's Forum Archives - Non-Cycling Discussions

Archive Home >> Non-Cycling Discussions(1 2 3 4 )

Poll: What is morality anyway?(38 posts)

Poll: What is morality anyway?Kristin
Jul 3, 2003 8:42 AM
Who determines what is moral and what is not? What causes morality to change over time? Do you believe that there is an absolute moral authority in the universe?
re: Poll: What is morality anyway?Ridearound
Jul 3, 2003 8:45 AM
1) Oneself.
2) See 1 above.
3) See 2 above.
I took 60 hours of philosophy and didn't figure that outDougSloan
Jul 3, 2003 9:00 AM
Isn't that one of those ultimate questions? That's right up there with "why are we here?"

Some things are absolutely right or wrong. Some are determined by circumstances. Some are more or less right or wrong as compared to other choices.

Let's pick something easy. Killing people without any reason. Could that ever be moral? I can't see how.

On the other extreme, consider "white lies." Sure, it's wrong to lie, but if you are serving a higher purpose, like saving someone's feelings, then it's not so wrong. Depends.

Not sure if there is an "absolute moral authority," except to the extent the Bible tells us, commands us, if you will, not to do certain things. If you don't believe in God, then it gets tougher.

Essentially, I think we view morality in terms of standards we in large groups agree upon. That's the bottom line.

Jul 3, 2003 9:52 AM
I just thought we might engage in some light conversation before this fine holiday weekend!!! I think you hit the nail on the head with your final statement: "Essentially, I think we view morality in terms of standards we in large groups agree upon. That's the bottom line."

I think that's a good, solid sociological definition of morality, but I could debate the idea that there are absolute moral guidelines. For instance, if you visit a remote tribe in New Guinea, you would discover an entirely different moral standard. During your visit, you might observe an adult pick up a small child by the ankles and swing that child against a nearby tree. While its not a common practice--as the tribe would become extinct--it is accepted within the tribal culture to discipline children this way. This is no light tap either, the result is often crippling or fatal. I read about this behavior in an autobiography written by a missionary. He was horrified not only at the behavior, but also that no one in the tribe was offended by the practice.

Its no secret by now that I believe in a God who created the universe. It seems reasonable to me that if God created all of this, he is also the most qualified to set standards of behavior. So I look to God for moral navigation. However, I observe that no one is bound to do this. People choose moral standards for themselves. Cultures as a whole, will determine and enforce moral standards based on the general views of its individual members.

Our nation--by its design--will always have a difficult time navigating morality. There are some groups who believe it should be rigid and unchangable while others believe that no standard should exist at all. Because we're free interact with each other, it will constantly be in motion. What we were discussing in the other thread shows that. I'm not sure we are in moral decay. Perhaps moral flux, is a better description.
BingoLive Steam
Jul 3, 2003 10:03 AM
The only problem with your argument is that there have been many societies that perform acts that are tolerated yet immoral by any standard. Tolerance does not equate to acceptable or moral in my opinion.

My guide is simple - do unto others as you would have done to you. It is about the only universal standard that everyone can identify with.
Jul 3, 2003 10:55 AM
I would agree with Steam that the "democratic" angle that you apply to morality will not stand up to historical scrutiny. A very high percentage of Germans believed that the cause of economic hardship in the 30's was the presence of Jews. A popular morality quickly developed that accepted the politics of Hitler, elected him chancellor and eventually acquiesced to the final solution.

In the US in the mid-40's it was not unpopular to confine Japanese Americans in the name of national security.

I think that popular opinion is a very poor way to determine morality. Many figures of great moral standing have been at odds with the society in general. The Catholic Church maintains a list of such Martyrs.

Of course I have not answered your question "What is Morality", but here is my cynical take:

The concept of morality is a modern era substitute for religion. Basically it attempts to proscribe good behaviors outside the context of any super-natural religious framework. The three traditional religions, all based roughly on ancient Judeism and the Druids, were in thier infancy simply a set of rules that would promote the survival of the species. The species at the time was not very advanced, nor very socially organized. Fear of God and retribution in the afterlife was an effective method of imposing order and survivability on the masses. Don't kill each other is the basis of many moral codes, don't mate with your sister is another common theme. These rules all have at thier root a method of promoting species survival and prosperity. Unlike religious folks, I don't think some omnipotent being made up these rules, thus allowing us to still be here. I believe that these rules, in the form of religion, grew up with the human species as a natural consequence of evolution. Groups of early humans who could not impose such rules on their societies perished as a group. Much like a group of humans with nostrils pointing skyward would drown before pasing on that gene.

In summary, morality is whatever makes us stronger as a race. The great religions of the world have been the keepers of the rule book for millenia. If we define morality outside of religious contraints we will no longer have a need for religion, or at least the supernatural basis for religion. As went creationism in favor of evolution, the rest of the mystical doghma of religion will eventually wither.

Just my two cents.
Is morality in the eye of the beholder?4bykn
Jul 3, 2003 2:12 PM
It appears so to me, what I think is moral may not be the same as what others feel.

And I don't see why it would be any tougher if one doesn't believe in a god. I don't need the bible(once referred to as "The Textbook of Christian Mythology") to tell me right from wrong.
I think there is a common morality.94Nole
Jul 7, 2003 2:51 PM
I think that is evidenced in you by your statement that you "don't need the tell me right from wrong."

I believe that morality is initially common and inherent in us but is changed by our life experiences.
Some interesting answers so far.Len J
Jul 3, 2003 1:40 PM
I tend to take a slightly different slant than some of the other posters.

I believe that "for me" morality is judged by my own internal self examination. At the end of the day, I can not deceive myself as to wether actions I take (or took) make me feel better or worse about myself. Those that make me feel better about me, truly better not short term better, usually turn out to be the right thing to do.

I disagree with Doug's assessment that what a large group decides is moral is moral (I'm paraphrasing I know). Group behavior can be just as wrong (or more wrong) than an individual's. (Think Nazi Germany or the intrernment of Japanese Americans, or the segregation of Blacks in the US, or the slaughter and relocation of the Native Americans). Group actions can be expedient, they can be agreed on, but they still can be wrong. I wish that I was certain that I would have had the courage to speak out on these things at the time.

At the end of the day, Kristin, only you can decide if something is moral or not. Religion, churches, group oponions and anything external is only data, it's up to you to process it. We all would like someone else to determine these things for us, give us the list & let us follow it, unfortunatly there are very few things in life that are Black & White enough to fall under a general rule. Life is lived in the grey, so we must find our own moral compass. For me, it's the voice inside me, for others it's someone's teachings, for somone else it's a saying.

Free will is the ultimate authority.
Life is about choice, choose to feel better about you.

Morality is a word invented by man..........MR_GRUMPY
Jul 3, 2003 8:00 PM
to justify their imposition, on others, of how they think everybody should act.
At times, most people thought that slavery was moral. At other times, most people believed that the death penalty for very simple crimes was moral. More recently, many people thought that wife beating was very moral.
There is SOME absolute morality it seems to me...jtolleson
Jul 4, 2003 12:23 PM
on acts that have victims. Beating, murder, rape, theft, blah blah blah. I think that a society with any degree of advancement has to agree that there are moral limits that govern what we can do to OTHERS and that they should be non-negotiable.

The bigger quandary and more interesting debate is on so-called victimless acts. Some people/cultures morally condemn even those things done alone or in secrecy (say, masturbation). Along the continuum... prostitution, drunkenness, etc. But there are also things that seem conceptually wrong, even though there is no true victim (let's say, grave robbing or to be more dramatic, necrophilia).

And then in between there are offenses which have a victim, but depending on how we identify the "victim" we have different moral outcomes (abortion and capital punishment come to mind the most quickly).
Hmmm. Interesting pointsKristin
Jul 7, 2003 11:14 AM
But how do you deal then, with acts where one is victimizing themself. A person could make a case that someone is hurting themselves by doing some of the things you mentioned. Another example would be suicide.

Grave robbing is interesting as an example. There seems to be a concept in most cultures that extends a persons rights past the time of their death. In America, we'd call it "respect for the dead," and it makes grave robbing offensive because we perceive the deceased (and remaining family) as victims in such a crime.
I can't extend moral judgment to the realm of wrongsjtolleson
Jul 8, 2003 9:35 AM
committed against one's self.

Suicide is tragic because it is a very permanent "fix" to problems that are undeniably temporary. The loss is irreparable. But is it "immoral" ... that I can't buy. I think people should refrain from suicide, self-mutilation, frying one's brains out huffing, etc. for a LOT of reasons but morality isn't one of them.

Maybe my personal concept of morality is driven by the notion of a victim which is an "other."
Very interesting53T
Jul 8, 2003 10:00 AM
In contrast, my concept of morality involves protecting the species, which includes protection of the self.

(Intersting that my thesis on morality as an evolutionary species-utilitarian system pased without comment from the board)
It cannot be refuted.Steve98501
Jul 8, 2003 10:39 AM

Your thesis of morality is likely the only one that survives. If, like other attributes of evolution, it contributes to survival of the species, it isn't dependent on popularity, cultural custom, theological variation. Most of the moral codes that come to mind seem to contribute to species survival. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as I hadn't previously considered evolution as the source of moral guidance.

Jul 8, 2003 12:28 PM
I don't know what to say. Nobody here has ever agreed with me!
Aren't the "victims" of suicide.................Len J
Jul 8, 2003 11:18 AM
those that are left behid?

Again, I think we are looking for absolutes in a world of millions of shades of grey.

But absolutes are so comforting!jtolleson
Jul 8, 2003 12:28 PM
I'm halfway serious. But you are right about shades of grey. My thinking in evaluating "morality" based on the concept of "victim" is that within that model we might find some consensus.
But absolutes are so wrong!Len J
Jul 8, 2003 3:12 PM
I understand your desire to find some concensus, but, unfortunatly, with areas like morality, I don't think many absolutes exist.

Do "Victimless" crimes make them moral?
(I'm defining moral as "the right thing to do".)

.......well as long as I'm not hurting anyone.......

This is a slippery slope that I would rather not go down. Anything that removes morals from personal responsibility to choose right from wrong is away from what is right (IMO).

Absolutes can be comforting..........until you find out they are wrong.

But absolutes are so wrong!jtolleson
Jul 8, 2003 7:28 PM
Len, good point. I was focused on identifying what was "immoral" and your question is "does that make it moral?" And I'd say no to that as well.

There is a long continuum between undisputedly immoral and positively moral.
The longer the continuem is...............Len J
Jul 9, 2003 3:13 AM
the lower the percentage that is on each end.

Right and wrong are black and white thinkingKristin
Jul 9, 2003 6:34 AM
They can't really exist in a world of only grey.
Jul 8, 2003 1:51 PM
The victim is the deceased.

I would define "the unnecessary killing of a person" to be immoral. That would include killing yourself. It is wrong.

Now, morality has a heirarchy, and a superior moral tenent may well be the right to control your own destiny, to do what you desire with your own body, etc. That's open for debate.

Morality and criminality could be vastly different, too. I can think of many things that I'd say are immoral that I would not criminalize.

Obviously, you have never survived a suicidee. NMLen J
Jul 8, 2003 3:07 PM
Doesn't your position make the survivor the "suicidee"? (nm)czardonic
Jul 8, 2003 3:39 PM
not the pointDougSloan
Jul 8, 2003 3:57 PM
Sure, others may feel the pain of the tragedy. However, I don't think we can classify the survivors as "victims" in the traditional sense. Should they be entitled to bring a claim against the deceased estate? Were they wronged?

I think we too easily throw the "victim" term around these days. They may be affected, but are not victims.

Personalizing anyone's lack of direct contact with a circumstance does nothing to further the argument, either.

Wasn't this conversation about morality?czardonic
Jul 8, 2003 4:10 PM
From a legal standpoint, you may be right about a survivors complaint against the deceased.

Yet, morally, I would consider a suicidal parent of dependent children to be both a victim of their own demons and a victimizer of those to whom they owe a moral (not to mention legal) duty to protect and provide for. That seems like a pretty traditional take on morality, and doesn't require a particularly promiscuous sense of victimhood.
not my pointDougSloan
Jul 8, 2003 4:28 PM
I agree that suicide is immoral, at least in most cases.

I just don't agree that survivors are victims. One can be affected without being a victim.

I disagree with the general notion that people can claim victimization from acts of others that are primarily directed at themselves or third parties. Who is the victim of a murder? Isn't it the deceased? A "murder victim" is always dead, right?

I also disagree with the growing sentiment that what I do, like not wearing a motorcycle helmet (which I personally don't do), causes responsibility to others or society at large, and therefore society can control my behavior. We are too much losing the concepts of personal independence. I realize that a socialist would tend to disagree, but I don't like incremental chipping away at personal liberty, even in the language we use. The expanded use of the "victim" term does that.

Different issues.czardonic
Jul 8, 2003 4:56 PM
I don't think that suicide is immoral, per se. I think it is immoral to abandon any existing moral responsibilities to others, by suicide or any other means.

I do agree that one can be affected without being a victim, though I feel that in the case of suicide, both can apply.

Who is the victim of "murder"? Technically speaking, isn't the state the victim? Logically speaking, can dead person even be a victim? Morally speaking, can you deny that family members, especially dependants, are victims?

I think that any decent person would feel a moral obligation to give aid to you should you injur yourself riding a motorcycle, and thus you have a moral obligation to take common sense measures to mitigate those injuries. I don't think that we are losing the concept of "personal independence" so much as we are recognizing that as long as we live in a society, we have societal responsibilities.

Perhaps we should have some kind of medic-alert braclet system that warns off paramedics and would-be sumaritans from aiding those who disdain such "socialist" notions as empathy and concern for fellow human-kind.
Victim,Len J
Jul 9, 2003 3:11 AM
Victim is not just about lawsuits.

I wasn't personalizing to advance an argument, but to give credence that the survivors suffer a pain that is both long lived and intense. If they are not victims, I don't know what is.

My .02

Agree. Good point.Kristin
Jul 9, 2003 6:58 AM
I originally opened the dialouge because people were throwing the word morlity around, yet I had the impression that we were all talking about something different. The problem is that there is rarely a consensus around concepts like morality. I thought it might help us to discuss the word itself so we might see what others believe about it. Also so that we might process what we believe ourselves.

Often in these discussions it becomes important to define other terms--such as "victim"--before we can define the term in question, "morality."
Jul 9, 2003 8:51 AM
It's tough to define, and you sort of end up with circular definitions. Boils down to "what's right or wrong," but that sort of begs the question...

Main Entry: 1mor·al
Pronunciation: 'mor-&l, 'mär-
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin moralis, from mor-, mos custom
Date: 14th century
1 a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ETHICAL b : expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior c : conforming to a standard of right behavior d : sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment e : capable of right and wrong action
2 : probable though not proved : VIRTUAL

3 : having the effects of such on the mind, confidence, or will

- mor·al·ly /-&-lE/ adverb
synonyms MORAL, ETHICAL, VIRTUOUS, RIGHTEOUS, NOBLE mean conforming to a standard of what is right and good. MORAL implies conformity to established sanctioned codes or accepted notions of right and wrong . ETHICAL may suggest the involvement of more difficult or subtle questions of rightness, fairness, or equity . VIRTUOUS implies the possession or manifestation of moral excellence in character . RIGHTEOUS stresses guiltlessness or blamelessness and often suggests the sanctimonious . NOBLE implies moral eminence and freedom from anything petty, mean, or dubious in conduct and character .
At some level we condsider suicide to be a moral issueKristin
Jul 9, 2003 6:42 AM
There are laws that allow a person to be taken into custody when others suspect they may attempt to committ suicide. That is evidence that our society places some moral value around it.
Is it?jtolleson
Jul 9, 2003 8:16 AM
I don't know. I always assumed that it fell into the categories of other self-protection laws (like motorcycle helmets).

There's no question that we recognize (as we should) that persons who are suicide risks need HELP and I applaud that we create a policy (through law) to try to help prevent suicide. With treatment for the underlying cause of their depression, etc., they can get on with the joy of living. If only all of our lawmaking was so nobly motivated.

Your suggestion that that legal structure has a moral motivation is a very interesting one, and given the religious origins of our lawmaking (and the concept of suicide as "sin") you may be right.
Probably based more on the presumption of mental defect.czardonic
Jul 9, 2003 9:32 AM
If there is a moral motivation to the laws, it is likely based on out "moral" responsibility to protect the mentally defective from themselves (as you say, more a matter of nobility than morality).
reciprocal altruism nmDougSloan
Jul 9, 2003 9:50 AM
Morality and Law53T
Jul 9, 2003 9:34 AM
There is a long standing English Common Law convention that grants the state the power to protect the public health, safety and morals. Although those particular words were not given great stature until it showed up in a Supreme Court decision (Doug, was it Brandeis?). Immorality back then was generally prostitution, which could be remedied by welfare for widowed mothers. Ah, life was so simple.

The point is laws, from the ten commandments to present-day, are based heavily on moral principles.
Kristin -- an article discussion moralityDougSloan
Jul 9, 2003 2:58 PM