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Author Topic:   A morality discussion (Neutralmind, Crashfrog, and Chiroptera only)
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 41 (400765)
05-16-2007 3:52 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Neutralmind
04-21-2007 9:05 PM


Wow! I've been invited to a Great Debate! Cool. Thanks, Neut, I'm honored. Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. Now it looks like you and crash are into a conversation; if you want to focus on him you can ignore this post.

It's been a bit since we've discussed this topic, so let me sort of hit the reset button and see where it goes from there.

First, I'm just going to say that "absolute morality" and "objective morality" both basically mean the same thing, namely the opposite of "subjective morality". And "subjective morality" simply means that what is morally right and what is morally wrong depend on the culture, or maybe even on the individual.

So I am going to say that "morality" is subjective for precisely the same reason that "triangle" is a three-sided polygon, namely because that is the way it is defined. "Morality" simply means that some things are "right" and some things are "wrong". Things are "right" or "wrong" depending on how people feel about them. Something is "immoral" precisely because a large number of people who are not directly affected by it find it revolting or unpleasant. How else would one define "morality"?

I think that the problem here is that you are confusing "morality" with the idea of some sort of "karmic law". The principle of "karma" (note the quotes -- I'm not necessarily speaking of the principle in Buddhism and Hinduism) is that actions have consequences, and that this is the result of some law of nature, sort of like the laws of physics.

Now if I let go of a ball, it will fall to the ground do to the nature of the universe. There is nothing morally right or wrong with letting go of the ball, it is simply a statement of fact that if I let go of the ball, there are some definite consequences that will result from it.

In the same way, to take your example, it may very well be (for the sake of argument) that the nature of the universe is such that if you engage in a one-night-stand then you will eventually suffer some sort of punishment for it. That is, your actions will have consequences. This is not to say that a one-night-stand is right or wrong -- this would simply be the expression of the possible fact that if you engage in one then you will, someday, somewhere, find the consequences unpleasant.

The reason that these two ideas get conflated is that Christianity has traditionally conflated them. One the one hand, God the Judge will punish those who act against his commands. On the other hand, Christians are generally revolted (or feel that one should be revolted) when someone acts against his commands, thereby conflating their conception of morality with their conception of "karma". And of course those societies that had sense of karma also often conflated karma with their notions of right and wrong.

So, just to be clear on things, morality is not necessarily the same as some law that says that certain actions result in unpleasant consequences.

Also, the existence of a deity does not change the fact that morality is, by definition, subjective.

Also, the existence of a deity is independent of karmic law. After all, a deity may not herself particularly care enough to punish people who go against karmic law. Or, karmic law may exist, like physical law, even though there is no deity.

And, to bring up your original statement on this topic, all of this is independent of whether the theory of evolution is true of false.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Neutralmind, posted 04-21-2007 9:05 PM Neutralmind has taken no action

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 41 (400798)
05-16-2007 6:42 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Neutralmind
05-16-2007 6:22 PM


Chiroptera
If there are objective standards of morality, then there will be consequences for not obeying them.
If there are objective standards and I disobey them, then I will suffer consequences.
Therefore, there might be objective standards of morality.
If this is what you are saying, then I hope that you see where it fails.

I have no idea where this fails

Huh. It seems pretty obvious to me that the argument is not valid. Let me type a different argument using the same form; maybe it will be more clear why it is invalid.

If there are elves who hate coffee, then they will give coffee drinkers wedgies. If there are elves who hate coffee and I drink coffee, then they will give me a wedgie. Therefore, there are elves who hate coffee.

This argument has exactly the same form as the previous one. If this one is fallacious, then so is the previous one.

That is why I was asking whether you really were making the previous argument. Because that argument is clearly invalid. The conclusion does not automatically follow from the premises (and we haven't even really determined whether the premises are even true).


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by Neutralmind, posted 05-16-2007 6:22 PM Neutralmind has taken no action

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 19 of 41 (402940)
05-30-2007 8:03 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Neutralmind
05-30-2007 5:49 PM


Questions that have no answers.
Now I'm not talking about the obvious use for it in terms of civlizations or populations. Also, I don't want to be talking about it's evolutionary aspects at all.

Okay. I think that the sociological and evolutionary aspects of empathy are obvious, so I guess there is no need to go into detail here, as long as you understand that there might be an explanation for empathy in terms of evolutionary advantage and/or social stability.

-

But moreover what's the benefit of having empathy, for me?

Well, there is, as crashfrog has pointed out, the benefits resulting in reciprocity. But this may be close to the evolutionary/sociological explanations that you already understand and don't want to discuss. In that case, I would say there aren't any others.

-

It's something I feel naturally but why should I?

Well, you just do. Why worry about why you should?

Edited by Chiroptera, : changed subtitle


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by Neutralmind, posted 05-30-2007 5:49 PM Neutralmind has taken no action

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 21 of 41 (402962)
05-30-2007 10:39 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by Neutralmind
05-30-2007 8:37 PM


Re: Back again
Maybe it's just me but I don't really need empathy from others. Very rarely anyway.

Well, you say that, and maybe it's true, but you would be surprised at how much of the kindness and consideration of others around stem from their feelings of empathy. I'm willing to bet you would not find a world without empathy to be a very pleasant place to live. As a student I found myself among a group of people who were seriously impaired in their ability to empathize, and I hated it.

-

Would be much better for me if I could just ignore it and do something that helps me.

Okay, now the question has changed. Before, you were asking why you should feel empathy. Now you are asking how to turn it off.

I don't know. It never occurred to me to wonder how to not empathize with others. Personally, I feel that the ability to empathize is one of the things that make us human. If you didn't feel empathy for others, you wouldn't be human any more. At least that's my opinion.

-

Forgive me, because this is none of my business, but this thread (and its predecessor) is giving me the feeling that you are going through some emotional difficulties right now. If you are, then may I make a suggestion? I notice that you are Finnish, and I think that Finland has a very nice European system of health care available. Have you thought about speaking with a professional who is trained to help you deal with whatever it is you are experiencing?

Sorry, I might be reading too much into your posts, and it's no one's business anyway. You can ignore this whole portion of this post if you want.

-

Anyway, I'm just a tad unsure about what your questions about morality and empathy really are. I don't really feel that I understand what you are trying to find out, so I apologize if the answers that I'm giving aren't helping much.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 20 by Neutralmind, posted 05-30-2007 8:37 PM Neutralmind has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 22 by Neutralmind, posted 05-31-2007 6:44 AM Chiroptera has replied

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 24 of 41 (403012)
05-31-2007 11:51 AM
Reply to: Message 22 by Neutralmind
05-31-2007 6:44 AM


Why not just ignore others most of the time and help only when it's convenient or there's something for me to gain?

I don't know. Why don't you do that?

Personally, I think you'll find a life like that to be less emotionally satisfying, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that is the best way for you to live your life, and that is the way you'll find happiness.

-

And no, I'm not having or going through emotional problems at this time.

Okay. Sorry I brought it up, then.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 22 by Neutralmind, posted 05-31-2007 6:44 AM Neutralmind has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 26 by Neutralmind, posted 05-31-2007 8:53 PM Chiroptera has replied

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 28 of 41 (403131)
05-31-2007 9:35 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by Neutralmind
05-31-2007 8:53 PM


reply to crashfrog:
So you're saying most people will help others even when it's very unconvenient, and there's nothing to gain for themselves?

Well, I can't speak for most people, but I do this. So do most of the people that I know personally.

-

Why should I (or you) not find it emotionally satisfying to live more selfishly?

No reason. As for me, it's part of who I am, I guess. Maybe you're different.

-

The obvious point why I'm not living like that is because I listen to my ability of empathy. But really, why should I?

No reason.

-

Sure, it's great ability to have sometimes but why not ignore it when it's not helping my survival chances? That's the purpose it evolved to right?

Not necessarily your own survival. If the whole tribe has the genetic disposition for altruistic behavior (of which empathy might be part), then the sacrifices of the individuals will help the entire tribe live better, survive, and produce another generation with the disposition for altruism.

-

What's the gain to me for helping out some random people I know I will never get help back from?

For me, it's just knowing that I've helped someone is it's own reward. If you don't feel the same way, then I guess that there is no gain for you.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 26 by Neutralmind, posted 05-31-2007 8:53 PM Neutralmind has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 31 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:01 PM Chiroptera has replied

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 30 of 41 (403316)
06-01-2007 8:43 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by Neutralmind
06-01-2007 8:39 PM


Re: Back again
Oh, this one is easy:

Or say, you've just got out of work, the work day has ended. You ask a fellow worker, who is just a guy/girl who you work with but never really hang out with. You ask him/her if he could help you to move some heavy stuff in at your new apartment. Will he say yes or come up with some lame excuse?

I was walking home for work one afternoon. True story, by the way. As I was passing by a house, some kid, who was in the process of moving, stopped me and asked me to help move his sofa and his bed out of his apartment into the truck he had rented. I did. He offered me $20, but I refused.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 29 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 8:39 PM Neutralmind has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 32 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:04 PM Chiroptera has taken no action

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 34 of 41 (403326)
06-01-2007 9:10 PM
Reply to: Message 31 by Neutralmind
06-01-2007 9:01 PM


Look, can we please stop playing games?

I am not the one playing games. You are the one asking the same question over and over again, even though I keep giving you the same answer.

You keep asking why shouldn't you stop emphathizing with people. My answer is that there isn't a reason why you shouldn't stop. Now if you're not playing games, then there is no need to ask this exact same question over again.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 31 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:01 PM Neutralmind has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 35 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:17 PM Chiroptera has replied

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 36 of 41 (403330)
06-01-2007 9:18 PM
Reply to: Message 33 by Neutralmind
06-01-2007 9:08 PM


Re: In other words
Oh, good god almighty!

Okay, one more time, and then I'm done with this asinine conversation!

The downsides to self-centered behavior:

(1) The self-centered person will have feelings of guilt, shame, or lack of fullfillment that will be unpleasant.

(2) Other people will notice the person's self-centeredness and act accordingly, not doing any special favors and maybe even punishing the person in some way.

Now, if these can be avoided, or ignored, or in some way the person doesn't feel that these are serious problems, then there is no downside to self-centered behavior.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 33 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:08 PM Neutralmind has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 38 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:21 PM Chiroptera has taken no action

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 37 of 41 (403331)
06-01-2007 9:20 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by Neutralmind
06-01-2007 9:17 PM


Okay, good, a different question!

Say, people you'll never see again, why emphatise, why help them?

It's just what I do. There is no other reason I do it other than it makes me feel better about myself.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 35 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:17 PM Neutralmind has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 39 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:29 PM Chiroptera has replied

  
Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 40 of 41 (403340)
06-01-2007 9:55 PM
Reply to: Message 39 by Neutralmind
06-01-2007 9:29 PM


if you still have the patience

No problem, as long as we are moving along now.

-

But then, why do we get it? Is it even important?

Good question. I think it was answered before (and on several other threads), but maybe I can try to make it a little bit clearer.

What I think is that empathy, or at least a disposition toward empathy, is part of the innate mental wiring in our heads. Humans evolved from social species, and a feeling of empathy, the ability to put oneself in another's place and share their joy and their pain, would obviously do a lot to grease the social wheels.

Empathy and altruism would help the tribe survive better. It has been shown that that a population of altruists may survive better and have a reproductive advantage over a population of egoists. The key here is that everyone has this same tendency toward altruism (perhaps, like in the case of humans, mediated by feelings of empathy). Your empathy helps others survive, and since they will share your disposition toward altruism, and while tribes of egoists don't survive as well, then the next generation will have more altruists and fewer egoists. And of course you benefit from altruism as well, since your fellow tribe members altruism is helping you.

Of course, it has been shown through mathematical models that a population of pure altruists is unstable -- a single egoist in that population will have a reproductive advantage. However, pure altruists don't exist in real-life. In real life, altruistic individuals have the ability to notice egoists and to take action against them, or at least not give them the benefit of their altruistic behavior. The outrage you expressed over people you notice taking advantage of helpful people might be an expression of this.

-

And then, it makes us feel good. Which means we are doing it for selfish reasons.

That could be. I might be wrong, but all altruism that I know of is done either because the person feels good about it, or the person will feel worse if she doesn't do it. It might very well be that, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as true altruism -- we always get something out of it, even if it is an emotional high or the avoidance of emotional pain.

However, it seems to be the case that people encourage other people to feel good about being selfless, and that the good feelings that one feels when one does the "right thing" is itself considered a virtue. So, I guess someone who behaves "selflessly" is really being selfish since she is actually striving for a "good feeling". On the other hand, other people think it is admirable that she does feel good when she is being selfless.

So, maybe it is a bit complicated after all.


Actually, if their god makes better pancakes, I'm totally switching sides. -- Charley the Australopithecine

This message is a reply to:
 Message 39 by Neutralmind, posted 06-01-2007 9:29 PM Neutralmind has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 41 by Neutralmind, posted 06-02-2007 8:52 AM Chiroptera has taken no action

  
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