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Revenant
27-10-05, 03:56
So often, issues revolve around morality. Just a discussion on morality. and some Qs to kick it off.

1. What is the aim of morality?
2. How are morality and ethics different?
3. Who would have the best take on whether something was moral or not? Linguists? Lawyers? Scientists? Philosophers? Religious leaders? Politicians? Someone else?
4. Is morality based on the intention or consequence of an action?
5. Absolute morals vs Relative morals?
6. When does ethics override someone's freedom of choice?

lastmagi
27-10-05, 07:12
Interesting thread, Revenant!

1. What is the aim of morality?

To include other people or things within the range of our consideration and sense of community when we make an action so that we would not do something bad to harm said community's wellbeing. I guess it is the prescriptive respect of another's intrinsic value so that the community in which we exist in thrives and maintains its integrity. The trick is to have an expansive enough view of your community (ie not just thinking about the wellbeing of you and your friend, but you, your friend, Person X whom you don't know, Person Z whom you don't necessarily like but still has some intrinsic value, etc, who are all interrelated) that your moral considerations balance out among everyone (not that I'm saying that's easy!). This is why favoritism doesn't work. It's a rough sketch of an idea I came up with on the spot, but I guess I'll have to work on it some more.

2. How are morality and ethics different?

Not a clue :p

3. Who would have the best take on whether something was moral or not? Linguists? Lawyers? Scientists? Philosophers? Religious leaders? Politicians? Someone else?

Philosophers. Not sure what linguists do exactly that's relevant to morality. Lawyers work with legal issues, but that's not an exact synonym for moral issues. Scientists describe and rarely prescribe.

Religious leaders (in this paragraph I'm admittedly dealing with Christian leaders in mind, because that's usually where people turn to where I'm from) are an interesting one because of the sophisticated reason that they DON'T have any real say on morality. It is true that religious texts have codes that link individuals to the rest of society, and many view that as the source of morality. But there is an argument that goes way back to the time of Sophocles (Aristotle? Plato?) about the limitations and, in fact, arbitrariness of that view. Although he was writing before the time Christianity took hold, he took a look at God (or a god, to be historically accurate) Himself and asked: Is an action moral because God says it is, or is what God says moral because he is guided by moral principles? In the case of the former, morality is reduced to arbitrariness. "Ah," you say. "But God would not say such things like Kill Your Neighbor." In that case, God is guided by moral principles, not the originator of morality; he is not omnipotent. If He is not the originator of moral principles, then one cannot reasonably say that the Bible or any other religious text, from which religious leaders draw their arguments, are necessarily moral because that is in fact drawing from either an arbitrary set of principles or from a secondary arbitrator of morality (in which case God's omnipotence is disproven along the way). That is, what is there is a conclusion but no argument. If there was an argument, that would be in the realm of philosophy.

Another argument is that religion is usually faith-based, not logic based (not that in some religions that is necessarily mutually exclusive).

I didn't lay this out in the best way, but Dr. Rachels in the Principles of Moral Philosophy (I think that's the title) deals with this in a much, much better way. I highly recommend reading that book, since he talks about this very specific question :)

Philosophers, on the other hand, always derive their arguments and conclusions from a very tight series of logical arguments, never from subjective arguments. They make sure their arguments necessarily lead up to their conclusions, like in a mathematical formula.

4. Is morality based on the intention or consequence of an action?

Since those are not necessarily mutually exclusive, it may be hard to tell, though I see where the question is coming from.

Good intention but poor consequence is usually a matter of faulty perception and knowledge. Bad intentions but good consequence is just a matter of luck. I see morality as based on neither exclusively, but the logical basis* of a course of actions to some consequence which may or may not have been already internalized (ie when we make a split-second decision to save a child from an incoming car, or when we make parental sacrifices for our child), so it's an a priori deduction of the consequences (in which intention is a little implicit).

*a very good argument goes against the purely logical nature of morality, but it's not really that relevant. Also there are always those things that we just FEEL are wrong, but perhaps the moral reasoning exists on a subconscious level...?

5. Absolute morals vs Relative morals?

When Hitler was killing the Jews, he saw that as the right thing to do. Of course, his premises were completely faulty, and he never really included the Jews in his perceived moral community (such as I described in the first question).

I think I remember a saying: "Is cannibalism just a matter of taste?"

I definitely don't see morality in relative sense (unless you were of course someone who believed in determinism, which I think is already a faulty philosophy), but other than that I don't know if I see it in the absolute moral sense or some gray area between that and relative.

6. When does ethics override someone's freedom of choice?

All the time. Biologically speaking, ethics are restrictions on one's freedom of choice because they make us unable to make unethical choice, if our moral principles that we follow hold true.


Sorry my arguments are a bit messy and I haven't thought of more counter-arguments to my argument to make it better, but I didn't have much time to think everything through. :relief:

Tsuyoiko
27-10-05, 11:54
1. What is the aim of morality?

To aim towards the greatest good of the greatest number with the least possible harm to all.

2. How are morality and ethics different?

Ethics are the principles that guide us to act in a morally responsible way.

3. Who would have the best take on whether something was moral or not? Linguists? Lawyers? Scientists? Philosophers? Religious leaders? Politicians? Someone else?

Philosophers. Philosophers are non-partisan - as Lastmagi says, their arguments are based on sound reasoning, not on opinion.

Scientists must sometimes turn to philosophers to decide if their work is ethical.

Lawyers decide whether a person has acted legally, not morally. Laws overlap with morality, but there are more differences than similarities, IMO.

This leads on to religious leaders. Religions usually use 'laws' or rules to determine what is moral. I don't think it's possible to act in a moral way if the motivation is adherence to rules. IMO, an individual can only act morally if they have themselves decided on the best course of action - and I think the arguments of the philosopher are most likely to be their best guide.

4. Is morality based on the intention or consequence of an action?

Intentions are supposed to bring about consequences. I don't think the two can be separated. A moral action should intend to bring about about the best consequences (where best is determined in 1. above)

5. Absolute morals vs Relative morals?

Morals have to be relative, IMO. I have always favoured utilitarianism over deontology. Yes, we need rules as a guide, but they need to be flexible enough to be broken when necessary - it's wrong to killl, but OK in self defence, for example. I think a sort of flow chart is useful when deciding if something is moral, because then you can break the problem down into all the factors and see how they relate to each other.

6. When does ethics override someone's freedom of choice?

Often, and quite rightly. Ethics is about the good of all. Freedom of choice is about the good of the individual. But in some cases it is ethical to allow freedom of choice, where an individual's actions affect them more than others, e.g. early abortion.

Revenant
31-10-05, 15:44
Thanks for the replies!

I would agree with objectively working towards the greater good of the community, while minimizing the harm as sort of what the two of you put forth.

Someone else described ethics as the morals that the majority could agree on, such as a Christian and an Atheist would both agree that murder was wrong.

To answer your question lastmagi, I included linguists and lawyers in there since some people use their defintions of 'human', or 'life', or 'murder' as a way of deciding if something was wrong or right. To me, that seemed not quite right.

I completely agree that philosophers would have the best take on morality, although, I think the Buddhists themselves would also do an excellent job. But then their faith has a lot more basis in philosphical conclusions based on reality, added to their better sense of empathy and serenity (just my take).

Personally, I would say morals are relative, as I would, for example, be dishonest to save a life. As far as determism vs free will, well, I'll get around to starting a thread on that.

p.s. I might actually have to get that book you were talking about lastmagi. Sounds interesting.

lastmagi
01-11-05, 05:26
To answer your question lastmagi, I included linguists and lawyers in there since some people use their defintions of 'human', or 'life', or 'murder' as a way of deciding if something was wrong or right. To me, that seemed not quite right.

Thanks! That cleared things up.


I completely agree that philosophers would have the best take on morality, although, I think the Buddhists themselves would also do an excellent job. But then their faith has a lot more basis in philosphical conclusions based on reality, added to their better sense of empathy and serenity (just my take).

Yup, I agree. While doing the questions I was thinking "Wait, some religions aren't completely lacking of philosophy, like Buddhism..."


p.s. I might actually have to get that book you were talking about lastmagi. Sounds interesting.

Cool. Just so you know, I think it's aimed at intro-level philosophy courses (at least, that's how i got ahold of the book in the first place), but I liked the arguments since they were easy to follow.

Void
10-11-05, 20:29
morality
1. The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.
2. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct: religious morality; Christian morality.
3. Virtuous conduct.
4. A rule or lesson in moral conduct.

1: concern with the distinction between good and evil or right and wrong;
right or good conduct [ant: immorality]
2: motivation based on ideas of right and wrong [syn: ethical motive, ethics, morals]


* Middle English, from Old French, from Latin mrlis, from ms, mr-, custom.

ethics
a. A set of principles of right conduct.
b. A theory or a system of moral values: gAn ethic of service is at war with a craving for gainh (Gregg Easterbrook).

1. ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.
2. ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics.

1: The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the conduct of the members of a profession.
2: motivation based on ideas of right and wrong [syn: ethical motive, morals, morality]
3: the philosophical study of moral values and rules [syn: moral philosophy]


* Middle English ethik, from Old French ethique(from Late Latin thica, from Greek thika, ethics), and from Latin thic(from Greek thik) both from Greek thikos, ethical, from thos, character

quotation from www.dictionary.com


In Russian language besides these two words we use also one which is closest to the "character" or "temper"

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1. What is the aim of morality?

As it already was said above - to organize the members of society (community) so that their actions would lead only to the wellbeing of this particular community. And if not to the wellbeing of every single individual then at least with minimum harm.
Only wellbeing of leviathan of society.
BTW, there exists different levels and groups of society (elements of horisontal structure and of hierarcy) and each one with the set of its own rules. But like with Law, minor systems most of the times do not contradict the Constitution :D

Custom is a set of rules. I cant` fugure yet whether morality can exist without society or not. Fot example, how would intelligent being organize his interaction with nature (ideal situation when this one is apart from the rest of the society)


2. How are morality and ethics different?

as above: one is custom, another - character. But nowdays most of the times they used as synonyms. Maybe, character is of what one acts, what colours one`s intentions, gives birth to goals
like
1: concern with the distinction between good and evil or right and wrong;
2: motivation based on ideas of right and wrong

and morality is derivative from these, as a set of rules drawn by individual for himself, of by society for its members

but it is so, if to turn to the roots of origin for these words. As i said, in Russian we use widely word "character" to define internal traits and intentions, intrinsic rules of conduct, and "morality" and "ethics" to signify set of rules of behavior.


3. Who would have the best take on whether something was moral or not? Linguists? Lawyers? Scientists? Philosophers? Religious leaders? Politicians? Someone else?

i`d love to say single individual, but alas, not yet, not yet... :D
Perhaps, today the best shot only philosophers can make, and some of the buddhists


4. Is morality based on the intention or consequence of an action?

As set of rules, more likely, on the consequences. Some rules derived from the experience, some analytically (like "what if?", by analogy, and ex contrario)
It is based on intentions later whan individuals and (or) society grows to be mature (but on the other hand all of these are just the words, only words )


5. Absolute morals vs Relative morals?

*shrugs* wonder is there exist anything absolute when it comes to humans? Maybe, only death? :D


6. When does ethics override someone's freedom of choice?

Always and never. It`s just the matter of perception


p.s. but to be honest, i just made it up, after several days of scrappy thinking. How it really is i don`t know :evil:

Winter
10-11-05, 23:35
I only wanted to comment on number 5.

There should be no such thing as an absolute. Life isnt that one dimensional for an absolute, in any respect. Absolutes are one of the key ingredients that ultimately lead to conflicts; couple that with obscure senses of moral reasoning, and the innate and natural imperfection and foibles of the limited human mind, and thats a recipe for violence the world over.