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Morality - Beyond "Objective or Subjective?"

CavilCavil Registered User regular
edited December 2006 in Debate and/or Discourse
It's something I've started thinking about a lot lately, and so I'd like to get different perspectives if I can. The more I consider human morality, the more questions come up because an action that is harmful to one person can, for whatever reason, be beneficial to another. No surprise there. Certainly working in the interest of the future takes precedence and blind principle, such as "turning the other cheek", loses its appeal as the perceived consequences become potentially disadvantageous. And of course, of what relevance are strict moral codes with regard to human life if they can become impractical in certain situations? If a behavior is maladaptive, why then commit to it? The rationale then that human morality is subjective should go without saying because what can be considered moral depends almost entirely on individual perspective and circumstance.

At the same time, however, because perspective and circumstance are interpreted within the context of cost and benefits, it's reasonable to assume that human beings who share the same basic needs should then share the most intrinsic adaptive functions from which a common set of moral conventions – again at the most fundamental levels – are soundly established. So while morality is indeed thoroughly subjective and infinitely variable-dependent, the physical world dictates that there exist parameters in which subjectivity must inevitably yield principle. So it's not unreasonable to suggest that what's moral can, for all intents and purposes, be defined entirely through an adaptive construct, and actually issues of morality only really become a focus for friction and controversy the further they deviate from the base problem of survival, since the arguments surrounding them attempt to ascertain a structure of correlation with the problem of survival. Therefore, the more connections that must be drawn, the more assertions based on conflicting conclusions that are invariably made possible.

That's how I'm starting to understand it. Thoughts?

Virtue finds and chooses the mean.
Cavil on

Posts

  • IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2006
    Morality does not exist outside of abstract notions and assignments.

    Most moral values are either the arbitrary notions of people who would be deemed insane in the largess of Western culture, or are functional tools used for social engineering, and often both at once.

    Morality is just an offshoot of the overall abstract value systems humans utilize within culture to direct the actions of the community and those it comes in to contact with.

    The closest thing to a universal one could even begin to suggest is Malice=Bad, Benevolence=Good, but there's too many hate groups in the world to honestly accept that as a truth.

    Incenjucar on
  • CavilCavil Registered User regular
    edited December 2006
    But following that to its most literal conclusion, if morality is entirely arbitrary, it's unlikely that we'd be able achieve the kind of consensus that would allow us to form societies around them to begin with.

    The key word in your statement being "functional" of course.

    Cavil on
    Virtue finds and chooses the mean.
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2006
    Cavil wrote:
    But following that to its most literal conclusion, if morality is entirely arbitrary, it's unlikely that we'd be able achieve the kind of consensus that would allow us to form societies around them to begin with.

    The key word in your statement being "functional" of course.

    The functional stuff, at least as an OFFICIAL value, tends to be pretty universalized.

    But the ACTUAL values are usually quite different.

    Pro-lifers being pro-death penalty, "We aren't violent, we'll kill you if you say otherwise!", "Prayer rights in schools, but none of that evil pagan stuff!"

    That's always been the funny thing about moral systems.

    People can mostly agree on them.

    But actually following them is usually down to not being in a position to violate them.

    Incenjucar on
  • CavilCavil Registered User regular
    edited December 2006
    As I said, issues of morality only really become a focus for friction and controversy the further they deviate from the base problem of survival, since the arguments surrounding them attempt to ascertain a structure of correlation with the problem of survival.

    It's reasonable to argue that the pro-lifers to which you refer believe that they are somehow promoting human survival by discouraging that which they reason to be a maladaptive practice (in this case, abortion) that will supposedly contribute to our destruction. And so they put that long-term consideration before the lives of those who would serve to facilitate the predicted harm. In other words, the more cause-effect links that we try to draw, the more room we're allowing for speculation and logical fallacy.

    Uncertainty can be exploited by alternate, opposing ideas.

    Cavil on
    Virtue finds and chooses the mean.
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2006
    Cavil wrote:
    As I said, issues of morality only really become a focus for friction and controversy the further they deviate from the base problem of survival, since the arguments surrounding them attempt to ascertain a structure of correlation with the problem of survival.

    It's reasonable to argue that the pro-lifers to which you refer believe that they are somehow promoting human survival by discouraging that which they reason to be a maladaptive practice (in this case, abortion) that will supposedly contribute to our destruction. And so they put that long-term consideration before the lives of those who would serve to facilitate the predicted harm. In other words, the more cause-effect links that we try to draw, the more room we're allowing for speculation and logical fallacy.

    Uncertainty can be exploited by alternate, opposing ideas.

    Arguably it comes more to rhetorical statements of values that attempt to tug at emotional ties while actually being a promotion of a different, more complex value.

    People prefer slogans and sound bites to actual, in-depth explanations, generally.

    For pro-life, for instance, it's "We consider the production and maintenance of presently-available offspring to be more vital than the life or happiness of currently living adults or potential future offspring."

    Incenjucar on
  • AroducAroduc regular
    edited December 2006
    Incenjucar wrote:
    The closest thing to a universal one could even begin to suggest is Malice=Bad, Benevolence=Good, but there's too many hate groups in the world to honestly accept that as a truth.

    Even that has some issues because at their roots, hate groups form because they see race X or Y as a threat to social stability, which is the end goal of most of our moral structures. It's definitely a very flawed, argument, but instinctually speaking, it can be reduced to "that tribe of monkies is trying to steal our bananas and lady chimps and what-have-you" and that they are a threat to personal survival.

    Not that I'm trying to defend it, just pointing out that there is likely a shared impetus between them forming and most other moral developments.

    Aroduc on
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2006
    Aroduc wrote:
    Incenjucar wrote:
    The closest thing to a universal one could even begin to suggest is Malice=Bad, Benevolence=Good, but there's too many hate groups in the world to honestly accept that as a truth.

    Even that has some issues because at their roots, hate groups form because they see race X or Y as a threat to social stability, which is the end goal of most of our moral structures. It's definitely a very flawed, argument, but instinctually speaking, it can be reduced to "that tribe of monkies is trying to steal our bananas and lady chimps and what-have-you" and that they are a threat to personal survival.

    Not that I'm trying to defend it, just pointing out that there is likely a shared impetus between them forming and most other moral developments.

    As I said, it's the difference between the simplified, stated values, and the subtler, more complex, actual values.

    Incenjucar on
  • CavilCavil Registered User regular
    edited December 2006
    If you can even argue "actual" values beyond basic human needs.

    Cavil on
    Virtue finds and chooses the mean.
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2006
    Cavil wrote:
    If you can even argue "actual" values beyond basic human needs.

    Values can be keyed to human needs easily enough. Hence people who kill themselves to defend values (Kamikazi, bombers, Samurai...).

    Incenjucar on
  • CavilCavil Registered User regular
    edited December 2006
    Those actions still require a stretch of reasoning though because they're based on ideas of preservation, if not for the individual than for the greater community.

    Cavil on
    Virtue finds and chooses the mean.
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited December 2006
    Cavil wrote:
    Those actions still require a stretch of reasoning though because they're based on ideas of preservation, if not for the individual than for the greater community.

    Which comes down to determining the value of self versus the value of others.

    Incenjucar on
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