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 » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:31 pm

Kurieuo wrote:
Nils wrote:Page 6 by Kurieuo » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:19 pm (note that this is local time).
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=42169&start=75

"Now, the question is, for someone who believes in Materialism, why do we have this moral conscience? Given we have the power to ignore it, and do contrary to it, even desensatise ourselves to it, why should we continue listening to it? You can't say because it is "good" or "honourable" to do so, for it is neither more good and honourable that a lion kills off another lion to protect its territory and pack. It just is the way of nature. If humans are the way of nature too, nature is all there is, then why should we transcend nature, even think we can do so, if indeed nature is all there is? Unless we can transcend the natural order, then there is no more good or honourable, just perhaps something like survival and a protective instinct when it comes to one's way of life."

Why we have this moral conscience is clear, because it is beneficial to our society. To me it is good and honourable to work for my family and other persons to give them a good life. As a materialist I have no wish to transcend natural order.


  • First, I can picture how not having a moral conscience is also beneficial for society (it often works in the animal kingdom, of which human sentience is apparently the latest development). Please give an example of how it is beneficial to society, where the opposite wouldn't be just as beneficial or moreso?


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.

  • 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. 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. 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.

    For example, if we take China's one child policy (now two), then it is good and honourable for a woman who gives birth to a child beyond their "child quota" to dash their baby against rocks. Or, should a society need to increase in number, then it is good and honourable for women to dedicate themselves to birthing lots of babies. If these examples, which I came up with quickly off the top of my head, aren't satisfactory to demonstrate that what is good and honourable isn't necessarily that which is beneficial to society, then I'm sure many examples can be produced from history where Marxist beliefs once reigned.


    "Honourable" is perhaps not the best word when describing morality. Honour cultures emphasises honour perhaps too much which causes murder of daughters that socialise with wrong men. (We have had a few cases in Sweden among immigrants from The Middle East).
    But honour culture apparently serves some purpose in the original environment.

    Regarding the Chines woman it is too much to ask a mother to kill her own child to implement a nation-wide birth control program. There are better methods. But the question is not only theoretical. Jared Diamond in his book Collaps (highly recommended if you are interested in anthropology) describes the society on the small isolated island Tikopia in south east Pacific (relatively close to you). On about five square kilometres a population of about 1200 persons have lived for 3000 years without any possibility to get support from outside. To them it was critical to limit the population size and one method among others was killing babies if there were too many. Can we blame them? Was that wrong?
  • Third, it remains to be seen how you are not transcending the natural order when you label behaviour, which is otherwise quite natural in terms of any other animal species, as not "good" or not "honourable" when it comes to human species.

  • I am sorry, I am not certain about what you mean. Please give an example.

    I have noticed that you think that C. S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity is of interest. I have now started to read the first chapters again. (The Doodle Youtubes are amusing but I prefer reading the book. It's easier to follow the arguments in a book).

    One important point is in chapter three (page 19 in my edition) where he tries to prove that a position like mine is false:

    "Now, of course, it is perfectly true that safety and happiness can only come from individuals, classes, and nations being honest and fair and kind to each other. It is one of the most important truths in the world. But as an explanation of why we feel as we do about Right and Wrong it just misses the point. If we ask: "Why ought I to be unselfish?" and you reply "Because it is good for society," we may then ask, "Why should I care what's good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?" and then you will have to say, "Because you ought to be unselfish"—which simply brings us back to where we started."

    But there are better answers then the final "Because you ought to be unselfish":
    - You will probably feel better if you are not selfish because evolution has made us such.
    - If you are acting selfish other persons may notice that and dislike you.
    - In cases where you need help other persons may refuse helping you or your near.
    - You may miss the opportunity to be able to say that you contributed to a better society, which in the long run is very nice to you.

    So there is no circularity.


    Nils wrote:PS How do I get the exact "start" number in the links? The link is now pointing at the start of the page not to the actual post. I would be nice to have the posts numbered so one can use them for reference.

    It would be a good feature, and one many non-phpBB boards support. Today, people use all other sorts of technology, social media and the like, such that boards are lesser utilised. So rather than switch to another board which has many more features, which has also been discussed here and there in the past, we may ride out this board until it just fades out. My statements here represent my opinion and feelings only, and not the opinion of any other moderator here, nor direction this board might take in future.

    I was not complaining, I was only asking. In some case you have links that refer to a specific post, not only to the page head. Is there a clever method to find out the post number or do you count manually?
    Besides, asking questions, where do I change the language of the spelling check of the comment field? Currently it uses Swedish, not so useful on this forum. I tried to find it on my personal file but didn't find it.

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    Re: Morality

    Postby RickD » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:32 pm

    Kenny wrote:
    RickD wrote:
    Subjective morality leads to atrocities like those committed by the above people, because there is no right or wrong. Right and wrong are whatever one decides them to be. And with those who have power as they did, they can force their subjective morals on others.


    So are you saying there IS such a thing as subjective morality? That some moral acts are subjective? I noticed you said: “subjective morality leads to X” which seems to suggest “X” happened because those moral acts are subjective; rather than saying “IF morality were subjective, X would happen”; which would imply there is no subjective morality. Exactly what are you saying here?

    Ken

    Sorry for the confusion.

    I didn't mean, "If morality was subjective".

    I mean that their belief in purely subjective morality, or in other words, a subjective morality worldview, leads to atrocities like those people committed, because in that worldview, there is no objective right and wrong. Or, in that worldview, right has no meaning beyond subjective opinion, just like preference for ice cream.

    Basically, in a subjective morality worldview, truth, and right, are meaningless, precisely because they are subjective.
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    Re: Morality

    Postby Nils » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:52 pm

    PaulSacramento wrote:Ah, the slippery road of subjective morality, that which gave us the likes of Stalin, Pot, Mao and so many others.

    Paul, I am not sure that the issue of morality was the prime reasons for the ideology of Stalin, Pot, Mao and others.
    Besides, an objective morality does only solve the ontological problem, not the epistemological - how to know the morality. Think of the Mullahs in Theheran, the nuns in Rwanda or the ISIS guys.

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    Re: Morality

    Postby RickD » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:56 pm

    Nils wrote:
    PaulSacramento wrote:Ah, the slippery road of subjective morality, that which gave us the likes of Stalin, Pot, Mao and so many others.

    Paul, I am not sure that the issue of morality was the prime reasons for the ideology of Stalin, Pot, Mao and others.
    Besides, an objective morality does only solve the ontological problem, not the epistemological - how to know the morality. Think of the Mullahs in Theheran, the nuns in Rwanda or the ISIS guys.

    Nils

    Finally,

    Someone arguing against objective morality, who understands the difference between ontology and epistemology.

    Bravo Nils. This post is quite refreshing. :clap:
    1 Corinthians 1:9
    9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Audie wrote:
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    Re: Morality

    Postby Nils » Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:22 pm

    RickD wrote:
    Nils wrote:
    PaulSacramento wrote:Ah, the slippery road of subjective morality, that which gave us the likes of Stalin, Pot, Mao and so many others.

    Paul, I am not sure that the issue of morality was the prime reasons for the ideology of Stalin, Pot, Mao and others.
    Besides, an objective morality does only solve the ontological problem, not the epistemological - how to know the morality. Think of the Mullahs in Theheran, the nuns in Rwanda or the ISIS guys.

    Nils

    Finally,

    Someone arguing against objective morality, who understands the difference between ontology and epistemology.

    Bravo Nils. This post is quite refreshing. :clap:


    Rick, should I be honoured or are you just worshipping St. Richard? :esmile:

    RickD wrote:I mean that their belief in purely subjective morality, or in other words, a subjective morality worldview, leads to atrocities like those people committed, because in that worldview, there is no objective right and wrong. Or, in that worldview, right has no meaning beyond subjective opinion, just like preference for ice cream.

    Basically, in a subjective morality worldview, truth, and right, are meaningless, precisely because they are subjective.


    In my worldview truth, right, and wrong are absolutely not meaningless and have I tried to explain why. Didn't you understand or didn't you agree and if so, why?

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    Re: Morality

    Postby RickD » Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:43 pm

    RickD wrote:
    Nils wrote:
    PaulSacramento wrote:
    Ah, the slippery road of subjective morality, that which gave us the likes of Stalin, Pot, Mao and so many others.

    Paul, I am not sure that the issue of morality was the prime reasons for the ideology of Stalin, Pot, Mao and others.
    Besides, an objective morality does only solve the ontological problem, not the epistemological - how to know the morality. Think of the Mullahs in Theheran, the nuns in Rwanda or the ISIS guys.

    Nils

    Finally,

    Someone arguing against objective morality, who understands the difference between ontology and epistemology.

    Bravo Nils. This post is quite refreshing. :clap:


    Nils wrote:
    Rick, should I be honoured or are you just worshipping St. Richard? :esmile:


    I'm being serious. As paulSacramento stated near the beginning of this thread, people arguing against objective morality, don't deal with the ontological argument. For you to show that you know the distinction, shows that you are honestly trying to understand the argument. It's something that we all should strive to do better.

    Nils wrote:
    In my worldview truth, right, and wrong are absolutely not meaningless and have I tried to explain why. Didn't you understand or didn't you agree and if so, why?

    I'm sorry. Could you point me to the post where you addressed this? I think it was this post, but the quotes were kinda messed up, and I'm not sure.
    1 Corinthians 1:9
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    Re: Morality

    Postby Kenny » Fri Nov 17, 2017 5:33 pm

    RickD wrote:Sorry for the confusion.

    I didn't mean, "If morality was subjective".

    I mean that their belief in purely subjective morality, or in other words, a subjective morality worldview, leads to atrocities like those people committed, because in that worldview, there is no objective right and wrong. Or, in that worldview, right has no meaning beyond subjective opinion, just like preference for ice cream.

    You aren't suggesting if those men believed morality was objective, they wouldn't have done those things are you?

    RickD wrote:Basically, in a subjective morality worldview, truth, and right, are meaningless, precisely because they are subjective.

    Actually in subjective morality, truth, and right are opinions. Opinions are always important to those who have them.

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    Re: Morality

    Postby Kenny » Fri Nov 17, 2017 5:45 pm

    RickD

    For the sake of discussion, if we assume morality is objective, what difference would it make? If we recognize what mad men like Stalin, Pot, Mo and others like them did while morality is objective, how do you think things would be different if morality were subjective?

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    Re: Morality

    Postby Kurieuo » Fri Nov 17, 2017 7:26 pm

    Kenny wrote:RickD

    For the sake of discussion, if we assume morality is objective, what difference would it make? If we recognize what mad men like Stalin, Pot, Mo and others like them did while morality is objective, how do you think things would be different if morality were subjective?

    I'm not Rick, but given the open nature of the discussion.... what difference does assuming an objective morality make? Perhaps not a whole lot.

    That said, I recall you saying that you know some Christians who would be quite scary people to be around if they didn't believe in God. We could take that point to then conclude that someone who truly believes in God, and that God is truly good, would in all likelihood be more trustworthy and fair in their dealing with others -- even when noone's looking. Of course, perhaps not with every single person, but generally speaking. Indeed, studies generally find that religious folk are more likely to be "pro-social" adhering to a sense of fairness, trust, reciprocation, and the like, than those without belief.

    So then, what difference does it make if we assume morality if objective? Indeed many do assume it is objective, but that's not why they do what their moral conscience tells them is good. In fact, I don't see (and doubt others here see) that if everyone acknowledged morality was objective, that such means there is now some impetus for us to behave morally. If you tell me, look I found a rock, I might respond, "So what?" You then exclaim, "it is objectively true this rock exists!" I respond, "Yeah, great, and so...?" Just because something exists, doesn't mean we wouldn't or shouldn't be dismissive of it. Rather, what I think is more important than simply embracing an "objective morality", is whether or not God exists, and secondly what God is like. It is here our morality, if we accept things like "good" really existing (i.e., really existing separate from what we think, say or do), that God provides a real basis to such. It also illuminates God's nature as one where His desire for us is to be moral (good) creatures, which would be in accordance to His own nature.

    Yet if God exists, this still necessarily mean we have an impetus to be "good", if for example God doesn't really care or have our best interests at heart. Indeed, in the Koran we discover that God is responsible for both "good" and "evil". The reason for this is because their Allah is considered so high and lofty that it would be an insult to say that Allah is constrained by anything. Allah wills good, and Allah wills evil. Muhammad doesn't try to hide this. The logical implication however then is that there is this moral law that stands apart from Allah, but which Allah can be judged as either doing "good" or "evil". ;) So then, it could be argued, given what the Koran says of Allah, that if an objective good and/or evil exists, that such isn't grounded in Allah because Allah can do both "good" and "evil". If "good" was grounded in Allah than Allah would only ever do good, and good would simply be all that which aligned with what Allah desires. In fact, here belief in an objective morality can help prove that Muslim extremists are immoral. Without belief in an objective moral law, you can only LOGICALLY say you find their killing and beheading of gay people and non-Muslims, female circumcision, honour killings, and the like distasteful. If you believe morality is objective however, then you can coherently go further to proclaim such behaviour isn't simply distasteful, but TRULY WRONG. You may not know how you know, or why you know (epistemological questions), but you just know that right and wrong exist (ontological) such that when atrociously wrong acts are done you just know such is evil.

    So then, God existing doesn't necessarily mean there is any reason to be "good". Indeed Muslims can be rather scary when they think Allah is willing them to judge other people considered pigs or swine. Such is very different to God who reveals Himself and makes Himself more and more known over time to Israel, eventually resulting in the prophecied Messiah, the Christ, who Christians believe to be Jesus. God as revealed in Christ said that the whole law is fulfilled in two: love God, and love your neighbour as yourself. (Matt 22:36-40)

    In summary then, belief in an "objective morality" doesn't necessarily have any PRACTICAL value whatsoever over belief in "subjective morality". Belief in God, and likewise lack of belief in God, does result in different behaviours however, and therefore can be said to have practical value for how we behave in life. We see with Islam, their belief in Allah as reveal through Muhammad is often at the detriment to all others who aren't Muslim -- we're all guilty as infidels. In Judaism, YHWH was for the Jews, Israel, and not for any other nation. Ever wonder why Jews don't really care about converting others to Judaism? Well, because Israel's God IS Israel's God.

    Christians believe in Christ's message and teachings, perhaps not all who identify as Christian, but then it might be asked in what way such are Christian right if they depart from Christ?? Out of all the religions, it seems to me that Christ reveals what I'd expect a good and loving God to be like. Even though I may not be able to physically see, touch, hear, taste or smell the objective truth of the matter, God as reveal in Christ seems most consistent with my inner moral senses. And while I can't speak for other Christians, and I know many can be deplorable, equally I know many more who aren't. Yet I speak for myself here that my belief in Christ shapes my behaviour and nearly any decision I make whether in business, my personal life and how I relate to others, there is like a Christ filter on. Not because I'm scared of God, or God has told me to do what is right, but because, as hard as it might be for you to understand, I just love God, Christ and want of my own accord be more like Him. Given what you know of Christ and His teachings, do you really think that is a bad thing?
    "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)

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    Re: Morality

    Postby RickD » Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:19 am

    RickD wrote:
    Sorry for the confusion.

    I didn't mean, "If morality was subjective".

    I mean that their belief in purely subjective morality, or in other words, a subjective morality worldview, leads to atrocities like those people committed, because in that worldview, there is no objective right and wrong. Or, in that worldview, right has no meaning beyond subjective opinion, just like preference for ice cream.


    kenny wrote:
    You aren't suggesting if those men believed morality was objective, they wouldn't have done those things are you?

    Am I suggesting that if those men believed in objective morality, therefore they believed in God, that they wouldn't have done those things? No. That wasn't what I was suggesting. That would be equal to me saying that Theists cannot commit mass murders. That's just not logical.

    RickD wrote:
    Basically, in a subjective morality worldview, truth, and right, are meaningless, precisely because they are subjective.


    Ken wrote:
    Actually in subjective morality, truth, and right are opinions. Opinions are always important to those who have them.

    Kenny, what I mean is that the words "truth" and "right", in this context, lose their meaning, or they become meaningless. Truth, by definition, is based on facts and reality, not on opinion.
    So, no objective morality means all things would be subjective, which means everything is based on opinion. Which means there would be no "truth", and no "right".

    That's what we mean when we keep saying that we cannot have opinions about what is right and wrong, true and untrue, without something objective to base those opinions on.

    For the sake of discussion, if we assume morality is objective, what difference would it make? If we recognize what mad men like Stalin, Pot, Mo and others like them did while morality is objective, how do you think things would be different if morality were subjective?

    Kenny,

    I'm not sure if I understand what you're asking here, so forgive me if I don't answer what you're getting at.

    I think you're saying that if we assume objective morality, then these atrocities were committed with there being objective morality. So, you want to know how things would've been different, with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. if objective morality didn't exist, and there was only subjective morality? Is that what you're asking?

    That would be like asking me how it would've been different if God didn't exist. No objective morality is saying no God.

    My answer would be that if there were no God, then nobody would exist. So, there would be no discussion.
    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."


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    Re: Morality

    Postby Nils » Sat Nov 18, 2017 2:22 pm

    Ken, sorry I almost missed you post.
    Kenny wrote:
    Nils wrote:To me morality is definitely not objective but not totally subjective either.

    In what ways is morality not subjective?

    If we knew
    1. the circumstances we live in, i.e. if the society a hunter gather or a modern industrialised society, which technology we have etc. and
    2 what genetic properties do we humans have and
    3.if there were a common goal or a common opinion of what was the best for the individual and the society,
    then it would in principle be possible to figure out which moral is the best moral. That calculation would be objective in some sense but because that is impossible but on a very coarse level there will be lot of subjectivity in morality.

    Because of the presumption #3 is subjective the calculation is mostly subjective. However in some cases it is so obvious that a moral law is valid that it has some touch of objectivity. I find it difficult to imagine a society that permits anyone to kill anyone else anytime.
    That I find objective but if you disagree, it's not a big issue to me. But anyhow, morality is not like choosing vanilla or chocolate ice cream. It is much more based on objective circumstances.

    Nils wrote:Morality is needed for animals and humans living and co-operating in groups for mutual benefit. It is a code of conduct that partly is induced by evolution and made us to act morally instinctively.

    But there is always disagreements concerning this morality which is the cause of friction that always results in such groups. These disagreements are because of subjectivity not objectivity.

    Yes, morality is a complex thing. There are parts of morality that most humans agree on, other parts that are more specific to a society, still others specific to subcultures, to families, and to single persons.
    Nils wrote:In a group, a tribe or even a nation you should not kill each other, you should be able to trust each other, share resources etc. All these things are vital to a successful society and evolution has inclined us to punish those that don't follow these rules.

    IOW; laws. Do you agree there is a difference between what is moral, vs what is legal?

    Yes, but laws and morality communicate i.e. influence each other.
    Two examples. Punishing children physically was prohibited by law in Sweden 1979. By that time about 50% of the population thought that physical punishing was necessary raising children. Nowadays the figure is lower than 10% and it is generally thought to be morally condemnable.
    In the sixties, I think, it was prohibited for pedestrians to cross a street when there was a red signal. However many didn't bother so the law was withdrawn.
    Nils wrote:Besides the evolutionary instinct men have developed cultures that have fine-tuned the moral laws to create more advanced societies and have built moral infrastructures and institutions that enforce morality. In a modern democratic nations most citizens have a common moral view that is implied in laws and in moral conduct rules about what is right and wrong. However that doesn't imply that every person will follow her inherited intuition and the moral conduct but instead will go for her specific personal interests. Such persons like free riders and cheaters may get along with their behaviour if they are very clever but most "unmoral" persons will not succeed in the long run.

    I disagree! There are many honest people who will look at specific laws and deem them immoral; than there are others who are just as honest will deem the same law as moral. It’s not just cheaters, or the immoral who will disagree with the law, many honest people will disagree as well. Most people will agree on the basics when it comes to morality, but when it comes to the details, thats where people disagree. But laws must be applied to everybody, so even though people will disagree morally, legally there must be agreement; hence the old saying just because its legal doesn't mean its right The fact that there is moral disagreement and it cannot be demonstrated who is morally right or wrong, says subjectivity; not objectivity.

    I agree with that. I should have written "In a modern democratic nations most citizens generally have a common moral ...." .

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    Re: Morality

    Postby Nils » Sat Nov 18, 2017 2:38 pm

    RickD wrote:
    Nils wrote:
    In my worldview truth, right, and wrong are absolutely not meaningless and have I tried to explain why. Didn't you understand or didn't you agree and if so, why?

    I'm sorry. Could you point me to the post where you addressed this? I think it was this post, but the quotes were kinda messed up, and I'm not sure.

    I addressed this in the post you refer to ("this post"), the post at the top of page 10 and the previous post to Ken.
    In the first post I had problems to refer to earlier posts. How did you get the address to my post, the one you call "this post"? Please explain.

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    Re: Morality

    Postby RickD » Sat Nov 18, 2017 2:58 pm

    Nils wrote:
    RickD wrote:
    Nils wrote:
    In my worldview truth, right, and wrong are absolutely not meaningless and have I tried to explain why. Didn't you understand or didn't you agree and if so, why?

    I'm sorry. Could you point me to the post where you addressed this? I think it was this post, but the quotes were kinda messed up, and I'm not sure.

    I addressed this in the post you refer to ("this post"), the post at the top of page 10 and the previous post to Ken.
    In the first post I had problems to refer to earlier posts. How did you get the address to my post, the one you call "this post"? Please explain.

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    On the post you want the URL for, click on the icon that looks like a piece of paper with the edge folded over, next to the words "by Nils". That brings that post to the top of the page. Then just copy the URL, and paste it in the URL brackets in your post.
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    Re: Morality

    Postby Kurieuo » Sat Nov 18, 2017 7:50 pm

    Nils wrote:
    Kurieuo wrote:
    Nils wrote:Page 6 by Kurieuo » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:19 pm (note that this is local time).
    viewtopic.php?f=19&t=42169&start=75

    "Now, the question is, for someone who believes in Materialism, why do we have this moral conscience? Given we have the power to ignore it, and do contrary to it, even desensatise ourselves to it, why should we continue listening to it? You can't say because it is "good" or "honourable" to do so, for it is neither more good and honourable that a lion kills off another lion to protect its territory and pack. It just is the way of nature. If humans are the way of nature too, nature is all there is, then why should we transcend nature, even think we can do so, if indeed nature is all there is? Unless we can transcend the natural order, then there is no more good or honourable, just perhaps something like survival and a protective instinct when it comes to one's way of life."

    Why we have this moral conscience is clear, because it is beneficial to our society. To me it is good and honourable to work for my family and other persons to give them a good life. As a materialist I have no wish to transcend natural order.


    [list][*]First, I can picture how not having a moral conscience is also beneficial for society (it often works in the animal kingdom, of which human sentience is apparently the latest development). Please give an example of how it is beneficial to society, where the opposite wouldn't be just as beneficial or moreso?


    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.

    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.

    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? 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.

    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???).
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    Re: Morality

    Postby Kurieuo » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:43 pm

    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).

    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.

    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'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).
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