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Another morality thread...

Discussion in 'Ethics & Morality' started by Econ4every1, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. zephcom

    zephcom Active Member

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    Pretty much. Those subjective values then get encoded into the culture's religion and laws. We have seen that happen in America. In the first decades of America, slavery was accepted as morally okay. Christianity adapted to that and some sects even created a 'story' about Black skin being a mark of God that allowed them to assist God in punishing those people for an ancestor's 'sin'.

    America also accepted as morally okay the displacement and eradication of the native population. Christianity adapted by creating the idea of Manifest Destiny...the idea that 'God' had given this new land to the Europeans who were facing religious opposition in Europe.

    Morality is usually self-serving within a culture.
     
  2. Econ4every1

    Econ4every1 New Member

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    If you agree that morality is based on the values a culture holds, then morality doesn't inform our actions, our values do.

    The next logical question is, why does a culture hold certain values and not others?

    Is morally really simply self-serving within a culture? What does it mean when an individual or group has the strength to do what might feel best but chooses not to.

    For example (I could potentially enrage a few women here), I'd argue that women have rights because as our society has matured, men in our past have seen the advantage of incorporating women into society and extending them rights because of what they have to offer (I'm not suggesting it was always easy or unanimous or that it all happened at once). That is a choice based on collective values. Individually it would be easier and perhaps more gratifying (on a more primitive level) to subjugate woman (and indeed we still see this in much of the world)...But if we look at large cultures, we find that those that extend rights to women are more advanced by virtually every measure.

    The point I'm making is, evidence shows that if you value an advanced, more productive, freer, more just culture, then you should value the rights of women.

    Values lead to specific outcomes that can be measured. Thus if you value a certain outcome, then there are right ways and wrong ways to go when trying to achieve that outcome.

    Thus values are the foundation upon which a society creates a moral framework, not the other way around.

    With respect to my Christian friends, I believe that organized religions all over the world have learned this through thousands of years of experience. Religions have indoctrinated certain values and proclaimed them moral. The ones we see across most religions are the ones that tend to be universal.
     
  3. tdidymas

    tdidymas Newbie

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    "If God were evil..." or "If God was the devil..."

    My point is that your "if" question is irrelevant and immaterial, as it regards a hypothesis contrary to the character of God. If you knew God, or even knew His word, you wouldn't ask such a nonsense question. The Bible is clear about God's integrity: "God is neither enticed to evil, nor does He tempt any man to sin." James 1:13.
    TD:)
     
  4. zephcom

    zephcom Active Member

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    The values of a culture are the foundation of a culture's moral codes. And that does nothing to define whether a culture and its morals are fair, caring or loving. Morals can and do change over time. And that fact would suggest that God has nothing at all to do with defining morals.

    There was one individual who attempted to change the values of humans to a more loving, caring and giving set of values than was commonly accepted in the cultures around the world at that time.

    It didn't really catch on and after a century or two people went right back to creating morals from the nature of their culture and pretending God ordained them.
     
  5. zephcom

    zephcom Active Member

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    You make the classic mistake of assuming that everyone accepts the unproven concept that there even IS a 'Word of God' or that the character of God is knowable.
     
  6. Econ4every1

    Econ4every1 New Member

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    That's a fair response. So you're saying that morality is reflected in God's character, correct?
     
  7. JackRT

    JackRT "Karma" can bite you in the butt Supporter

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    A few years ago I wrote the following. It touches on our topic:

    Sin vs Evil

    In any discussion of moral standards I think that it might be helpful to discuss the difference between sin and evil. But before attempting that, let us examine a similar situation in the secular realm. Governments at every level pass legislation that prohibits certain actions. We use the word 'crime' to refer to the deliberate breaking of such a law. However, is the commission of a crime the same thing as committing an evil act? Here we come up against just how we might define evil. For the purposes of this discussion let me give a very simple definition:

    Evil --- any deliberate action or inaction which compromises the physical or psychological integrity of a human being.

    This, of course, is a narrow definition and we could likely spend a very long time extending it and refining it. Let us leave that at least for the moment. The point that I am sneaking up on here is that 'what is evil is not necessarily a crime' and conversely 'what is a crime is not necessarily evil'. To me this is obvious but let me just attempt an illustration of each statement.

    First, 'what is evil is not necessarily a crime'. By my definition above, the killing of another human being is to be regarded as an evil act. However, the law does not regard this as a crime if it is done in self defence or in war.

    Second, 'what is a crime is not necessarily evil'. In Singapore, for example, it is a crime to chew gum. I think most would not quibble about this not being evil according to the above definition.

    Can we make similar distinctions in the spiritual realm concerning sin and evil? I believe that we can. First, we need a working definition of sin. Let me suggest a very simple definition:

    Sin --- doing that which is forbidden by a spiritual authority.

    Once again, we could debate this definition. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this definition might involve whether or not a spiritual authority, such as a church or a scripture, can actually express the will of a Deity. Setting that aside, we once again are faced with two problems. The point being that 'what is evil is not necessarily a sin' and conversely 'what is a sin is not necessarily evil'.

    First, 'what is evil is not necessarily a sin'. I think that most would agree that to torture someone is an evil. However, if we just look at Christian scripture, I do not see any specific prohibition that would make torture a sin. A similar argument could be applied to female genital mutilation (circumcision).

    Second, 'what is a sin is not necessarily evil'. Here, we can get into a very much more controversial debates. It is certainly true that Christian scripture regards homosexual actions as sinful. However, within society at large and within a number of Christian churches in particular, homosexual behaviour is no longer regarded as an evil in and of itself. It is also certainly true that Jewish scripture regards the breaking of the dietary laws as sinful and even an abomination. However, within society at large and within a number of Jewish traditions in particular, the breaking of the dietary laws is no longer regarded as an evil in and of itself.

    The distinctions made here between crime and evil and also between sin and evil lead us in a real quandry for society at large. The western world has become, and is increasingly becoming, extremely diverse in language, culture and religion. There is also no real way of reversing this. Since different religions cannot agree on what is sin, I do not think that we can rely on religion entirely to inform our moral and ethical behaviour. Since what is regarded as sin has so often in the past led us into framing our laws to determine what is criminal, I think we need a new approach to the problem. We need an approach that avoids the imposition of one set of religious beliefs on society at large --- an approach broadly constructed on a consensus of what is evil and therefore what is criminal. Leave what is regarded as sin to the consciences of those in particular religious traditions.
     
  8. tdidymas

    tdidymas Newbie

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    I would agree, that's one way of putting it.
    TD:)
     
  9. GrowingSmaller

    GrowingSmaller Muslm Humanist

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    Well value comes into the world via emotions, desires and needs. You need a meal, you feel hungry you desire a snack etc. Or you need an explanation, and that creates a "value" on what I am writing. So your world (bits of it like a snack or a internet forum) have value as you are a creature with feelings and needs.

    And also, being (existence) has value, you can value life as a whole and search to meet your needs etc. And meeting these needs like life.

    The logos (stemming from "logical" basically) part is reasoning and insight into this structure or form of being we all seem to share, and the techne (technique) is the craft or art of living well. Just as a plant needs water and light, also humans tend to have basic needs and also more complex ones.


    "Pistis" is a biblical word for faith, and connotes trust and also warrant. So because we have insight into a world that is to some degree orderly (the sun rises and sets, food nourishes, friendship rewards us emotionally etc.) we can develop faith and trust in a way of life and a system of ethics.

    And we have warrant in using it too, insofar as the world and our active relations to it are observed to regularly meet our needs etc. I am thinking of the idea of "uniformity in nature" allowing us to adjust with systems of ethics, and we can form a lifestyle utilising habits or basically behavioural programmes (good manners, healthy living, social wisdom, caution, creativity, and experimentation may all work) - formed in relation to the predictability of the social and material world. And so come to trust and have faith (pistis) in our own skill (techne) and logic (reasoning skills), and ultimately to live a life that is of positive worth and value.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
  10. Econ4every1

    Econ4every1 New Member

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    How do we measure God's character?

    The only insight into God's character that we all share is the Bible. Is it fair to say the Bible and the things written in it are our best way to evaluate God's character?
     
  11. Econ4every1

    Econ4every1 New Member

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    With the utmost respect, I have two teenagers, 14 and 15 (like most parents I would say they are pretty smart kids). I asked them what they thought morality was and then I had them read your post. I told them what the subject is and if it helped them gain an insight into what morality is.

    They both found your answer a little confusing and after talking to them, I don't think it really gave them much insight.

    Do you think there is a simpler way to describe morality?

    Do you think that morality is complicated? Can it be described adequately to a teenager?
     
  12. JackRT

    JackRT "Karma" can bite you in the butt Supporter

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    I suppose that depends on how far we push the concept of "we". Is it just those in this room, or just Americans or is it all of humanity? I think that the Bible is one insight into God's character. But even in the Bible we see an evolution in our understanding of God's character from a jealous God of judgment and wrath into a God of love, of compassion and of forgiveness.

    I am far from certain of that.
     
  13. TagliatelliMonster

    TagliatelliMonster Well-Known Member

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    Considering the recognition that this is a very simplistic way of putting it (cfr: "fewest number of words"), I think I can agree to that.

    The act promotes the maximisation of things "preferable": well-being of sentient beings, prosperity, hapiness, freedom, safety,...

    The act is detrimental to things "preferable". It results in increased suffering of sentient-beings, takes away freedom and safety etc.
     
  14. Econ4every1

    Econ4every1 New Member

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    Don't tease. You tell me that there is more, but don't tell me what the more is.

    If morality is embodied in the nature and character of God, how can we determine what that is?
     
  15. Econ4every1

    Econ4every1 New Member

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    That seems a pretty practical way of putting that.

    Would you say those choices are subjective choices?
     
  16. TagliatelliMonster

    TagliatelliMonster Well-Known Member

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    Because humans are a social species that thrive in a co-operative society.
    And selfishness has a negative effect on the social cohesion of such a group.

    If you are selfish, then you are potentially hurting others.
    From that follows that if others are selfish, they are potentially hurting you.

    The overall quality of your life, is directly dependend on the actions of other people in that sense.
     
  17. TagliatelliMonster

    TagliatelliMonster Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I'm a practical minded person :D

    Nope. And I'll explain my reasoning.

    Consider all civilisation the world has ever known. From the old empires like Egypt all the way upto 21st century states ranging from secular democracy to authoritarian regimes like north korea etc.

    Next, consider the following hypothetical....

    From all these civilisations, you get to chose in which one you can live your life.
    However.... you do NOT get to chose:
    - your parents
    - your sexual orientation
    - your race
    - the religion you'll grow up in (or lack thereof)
    - ....

    All those "properties" of yourself will be randomized AFTER you have made your choice of where you will live your life.

    I predict that people who honestly evaluate all their options... will more then likely overwhelmingly choose a secular democracy.

    Because you do not want to end up a Jew in nazi germany.
    You do not want to end up gay in saudi arabia.
    You do not want to end up black in the US of the 1800s.

    To me, that tells me that most people value the exact same kind of things in their lives. The vast majority want to be able to live a life free of oppression, free of discrimination, they wish to be safe, happy, healthy, etc.

    So in essence, when stepping back out of our "comfort zone", we pretty much agree on the ingredients of what makes for a "good" way of living.

    We all value happiness and well-being. And it follows that we all will want to live in a world where we can actually be happy, healthy etc.

    Cultural differences not withstanding...
     
  18. Econ4every1

    Econ4every1 New Member

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    I don't disagree with (almost) anything you've said, and to read what you've written, I can help but chuckle. Without trying to sound condescending, if I found everything you wrote in response to on some other website dated 2007 with my screen name on it, I'd believe I wrote it (I'm about 10 years your Sr btw, not that it matters, just ironic).

    But, let me play devil's advocate for you in order to (if you agree) shore up your defense of morality.

    I will start out by saying I think you are mistaken about one thing. Morality is subjective. I'll not only defend that position, but I'll tell you why it's ok. Why it doesn't weaken your argument, especially when discussing this with our Christian friends.

    I think you'd agree that virtually everyone prefers to avoid pain suffering and sickness and wants to experience happiness, health, and well-being.

    But what if I derive pleasure from the act of cutting myself?

    There are people who are addicted to eating non-foods. It's called Pica. Now eating paper probably won't hurt you, but some people eat laundry detergent or cornstarch.

    They experience eating those things, which are clearly bad for them as pleasure, how might you reconcile that?

    What about the pleasure derived from hurting others?

    You might say that hurts social cohesion, but what if I can do it in a way that no one ever sees? The old "what if a doctor knocks out his patient and fondles them while they are asleep". Is that immoral?

    What if I hurt animals for pleasure and not people....How could you call that immoral (assuming you do)?
     
  19. quatona

    quatona "God"? What do you mean??

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    You almost make it sound like social flourishing and selfishness are somewhat at odds.
    But, yes: Moral ideas will depend largely on what is considered their greatest good or ultimate purpose.
    Anyway, I would agree with you that this is somewhat arbitrary - I find it, however, always refreshing when people are open, honest and consistent about what they consider the ultimate purpose in forming their moral ideas.
     
  20. tansy

    tansy Senior Member

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    I'm not sure that I can answer those questions posed in the OP...though I would in general agree with what some other psiters have said. What I do think is that morality is a very elusive concept. Otherwise, why would there be so much discussion and debate on ethics and morality, as though there were some universal application?
    There seem to me to be so many situations where one is not sure what the 'moral' thing is to do. For example, (I worried about this when I was learning to drive...I was able to drive pretty competently, but not yet taken my test, and this was before the age of mobile phones). I thought, supposing we were driving in the middle of the night somewhere like Dartmoor or a very isolated spot miles from house, phone boxes, any trafficetc and my husband fell very ill or was so badly injured he was unconscious and would probably die without medical attention. Morally I thought that I should drive him to the nearest place to get help. But this is against the law. So morally, should I take him for help or should I disobey the law? I
    Perhaps that's not a particularly good example, but I can't think of a better one just now.
    If we are bringing God into it....I tend to think that God is above morality I don't actually think He is moral, immoral or amoral. I f we truly believe in God (whichever version) or gods, then we will endeavour to base our moral decisions on how we see that deity, plus our conscience, plus reasoning, plus upbringing and cultural context. If we are humanist, atheist or whatever else, then we will base our morality on our conscience, upbringing etc. without reference to God or a god.
    I guess, basically, that morality is the attempt to do what is best for other people with what we know of the effects of our actions. And of course we cannot always get it right because we just don't know everything. It's a bit like that joke where someone helps an old lady across a road. They get to the other side...and she didn't actually want to cross. She ends up having to precariously negotiate the busy road all by herself to get back to the other side!
     
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