Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Should morals be instilled by society?

  1. Oct 4, 2004 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    Where do we draw the line when it comes to morals? How far can society enforce the morality border? For example:abortion, euthanasia...issues that don't affect society as a whole, but society seems to have a say. How "neutral" should society be in dictating what is "right" and "wrong"?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 4, 2004 #2
    Well, I believe that the entire notion of society is ethical in nature, including the government. Therefore I believe that some morals should be instilled by society, and that society should not be neutral at all in a broad sense.

    As for where to draw the lines as to which morals, that is an awfully big discussion. I'm afraid your question does not narrow things down for me. You mention issues such as abortion and euthanasia that do not affect society as a whole, but I find both these issues affect society in very direct ways.
  4. Oct 9, 2004 #3
    Even if the humans were totally unaware of the need to act morally, our actions, however blind they may outwardly appear, would subsequently install morality in the society concerned.
  5. Oct 9, 2004 #4
    It's difficult to answer the question without answering a series of questions.

    Is society made up of the individual? Or is society purely collective?

    Is it possible for anything to fail to effect society as a whole? Because if society is made up of the individual then every action effects society as a whole, directly or indirectly.

    So collectivism would prove that society inherently has a say in all moral decisions wouldn't it?

    I'd be interested in seeing how you seperate the individual from society in a succinct manner.
  6. Oct 9, 2004 #5
    Belive it or not, people tend to have different opinions when it comes to morals. I would like to belive that morals are objective, but for some reason other people don't find my morals to be objective enough for them. Everyone is this way. In order to have a society, we need to establish what morals we ( a group of people wanting to form a society ) are going to have. That is the whole purpose of a government. The people tell the government what morals we want, and the government in turn makes sure the people follow them. As for your added opinion about abortion and euthinasia, anything that brings in or takes out life from the society affects the society. You asked "Where do we draw the line?" We draw the line where ever we want. We tell the government where we want that line. What you're getting into is the area of politics: "What laws should we make to best reflect our morals?" As to what morals the governement should establish is debatable. However, most governments agree that whatever endangers the society should be controlled by the society. Your opinion, if I'm not mistaken, is that government should stay away from abortion because it is not their business ( it does not affect the society). The other side of the argument is that abortion does affect society, and therefore should be restricted. What should the government decide? They should choose whatever the people want (according to how they have agreed to decide). Because there is almost even opinions on both side, its still up for debate. If there were an objective way to decide, it would have already been done.
  7. Oct 17, 2004 #6
    Society is the collection of individuals.

    Individuals hold differing moral precepts.

    Society will be the average of the collective moral precepts of its members, with the more members that make it up the less extreme will be societies views.

    Society is the mirror image of the collective members. (at least that is what a "good" society tries to do. )

    No line need be "crossed".
    Each individual draw there own line. Society will work to organize all the differnt lines and construct a "the best possible of all lines" based on the average provided by the indivinuals.
  8. Oct 17, 2004 #7
    What sort of average? Does each person contribute equally to the "collective moral precepts" or do the more powerful ones have a greater say in it?

    I can, of course, come up with numerous counterexamples to this assertion. In history, there are many examples of highly populated societies which had very extreme views, and many examples of sparsely populated societies which had very tolerant views.
  9. Oct 17, 2004 #8
    Yes but when I refer to extreme or tolarant in their own LOCAL perspective. Female castration may for us appear extreme but within its own local social context it is very moderate.

    In a IDEAL sociaty, each member contributes equally. In real world situations, differances in enviormental variables, genetics, and resources result in some members haveing more of say towards then others within a society.

    But fundamentally the individuals, or represntatives thereof, are who decide on sociatal morality, not the other way around.
  10. Oct 18, 2004 #9
    This sounds like one of those "what came first, the chicken or the egg?" dilemmas.
  11. Nov 2, 2004 #10

    how do they affect society????
  12. Nov 4, 2004 #11
    in a atheistic world there are no morals. the thing our morals are best based on are is our religion. otherwise there are no morals!!!!!! *laughs like a manic*
  13. Nov 4, 2004 #12


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I take it that's sarcasm at it's finest?
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2004
  14. Nov 4, 2004 #13
    I think that "morals" are best dealt with as issues of rights. It could be said that going beyond human rights, and imposing behaviors that pander to various religions, denies human rights to those that do not follow the religion, that is dictating behavior. People feel very moral as they are stoning adulterers, and frequently adulteresses are actually rape victims, in places like Pakistan, that is slowly changing, but goes on today.

    If we could be civilized enough to define rights for humans, and sentient animals, including clean environment, then things would already be so different as to constitute a different world. We are so torn apart by religion, and the moral corruption it fosters.

    When we adopt the attitude that some outside force is responsible for how we behave, and responsible for ultimate punishment, significantly delayed, then we don't behave. When humans give themselves permission to mete out punishments in the name of some higher power, then they act entirely outside of the wisdom, that some higher power might have.

    I think morals are a sham. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is somwhat sublime, it is very much like a classic physics theorum. A lame joke I have always used to describe my code of ethics, is, "I always follow the laws of Physics, even in my ignorance of most of them."
  15. Nov 4, 2004 #14


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    This is my kind of thread, but somehow I missed it. Anyway, this is closest to my opinion:
    On a basic level, government legislates morality. It has to. Murder is wrong. Why -- because the 10 Commandments says so? No, but either way, murder is certainly a moral issue.

    Many college majors include ethics classes. I'm an engineer and ethics come into play quit often. IMO, ethics should be taught in high school. Ideally, morality should be taught first by parents, but it isn't. But whether it is or not, every profession has ethics that need to be taught/followed.
  16. Nov 10, 2004 #15
    For example, a common method of paying ones stay at a hospital is through insurance. We spend vast amounts of money keeping people alive at the very ends of their life. Since my health insurance premiums are affected by this, someone else on life support affects me. It is very easy to show that a substantial amount of ones health care premium goes to keep people alive just before they die.

    Abortion affects society as a whole because it is an issue revolving around children and their parents, who are undoubtedly a part of society and who alter the future of society. Beyond that, the philosophy of property rights and the right to life affects society by altering the foundation with which we determine laws.

    Note that I'm not taking a stance on either of these (unless asked), I'm merely answering your quesiton at this point. To suggest the either of those things do not affect our society would be ignoring a great many ways they affect other people and the society we live in.

    Edited for clarity.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2004
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook