Thinking about morality....

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
From a discussion with a friend, some cobbling of our exchanges. Curious about others' take on the subject...

"Two things fill the soul with awe and wonder: the starry heaven above, and the moral law within.
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-Kant

There's always going to be an Is-Ought problem, no matter what studies people do to show how morality comes from biology. After all, there's all kinds of scientific studies suggesting all sorts of awful conclusions. There's just no way to get proscriptive claims from scientific descriptions.

If morality is arbitrary, moral indignation should go out the window. Yet when people live their lives, rarely-if-ever do you see people claiming their most cherished principles are relative to our species, our time in history, and so on.

When you say something like a child's freedom from forced slavery/prostitution/conscription is a fundamental right, you usually don't mean it's conditional to your society's particular point in history and culture. You're talking about something that is always applicable unless there are extreme mitigating factors that invoke other morals - like bringing back the draft to preserve a nation, or killing someone to protect your children.

The problem with moral compasses is people feel this strongly about different things, and a single person might change their morality over time. Makes one wonder if Good can be divided between Lawful Good/Neutral Good/Chaotic Good...(;))

Anyway, whenever you make a moral judgement or advocate for a moral outcome you're taking a sort of reality gamble that your assertion transcends personal preferences.

Thus, as the author Matthew Stover states, morals are the set of beliefs that you think everyone should live under even while accepting you might be wrong. The mitigating factor is you may have a hierarchy of morals that prevent you from insisting certain morals be made into law or be adhered to regardless of circumstance -> For example the importance of the freedom of religion trumps the belief that one's religion is the right choice, or the right to self-defense trumping the law against murder.

In short, it's a big mess but you just try and do the right thing anyway. :)

'This perhaps was the mystery of Kaliyuga, the obscure age much favored by women and those without caste, who, in the general confusion, might seize a chance for liberation otherwise denied to them.

In the flagrancy of contradiction, there was no longer any cult that could act as axis and lodestone, only bhakti, the heart's devotion, that addresses itself to anything, is ready for anything, a perennial emotion whose first messengers were Krsna's gopis, wandering around alone with their herds.'

-Roberto Calasso, Ka
 
#3
When I was a Christian I thought the Euthyphro Dilemma was false, and I note that the wiki link touched on the reason I thought so ie. that the good or morally right is so because it expresses the nature of God. On reflection, I still think this. God acts in accordance with their nature. Our moral intuitions reflect this because we are sparks from God. Ultimately this is why I rejected Biblical inerrancy and subsequently Christian fundamentalism - I have a moral intuition that it is always wrong to intentionally and deliberately kill children, infants and non-combatants. I can't square the Old Testament stories of such atrocities with this moral conviction. Ergo, I can't believe such OT stories truthfully record interaction between God and humans.
 
#4
What a person believes about good and bad, right and wrong varies with his emotions and his involvement in the situation. When he is angry or personally involved, he may feel that certain actions are right that he would otherwise think are wrong. Culture also influences morality. Morality may be objective but I am not sure human beings are able to know it.

There are also indications that spirits have a different view of morality than incarnated people do. Incarnated people seem to be concerned with individual morality, while spirits seem to have a greater concern for the collective. Spirits often indicate that what is "best" is not what is fair or just but "best" is what leads to the most spiritual growth.

All this seems to argue against an objective morality, at least for incarnated people. I think you need a definition of morality or a set of criterion in order to decide what is moral, then you have to apply your definitions to the known facts and if your knowledge of the facts is incomplete or inaccurate you still might not make a correct decision.
 
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#5
The word 'objective' doesn't apply to morality in any meaningful way. An objective property is one that inheres to physical objects e. g. negative charge is a property of electrons. Apples and rivers have no moral properties. At the same time 'subjective' doesn't mean arbitrary. At root morality concerns the nature of choice. In this most people pursue that which they desire. The question for me is this one. What is most to be desired?

I am less concerned about finding a perfect moral system than I am about finding justice.
 
#6
The word 'objective' doesn't apply to morality in any meaningful way. An objective property is one that inheres to physical objects e. g. negative charge is a property of electrons. Apples and rivers have no moral properties.
You appear to be redefining 'objective' in relation to morals. Moral objectivism is a topic of philosophy. It has nothing to do with physical properties.

What is most to be desired?
Personally, I don't find that a compelling question at all. Individuals and groups are well known for highly desiring things that are morally questionable. I would say that at root morality concerns the nature of how choices affect one's self and others, not just the mere capacity to choose.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#7
When I was a Christian I thought the Euthyphro Dilemma was false, and I note that the wiki link touched on the reason I thought so ie. that the good or morally right is so because it expresses the nature of God. On reflection, I still think this. God acts in accordance with their nature. Our moral intuitions reflect this because we are sparks from God. Ultimately this is why I rejected Biblical inerrancy and subsequently Christian fundamentalism - I have a moral intuition that it is always wrong to intentionally and deliberately kill children, infants and non-combatants. I can't square the Old Testament stories of such atrocities with this moral conviction. Ergo, I can't believe such OT stories truthfully record interaction between God and humans.
I recognize this might just be a chicken and egg type of problem. I think the Dilemma is more important when asking whether scriptural assertions are infallible guides to morality.

As a Jesuit Teilhard scholar once told me, the mysticism of religion has to push against the prejudices of orthodoxy. It made me think of the naturalist Eisley's conception of our moral evolution:

"Above all, some of them, a mere handful in any generation perhaps, loved -- they loved the animals about them, the song of the wind, the soft voices..... On the flat surfaces of cave walls the three dimensions of the outside world took animal shape and form.

Here -- not with the ax, not with the bow -- man fumbled at the door of his true kingdom. Here, hidden in times of trouble behind silent brows, against the man with the flint, waited St. Francis of the birds -- the lovers, the men who are still forced to walk warily among their kind."
-Loren Eisley, 'The Inner Galaxy'
 
#8
Hi Sciborg S Patel,

I just had to say (not sure if this the right place, but hey ho :), that I'm a big fan of, basically, all your posts on the forum. I genuinely look forward to reading your posts, insights, personal experiences & the rather wonderful articles & links you post up daily.

Seriously - I very rarely write this kind of off-topic soppy post (haha :), but I had to express it at least once. I check this forum most often on my phone, and logging & in and being able to hit "like" is mildly annoying, but I suspect there is not a single post of yours I wouldn't "like" if it was easier to do so (for a lazy loafer like me).

Please keep at it! :)

There are also many other posters on this forum I really enjoy, both "sceptic" and not so sceptical - in fact most if not all posters here are intelligent, funny, insightful, respectful (even the arguments/fights are very civilised) etc etc. It's a great forum all round, certainely one of the best, if not the best (I do enjoy Michael Prescott's blog & comments section, too - never posted myself).

But I do have a real affinity for your posts Sciborg - please keep at it!

PS - As per a post of yours several weeks ago, I had no idea "Trickster makes this World" was actually a book - it is now on my bedside table & has jumped the queue to the top of my reading list, just as soon as I finish my current read.

Cheers! :)
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#9
Thanks! I wish I could take more credit, but I really am just a layperson who lucked into some good websites.

Two years ago I didn't know anything about philosophy or much about the paranormal at all.

I've actually begun reading Prescott's blog. Fascinating stuff - I've actually recommended his Why I Am Not A Skeptic to friends in the past. I find it keeps people from thinking you have to be a materialist to be considered intelligent.

I'd also recommend Steve Volk as another person who I think does a good job dealing with paranormal topics.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#10
Worth a read - if nothing else it goes into some important points in philosophy of ethics:
Godless yet good: There's something in religious tradition that helps people be ethical. But it isn't actually their belief in God

The dominant secular theories of ethics since the Enlightenment might be largely guilty of neglecting the personal — but there are exceptions. Theorists such as Samuel Butler and David Hume, for instance, saw moral character and virtue as significant, and John Stuart Mill attempted to make a place for it within his utilitarian system, as have some contemporary utilitarians. And in any case, there are other places to look for an ethics beyond religion, both more recently and in the distant past. Indeed, to my mind the most interesting work in secular ethics has been done by people whose project is inspired by and rooted in the distant past — and in particular, by the philosophers of ancient Greece.

Two central figures here are Iris Murdoch, especially her book The Sovereignty of Good (1970), and John McDowell, professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and in particular his influential paper ‘Virtue and Reason’ (1979). In addition to being a philosopher, Murdoch was of course a magnificent novelist, and this fact is not incidental. For Murdoch, the most crucial moral virtue was a kind of attentiveness to detail, a wise, trained capacity for vision, which could see what was really going on in a situation and respond accordingly. The sort of psychological insight and attentiveness to detail necessary for writing fiction was also, for Murdoch, what enables a person to live a morally good life. ‘It is obvious here,’ she wrote, ‘what is the role, for the artist or spectator, of exactness and good vision: unsentimental, detached, unselfish, objective attention. It is also clear that in moral situations a similar exactness is called for.’
The prevailing attitude is that we need a system of rules and principles to make and justify every decision, because we cannot trust the individuals involved enough to leave it up to their good judgment — even when the individuals involved are highly trained experts and just the sort of people capable of discerning how rules and principles should be implemented, and when they should be ignored or adapted. Similarly, the current plague of standardised testing inflicted on students leads to the slighting of skills and traits that are difficult to quantify: artistic talents, creativity, and moral attributes, among many others. This prevailing attitude is one that many Kantians and utilitarians would applaud, and one that Aristotle would deplore.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#11
"...Let us be poised, and wise, and our own, today. Let us treat the men and women well; treat them as if they were real; perhaps they are. Men live in their fancy, like drunkards whose hands are too soft and tremulous for successful labor. It is a tempest of fancies, and the only ballast I know is a respect to the present hour. Without any shadow of doubt, amidst this vertigo of shows and politics, I settle myself ever the firmer in the creed that we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do broad justice where we are, by whomsoever we deal with, accepting our actual companions and circumstances, however humble or odious as the mystic officials to whom the universe has delegated its whole pleasure for us..."
-Emerson, ESSAYS, SECOND SERIES
 
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