. But when we analyze the morality of the G people, it seems to me that we can see that the part of their morality on lynching blacks is something that is timeless. The G’s and we can recognize that times have changed, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was okay to kill blacks back then, while it’s not okay now.
OK - to an extent I agree that there are certain fairly universal principles and concepts which an 'ethical' person would naturally tend to adopt. The problem is that these are usually quite limited in number and scope. In the case above most people would regard this as a specific case of the general ethic - don't kill people. Yet even this apparently timeless and solid ethical idea is neither absolute nor universal. In times of conflict the state reserves to itself the power to coerce citizens to break this ethical stance. Many Christians seem to have little difficulty accepting capital punishment - many are proactive in their support. The outrages recently in the Lebannon are conceived and executed by a group which specifically define themselves as believers in the Decalogue.. So even this most fundamental ethical principle is somewhat inconsistently applied by most people.
Quote:

The G’s might say, “We know our ancestors were brought up differently than we were, but they were wrong to kill blacks for being black.”

In other words, people can take note of differences without condoning what they consider to be immoral. There are some moral rules that -- whether we agree with their validity or not -- we should be able to recognize that for others it is reasonable that they are moral rules for all times, not just certain times.
No, I disagree on two counts.
1) If one disagrees with the validity of a particular ethic then it would be either patronising or craven to accept it as reasonable for others since, presumably, your objection is based on a genuine problem with the ethic.

2) As demonstrated with killing, there are no consistent ethical rules which apply universally. This is true for this, the most obviously desirable and widespread item of ethics, so how much more so for other more questionable ethical positions ?
Quote:

This leads to a question: Should the moral rules that depend on the times be separated from, and analyzed differently from, the moral rules that are supposed to be true for all times? If so, how would we do that?


It assumes such a class exists which, as stated. I question.
Let us pretend that the ethic 'thou shalt not kill' is accepted universally and consistently. That would be one. The next one is harder, and from here on each subsequent ethic gets more so. Stealing ? Lying ? These are things which the majority of people would agree to be useful ethics but would also be in frequent transgression of. Furthermore I would not accept them as valid unconditional ethical constraints since it is not difficult to conceive of a situation in which I would, without guilt, do both.
In so far as it is possible to universalise a set of ethical precepts then one has a fairly good exemplar in some of the Abrahamic decalogue or 'commandments' (I would not accept numbers 1,2 3 and 4 personally).
A second objection would be that morals or ethics which one could identify as partial or temporal would not really qualify as ethics in my own sense of the word. Whilst I accept (indeed I am claiming) that ethical codes are changeable with time, I think that anyone trying to build that into a belief system would run the risk of being insincere or, at least, overly pragmatic in their world-view. Thus, in my case, my ethical objection to killing is fairly universal. I would probablt be a conscientious objector should that situation arise and I oppose capital punishment. After that my ethical code is complex, and quite idiosynchratic. There are very few simple absolutes in my own code of ethics.

Regards
Chris
The Philosopher Princess
Thanks for lots of good thoughts! This is the one I’d like to focus on for the moment.

Bikerman wrote:
OK - to an extent I agree that there are certain fairly universal principles and concepts which an 'ethical' person would naturally tend to adopt. The problem is that these are usually quite limited in number and scope.

What exactly would it take to meet your qualifications such that particular “universal principles and concepts” of morality are accepted not just to a certain extent, but fully accepted?

I’m not saying this is a question that can be answered easily. It’s something we could work on. But, theoretically, if some principles meet qualifications to a certain extent, then more clarification should be able to be made such that the wishy washy parts are separated from the fully universal parts.

Another way I might ask this is: What precisely meets your “limited in number and scope”?
Bikerman
The Philosopher Princess wrote:
What exactly would it take to meet your qualifications such that particular “universal principles and concepts” of morality are accepted not just to a certain extent, but fully accepted?

I don't think that is either possible or, in fact, desirable. History is replete with examples of leaders imposing ethical 'system' on people. From the Catholic church torturing and killing huge numbers in the name of piety, to figures like Stalin and Pol Pot who would probably argue that they were engaged in creating ethical societies. The ultimate arbiter of right and wrong is the individual and that must be correct. Society draws a ringfence around the area in the form of a legal system but this, I think, is more pragmatic than ethically based. Indeed the problems come when the state starts to move too far into the realm of personal ethics and morality. The sight of any politician pontificating on morality should induce howls of laughter or outright scorn in sensible people. I am beginning to think that Blairs crimes over the last few years are driven by a belief in some higher moral justification, since I can see no other logic or reason for his decisions.

The Philosopher Princess wrote:

Another way I might ask this is: What precisely meets your “limited in number and scope”?

I suppose that the legal fence would satisfy this. General interdictions on killing, theft, fraud, violence and the like. I think this is acceptible and desirable for any society but the legal system should deal only with morality in so far as it is necessary for safety and security of it's citizens.

Regards
Chris
The Philosopher Princess
Bikerman wrote:
The Philosopher Princess wrote:
What exactly would it take to meet your qualifications such that particular “universal principles and concepts” of morality are accepted not just to a certain extent, but fully accepted?

I don't think that is either possible or, in fact, desirable.

On the “desirable” part, that’s not for us to decide at this meta-morality level because we are looking at others’ moralities, and are not supposed to be discussing our own per se.

On the whether or not it’s “possible” part, that is very relevant. That is what I’m trying to get at. Would it be fair to say that if a moral rule fit the criteria that.....

Bikerman wrote:
it is necessary for safety and security of it's citizens

.....then that makes it a universal principle in your view, and otherwise it’s not?
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