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Featured The Definition of Morality

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Israel Khan, Oct 22, 2020.

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  1. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    Hi there!

    So I am hoping there are posters out there who are chomping at the bit to get into a good old-fashioned RF scrap!

    I have just started reading a book called "Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them" authored by Joshua Greene.

    It is a fascinating book with which I agree on much but also disagree with a bit too, especially with the idea of evolutionary morality since it is an idea that cannot really be examined, thus is unfalsifiable, and therefore the author is just throwing conjecture regarding how we evolved our morality.

    But that is besides the point of this thread.

    What I would really like to get everyone's thoughts on is his definition of morality below:

    "Morality is a set of psychological adaptations that allow otherwise selfish individuals to reap the benefits of cooperation."

    Do you agree or disagree with this definition? If not, then please explain your reasoning and what you think the actual definition is or should be?
     
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  2. ReluctantMathematician

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    It is far too brief to be correct.
     
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  3. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    What should be added?
     
  4. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Meghalayan Ape

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    It's hard to have an opinion on it as it stands - what is the justification for the assertion that humans are basically selfish, only tweaked by apparent enlightened self-interest?
     
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  5. ReluctantMathematician

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    Why do you think morality is a single constant that you can just sum up with one sentence?

    Morality is likely a combination of many different variables some environmentally condition and some inherent structure, some more fluid aspects, and some more rigid aspects, and I not convinced that humans have a good idea of what that structure is. I have never heard a definition of morality that seemed complete, and such definitions mostly just guess at one facet of a multifaceted aspect of human nature.
     
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  6. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    This was my main problem with it as well. It downplays the fact that humans are social animals. It would be more accurate to say that all social animals - humans and otherwise - require some regulation of behavior for group cohesion. To label those behaviors as selfish/selfless is superfluous and unnecessary add-on.

    My other main problem with it is that by framing it as psychological adaptations it puts too much focus on the individual. Again, humans are social animals - regulation of behavior for social animals, while it has dimensions within individuals (psychological) is fundamentally collective (sociological).
     
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  7. The Hammer

    The Hammer Virtue, Piety, Study

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    Here is some more information on Evolutionary Morality. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-biology/
     
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  8. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
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    There's an assumption of inherent selfishness. Another assumption is that this operates on the psychological level.

    The Evolutionary Benefits of Cooperation argues that cooperation is or can be an evolutionary advantage thus tying ordinary morality to evolution. This means that selfishness is not innate, for one thing. And it means that cooperation is adaptive. There are a gazillion papers and reports on such things on the internet.

    Then there's the power of love which crosses animal boundaries. There are a number of cases where predator mothers nurtured prey young. I would apply the word morality to cases like this Leopard 'Adopts' Baby Baboon After Killing Its Mom because to me loving, nurturing, is fundamental. From a purely selfish perspective, the leopard should have just eaten the baby.
     
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  9. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    Does 'individuals' include other animals besides humans? Research suggests that many animals (mostly but not exclusively social animals) have an understanding of mortality.

    Which indicates that morality is at least in part an evolutionary adaptation.

    That said, to evolve a social lifestyle can be considered selfish in that each individual is relying in others for protection and sustenance. However the individual must also help in maintaining the group which kind of pushes selfishness out of the way.
     
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  10. A Vestigial Mote

    A Vestigial Mote Well-Known Member

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    I had this same thought. It perhaps exposes one facet of morality... but there is more depth to it than can be relayed via a one-liner.
     
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  11. The Hammer

    The Hammer Virtue, Piety, Study

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    Altruism influences reproductive fitness of a social organism, therefore it has a biological and evolutionary slant to it,IMO.
     
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  12. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

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    A dictionary will give you a definition of morality something like this:
    a system of principles concerning right and wrong behavior that is accepted by a particular group of people

    However, that's wrong. That definition is based on the popular myth that the judgments of conscience are the product of reason.

    Morality is concerned mostly with how we humans treat each other. We are born with a conscience which enables us to discern right from wrong and fair from unfair. We intuitively FEEL wrongness. If the considered act doesn't feel wrong or unfair, we can assume that it's justified.

    There is some learning involved, though. For example, the ways we might insult others will vary from culture to culture. So, we need to learn those ways in order to avoid accidentally harming an innocent person. However, we learn from conscience that it is wrong in every culture to intentionally harm an innocent person.
     
    #12 joe1776, Oct 22, 2020
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  13. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    I will attempt to explain.

    This definition seems to be heavily influenced by evolutionary thought. The idea is that natural selection affects our evolutionary ancestors and natural selection is thought to promote ruthless self interest. So individuals who hoard resources and destroy the competition will survive better, reproduce often, and then populate the world with their ruthless selfish offspring. So according to evolutionary theory individual humans should naturally be ruthlessly selfish. But what perplexed them is that we are not. We are social creatures.

    So, through further examination, by observing humans and other social creatures, it seems that humans are naturally selfish until the individual cost outweighs the cost of cooperation amongst individuals. Morality serves to create rules that maintains this cooperation through laws that promote cooperation because cooperation ensures our survival far greater than ruthless selfishness.

    An example would be a group of humans having more survival success than an individual human in the majority of circumstances. Another is that a great civilisation, a group of humans with large group cooperation and a standard set of laws/morality to maintain cohesion, will have a greater survival rate than a small tribe of humans because of the benefits their cooperation reaps. The fact that a large civilisation has defensive buildings and technology created through cooperation which can easily withstand the onslaught of a small tribal threat is further evidence of the point.

    Take this to todays modern society, and we reap so much more benefit from working together than if we were just number of individuals on our own fighting over dominance.

    But also, we are tribalistic, so it is in our nature to compete against each other in tribes, which is why laws and religions served tribalism rather than universal cooperation.
     
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  14. Nakosis

    Nakosis crystal soldier
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    Selfish I see as a loaded word. It usually implies a lack of concern for others.

    I think our motivation is self-interest. Part of that interest is concern for the welfare of others.

    To cooperate is sometimes beneficial, sometimes not.

    How I define morality, a sense of right and wrong behavior. I think we develop this sense of right and wrong through a very complex process. Partly genetic, partly culture, partly experiential. Also since a lot of this process is done subconsciously, I don't think we can consciously identify everything that goes into this development.

    I can see this definition above as an ideal. What someone might think morality ought to be. I wouldn't agree that this is the reality of it though.
     
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  15. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Given that there are striking commonalities in the moral and value systems of all human cultures, I think the only reasonable explanation is that morals and values are to some measure and in some way encoded in our DNA, probably in the form of instincts or predilections for certain kinds of behavior.

    If so, it would be absurd to dismiss the likelihood that morals and values were subject to evolutionary pressures.
     
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  16. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Altruism influencing the reproductive fitness of a social organism. We even have chemicals in our brain that aids it. But I wouldn't say that morality evolved because first, I do not think that we can examine it, and second, morality could be something socially constructed through human intelligence rather than morality being a result of evolution in itself.
     
  17. Milton Platt

    Milton Platt Well-Known Member

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    I don't think it much addresses Morality. Something can be immoral and schieve the same results.
     
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  18. The Hammer

    The Hammer Virtue, Piety, Study

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    Other animals also exhibit forms of morality, not just within Ape species like our own, this still points to a biological basis, not a human one.

    Do Animas Know Right From Wrong? | Live Science

    "Until recently, scientists would have said your cat was snuggling up to you only as a means to get tasty treats. But many animals have a moral compass, and feel emotions such as love, grief, outrage and empathy, a new book argues."
     
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  19. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    OK, so both you and I agree that there is some learning involved. The question then is: to what extent is learning involved. Do we intuitively feel wrongness because of something innate within us or through social influence and does this involve all of our sense of morality or just a bit of it?

    Your last point seems loaded to me because who each culture regards as "innocent" has varied throughout history. Those who wrote the Bible didn't regard certain children and animals to be innocent, as an example. The Aztecs didn't think it wrong to kill tribes of people to quench their gods' thirst fro blood, so did were they OK with killing the innocent, or did they even think anybody was innocent at all?
     
  20. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you. Especially with "I don't think we can consciously identify everything that goes into this development."
     
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