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Where Does Morality Come From?

Wren_cyborg
Posts: 241
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10/31/2013 11:55:35 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Morality is a function of the relationship between privilege (I will use the terms privilege and power interchangeably from here on out) and responsibility. This relationship is a fundamental aspect of life itself and cannot be violated. Give me any example of privilege, and I will show you the corresponding responsibility that accompanies it.

Responsibility is not subjective. All life-forms, from the simplest bacteria to homo sapiens, have one primary purpose to their existence: reproduction. Since life must be propagated in order to exist, there cannot be any higher function for life to fulfill, or else it wouldn't be there to fulfill it in the first place. So, responsibility must be concerned primarily with the ability to end the propagation of life (kill), or to a lesser extent, cause pain and suffering or suppression of the ability of life to express itself naturally (freedom and liberty).

Power necessarily includes the ability to affect how life works. The more power you have, the more ability you have to affect life in a negative fashion, and therefore the more responsibility you have to not affect it negatively. We can talk about how humans have more power and responsibility than lower animals, or we can talk about how more powerful humans have more responsibility than less powerful ones.

Negativity can be measured in many ways, but utilitarian analyses are really unnecessary because it turns out that intelligent life has very specific means that cause negative ends - namely indulgence and pride/selfishness. Lower animals really cannot indulge; they consume only the materials they absolutely need to survive (unless they are domesticated and forced or tricked to consume other things) and any selfishness we perceive in them is really only a function of the instincts they acquired that are necessary in the wild. For instance, canines can exhibit some territorial and superiority characteristics, but these are based on survival in a pack, not the need for individualistic indulgences like a human.

Indulgence and selfishness are strictly human characteristics and cannot be separated from intelligence. One could never, therefore, create a human (e.g., perform brain-surgery or genetically-engineer) a human of any intelligence that is not also selfish and indulgent. A being of higher intelligence than us, if it could be created, would necessarily have a much higher moral responsibility and likely even more ways to demonstrate immorality... power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Wren_cyborg
Posts: 241
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11/1/2013 9:40:21 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/1/2013 9:02:28 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Our brains

I believe, my friend, that we are in perfect agreement ;)
themohawkninja
Posts: 816
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11/1/2013 3:57:11 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Your definition of responsibility is however subjective to how you wish to restrict it. You restrict the domain of responsibility to that of biology. Would it therefore be outside the boundaries of responsibility to neither go to work nor attend class? Those are outside the boundaries of reproduction, so would those actions therefore be not irresponsible?
"Morals are simply a limit to man's potential."~Myself

Political correctness is like saying you can't have a steak, because a baby can't eat one ~Unknown
Wren_cyborg
Posts: 241
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11/1/2013 5:24:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/1/2013 3:57:11 PM, themohawkninja wrote:
Your definition of responsibility is however subjective to how you wish to restrict it. You restrict the domain of responsibility to that of biology. Would it therefore be outside the boundaries of responsibility to neither go to work nor attend class? Those are outside the boundaries of reproduction, so would those actions therefore be not irresponsible?

We are biological beings. Propagation of the species is the highest form of moral responsibility, not the only one. Secondary would be pain and suffering, and tertiary would be restricting people's freedoms/liberties. We could continue down this list, but the responsibility diminishes more and more as we deal with less dire situations.

As I said, it is not the ends but the means that can be judged. I gave indulgence and pride/selfishness as the criteria here. To extrapolate, I would give you the seven "cardinal sins" and define them as such:

Pride: The cardinal sin - the feeling of self-superiority over others; self preferment. Opposite: Humility

Greed: Desire to possess material goods in excess of what one needs. Opposite: Charity

Wrath: Justification of hurting others; anger. Opposite: Patience

Envy: Desire to deprive others; sorrow for another's good. Opposite: Kindness

Lust: Craving (e.g., sex, power, drugs, money). Opposite: Chastity

Gluttony: Wasteful over-consumption. Opposite: Temperance

Sloth: Failure to act; laziness. Failure to utilize one's talents and gifts. Opposite: Diligence


There are two differences between us and animals:
1) We have the privilege of intelligence, and capable of much more good.
2) We have the responsibility of these vices, and therefore the capability of much more evil.

While the ends are of a biological nature, the means, peculiar to human beings, are of an ethical nature. The ends can always be argued by moral relativists; Hitler believed he could help the species by killing Jews. Perhaps he was right, perhaps he was wrong; it's impossible for us to "add up" the utility of his actions versus inactions and weigh each possibility. However, we can judge his intent and if his actions were based on intentions contained in the list I just gave, then he is clearly morally wrong. Based on my historical understanding of Hitler, he killed Jews because he believed in race superiority, which is pride plain and simple. Therefore his ends could not have been good, because his means were tainted by vice (if the story we heard about Hitler was accurate).

As far as going to school and work, well, those are ends that only a utilitarian would bother analyzing. What is your motivation for not working and going to school? If it is because of sloth, then you know my answer. If it is because of selfishness or indulgence in any way, then it is immoral. But there are possibly logical reasons for not doing so, which would make these actions just fine.