Morality & Ethics

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Naga, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. Naga

    Naga Well-Known Member

    Posted by Naga on Jun 13, 2016
    The question goes simply: do you consider yourself to be a moral or ethical person? Do you act morally? Is it even necessary? And what’s it to you?

    I see a ton of conversations about what is moral and what is not, and what is ethical and what’s not – let’s not forget that every now and then we get some debates which have a similar question in its roots, but it never gets addressed directly as I’m doing right now. I’m really interested to hear what people think about all this, but I’d also like you to have some things in consideration.

    As I’ve said, the topic where this becomes relevant really is when we’re trying to excuse or condemn a certain action, thinking it’s something that should be the case for everyone. This is not questioning whether something is legal or not, because legality is not necessarily the same as morality. Things can be legal even without being moral, and vice versa, but this may or may not be the case since we’re starting off by questioning what moral is, and we are aware of things that are legal. It’s naïve to think that everything that’s moral is strictly what’s legal, since there’s a tons of exploits and inequalities itched into almost every system to the point where it’s apparent to all of us. You might be okay thinking that since someone is better than you at something, it’s natural that he’s better payed and has more wealth, but it becomes very unrealistic to think that someone is so much better than you than he holds more wealth than your entire block, town, or region combined. This is, however, not an example that should stir this into political debate, just to allude to justice as a possible backbone of a morality thesis. But in a way, if you’re figuring it out you’d probably want everything based on that truth, states included.

    And backbone to a moral act seems like something you’d have to consider as well. Whether you’re a Christian and follow 10 commands, since God wills it and correct way of acting is already prescribed, or you’re some sort of existentialist and act good because of respect for a fellow man, or you consider moral act to be something else entirely. Or maybe you just don’t think there’s morality at all, since it all seems so different everywhere and you think it all comes down to “common sense”.

    I’m interested because I’m studying Ethics at the moment and I think conversations about it could be fun.
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  2. Uriel

    Uriel Well-Known Member

    Posted by Uriel on Jun 13, 2016
    Believe or not, I figured that out somewhere halfway through your post.

    Anyway, I'm a militant atheist (as in I strongly believe that religion is an outdated concept that is now used purely as a tool for oppression and exploitation, but that's a topic for a whole another thread, which hopefully won't ever come to be) so when it comes to morality and ethics I use my internal compass.

    I generally feel that I should be allowed to do as I please as long as I don't cause problems to others (so for instance burning coal is immoral since in a long run it will fuck many folks over). Same applies to others - they should be allowed complete freedom as long as they don't cause inconvenience to fellow citizens. People excluded from those rules are those who do not respect them, or as I call them, dicks.

    Because of that when I get more change than I should I put in extra effort to get back and return the difference.

    As you can see I can condemn actions of others only when they limit others. Of course, that doesn't stop me from being a dick and raging at people for not doing stuff my way, for instance when I'm driving.
  3. Taek

    Taek Well-Known Member

    Posted by Taek on Jun 13, 2016
    I'd call myself an existentialist I guess.

    But yeah, I have a moral code for myself, and it's a lens I look at others through too. Basically for me it's about trying to go through life with the least amount of friction, by which I mean, I'm not here to try and be a dick to people, I don't hold grudges for any lengthy period of time, I try not to waste time on people I dislike and stuff. I understand that confrontation happens (obviously), and I will uphold my own argument without backing down, but that's something different to me, and shouldn't be seen as dickish (unless of course you are a dick about getting across your own ideals).

    Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, Indomitable Spirit. Those words were hammered into me for years while I trained Taekwondo, and they definitely still resonate with me now.
  4. hamletsmage

    hamletsmage Well-Known Member

    I have a code of morals. They're a bit skewed, but that's because of upbringing and circumstance.

    I was raised Methodist and went to a Lutheran primary school, and some of my morals stem from that. About age 16, I dropped Christianity completely. Quit the choir, stopped going to church, hid the bible in the back of my bookshelf. A lot of that stemmed from reading stuff like "On Walden Pond", and I turned to deism. So, my moral compass is that there is a god, he probably gives a shit enough to keep shit going, but he's not going to care how I live my life so long as I don't cause too much chaos.

    My moral code is basically "don't be a dick, and treat the less fortunate with kindness, for someday, you might need kindness, too". With the caveat of "unless they were a dick first, then let them suffer for a bit before extending the olive branch".
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  5. Naga

    Naga Well-Known Member

    Posted by Naga on Jun 13, 2016
    The problem here, I think, that it's a model of behavior based around legality rather than morality. In a way we're all acting like you've written - we're all free in the silence of law, i.e. the law strictly defines what's wrong - but it doesn't tell how anyone should act, which is great by the way, but it's kinda problematic since its prohibitions also assume some form of basis it builds on. We are free to do whatever we want as long as it's not prohibited by law, that's really the reach of our actual freedom. Moral system is different than legal one precisely because it tells us how we should act.

    But moral freedom is finicky thing. Maybe it doesn't exist if you're not prescribed to some sort of moral system, but it brings an interesting thing to contemplate upon. Is moral the thing that takes limits our freedom away because our way of acting is already axiomatic and designed, or is it a thing that actually makes us free? I'm propagator of freedom of will, and freedom in general. I'd argue that our freedom, in its very core, comes from the fact that future is unpredictable. If we knew what exact consequence our act would have on the future, there would be no freedom whatsoever because of a simple fact that everyone would always make the best possible choice. Morality wouldn't have to exist, neither as a tool for achieving good, or anything else. It ties to the previously mentioned because every act has some weight to it, depending on the situation. And if the only referential value for your choice becomes the law, you might find yourself doing whatever seems best without even scratching the notion of morality - you're just acting in an environment of negative freedom. At that point you're acting on contingent principles. At the same time you're free for being able to act according to those contingent principles (however you see fit), but at the same time you couldn't pose a moral question, or act morally. If there's not an referential point you could look upon to see whether an action is morally right or not, your actions are not morally free. Your actions become a consequence of intuition, emotion, whim and all that other stuff, and it's really hard to say what makes those actions good or bad. The law can tell you, for sure, but you might not.

    And to make things more fun, with an actual example, Id go as far as to argue that even things like saving a baby bunny from falling into a volcano is not a moral act in itself. For it to be a moral act, you'd have to do it not out of convenience or because it's proper, but because it's a general moral principle that should hold for every such act. In the case where you just saved it because it's proper, it was just an ordinary act with a consequence.
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  6. Uriel

    Uriel Well-Known Member

    Posted by Uriel on Jun 13, 2016
    I can't agree. What I meant was that my moral code can't be projected on others. In my opinion, it's immoral to tell others how to live if the way they live doesn't influence lives of others. Laws are problematic since by definition they must cut on freedoms and could be seen as immoral by my definition.

    However, you can't expect internal moral codes to encompass political or legal systems. For me, morality is something very private and constantly changing. It's more of a gut feeling than a codified system that one keeps written down and refers to when in doubt. As such, it can't take into account laws. It's amalgamate of rules like "life is the highest value", "don't steal", "don't hurt other people" and so on. Sometimes rules are exclusive and it's up to said gut feeling to make a decision how to act.

    Having that said or me society legal laws are less important than my moral code. If law ordered me to shot animals I have nothing against I would not. If some wartime edict told me to kill Jewish babies I wouldn't. If it was forbidden to walk naked in my apartment (it is) I still would (I do) because it's not my fault someone is peeking into my private apartment, it's not a public space and I enjoy the view. But I digress.
  7. Naga

    Naga Well-Known Member

    Posted by Naga on Jun 13, 2016
    To be fair whenever it came to referendum in these parts it was always the question whether something is moral or not. Be it abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, or something else. In extension, it's a question of general consensus to what is moral or not. And that consensus may be something that may or may not be moral.

    Problem is that justice and legal systems, in fact, do have some vague conception of morality from which they excuse legality of their actions. It's mostly utilitarianism I'd guess, judging from the image of the world from a global perspective.

    I'm probably disagreeing here because I tend towards axiomatic absolute moral system where morality is something that compasses every beings from the point they become rational, but its laws are not set in stone like some god's instructions, regardless of its absolute nature. It's more of a model of thinking that after a while becomes a priori "gut feeling" for correct judgement. You may have noticed in my first text that I implied that morality might be something outside of humans, well, everything playing with empty equations kinda is.

    Agreeing here. I also agreed that states should never proscribe how to act or be moral, and that's mostly because I completely disagree with the idea of someone following moral reasoning because it's proscribed. Morality, as far as I'm concerned, should be followed out of duty, not out of fear of law or because it's the law.
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  8. Uriel

    Uriel Well-Known Member

    Posted by Uriel on Jun 13, 2016
    You are describing current, and in my opinion flawed, system where law system is based on a subjective morality of majority. Obviously, since I feel someone else morality shouldn't be imposed on others, this is a very wrong approach. I was thinking in terms how the world should be.
    That's a huge problem with law and government in general. It's easy to sway public opinion and get elected if you mix moral problems with politics and as a result we get a shitty law stomping on personal rights. Such things as abortion, marriage or euthanasia should be regulated but the final decision should be left to citizens. In my country, they are trying to ban in vitro because religious majority considers it mass murder... It's a system that borders on parody.
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  9. Naga

    Naga Well-Known Member

    Posted by Naga on Jun 13, 2016
    It's still a world we live in. And that's precisely the reason why I tend towards a defined moral system based on rationality that we could incorporate as source of legitimacy. At no point do I consider that subjective notions of morality should dictate weather something is legal or not. But if the question of weather something should be legal or not comes down to asking the people, and it does, then in my opinion its invalid.

    Why does it matter tho? Precisely because laws were once based around morality, and all laws of today are just a continuation of those laws based on whether they worked or not. I'm not saying that every law was based on certain morality system, no, but every law has to have some sort of justification for itself. And it's problematic if those laws were made under the assumption they're moral, or if they were made with no justification whatsoever. You don't suddenly go and decide to dictate weather it's a human right to have a source of drinkable water or not (over here we have a fair share of problems).

    My stance on it is that legislators, shouldn't at no point have authority to make arbitrary laws that are not valid and justified in some way. And neither should masses. And ideally, they should all be based on perfected moral system I did not yet finish but definitely buy my book when I do.

    I tend to think that me debating moral issues on anime forums is a big deal so I tend to speak like anything I say has some bearing in real world.

    Endangered species right here.
  10. Aylia

    Aylia Well-Known Member

    Posted by Aylia on Jun 13, 2016
    I agree with this.

    Morality is relative to the culture and society that lives in that time. Morals prescribed by Scripture don't have to be obeyed for moral reasons. If the end goal is to appease an arbitrary entity and gain access to eternal life, you can't really claim to be acting out of the goodness of your heart. For people who can reconcile their innate morality with Scripture, however, can be said to be acting in accord with the Commandments, rather than acting because of the Commandments.

    I know that's a narrow perspective but it serves a distinction between those who play at morals and those who actually hold faith in them. Something that Daniel Dennett brought up on the system of faith is "belief in belief", and it was essentially that people believed that they should believe in something for the benefits it provides, without actually believing ultimately in what it represents. The flaw is that people rely too heavily on an arbitrary model for guidance and could consider moral acts that are considered immoral by others, simply because it's written within the same framework.

    My moral system evolved from my parents and my environment. There's also a biological drive for community that brings people together and creates rules and regulations to keep the people safe, healthy and pleasant, because that's how we all want to experience life. I'm as cynical as they get, however, and recognise greed and ambition as innate in some people. Morals are relative to the environment you grew up in, the experiences you have and what you're taught.

    That being said, I possess a duality of morality: I can express and indeed do get very emotionally involved with people, often doing ridiculous things to make them happy. On the other hand I can switch off my empathy for truly depraved people. I can genuinely feel nothing for the misfortune of evil people.
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  11. Uriel

    Uriel Well-Known Member

    Posted by Uriel on Jun 13, 2016
    Have you ever intimately knew evil and depraved person that was suffering? Because if not, then you are probably not able to switch off your empathy. It's just that it's easy to dehumanize someone perceived as evil when he is not close to you.

    This is an interesting turn in the discussion. Have you folks read about SPE? Or "The Lucifer Effect" by Zimbardo in particular? It's very interesting how moral and upstanding people can quickly turn into inhuman monsters. Unsettling, because we like to think that our moral compasses are set and we wouldn't do sick or evil stuff. Yet practice shows that every one of us could find him/herself in a situation where he/she becomes a true monster. Ruthlessly torturing other people, or friends even.
  12. Aylia

    Aylia Well-Known Member

    Posted by Aylia on Jun 13, 2016
    I haven't but I will look at it now.

    I don't really know what my reaction would be to such a situation. I can say I would do this or that, or I would never do that, but under such circumstances I don't really know what I'm capable of.
    This is why I don't assume a moral high-ground. I accept that I have flaws and, yes, have consciously behaved immorally in the past. However, I can recognise something immoral and feel guilt over it.

    And to answer your question, no, I have not. I agree with what you're saying but I have no intentions to get to know people who commit ruthless acts. A rapist is a rapist - he ruined someone's life for a selfish fulfilment. I know i'm dehumanizing a person I have no connection to but I don't feel guilty for that.

    I know someone who committed a lesser crime (robbery) and still feel hope that he'll turn his life around. And I'd like to say I wouldn't have empathy for a rapist or murderer I know well, but I've never experienced that situation. Though I knew a rapist throughout university (we didn't know what he'd done until the end of the second year), and I felt absolutely nothing toward him but hatred after that.
  13. Uriel

    Uriel Well-Known Member

    Posted by Uriel on Jun 13, 2016
    Please do read about SPE. It's a very disturbing stuff because you begin to question the very foundation of your own morality.

    I must say I have a very similar view to yours - I always try to see things from a perspective of the person I'm judging.
    Someone asked me if, given an opportunity I would become kapo in a concentration camp (a prisoner who selects other prisoners for death and in general is a helper for guards in exchange for more food). I said that I would most probably pounce at the chance. If I can have a chance at surviving while not hurting anyone more then they are going to be hurt and only hurting my conscience? Damn right I would do it.
    It was shocking to people I was talking with. They took moral high ground claiming that working for nazis would be betrayal and they would never do that. Funny thing is, I'm pretty sure it would be me who would have second thoughts and they would be the first ones to cut my throat if push came to shove. Humans have magical ability to have totally skewed views of themselves.
  14. GrendelSilmarillion

    GrendelSilmarillion Well-Known Member

    as an ex-junkie I have done some incredible immoral stuff and seen even more during those years
    I would love to share some of these memories with y'all , but there's just too much violence and drug abuse to post such stuff in polite company

    even since I began abstaining from illicit drugs some 10 ish years ago iv tried to put right my many wrongs and or apologise to ppl
    I guess in a way I'm looking for redemption
    I think that's why I espouse the high if unworkable ideals I often preach about
    however at times that deep deep darkness in my soul can be aroused tho I do my best to keep a lid on it but not always successfully

    as for, is morality and ethics necessary? , yes i firmly believe it is , or the whole world may look like one of those shooting gallery's I used to visit

    as for your comment about capo's ppl need to remember that it was by being a capo that some ppl survived the camps and were able to testify against the ss men and women at Nuremberg
    as with anything there were good capo's and bad capo's
    the bad ones were mostly either killed during liberation or put on trial tho some did escape justice
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
  15. ZetsubouKaiji

    ZetsubouKaiji Forum Moderator Database Moderator

    Bumping this thread too for visibility and hoping it will generate some discussion.
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  16. Ethics and morality are somewhat (or maybe completely) subjective I suppose. And something being legal or not certainly doesn't mean it's moral or ethical (although ethics does have more to do with legality than morals. That's why there are ethics lawyers). Slavery was perfectly legal a few hundred years ago but about the most immoral thing I can think of.
    Concerning the current state of affairs in US politics I believe the subject of ethics is almost superfluous at this point, unfortunately.
  17. Also, concerning morality and religion:
    Some of the worst atrocities in today's world and in history were/are done in the name of this or that religion. Where as some of the most moral people I know are completely non-religious. So, as I see it, the equivalency between morality and religion is a false one. If you need the threat of eternal damnation to treat your fellow humans as you yourself want to be treated then I question the authenticity of your so-called morality.
  18. randomredneck

    randomredneck Well-Known Member

    Basing ones entire morality on a theological standard (Yeah, I know big words) is stupid anyway. I believe in God and all that good stuff. But I ain't gonna base my entire moral compass and personality on what He thinks. So long as I'm not murdering anybody, I consider myself pretty moral.

    Which also means I can be the unbridled asshat I love being.
  19. Cheers to unbridled asshats!

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