• David S
    39
    We know humans learn to abstract and learn to separate themselves from others at a relatively early age (2/3 years old) with the so called “Theory of Mind.” Since antiquity man has demonstrated reasoning and logical discussion and debate. Amongst such ideas and discussions the idea of morals and ethics. Maybe some set by religion but other beliefs and traditions too. Maybe it’s just a necessary consequence of language. We know other animals show intelligence and some form of communications with humans (there is certainly communication for all animals of all types).

    But is it inevitable that humans with a complex language would always have constructed such formality? Why when animals are able to form order and organisation without this does the human stand alone.
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    Why when animals are able to form order and organisation without this does the human stand alone.David S

    I think morals and ethics can be instinctual, just like love. The only reason we think about it and animals don't (?) is because we are not as comfortable with it. Another way to say it is, morals and ethics (and love) are not innate to our being so we reach for them.
  • Gnomon
    2.6k
    Why when animals are able to form order and organisation without this does the human stand alone.David S
    Mythically, the root of human ethics is in the freedom to choose what seems to be in the ego's best interest, without regard for the interests of the whole ecosystem. That's how mammal's evolved-over-eons innate-Emotional-directives are subject to being over-ridden by homo sapiens' still naive Reason, based on local & limited information. It's the ago-old conundrum of Nature versus Culture. And it's why we have to use that same rational faculty to get us out of the tight-spots that it previously got us into. :cool:
  • Caldwell
    1k
    But is it inevitable that humans with a complex language would always have constructed such formality?David S
    Yes. It is called the agency. We have the innate agency to form a system that addresses moral concerns. At any given point in time, we have agency. But whether it's undeveloped, underdeveloped, or advanced is a condition brought about by time and civilization.

    Why when animals are able to form order and organisation without this does the human stand alone.David S
    Animals have a different system of existence. We shouldn't be comparing human agency with animal existence. That we are able to extend this notion of agency and acknowledge that animals have intelligence, or whatever, is our own issue.
  • David S
    39
    Interesting views. I agree with the comment on agency. We should not think that we as humans are not animals though and somehow separate and apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We of course act like that due to agency. I think it is the development of language and thus forming Dialog that can be understood by others that allows ideas and thus conversation on right and wrong and this leads to formal constructs like ethics and morals.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    It’s the burden of self. Humans are able to abstractly reflect on their own existence, and existence generally, to think ‘this is mine’. Animals can’t do that. Comes with language and abstract thought. That’s the symbolic meaning of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ in my view.
  • Hermeticus
    181
    That’s the symbolic meaning of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ in my view.Wayfarer

    Indeed. They ate the apple and became self-aware thereafter, immediately proceeding to cover themselves up because they became ashamed of their naked bodies.

    I think in a way it also illustrates that human morals and ethics are not exactly in accordance to nature. In the story, it is proclaimed that the humans are in God's image and that his creation is good. Although they were made that way, they dressed themselves, disagreeing that how they were - naked - was good.
  • David S
    39
    Yes exactly - aside from some natural instinct / behaviour for attracting a mate animals are not body conscious at all. They do not worry how they look as long as they understand where they fit in, The pecking order and of course can challenge that. But other than worrying about food, threats or a mate - ie sex they do not appear to worry.
  • Gnomon
    2.6k
    But other than worrying about food, threats or a mate - ie sex they do not appear to worry.David S
    Yes. That's why humans were forced by their internal rational conflicts to develop Laws, Ethics, and Morality : we worry too much about the unintended consequences of our freedom. :smile:
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    But other than worrying about food, threats or a mate - ie sex they do not appear to worry.David S

    What else is there to worry about?
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    My guess is ...

    Having a comparatively large forebrain that enables counterfactual thinking, planning and predicting, human animals learn to prevent behavioral conflicts which we humans foresee and attribute blame to those who cause or exacerbate such conflicts. Nonhuman animals that are not endowed with human-level foresight, however, cannot prevent behavioral conflicts and instead, IME, by instinct, react with fear or disgust, aggression or play, immediately to corresponding behavioral cues from one another.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Why when animals are able to form order and organisation without this does the human stand alone.David S

    The law of the jungle = No laws; no holds barred death match; nature is red in tooth and claw.

    But so far researchers have failed to locate lawyer bees. Bees don’t need lawyers, because there is no danger that they might forget or violate the hive constitution. — Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens)
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    Why when animals are able to form order and organisation without this does the human stand alone.David S

    I believe that this is simply a matter of (particularly frontal) brain development, which has enabled homo sapiens to develop the "higher mind", which has the capacity to ideate and idealize, and can concieve of such abstract concepts as ethicality and morality represent. Other animal species, though they evince various types of social order, simply cannot concieve of these things, much in the same way that they cannot create or discern art.
  • Michael Zwingli
    417
    That’s the symbolic meaning of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ in my view.Wayfarer

    :love:
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    It’s the burden of self. Humans are able to abstractly reflect on their own existence, and existence generally, to think ‘this is mine’. Animals can’t do that. Comes with language and abstract thought. That’s the symbolic meaning of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ in my view.Wayfarer

    The first step towards a solution to a problem is to realize that there is a problem. Humans have, in a sense, awakened to the fact that all is not well in the garden of Eden. Nature, as it turns out, is hyper-savage - its brutality is infinite, everything and anything is permissible - and this is what humans got wind of after Adam and Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit.

    By the way, I want to pick your brain on something that I just realized which is that being immoral, even in the worst possible sense, even though it breaks moral laws does not violate a law of nature. What's up with that? @180 Proof, care to take a stab?

    I mean, I could torture someone in an unimaginably horrific way but at no point in the process will I actually violate the so-called laws of nature. Nature, it seems, permits, if not that at least doesn't prohibit, evil.

    On the other hand, being good is in almost all cases an uphill task, almost as if a good guy/gal/child is on the verge of transgressing a law of nature.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    By the way, I want to pick your brain on something that I just realized which is that being immoral, even in the worst possible sense, even though it breaks moral laws does not violate a law of nature.TheMadFool

    The modern conception of nature is very different to the traditional.

    In traditional theology and metaphysics, the natural was largely conceived as the evil, and the spiritual or supernatural as the good. In popular Darwinism, the good is the well-adapted, and the value of that to which the organism adapts itself is unquestioned or is measured only in terms of further adaptation. However, being well adapted to one’s surroundings is tantamount to being capable of coping successfully with them, of mastering the forces that beset one. Thus the theoretical denial of the spirit’s antagonism to nature – even as implied in the doctrine of interrelation between the various forms of organic life, including man – frequently amounts in practice to subscribing to the principle of man’s continuous and thoroughgoing domination of nature. Regarding reason as a natural organ does not divest it of the trend to domination or invest it with greater potentialities for reconciliation. On the contrary, the abdication of the spirit in popular Darwinism entails the rejection of any elements of the mind that transcend the function of adaptation and consequently are not instruments of self-preservation. Reason disavows its own primacy and professes to be a mere servant of natural selection. On the surface, this new empirical reason seems more humble toward nature than the reason of the metaphysical tradition. Actually, however, it is arrogant, practical mind riding roughshod over the ‘useless spiritual,’ and dismissing any view of nature in which the latter is taken to be more than a stimulus to human activity. The effects of this view are not confined to modern philosophy. — Max Horkheimer, The Eclipse of Reason
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    @Wayfarer

    :up:

    In traditional theology and metaphysics, the natural was largely conceived as the evil, and the spiritual or supernatural as the good. — Max Horkheimer, The Eclipse of Reason

    That says a lot. No wonder, ancient moral theorists needed God, a being not of this world, to prop up their ethics. Morality is a constellation of laws/rules from another realm, adapted, as best as we could, to our world.

    The sense of right and wrong (ethics/morality) , ergo, cannot have been acquired from this realm which we inhabit. The human mind, the main protagonist in the tale of the good and bad, is then, from some other, as of yet, unknown universe. Could a man who's only seen white swans ever conceive of black swans?
  • I like sushi
    3.9k
    This is basically the root of the difference …

    Having a comparatively large forebrain that enables counterfactual thinking, planning and predicting, human animals learn to prevent behavioral conflicts which we humans foresee and attribute blame to those who cause or exacerbate such conflicts. Nonhuman animals that are not endowed with human-level foresight, however, cannot prevent behavioral conflicts and instead, IME, by instinct, react with fear or disgust, aggression or play, immediately to corresponding behavioral cues from one another.180 Proof

    Might help to think about cold water having a certain solid state and asking why it is solid when other water is liquid. At base it’s still ‘water’.

    Empathy is a feature of more social animals and ‘morals’ require forward thinking and planning (not instinctual habit for survival - burying nuts etc.,.).

    I’d also say that I think stating we ‘need’ ethics/morals is like saying we need ‘arms’. We don’t, but they are pretty useful don’t you agree?

    How are morals/ethics useful? How can ethics/morals cause problems and be a burden? Generally I believe this boils down the same thing quoted above. Humans have a more expansive cosmological outlook so interactions with fellow humans and interacting with the future makes morals/ethics a useful ‘tool’.
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    The human mind, the main protagonist in the tale of the good and bad, is then, from some other, as of yet, unknown universe.TheMadFool

    Traditionalist dualism, such as in the Phaedo, sees the human as a fusion of mortal and immortal - mortal body, immortal psyche (soul). Naturalism, of course, rejects any such notion, with the consequence that h. sapiens forms a continuum with the rest of the animal kingdom. Whereas in Greek philosophy 'reason' was what marked humans off from the animal kingdom. Then of course in the Christian mythology, there was also the myth of the tree of knowledge, which again signifies human's separation from nature - a separation borne of self-consciousness, ownership, the possibility of loss.

    Humans have a more expansive cosmological outlook so interactions with fellow humans and interacting with the future makes morals/ethics a useful ‘tool’.I like sushi

    Towards what end?
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    They ate the apple and became self-awareHermeticus

    Hmmm.... :chin:

    I see the clouds of a rebellion (disobedience) on the horizon...better do something about it before all hell breaks loose. — Yahweh
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Whereas in Greek philosophy 'reason' was what marked humans off from the animal kingdom.Wayfarer

    Indeed! How fascinating. Taking the Kantian route to morality, evil violates the laws of logic if not the laws of nature. Interestingly, Kant was, in my humble opinion, attempting to make moral laws as watertight as the laws of nature, The Categorical Imperative:

    Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. — Immanuel Kant (Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals)

    To be evil, as per Kant, was to violate the law of noncontradiction!

    Very, very interesting.
  • Hermeticus
    181
    The first step towards a solution to a problem is to realize that there is a problem. Humans have, in a sense, awakened to the fact that all is not well in the garden of Eden.TheMadFool
    It also works the other way around: The first step to creating a problem is thinking there is a problem. All was well in Garden of Eden until humans got too cognitive.

    being immoral, even in the worst possible sense, even though it breaks moral laws does not violate a law of nature.TheMadFool
    Morals are an entirely human concept. There are no morals in nature. Again - this is only a problem if you make it one. Either all is just or all is unjust. It's our complicated set of morals that we made up which puts us somewhere inbetween.

    In traditional theology and metaphysics, the natural was largely conceived as the evil, and the spiritual or supernatural as the good. — Max Horkheimer, The Eclipse of Reason
    I don't think this is true. Nature was respected, revered but also feared. Primarily, nature was seen as the enabler of life. All of the first Gods of mankind were aspects of nature deified.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    It also works the other way around: The first step to creating a problem is thinking there is a problem. All was well in Garden of Eden until humans got too cognitive.Hermeticus

    Nice! However, I fail to see how a death match, which life is, can be thought of as "...all was well in the Garden of Eden..."?

    Morals are an entirely human concept. There are no morals in nature. Again - this is only a problem if you make it one. Either all is just or all is unjust. It's our complicated set of morals that we made up which puts us somewhere inbetween.Hermeticus

    I recall @jorndoe had a thread on rats/mice and proto-morality and let's not forget, we're part of nature and if nature somehow made us think of morals, the idea that "morals are an entirely human concept" doesn't make sense.

    That said, in my reply to Wayfarer, I made a mention of how immorality seems to be perfectly compatible with the laws of nature which suggests, to some extent, that morality isn't a feature inherent to how our world works. Maybe humans, some aspects of us (minds?) at least, maybe from a different world. I dunno!


    I don't think this is true. Nature was respected, revered but also feared. Primarily, nature was seen as the enabler of life. All of the first Gods of mankind were aspects of nature deified.Hermeticus

    Opinions vary but you can't deny the simple fact that morality is, at the end of the day, about oughts that arise from ises that are a rich source of dissatisfaction (dukkha).
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Clarification

    1. No trait absent/present in animals which if absent/present in humans would justify the killing of humans.

    Ergo,

    2. Killing animals (if based on the absence/presence of some putative trait) is completely unjustified.

    3. The Name The Trait argument assumes that differences result in differential treatment.

    Ergo,

    4. We don't kill each other because humans are like each other.

    In what way are we like each other that makes us reluctant/unwilling to kill each other?

    5. The only shared trait that seems to matter is life itself.

    Ergo,

    6. Humans hesitate/refuse to kill each other because we're alive.

    7. Animals and plants too are alive.

    Ergo,

    8. We should not kill any living organism (plant, animal or otherwise).
  • I like sushi
    3.9k
    Basic survival through cooperation.
  • Hermeticus
    181
    Nice! However, I fail to see how a death match, which life is, can be thought of as "...all was well in the Garden of Eden..."?TheMadFool
    That's simply due to how we define good and evil. Or rather it's due to us defining death as evil. The other view is that death is a part of life just like anything else and there is nothing inherently evil about it. Then rather than a death match, we're suddenly looking at a game of life.

    Furthermore, I believe morals fail immediately once we take them to the extreme.

    Is it okay if I eat another human being when I'm hungry? No.
    Is it okay if I eat another human being when I'm starving? Maybe.
    Is it okay if I eat another human being when we're both starving? Yes! Why not? Otherwise we'll both die.

    This being my set of morals. I'm sure many of you have different views - which further showcases that these concepts are very limited and are only practical to some degree, in some certain context.

    we're part of nature and if nature somehow made us think of morals, the idea that "morals are an entirely human concept" doesn't make sense.TheMadFool

    You're right of course that theoretically everything is "natural" as we all stem from nature. However mind is a different matter - in that regard you're also right about morals originating from an entirely different world - the world being the fictionary world of mind. Morals do not exist just like how any other thought concept doesn't actually exist. The lion will submit to what actually is: To weapons, to gravity, even a loud noise may scare him off. But ethics and morals aren't something that actually is. You'll have a hard time talking the lion out of eating you just because "it's wrong". To the lion, what you're saying doesn't mean anything. When we talk about morals and ethics, it doesn't mean anything to anyone other than humans. Hence "There are no morals in nature"

    My approach to most topics is very similar: Where did it come from and why do we have it?

    The origin of morals, as I see it, is very clearly logic. Back in the good old day we used to live in packs (we still do but differently). As social animals do, we look after our own pack. This is not yet moralistic, it's simply logical. The group is valuable because it improves chances of survival. The individual is valuable because it strenghtens the group.

    The rise of morals as a concept is just as logical. Eventually, as our cultures and our numbers evolved, you'd have increased encounters with other groups of humans. The problem is that the weapons we employed for hunting worked perfectly well against us as well. Humans relatively early on became the biggest threat to humans. In nature however, there is one exception to predator killing prey: When food is available in abundance. When the belly is full even the lion becomes harmless. And so there were times where humans didn't have to fight each other. And over the course of thousands of years, our food situation drastically improved.

    So tribe started connecting with tribe and eventually humans realized the benefits of coorporation beyond their own tribe. This was the birth of both trade and morals. First of all it was bad to kill other tribesmen because it would provoke the tribe into war. Secondly in order to engage in trade, we'd better know if we can trust our opposite or not. The necessity for a system to measure the trustworthiness as well as the threat of others arose.

    This is good and evil:
    Good, someone who I can trust. Bad, someone who is a threat to me.

    Everything else, the varied aspects of morals and ethics simply evolved from there.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    :up:

    This is good and evil:
    Good, someone who I can trust. Bad, someone who is a threat to me.

    Everything else, the varied aspects of morals and ethics simply evolved from there.
    Hermeticus
    Reciprocity? Cooperation? Yeah, for extrinsic benefits only like e.g. social stability, deescalating violent conflict, trade. Mere (social) animality; not moral, I think, until the benefits sought are instrinsic, or self-cultivating, via (non-reciprocal) practice e.g. sympathetic altruity. (To wit: "What you find hateful, do not do to anyone." ~Hillel the Elder :flower:) A meta-cognitive breakthrough after maybe dozens of millennia of human eusociality ...

    I just realized which is that being immoral, even in the worst possible sense, even though it breaks moral laws does not violate a law of nature. What's up with that? 180 Proof, care to take a stab?TheMadFool
    Correct. Consequences (extrinsic as well as intrinsic) follow decisions (conduct) just as effects follows causes. The ancient Vedic dharma calls this "karma". :fire:
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Correct. Consequences (extrinsic as well as intrinsic) follow decisions (conduct) just as effects follows causes. The ancient Vedic dharma calls this "karma".180 Proof

    Right, Buddhism & Hinduism take a page out of nature's book, specifically the part that's about the laws of nature. I suppose whoever the person was who discovered/invented karma simply drew from natural causality. Fae must've reasoned, causality is an inherent aspect of nature and so, why shouldn't moral actions have moral effects? It seems to fit right in with everything else. The moral universe/dimension has its own version of causality (what goes around comes around; as you sow, so shall you reap; karma).
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    Don't forget the daoist 'yin-yang'. Imbalances cause oppositions-reversals (i.e. complementary effects ... not unlike Hegelian/Marxist dialectics). Laozi's "harmony" (balance, wu wei) is analogous to Aristotle's "golden mean" (arete).
  • Hermeticus
    181
    Reciprocity? Cooperation? Yeah, for extrinsic benefits only like e.g. social stability, deescalating violent conflict, trade. Mere (social) animality; not moral, I think, until the benefits saught are instrinsic, or self-cultivating, via (non-reciprocal) practice e.g. sympathetic altruity. A meta-cognitive breakthrough after maybe dozens of millennia of human eusociality.180 Proof

    I'm not even sure where the line between intrinsic and extrinsic is.

    What's the most baseline intrinsic behaviour there is? Survival, no?
    So all these extrinsic benefits were adopted for an intrinsic purpose.

    Can altruism ever be non-reciprocal? Even if there is no immediate return - helping others inevitably raises my standing with the helped. Does Hillel urge us not to hate for the sake of goodness, or does he urge us because he does not want to encounter hate himself?
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