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Instinct, Morality, and Law

Discussion in 'Ethics and Morals' started by usfan, Jun 25, 2019.

  1. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    The interrelationships between these 3 parts of human motivation are not always delineated. They are often blurred together, so they all seem the same, and the nuances of each element are missed. I propose a deeper look into each element, parsing them as different, for better understanding of ourselves and the peculiarities of the human animal.

    First, definitions:

    Morality is an embedded sense, classically considered to be 'endowed' by a Creator, as in the American declaration of independence,

    *We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights*

    Merriam's: conformity to ideals of right human conduct

    Morality is a 'self evident' standard that humans in every region, time, and culture have appealed to. It is equivalent to 'natural law', from reformation and Enlightenment philosophers. It is something internal, embedded, and universal in humanity.

    Instinct is an animal quality, where certain responses are programmed internally, apart from a learned response. Migration of birds. Self preservation. Maternal care. It differs from morality in that is involuntary, not a rational choice.

    From Merriam's: *a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason*

    Law is a codefied rule, enforced by a human agenct.

    Merriam's: *a binding custom or practice of a community : a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority*

    Law can be a moral imperative, or even an instinct. Or, it can be something arbitrary, contrary to a moral sense or instinct. Power to enforce a law is the determining factor. Morals can be observed with or without the force of law. Law can be immoral, or counter instinctive.

    The relationships between these human elements are fascinating, and are rooted in a fundamental belief about the universe.

    The existence of morality, as a Real Thing, hinges on the embedding ability of a Creator, or some Force able to endow such traits into the inner psyche or soul of man. In a godless universe, morality is not real. It is either animal instinct, a delusion, or arbitrary law by a compelling force. A person's worldview shapes the way they see law, instinct, and morality.

    Any thoughts, differences, additions, examples, or corrections on these concepts?
     
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  2. Left Coast

    Left Coast Active Member
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    The most obviously controversial (and in my view, flawed) comments you've made are about morality. Morality, in my view, is a tool. It is a human invention which humans have developed as a social species in order to survive and thrive. Moreover, the moral landscape looks exactly the way we would expect it to look in a godless universe: humans have disagreed strongly on countless moral questions for our entire history, and our understanding of moral behavior has developed over millennia through fits and starts of trial and error as we have tinkered with different ways of relating to one another and organizing ourselves in societies.

    Only in the last few centuries since the Enlightenment (and thanks to globalization) have we seen increasing and widespread acceptance of the things we now understand to be ideal moral principles that enable human societies to flourish, such as opposition to slavery, religious freedom/pluralism, democracy, and egalitarianism.

    Lastly, appeal to a divine source of morality solves exactly zero of our moral dilemmas, as such a claim simply leads to the question of how God came to his conclusions on any moral question (see also: the Euthyphro Dilemma).
     
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  3. The Reverend Bob

    The Reverend Bob Fart Machine and Beastmaster

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    Are ethics can stem from many things. Why do some of us act morally, subscribe to a certain set of ethics and obey the law? Survival. You have a better chance of survival by acting morally (morals being personal principles dealing with right and wrong), you are able get along better with people with similar values, ethical behavior helps promote trust and cooperation between people and the obeying the law keeps the peace and your arse out of jail.
     
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  4. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    'Morality', as defined in this thread, is different from instinct and law. It is an inner, 'felt sense' of right and wrong that transcends instinct or law. Its only philosophical basis is from a Creator, or some kind of embedding Agent. It is a Standard of behavior EXPECTED from this Creator or Agent, and is not a human construct or animal instinct.

    In a godless universe, no morality like this is possible. It is a delusion or manipulation, to control people. There is only animal instinct, or declared Law, in a godless universe, with no absolutes to appeal to.

    IF... there is a God, or Something, that embedded a moral 'sense' in humanity,
    THEN that is the philosophical basis for morality.

    IF... there is no God, or no moral 'sense' embedded,
    THEN any moral 'sense' is a delusion. It is not there.

    Those are the logical conclusions of each premise.

    'Morality' is not a Real Thing, in a godless universe. It is a human construct for manipulation.

    Relative or arbitrary morality is 'anything goes'. You do whatever you want, and everyone else does too. nobody's standards are better or worse than anyone else's.
     
  5. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    Exactly. In a godless universe, that is the only 'source' for morality, and it is exposed as a contrived, manipulative human construct. Only deluded fools would willingly submit to such manipulation. Those who break free of these artificial constructs would have a much greater advantage in survival.
    if they are personal, how can anyone fault another, if they disagree?
     
  6. Left Coast

    Left Coast Active Member
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    Is that how you feel about any other human invention? When you push the button in a multi-story building to take an elevator, do you think, "ugh, what a contrived, manipulative concept!" Or do you think, "wow, this is useful." It's not deluded or foolish to use something that works.

    You can fault another if their moral opinion is demonstrably less effective at helping humans survive and thrive. If your opinion is that any time you want something from someone you should punch them in the face, we can put that to the test. We can see what society would be like with that as a moral rule, versus society where people should be polite and kindly ask each other for things. We can see which society is preferable on a number of metrics, namely in which society are people safer, happier, and healthier.
     
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  7. The Reverend Bob

    The Reverend Bob Fart Machine and Beastmaster

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    Morals are what you develop as you grow, children tend to be notoriously amoral.
    Anyways, that being said. You were close to something. First it all starts with the most basic of human drives: Instinct, most have the instinct to survive, to ensure our lineage and/or legacy and to have strong healthy children. But in order to do that you have to turn to others to help you because none of survives long without the other. If I don't hunt with Ugg, truly the saber tooth tiger will get me, so I need Ugg. And in other for Ugg and I to have a healthy partnership we need moral, we need to know what is right and wrong so we can do what is right to each other and keep away from those who do not do what we believe is right.

    So morals come from instinct. So were do we get laws? As we develop morally through the age we start to develop a code of ethics to help us get by in the wider society, we promise ourselves we won't cheat in business, that we will trade fairly with others and we will give strangers who prove trustworthy a chance to come trade with us. So within this great social unit we start develop customs and tradition that keep us well in the code of ethic we develop and they take a form of sacredness and with that we now have laws.
     
  8. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

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    I think when trying to figure out morality, the axiom "all knowledge begins with the senses" is the place to start.

    Years ago, I realized that we humans can't see, hear, taste, or smell the difference between an act that is morally right and one that's wrong; so it must be that we FEEL it.

    That realization led me eventually to conclude that everything we think we know about our morality we learned from the intuitive feelings that we call conscience.

    I think that, having learned from conscience, we humans, over-estimating our ability to reason, imagined that we could improve upon the guidance of conscience by creating laws and rules to govern our morality. I think that was a false premise that has resulted in massive misunderstandings and injustice.

    Scientific research over the last 25 years is supporting my hypothesis that moral judgments are intuitive (they are immediate feelings that emerge from the unconscious) but as yet researchers haven't arrived at a consensus on the role of reason in the process.

    If I'm right, we humans have a universal (cross-cultural) conscience. Harvard's Moral Sense Test has been online since 2003 in an attempt to find out if that's true.
     
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  9. blü 2

    blü 2 Well-Known Member
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    Indeed.

    We know from research that humans have evolved a set of moral tendencies which I've mentioned before, and which are appropriate for us as gregarious primates, who benefit greatly at all levels from our ability to work in groups and to cooperate with others. The tendencies are found in all human communities around the world, confirmed by surveys, and more interestingly and specifically, by research with little kids.

    The tendencies are
    Child nurture and protection
    Dislike of the person who harms
    Like of fairness and reciprocity
    Respect for authority
    Group loyalty
    A sense of self-worth / virtue through self-denial.​

    we get the rest of our morality from our upbringing, culture, education and experience ─ questions like the etiquette for eating together, for births, marriages, deaths, for excreting, for providing, and so on. Hence these rules can vary widely.

    Hand in hand with these we have the capacity for empathy through the mirror neurons in the brain which allow us to see the world through the eyes of others.

    And we've evolved a conscience which works by providing us with the conviction that some rules are of universal application, not just our own opinion, though it'll be be rare to find two people whose rules exactly match; and even with the one person they'll very likely change over time.

    So the processes of morality are not god-dependent; if they were we'd expect all the world's cultures to have the same view of god, and the same sets of rules for observances whether social or religious. We find exactly the opposite, of course.

    Lawmaking is an exercise in power, sometimes for regulation of things like business, money, traffic, taxes, welfare, civil order, debt collection, on and on, and sometimes for moral issues like slavery, age of consent, sexual practices including prostitution, free public secular education, the nature and boundaries of personal freedoms, and so on. As is frequently observed, laws tend to catch up with public opinion only after a lag of time. Think of Ireland voting to change the constitution to get rid of established religion, and bring in rights to gay marriage and abortion, all within a generation, and not a little propelled by the gross misbehavior of too many in the long-established RCC priesthood.
     
  10. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    I'd say morality is a 'Real Thing' (or real things) if we can observe it in play, and it is pretty clear that we can.

    It develops from 2 main sources: instinct and culture, which function together dynamically. For example, some things may be instinctive across cultures, but many things produce instinctive responses only as these are culturally conditioned.
     
  11. ImmortalFlame

    ImmortalFlame Well-Known Member

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    This seems an unusual thing to cite as a source for a definition of morality, considering this passage a) doesn't actually provide any definitions of any kind, and b) doesn't even mention morality.

    Except, again, the only definition you've provided doesn't say that. You've simply asserted that it is "self evident" or "internal, embedded and universal". If you wish to define morality this way, that is fine, but it is not coherent with or based on the sources you have actually provided.
     
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  12. wellwisher

    wellwisher Active Member

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    Th formation of the first civilizations resulted in humans living in population densities that were higher that had been natural. Natural instinct no longer fully applied, since the environment was no longer natural. Morality was the needed upgrade, in social behavior, so human could better adapt to the needs of the evolving artificial social environment.

    For example, an animal or a natural pre-human might have relieved themselves, where they stood, when they had to go. This is instinctive and worked fine in the natural environment of the nomadic herder gatherers, who lived in small family groups. However, this same instinctive behavior, that once worked, would cause sanitary problems in the denser population of fixed civilization.

    Moral law was based on what was best for the needs of the larger group, in this new environment; tree of knowledge of good and evil. This placed restrictions on individual and instinctive behavior. These restrictions were not arbitrary, but tried to be objective, since not all paths are as optimized in terms of resource requirements and end results. There would be an objective solution, that was also cost effective; dig a hole in one area, away from farming and living quarters. The ego and instinct may not like this, saying this was relative, but this moral solution was objective based on results.

    As another example, humans like sex. However, not all combinations and expressions of sexuality result in optimized social conditions. We have all types of STD's, which is a good objective indication of sexual behavior that is not optimized. The behavior that cause STD's may be seem instinctive and/or may involve ego-centric choices. However, moral law will see the social costs and will try to find to a sweet spot, for sex, where resource needs are minimized. They came up with monogamous marriage. This allows sex and has the least propensity to create disease. The low extra resource requirement makes it objective.

    In modern times, science and technology act like a mop, that cleans up the mess due to immorality; not optimize behavior. This is like a janitor working at night. Since the social cost is somewhat hidden, it is not as obvious. Relative morality, is fooled by the janitor working at night. If you come back to school and the lunch room is clean, acting like pigs seems just as cost effective. This added cost; hidden or obvious, represents lack of optimization due to immoral behavior.

    Immoral behavior is not optimized, because it is more connected to subjective ego-centric choice and instinct. This is not to say that some immoral behavior might not work in a natural setting, but it is not optimized for civilization, by any objective measure. It is all about subjective measure, which adds subjective individual benefit. This is not natural or socially optimized by any objective measure.

    If you look at moral codes these are optimized in terms of minimal social resource requirements. The Ten Commandments minimize the resource requirements that go into law, enforcement and containment. But it required people develop enough will power to stick to ten optimized moral choices. With resource optimization comes surplus for the civilization to evolve. The US deficit spends due to immorality not allowing resource optimization. Nature is very optimized in terms of its resource needs. It does not need a mop.
     
  13. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    There are manipulations that are human contrived. They are imaginations, not 'real things'
    An elevator is a Real Thing, but in a godless universe, morality is not. It is a manipulative human construct to control people.
    What or Who made collective 'survive and thrive!' The Supreme Moral Imperative?
    Demonstrably? Humans don't care about 'demonstrably, and they certainly didn't 'million of years ago!'
    Instinct is often contrary to felt morality, and human law. They are not the same thing.

    IF.. a Creator embedded, 'thou shalt not steal', into the inner conscience of man..
    THEN.. any 'sense' of property rights are an inherent moral value.

    But in a godless universe, 'thou shalt not steal!', is a human construct. It is not even an instinct, as every animal species rewards stealing as a virtue. It can be (and is) codefied into Law, to deter theft by a human enforcer, but at its root, it is only a human construct, to control weak minded dupes. It is an imposed platitude, to control people. There is no overriding moral imperative to sting one's conscience, if they steal something.

    'Conscience!' is also a human construct, in a godless universe. With no moral values embedded, but only human manipulation, any appeals to 'conscience!' are manipulations from human controllers.
    Precisely. Morality, as a Real Thing, is a deeply embedded sense of behavioral rules that transcend race, region, and era.
    This conscience was either put there by a Higher Power, or it is a delusion.. not there. There is nobody and no thing to embed a conscience in a godless universe.
    exactly. Human law is just an imposition from power. It may or may not agree with instinct or conscience.
    That can be the only source of a conscience. So the question is,

    Who or what put it there ?
    You believe or hypothesize this. It is not proven fact. Many others believe that 'moral tendencies' are embedded by God, or some Higher Spiritual Power.

    Evolution does not embed anything. It could select traits, that improve survivability. IF.. there is a trait that makes believing in a man made, manipulative construct.. AND IF.. this trait can be shown to aid survival, THEN... one might posit this trait has evolved. It is a plausible theory. But, the burden is on the hypothesist, to SHOW how a delusion improves survivability. Merely asserting it is not scientific methodology.
    You just believe this, of course. In the assumption of a godless universe, that is the only explanation for universal morality: evolution did it.

    But in a God made universe, it could have been embedded by God.
    I see morality as a Real Thing, but the Source is the question. Instinct is often contrary to, and opposite our inner, felt morality. Culture is just ingrained and practiced social mores, but does not reveal the Source.

    IMO, if you remove the 'Higher Power' source of Morality, it becomes nothing more than situation ethics, or no morality at all. People do what they want to do, & who can say they are wrong? All you have is the changing winds of relativism, tossing everyone to & fro until they shipwreck on the rocks of anarchy.

    Why are sociopaths considered an aberration in humanity? Most of them were raised 'moral,' but chose to 'switch off' that part of their psyche, or some other psychobabble theory. Why would there be any morality in humans, if it is not there inherently?

    A male lion will kill cubs, if he can, with no consequence. Theft is a common virtue, in the animal kingdom. How are these human moral platitudes different, from the rest of the animal world, if they are just instinctive? Or, why should we submit to moralizing platitudes from manipulators, and follow their constructs?
     
  14. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    Thou shalt not steal'

    Let's examine this moral imperative.

    Moral value? Yes
    Animal instinct? No
    Human Law? Yes

    This is a good example of a moral belief, that has been codefied into Law, in almost every human society. In every animal setting, theft is a virtue.. it enhances survival, and better thieves have better chances of survival.

    But in humanity, this has been declared a 'sin!', or a criminal act. Religions, throughout the human experience condemn theft, and all human societies that have any law respect the basic right of property.

    The Enlightenment philosophers waxed long and eloquently on the essentials of 'Natural Law', and summarized it thusly:

    Right to Life
    Right to Liberty
    Right to Property

    The BASIS for this 'moral', is that it is a God given right, to your property, and any who take what is another's is guilty of a crime.

    Bastiat confirmed the basic right of property, which is the foundation for the 'moral value'.

    Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. ~Frederic Bastiat

    Morality, such as described by philosophers, can only exist in a God made universe. They are meaningless platitudes in a godless one.

    If we are in a God made universe (Who has embedded moral values in man), then morality is a Real Thing, and we ought to follow our moral inclinations, as given by the Creator.

    BUT... if we are in a godless universe, then all such moralizing are human constructs, to manipulate and control. Morality is NOT Real, but is a delusion, indoctrinated into people for some human agenda. We are fools and dupes, to submit to such manipulation.
     
  15. Jim

    Jim Nets of Wonder

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    The only kind of morality that interests me is a code of conduct that people choose to practice themselves, inspired by warm feelings and friendly intentions towards all people and all of nature. I don’t think that requires belief in any god or gods, and I don’t think it follows from belief in any god or gods. I think it comes naturally to all people, when it isn’t being repressed in pursuit of other interests.
     
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  16. Left Coast

    Left Coast Active Member
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    Grounding your morality in "my God said so" doesn't make it any more "Real" than anyone else's, because that's just another human claim. And it doesn't tell us why your God's moral conclusions are correct or how he came to them. It is useless other than as a raw appeal to authority.

    How is advocating that we be kind instead of punch people a "manipulation?" Would you rather live in a society where we all punch each other?Your characterization just doesn't follow.

    Humans did. It's a human invention, remember? Why in the world should we follow a moral code that doesn't enable our societies to survive and thrive?

    Millions of years ago humans didn't exist. Since humans have existed, we have very much cared what demonstrably works to get us what we want. The thing is, we have had to learn the hard way across millennia that selfishness and dominating others is not in our long-term interest. We have learned though trial and error that what works better is to cooperate with each other and respect our mutual autonomy.
     
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  17. blü 2

    blü 2 Well-Known Member
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    I referred to experiments with young children which confirm what I said, and to anthropological research ditto. I'm not just giving you my opinion, I'm putting the science on the table. You may disagree with it, but only because you don't like it, not because it's wrong.
    On the exact contrary, evolution makes physical and mental trait heritable, including the moral traits which I listed, which are found in all societies.
    Yes, it does that automatically. In the case of humans, we've developed traits which aid our survival by aiding our abilities to cooperate with each other. We do that in a manner far more intricate than any other primate.

    We, like other primates, operate in groups by forming one-to-one relationships with other individuals, and these are largely the determinants of our place in the peck order. The larger the primate brain, the more such relationships that can be formed. Humans have by far the greatest capacity to do this. ('Networking' is one aspect of it.)
    I don't know what a real god could be, and neither does anyone I've asked ─ that is, if God is real then God has objective existence, is not imaginary. Being real, God therefore has a definition like any other real thing, sufficient for anyone to tell whether any candidate being or thing or phenomenon is God or not. Do you know of such a definition? I don't. And if there isn't one, then God is no more than a variable concept in individual brains, surely?

    Meanwhile science creates medicines, foods, computers, Mars rovers, and works with great success. What has religion come up with lately?
     
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  18. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    When has humanity ever acted that way? :shrug:

    War, conquest, and aggression is the basic instinct of humanity, as demonstrated by millennia of history.

    Why is that condemned, if it is, obviously, the instinct we act upon? Should not power and conquest be considered a virtue, as it is/was in many cultures?
    Nobody is making the argument that it comes from 'belief!' It either is embedded by a Real God, believed in or not, or it is a human construct.. a contrivance for manipulation.
    That is not the source. If this is, indeed, a godless universe, then any claims of morality are contrived. If there is actually an Embedder, then some may recognize that as the Source, while others do not, even though they willingly follow their conscience's leadings.

    Why they would willingly submit to a human manipulation is the bigger question.
    Exactly. In a godless universe , that is the only possibility for morality.
     
  19. Left Coast

    Left Coast Active Member
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    You are not responding to my point. Claiming that there is an "Embedder" of morality is just that - just another claim, by just another human. It is unproven and gives us zero information regarding how the "Embedder" came to his own moral conclusions. It is completely useless in solving any moral question or controversy.
    You keep saying this without demonstrating it. If you and I mutually agree to be kind to one another rather than harm one another, that is not manipulation, it is cooperation.
     
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  20. usfan

    usfan Well-Known Member

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    :facepalm:
    Projecting your biases, and stooping to ad hom does not improve your arguments.

    You've presented your OPINION, about some unsourced studies that you conclude something from. That is not empirical fact.

    There is no science, and no table. You have unbased assertions, and speculative opinion, regarding an allusion.

    I don't dislike these assertions, i just dismiss them as unbased assertions, and obvious opinion. Your logical flaw is in asserting them as 'proven fact!'

    There are likely other conclusions, and dissenting opinions from the data from this study, as there are in any study. Dogmatically declaring YOUR opinion as 'proven fact!', does not make it so.

    You don't even source the study, just declare your opinion as 'fact!' :shrug:
     
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