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Author Topic:   Morals without God or Darwin, just Empathy
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 1 of 184 (379732)
01-25-2007 11:28 AM


I've noticed by reading many threads on the matter that there only seems to be two ways to have morals. Either through God as outlined throughout The Bible, or through evolution-explanations, which also seems to have been dubbed Darwinian-mechanisms. This puzzles me, since I do not believe in the Christian God and I don't think I take my morals from The Bible. I also don't think I follow evolution-explanations for my morals. I find these explanations very strange, and sometimes even ridiculous.

I derived the morals in my life in two stages. First, by accepting what I was told by trusted authority figures (parents, priest, teachers...). And secondly moving on to a basic use of Empathy. If I feel that a certain action is evil, or good; generally by wondering if anyone is being hurt. Then I deem it as being bad, or right.

I would like to discuss whether or not people find my reasoning into my morals as logical, correct, or even valid. I want to debate these ideas in order for myself to better grasp my own thoughts, and possibly even to be persuaded that I do indeed follow God or evolution-explanations for my morals, and I'm just currently unaware.

For example: Murder is condemned by one of the 10 commandments. I've also read of an evolution-explanation that murder reduces the number of people in the local area, thus harming the society's overall chances of survival and is therefore wrong.

-I do not think Murder is wrong because a book says so.
-I do not think Murder is wrong because it will reduce the number of people around me and therefore reducing our survival-chances.
-I think Murder is wrong because it ends a person's life and I see no reason why someone should be able to make that decision and remove so many of another's abilities.. basically.. all of them. I would not want someone to Murder me, nor do I think anyone should be able to freely exert such oppression over anyone else.

I think this should be placed in Faith and Belief, although I admit.. that's just where I lurk the most :]

Edited by Stile, : My smiley-guy got cut-off


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Wounded King, posted 01-25-2007 11:51 AM Stile has responded
 Message 4 by Taz, posted 01-25-2007 12:39 PM Stile has responded
 Message 10 by RAZD, posted 01-25-2007 8:53 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply
 Message 17 by anastasia, posted 01-27-2007 7:14 PM Stile has responded
 Message 120 by nyenye, posted 02-03-2007 1:59 PM Stile has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 6 of 184 (379785)
01-25-2007 1:20 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Wounded King
01-25-2007 11:51 AM


Ability and Usage are two different things
Wounded King writes:

So a darwinian explanation of actual morality per se is more likely to be based on the evolution of faculties which allow you to make the neccessary judgements of cause and effect and see them from the perspective of others than any particular ad hoc explanation of a specific behaviour.

Yes. I think this is the distinction I'm trying to make. Evolution is the cause of my ability to have morals. But it is not, in any way, a foundation or reason for the morals I choose to have. Evolution gives me the capabilities, but it is my own reasoning, thinking, decision-making and empathy skills which lead to my actual morals. These skills may be provided to me because of evolution, but also through my life-choices, past and on-going, and the maturing-environment that was provided for me.

That is to say... I have evolution-istic morals as much as I bake an evolution-istic cake, or do anything at all. I just 'have morals' the same way I just 'bake cakes'. I have the ability, and I put it to use. Where and how those abilites came to be is no longer relevant as to how those abilities are engaged.

I suppose I could even say that I consider myself a moral person simply because I choose to be moral. Not because of evolution, or God, but simply because I have the capacity to make that choice.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Wounded King, posted 01-25-2007 11:51 AM Wounded King has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by Larni, posted 01-26-2007 8:42 AM Stile has acknowledged this reply
 Message 15 by anastasia, posted 01-27-2007 3:00 PM Stile has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 7 of 184 (379786)
01-25-2007 1:23 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Wounded King
01-25-2007 12:40 PM


Coincidence
I just saw that too. It is just a coincidence, and now I think I could have just posted in that thread instead of making this new one.. whoops.

I actually think I have used that arguement myself, perhaps even on this forum somewhere.. like 6 months or a year ago or something. Something has always been bothering me about it, though. And I think I'm beginning to understand exactly what that something is. Thanks for your participation.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Wounded King, posted 01-25-2007 12:40 PM Wounded King has not yet responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 8 of 184 (379792)
01-25-2007 1:40 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Taz
01-25-2007 12:39 PM


Some more agreement
Tazmanian Devil writes:

..you will very quickly find that there are pieces of their human conscience missing.

Yes. I never understood how a static, printed manual for something as complex, ever-changing and vast as "morality" could ever satisfy even the smallest development of a true Good Will Towards All style of thinking.

Tazmanian Devil writes:

Evolution strictly deals with biological matters. There are cross overs, however, like how the theory can explain the most basic "moral" social constructs as beneficiary to the survival of the community.

This also is what puzzled me. Evolution strictly deals with biological matters... it has nothing to do with morality. So why are there explanations for morality from an evolutionistic stand-point? And I think your answer is the correct one.. because there are cross-overs. Basically, because in some circumstances "it can". Not that it was meant to, or even right, but it just can.

Tazmanian Devil writes:

What if you are king and you know your fate could never be that of the man you just condemned to death? Would it still be wrong to murder if you know for sure you could never be murdered?


I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Just to be clear.. I do not think that all killing of every type can be classified as "murder". I also think that there are many grey-areas that need to be looked at in a situational-setting. Some killings may actually be justified, or possibly even "good".

I'm not sure I can honestly answer your question since it is impossible for me to enter into a frame of mind where I can never be murdered. But, to provide an answer: Yes. Whether or not I could be murdered would have no bearing on it being right or wrong, so it would still be wrong to murder. To quote from Peter Parker's uncle.. "With great power, comes great responsibility". I would think that one who cannot be murdered, would have an even higher calling to try and prevent anyone else from being murdered.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Taz, posted 01-25-2007 12:39 PM Taz has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Taz, posted 01-25-2007 3:45 PM Stile has responded
 Message 16 by anastasia, posted 01-27-2007 7:04 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 12 of 184 (380070)
01-26-2007 9:36 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Taz
01-25-2007 3:45 PM


Re: Some more agreement
Tazmanian Devil writes:

Say you are king and you know that noone could ever harm you. You decide to start murdering peasants, which nobody really cares for much. Is it still wrong?


Yes. I don't see why it wouldn't be.

Tazmanian Devil writes:

What I'm trying to get at is where is this sense of murder being wrong coming from? You've just said that even if it doesn't affect you it's still wrong. Why?


Because my decision that killing is wrong doesn't have anything to do with whether or not it's actually affecting me.

Regardless of whether it can or can't happen to me, I wouldn't want it to. And I don't think it should be forced on anyone.

Let's say someone has decided to kill 3 African-born males. I am not an African-born male. I cannot be killed, I do not live in Africa, I do not know these males who will be killed, there departure from this life will not affect me in the slightest. But I consider it wrong because I would not want it to happen to me. I don't think anyone should be able to remove those kinds of privledges (again, here it's.. "all of them") from another person.

This sense of murder being wrong is coming from my capacity to put myself in the person's place. Even if it is physically impossible for that to actully happen, I can still imagine it. And since I have that ability, I can understand that I wouldn't want it to happen to me. Therefore, I find this killing to be wrong.

Regardless of how or why I'm able to empathize, I can. And I will use that ability to make the decisions that feel most correct, and right, to me.

Tazmanian Devil writes:

I'm sure we can all agree that the act of pushing this button and killing the person is wrong. The question is why is it wrong?


Because I can imagine that I could be the person who is going to be killed, and I would not want the button to be pushed.

Socrates writes:

Is a thing good because the gods say so, or do the gods say so because the thing is good?


Neither is correct. The first would be placing the god's personal preference as something we should all follow. Which is wrong. The second assumes there are absolute standards of good and bad, which there aren't. Morals are subjective, and differ from person to person, country to country, time frame to time frame...

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by Larni, posted 01-26-2007 7:25 PM Stile has responded
 Message 14 by RAZD, posted 01-26-2007 10:11 PM Stile has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 21 of 184 (380861)
01-29-2007 8:55 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Larni
01-26-2007 7:25 PM


Re: Some more agreement
Stile writes:

Because my decision that killing is wrong doesn't have anything to do with whether or not it's actually affecting me.

Larni writes:

Incorrect.

If you had no empathy, a psychotic personality or you were taught from a young age that killing was an appropriate way of solving problems, it would not effect you.

Yes. You are right. I did not intend for "actually affecting" me to refer to "affecting me in any way possible" but more as another way to say "directly physically affecting me" as I wrote in a few other places in that post.

I should have wrote:
"Because my decision that killing is wrong doesn't have anything to do with whether or not it's actually physically affecting me."

I understand that I am affected mentally. And that not all people/things may have this capability, or even in the same way as I have mine.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by Larni, posted 01-26-2007 7:25 PM Larni has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 34 by Larni, posted 01-29-2007 11:54 AM Stile has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 22 of 184 (380866)
01-29-2007 9:10 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by RAZD
01-26-2007 10:11 PM


Re: reduction?
RAZD writes:

Essentially what you are saying is that morality is just empathy - the golden rule - being able to wear the other person's shoes.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to reduce myself to saying that morality is only empathy just yet. I certainly think it's a large part of morality. I agree with what you say here:

RAZD writes:

Thus "natural" empathy alone is not enough, there needs to be an intellectual element.

I think this is the extra part I'm thinking of. Natural empathy alone can be just fine for certain... extreme situations. Like obvious murder, or rape. However, I do agree that we need an intellectual element when things make their way into those fuzzy grey areas.

Is stealing to feed your family wrong? I can empathize with the theif, I would not want my family to go hungry. I can also empathize with the shop-keeper, why must it be his problem? what if his family is hungry as well?

I think this is where the element of intellect comes in. We need more information to answer this question. Must the theif steal for the food? Have all other avenues been exhausted? How badly will it affect the shop-keeper? Could the two maybe just come to some sort of agreement?

RAZD writes:

Why do all discussions of morality seem to focus on bad behavior eh?

:) I think it is easier to talk about and "show" empathy. I attempted a post on the "Why do Good?" thread and found it much more difficult.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 23 of 184 (380872)
01-29-2007 9:22 AM
Reply to: Message 15 by anastasia
01-27-2007 3:00 PM


Re: Ability and Usage are two different things
anastasia writes:

Belief in God does not cause morality, nor does following the literal words of the Bible.

I admit that I do not understand, then, your God-based moral system. My understanding was that the moral system is based on what God says: God says it is good, so it is good. God says it is bad, so it is bad. Could you please explain the system to me if this is incorrect, or perhaps even just incomplete?

anastasia writes:

You can choose to bake a cake.
You can choose to have morals.
If you don't feel like baking, no one cares.
What do you think of people who do not choose morals?

Are you sure? What if I baked really awesome cakes? And people all over the world loved them? Then there'd be a lot of sad people when I stopped baking.

But, to answer your question: I think people who do not choose morals are not good people. Or, in the very least, that they need to learn/be taught how to be good. This is why we have laws, and jails and rehabilitation facilities, or even loving parents/guardians/caretakers/teachers...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 15 by anastasia, posted 01-27-2007 3:00 PM anastasia has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 30 by ReverendDG, posted 01-29-2007 11:18 AM Stile has responded
 Message 37 by anastasia, posted 01-29-2007 1:03 PM Stile has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 27 of 184 (380880)
01-29-2007 10:01 AM
Reply to: Message 17 by anastasia
01-27-2007 7:14 PM


Survival is not part of the thought-process
Stile writes:

I do not think Murder is wrong because it will reduce the number of people around me and therefore reducing our survival-chances.

anastasia writes:

Good. Reducing the number of people can just as easily increase our survival chances.

Yes. It can. But, that's not my point. Anything regarding "survival-chances" does not affect my morality decisions. I do not think Murder is wrong because of anything related to survival-chances. I think Murder is wrong because, basically, I would not want to be Murdered.

anastasia writes:

You may have forgotten, but often doing evil to someone helps you yourself. If this is purely about survival, who wins? You, or someone else? Do you think it is ok to do bad things when no one else is involved at all? Or even to think about evil? For example, to lust after your best friend's wife?

That's my point, though. Not only is it not "purely about survival"... it has nothing to do with survival. No, I do not think it is okay to do bad things when no one else is involved at all. And yes, I think it is bad (or evil, if you prefer) to lust after your best friend's wife. I would not want my friends lusting over my girlfriend, even. I definitely would not want them lusting over my wife (that is, when my girlfriend eventually becomes my wife).


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Replies to this message:
 Message 31 by nator, posted 01-29-2007 11:18 AM Stile has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 32 of 184 (380909)
01-29-2007 11:38 AM
Reply to: Message 30 by ReverendDG
01-29-2007 11:18 AM


Re: Ability and Usage are two different things
ReverendDG writes:

that kind of comes off as circluar reasoning: they don't have morals so they are bad, they are bad because they have no morals, just pointing this out, since thats a common argument from the otherside for why you must have morals.

Yes, you are right. I took the lazy way out there.

ReverendDG writes:

the reason people should have morals is because they are useally about peoples lives, safty and property. those without morals tend to eather be dangerous to themselves or to others, or both. also those without morals tend to not fit into society and are distrusted by others, thus living a short unhappy life. morals allow a frame work to base a society on, which if we didn't have some form of morals or ethics would lead to socal self destruction.

Thank-you for describing that better than I could have. I think there was 2 ways to deal with this question. Your answer being the long and probably more-correct answer here. I was attempting to answer the lesser-more simplistic question. As in, "what do I think of someone who's a bad tipper?" I think they are a bad tipper, and I move on. Not every moral action I deem as bad needs to be reprimanded nor will they all have a deep impact on my life. Some are just "a different way of doing things that I think is less than great". And with these, I simply move on.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 30 by ReverendDG, posted 01-29-2007 11:18 AM ReverendDG has not yet responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 33 of 184 (380914)
01-29-2007 11:48 AM
Reply to: Message 31 by nator
01-29-2007 11:18 AM


I didn't want to be wishy-washy :]
nator writes:

Are you sure? "anything" is a mighty all-inclusive word.

In my experience, individual morality is extremely situation-dependent.

Agreed. And no, I'm not sure :) I wanted to make a stand at that point in my post. I didn't want to say "I cannot currently think of a situation where survival-chances would affect my morality decisions". Although, that is what I meant.


This message is a reply to:
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Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 36 of 184 (380936)
01-29-2007 12:59 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by Larni
01-29-2007 11:54 AM


Any more semantics?
Larni writes:

This is the physical effect of which you speak.

Ha! This time I get to say you're incorrect! :)
You are correct, actually, that I did screw it up again, and I do understand what you are saying.

This is not the physical effect of which I speak. I was using "physical" in the layman's-speak. As if there really is a difference between mental (kind of... internal-body physical) and physical (kind of... external-body physical).

I admit, again, that I still have not excruciatingly accurately described what I want to say yet. But just because I used a word that does not mean what I wanted it to mean, can you say what it is that I'm trying to talk about.

"Because my decision that killing is wrong doesn't have anything to do with whether or not I could be killed".


This message is a reply to:
 Message 34 by Larni, posted 01-29-2007 11:54 AM Larni has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 38 by anastasia, posted 01-29-2007 1:14 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply
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Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 39 of 184 (380949)
01-29-2007 1:24 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by anastasia
01-29-2007 1:03 PM


The same but different?
I want to try a bit of a comparison between your view and my view, please bear with me. I hope you do not find any of this insulting, that is not my intention. I've used "A" to represent "anastasia", and it's just a copy of what you've said in your post. And "S" to represent "Stile" and how I would alter your wording to fit my own thoughts on morality.

A->It is more of looking at good and bad things in the world, and saying 'God is the good of the world' and therefore doing more good to be more like Him.
S->It is more of looking at good and bad things in the world, and saying 'I think this world would be better if there was more good' and therefore doing more good.

A->It is a system which believes in Good as something which is more than a human brain function which changes willy-nilly from day to day.
S->It is a system which believes in Good as something which is more than a human brain function which changes willy-nilly from day to day.

A->Our ideas of good certainly do change, as we do not know very much of God to begin with, and many of them do have to do with survival, but not because survival is so important.
S->Our ideas of good certainly do change, as we do not know very much of what will work "perfectly" or "have the most good" for this world, and many of them do have to do with survival, but not because survival is so important.

A->When I do things because of empathy for another, it is empathy and respect for the soul. I feel for the soul, and I care for the body as it is the home of the soul and it is not my right to end a life before God has done His work with it.
S->When I do things because of empathy for another, it is empathy and respect for the person. I feel for the person, and I care for the body as it is the home of the person and it is not my right to end a life.

A->I use my intellect when deciding what is right for the situation. If the Bible says 'thou shalt not bear false witness' I must decide if lying will save someone, or hurt someone. I do this intellectually and empathically, but again not simply because I feel sorry for that person and I would not want to be hurt, but because I know that I have no right to cause them harm.
S->I use my intellect when deciding what is right for the situation. If the Bible says 'thou shalt not bear false witness' I must decide if lying will save someone, or hurt someone. I do this intellectually and empathically, but again not simply because I feel sorry for that person and I would not want to be hurt, but because I know that I have no right to cause them harm.

A->God-based morality does not deny evolved empathy or use of intellect. It just considers these as part of the arsenal and tools which God gave us to survive, not as physical creatures alone, but as spiritual and immortal.
S->Morality does not deny evolved empathy or use of intellect. It just considers these as part of the arsenal and tools which we have to survive, not as physical creatures alone, but as spiritual and (possibly) immortal.

As far as I can tell, our two methods of understanding morality are essentially equal, differing only in semantics. If you see a larger difference, or think I'm not understanding something, please let me know.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 37 by anastasia, posted 01-29-2007 1:03 PM anastasia has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 40 by anastasia, posted 01-29-2007 2:55 PM Stile has responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 41 of 184 (381012)
01-29-2007 4:00 PM
Reply to: Message 40 by anastasia
01-29-2007 2:55 PM


And now I'll be thoroughly confusing... :]
anastasia writes:

In each, you speak about 'good'. You say; the world would be better with more good, but then you say; good changes. This is a problem for me. If good changes, how can the world be better with more of it? What IS good? We do not know, we are only guessing, you and me and everyone.

I think you are right. I am using the word good to talk about two different things. This is confusing to me, and when I talk about it, confusing to anyone I'm trying to explain something to. Let me try to clear this up.

1. GOOD -> a world state that contains the most happiness for the most people possible. Perhaps this is a Perfect world with unlimited good for all people. Perhaps a world of Perfection is impossible, and GOOD is a world state that only limits the amount of bad to a necessary minimum.

2. good -> specific acts of generosity or altruism or anything that brings us closer to GOOD without compromising anyone's individual rights or priveledges.

GOOD does not change. It is always the same. On the other hand, good does change, in fact, it almost needs to change as our understanding on how to reach GOOD develops and grows and we are made more aware of how to reach that goal.

As a simple example: A part of GOOD is to treat people in a polite manner. Years ago, it was always good to open the door for a lady. She would expect it, want it, and be appreciative after someone did it for her. Now, it is not always good to open the door for a lady. Some ladies do not want doors opened for them, they may think it demeans them as a person, they may think it demeans the person holding the door, they may just simply not like it.

You see, GOOD never changed. The part of GOOD dealt with here is to treat others in a respectful manner, to increase the amount of happiness, albeit probably minor, in this world. However the good here did change. It used to be good to always open a door for a lady. Now it is good to open a door for a lady, if the lady would like a door opened for her, and you are available to open that door.

So, with respect to these two new specific definitions, my statements become:

S->It is more of looking at good and bad things in the world, and saying 'I think this world would be better if we could achieve a world state that contains the most happiness for the most people possible' (GOOD) and therefore doing more good.

S->Our ideas of good certainly do change, as we do not know very much of how exactly to achieve a world state that contains the most happiness for the most people possible (GOOD), and many of them do have to do with survival, but not because survival is so important.

So, yes. I do think our ideas of good need to change, as we learn what brings us closer to GOOD. I do believe in a higher GOOD that we do not fully understand yet, and possibly may never understand. One that we must work hard and try hard in order to understand as best we can. GOOD does not change, we just do not always see it clearly.

I'd like to thank-you for helping me come to this clear-distinction in my head. I had never thought about this specific aspect, and I am glad that you gave me what I needed in order to spell it out for myself. I feel like I really learned something about myself today :)


This message is a reply to:
 Message 40 by anastasia, posted 01-29-2007 2:55 PM anastasia has responded

Replies to this message:
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Stile
Member
Posts: 4010
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 47 of 184 (381083)
01-29-2007 6:47 PM
Reply to: Message 45 by Larni
01-29-2007 5:29 PM


Re: Any more semantics?
Larni writes:

Dude, is this a question? If so, I can't honestly say I know what you are trying to say.

No, but forget it, it doesn't matter anyway.

Larni writes:

We have covered this already.

Oh yes, we most certainly have :) 3 or 4 posts between us ago, I think. But then you got nit-picky on my wording, so I kept trying to fix it for you.

Larni writes:

You have learnt that murder is bad for you and react accordingly.

I would have agreed with this before I even started this topic :)


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 54 by Larni, posted 01-30-2007 4:04 AM Stile has responded

  
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