• TheMadFool
    2.3k
    Humans are homo sapiens or ''wise men'', possessing an intellect that is superior to the rest of the animal kingdom. Even chimpanzees, primates that are 99% genetically similar to humans, are severely handicapped, intellectually.

    With intellect we've made great achievments - everbody knows that. Our intelligence is an essential feature of being human.

    On what I've said above I want to discuss ethics/morality.

    To me, morality/ethics is about distinguishing bad from good and hopefully, when we know that, develop some behavorial guidelines to help us live in a harmonious society. Perhaps this interpretation of morality is too simplistic but given the lack of clarity in philosophy about what morality means allow me to speak in these vague terms. My view on morality is sufficient in clarity for what I want to discuss.

    It has always intrigued me why philosophy is unable to make any headway on ethics. Yes, there are moral theories out there, each appealing in its own way, but none without inconsistencies.

    It could be that ethics is a tough subject and finding answers to moral questions isn't easy but that's not the point I want to make.

    Look at the non-human world. Animals live in harmony with their environment. Every animal behavior is one of necessity. All the actions we believe to be immoral (stealing and killing) are committed only out of need - hunger and survival. This attribute, necessity, mitigates all animal behavior. We know that stealing food in famine (necessity), killing in self-defense (necessity) aren't immoral.

    It seems, therefore, that animals are living lives that are morally sound than humans who have immoral behavior that are not borne out of necessity (greed, lust, jealousy, hate, etc.).

    So, it must be that our idea of morality and what we hope from it would be to eliminate all immoral actions that are unnecessary. When all needs are satisfied immoral people should naturally disappear.

    Isn't this some form of retrogression? Morality is a state of harmony with others and the environment which animals have already achieved. In terms of behavior we wouldn't be able distinguish the world of animals from a perfectly moral world.

    Your views.
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    But ethics is just that space opened up between biological necessity and extra-biological contingency. A life driven by necessity is an a-ethical life, where there is not even the possibility of ethical or unethical action. Ethics moves in a space beyond 'need'. The vaulted 'harmony' you speak of forgets the fact that nature is red in tooth and claw; nature is not some happy place where things are 'in balance'; nature will murder you and your family indiscriminately, watch you bleed out with indifference. But ethics is just that which makes a difference - good or bad.

    Ethical sterility is not a 'perfectly moral world'.
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k
    Ethical sterility is not a 'perfectly moral world'.StreetlightX

    Well said and noted but let me express this better.

    Consider a thought experiment in which you have two objects A and B. A and B are identical in every respect. They feel the same, look the same, taste the same, etc. Would you be able to distinguish A from B?

    No.

    A hypothetical perfectly moral world X would be one in which bad behavior (can't actually call it that) would be only those committed out of necessity. Such a world already exists - the animal world ( Y ).



    An alien wouldn't be able to distinguish X from Y. For all purposes X = Y just as A = B.

    That's what I mean.
  • Andrew4Handel
    469
    Look at the non-human world. Animals live in harmony with their environment. Every animal behavior is one of necessity.TheMadFool

    But that isn't true.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2XnQ4HKSVc
  • T Clark
    3k
    It has always intrigued me why philosophy is unable to make any headway on ethics. Yes, there are moral theories out there, each appealing in its own way, but none without inconsistencies.TheMadFool

    Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

    Please point out the inconsistency in that.

    Look at the non-human world. Animals live in harmony with their environment. Every animal behavior is one of necessity. All the actions we believe to be immoral (stealing and killing) are committed only out of need - hunger and survival.TheMadFool

    This is really not true, at least for animals with more developed nervous systems. Much primate behavior appears to be performed for the same types of motivations human behaviors are - social conflict, anger, greed, fear, desire. The difference is we don't normally hold them morally responsible for what they do. That's a difference in us, not them.
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k
    But that isn't true.Andrew4Handel

    The hippo which killed the impala isn't motivated by hate, jealousy, greed or any of the ''bad'' intentions humans are capable of.

    One can only explain the hippo's actions as motivated in self-defense and the impala did invade the hippo's territory.

    Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.T Clark

    How would you treat a masochist?
    Hurt him?

    How would you like to be treated by a sadist?
    Get tortured?

    The world isn't compartmentalized into neat little boxes as logic would prefer. Moral issues aren't so clear cut to allow for universal principles like the ''golden rule'' to apply.

    Much primate behavior appears to be performed for the same types of motivations human behaviors are - social conflict, anger, greed, fear, desire.T Clark

    Do you deny the wisdom in believing that animals don't attack unless threatened or are hungry or are in heat, etc? The reason for an animal attack is always of necessity, never anything we could describe as ''evil''.
  • Andrew4Handel
    469
    The hippo which killed the impala isn't motivated by hate, jealousy, greed or any of the ''bad'' intentions humans are capable of.TheMadFool

    Maybe these emotions are linked to advanced cognition?

    I wouldn't describe that video as nature in harmony though. I think the reason we don't live in "harmony" with nature is because we live longer when we don't. Although to what extent we are part of nature is an issue.

    I suppose my main moral intuition is that humans are irrational but I don't know what outcomes a purer rationality would lead to. (By rationality I mean applying logic and having sound reasons)

    I think we would have to make a lot of sacrifices to live a more primitive life style which benefits our mental health but shorten our lives.
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k


    Maybe these emotions are linked to advanced cognition?Andrew4Handel

    Frightening possibility. The smarter we get, the badder we become.

    There's a silver lining though. Intelligence is a tool in its own right and, with the right degree of moral guidance, can lead to a harmonious existence - a healthy eco-system at all levels.

    Troglodytes are incapable of evil but they can't do much good either.

    I wouldn't describe that video as nature in harmony though. I think the reason we don't live in "harmony" with nature is because we live longer when we don't. Although to what extent we are part of nature is an issue.Andrew4Handel

    But more harmonious than us humans - in The Matrix, agent Smith compares us to a virus and I don't think he's completely off the mark.
  • T Clark
    3k
    How would you treat a masochist?
    Hurt him?

    How would you like to be treated by a sadist?
    Get tortured?
    TheMadFool

    This is a ridiculous response. I would treat sadists and masochists the way I would like to be treated by them - with kindness and respect. That's what I wrote - "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

    Again - show me an inconsistency.

    Do you deny the wisdom in believing that animals don't attack unless threatened or are hungry or are in heat, etc? The reason for an animal attack is always of necessity, never anything we could describe as ''evil''.TheMadFool

    Well, I think your statement is wrong. Is that the same as denying it's wisdom? Yes, I guess it probably is.
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    A hypothetical perfectly moral world X would be one in which bad behavior (can't actually call it that) would be only those committed out of necessity. Such a world already exists - the animal world ( Y ).TheMadFool

    No. There is no ethics involved in any such behaviour, no more than there is ethics involved in the wind blowing a leaf away 'by necessity'. Such an act is neither good nor bad, and it is simply a category mistake - a misuse of grammar and failure of language - to say so. Again, the 'perfectly moral world' you speak of simply involves no morality. You're mistaking the absence of morality for it's so-called 'perfection'.
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k
    There is no ethics involved in any such behaviour,StreetlightX

    What I think is ethics involves 2 types of behavior - negative and positive.

    Negative behavior is prohibited. No killing, no stealing, no lying, etc. EXCEPT out of necessity (extremes like self-defense, to aid another, etc.)

    Positive behavior is duty. Help the poor, the weak, the sick and dying, etc.

    In a perfect world all needs would be satisfied, thereby the motivation for both negative and positive behavior would be extinct. Everyone would live a life of fulfillment and happiness and all behavior would be only those imposed by necessity - just like in the animal world.

    This is a ridiculous response. I would treat sadists and masochists the way I would like to be treated by them - with kindness and respect. That's what I wrote - "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."T Clark

    But a masochist wants pain. Should he/she then go about, staying true to the golden rule, inflicting pain and suffering to others?

    A sadist derives pleasure from the pain of others. Should s/he then believe this to be true of everyone?

    No moral rule in existence can cover all the bases.
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    In a perfect world all needs would be satisfied, thereby the motivation for both negative and positive behavior would be extinct.TheMadFool

    "thereby the motivation for ethics would be extinct".
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k
    Everyone would live a life of fulfillment and happiness and all behavior would be only those imposed by necessity - just like in the animal world.TheMadFool
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    Couldn't imagine a more horrible kind of life, one driven solely by necessity.

    There's a reason that there's a long running theme in philosophy that links freedom with the ability to act immorally.
  • ProcastinationTomorrow
    41

    Couldn't imagine a more horrible kind of life, one driven solely by necessity.
    Agree entirely - in fact I'd go further and say that I could not even imagine a human life at all, horrible or otherwise - as being one driven by necessity. Having said that, the fact that I cannot imagine X does not mean that X is false, of course.
    Another long running theme in philosophy which bears on this discussion is the compatibilism/incompatibilism debate. We have a picture of the natural world as one which is subject to natural laws and in which each event has its place in a causal nexus. On that picture, every event that occurs is necessisitated by preceding events. Human beings are part of nature, arguably, so whatever things a human being does is just another event in this causal nexus, necessistated by the preceding events. There doesn't seem much room for freedom to get a look in there. The philosophical issue is whether one can accept that metaphysical stance and yet consistently maintain that human beings are ethical beings, and if one cannot consistently maintain both, which one should stand aside?
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment