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Where is Morality Going?

by Mattius_
Tags: morality
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Mattius_
#1
Aug4-03, 02:27 AM
P: 136
An objective question from an objective person... You be the judge...
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Laser Eyes
#2
Aug4-03, 03:57 AM
P: 114
Downhill on a slippery slope.
Zero
#3
Aug4-03, 10:59 AM
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You'd have to define morality, before you can give it a direction, don't you?

Zero
#4
Aug4-03, 11:00 AM
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Where is Morality Going?

Originally posted by Laser Eyes
Downhill on a slippery slope.
Can you give a little more detail than that, please? I think I know where you are going with this, but something more specific would likely prevent confusion.
Mattius_
#5
Aug4-03, 02:49 PM
P: 136
Yes I was hoping to get a more extensive and cited answer. Define morality as the 'public standard of tolerance'. You see, i have my own 'hopes' about where it is going, but I cannot grasp where it REALLY is going... Hoping you guys/girls could help me out.
russ_watters
#6
Aug4-03, 02:53 PM
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If the "public standard of tolerance" is the morality, the the morality is constant, its the scale that is sliding down.

Sorry for nitpicking, but being specific about morality is one of my pet peves. I can't tell you how many times I've had the moral relativisim discussion with my friends - morality gets much more absolute when you get specific about it.
Mattius_
#7
Aug5-03, 01:28 AM
P: 136
bah im not getting what i want... i want court decisions, movements, precedents of any kind, the integration of the internet and its implications... that type of stuff... your thoughts?
Zero
#8
Aug5-03, 01:57 AM
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Originally posted by russ_watters
If the "public standard of tolerance" is the morality, the the morality is constant, its the scale that is sliding down.

Sorry for nitpicking, but being specific about morality is one of my pet peves. I can't tell you how many times I've had the moral relativisim discussion with my friends - morality gets much more absolute when you get specific about it.
One of the places where me and Russ seem to agree(we don't agree on who is actually being moral, at least in politics...)If morality is based on public acceptance, than what a slide away from morality would mean is that more people are acting against what teh general public accepts. The problem is, one that number hits 51%, the 'deviants' BECOME the public, if you catch my drift.
Zero
#9
Aug5-03, 01:58 AM
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Originally posted by Mattius_
bah im not getting what i want... i want court decisions, movements, precedents of any kind, the integration of the internet and its implications... that type of stuff... your thoughts?
You have to tell us what the standard of morality is specifically, and then we would have to accept your definition, before we can determine if there has been a shift towards or away from.
Mattius_
#10
Aug5-03, 02:06 AM
P: 136
ok, ill do that tommorrow when i have time, its going to require some thought.
Zero
#11
Aug5-03, 02:08 AM
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Originally posted by Mattius_
ok, ill do that tommorrow when i have time, its going to require some thought.
Cool, I look forward to it.
Zero
#12
Aug5-03, 09:16 AM
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Oh, and Mattius: no flaming here...I CAN delete your posts, if you disagree with me and throw another temper tantrum.
russ_watters
#13
Aug5-03, 12:42 PM
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P: 22,296
Originally posted by Zero
Oh, and Mattius: no flaming here...I CAN delete your posts, if you disagree with me and throw another temper tantrum.
Not sure I see a need to threaten him. There was nothing antagonistic about his post.

Mattius, maybe this will help: Abortion. We're gradually moving away from abortion being legal towards it being illegal. Whether thats a change in morality or a PERCEPTION of morality (and the direction) depends on your opinion of abortion to begin with.
Zero
#14
Aug5-03, 01:12 PM
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Originally posted by russ_watters
Not sure I see a need to threaten him. There was nothing antagonistic about his post.

Mattius, maybe this will help: Abortion. We're gradually moving away from abortion bein legal towards it being illegal. Whether thats a change in morality or a PERCEPTION of morality (and the direction) depends on your opinion of abortion to begin with.
See, you outline the problem nicely, Russ. All morality is in 'the eye of the beholder' isn't it? Some folks think personal freedom is all important, some of us think that following one universal standard is the way to go, and there is a huge spectrum of views in between. Most people pick and choose what they feel is 'moral' on each issue, and therefore the 'pure' ideas of 'all rules' or 'all freedom' don't really exist, nor does there exist a single standard for everyone.
russ_watters
#15
Aug6-03, 01:21 AM
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I was actually thinking about starting my own thread last week on this, but this thread has gone philosophical with the morality so it seems appropriate here:

Moral Relativism. All morality is in the "eye of the beholder." There is no absolute standard of morality at all and therefore no basis to say one person's morality is any better than any other person's. Of course that means there is no basis for LAWS.

Moral Absolutism. There is an absolute standard of morality. Pretty straightforward. It is important to note however that just because there IS an absolute standard, doesn't mean we KNOW what the absolute standard is. That makes it more complicated than relativism because then you have to make decisions on where the line is. Beyond that you have to make decisions on who gets to make those decisions. Back to the eye of the beholder idea again. This is an apparent contradiction that Zero pointed out to me in PM.

So which is right? Is there an absolute standard of morality or not? Both views have clear flaws.

Relativism leads to anarchy unless you can strike a compromise - agreeing (through democracy for example) to subject yourself to someone else's (the "people's") view of morality. I have found that this is the dominant view. It helps that most people in the US follow the Judeo/Christian moral tradition so our views on morality aren't that far apart. But that means that we have no basis for a foreign policy except by international consensus. Hitler isn't subject to our moral code because he's not an American. Now that we have the UN, it gives us a crutch - allowing us to keep moral relativism by ceding to the will of the UN (depending on who writes the foreign policy of course). Having the UN eliminates the need for the member nations to have a set standard of morality and stand up for it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Moral absolutism has the flaw of needing to decide where that absolute standard comes from and who knows what it is. If one person says there is an absolute standard given to him by God that says cannibalism is murder and another has an absolutes standard given to him by Ra that says its ok, how do you know who'se standard is the right one?

The answer is this: You approach the question scientifically. You set groundrules (baseline assumptions). You form a hypothesis and you see if it works. Now religious types HATE this idea because it takes God out of the picture. For some strange reason though most people support moral relativism (I think maybe I need to start a poll), most would also claim due to their religion that their God has given them the one true morality. A clear contradiction. In any case, if you approach morality scientifically, you CAN figure it out (for the most part anyway). The question really is where does the study lead? Does it lead, as many suspect physics does, to a single set of unifying rules (equations) that work in all situations? Or does it lead down a path of boxes within boxes, defining morality for ever more complex and gray situations wituout end? Dunno. As I indicated before, we don't have all the answers yet (thats part of what makes it tough).

Now about those groundrules I talked about. The primary one is that a universal rule must be universal. Sounds self evident, but the implication is that you can't look at a situation in a vacuum. You have to flip it over and ask yourself "what if everyone else behaved this way?" Its kinda like the golden rule. A simple example is indiscriminite killing (murder). If everyone went around shooting people at random, what would happen? Clearly society would break down and everyone except one lucky bastard would be dead. So clearly indiscriminite killing must be morally wrong. Note: I use the most extreme examples for the sake of illustration, but clearly there are situations that are far more grey.

Now the application of this groundrule leads to a very uncomfortable (for many) implication: The Moral Imperative. Its the root of all debates on foreign policy. The domestic equivalent is "Good Samaritan" laws. The Moral Imperative states simply that it is morally wrong to turn a blind eye to a moral injustice that is being comitted in front of you and that you have the power to stop. You can arrive at this conclusion by applying universality: what if NO ONE stepped in to correct an injustice? That means no police, no lawyers, no prisons, no accountability at all. The criminals would take over.

Now I know this is a lot so I'll stop here. I know I haven't quite finished the thought, but this will generate a lot of feedback on its own. I'd like to deal with that before taking the next step.

Incidentally, this is a topic on which my background, though I tend to think is not really relevant, many will find interesting. I developed my coherent position on morality (as opposed to the one beaten into me by my mother, but never thought out) at the US Naval Academy. It seems morality and ethics were a real problem with the military especially during the Vietnam war. Besides classes in ethics where you simply read one person's book then discuss it or list the different theories and define them, we had seminars where we discussed it in a far more general way. Thats where I got my assessment that the majority (I think 80% or so) of people I've come across are moral relativists. By the end of the seminars, virtually all are moral absolutists. Now spare me the brainwashing bit - the people who go to the Naval Academy are pretty smart (note: I didn't finish, so I'm not tooting my own horn) and can think for themselves. The seminars are led by ordinary profs and structured loosely. Smart people arrive at the same conclusion because it is inevitable. Like the laws of physics it works. Its just that most people have never thought universal morality through.
See, you outline the problem nicely, Russ.
I know thats probably one of the most annoying things about me, Zero - I outline questions well but I don't necessarily always answer them. I don't intend to be specifically evasive, I just try to flush out other people's opinions in a way that leads them to mine. However if the question is complicated enough that it requres some skill to frame it clearly, it is inevitably also going to have a complicated answer. Even then, I don't always express my opinions clearly if I'm trying to generate a discussion. I'll try to be more specific in this thread now that we've beaten around the bush enough to flush out the problem.
Zero
#16
Aug6-03, 01:29 AM
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P: 1,509
I think I'm gonna have to move this out of here...it seems to be a good thread, but it has turned more philospical than anything else.
Zero
#17
Aug6-03, 01:45 AM
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P: 1,509
Originally posted by russ_watters
I was actually thinking about starting my own thread last week on this, but this thread has gone philosophical with the morality so it seems appropriate here:

Moral Relativism. All morality is in the "eye of the beholder." There is no absolute standard of morality at all and therefore no basis to say one person's morality is any better than any other person's. Of course that means there is no basis for LAWS.
Not quite true, at least I don't think so. More later.

Moral Absolutism. There is an absolute standard of morality. Pretty straightforward. It is important to note however that just because there IS an absolute standard, doesn't mean we KNOW what the absolute standard is. That makes it more complicated than relativism because then you have to make decisions on where the line is. Beyond that you have to make decisions on who gets to make those decisions. Back to the eye of the beholder idea again. This is an apparent contradiction that Zero pointed out to me in PM.
With you so far.

So which is right? Is there an absolute standard of morality or not? Both views have clear flaws.

Relativism leads to anarchy unless you can strike a compromise - agreeing (through democracy for example) to subject yourself to someone else's (the "people's") view of morality. I have found that this is the dominant view. It helps that most people in the US follow the Judeo/Christian moral tradition so our views on morality aren't that far apart. But that means that we have no basis for a foreign policy except by international consensus. Hitler isn't subject to our moral code because he's not an American. Now that we have the UN, it gives us a crutch - allowing us to keep moral relativism by ceding to the will of the UN (depending on who writes the foreign policy of course). Having the UN eliminates the need for the member nations to have a set standard of morality and stand up for it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I would say that the purpose of an organization like the UN is more about setting and defending very broad absolutes, that nearly everyone agrees on. Very basic human rights are supported by logical means(which I know even both of us generally agree on, so how hard can it be for the rest of the world?;))

Moral absolutism has the flaw of needing to decide where that absolute standard comes from and who knows what it is. If one person says there is an absolute standard given to him by God that says cannibalism is murder and another has an absolutes standard given to him by Ra that says its ok, how do you know who'se standard is the right one?
Moral absolutism, at least how I see it practiced, also leaves little 'wiggle room' for judgment calls. There are often mitigating circumstances which make a simple abolutist ideology fail. Also, it is less than realistic to attempt to try to force our messy reality into the framework of an idealized framework of absolutist morality. In other words, I think absolutists have a huge blind spot when dealing with anything more than the most simplistic ideas.

[qoute]The answer is this: You approach the question scientifically. You set groundrules (baseline assumptions). You form a hypothesis and you see if it works. Now religious types HATE this idea because it takes God out of the picture. For some strange reason though most people support moral relativism (I think maybe I need to start a poll), most would also claim due to their religion that their God has given them the one true morality. A clear contradiction. In any case, if you approach morality scientifically, you CAN figure it out (for the most part anyway). The question really is where does the study lead? Does it lead, as many suspect physics does, to a single set of unifying rules (equations) that work in all situations? Or does it lead down a path of boxes within boxes, defining morality for ever more complex and gray situations wituout end? Dunno. As I indicated before, we don't have all the answers yet (thats part of what makes it tough).[/quote] Yeah, really tough, but that's what we're here for, aren't we?

[qoute]Now about those groundrules I talked about. The primary one is that a universal rule must be universal. Sounds self evident, but the implication is that you can't look at a situation in a vacuum. You have to flip it over and ask yourself "what if everyone else behaved this way?" Its kinda like the golden rule. A simple example is indiscriminite killing (murder). If everyone went around shooting people at random, what would happen? Clearly society would break down and everyone except one lucky bastard would be dead. So clearly indiscriminite killing must be morally wrong. Note: I use the most extreme examples for the sake of illustration, but clearly there are situations that are far more grey.[/quote] Last point first: it is the grey areas that hurt the purely absolutist concept. I would say that some good Socialist/Communist philosophy would fit in here nicely, don't you? You'll agree with me later(in principle).

Now the application of this groundrule leads to a very uncomfortable (for many) implication: The Moral Imperative. Its the root of all debates on foreign policy. The domestic equivalent is "Good Samaritan" laws. The Moral Imperative states simply that it is morally wrong to turn a blind eye to a moral injustice that is being comitted in front of you and that you have the power to stop. You can arrive at this conclusion by applying universality: what if NO ONE stepped in to correct an injustice? That means no police, no lawyers, no prisons, no accountability at all. The criminals would take over.

Now I know this is a lot so I'll stop here. I know I haven't quite finished the thought, but this will generate a lot of feedback on its own. I'd like to deal with that before taking the next step.
I'll wait until you go a bit further before I comment further...deal?

Incidentally, this is a topic on which my background, though I tend to think is not really relevant, many will find interesting. I developed my coherent position on morality (as opposed to the one beaten into me by my mother, but never thought out) at the US Naval Academy. It seems morality and ethics were a real problem with the military especially during the Vietnam war. Besides classes in ethics where you simply read one person's book then discuss it or list the different theories and define them, we had seminars where we discussed it in a far more general way. Thats where I got my assessment that the majority (I think 80% or so) of people I've come across are moral relativists. By the end of the seminars, virtually all are moral absolutists. Now spare me the brainwashing bit - the people who go to the Naval Academy are pretty smart (note: I didn't finish, so I'm not tooting my own horn) and can think for themselves. The seminars are led by ordinary profs and structured loosely. Smart people arrive at the same conclusion because it is inevitable.
Like the laws of physics it works. Its just that most people have never thought universal morality through. I know thats probably one of the most annoying things about me, Zero - I outline questions well but I don't necessarily always answer them. I don't intend to be specifically evasive, I just try to flush out other people's opinions in a way that leads them to mine. However if the question is complicated enough that it requres some skill to frame it clearly, it is inevitably also going to have a complicated answer. Even then, I don't always express my opinions clearly if I'm trying to generate a discussion. I'll try to be more specific in this thread now that we've beaten around the bush enough to flush out the problem.
I think this is a failing with have both displayed now and again. When we try to reduce complicated issues to a one-paragraph response, it inevitably turns into a fight, mostly because we are not being clear enough in our statements or motivations.

Oh, and can I ask if you can see the moral relativism in the views you hold?
Zero
#18
Aug6-03, 01:54 AM
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P: 1,509
Oh, and just to interject my own views, I believe in a 'moral judgment framework', in which you start with a general absolute, then apply reason and judgment to individual cases, and at best try to decide on a 'least wrong' course of action.


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