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Developing a moral code
Posted: 10 April 2017 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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Rutner - 10 April 2017 10:49 AM

In short, we need laws, because morality doesn’t really exist. “When no one is looking” almost everyone is behaving wrong. This might be not the case with you, and I applaud you for your strong values, but in general that’s how it is. That’s the unfortunate biological heritage that’s within our evolutionary backpack, and opportunistic behavior is universal within the animal kingdom. It’s all about gaining an advantage, and getting others to subjugate to ones morals (that are giving the person an advantage) is just another tool to do that.

Laws don’t just arrive out of the thin air. They are based in part on a “morality code”.
Let’s not get bogged down in semantics on this point either. Morality. Morals. That’s the word.

Human behavior is a code. It is definable. It has values.(not values in the sense of moral values-but values in the sense of definable traits.)

Your opportunistic observation is very pertinent. It’s very true. And there are varying degrees of these opportunistic traits in different personality types. Various people have different ideas of opportunity.
For one person an easy burglary with a good chance of success is an opportunity.
For another, a good opportunity would be to find a quiet place that is peaceful and away from violence.
It’s nature and nurture.

That opportunistic value is an important foundation of morals on an evolutionary scale.
Collectively we have found it is opportunistic to create a system that benefits the most people, most of the time.
That’s what we call morals.
That has evolved into laws as well.

If you’re being rushed away in a strong current of a river you see the opportunity to stick your arm out at some people on an overhanging tree.
Why? Because there is an opportunity there. You know that those people will try to grab your arm.
Why? Because they know that they would like the same opportunity.
It’s behavioral science. While it is consciously thought out…it really isn’t, it just happens.

99% of people would do something if they saw a little baby crawling around in the street.
99% of people would give water to someone they knew was dying of thirst.
Why?  That’s a morality behavioral code.

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Posted: 12 April 2017 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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Rutner - 10 April 2017 10:49 AM

In short, we need laws, because morality doesn’t really exist. “When no one is looking” almost everyone is behaving wrong. This might be not the case with you, and I applaud you for your strong values, but in general that’s how it is. That’s the unfortunate biological heritage that’s within our evolutionary backpack, and opportunistic behavior is universal within the animal kingdom. It’s all about gaining an advantage, and getting others to subjugate to ones morals (that are giving the person an advantage) is just another tool to do that.

Once again I respectfully disagree.  Morals are common to all of us.  In my day, we were taught values the same place we learned many of our social skills, on television.  Nowadays I watch television and I feel dismay at the kinds of moral lessons our children are learning inadvertently, mostly in the name of comedy.  But that’s beside the point, really.

You remind me of Nero, who reportedly thought that everyone must be as depraved as he knew he was.  On the other hand, I tend to think that most everyone is as nice as I am.  It’s human nature.  When I was a younger man, I used to play a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons.  In this game, all characters belonged to one of three basic alignments—Lawfuls, who believed in strict law and order, Chaotics, who didn’t believe in rules of any kind, and Neutrals, who struck a balance somewhere in between.  I always played Lawful Goods.  I could never understand the point of view of a person who doesn’t think rules apply to him.

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Posted: 12 April 2017 08:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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Advocatus - 12 April 2017 07:07 AM

On the other hand, I tend to think that most everyone is as nice as I am.  It’s human nature.  When I was a younger man, I used to play a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons.  In this game, all characters belonged to one of three basic alignments—Lawfuls, who believed in strict law and order, Chaotics, who didn’t believe in rules of any kind, and Neutrals, who struck a balance somewhere in between.  I always played Lawful Goods.  I could never understand the point of view of a person who doesn’t think rules apply to him.

No offence sir, but you must have lived a pretty sheltered life.

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Posted: 13 April 2017 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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Beltane - 12 April 2017 08:06 PM
Advocatus - 12 April 2017 07:07 AM

On the other hand, I tend to think that most everyone is as nice as I am.  It’s human nature.  When I was a younger man, I used to play a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons.  In this game, all characters belonged to one of three basic alignments—Lawfuls, who believed in strict law and order, Chaotics, who didn’t believe in rules of any kind, and Neutrals, who struck a balance somewhere in between.  I always played Lawful Goods.  I could never understand the point of view of a person who doesn’t think rules apply to him.

No offence sir, but you must have lived a pretty sheltered life.

So everybody who believes in rules has lived a sheltered life?  I guess I’m in good company then.

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Posted: 13 April 2017 09:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Advocatus - 13 April 2017 07:18 AM
Beltane - 12 April 2017 08:06 PM
Advocatus - 12 April 2017 07:07 AM

On the other hand, I tend to think that most everyone is as nice as I am.  It’s human nature.  When I was a younger man, I used to play a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons.  In this game, all characters belonged to one of three basic alignments—Lawfuls, who believed in strict law and order, Chaotics, who didn’t believe in rules of any kind, and Neutrals, who struck a balance somewhere in between.  I always played Lawful Goods.  I could never understand the point of view of a person who doesn’t think rules apply to him.

No offence sir, but you must have lived a pretty sheltered life.

So everybody who believes in rules has lived a sheltered life?  I guess I’m in good company then.

My point. It’s a big world out there with no lack of people who don’t care about rules you care about. Just odd to hear someone say they haven’t experienced that.

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Posted: 14 April 2017 04:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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Advocatus - 12 April 2017 07:07 AM
Rutner - 10 April 2017 10:49 AM

In short, we need laws, because morality doesn’t really exist. “When no one is looking” almost everyone is behaving wrong. This might be not the case with you, and I applaud you for your strong values, but in general that’s how it is. That’s the unfortunate biological heritage that’s within our evolutionary backpack, and opportunistic behavior is universal within the animal kingdom. It’s all about gaining an advantage, and getting others to subjugate to ones morals (that are giving the person an advantage) is just another tool to do that.

Once again I respectfully disagree.  Morals are common to all of us.  In my day, we were taught values the same place we learned many of our social skills, on television.  Nowadays I watch television and I feel dismay at the kinds of moral lessons our children are learning inadvertently, mostly in the name of comedy.  But that’s beside the point, really.

You remind me of Nero, who reportedly thought that everyone must be as depraved as he knew he was.  On the other hand, I tend to think that most everyone is as nice as I am.  It’s human nature.  When I was a younger man, I used to play a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons.  In this game, all characters belonged to one of three basic alignments—Lawfuls, who believed in strict law and order, Chaotics, who didn’t believe in rules of any kind, and Neutrals, who struck a balance somewhere in between.  I always played Lawful Goods.  I could never understand the point of view of a person who doesn’t think rules apply to him.

Wow. Never heard someone say that so clearly Ruther. How do you think we ever developed cities and governments? We’re there just a handful of people who thought they get an advantage by doing that, and they just forced it on everyone else? All the “behaving wrong” people. Your words don’t even make sense, it couldn’t be a “biological heritage” to behave wrong, because by definition, wrong would be a disadvantage. It was much easier to get away with murder throughout most of human history, so we would have just killed each other off and we’d be living like some creatures do, mostly alone.

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Posted: 17 April 2017 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Beltane - 13 April 2017 09:03 PM

My point. It’s a big world out there with no lack of people who don’t care about rules you care about. Just odd to hear someone say they haven’t experienced that.

I never said I had never experienced it.  I said that I could never understand that point of view well enough to pretend that I was one of them.  Which kind of makes mince-meat out of Rutner’s theory that “everyone” is that way.

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Posted: 24 June 2017 03:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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Ronald Lindsay pretty much summarizes a general utility of morality….. “Simplifying greatly, it seems to me that morality helps to provide security to members of the community, create stability, ameliorate harmful conditions, foster trust, and facilitate cooperation in achieving shared or complementary goals.  In short, it enables us to live together and, while doing so, improve the conditions under which we live.”

Lindsay is right, but he falls short of a compelling argument for embracing morality and I have never seen a convincing argument for why we should live by the Golden Rule of “Treat others as you would wish to be treated.

Morality is about how we interact with each other with an underlying recommendation to take the interests of others into consideration. Why should we have a concern for the interests of others? Because the world, from the quantum level to society (in reality, the entire universe) is built upon stable, enduring interactions. Lost to the layman and most intellectuals in Tennyson’s “Red in Tooth and Claw” and Spencer’s “Surival of the Fittest” is the well recognized (and published) long-standing notion that cooperation plays an essential role in evolution. If you put aside the notion of cooperation as a willful motivation of a conscious mind and see it as simply a co - or mutually interactive operation of two or more separate items, you may recognize that an enduring theme throughout evolution has been co-operation. The incorporation of alien organisms that evolved to be mitochondria or chloroplasts in single cells and the evolution of multicellular organisms demanded co-operation between “alien” objects. The evolution of social behavior is an expression of co-operation. In short, evolution teaches us over and over again that co-operation is an essential ingredient of our “fitness” to survive.

Most people see morality as as an intellectual overlay, whether implanted by a “superbeing” or evolved along with intellectual capacity, in either case, providing a basis for us to get along. Clearly, the mandates of “getting along” to create the universe we experience today arose in the early moments of the universe, even before organic molecules existed. It is a fundamental of existence, not just a “nice” way for people to behave. If we are to recognize the true potential of morality, we need to break out of the notion that morality requires a “mind” to evaluate. Such “intellectual morality” is but a small subset of moral demands and serves to misdirect us from the possibility (and reality) that some morality has evolved to be hardwired into our brains by way of our genes.

Let us take an example - altruism, often used by science to suggest that morality goes well beyond the human domain.

Definitions of altruism..
1 : unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others charitable acts motivated purely by altruism.
2 : behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species.

I suspect that the use of “animal” in the definition is a consequence of blinkered vision by the originator of the definition. Plants meet the critera too (Google altruistic plants).

Number 2 is a biological definition of altruism that evokes no conscious motivation.
One of the most fundamental functions of an organism is reproduction. Set aside emotional issues and reproduction offers no benefit to the individual organism and is certainly harmful in requiring higher energy demands amongst other issues. There are even many instances where reproduction results in the death of one parent. It certainly benefits the species since the species would die out without the ability to reproduce. So here we have a “behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species.” The motivation to reproduce isn’t generally an altruitic notion to propagate the species. It is a response to many evolved mechanisms that pretty much mandate reproductive activity. Those evolved mechanism include neuronal wiring that help initiate and execute reproductive acts.

Thus we have an “altruistic” (moral) act that has a significant contribution from evolved brain wiring. Is there any reason why other activities or sentiments related to some types of activities may not be similarly “wired” in the brain to accomplish those behaviors that we define as “moral”?

It seems so absolutely clear that evolving levels of cooperation have enabled human beings to accomplish what they are today. Multitudes of cooperating individuals provide the infrastructures essential for us to conduct our lives as we do as others work towards introducing even more new features into our world. (The introduction of new features may not necessarily “improve” our lives but provide the raw materials upon which natural selection may operate). Is it not very clear that cooperation has benefited the world at least to the same extent as competition? Indeed, cooperation provides the means to compete at much higher levels of functionality. Competition isn’t necessarily bad but in the global mindset it overshadows the vital necessity of cooperation. Morality is the biological mandate to cooperate.

The notion of “feeling” what is moral and what is not no doubt adds to the notion that “we” are in control of our morality. In some sense we are, but why express morality as “feelings” rather than hardwire them? Because morality depends on circumstance. “Walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you judge them” expresses quite well the notion that the acts of an individual, or even a group of individuals depend upon circumstances that may or may not provide justification for their acts. The circumstances must be weighed and one way our brains can do that is by providing feedback that reinforces or punishes our actions. Feelings are one means of accomplishing that, whether we are the ones committing the questionable acts experiencing the response of our conscience or the ones determining our responses to those acts.

To summarize, morality is about how we treat each other and evolutionary theory suggests that a gene pool will better thrive if the individual members comprising that gene pool operate in a way that optimizes and grows the gene pool. Evolution suggest that a desirable way to do this (a trait) is for individuals in the pool to cooperate with each other. Morality facilitates cooperation and optimization of individual and group performance. Evolution determines morality.

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Posted: 26 June 2017 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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You are wrong about evolution. Evolution will only allow altruism to continue if it is reciprocated. Otherwise it’s just a damaging trait.

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Posted: 26 June 2017 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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Titanomachina - 27 November 2016 08:38 PM

Thought now that am older and that doesn’t hold much sway anymore it makes me wonder why everyone follows the code we put forth. Why is it the right thing?

Following moral codes can not be proven to be “right” in some ultimate sense.  But it can be shown to be smart. I’m not referring to avoiding legal jeopardy etc, but rather being smart about one’s own psychological experience of life.  This is a rather enormous topic, but for starters don’t think “right or wrong”, think “smart or stupid”.

According to whom? Why should we pay their ideas any mind?

Because many very intelligent people have been asking these same questions for thousands of years before we were born, and sometimes they have developed useful insights.

Why not do as we wish and damn who says otherwise?

Because then we wind up without any friends or family or community, and take a long lonely walk through life all by ourselves.  Or, perhaps we enter the Matrix and live an isolated fantasy life to our exact specifications? Coming soon to an Apple store near you?

Does morality essentially boil down to someone’s “say so”? Because it seems to me without a threat of cosmic punishment, our morality doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.

No.  Morality boils down to enlightened self interest.  On a personal psychological level it really has nothing to do with anybody else.  Morality is not following rules from above that one has to follow or else.  That’s not morality, that’s fear.

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Posted: 28 June 2017 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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Titanomachina - 26 June 2017 09:00 AM

You are wrong about evolution. Evolution will only allow altruism to continue if it is reciprocated. Otherwise it’s just a damaging trait.

Evolution “allows” anything. It then favors those things that improve survival. Evolution doesn’t care if altruism is reciprocated. It favors individuals that act altruistically, regardless of the recipient because it helps an entire group to survive. A group that is genetically related to the altruist and probably shares many of the same altruism genes.

An evolved reinforcement for moral behavior may be the happy feeling of satisfaction some get after behaving morally - helping others, for example. You’re not rewarded with reciprocal altruism or whatever, but you are rewarded. Perhaps, as LoisL hinted, evolution has favored those who “feel good” about behaving morally and who feel bad when they stray from the evolutionary established behaviors favoring cooperation and therefore survival.

Feeling rather than hardwiring may be essential to accommodate circumstance in moral decisions. Killing isn’t always wrong. We need to make value judgements that can be rewarded or conscience mitigated.

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Posted: 28 June 2017 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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Titanomachina - 26 June 2017 09:00 AM

You are wrong about evolution. Evolution will only allow altruism to continue if it is reciprocated. Otherwise it’s just a damaging trait.

I’m pretty sure I linked the video about game theory. It was an experiment where you choose “cooperate” or not, if you don’t cooperate and the other person does, you get 2 points and the other person gets 0. But if neither cooperates no one gets a point. If you cooperate, each get one point.  Something like that. Anyway, it showed that cooperation is a better strategy in the long run.

And quit saying stuff like “Evolution will only allow”. Use language that reflects the science. Evolution doesn’t have a consciousness.

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Posted: 29 June 2017 04:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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Lausten - 28 June 2017 10:36 AM
Titanomachina - 26 June 2017 09:00 AM

You are wrong about evolution. Evolution will only allow altruism to continue if it is reciprocated. Otherwise it’s just a damaging trait.

I’m pretty sure I linked the video about game theory. It was an experiment where you choose “cooperate” or not, if you don’t cooperate and the other person does, you get 2 points and the other person gets 0. But if neither cooperates no one gets a point. If you cooperate, each get one point.  Something like that. Anyway, it showed that cooperation is a better strategy in the long run.

And quit saying stuff like “Evolution will only allow”. Use language that reflects the science. Evolution doesn’t have a consciousness.

But the real world is more complicated than a simple experiment like that. The long run doesn’t matter that much, it’s about you and your own.

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Posted: 29 June 2017 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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Titanomachina - 29 June 2017 04:02 PM
Lausten - 28 June 2017 10:36 AM
Titanomachina - 26 June 2017 09:00 AM

You are wrong about evolution. Evolution will only allow altruism to continue if it is reciprocated. Otherwise it’s just a damaging trait.

I’m pretty sure I linked the video about game theory. It was an experiment where you choose “cooperate” or not, if you don’t cooperate and the other person does, you get 2 points and the other person gets 0. But if neither cooperates no one gets a point. If you cooperate, each get one point.  Something like that. Anyway, it showed that cooperation is a better strategy in the long run.

And quit saying stuff like “Evolution will only allow”. Use language that reflects the science. Evolution doesn’t have a consciousness.

But the real world is more complicated than a simple experiment like that. The long run doesn’t matter that much, it’s about you and your own.

If you’re an idiot who can’t think past next week, sure

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Posted: 15 August 2017 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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Titanomachina - 27 November 2016 08:38 PM

Something that has been gnawing at me is how subjective morality and human rights are. As a child I found such things to be self evident because I came from a religious background and as such didn’t have to question the whole “be good and get to heaven”. Thought now that am older and that doesn’t hold much sway anymore it makes me wonder why everyone follows the code we put forth. Why is it the right thing? According to whom? Why should we pay their ideas any mind? Why not do as we wish and damn who says otherwise? I get it that it’s to avoid the punishment from society but why does society have to follow their own code? Couldn’t they make up one that enourcages discrimination and get away with it? What makes it wrong? Why care about others and the future of humanity? Who deemed that important?

Does morality essentially boil down to someone’s “say so”? Because it seems to me without a threat of cosmic punishment, our morality doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.

  Dignity should be at the forefront of any moral code.  I wrote a thread in the religion section that you should find interesting.  It is called, “Does anybody around here have any dignity?”  I invite you to read it.  And leave a reply.

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