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Where does your morality come from?

Discussion in 'Religious Debates' started by dan, Jul 16, 2004.

  1. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    I've found many of the topics here deal with the moral value of certain practices. Is this, that or the other thing right or wrong? I'm curious just how people come to these conclusions. As a student of sociology and philosophy I'm intrigued by the reasons people think what they do. I'll provide a framework for various branches of moral philosophy and let me know which branch you subscribe to and why. Ready?

    Deontological Ethics (Duty Ethics): A duty is a moral obligation that an agent has towards another person, such as the duty not to lie. Etymologically, duties are actions that are due to someone else, such as paying money that one owes to a creditor. In a broader sense, duties are simply actions that are morally manditory. Medieval philosophers such as Aquinas argued that we have specific duties or obligations to avoid committing specific sins. Since sins such as theft are absolute, then our duty to avoid stealing is also absolute, irrespective of any good consequences that might arise from particular acts of theft. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, many philosophers held the normative theory that moral conduct is that which follows a specific list of duties. These theories are also called deontological theories, from the Greek word deon, or duty, since they emphasize foundational duties or obligations. Kant is an excellent example of a duty ethics philosopher.

    Divine-Command Ethics: A moral theory or framework according to which actions are right or wrong because of God's commands. Stealing is wrong because the Ten Commandments prohibit it.

    Utilitarianism: A moral theory or framework, especially connected with Mill, according to which actions are right or wrong because of the total happiness they bring about. Stealing is wrong because it makes more people more unhappy than a rule against stealing does.

    Virtue Ethics: A moral theory or framework, especially connected with Aristotle, according to which ethical value inheres in people's virtues. Virtue ethics focuses not on actions but on good and bad character. Stealing is wrong because a person of balanced character would not give in to the temptation to steal.

    Moral Relativism: A moral theory or framework according to which actions are right or wrong because of the beliefs of one's culture or group. Stealing is wrong because our culture doesn't like it.

    To which branch do you subscribe?
     
  2. tigrers99

    tigrers99 Member

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    Well, even the Ancient Jews knew that everyone is born with a conscience- "For when the Gentiles (non-Jews) which have not the law, do by NATURE the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:" Romans 2:14
     
  3. LeaderNotFollower

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    Your discriptions of ethics are all fine for ethical social frameworks, but I think we are also interested in where individuals obtain their sets of values. I believe all individuals receive their values from their enviroment.

    The first, and most important values providers are the parents. It's possible that everyone is born with a conscience, but we do not learn to use this conscience until we can interact with other humans. For example, babies do not feel bad when they cry at night and wake up their parents. If they felt bad, they simply would not cry. Babies will eventually develope a conscience when they can learn from their parents.

    Religion, of course, plays a heavy role as well. If one grows up in a pro-life community, this individual is likely to maintain similar views. If one grows up in a liberal community, their views will, most likely, mirror the community again. The same applies to families and friends. The point is that no one is born with a set of values; one has to develope their own set after gaining knowledge about life.

    As for an ethical framework, I believe that deontological ethics can be compared to communism. In a perfect society, both would function as they were intended. But because humans are inherently flawed, neither will work perfectly.

    I believe utilitarianist ethics suit the masses the best. Build a structure that will suit the largest amount of people, and the largest possible amount of people will be happy.
     
  4. dolly

    dolly Member

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    Moral Relativism.
     
  5. Runt

    Runt Well-Known Member

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    Moral Relativism and Utilitarianism. I think EVERY moral opinion stems from utilitarianism. Essentially, what we as a culture regard as "good" and what we consider "evil" is based entirely upon what we like and dislike, upon what brings us happiness and what makes us unhappy. Take America for example. Flag burning makes many Americans unhappy. These unhappy Americans don't like being unhappy, so they reason that that which makes them unhappy is "wrong". Thus, flagburning is immoral and against the law.
     
  6. anders

    anders Well-Known Member

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    Dan,‎
    I try to avoid labels, but your question is too important not to be answered. It will be a process of ‎elimination, using the alternatives you have given.‎

    I did not ask to be born, or enter any agreement with anyone on entering this world, so I really ‎don’t have any duties to anybody. Deontology is out.‎

    Divine Command is definitely out for an atheist.‎

    Virtue Ethics I discard. If you feed a hungry person out of compassion or out of a felt obligation ‎doesn’t matter to the hungry person. Action is what counts.‎

    Utilitarianism has its points. But who am I to calculate total happiness? If a person steals from me and this is his/her last remaing possibility to get money to avoid starvation, I can’t really condemn it, even if the ‎stealing makes one person happy and another one unhappy. That’s a draw, unless that person has ‎a family to feed. In that case, stealing would be OK.‎

    That leaves Moral Relativism. This is slightly tricky as well, for what if your culture is that of the ‎Thugs, and the best way of honouring your goddess Kali is to kill and rob travellers? On the other ‎hand, if you regard the culture of the country where you live as the norm, this is what your legal ‎system would refer to.‎

    I suppose that would make me a Ultilitarian Relativist. If I were to describe my philosophy ‎without using labels, I would probably say that I try to be as happy and comfortable as possible, ‎without unduly hurting anyone or anything.‎ (I think that this goes well with Taoism, but that is just a label as well.)
     
  7. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    Same here. My morality comes from what will make me happy without imposing on others and what will make my society better as a whole. I do feel as if I have a sense of responsibility to myself and to others. I want a more sane, peaceful, and just world, and my morality comes from what I believe will achieve that.
     
  8. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    Yes, everyone is born with the Light of Christ, but philosophically speaking that doesn't carry much weight. Some Christians think masturbation is OK and others no, so a conscience is obviously a somewhat subjective thing.
     
  9. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    The nature-nurture argument is vastly complex, but I happen to agree that environment has a lot more to do with behavior and values than many believe. The whole argument swings one way and then another every few decades. Right now everyone is coming out of a swing towards nature.
     
  10. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    Why's that?
     
  11. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    Riddle me this, then: the constitutionally acceptable manner in which to dispose of an American flag is to burn it. It is the prescribed way to do it. The problem with relativism is the lack of universality. If I am a relativist what am I to do when I visit South America or Germany? HOw will my actions be judged by other cultures?
     
  12. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    Despite what you believe, you did, in fact, ask to be born.

     
  13. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    double post
     
  14. dolly

    dolly Member

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    Because no one action is solely bad or good. There will always be situations where it can be used in a "positive" manner (or at least in a manner considered acceptable and positive). Also, no two people will have the exact same morality (unless they both take their morality from the exact same source, and still thre is minor differences. One's morals come from their own personal beliefs, their experiences, etc. Morals are opinions. Opinions are relative. Morals are relative.
     
  15. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    double post.. again
     
  16. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    Moral relativism refers to the acceptance of certain actions by a society. It doesn't really refer to the subjectivity of morality, but I see what you're getting at. It could hold, accept I believe that there is a morality that transcends ourselves. I believe right and wrong are not subjective principles, they should govern our actions, not the other way around.
     
  17. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    I can respect that. Consequentialism is something worth considering.
     
  18. dolly

    dolly Member

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    It still works then, because some societys believe that actions like rape and murder are acceptbale, so the people in that society follow through and believe that as well, while in most other countries such things are looked down upon. Society can affect one's morals greatly.

    They should govern our actions, but our actions can and usually do affect our morality. It's a circle.
     
  19. anders

    anders Well-Known Member

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    dan,

    I don't even believe in reincarnation, so what do you mean by "you did, in fact, ask to be born"? I can't think of any religion or philosphy or named superstition with this belief.

    Also, I don't understand what you mean by "the grand scheme of things", or how that is connected to feeding one or more persons. How do my feelings when giving change that scheme?
     
  20. dan

    dan Well-Known Member

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    It may work in your head, but whether or not it is right is another story; but relativists rarely believe in a universal right or wrong.

    If our morality is influenced by our actions how can it really be called morality? Most people accept morality as something that holds true in any situation. If a relativist changes with the wind it can hardly be called a philosophy.

    The truth is you were offered the chance to come to earth and you accepted. It's not a superstition, but the truth. You don't believe it and I'm not going to try to convince you of the truthfullness of it, but I know it to be true.

    Existence is not a series of autonomous events that just happen to connect with each other; existence is governed by something, and philosophy is the search for that something. A relativistic attitude gets us no closer to universal truth, it only keeps our curiousities at bay while we toy with the notion that we have something figured out. The search for morality is the search for a better world, and that goal is the grand scheme of things. Moral relativism, in my opinion, does nothing to further that cause, it only perpetuates our fickleness.
     
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