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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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Posted · Report post

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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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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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
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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
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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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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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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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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.org/wiki/Seven_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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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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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.

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.

I knew I should have remained silent.

I never said athiests are amoral. Everyone has morals, and everyone decides what their morals will be, regardless of how religious they are. Your morals are part of you, and help you make choices. Without morals, you would be totally directionless.

The definition of moral (see: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moral ) is based on what is right and wrong behavior. What is good, and what is evil. The basic nature of animal life is self preservation, so what is good for me. There are different levels of good involved. How can you define being content with who you are? What makes you content? Content is a choice. I can be perfectly content living on grubs and grass, if I don't know anything other than that. Contentment is best obtained with ignorance. Ignorance is Bliss. It is when we learn about other things we could have that we gain envy, and are discontent.

Everyone is inately selfish. Is this a bad thing? No. We are born that way...wanting to eat when we are hungry, to sleep when we are tired, and to get our diapers changed when they are dirty, and we cry until our needs are met. We all have different goals in life. Those who believe in another life can aim their selfishness in how to enter that other world-"How can I be saved". Those who don't believe in another life try to get satisfaction in this one.

Define pathological. We define criminals by those who choose to go against the socially accepted norms of what we term morality. A majority of the criminals in the current U.S. Penal system are there due to some type of addiction. They cannot get what they need in order to fill satisfied. With all addictions, there is never a point where you will be satisfied. The more you have, the more you want. But the point is, they did what they did to get what they wanted when they wanted it. They didn't think about the social consequences, and definitely didn't think about religious consequences.

What is Human Nature? Isn't it survival of the fittest? We give up a lot of our freedom to "fit in". We try to live by the socially accepted norms, but do not always accept them as part of our basic morality.

Look at Nazi Germany. Many people allowed the government to do what they did because it helped get them out of a recession, and gave them a sense of unity, a common goal. National Socialism (Nazi) gave the people the basics of what they needed, and they didn't want to think that it came at the expense of others. Many (and many of these are religious) turned a blind eye to the killing of millions because it helped them. So where were their morals? The social norm had changed. We live at the expense of others.

I remember a long time ago watching an episode of Dennis Praeger, not that I always agree with him, but he stated something that rings true to me. I would rather have my children learn to obey the law because they are worried about a God watching over them that sees everything than a law that you can circumvent by finding ways to get away with things. If nobody sees, is it a sin? As long as nobody gets hurt, right? The sad truth is, someone is always getting hurt, but we just cant, or don't, see it.

How should we define a moral standard. Whose standards should we choose? Should we isolate ourselves, so we never have a harmful impact on someone else? Should we stop developing so we don't hurt the environment? Should we not help our neighbor because we might get sued?

People usually agree that killing is bad. But what about killing out of necessity? What about euthenasia? What about killing to prevent more killing? Where do we draw the line? How much damage must occur before we change?

One of the largest problems facing todays society is not definition of morals, but the acceptance of responsibility. If we can shift the responsibility, then who cares about the morals. I am no longer responsible for killing, it was my parents fault, or my psychiatrist, or depression, or the gloves no longer fit. I am no longer responsible for being stupid, large corporations, or the government are supposed to protect me from myself. We can circumvent the socially accepted morality, because we are no longer responsible.

Thanks for allowing me to rant.

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The definition of moral (see: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/moral ) is based on what is right and wrong behavior. What is good, and what is evil.
That would pose a problem for the atheist (if we agreed with that definition, that is ;) ), though fortunately merriam-webster has been kind enough to leave us a little window of opportunity:

d: sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment <a moral obligation>

The basic nature of animal life is self preservation, so what is good for me.
I disagree. This is an oversimplification of the effects of evolution. It would probably be more accurate to say that the basic nature of animal life is to exhibit the kinds of behaviours that would generally be most likely to result in the preservation and propagation of one's own genetic code. This isn't a great link to explain the concept but it's something. When you consider the fact that your genetic code is stored in your children, and (to a decreasing extent) extended family, social groups, and species as a whole, this allows for some very unselfish behaviour. You may also consider the fact that human beings are social animals, and that there are rewards at the group level for unselfish behaviour. I don't think we can be accurately characterised as self-serving, and my personal observation bears this out.

How can you define being content with who you are? What makes you content?
Now there's a can of worms! I'll just say that improving the world around me would have to be part of that.

Contentment is best obtained with ignorance. Ignorance is Bliss.
Possibly, but that's a price I'm unwilling to pay. Contentment doesn't mean stagnation. I like to learn and challenge myself and realise my full potential as a person. That's my idea of contentment.

It is when we learn about other things we could have that we gain envy, and are discontent.
Then we learn about envy and, if we are wise, get past it.

Define pathological. We define criminals by those who choose to go against the socially accepted norms of what we term morality.
I used the word "pathological" to indicate that criminal behaviour generally benefits nobody, not even the criminal. It may be a product of having psychological problems, of being misguided or just plain stupid. The point is that criminal behaviour is a "disease" in a social sense because it benefits nobody. It is not so much a choice to put selfish interests before others (though a criminal might justify it that way), it is more a complete failure to act in anybody's best interests. You might consider it a symptom rather than a disease. What it isn't is a rational choice based on different priorities.

What is Human Nature? Isn't it survival of the fittest? We give up a lot of our freedom to "fit in". We try to live by the socially accepted norms, but do not always accept them as part of our basic morality.

Look at Nazi Germany. Many people allowed the government to do what they did because it helped get them out of a recession, and gave them a sense of unity, a common goal. National Socialism (Nazi) gave the people the basics of what they needed, and they didn't want to think that it came at the expense of others. Many (and many of these are religious) turned a blind eye to the killing of millions because it helped them. So where were their morals? The social norm had changed.

It's true that social norms can do a lot to compromise morality on a group level, but morality still is what is it, even if a lot of people have found a reason not to act on it.

I remember a long time ago watching an episode of Dennis Praeger, not that I always agree with him, but he stated something that rings true to me. I would rather have my children learn to obey the law because they are worried about a God watching over them that sees everything than a law that you can circumvent by finding ways to get away with things. If nobody sees, is it a sin? As long as nobody gets hurt, right? The sad truth is, someone is always getting hurt, but we just cant, or don't, see it.
Exactly. Which is why I will bring up my children to acknowledge the real consequences of their actions, seen or unseen, and to understand that "getting away with it" is the rationale of a fool, which always backfires on you in the end. That way they can learn to obey the laws of their own innate morality without me needing to pollute their rationality with superstitious inducements.

How should we define a moral standard. Whose standards should we choose? Should we isolate ourselves, so we never have a harmful impact on someone else? Should we stop developing so we don't hurt the environment? Should we not help our neighbor because we might get sued?

People usually agree that killing is bad. But what about killing out of necessity? What about euthenasia? What about killing to prevent more killing? Where do we draw the line? How much damage must occur before we change?

These are the dilemmas, folks. But since there seems to be too many to address in one thread I think I might start some new ones :D

One of the largest problems facing todays society is not definition of morals, but the acceptance of responsibility. If we can shift the responsibility, then who cares about the morals. I am no longer responsible for killing, it was my parents fault, or my psychiatrist, or depression, or the gloves no longer fit. I am no longer responsible for being stupid, large corporations, or the government are supposed to protect me from myself. We can circumvent the socially accepted morality, because we are no longer responsible.

Thanks for allowing me to rant.

Good rant! I totally agree with you. Judging by the Praeger reference, I expect you're American, but I can tell you for a fact that the UK is also going down the same toilet of moral abdication. I think it's the government's fault (honestly I do despite the obvious irony! :lol: )*

* On consideration that's a really dumb thing to say but I meant it when I said it so I'll leave it in as an example of apathy in action!

Edited by octopuppy
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