Morality

Discussions on a ranges of philosophical issues including the nature of truth and reality, personal identity, mind-body theories, epistemology, justification of beliefs, argumentation and logic, philosophy of religion, free will and determinism, etc.
Nils
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Re: Morality

Postby Nils » Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:24 pm

Now, Kurieuo, answers to your last two posts.

viewtopic.php?p=230886#p230886

Kurieuo wrote:
Nils wrote:
It seems that you are thinking that there is a big difference between instincts and conscience. To me it is just a matter of degree. An instinct makes the animal mother not to eat her offspring and it is the same to the human mother but she can also consciously reflect about what she has learnt about what you should or shouldn't do. This makes it possible to widen the morality outside the family to a bigger group and to a society. In that process I think a conscious conscience is useful. It's a way to make intuitive what you are feeling and have learnt.

However note that my last sentence is only a speculation. The human brain is extremely complex with hundreds (at least) processes going on in parallel so it's certainly risky to try describe psychological features.

I'd say that for us, morality is perhaps subcategory of instinct. Our moral conscience, which tells us what is right or wrong, judges our own actions and makes us feel guilty or defensive, is a type of instict -- moral instinct. Then there are behavioural instincts, such seem to me more mechanically driven. For example, bees instinctually seem to do their waggle dance in a figure '8' to communicate distance and direction to flowers. These are like behavioural instructions bees are innately programmed with. You know, we all seem to have certain instincts that are innate.

I agree (even I do not see any differences in how mechanically they are. Neurological, I would say )

This to me highlights the often buried Aristotelean idea of telos, that living things have a given goal or purpose. It is seeing a come back even within evolutionary ideas. The thought that evolution happens by chance genetic mutations is becoming less popular. Instead, the idea that a natural set of laws are at play which structure the evolutionary process of lifeforms and biological structures. So for example, the idea that if history was reset and evolution could play out again, we'd likely have different animals and species, isn't really true according to Structuralism (an evolutionary position). Instead, there are natural laws governing the evolutionary process, which eventually result in vertbrate animals, hominds and certain organs like eyes and the like. It would have always occurred that way, and if evolution repeated, would be that way again, and again, and again. It is said, if we found other intelligent life on another planet elsewhere, then we would probably expect it to look rather like us. Often used in support of this is the fact there are 100s of examples of what gets called "convergent evolution" -- similar structures and lifeforms that must have evolved separately more than once, repeated over and over again.

The Theory of Evolution (TOE) is more or less per definition not goal oriented. If there is some goal oriented factor I would not call it TOE but some other theory that is some parts resembles TOE but which at a critical point differs. That TOE is not teleological is not a small secondary property but one of the main cornerstones of the theory. The slogan "survival of the fittest" implies that evolution don't depend on any hidden goal.

Structuralism as I read about it seems in many cases to be some version of Intelligent Design and ID is not a variant of TOE. So when you say that evolution by mutations is becoming less popular this seems to be valid only for persons that are not adherents of TOE.

Now my point in all this is that this telos, the guiding principles and instincts that are innate to us (and likewise other behavioural instincts innate to other animals and insects), and even the structural processes that are embedded within nature itself towards producing intelligent life like us, all such must come from somewhere.

When we create robots, we program software which gives it certain code which says how it is to work, what actions it is to do, how it is to respond to its environment and what-not. When the robot is switched on, these "pre-programmed" instructions are a "mechanical" type of instinct already there and ready to go with. Yet, moral instinct is qualitatively different. We are presenting with a choice when it comes to morality. Either we can listen to that which our conscience tells us is right, or we can dismiss it to do that which is wrong for selfish reasons. Interestingly, if we do that which is wrong, than a normally functioning person will feel guilt.

So it's like we're programmed not only with a moral instinct, but the telos is for us to keep to it. But why?
See below.
It is like something, or more likely Someone wants us to conduct ourselves a certain way. And so all this to me, points to a good God which I see has the most explanitory power when it comes to instinctual and telos driven things, especially with our moral conscience.

Well, you don't like TOE but prefer God governed evolution. That's your choice. Being an atheist I don't agree, of course.

Compared to your psychological explanation, where it seems you really don't know and are simply trying to throw something, anything, out there. It just lacks any convinciveness, and it really seems too simplistic to carry much explanitory power for our morality. Noted, you are just likely thinking off the top of your head.

We might then turn your explanation to Kenny trying to ground morality objectively, which appears more like scrambling something together that could possibly work within a secular worldview, but really still lacks any clear grounding nor does it do full justice to the morality we innately feel. Consider in addition to a real sense of right and wrong, we add in a sense of justice, that self-sacrifice is good, why we feel guilt, concepts of fairness, even a love for each other (our moral conscience doesn't necessarily demand we love each other, but such would be a good thing right? Like there is room being left for us to go above and beyond a "status quo" morality that is implanted within us!). So then, a satisfactory explanation of such things doesn't seem to me like it could find grounding in ourselves or society (like you put forward to Kenny), and such is certainly not grounded in nature which cares not one tittle (unless perhaps nature is conscious???).

Maybe I understand that you are not convinced by my theory. Even if I have thought about it in ten years and also debated informally I have neither tried to formulate it more precisely in an article nor studied the literature on the subject. Here, I want to show that there is a possibility to explain morality (including all your list above: "a real sense of right and wrong, we add in a sense of justice, that self-sacrifice is good, why we feel guilt, concepts of fairness, even a love for each other") without referring to a higher force.

Assume the following:
1. The Theory of Evolution is correct.
2. It is preferable to humans and many animals to live together in groups (families, tribes and even societies). This will increase the chance to survive.
3. To be able to live in groups there has to be rules of conduct i.e. morality.

If you agree with #2 and #3 and assume #1 there is nothing peculiar that evolution (TOE) has happened to form animals (including humans) to have a moral instinct including sense of right and wrong etc. We know of other biological features that are just as complex and that are formed by evolution (still assuming #1). For evolution to go in some direction it is enough that there is some property that is beneficial to survival and it is possible to achieve that property in small steps, where each step also is beneficial. And that is valid for morality.

This can of course be seen as telos as you do above. When looking at the development of the mammalian eye for instance, the evolution can be described like there were some force that new the final result and governed the steps towards the goal - teleological evolution. But TOE only says that each step was beneficial and the evolution continued as long as this requirement was fulfilled. When no more beneficial step occurred evolution stopped (at different stages for different species).

Perhaps I should clarify that my intentions with my participating in this thread is not to try convince anyone that the "best" theory of morality is the one I advocate but more restricted showing that being a materialist is a coherent position regarding morality. I noticed several times on this board that it is argued: If there is no God anything is permitted. It just a matter of taste what to do etc. I argue that evolution has made us have an instinct that is common to all humans (more or less) and also to some animals. On top of that instinct we humans also has culture that forms and specifies our moral instinct to specific rules often expressed in laws. But the main argument is 1 to 3 above and if you agree on 2 and 3 and assume 1, then much more has not to be said.

My view about morality can not be used as an argument against the existence of God but I think it shows that morality can not be used as an argument against materialism (as you and others often do). There is nothing in materialistic morality that can not be explained by evolution (TOE). Then it can be discussed whether I have succeeded in my explanations. I am not an expert, the issue is a bit complex, and my time is limited.

Nils

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Re: Morality

Postby Nils » Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:37 pm

Kurieuo wrote:
Nils wrote:
Kurieuo wrote:[*]Second, it seems to me you may be defining what is "good" or "honourable" by that which is "beneficial to society", or does what is "beneficial to family" take a higher priority? Nonetheless, I disagree. It does not seem to me when we call someone good or honourable that we simply mean they're doing what is beneficial to society or family.


To be a bit more explicit: I think that the base is the feelings of how I want to be treated. That I transfer to my family, my friends, neighbours, etc to my fellow citizens and all people. I assume that they generally want what I want and I that acting morally is to treat them as I want to be treated. (The golden rule). This is supported by the neurological emphatic system that helps us to understand how other persons feel. (Again, this is very sketchy).

But I agree that when we call someone good we don't simply mean that "they're doing what is beneficial to society or family". It's more complicated than that. We all think that there is a moral rule of conduct or a moral law and that is what we refer to when we talk about morality.

Happy to see you acknowledge that last point.

Nils wrote:The difference between a theist and a materialist is that the former can refer directly to the Bible where the moral law is stated - for instance in the commandments.

Please understand, this statement of yours comes across strawmanish. You do know the Bible, while it contains certain laws that are moral as well as social, priestly, dietary and the like with the first five books (the Torah) -- which mind you weren't the complete laws Israel actually had! -- the Tanakh (Old Testament) including the Torah is much more a book of Israel's recorded history entwined with their theology.

Nonetheless, the commandments were given to Israel. Yes, some extrapolate such and apply to our times where they seem relevant. In actuality, "the Bible" tells us that while there is "the Law" (given the Israel), the moral law is also written within us (Romans 2:14-15). Indeed even in the OT the prophets often talk of loving God and others with our hearts, and Israel's failure in this respect being the reason why God will bring about a new covenant as prophecied by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Therefore, according to the Bible, which many non-Christians wrongly think of as just a book of rules, in actuality it supports that Jew and non-Jew (Gentile), Christian and non-Christian, can determine what is good and right. Indeed we all can love our neighbour as ourselves, and we all can understand the sentiments when Christ says there is no greater love than giving up your life for another person. (John 15:13) Right? If you understand and get such sentiments, then what I'd argue is that perhaps, in actually, we both have the same source for this innate moral knowledge we recognise which other creatures in the animal kingdom do not (unless we perhaps impart such onto them through domestication).

Yes, I could have been more precise. We have in common the innate moral knowledge. The Christians can also refer to the Bible. The materialist has no authorised document to refer to.

Now since Atheists, non-Christians, indeed even Muslims, are by nature human, and being human means we innately have this moral instinct/conscience, that is why when the moral argument is presented by Christian apologists they nearly always qualify that just because Atheists are unable to ground morality (ontological), such doesn't mean they don't know morality (epistemological) and as such be good and moral people. Sadly, nearly every response from Atheists or Atheist-leaning people who debate online, avoids entering into an ontological grounding of morality. As RickD pointed out, it was (and indeed it was) refreshing to see you understand the distinction, and at least try to present reasons that make your worldview more coherent with regards to some true and objective morality.

If God has indeed written a moral law on our hearts, placing a moral instinct if you will within us, then it isn't surprising that socially we might agree a great deal in regards to what is morally good and morally bad or unacceptable. Sure there are disagreements, but if you're reading CS Lewis' Mere Christianity, I too think they're overstated. Much disagreement is often had due to people believing different facts of truth to do with a matter rather than having a different set of moral values.
That's an important point.
Nils wrote:To a materialist it is more complicated. We have to explain why there is a need of a moral rule and how to create it for instance by referring to the usefulness to society. But that explanation we don't use in the everyday talk. In fact, I don't think many materialists have ever thought about a need to explain morality.

It is more complicated to objectively ground morality for the materialist, particularly because moral laws and values aren't material substances nor possess material properties. So right there, we have a dilemma. If one accepts that "good" truly exists then what properties does it have? Can you see it directly like you see a rock? You can see people doing good things perhaps, but you don't see good itself. Can you hear goodness? Touch goodness? Taste goodness? Smell it? Morality isn't something we can put in a test tube and place in a lab so physical science can test and examine it, right? So then, I'd argue if morality exists, objectively so, then it's grounding/source must be in something non-material.

I am confused. Do you really think that everything in a materialistic world is only material, that you can hear, see, smell or taste? In that way you exclude lots of things from a materialistic world. What about thoughts, instincts, hunger, mathematics, chess rules, computer programs, etc etc? So yes, morality is grounded in something non-material. It is grounded in what is best in some way, in the survival of individuals with morality.

You say "I'd argue if morality exists, objectively so, ...". It seems that you mix two issues. One is if morality is objectively grounded. The other is if there objectively is any morality. I agree on the second, but not on the first.

I'll finish here repeating what I said at the end of my last post. A satisfactory explanation of morality, goodness and the like doesn't seem to me like it could find grounding in ourselves or society (like you put forward to Kenny), and such is certainly not grounded in nature which cares not one tittle, nor in the material world wherein things possess a different set of properties (physical properties like weight, height, width, time, etc). Indeed, the materialist has quite a headache on their hands, which is why some Atheists (e.g., like Thomas Nagel) suggest that perhaps nature is comprised that which is physical (which physical sciences deal well with) and then also that which belongs to some category like "consciousness" (which we currently understand very little about).

You say about morality that it "doesn't seem to me like it could find grounding in ourselves or society (like you put forward to Kenny)".But why? Morality is in some way a code of conduct (see for instance the Oxford dictionary). It is beneficial to individuals living in groups. It is even difficult to see a scenario where morality did not evolve.

Nils

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Re: Morality

Postby PaulSacramento » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:46 am

It is very easy for people with established morals in a society with established morals to comment on how they don't need objective morals.

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Re: Morality

Postby Nils » Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:16 pm

PaulSacramento wrote:It is very easy for people with established morals in a society with established morals to comment on how they don't need objective morals.

Why is an objective moral more needed than the subjective moral I vindicate? And so we have the epistemic problem, which is not easier if we claim we have an objective moral, perhaps the contrary.

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Re: Morality

Postby Kenny » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:42 pm

PaulSacramento wrote:It is very easy for people with established morals in a society with established morals to comment on how they don't need objective morals.

What do you mean by "a society with established morals"? You aren't suggesting that the members of society agree on what is or is not moral are you?

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Re: Morality

Postby B. W. » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:10 am

Kenny wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:It is very easy for people with established morals in a society with established morals to comment on how they don't need objective morals.

What do you mean by "a society with established morals"? You aren't suggesting that the members of society agree on what is or is not moral are you?

Ken


He sounds like he is saying what you are saying and nil's is saying...there is nothing objective to prove evil is evil or good is really good.

So society establishes its own morals based on the whims of ever changing consensus. For example...

One day, majority group says, let's take all that Ken and Nil and take everything their respective families own, and sell their youngest family members to a foriegn govt as slaves because we need the living space they are taking up to build a better future on. The money we take from Ken and Nil and their entire family line, well, will morally justify using these same funds to build the collective good. If any member resists, well, they are worthless eaters anyway, a bane of the state, so eliminate them. After all, there is no one or anything that can hurt the collective good, no one can judge, we, the majority, cannot be found guilty of any wrong in this work for the collective good's better future.
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Re: Morality

Postby RickD » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:32 am

B.W. wrote:
He sounds like he is saying what you are saying and nil's is saying...there is nothing objective to prove evil is evil or good is really good.


That's exactly what I've been trying to get through to Kenny. Without objective morality, how can good be good, and evil be evil? Without OM, there's nothing objective to define "good" and "evil".

Without OM, everything is just opinions meaning nothing more than one's preference for ice cream.
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Re: Morality

Postby Nils » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:35 am

B. W. wrote:
Kenny wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:It is very easy for people with established morals in a society with established morals to comment on how they don't need objective morals.

What do you mean by "a society with established morals"? You aren't suggesting that the members of society agree on what is or is not moral are you?

Ken


He sounds like he is saying what you are saying and nil's is saying...there is nothing objective to prove evil is evil or good is really good.

So society establishes its own morals based on the whims of ever changing consensus.

This is a common misunderstanding. The morality is governed much by inherited feelings that are primarily determined by evolution. Above that we have human culture that has developed through history. Few persons in a modern society would want to live with rules or laws that permit the behaviour that you exemplify. If you in some way were convinced that there is no God and no objective moral, I am convinced of that you wouldn't like to live in your exemplary society, and nor would I. I live in a mostly secular society I have not seen any movement in the direction you suggest.


For example...

One day, majority group says, let's take all that Ken and Nil and take everything their respective families own, and sell their youngest family members to a foriegn govt as slaves because we need the living space they are taking up to build a better future on. The money we take from Ken and Nil and their entire family line, well, will morally justify using these same funds to build the collective good. If any member resists, well, they are worthless eaters anyway, a bane of the state, so eliminate them. After all, there is no one or anything that can hurt the collective good, no one can judge, we, the majority, cannot be found guilty of any wrong in this work for the collective good's better future.
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Nils (if you please)

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Re: Morality

Postby Nils » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:39 am

Double posted

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Re: Morality

Postby melanie » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:42 am

Nils wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:It is very easy for people with established morals in a society with established morals to comment on how they don't need objective morals.

Why is an objective moral more needed than the subjective moral I vindicate? And so we have the epistemic problem, which is not easier if we claim we have an objective moral, perhaps the contrary.

Nils


Honestly does it matter?
Apart from semantics and the social construct of what we perceive to be objective or subjective.
It’s wrong to be violent for pleasure, it’s wrong to cause harm, it’s wrong to put self before others. We can claim it to be objective or subjective but yet we view it all through our own lense. We can’t not, it’s entirely personal.
So that’s subjective right?
But maybe intectually that paints more of a universal understanding that whilst a lot of grey exists we are all knowingly aware that to hurt another is wrong for the betterment of oneself.
I don’t think it even matters if we think we are acting subjectivly or objectively but as long as we act. Because too many people who hold very passionately to either ideal are still apathetic in the face of injustice.
I don’t mean in a burn at the stake mentality because thats reactionary and not helpful but in a ‘what can I do to help’ frame of mind.
I don’t think it’s about whether morality is objective or subjective because either way it can be damaging or enlightening and it’s really folly of our own perceived intellect but rather if we all subjectivity or objectively gave a hoot to the story of each person It really wouldn’t matter.

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Re: Morality

Postby Nils » Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:16 am

RickD wrote:
B.W. wrote:
He sounds like he is saying what you are saying and nil's is saying...there is nothing objective to prove evil is evil or good is really good.


That's exactly what I've been trying to get through to Kenny. Without objective morality, how can good be good, and evil be evil? Without OM, there's nothing objective to define "good" and "evil".

Without OM, everything is just opinions meaning nothing more than one's preference for ice cream.

Rick, please explain how my reasoning is erroneous. And, for instance, how can it be possible that some animals have strong moral instincts.

Nils

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Re: Morality

Postby RickD » Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:40 pm

Nils wrote:
RickD wrote:
B.W. wrote:
He sounds like he is saying what you are saying and nil's is saying...there is nothing objective to prove evil is evil or good is really good.


That's exactly what I've been trying to get through to Kenny. Without objective morality, how can good be good, and evil be evil? Without OM, there's nothing objective to define "good" and "evil".

Without OM, everything is just opinions meaning nothing more than one's preference for ice cream.

Rick, please explain how my reasoning is erroneous. And, for instance, how can it be possible that some animals have strong moral instincts.

Nils

First,

I don't think animals have strong moral instincts.

Second, grounding morality in society, or anything else subjective, leaves morality meaning nothing more than the opinion of which ice cream flavor is good or bad.
1 Corinthians 1:9
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Re: Morality

Postby RickD » Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:43 pm

melanie wrote:
Nils wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:It is very easy for people with established morals in a society with established morals to comment on how they don't need objective morals.

Why is an objective moral more needed than the subjective moral I vindicate? And so we have the epistemic problem, which is not easier if we claim we have an objective moral, perhaps the contrary.

Nils


Honestly does it matter?
Apart from semantics and the social construct of what we perceive to be objective or subjective.
It’s wrong to be violent for pleasure, it’s wrong to cause harm, it’s wrong to put self before others. We can claim it to be objective or subjective but yet we view it all through our own lense. We can’t not, it’s entirely personal.
So that’s subjective right?
But maybe intectually that paints more of a universal understanding that whilst a lot of grey exists we are all knowingly aware that to hurt another is wrong for the betterment of oneself.
I don’t think it even matters if we think we are acting subjectivly or objectively but as long as we act. Because too many people who hold very passionately to either ideal are still apathetic in the face of injustice.
I don’t mean in a burn at the stake mentality because thats reactionary and not helpful but in a ‘what can I do to help’ frame of mind.
I don’t think it’s about whether morality is objective or subjective because either way it can be damaging or enlightening and it’s really folly of our own perceived intellect but rather if we all subjectivity or objectively gave a hoot to the story of each person It really wouldn’t matter.

Mel,

It seems to me you are missing the point. You seem to be talking about epistemology.

What about the ontological side of morality?
1 Corinthians 1:9
9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Audie wrote:
"Christianity is not a joke, but it has some very poor representatives."


St. Richard the Sarcastic--The Patron Saint of Irony

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Re: Morality

Postby Nils » Sat Dec 09, 2017 2:02 pm

melanie wrote:
Nils wrote:
PaulSacramento wrote:It is very easy for people with established morals in a society with established morals to comment on how they don't need objective morals.

Why is an objective moral more needed than the subjective moral I vindicate? And so we have the epistemic problem, which is not easier if we claim we have an objective moral, perhaps the contrary.

Nils


Honestly does it matter?
Apart from semantics and the social construct of what we perceive to be objective or subjective.
It’s wrong to be violent for pleasure, it’s wrong to cause harm, it’s wrong to put self before others. We can claim it to be objective or subjective but yet we view it all through our own lense. We can’t not, it’s entirely personal.
So that’s subjective right?
But maybe intectually that paints more of a universal understanding that whilst a lot of grey exists we are all knowingly aware that to hurt another is wrong for the betterment of oneself.
I don’t think it even matters if we think we are acting subjectivly or objectively but as long as we act. Because too many people who hold very passionately to either ideal are still apathetic in the face of injustice.
I don’t mean in a burn at the stake mentality because thats reactionary and not helpful but in a ‘what can I do to help’ frame of mind.
I don’t think it’s about whether morality is objective or subjective because either way it can be damaging or enlightening and it’s really folly of our own perceived intellect but rather if we all subjectivity or objectively gave a hoot to the story of each person It really wouldn’t matter.


I agree with Rick that you are talking about epistemology, but I also agree with you that that's what really matter. If there somehow were an objective morality that nobody knows about or cares about, what matters?

The reason I have written about morality is the statements made by some persons, Kurieuo for instance, that a materialistic view implies that there is no objective moral which implies that there is no moral at all. The argument is then that a subjective moral is incoherent so materialism is incoherent. I claim that there is strong morality even in materialistic societies.

Nils

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Re: Morality

Postby Nils » Sat Dec 09, 2017 2:36 pm

RickD wrote:
Nils wrote:
RickD wrote:
B.W. wrote:
He sounds like he is saying what you are saying and nil's is saying...there is nothing objective to prove evil is evil or good is really good.


That's exactly what I've been trying to get through to Kenny. Without objective morality, how can good be good, and evil be evil? Without OM, there's nothing objective to define "good" and "evil".

Without OM, everything is just opinions meaning nothing more than one's preference for ice cream.

Rick, please explain how my reasoning is erroneous. And, for instance, how can it be possible that some animals have strong moral instincts.

Nils

First,

I don't think animals have strong moral instincts.

Not any animal? However it is well known and you can see it in many TV-films about animals like dogs and apes. They help each other, share preys, guard each others kids etc

Second, grounding morality in society, or anything else subjective, leaves morality meaning nothing more than the opinion of which ice cream flavor is good or bad.

I cite what I wrote to B.C. above:

"This is a common misunderstanding. The morality is governed much by inherited feelings that are primarily determined by evolution. Above that we have human culture that has developed through history. Few persons in a modern society would want to live with rules or laws that permit the behaviour that you exemplify. If you in some way were convinced that there is no God and no objective moral, I am convinced of that you wouldn't like to live in your exemplary society, and nor would I." I.e. in a society where morality isn't more than an opinion.

I have written some posts earlier (on page 14 and 15) and is interested in comments.

Nils


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