Does Morality Exist?

by Fisherman 92 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Saename
    Fisherman - Says who? Is self preservation immoral when it involves harming other creatures?

    The part you quote has to do with well-being. Are you that incapable of reasoning? If you excessively indulge yourself in pleasures that do not affect other people, then it cannot be considered immoral unless you include a third party in the equation (God.) I thought this would be uncontroversial because it is so goddamn obvious...

    When it comes to self-preservation, what the hell does it have to do with the part you were quoting, which is excessive indulgence in pleasures? If you didn't mean for those two questions to be related, then don't write them in the same line. They are not related.

    Fisherman - Well-being of others is governed by laws, concerns are not.

    Laws don't govern well-being. Laws govern the human right to freedom and autonomy. The two sometimes coincide but not always. For example, cheating diminishes well-being, but it's not illegal.

    But aside from that, what does law have to do with morality? We don't legislate based on morality. The two are separate, and right now we're talking about morality, not law, so I cannot see your point.

    Fisherman - Hitler's morality was concerned for the well-being of the German people and he was doing quite well. The Europeans also were concerned about wellbeing when they took the land from the Indians. They suceeded and he US is a prosperous nation where morality means do whatever the heck you like -just don't break the law.

    Yeah, and guess what. Hitler was wrong, and so were the people who oppressed the Natives. Anyone who cares only about their own well-being is wrong from the moral perspective. I suppose your whole reasoning is based on the assumption that I don't have an objective basis to say so, and that it is merely my subjective opinion. However, I do actually have an objective basis for concluding that we cannot care only about our own well-being.

    If we ought to improve our well-being rather than detract from it, which I believe is the goal of morality and will continue to believe so until such time as it is reasonably demonstrated that a better foundation for morality exists, we need to figure out ways to cooperate. Cooperation is one of the things which maximizes our well-being, even the individual's. It is, therefore, paramount for all of us to recognize that our actions have consequences upon other people, and theirs have an effect on our own lives. To live cooperatively means to be able to recognize that impact and respect the space that we share with each other. In other words, my freedom to swing my arm may result in my arm ending up in somebody else's face (and vice versa), and in order to avoid that, we need to respect our shared space.

    Stealing from, raping, or murdering somebody is the opposite of cooperation. The first formulation of Kant's categorical imperative states, "Act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law." If we deemed murder not morally wrong, against our better judgement, and if subsequently everyone were free to murder another person, we would end up in a society of distrust and chaos.

    We can reasonably demonstrate, through reason and rational consideration of our actions, that murder detracts from our well-being. If I murder a man named Mike—say because I envy his social status or his material possessions—this will have an effect on all the people who loved this person and will minimize their well-being. In an act of retribution, they may murder me as well, which in turn would minimize the well-being of people who love me. In a world that we live in, there are over 7 billion people, and considering the number of individuals that live in prisons for crimes such as murder, it is reasonable to suspect that many would find the option of moral murder rather appealing. Such a vicious circle results in a society of distrust and chaos. Hence, while we may not live in a perfect world, we most definitely live in a world that is better (well-being) than the one we would have if murder were considered moral.

    International relations work on the same basis. You just need to look at the World Wars and analyze their consequences. How much misery, distrust, and chaos would be avoided if we could prevent Hitler from rising to power? If we could prevent the Rwandan genocide? It does not matter which country you live in because we all share space on this planet, and our actions influence each other. Your moral system need not involve other people's well-being if you live in conditions such that your actions don't influence other people.

    If your next question is, "Says who?" then you may need to reread my comments.

  • deegee

    Interesting article regarding the OP: :

    Absolute morality does not exist.

    According to the Bible, morality is absolute but also malleable, depending upon what God wants to do at the time.

    God commanded rape, murder and genocide in scripture. They would not only be not sinful, but in fact moral, because God had commanded them.

    This means that there are no absolute moral values, according to Christianity. Instead, morality is only what God commands at any given time.

    If you consult scripture you can see that this is quite arbitrary. The Ten Commandments are supposed to provide an absolute set of moral rules according to orthodox Christianity. However, God both ignores the breaking of these rules in scripture on numerous occasions, and in fact commands people to perform sins from this list on numerous other occasions:

    - In Exodus 20:16 God says “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” But in 1Kings 22:22 we find God lying: “And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.”

    - In Exodus 20:13 God says “Thou shalt not kill.” But in Exodus 32:27 God commands men to kill: “And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.”

    If something is right because God commands it then murder is both wrong and right depending on whether God had commanded it or not.

    In the Bible, God has both condemned killing in a general sense but commanded killing on numerous occasions. One can only presume by this reasoning that murder is neither wrong nor right. It is only the specific and “relative” circumstances under which God commands it that determine whether it is right or wrong.

    In this reasoning there is an obligation that comes with God’s moral commands. This obligation swings both ways. In the above instance a person is both obligated to not kill under certain circumstances and obligated to kill under other circumstances. So by this reasoning the foundations of morality become arbitrary.

    Biblicists would say that for any particular action that God commands, he commands it because it is morally right. But this approach offers a new problem: “If God commands a particular action because it is morally right, then ethics no longer depends on God in the way that Divine Command Theorists maintain. God is no longer the author of ethics, but rather a mere recognizer of right and wrong.” The implication of this is that God discovers morality rather than inventing it. God is no longer the foundation of ethics but rather a subject of an external moral law. This would take away his sovereignty.

    Morality is objective. Morality is quite conceivable as a construct of biological social development. It can be identified in all mammals. Morality would seem to be associated with the development of the mammalian brain, and in particular found in those creatures that have developed to interact socially.

    It is not unexpected that human beings, as the highest form of intelligence on the earth, would have the most sophisticated form of morality. But this in no way suggests that the morality is objective to some external force.

    Morality seems to be based upon a collective agreement of what best benefits the individual and the social group.

    The Bible makes all sorts of moral claims, some of them good and a lot of them ridiculous.

    Why is it that most people seem to be able to differentiate between which biblical commands to follow and which ones to reject?

    This is because we read the Bible through the filter of our own morality and are able to determine which statements are acceptable and which ones are not. The implication of this of course is that we do not get our morality from the Bible or God, we bring our morality to the Bible and in effect evaluate and judge the Bible’s legitimacy based upon our own morality. The claim that the Bible is the source of Christian morality is rubbish. Christians bring their already in-tact morality to the Bible and then conveniently filter out the parts of it that don’t fit into their morality. Excuses are made for the presence of these contentious verses and they are typically dismissed without too much thought.

    Almost universally Christians who read the Bible accept at face value the command “thou shalt not kill.” But at the same time there seems to be a universal rejection of the biblical command to stone a woman to death at her father’s door if she is discovered not to be a virgin (Deuteronomy 22:21).

    Different religions frequently give opposing religious commands, and even within the framework of one religious writing it is easy to find contradictory commands. A good example of this has to do with the biblical injunctions around women teaching in the church.

    Therefore the Divine Command Theorist must decide for themselves, using reason, which God or religious concept to follow, and then which understanding of the divine commands to follow within their adopted tradition.

    This behaviour is no different from that of any secular person in determining their own moral code. They may draw their foundational moral conceptions from any source but must ultimately determine themselves which to follow and which to reject. In many respects a church or organised religious set is simply a group of people that has determined to follow the same moral code as one another more or less. They have determined to interpret their particular writings in a specific way and agreed to follow them collectively.

    But the problems only start here, what if you are following the wrong religion? It is only those who follow the correct religion, and also the correct interpretation of that religion, who are moral. This is because morality seems to shift and undulate with God’s, apparently, ever-changing moods - killing is bad in most circumstances, but it is good when you are trying to eliminate tribes who are occupying your land. An obvious implication of this is that God changes his mind and therefore is not immutable.

  • deegee

    Another interesting article:

    Religious people often want to treat morality as though it is an absolute truth, however while absolute truths exist, morality is relative. Morality is relative to human beings. We are the only creatures that have our own morality, and our morality was constructed over tens of thousands of years of social development.

    Everybody knows that killing is wrong. But if morality was absolute then killing would always be wrong. And we know that it is not. If someone tries to kill you and you kill them, then killing is not wrong. If you go to war and kill someone, killing is not wrong. If you were leaning over a cliff holding onto a person with each hand but you knew that you didn’t have the strength to pull both of them up so you had to let one go in order to save the other then you would not be wrong. So we can see that killing is wrong, except when it isn’t.

    The other important thing to remember is that absolute truths are true for all creatures, but morality is not true for all creatures.

    When an animal kills another animal it does not have a lack of morality. Animals kill each other all the time for food, for territory and for mating rights. These animals are not bad, they are just acting in accordance to their survival instinct. Animals also steal and rape, but we don’t consider them to be evil for doing so. But these animals are still subject to absolute truths.

    Gravity still applies 100% of the time for animals as well as humans. This is the distinctive difference between an absolute truth, or a scientific law, and a moral value which is relative to species. But as social creatures we have developed a way of getting on and a set of rules that allow us to organise ourselves into societies.

    For our purposes these moralities are “true,” but they are not real truths, they are true only in relation to human beings. And only because we have formulated them over time and mutually agree to consent to them.

    It is not always convenient for us to not murder or steal, but the laws of the land are constructed based upon our ancient humanistic principles in order to hold us to these values.

    Christians will often talk about natural moral law, an idea that God has placed an understanding of morality inside human beings so that every person knows right from wrong. No real evidence exists for a natural moral law, but even if it did it would only suggest that human beings carry a genetic predisposition towards the sociological behaviour that has been pounded into us over generations. For this reason I don’t take particular issue with the idea of natural moral law, just with its origins.

    The idea of natural moral law is just another example of religious people putting the cart before the horse. All religions like to identify their own deity as being the source of human morality. But indeed, if religions were constructed by humans, and I believe they were, then it is fair to say that the religions were simply injected with the morality of humanity. This was then passed off as originating from their favourite deity.

    Morality originated with humanity as we developed into social groups, it was necessary for our survival. In order for social groups to function properly there must be trust, and morality, a way of acting and treating one another, provides that trust. Over time these practices became more and more ingrained not only in our social groups but in our thinking.

    We developed laws around these morals, fixing them into our societies. The morals also became more refined and detailed, in order to deal with the massive variety of moral based issues that arose.

    And morality has not stopped developing either. As we create genetically engineered crops, cloning technology and soon artificial intelligence, we must also develop a morality around their use.

    Morality is an ever evolving facet of human society. We created it and we will continue to refine it ad infinitum. The development of morality will only stop once all scientific knowledge is attained and all human progress and evolution has been expired.

  • ttdtt

    It is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Fisherman
    what does law have to do with morality? We don't legislate based on morality. The two are separate, and right now we're talking about morality, not law, so I cannot see your point.

    I think you are wrong. Legislation is based on well-being and morality. Laws governing sexual conduct is an example. Laws that protect the well being of animals is another example.

    A person that drinks, eats, parties and is a slob, etc, as debauchery is defined is not harming anyone. But is he moral? If not, because you say so when if he is viewed as such by society?

    Suppose you disagree with society about what conduct is moral? Does morality exist?

    Murder, rape, and theft are punishable crimes in every society on the face of the earth and legislation is based upon the protection of the well-being of everyone and on morality.

    I haven't seen solid proof of morality.

  • cofty

    Fisherman I have opted out of the conversation for the moment as I still have not the slightest clue what you mean when you assert that morality does not exist. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

    You can argue about the source or morals or whether or not objective morality is possible or whether it is simply a social construct or whether it is a just a subjective preference. But to ask whether it exists is just absurd.

    PLEASE can you try to explain your point clearly and succinctly?

  • Fisherman
    Cofty, where did I post that morality does not exist?

    Can you you show me morality same as I did with 'Health' for you? I already told you that I am not trying to make any point. TD also posted his views and others too that I have to think about. Please explain things to me in simple concrete terms versus abstract concepts and illustrations, doing so will help me understand faster.

  • cofty

    I explained my points in very simple and concrete terms.

    I still do not understand your question and you have made no attempt to clarify it.

  • Saename

    I think you're really confused about morality.

    I think you are wrong. Legislation is based on well-being and morality. Laws governing sexual conduct is an example.

    I would offer an argument here, but instead, I'll just say that it's irrelevant. We're talking about morality, not law. Law is determined by any standard the country wishes to use. Law is arbitrary. Saudi Arabia legislates based on Islam's holy scriptures. They are even going to allow women to drive vehicles because after reviewing their holy scriptures, they determined that their faith doesn't prohibit women from driving. Now, Canada doesn't legislate based on holy scriptures. So if a certain country wishes to legislate based on well-being and morality, then that's what's going to happen. So your claim that legislation is based on x is a faulty generalization—regardless of what x turns out to be. Law and morality are simply separate topics.

    A person that drinks, eats, parties and is a slob, etc, as debauchery is defined is not harming anyone. But is he moral? If not, because you say so when if he is viewed as such by society?

    I would argue that if someone drinks excessively (debauchery is about excessive indulgence in pleasures), then he or she is most likely harming someone. That would be immoral. So let's just say this: if you excessively indulge in non-specified pleasures without affecting other people, then I can't see how you're being immoral. That could be irresponsible, but not immoral. But if you excessively indulge in non-specified pleasures that do in fact affect other people negatively (whether they be your friends, family, co-workers, or even your boss and his/her business), then, yes, that's immoral.

    Suppose you disagree with society about what conduct is moral? Does morality exist?

    Suppose you disagree with doctors about what treatment is best for a patient. Does medicine exist?

    That's why cofty asked the wrong question. Your question isn't like asking, "Does health exist?" It's like asking, "Does medicine exist?" Of course it exists. It's just that it relies on a subjective axiom that everyone agrees upon. Because everyone agrees upon this axiom, which is that in medicine we ought to value and increase health, medicine is epistemically objective. Some people may disagree on what's best for our health, but that doesn't mean medicine is entirely subjective.

    Morality is the same way. Some people may disagree on what's moral (i.e. what's best for our well-being), but that doesn't mean that morality is entirely subjective. It just means that there are right and wrong ways to promote well-being, and we need to find out which ones are the right ways to do so.

    I haven't seen solid proof of morality.

    Yeah, that's because you're too confused about morality. It would take a lot to explain this to you, and I don't even know how to do that in writing. There is something that you either don't understand or simply don't accept, but I have no idea what it is.

    But anyway, I've already tried telling you that you're asking an illegitimate question. It's not, "Does morality exist?" It's, "What kind of morality exists?" Is morality subjective, objective, or absolute? But you keep asking the wrong question despite the fact that I've tried to make it clear to you.

  • deegee

    Ooopsie CORRECTION.

    In my first comment Morality is objective should read Morality is NOT objective.

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