• Echarmion
    2.1k
    This topic is about the borders of the community, both the figurative and the physical ones, and how our moral philosophy should deal with these borders.

    The two big competing groups of moral philosophies are the deontological and the utilitarian approach. Both, it seems to me, presuppose an already delienated community as their frame of reference. But does either approach provide a clear answer as to how to draw the borders around that community? This is not an academic question either, as it impacts important fault lines in current moral and ethical discussions: Are animals part of the community? Are future generations? Do morally relevant sub-communities, like nations or cultural groups exist? Racism is of course one of the common ways in which human beings are defined out of the moral community.

    Are there moral philosophies which, in your opinion, provide an adequate method to determine the borders of the community? Are perhaps virtue ethics not just relevant, but unavoidable when it comes to this first step?
  • James Riley
    1.1k
    Are there moral philosophies which, in your opinion, provide an adequate method to determine the borders of the community?Echarmion

    The border of a community is found at that point where the community is no longer availed.
  • T Clark
    5.4k
    Are there moral philosophies which, in your opinion, provide an adequate method to determine the borders of the community? Are perhaps virtue ethics not just relevant, but unavoidable when it comes to this first step?Echarmion

    The most obvious method to determine borders is possession. Is that a moral standard? It certainly has moral elements.
  • Echarmion
    2.1k
    The most obvious method to determine borders is possession. Is that a moral standard? It certainly has moral elements.T Clark

    Possession of what though?
  • theUnexaminedMind
    12
    I'm new to philosophy so I apologize if I don't use appropriate or proper terminology.

    As far as I understand the original post, and speaking to both the figurative and physical meanings, historically we have records for how we've drawn/denoted our boarders, and present day we can easily see how we organize ourselves. As individuals we paradoxically have the power to bring about communal change and at the same time have very little impact on society (especially now as a global society) as a whole. So, I think a more important question is, how do we want to be in the future/ how do we want to create our future?

    Could we combine the deontological and utilitarian philosophies somehow? (again, don't know much about either)

    Are perhaps virtue ethics not just relevant, but unavoidable when it comes to this first step?Echarmion

    As far as I can see, we (as an increasingly global society) have been implementing various philosophies including virtue ethics into most communities. So, I will agree that they may well be unavoidable or somehow linked/byproduct of progress just in the sense that they are desirable communal traits.

    Hope that makes sense. Glad to be part of the discussion.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    880
    The two big competing groups of moral philosophies are the deontological and the utilitarian approach. Both, it seems to me, presuppose an already delienated community as their frame of reference. But does either approach provide a clear answer as to how to draw the borders around that community?Echarmion

    Utilitarianism does to some extend I think, in that it has an in theory simple measure (i.e. pain/pleasure) that isn't restricted to an already delineated community. It's "just" a matter of figuring out how to apply that measure consistently... which is at the same time its biggest problem, it's wholly impractical to do so. That and the fact the theory doesn't really do anything if you don't already agree with the measure it assumes.

    Are there moral philosophies which, in your opinion, provide an adequate method to determine the borders of the community?Echarmion

    No I don't think so, we just decide... according to our progressing insight perhaps, to add some very vague qualifier to that.

    Are perhaps virtue ethics not just relevant, but unavoidable when it comes to this first step?Echarmion

    Well the focus is on the individual acting in a certain way, so that's your border, a border around 1 person. Or you could say that it promotes moral action without borders because it focuses on individuals acting good regardless of borders and circumstance...
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    211


    Interesting question. I do not believe moral philosophy offers a good solution to the question of defining communities.

    To my mind, a challenge for moral philosophy is that it sits out in the ether, untethered from material reality. Kant attempted to base all religion upon the moral sense, seeing it as a transcendental light in the human soul.

    We now see the moral sense as an evolutionary adaptation, and yet moral philosophy has done little with this revelation. There needs to be a turn somewhere. Something similar to Kant's recognition that the mind isn't a passive piece of wax receiving sensation, but something with structure that actively constructs perception. This appears to be true of the moral sense as well. Humans have developed structures for making sense of moral judgements in the same sense we have a visual cortex for making complex meaning out of light waves. Animals like dogs show a similar, less mature sense of fairness.

    Moral philosophers, at least the ones I've read, and I'll admit I had some graduate work in ethics and have done some reading but am by no means an expert, seem to ignore the role human nature plays in morality. A system that doesn't take account of the fact that people are more likely to sacrifice for others the more genetic material they have in common is a system doomed to faliure. Altruism tracks across cultures with proximity of relationship, with parents willing to sacrifice the most for their children, cousins being more likely to sacrifice themselves for each other than friends, and phenotypically different people less likely to show altruism altogether.

    Raising children in creches might work fine in a system built up from first principals, but runs head long into human nature. For all the problems with how tedious I've found his recent books, I think Steven Pinker does a great job exploring this problem in his The Blank Slate. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any great solutions.

    I suppose another problem is that the moral sense is harder to measure than sight, less developed in animals making experiment harder, and more tied up with the recursive system of conciousness. It makes it hard to analyze from a biological perspective.

    Communities obviously can be constructed from a morality based on reciprocal altruist (the other plausible antecedent for the evolutionary origin of the moral sense aside from shared genetic material). Identity is something that is highly malleable.

    The problem I see with modern pluralistic Western states (no longer nation states) is that the forces advocating for the dissolution of national borders are also trying to dissolve group identity, and advocate for multiculturalism. It's hard to see what ties citizens together in the ideal borderless state aside from the fact that they pay taxes to, and recieve services from the same entity. Assimilation is now frowned upon. Redistribution is argued for in more ethereal terms, which I'd argue makes people resist it more.

    National borders are an interesting case because they represent hard physical borders that also reflect identity. They're also interesting because support for them has flipped in the last 30 years. The Right used to champion the free movement of capital and labor and oversaw a massive, demographic transforming surge of migration from 1970-1990 across the West. Then the sides flipped. The Left had fought mass migration as undermining labor, but now became its chief champion, while the Right has totally soured on the free movement of labor if not capital.

    Fukayama's chapters on identity construction in Political Order and Political Decay are instructive I think. I can't posit a solution because the nature of the moral sense is still fairly nebulous, something neuroscience and psychology have not teased out, but I think any advance in moral philosophy to make it more relevant needs a Kantian turn.

    However, as political division accelerates across the West and Liberalism is beset by the greatest internal challenges since the early 20th Century, both right wing and left wing intellectuals seem to be intent on destroying shared national identity. Shared identity, the "moral circles" of neuroscience and psychology vis-a-vis altruism are being dissolved to take advantage of grievance.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    880
    Moral philosophers, at least the ones I've read, and I'll admit I had some graduate work in ethics and have done some reading but am by no means an expert, seem to ignore the role human nature plays in morality. A system that doesn't take account of the fact that people are more likely to sacrifice for others the more genetic material they have in common is a system doomed to faliure.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Just want to say that I agree with this! It seems so obvious yet seems to be ignored a lot of the time...
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.