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11 replies to this topic

#1 octopuppy

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 01:28 PM

I'd like to see if anybody thinks there could be such a thing as definitive morality. We all share common morality up to a point, agreeing that certain things are right and wrong (for example, most people would agree that random murder is not a nice thing to do). Other matters (eating meat, abortion, sexuality) tend to cause more differences of opinion. But we are all the same species, so if we were sufficiently enlightened wouldn't we all agree on what is right and wrong?
Could it ever be possible to get complete agreement on all points of morality? To iron out the differences and obtain a definitve moral code?
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#2 emeraldcity

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 05:55 AM

I'd like to see if anybody thinks there could be such a thing as definitive morality. We all share common morality up to a point, agreeing that certain things are right and wrong (for example, most people would agree that random murder is not a nice thing to do). Other matters (eating meat, abortion, sexuality) tend to cause more differences of opinion. But we are all the same species, so if we were sufficiently enlightened wouldn't we all agree on what is right and wrong?
Could it ever be possible to get complete agreement on all points of morality? To iron out the differences and obtain a definitve moral code?

In my opinion, absolutely not! It's kind of like cheating on your taxes. We say, You should not cheat on your taxes, BUT, if I just cheat a little bit on mine, that doesn't count! Everyone that considers themself a moral person will always find a way to justify what they do, even if it is "coloring out of the lines" to someone else. For those that are immoral, they don't care. And for the amoral person, they will justify EVERYTHING they do and make it right. But, then, let us pause here, and wonder how we came upon these three groups of people to start with. Had to be that MORAL guy. lol I think you get what I am saying.
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#3 Lost in space

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 09:51 AM

I'd like to see if anybody thinks there could be such a thing as definitive morality.
Could it ever be possible to get complete agreement on all points of morality? To iron out the differences and obtain a definitive moral code?


Nice one Octopuppy.

One of the problems that we are to far from the issues when everything we need is at the turn of a tap or the flick of a switch and nicely packaged. Does it matter how we get so long as it is convenient. Is morality simply about living correctly/virtuously? It would help if society was not eroding parenting time. Europe seems to be encouraging parents to work harder rather than raising children well. Education is probably a good place to start. Of course this is done in many education systems, but it is relaxed in latter school years. Then finally we are put into the rat race.



There is also the lack of communal action, where again we are too busy with earning our pennies to participate in our society properly. Most cities are too large and too busy for people to have a community in the true sense of the word. Bustling cities are like having a dinosaur as a pet; they take a lot of feeding and before you know it are taken over by it. Trying to keep up rather than slow down. So much for computers making our lives easier - faster yes.



Will there ever be enough of a voice for people to be heard and produce a truly civilised moral society that achieves the best balance or harmonious group that is in tune with each other and its environment. Usually we just look for short term profit that makes others pay later. I think we can get to an understanding. I am forever the optimist on such things. Perhaps we need a list of things that we can get on the same page about.



What are the moral issue we need to address? Can we simply provide a list that we collectively agree on? It may help of course to have common ground to start with. If we start with the local issues that people can benefit from then perhaps it will gather momentum and produce a perpetual motion effect. We need to feel comfortable in our community/society, rather than just trying to fit into something that has not been established as a whole but as a collection of bits and pieces trying to find cohesion.



I would like to start with improving education for all, reduce working time and improve parenting time, and provide space in peoples lives to take part in their community, but lets not forget to allow some time for ourselves too.



Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, I’m sure someone will tell me if I am.
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#4 Duh Puck

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 10:50 AM

I'd like to see if anybody thinks there could be such a thing as definitive morality. We all share common morality up to a point, agreeing that certain things are right and wrong (for example, most people would agree that random murder is not a nice thing to do). Other matters (eating meat, abortion, sexuality) tend to cause more differences of opinion. But we are all the same species, so if we were sufficiently enlightened wouldn't we all agree on what is right and wrong?
Could it ever be possible to get complete agreement on all points of morality? To iron out the differences and obtain a definitve moral code?

Not to sideswipe the discussion, but belief in God generally (though not necessarily) goes hand in hand with the idea that the creator would be responsible for providing a moral code, an objective sense of right and wrong that transcends human thinking. So to answer your question ... yes, I think there's such a thing as definitive morality.

But if we ignore that for a moment ... what's the practical difference between this and the legal code proposed by LIS? If anything, I see moral codes being even less universally agreeable than laws. You brought up a couple good examples demonstrating the difficulty, such as abortion. Obviously, one's religious beliefs (or lack thereof) are going to affect their perspective on the rightness of the practice. Of course, you did add the proviso "if we were sufficiently enlightened." I suppose if that refers to a time when the great majority can agree on the foundations for morality, then perhaps it's possible. At our current pace of "enlightenment," I don't see it happening any time soon.

Edited by Duh Puck, 11 March 2008 - 10:51 AM.

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#5 octopuppy

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 03:59 PM

Belief in God generally (though not necessarily) goes hand in hand with the idea that the creator would be responsible for providing a moral code, an objective sense of right and wrong that transcends human thinking. So to answer your question ... yes, I think there's such a thing as definitive morality.

Sounds reasonable to me. But how can we know what this code is? Religions don't seem to be able to agree on it!

But if we ignore that for a moment ... what's the practical difference between this and the legal code proposed by LIS?

Well, you've hit the nail on the head there. A legal code is a practical thing, to keep us from getting too much out of hand. I don't think anybody would seriously suggest that law and morality are one and the same. Perhaps even in an ideal world this would not be so. The principles of right and wrong are independent of enforcement.

If anything, I see moral codes being even less universally agreeable than laws. You brought up a couple good examples demonstrating the difficulty, such as abortion. Obviously, one's religious beliefs (or lack thereof) are going to affect their perspective on the rightness of the practice. Of course, you did add the proviso "if we were sufficiently enlightened." I suppose if that refers to a time when the great majority can agree on the foundations for morality, then perhaps it's possible.

Hence my interest in the subject! Is it even theoretically possible? And (perhaps more fun to discuss) what would this moral code contain? How might we go about determining absolute right or wrong? Apart from anything else I'd love to see just how much (or little) we can agree on. But I am talking about what we'd do in some far-flung enlightened utopia (in case you haven't guessed, I've been watching a lot of Star Trek lately), obviously these days we can't even agree on whether its a sin to use a condom.

Bustling cities are like having a dinosaur as a pet; they take a lot of feeding and before you know it are taken over by it.

Don't talk to me about having a dinosaur as a pet. Never again. Sometimes I rue the day I built that time machine. Honestly, they start out so cute, but then later on there's running... and screaming...

Edited by octopuppy, 11 March 2008 - 04:06 PM.

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#6 Duh Puck

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 05:25 AM

But how can we know what this code is? Religions don't seem to be able to agree on it!

True. An objective code that originates with the creator would have to be revealed by him in some form or another, and in such a manner that it would not be left open to individual interpretation. While I think the Bible provides many excellent principles that can underly morality ("love your neighbor as yourself", "do to others what you want them to do to you", etc.), it certainly doesn't force a single interpretation, so I think something more is needed to arrive at an agreed upon code. Religion in its current state of confusion is probably even less likely to reach consensus than would a secular, atheistic society, but I don't honestly think either would be completely successful.

Well, you've hit the nail on the head there. A legal code is a practical thing, to keep us from getting too much out of hand. I don't think anybody would seriously suggest that law and morality are one and the same. Perhaps even in an ideal world this would not be so. The principles of right and wrong are independent of enforcement.

Good point. I wasn't really clear in what I was saying, so I'll try to elaborate a bit.

I will often readily accept a law regardless of the moral rationale (if any is needed), simply because I recognize that there are societal benefits to enforcing policies. I will not so readily accept a statement of moral value if it conflicts with a belief I hold. For example, consider gun laws. I've never owned a gun, or really even wanted to, but I recognize that the laws regarding guns arise as a result of the misuse of guns by a small minority. I would readily accept a great variety of laws as beneficial (registration required, no handguns, no automatic guns, etc.), although I would also not be too concerned if those laws were not in place due to a recognition of the value of personal freedom.

However, what about the moral declaration "The use of weapons to do harm or take the life of others is wrong, unless it is in self-defense, the defense of one's family, community, or country."? Now you've presented a statement which is much more challenging, even though there's no enforcement involved. Is it morally right to shoot someone in another country because your country's government has identified the other as a threat? At a bare minimum, the morality of the action would be dependent on the morally sound judgment of the of the government officials, and we know how lacking that often is. Personally, I don't ever feel that support for my country would trump my belief in the wrongness of killing, but many would disagree, and they might ask, "what if someone was attacking your children"? In that situation, I can't see how using a weapon to stop the attack could ever be viewed as a morally wrong, (although it would seem reasonable to try not to kill, if possible), but where do you draw the line between what is and isn't sound moral basis for using force? It's clear that these issues can quickly get sticky, and reaching universal consensus would be a miracle of the highest order.
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#7 Duh Puck

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 07:27 AM

Don't talk to me about having a dinosaur as a pet. Never again. Sometimes I rue the day I built that time machine. Honestly, they start out so cute, but then later on there's running... and screaming...

Heh heh. I missed the time machine post, so thanks for linking to it. That made for an enjoyable read on my coffee break. :D
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#8 octopuppy

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 04:07 PM

While I think the Bible provides many excellent principles that can underly morality ("love your neighbor as yourself", "do to others what you want them to do to you", etc.)

I sometimes try doing to others as I want them to do to me. I usually get a slap in the face! Obviously I'm not doing it right, or maybe they do want what I want done to me done to them, but not by me. And as for my neighbour... eugh! Have you seen my neighbour? ;)

I've never owned a gun, or really even wanted to, but I recognize that the laws regarding guns arise as a result of the misuse of guns by a small minority. I would readily accept a great variety of laws as beneficial (registration required, no handguns, no automatic guns, etc.), although I would also not be too concerned if those laws were not in place due to a recognition of the value of personal freedom.

I would! Personal freedom must have limits. But that belongs in LIS' topic so I'll say no more.

However, what about the moral declaration "The use of weapons to do harm or take the life of others is wrong, unless it is in self-defense, the defense of one's family, community, or country."? Now you've presented a statement which is much more challenging, even though there's no enforcement involved. Is it morally right to shoot someone in another country because your country's government has identified the other as a threat? At a bare minimum, the morality of the action would be dependent on the morally sound judgment of the of the government officials, and we know how lacking that often is. Personally, I don't ever feel that support for my country would trump my belief in the wrongness of killing, but many would disagree, and they might ask, "what if someone was attacking your children"? In that situation, I can't see how using a weapon to stop the attack could ever be viewed as a morally wrong, (although it would seem reasonable to try not to kill, if possible), but where do you draw the line between what is and isn't sound moral basis for using force? It's clear that these issues can quickly get sticky, and reaching universal consensus would be a miracle of the highest order.

You've made a good start, though! You cannot deny the nature of a parent to defend their children, it's their primary task in life. But if you take "community and country" right out of that statement, it would be such a pacifist stance as to render your country open to attack from any aggressor. So we need clarification of when force can be used for political reasons. Now there's a hot potato... pass it on...
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#9 statman

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Posted 21 March 2008 - 08:10 PM

I almost don't want to enter this discussion, because I don't want to debate religion (which is why I will steer clear of the other thread). The harsh reality is there will not be a unified code of morality without a unified religion. Morality is religion based. A true athiest will have no real sense of what others would call morality. Here most people would say, "but people can agree that killing people is not morally correct". This is wrong. Without a belief in something other than this short time in mortality, why is it wrong to kill someone? In fact, there are a lot of people who probably deserve to be killed. We just have to accept the consequences of if we can kill others, they can also kill us. What gives us a sense of morality (a sense of good and evil) is that we are psuedo-religious. We may be agnostic, but we believe that there is a good and evil (God and Devil). Without this definition, anarchy rules, and there is no law.
The question is: who makes the definition of good and evil. We have historically left that to the religious leaders. Priests controlled government for most of the ancient civilizations (if you don't agree, ask Ankenaten, Tutankaten's (Tutankamen) father, who was overthrown in Egypt for trying to install a monothiestic society).
In most of Europe and America, our laws and "morality" are loosly based on Judeo-Christian beliefs of what is right and wrong. As we can observe through history, and in current political leaders, this "morality" is very flexible for those who have a weaker religious conviction.
The Jews would say that all mankind are under the "law of Noah", http://en.wikipedia....en_Laws_of_Noah and that should be the basis of morality. Of course those who observe the Judaic laws given by Moses are at a higher level. Christians are similar, but now you have to obey the Christian morality to be at the higher level.
The problem with morality is: Who is the judge? Am I being moral? Only by my sense of morality. If I do believe in God, then I would also believe that He would hold me to that morality as well, which provides more incentive to live my morality. If I do not believe in God, then the standard I will be held to is what I want for myself, and I should do whatever it takes to get myself ahead, because what is good for me is what makes my morality. Some of us, of course, learn a sense of morality from our parents, and base our behavior on Socially Accepted norms, but this is against good and evil, it is "fitting in", which increases a possible greater good for the community, but may go against personal good. This is why we get criminals...people who choose their morality over that of the community, or of a higher power.
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#10 octopuppy

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Posted 23 March 2008 - 06:54 PM

The problem with morality is: Who is the judge? Am I being moral? Only by my sense of morality. If I do believe in God, then I would also believe that He would hold me to that morality as well, which provides more incentive to live my morality. If I do not believe in God, then the standard I will be held to is what I want for myself, and I should do whatever it takes to get myself ahead, because what is good for me is what makes my morality.

I don't entirely agree with that. Why do "getting ahead" and "what is good for me" have to be the dominant drives? What I want for myself is to be content with who I am. Sometimes that means acting selflessly. In the end we all do what we do because of some internal drive, but we should not infer that this makes people selfish.

This is why we get criminals...people who choose their morality over that of the community, or of a higher power.

Actually I would say that criminal behaviour is generally pathological behaviour. It does not stem from a selfish morality so much as a failure to integrate into society and develop sensible patterns of behaviour.

Yours is an interesting post, statman. On the face of it, it would seem that the religious have their morality served up to them on a plate and atheists make it up as we go along. But I must disagree. The basic tenets of religious morality (7 laws of noah, 10 commandments, etc) usually constitute pretty obvious stuff that most people would agree with. The finer points of religious morality are usually cherry-picked from religious texts, while undesired "guidance" which does not fit in is ignored. So it is not really religious texts that dictate morality, it is the way religions interpret them, which in turn is based on the prevailing morality of the times, plus other social and political factors. So the religious also "choose" their morality, but they do it more as a herd and less as individuals.
Atheists, on the other hand, are not amoral. Many atheists have very strong morals, they just have to decide for themselves what those morals are.
Both groups are ultimately guided by human nature. And since we all have that in common, this holds out the possibility of a moral code that could work for all.
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