guenther wrote:@ Mindor and General_Norris: (and anyone else that's interested)
We have a very different perspective on morality. Perhaps we can start there, because this is central to the debate.
Morality is defined
You have to start with some basis for morality that we just accept as true. We can't run experiments on "goodness" like we do with gravity because it only exists as an aggregate subjective experience across a group of people. As an economic analogy, we can't do a test on corn to find it's fair market value any more than we can measure to see if an action is moral. "Moral truths" are defined, not discovered. There's no way to test the validity of a claim. (We can "gut-check" different moral statements, and I think this process is very important. But basing moral truths on this is a process of finding an intuitive definition, rather than making discoveries like we do in science.)
Though I agree we have a disconnect that is getting in the way of this discussion, I believe it is more fundamental than our perspective on morality. You (EDIT:
)seem to labor under the misconception that science holds a monopoly on uncovering truths: That for a claim to be objective, it must be supported by scientific evidence, and since science is limited to the empirical world, anything outside that is open to opinion.
Science does seem pretty much useless for discovering what morality is, or even for supporting moral claims, but that does not mean we cannot determine the validity of these claims. Where the world of science's physical experiments dealing with empirical truth ends, philosophy picks up with thought experiments dealing with concepts themselves, when done properly, the fruits of logic and reason are no less true.
On some level you must acknowledge this is true, or else why start the thread?
Now it is true that words hold definitions, they are signs that point to concepts, the definitions don't 'make' the concepts, rather they describe concepts, if you change a definition, you change the meaning of the word, but you don't actually change the concept, instead the definition describes a different concept. The concepts in-turn try to represent truths, some obviously do better than others, but no concept by their nature can perfectly represent a truth. Again truths don't require conceptualization to be true, concepts are an invention of our thought processes from which truths are independent: truths are absolute,as such require our labeling to exist no more than the moon does.
In the case of this discussion, the word morality holds a particular definition, it points to a particular concept. If you change the definition you now point to a different concept of morality. Both concepts try to represent a truth, one may do a better job or they both may be flawed in some different manner so the net quality of representation is equivalent.
My definition for Morality is simply "Doing what is right."
We can then make claims about what is right, and use philosophy to validate or discard those claims.
There is a whole field of philosophy devoted to doing just this: Ethics.
guenther wrote:Morality is complicated
We can define morality in a way that lends itself to a very clear and robust understanding. But I'd posit that it would be a very simple model that doen't offer much practically. To further the above analogy, that would be like having an economic policy that's simply "Grow GDP" or "Fair distribution of weath". But when it comes time to actually implement that policy in the real world, there's so much more detail needed (taxes, trade, incentives, regulations, etc.). A comprehensive economic policy should include all of those details, but then it would take much more effort to have a complete and robust understanding.
Morality is as complicated as economics, but we don't have the luxury of tracking dollars.
NOTE: To be clear on my language, "morality" is analogous to "economic policy" in that it represents an incarnation of rules regarding behavior. The closest moral equivalent of "economics" (i.e. the science rather than the policy) I've seen is perhaps "behaviorial economics", but I'd say that the science of morality is only a subset of that.
I think it is interesting you choose to compare morality to economics, as the two are so closely related. In fact economics, as the art of making/following financial rules to maximize financial results, is 'doing what is right in the realm of finances', and as such is a subset of morality.
The perfect, most successful economic policy, if followed honestly
would also be perfectly moral.
I think I've been doing this before now, but to be clear, when I use right to describe an action or choice, I mean morally right, when I use correct, I mean an action that matches a morally right action, with the exception that reason for the action is not stated.
guenther wrote:Translating rules into behavior
There's a big difference between describing rules of behavior and actually getting people to behave that way. In theory it shouldn't matter if people believed that the rules are divine in nature, or devised through some clever experiments, or thought up by some elightened scholar. If the people behave in a certain way, it shouldn't matter what they believe. But the issue is that what one believes hugely affects how one behaves.
In my opinion, simply convincing someone that a rule makes sense will likely yield poor results. Logic and reason don't drive behavior. The person needs to feel that following the rule is important in some way, or that it provides some benefit. We are emotion-driven creatures that have learned how to use the tools of logic and reason.
On this I categorically disagree with you. If your primary interest is getting people to behave correctly
, then it is true that the means of driving that behavior are a secondary consideration. However don't mistake following instructions as acting morally.
An action isn't automatically moral just because it happens to be the correct.
A man performs correct action A because he irrationally believes it will cause a catastrophe. The action does not have the intended consequences, and provides a net benefit. Was he moral? If yes then the ends justify the means, if no, then the quality of the belief that leads to an action matters.
If I decide my every action based of the flip of a coin, statistically 50% of my actions will match those taken by a saint, but none of mine will in fact be moral. I'm not doing them because they are right, I'm doing them because the coin said so.
Following the advice of a coin is either right or wrong, it cannot be both.
Lets assume it is true that coins can give moral advice.
Lets ask the coin, better lets ask two coins, Is X a moral action? Heads yes, Tails no.
Coin 1 turns up heads, we get the answer X is a moral action.
Coin 2 turns up tails, now X is not a moral action.
So If coins can give moral advice, X is both a moral action and not a moral action.
Since X cannot be simultaneously both a moral action and not a moral action, coins cannot give moral advice.
To generalize this, if it isn't morally right to perform an action because the coin says so then it isn't morally right to perform an action because X says so. Where X is an entity that could have said otherwise.
The point is: if you are interested in moral actions, the means that generate those actions is paramount.
If convincing someone that action A is the right
action isn't sufficient, then ultimately their decision isn't going to be a right one even if it turns out to be correct.
Given the assumption that a list does happen to contain only correct choices, If people follow it to a t, then you still don't get people acting morally, you only get people acting like
people acting morally.
guenther wrote:Golden Rule
How much of my time, money, and energy should I spend on serving others rather than myself? The Golden Rule alone lets each person define it however they want based on what they want from others. But not all choices will be equally likely to produce results that we intuitively find agreeable. There's a moral decision to be made that is not well defined by the Golden Rule.
Also, I think there's a lot of self-discipline aspects of morality that are completely not covered by how we should treat others.
At root here is the question of is it moral at all to serve
If serve here entails others receiving time, money, or energy they are not entitled too, then I'd claim it is not moral to serve others at all.
I don't think it is right to accept time, money, or energy that one is not entitled to.
I also don't think it is right to aid another in performing an immoral act, which giving another time, money, or energy they are not entitled to would constitute.
The answer to this is "How much time, money and energy are they entitled to have spent on them?"
There seem to be very few situations in which it is actually right to serve others in this manner, and with careful examination these generally boil down to supporting innocents, those that genuinely
cannot support themselves either permanently due to some real disability, childhood, etc. or temporarily due to some circumstance outside their control, like a natural disaster or war. In these cases the correct amount is the minimum they actually need, beyond that they may end up deserving more on an individual basis, depending on what they do with my time, money and energy, giving more may be a good investment.
We can reach these conclusions can be reached easily through the Golden Rule.
For the first part: Would I want someone to take from me time, money, or energy they were not entitled to? No.
For the second part: If I found myself in a situation where I were unable to support myself, would I want others to help me? Yes.
Additionally: Would I want someone to take advantage of my generosity, resulting in my wasting my effort? No.
Would I want someone to give me a chance to show I am worthy their time, money, and energy? Yes.
The whole requirement to serve others in many religions can actually be viewed in a mixed light.
Although on it could innocently be a valid tool to teach someone humility (in particular when it is time/energy that are being employed), prevent them developing into egomaniacs, and show them what it is truly like to be in the submissive position in a relationship (in the hopes that it tempers their utility of a dominant position), through these same results, it can indoctrinate the masses with the idea that they are not better than others, particular others in positions of authority
. One particular other would be the deity focus of the religion, that their lives are dependent on this figure, the will of this figure is unknowable and as such shouldn't be questioned, can't take their lives into their own hands. This relationship would extend to any superiors seen as being above ones own station. It becomes a tool for social engineering and control...
Mindor wrote:Accepting on faith frees them from the personal responsibility to think, shifting the responsibility to the object of faith.
by your own claim, a moral action cannot result purely from faith, the action may be the right action, but it cannot be a moral action.
I don't get these statements at all. There's a lot of religious deep thinkers. And why does faith make someone less responsible? And we can define "moral action" in any way that we want, but your definition seems very distinct from what our intuition tells us.
I'm having some trouble coming up with a general explanation of the responsibility thing atm, so let me give an examples to draw from.
Assume A General has perfect intelligence reports about his enemies strengths, numbers, and positions. Furthermore, his army is more massive, better equipped, and better trained, and by all accounts should be victorious given the right strategy. The General give orders, and his troops perform it perfectly, but are ultimately defeated.
Who is responsible for the defeat? The foot soldier that did exactly as he is told, or the General that gave the wrong orders.
The foot soldier (as he must) abdicates responsibility for battle plans to the General, keeping for himself the responsibility to follow the orders of the General.
When you accept the decisions of another above your own, in any situation, you likewise abdicate the decision making responsibility to them, keeping only the responsibility to do as they say.
This gets back again to the coin. Is it moral to do something because X says so? The conclusion was no.
For the religious deep thinkers, the fact they are deep thinkers would probably indicate they are not just acting off a list but considered the items on the list and the reasons why they are there, then applied those reasons to the situation at hand, if they were successful in their deliberations they succeeded in acting morally, otherwise, they may still have acted correctly, but based on a faulty premise (It is moral to do something because X says so.)
"by your own claim, a moral action cannot result purely from faith, the action may be the
correct action, but it cannot be a moral action."I've corrected the comment to coincide with the correct vs right paradigm.
Your claim was that the person must understand how to apply the moral code, to act morally. Understanding how to apply it, implies acting not on faith(belief without reason) but on reason.
Conversely to act on faith, would imply without reason, which implies a lack of understanding, without which, you said they couldn't apply the moral code properly, and couldn't act morally.
If my claims above are true...
A. Faith does not aid in moral behavior. (pretty much by definition of both)
B. The reasoning processes required to make moral decisions have no dependence on Religion.
C. Religion does not provide the utility of stronger morals to society.