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Author Topic:   Moral Absolutism v Relativism (and laws)
Silent H
Member (Idle past 3984 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 31 of 44 (362912)
11-09-2006 2:30 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by Chiroptera
11-09-2006 1:25 PM


Re: I am going to use this one in the future.
It appears we are even.

This is not tit for tat, but it is as good a place as any to say what I've been wanting to say in another thread. Unfortunately my time has been too taken up with this thread to formulate a decent reply.

Your message #211 in the "eternal decision" thread was excellent. It was not short and punchy, but it was well outlined for a nice progression of logic.

Your distinction between intellectual acknowledgment and emotional doubt/faith of a belief was a nice starter. But most important for me was the conclusion. I was the type to cut Biblical literalism some slack and offer an intellectual acknowledgment of possibility. I had not thought about that subject clearly enough before and you set the correct parameters to make me realize how sloppy I'd been.

It has shifted my position on that subject and I will be using it in the future. Literalists watch out.

I'm just glad you found something useful from me in return.

Edited by holmes, : thread

Edited by holmes, : rearrange


holmes
"What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away." (D.Bros)
This message is a reply to:
 Message 29 by Chiroptera, posted 11-09-2006 1:25 PM Chiroptera has not yet responded

    
Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5655
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006


Message 32 of 44 (363094)
11-10-2006 3:19 PM
Reply to: Message 28 by Silent H
11-09-2006 12:13 PM


Re: Circular logic
As has been pointed out already, we supply the meaning to mathematics. People may then explore based on the logic of definitional relations, but we start by giving the definitions.

I agree that we supplied the initial rules for mathematics, but once established, they have remained intact. In the same way, an absolutist could say that God instituted the policies that would affect the affairs if the universe, to include man and morality.

There is nothing inherently wrong with betrayal.

This is mind-numbingly stultifying. There is nothing inherently wrong with betrayal, and yet, not one person enjoys being betrayed... Unless you are able to provide some rational criterion for making your own moral choices, you must then allow for amorality to flourish. If your only objection to what any sensible person might refer to as 'wrong', yours would only be, "I don't like it." You have then rendered your own version of morality ineffectual. Limiting your beliefs as morally neutral essentially emasculates you of any sense of morality to begin with.

Ahhhh... the fallacy of the gun. Someone is going to shoot you so how will you stop them with relativist philosophy? I'll stop them the same way an absolutist will have to... hit them fast and hard.

But why? Why stop them? Forget about them pointing a gun at you, how about a loved one? See, essentially your argument focuses on pure selfishness. And what you are doing is trying to separate yourself from the face of right and wrong. This reminds of a sermon that I've heard, I've posted it once before from one of my favorite contemporary apologists. He begins his sermon explaining how he was at buisness luncheon in Hong Kong where he was asked to speak a bit about morality. He describes one man who shares similar, if not identical views that you are espousing, on how we didn't believe in a sort of moral code. Listen to the first 5 minutes and give me your opinion on the matter if you don't mind. I think this sounds very similar to our conversation. Listen to it and answer me whether you are not, as CS Lewis called it, "A man without a chest?"

Remember your earlier example of the lady screaming her head off to the roadrage case. "Its wrong! Its wrong!" She screamed. Try that to a guy stealing your stuff or pointing a gun at you. Its not likely to stop any bullets. I mean how exactly did the lady stop the roadrage case?

The only thing we can do-- appeal to his propriety that I believe was instilled by God. Its a powerful force, and neither you nor anyone can escape from it. And the longer you keep telling yourself that its all relative, the more quickly it will be evident that you are inconsistent in your views. They are so loose in context so as to loose all meaning for anything.

Oh and by the way, why do people not like having stuff taken from them? Because they don't like to be without things (at the very least necessities).

Is it really that simple? If I walked up to you in a resturant and took the food off of your plate, what would it matter to you if you could just get more food for free from the owners? That meal for you isn't critical to your survival because food is in abundance at the resturant. I think I have an idea. You would feel angry because what I had done was wrong. And really, its that simple. And its so axiomatic that you can anywhere on earth and try pulling that b.s. on someone and either be arrested or beaten-- why? Because its wrong.

A right will be something that I absolutely defend. That's about the length of its standard. Some people live without such concepts as rights as I have. They will likely defend those. Those are their rights.

What are rights if not in an absolute context? How can you have any rights unless those rights are agreed upon by everyone?

Indeed some reps these days have argued civil rights are not so important. They apparently are not willing to fight for them. Where is this absolute standard of which you speak, when once attained, such things are thrown away?

Reps don't fight for civil rights? First of all, this is OT. Secondly, its a totally specious argument. If they weren't willing to fight for civil rights they wouldn't fight for their constituents, such as children. If they weren't willing to fight for civil rights they would have sat on their hands about affirmative action which DOES judge people on the basis of their skin, rather than, as Martin Luther King duly noted, the basis of their character.

Xians hid what they did when it was illegal. If people only hide criminal acts because they know they do something wrong, what does that mean about Xianity?

Well, you know, I have this crazy opinion that Christians aren't measured by each other, but rather, are measured by Christ Himself. Since He is our Lawmaker, I will let Him institute what policy He wills. His will be done on heaven and earth. And I will allow Him to have compassion for whom He will have compassion, and judge those who He will judge.

I agree with virtue characterizations. In that act he was brave and loyal and altruistic. That does not make what he did "right" in an absolute sense (though perhaps to some code he himself ascribed or promised himself to).

You're missing the point entirely. You stated that, (paraphrasing), that people essentially do things in compliance with their self-preservation extincts and that this explains peoples sense of morality. This instance of a man who acted altruistically completely undermines your central premise that we do things because of self-preservation mechanisms. Where does a sense of honor and integrity come from? Why is it that we laud his actions as brave and heroic, when, from a strictly humanistic view, what he had done was incredibly stupid? So much for selfishness. There is a reason why selflessness is virtuous and selfishness is generally despised.

If you do something to someone that they don't like, and it comes back to bite you in the same way and you don't like it... that's justice.

According to you. In my relativistic worldview, if you do something to pickles that cars don't like, and it comes back to drink you in the same way that keyboards don't like it... that's chicken soup. And if all is meaningless, then so are words.... (not words, I mean alligators.)

I believe in most egalitarian societies, or those focused on individualism, justice will be ranked pretty high.

In order to even come up with relative laws, one must first understand justice as an absolute concept.

For example Bush has set out, and reps have argued, that security is much more important than justice.

I've never heard anything from the Bush Admin that claims security is more important than justice. But supposing they did, is that wrong?

quote:
In fact, I could make a case against it that it is murder, not that it is justified homicide.

Wait a second, you said that all societies have a concept of murder. I showed you some that didn't, and you tell me that they are cases of murder. It doesn't matter what you think. Your claim is that there are universal moral truths which are reflected in our morals and laws. Deal with the counterexamples.

They do! Every culture has a concept if unjust killing. See, here's where your concept of justice is at odds with your personal belief. The only thing relative is what constituted murder. And even then, they might not be square with the absolute law. There are standards in society and criteria to distinguish one thing from the next. An absolute moral law is no different.

You are right that justice doesn't operate in a vacuum, that's why there is no absolute morality. We create and apply our own definitions. We have come up with a term with a definition and called it justice.

Then who are we to impose our moral views on the rest of the world? Or who is the next guy to impose their moral views on us? What's the point of defining terms if we can't even agree on the terms or what constitutes it to begin with?

My accurately calling my false arrest "unjust" will do nothing if people don't care or feel something outweighs that. You know like that Canadian guy who was picked up by the US while coming back from a vacation and then sent to secret prisons while he was tortured for a year. Now he claims that is unjust. I think its unjust. We both think it sucks. He would likely call it wrong.

But if there is no right or wrong, what do you care either way? 1. It didn't happen to you. 2. There's nothing right or wrong about what happened to him. It just is.

Bush and reps are calling it necessary and right... while murmuring on the justice issue. Say what do YOU think about that poor Canadian guy getting unjustly arrested and tortured?

What I think is I'm starting to believe in your views. I say kill 'em all, hack 'em up if that's what fancies you. Its not wrong. Its not unjust. It just is. Torture is like a tree growing. It just sort of happens and there is nothing good or bad about it-- it just is. That's what I think.... but who cares what I think? My thoughts are ineffectual

My basic concept is that the only system of normative ethics which remains credible is virtue ethics, which is devoid of judging actions right or wrong anyway. But that this is only credible in a practical way, and even then set within a relativist (perhaps skeptical) perspective (understanding that virtues will be applied differently across cultures with no true scale to them either). In my last post to Arach I described myself as a very muted value-pluralist.

I have discovered the value system that I think best suits you-- not that my opinion matters in a sea of meaninglessness.

Emotive Ethics

"In modern ethical thought an unusual answer has been given to the question, "What makes an action right or wrong?" The answer? "Nothing is literally right or wrong: these terms are simply the expression of emotion and as such are neither true nor false." This is answer of emotive ethics.

This theory of morality originated with David Hume and his belief that knowledge is limited to sense impressions. Beyond sense impressions, our knowledge is unfounded. What difference does such a theory make? It renders intelligent talk about God, the soul, or morality impossible, because real knowledge is limited to phenomena observable by our physical senses. Discussion of phenomena not observable by our physical senses is considered to belong to the realm of metaphysics, a realm that cannot be touched, felt, seen, heard, nor smelled.

What can we know if our knowledge is limited to our sense experience? Hume claimed that all we can know are matters of fact. We can only make factually verifiable statements such as, "That crow is black" or "The book is on the table." On the other hand, we cannot, in this system, make a statement like, "Stealing is wrong." We cannot even say, "Murder is wrong." Why? Because wrong is not a factual observation and cannot be verified empirically. In fact, it is a meaningless statement, and merely an expression of personal preference. We are really just saying "I don't like stealing," and "I dislike murder." It is on the order of saying, "I like tomatoes." Someone else can say, "I dislike tomatoes," without factual contradiction because it's just the statement of two different personal preferences.

In summary, emotive ethics holds that it is impossible to have a rational discussion about morals. This is because ethical statements cannot be analyzed since they do not meet the criteria of scientific statements; that is, they are not observation statements. Thus, in emotivism, all actions are morally neutral."

Edited by nemesis_juggernaut, : Edit to add


"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God." -2nd Corinthians 10:4-5
This message is a reply to:
 Message 28 by Silent H, posted 11-09-2006 12:13 PM Silent H has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 33 by Silent H, posted 11-11-2006 8:03 AM Hyroglyphx has not yet responded
 Message 34 by Chiroptera, posted 11-11-2006 9:14 AM Hyroglyphx has not yet responded

    
Silent H
Member (Idle past 3984 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 33 of 44 (363188)
11-11-2006 8:03 AM
Reply to: Message 32 by Hyroglyphx
11-10-2006 3:19 PM


Re: Circular logic
You were right in mentioning emotive ethics, if you look above at the last post I gave to Arach I mentioned that as a possible valid read of my position. I'm not sure why I forgot to list it when writing you.

I certainly don't have a problem with using that as being my position for sake of argument, though I would point out I have a few differences. While its core is correct, all moral statements boil down to emotions (I like this, I don't like that), it is possible to look at systems which might influence such feelings. In that case one looks at human nature, adopted principles, or agreements between people as they effect behavior in some routine way. Once you take those seriously (as systems for point of discussion) then I think one becomes more of a relativist, or pluralist.

Take for example a child growing up in a society where littering is "wrong", almost taboo. That child will likely react to such an activity with a statement that it is wrong. What they are actually saying is they do not like it, but that is because of an internalized rule set which one can study and whose external principle they will attempt to appeal to with others. In that sense you can treat it as a truth bearing statement for those who share that principle/bias.

In my case I also think one can discuss human nature based on common human states (happiness/suffering, or success/failure), definitions on how people can act in any situation (values), and the connection between the two (which values lead someone to happiness/success). I find this to be the only solid practical ethical system (virtues ethics) in that it cannot deliver any incorrect results since it never tells one what to do. It just helps define what kind of person an actor is and perhaps why they are happy or suffer, succeed or fail. However I recognize the cultural limits of this as well (ie knowledge may always make one unhappy or a failure in some societal systems) and so again am pushed back to relativist or pluralist.

You were also right that I would be what Lewis called a "man without a chest". The guy in the mp3 segment said what I would say. But then I would simply return the name-calling and suggest CS Lewis was a "man without a head". He is not bothering to think clearly on the subject at all, and letting his emotions get the better of reason. In fact neither the man (nor I) would NOT have been moved by the situation. He said so himself. Its just that we reason about the extent of our own feelings. How far do they extend and why? And the fact is some people would not be moved.

You seem to have missed Chiro's explanation of where you are going wrong (and in this case CS Lewis as well). You are trying to argue what relativists (or amoralists) should be doing (how they should be acting and feeling) based on their analytic position regarding the nature of moral systems. That is not accurate.

A relativist can have their own moral system, including the use of concepts such as "right" and "wrong". In this I admit that my own personal system (which is amoral) does not extend to all relativists. Still even the amoralist will have feelings and strong convictions, perhaps including a general personal code to follow based on their tastes (and experience).

The only thing being recognized is that the truth value of any statement they make will be limited to themselves, or those they happen to share their tastes/system. This does not make them throw up their hands and give up feeling altogether, or even trying to get others to appreciate their feelings. Why would it?

yours would only be, "I don't like it." You have then rendered your own version of morality ineffectual. Limiting your beliefs as morally neutral essentially emasculates you of any sense of morality to begin with.

I told you earlier I do not mind being labelled as amoral... just as long as that is not confused with having no feelings or personal interests. But I do find your comment about ineffectual interesting. It has served me pretty well. I understand my own nature and tend to understand those of others, rather than attempting to judge actions in a purely black/white setting.

What effect has being able to say "I am right" brought anyone?

If I walked up to you in a resturant and took the food off of your plate, what would it matter to you if you could just get more food for free from the owners? That meal for you isn't critical to your survival because food is in abundance at the resturant. I think I have an idea. You would feel angry because what I had done was wrong.

If you took food off my plate in such a way that it involved no loss to me then why would I care? Why would that be wrong, even to you?

I would agree that if this action disrupted my eating, making me have to go and get more food or wait for more to be brought, then I would be annoyed. But then that involves a loss of some kind.

Reps don't fight for civil rights? First of all, this is OT. Secondly, its a totally specious argument. If they weren't willing to fight for civil rights they wouldn't fight for their constituents, such as children.

You are attempting a dodge here. What I said was that reps have said rights are not so important. They have definitely argued that SAFETY comes before rights. Some must be bent or broken to ensure people live, otherwise what good are rights if you are dead. This HAS been said on several occassions by reps and if you are going to deny it then I feel you are being less than honest.

One exchange on this very topic, resulted in Feingold responding in defense of rights over security with a reminder... "Give me liberty or give me death".

Though this ranges into the political, it is not OT at all. I am pulling up concrete, real life counterexamples to your claims. You can throw as many theoreticals at me that you want, but real life one's showing people NOT living as you suggest is valid. If these counters involve people you have supported or involved arguments you have supported in the past, all the better.

Rights are what you CHOOSE to defend for yourself. Or if linking with others what all choose to defend for each other, in respect for their own.

Well, you know, I have this crazy opinion that Christians aren't measured by each other, but rather, are measured by Christ Himself. Since He is our Lawmaker, I will let Him institute what policy He wills. His will be done on heaven and earth. And I will allow Him to have compassion for whom He will have compassion, and judge those who He will judge.

This is a complete dodge. Unless it was meant to "test" how much I like honesty, I do not see the point of this statement as a posited answer to my direct question. We will try this again.

YOU claimed that laws are based on morals, and those from a conception of absolute morality. Since Xianity has been (and still is) outlawed in some places, doesn't that mean Xianity is against morality?

Further, YOU claimed that those hiding evidence of their crime cannot be doing so because they want to avoid punishment, but MUST be doing so because they feel guilty for acting against absolute morality. Since Xians have hidden evidence of their activities where it was a crime, doesn't that mean they felt guilty because practicing Xianity is immoral?

If you choose to dodge this again, you will not be doing wrong, but I will not like it. I will understand your nature and I will stop replying to you in this thread, because it will be pointless. Its a loss of my time.

You stated that, (paraphrasing), that people essentially do things in compliance with their self-preservation extincts and that this explains peoples sense of morality. This instance of a man who acted altruistically completely undermines your central premise that we do things because of self-preservation mechanisms. Where does a sense of honor and integrity come from?

The above is not my position at all. All I said is that LAWS can be based/generated purely from principles of self-preservation and selfishness. I said no such thing with regard to human action.

In fact I have said quite the opposite, arguing that people have personal natures that range all over the place, sometimes in conflict with moral codes they might wish to hold. This can also be in conflict with self preservation or selfishness.

People can get their natures from all sorts of influences. This can include being raised within a community with expressed moral systems, or simply from personal experiences where one comes to like some things more than others (from nature of exposure).

I've never heard anything from the Bush Admin that claims security is more important than justice. But supposing they did, is that wrong?

Yes that would be wrong, but not quite in the moral sense. And in any case not in any absolute moral sense. We have a gov't for which he is a representative with expressly stated goals. He swore an oath to that system. To defy that system is to break that oath and the trust of those he represents. It is inconsistent and so "wrong" for those within that system.

This is comparable to Haggard who accepted and promised to represent a system, and then defied it. Is there something inherently wrong with betrayal? No, in fact we use that when we employ spies and undercover police officers. But those that are betrayed will not like it, the betrayal is to break a specific code or oath, and so internally inconsistent or wrong.

They do! Every culture has a concept if unjust killing. See, here's where your concept of justice is at odds with your personal belief. The only thing relative is what constituted murder.

This appears to be shifting the goal post. Unjust killing does not mean murder nor wrong. Your statement was that they all had concepts of murder. And again I will state that feudal Japan did not have such concepts. Even the concept of "unjust" might not fit. They could easily identify the slaying of a peasant as "unjust" but it would still not be a crime.

But if there is no right or wrong, what do you care either way? 1. It didn't happen to you. 2. There's nothing right or wrong about what happened to him. It just is.

This is also avoiding my counterexample. You are an absolutist who argued that not being able to say "its wrong" would stand against me if something like false arrest occured. I just showed you that being able to say such a thing would not help either.

There is no practical advantage to moral claims beyond appealing to someone who might share the same moral system or personal biases.

I would raise the question of why you don't care about the Canadian who was tortured by the US for a year for no reason? As for me I care because I believe I have civil rights which are not consistent with that treatment by my gov't. I expect my gov't not to do such things. If they do such to that guy they could just as well do it to me.

In addition I do not like pain or causing other people pain, especially when it is not necessary.

What I think is I'm starting to believe in your views. I say kill 'em all, hack 'em up if that's what fancies you. Its not wrong. Its not unjust. It just is.

You are being inaccurate and arbitrary. I am saying people WILL do what fancies them, and my personal tastes have no direct influence on them nor act as a True evaluation of their actions.

If without an external code you would encourage indiscriminate killing that would be your nature. I wouldn't encourage it and would fight it where I am.

not that my opinion matters in a sea of meaninglessness.

Moral relativism, not factual or definitional relativism. Do not lose your head as Lewis did.


holmes
"What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away." (D.Bros)
This message is a reply to:
 Message 32 by Hyroglyphx, posted 11-10-2006 3:19 PM Hyroglyphx has not yet responded

    
Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6617
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 34 of 44 (363195)
11-11-2006 9:14 AM
Reply to: Message 32 by Hyroglyphx
11-10-2006 3:19 PM


No source of an absolute morality.
quote:
an absolutist could say that God instituted the policies that would affect the affairs if the universe, to include man and morality.

There a couple of problems here. First, since the existence of such a God has not yet been established, such a claim would not help out the absolutist. If someone is trying to convince an atheist, for example, that some sort of absolute morality exists, then this argument would be entirely unconvincing.

Second, most of the time that I see someone trying to show that there must be some sort of absolute morality, they are actually using this as part of a proof that God exists. In that case, this is claim would be an assumption of what is meant to be proven, making this a circular argument.

In any rate, to make this claim one then adds the additional burden of having to prove that God exists.

Finally, this claim is of no help to the absolutist. All this does is say that the absolutist's moral system is based on an arbitrary standard of morality, in this case the personal preferences of God. There is no reason to think that God's preferences are any less arbitrary than anyone else's

Of course, one can argue that an omnipotent being has complete power to punish those who go against his wishes and to reward those who comply with his wishes. But acting out of fear of punishment or hope of reward is not what most people think of when they speak of "right or wrong"; in fact, "right" often means engaging in behavior despite the threat of a punishment, and "wrong" often means refraining from behavior despite the promise of a reward. The concept of morality usually includes the idea that behaviors should be engaged in (or avoided) without regard to any benefit to the user; so someone who is only being "good" for the sole purpose of recieving God's rewards and avoiding his punishments is not really being good.

Another argument that some use is to insist that the creator of the universe has the right to set the rules of what is right and wrong; however, that is only the subjective opinion of the person making this claim and so does not really help us in understanding what exactly is an "absolute" standard.

-

quote:
Every culture has a concept if unjust killing.

Every culture has a concept of "up and down" as well. However, the world is a sphere, and so different places will have different directions where up goes and where down goes. Even if one claims that the center of the earth provides an absolute standard for "up and down", someone on the moon or on Mars will use the center of those planets, thereby using a different standard. And someone in route to the moon or to Mars will have no standard at all for "up or down" except for a purely arbitrary one, probably determined by the position of her body relative to some part of the space craft.

So, every culture sharing some sort of concept does not make the standards universal. And at least "up and down" is pretty concrete. "Unjust killing" is hopelessly vague. "Killing" is neither just nor unjust -- it depends on the actual situation, and it depends on the social context. The fact that in every society there are situations where a killing would not be allowed has nothing to do with the existence of a "law of nature" -- it may simply be a reflection that societies that allowed killings in any and all circumstances did not last for very long. Or it may be a reflection that the impersonal forces that selected our ancestors to be a social species produced neurological systems that produce feelings of empathy for our fellows.

Edited by Chiroptera, : Edited the last sentence of the second paragraph.
Also took the opportunity to change the subtitle.

Edited by Chiroptera, : Edited the fifth paragraph for clarity, and the sixth paragraph to improve readability.


Kings were put to death long before 21 January 1793. But regicides of earlier times and their followers were interested in attacking the person, not the principle, of the king. They wanted another king, and that was all. It never occurred to them that the throne could remain empty forever. -- Albert Camus
This message is a reply to:
 Message 32 by Hyroglyphx, posted 11-10-2006 3:19 PM Hyroglyphx has not yet responded

  
arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 142 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 35 of 44 (363488)
11-12-2006 10:59 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by Silent H
11-09-2006 10:48 AM


part 1 of 6
i'm going to split this up.

While there seems to be a few points of actual dispute, much of this appears to be an argument over differing definitions. Tomayto, Tomahto. Let me start again so we can pan out the nuggets of debate, from the debris of different terminology.

1) Morality...
Defining this concept may end most of our argument.

indeed.

Much of your discussion appears to be redefining morality in a practical sense, that is involving a meta-ethical position perhaps quite similar to my own, and then adopting language people normally use for moral discussion to cover something else.

i am using "morality" in two senses, and i apologize for not being more clear. in one sense, i am using it to mean the basic principles of our western system of morality -- the second broader sense, what a society as a whole considers ethical, or fails to even consider.

These are internal, subjective feelings, boiled down to essentially "i like", and "i don't like". They are not cognitive concepts, though such concepts may be made to validate them. If you are referring to the above subjective feelings as "morality", and agree that means morals come down to personal statements of a subjective nature with a variety of influences, then I agree with many of your arguments, including the relation of morals to laws.

ok. i do feel this is basic biological origin of what we consider morality, though for many people morality is a more cognitive process. i feel this is an attempt to externalize or justify internal, irrational, or even instinctual feelings which we have no control over.

However, philosophical discussions of morality (ethics) generally do NOT let the term "morality" apply to such feelings. That is because "right" and "wrong" are supposed to be something greater than mere personal preference.

even supposing for a second that we take this backwards, and start with an objective rule, such as "thou shalt not kill," look at how many different subjective calls we must make about what is and what is not moral according to that law. is it moral to kill those who have killed? is it moral to kill our enemies at war? is it moral to kill our cows so we can enjoy hamburgers? is it moral to kill soy plants so we can have veggie burgers instead? is it moral to let society starve to death because it's immoral to kill anything alive? where we place our priorities -- what we consider to be moral -- is entirely subjective, even when often agreed upon.

but i would like to suggest that morality is greater than personal preference, if not by much. simple because it's not personal. these things are often decided on an abstract cultural level, not a personal one.

Discussions involve whether they have truth values beyond the framework of an individual's fleeting interests. After all people generally are not going to change their preference because you say "i don't like it", nor are they going to adopt your prefs because you say "i like it". When one moves to discuss moral action it is argued "because it is right!"

the only difference is that one sounds better than the other. one wins arguments by rhetoric, not merit. and "it is right!" isn't a better reason than "god said so!" or "i like it!" all three questions have the same response: "why?"

we learn quickly in the art depart to find better ways of phrasing "i like it" or "i think it sucks" more eloquently, so it sounds like we have a reason, and we can pretend our decisions in critiques are objective (and sometimes convince people) but really it's all subjective and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.

I am sticking with general convention by separating the two (feelings v cognition) and denouncing the truth value of moral statements, arguing they are merely attempts to validate the former using some cognitive rationale.

yes i agree, and i add that human beings are fundamentally irrational beings. but then, you've been here long enough to know that.

Your apparent system, when definitions are used instead of terms, would be moral relativism, or perhaps emotivism... unless you mean to suggest that the sources of our desires indicate some level of truth regarding what is "good" or "bad"?

well, yes but also no. not in the "god said so" way, but in the "what works and doesn't work" kind of way. we develop cultural morality out of subjective personal feelings or biological responses because they work for the bettering of society (or at least fail to significantly undermine it). the reasonable approximation of objectivity inside the culture itself is an artifact, a result, not the basis.

Edited by arachnophilia, : No reason given.


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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 142 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 36 of 44 (363496)
11-12-2006 11:29 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by Silent H
11-09-2006 10:48 AM


part 2 of 6
You appear to have equivocated in your use of the term "consider". One can consider something in a factual (existential) way, or in an emotional way.

When one says one should "consider" the other, do you mean that they exist and what they might do based on one's own actions, or that they have feelings which might be hurt and that is something one would not want to do (ie "do unto others")?

yes, sorry. i am too lazy to be precise with my words. in this part, i mean consideration in an emotional aspect, not a factual way.

On the flipside, one does not always have to consider others in an emotional sense. The laws could be "Do as the king says peasant", or even "Do as the community wishes, comrade".

what drives these two things, though? why should one do as the king says? and really doing as the community wishes is consideration of the other, just on a plural level.

It is of course possible that the person may really care about the King or the community and so want to "consider" the emotions of those entities, but it is irrelevant and action may just as well be to "consider" the factual element of those entities and what will happen if one does not obey.

that's not the issue; the issue is what drives the creation of these (external) systems.

Even democracies of the social contract sense

all governments are by social contract. and not in the same way that the rape victim is really asking for it -- the people far out-number the government, by definition, and if push comes to shove, it's all about who can kill more of whom.

As a practical matter of course if two people live nearby they will generally interact. If they choose to interact regularly, especially toward a common practical goal, they only need to assess what is likely to occur between them and set up routines so that their own interests are not hampered. If both do this then by logical imperative they will recreate "rights", without considering the other as an emotional being and what impact their actions will have on the other (beyond retribution).

i think there's a jump in the logic there, but you may be right. still, on the societal level, the fact that rights are forced to exist says something. even in strict terms of retribution and personal interest, part of our individual personal interest is not pissing off the other guy so much that he kills us. that is, neccessarily, consideration of the other's emotional status, even if it's solely to protect our own interests.

I realize Locke arguably viewed natural rights as a moral issue.

i'm (ironically) not well enough read in locke's work to really say, but i'm not entirely sure he did. he may have viewed them in the strictly practical sense, as above. i'll get back to you once i read two treatises.

In summary, if you mean in the vaguest sense that laws involve consideration of the other (factually) and that this involves morals (personal feelings), then I would agree. If you mean that laws are made by taking into consideration how our actions are going to be felt by another because of our concern (beyond retribution) for the other, then I would disagree.

i mean on a strictly fundamental, subconcious, order-for-society level, closer to the first position you describe.


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This message is a reply to:
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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 142 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 37 of 44 (363503)
11-12-2006 11:47 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by Silent H
11-09-2006 10:48 AM


part 3 of 6
These are complex discussions/distinctions. I am not sure how much you know of them ...

not much, please feel free to elaborate.

...and how much you are throwing off to play the role of diablo advocati.

i'm not entirely sure i am anymore, actually. lol.

In any case, the labels that I was discussing did not involve negative or positive connotations, they really are neutral,

no such thing. all terms have connotations, and shades of meaning.

and taking something away from a person when they are absolutely helpless involves no risk at all and so exhibits "cowardice".

why? i would define cowardice as running or hiding in the face of danger. in this case, they faced mild potential danger. it was not as great a danger as it would have been when the other person was alive, yes. but so? many animals are scavengers, and that's a perfectly acceptable biological niche.

in fact, we can even see human moral calls applied on animals in the wild. the lion is brave and majestic for hunting prey, but the hyena that simply finds a carcass and exploits it is cowardly? why? in reality, of course, the situation is often reversed; both animals do both things. neither especially cares, it's just a meal.

clearly, this is an artificial construct.

The thieves were not wrong or lesser for what they did, but exhibiting a relationally greater level of cowardice than I would. It may be so great a difference that I dislike what they are doing on a gut level. Yet others might find that perfectly tasteful. What everyone chooses defines them in a factual definitional sense and not a morally "right/wrong" sense.

but what is wrong with cowardice? why does cowardice affect you on a gut level? it's a perfectly acceptable response, and often VERY successful on an evolutionary level. there is no reason why cowardice should provoke a negative reaction.

you can say it was not neccessarily wrong or lesser, but your gut reaction betrays your moral sense.

I gave another example (maybe that was to NJ) of the brilliant assassin. In killing a hard to reach opponent, who he may have not wanted to kill but was ordered to do so, with a poison he made that was totally undetectable, that person would exhibit: knowledge, loyalty, and cowardice. If the victim was someone that had or was likely to kill others without cause, then the person could be acting "justly". But even if unjust, that would simply be another characteristic. The person could be hailed and reviled on all of these different aspects of their act, and would be depending on another person's nature.

i caught the tail end of predator 2 on television last night, and was watching it with brenna for a while. the thing that made the predator especially terrifying was that it was not an indiscriminant killer, a dim-witted raging brute or a vicious animal. it appeared to have some form of ethical consideration, and certainly intelligence. it only killed people who were armed, but left children and pregnant women unharmed. it hunted with honor -- we were just placed lower in the moral scheme than we are used to. the films were effective, because they put up a moral dilemma. we consider it immoral to kill human beings, but at the same time we recognize the morality of the killer.

sorry, bad sci-fi nut. :P

Absolutely nothing is wrong with being cowardly. Heck those people just made some money. In wars it might keep one alive, and even lead to victory.

yes, our revolutionary war was a case in point.

In the more overt virtue ethics theory cowardice may be thought a vice, but only in the sense that habitual cowardice in a person is less likely to lead to personal achievement and happiness.

why?


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This message is a reply to:
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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 142 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 38 of 44 (363517)
11-13-2006 12:42 AM
Reply to: Message 27 by Silent H
11-09-2006 10:48 AM


part 4-6 of 6
I'm not sure there is any motivation than understanding the factual nature of ethics. What is true regarding moral statements? In doing so one must factually consider the reality of other systems, but one does not have to care about them one bit.

i just intend to point out that cultural relativism is ironic, in that it uses our western personal relativism, a moral concept, to view other societies. even in considering them, we are using our own moral goggle to do so.

You seem to be confusing the philosophical position of relativism with political activists who appeal to relativism in some portions of their arguments. That absolutists, or simply political activists, appeal to some tenets of relativism to push their agenda, does not change what relativism is or says.

ok, perhaps i misunderstand.

I have already dealt with this with NJ. I am willing to switch that statement to "there are no known absolutes".

that is then a known absolute.

I meant what was the tree literally called, not what people may interpret it as. I'm trying to get if the literal wording in the Torah is the same as in the Bible.

the torah is part of the bible.

You can't get more clear than the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To argue it means awareness is to start moving away from literal meaning, to more speculative interpretation.

the bible is often semantically unclear. is the knowledge good and evil? is it knowing good and evil? is it knowing good from evil? given that the hebrew is עֵץ, הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע (etz ha-daat tov v'ra), it appears that "tov" and "ra" are being used as adjectives to modify "daat," forming a single phrase. thus it is "good knowledge and bad [knowledge]." i could be wrong, i'll examine it more. but i do not see any sense of judgement between what is good and what is bad, simply knowledge that is good and bad.

In this case it clearly starts with them being naked and unashamed. Eating from the tree and then being ashamed of that nakedness. God clearly made them that way and was not happy that they judged it.

god made them clothes. god is a strange character in genesis 2 and 3. he creates by trial an error -- it's possible he was not aware man would be ashamed of his naughty bits, as he was not aware that man would be lonely. i also think you're overthinking the text.

The serpent convinced them they could "eat of this knowledge" but they were fooled. They were not gods and not beings gods, they might FEEL they know like such, or ACT like they are such, but in reality they know nothing they only talk that way. Thus (among other things) they gain a false impression that naked is shameful, which is not correct.

no, clearly, god says they have become like gods in their knowledge. eve indeed makes a certain call when the serpent suggests the idea to her. she sees the tree is "good for food." clearly, she has just made a judgement here -- so the story cannot be about that. she can't judge that eating from the tree is GOOD is she cannot judge before she eats it.

no, the simplest reading is that it is knowledge -- possibly specific knowledge held in the tree, that god withheld from them. and they key phrase in the text was "their eyes were opened." they were made aware of something, or possible just in general. but they were not aware they were naked before this point, as per what the text says.

quote:
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;

they did not know they were naked before. the judgement that this is "bad" is irrelevent -- it might just be an assumption of the story, something the author took for granted. the issue is the knowledge, not the judgement.

I think it meant knowledge too. Not sure that I said otherwise. One cannot make moral judgement without moral knowledge.

no, not moral knowledge, knowledge in general. or possibly carnal knowledge, but i'm not sure i follow that one.

Edited by arachnophilia, : No reason given.


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This message is a reply to:
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Silent H
Member (Idle past 3984 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 39 of 44 (363546)
11-13-2006 7:19 AM
Reply to: Message 35 by arachnophilia
11-12-2006 10:59 PM


Re: part 1 of 6 (morality)
I saw that subthread title and my heart sank.

ok. i do feel this is basic biological origin of what we consider morality, though for many people morality is a more cognitive process. i feel this is an attempt to externalize or justify internal, irrational, or even instinctual feelings which we have no control over.

Then we are basically of the same position. Here is a Wiki article describing emotivism(though it is called non-cognitivism there). The article includes how it is distinguishable from other similar positions. "Expressivism" is also detailed in a separate linke.

One of my differences is that (perhaps like you) I can accept shared systems of preference for discussion. That is to say one of the sources of those internal feelings is socialization using moral systems as a guide. Thus it is safe to discuss systems of morality, using their terms (and truth according to the internal requirements of that system).

but i would like to suggest that morality is greater than personal preference, if not by much. simple because it's not personal. these things are often decided on an abstract cultural level, not a personal one.

Agreed, and that's what makes me more of a relativist/subjectivist or perhaps a pluralist. Also above you have in great part made the external/internal distinction I was discussing earlier.

In any case there is no truth within any moral statement, beyond its relation to a rule set, and then as a reflection of preference derived from that set.

the only difference is that one sounds better than the other. one wins arguments by rhetoric, not merit. and "it is right!" isn't a better reason than "god said so!" or "i like it!" all three questions have the same response: "why?"

we learn quickly in the art depart to find better ways of phrasing "i like it" or "i think it sucks" more eloquently, so it sounds like we have a reason, and we can pretend our decisions in critiques are objective (and sometimes convince people) but really it's all subjective and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.


Absolute agreement. That is why I find statements of "I like it" more mature than "It is right" even though common understanding is that the reverse is true.


holmes
"What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away." (D.Bros)
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Silent H
Member (Idle past 3984 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 40 of 44 (363548)
11-13-2006 7:39 AM
Reply to: Message 36 by arachnophilia
11-12-2006 11:29 PM


Re: part 2 of 6 (consider)
why should one do as the king says? and really doing as the community wishes is consideration of the other, just on a plural level.

I think that if the decision were out of positive respect for those entities, then it would be emotional consideration. I was trying to get at fear. One might understand that disobeying the King or the politburo will have direct physical consequences one would rather avoid.

In that case I'd consider it a factual consideration.

the issue is what drives the creation of these (external) systems.

Simple power plays can create the system. Even respect may be based on a factual evaluation that a person has skill in organizing the community for greater benefits. But it could just as easily be having the fear beaten into one, or the fear of being beaten, set into one's mind.

all governments are by social contract. and not in the same way that the rape victim is really asking for it -- the people far out-number the government, by definition, and if push comes to shove, it's all about who can kill more of whom.

That is technically true. All govt's continue to exist by the allowance of the people. But at the same time people have to be conscious of the choice, as well as the practical possibility overthrow is possible. Many do not even understand they have a choice to change the system they grew up with, or have submitted to for so long.

that is, neccessarily, consideration of the other's emotional status, even if it's solely to protect our own interests.

I agree but then it is a definitional distinction I have made between emotionally considering the emotions of others, and factually considering the emotions of others. I kind of have to let my personal definition rest on its own merits/utility.

i mean on a strictly fundamental, subconcious, order-for-society level, closer to the first position you describe.

I had a feeling we weren't so far apart.


holmes
"What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away." (D.Bros)
This message is a reply to:
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Silent H
Member (Idle past 3984 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 41 of 44 (363558)
11-13-2006 9:43 AM
Reply to: Message 37 by arachnophilia
11-12-2006 11:47 PM


Re: part 3 of 6 (virtue ethics)
I'm not sure I want to go through a huge explanation of virtue ethics, including its various forms. Here's a Wiki page on Virtue ethics. From it there is a generic overview...

The methods of virtue ethics are in contrast to the dominant methods in ethical philosophy, which focus on actions. For example, both deontological ethics and consequentialist systems try to provide guiding principles for actions that allow a person to decide how to behave in any given situation.

Virtue ethics focuses on what makes a good person, rather than what makes a good action. As such it is often associated with a teleological ethical system - one that seeks to define the proper telos (goal or end) of the human person.

Of course "good" is something which is not exactly the same as what is meant by "good" in regards to other systems. It will also differ on the virtue system under discussion. Good could be "leads to personal success" or "leads to personal happiness" or "leads to admiration by others". Indeed that is a large part of debate within that field, rather than nuances of how to define an action as "good" in some theoretical sense. In most cases the "good" in virtue theory is related to a practical goal.

It is true that for much of its history virtues are separated with connotations based on whether they are likely to bring "success". Thus courage is the virtue over cowardice the vice, as it is more likely to lead to success. But that is not always true for every action and no one is expected to always be any trait. Some philosophers even argue that neither end of the spectrum would be a virtue, with only the moderate center being the virtue. That helps people avoid consistent extremes of activity.

But one may also pull all connotation out and use the terms in their strict definitional sense. I hope my following replies will help...

no such thing. all terms have connotations, and shades of meaning.

That is not true. -1 does not have any connotation as opposed to 1. They are both simply numbers as defined as opposites on a spectrum/gradient. Actions are the same. Going up is opposite of going down, but neither is inherently meaningful beyond physical description of the activity.

why? i would define cowardice as running or hiding in the face of danger. in this case, they faced mild potential danger. it was not as great a danger as it would have been when the other person was alive, yes. but so? many animals are scavengers, and that's a perfectly acceptable biological niche.

This is a good observation and your example of the lion v the hyena was excellent. We can work with that very easily. I would argue that your statement outlines exactly what I am talking about. Neither the lion nor the hyena are better than the other, but both have different characters which can be described.

We tend to use terms like courage v cowardice in that they are well known. In reality they are stand in for better (more neutral) terms like risk-taking v risk-avoidance. I think you might agree they are less loaded though describing the same behavior. It just takes a bit to make the switch to treat the former (more common terms) as neutral definitions of positions on a scale of behavior.

you can say it was not neccessarily wrong or lesser, but your gut reaction betrays your moral sense.

Well I will agree with that statement based on how you are using moral from the earlier posts. But that would not be moral in the philosophical sense (a sense of truth regarding a moral system's imperative) such as NJ is using.

The answer for why I might find a certain level of cowardice distasteful could have a myriad of explanations. Both from upbringing, as well as personal experiences. Maybe I just felt less satisfied by taking easy chances, and so don't enjoy watching others do it.

I have certainly acted cowardly on occassion. Some others might have been disappointed with me for acting that way but I felt fine. Other times I felt disgusted yet with what I did but others might have felt fine.

sorry, bad sci-fi nut

I preferred predator 1 (a movie with two future governors in it kicking ass has to be enjoyable) but understand what you are talking about. In fact I would use this to describe why I prefer virtue ethics. In movies where the villains are cardboard cutouts, pure "evil", they don't have as much impact as movies where the villain shows a range of characteristics. Their actions will end up being a mix of good and bad and challenge our own conceptions. We can judge ourselves in a realistic way (the way we do in real life) to them.

why?

In the case of things like cowardice (risk-avoidance) one can credibly argue that this would not be as productive in life as courage (risk-taking). That's because most chances for success or happiness come with risk, and if it is generaly avoided one can lose many opportunities.

Even hyenas would not be always cowardly, though much of their food gathering techniques might be avoidance of risk. They will take physical risks within the group to get more food or mates than another.

Thankfully a person cannot be judged on one trait alone. Thus a patent coward (almost always avoiding risk) may have virtues that make up for their vice and so become successful and happy. It is just that they are more liable to miss all the opportunities they are given. Or in the case of the thieves, liable to take opportunities others find a sign of weakness and distaste.


holmes
"What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away." (D.Bros)
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Silent H
Member (Idle past 3984 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 42 of 44 (363559)
11-13-2006 10:05 AM
Reply to: Message 38 by arachnophilia
11-13-2006 12:42 AM


Re: part 4-6 of 6 (biblical)
the torah is part of the bible.

I meant whether the modern bible's wording is the same as that in the torah. From what I understand the two do not always match in a literal or meaning sense.

i could be wrong, i'll examine it more. but i do not see any sense of judgement between what is good and what is bad, simply knowledge that is good and bad.

So in that case the Hebrew seems less clear than the English. All English versions I have seen seem pretty clear, especially given the snake's description of what would occur.

god made them clothes. god is a strange character in genesis 2 and 3. he creates by trial an error -- it's possible he was not aware man would be ashamed of his naughty bits, as he was not aware that man would be lonely. i also think you're overthinking the text.

God made them clothes after they were ashamed. I do agree that he seems to create by trial and error, and that is strange (for an omnipotent being). But I don't see why I am overthinking the text. I am going with the most direct, literal interpretation.

One may wonder why an atheist is arguing for the most literal interpretation of an allegory, but what the hey.

no, clearly, god says they have become like gods in their knowledge.

Like gods, but not gods. If they were gods then they could create and their knowledge of right and wrong would be true. But they were created and so their knowledge is false.

they did not know they were naked before.

But naked is a loaded term for them right? Nakedness is equal to shame and judgement. That's why the point was made earlier that they were naked but were not ashamed.

I am in agreement that it is about awareness. The question is of what and it seems to me a valid interpretation (and the most direct) is that it is an awareness of good and evil, unfortunately based on less than absolute knowledge of facts (because they are not gods) and so leads to suffering.

no, not moral knowledge, knowledge in general.

Well I see what you are saying and understand how it could be read that way, but I am not understanding how you are invalidating the interpretation I put forward. Good and Evil are moral terms (especially for them).

Its unlikely they simply did not see they had no clothes. It seems to make sense that they saw this but not did not recognize it as containing a moral component, that they were "naked". Once they understood morality, they began to connect it to everything they had previously known.


holmes
"What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away." (D.Bros)
This message is a reply to:
 Message 38 by arachnophilia, posted 11-13-2006 12:42 AM arachnophilia has not yet responded

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Silent H
Member (Idle past 3984 days)
Posts: 7405
From: satellite of love
Joined: 12-11-2002


Message 43 of 44 (363737)
11-14-2006 11:20 AM
Reply to: Message 42 by Silent H
11-13-2006 10:05 AM


Re: part 4-6 of 6 (biblical) addendum
I got curious and looked up the Wiki entry on the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

While there are different interpretations discussed, both a Judaic and Xian interpretation mirror what I was discussing. From Wiki on Judaic tradition...

Rabbi David Fohrman of Aish HaTorah, citing Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, states that "the tree did not give us moral awareness when we had none before. Rather, it transformed this awareness from one kind into another." After eating from the Tree, humanity's innate sense of moral awareness was transformed from concepts of true and false to concepts of good and evil. Genesis describes the tree as desirable (3:6), and our concepts of good and evil, unlike our concepts of true and false, also have an implicit measure of desire.

And from the source (Forman's article)...

The shift from a world of true and false to a world of good and evil was a shift between a world where my essential choice was an objective one, to a more subjective world -- a world in which my desire intrudes and becomes an inescapable part of the moral calculus...

The source article elaborates on the shift and it is essentially a replacement of objective moral truth, with subjective desire. The article even goes into the specific language found in the Torah to support the discussion.

Then at Wiki regarding Western Xian interpretation...

By eating of the fruit of the Tree, Adam and Eve chose to substitute their own knowledge of good and evil for God's. However, since human knowledge is limited, human morality is inherently flawed. From God's perspective, human morality is depraved, although different denominations debate whether this depravity is total or partial, and to what degree humanity can freely choose to follow God's morality.

While that is pretty much dead on to what I said, unfortunately there is no citation given for this assessment. At any rate it seems that someone else is suggesting the same read as I have, and it does square with a read from a Rabbi discussing Maimonides's interpretation of the ToKoGaE.


holmes
"What a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away." (D.Bros)
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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 142 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 44 of 44 (369847)
12-14-2006 11:24 PM
Reply to: Message 43 by Silent H
11-14-2006 11:20 AM


i'd like to apologize for letting this discussion go for a while. i think we both more or less agree on the majority of points, and it's gotten a bit lengthy. both of which have placed it realitively low in my priority list for the end of this semester, but i have a bit more time now. i'd like to add something interesting to the pot though. earlier, i started speaking of morality as almost biological.

well, i heard a story on npr recently, about this, and thought of this discussion. the study there leads to conclusion that morality is probably biological. not only do 85% of people respond the same way to these moral dilemmas, but the same areas of their brains are active for particular answers. the npr story (a full hour on morality) went on to discuss how chimps essentially display the same characteristics. it seems "morality" is an evolutionary adaptation.

Edited by arachnophilia, : No reason given.


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