• F.C.F.V.
    9
    Hi! Notwithstanding the title of this might seem so that the present discussion is fundamentally concerned to morality or ethics, it is, however, about how institutions are constituted through history and how they evolve; since what I propose here is to consider institutions, and so morality while and institution (and it is mainly considered an informal institution, D. North would say, and that is not free of criticism, indeed), I think it is not appropriate to set it to ethics category. So, I decided to set it to General Philosophy one. I hope it is a good choice. Now to my main point here:

    I've first seen this quote a time ago watching a lecture by professor Hayek. Briefly, he seems to state that morality is, at last, an emerged social institution, not a result of a human design, but a result of non-intentional consequences of human action. It means that the evolution of societies is somehow similar in principles to biological evolutionary theories, which is guided by some sort of natural selection. Those societies that came up to developed emerged but bad institutions just have failed, resting to our time those that, we could say, were approved in the test of time and adapted to general circumstances. Thus, the rules of morality are not the conclusions of our reason. What do you think? Is this evolutionary approach reasonable to the studies of social sciences?
    Forgive me for any possible typo.
    Thank you!
  • Mentalusion
    93
    There was a relatively popular trend of "social Darwinism" shortly following and capitalizing on the popularity of Darwin's theory of natural selection/evolution. I think most people today would agree that theory was severely misguided and led to dangerous results. The main criticisms, I believe, relate to (1) the dis-analogy of social processes from biological processes and (2) the tendency of people to misinterpret what the theory of natural selection actually claims. A contemporary example of this is Richard Dawkins who proposes a kind of evolutionary theory for "memes" which he basically understands as the cultural analogue to genes in science. Most people like what Dawkins has to say about genes inherent tendency to self-propagate, but criticize and reject his extension of that biological theory to social phenomena.
  • F.C.F.V.
    9

    I think it differs from social Darwinism in the extent that this social phenomena, which I just described, is neither concerned to the individuals itself nor to a particular nation or commonwealth, much less to a certain race. What it states is essentially a theory of the process that lead us to this state of affairs in which all societies currently are.
    For instance, take an institution as the State, or family, or language structure (take Chomsky's theory) etc; or any institution that exists, similarly to the respect of particular circumstances, commonly or in the majority of all societies.
    What I stated about natural selection was just an analogy and does not belongs to the original discussion, although regarding to the fact that it is well known as an evolutionary approach indeed.
  • Mentalusion
    93


    The idea was just that there are long standing and, I believe, unresolved and unresolvable criticisms of any social evolutionary theory because of the disanalogy of biological facts with social "facts". The former are capable of discrete definition and identification. The latter, I think cannot be discretely determinable. On the contrary, almost all social concepts, including all concepts of social institutions, are subject to a range of contested interpretations. Further, even if people could agree at some high level of generality about what the relevant concepts of given social institutions are, they will always disagree about how those concepts apply or should apply in actual practice. This makes analyzing or even talking about social phenomena on a strictly scientific basis impossible. This is because all social institutions are essentially normative, whereas scientific facts are not.
  • F.C.F.V.
    9
    The former are capable of discrete definition and identification. The latter, I think cannot be discretely determinable.Mentalusion

    I understand. Do you think that the difficult to deal with social sciences rests ultimately on a epistemological problem?
    I would ask then whether do you agree that social phenomena would have so high level of complexity and difficulty regarding to duly acquisition and justification of its knowledge so that it would require a even more complex mind to understand it? As if a complex system could not be so by which it could understand itself.
    And last, how do you think it should be the right methodology concerned to social phenomena?
  • Mentalusion
    93
    I don't see there being any real epistemic issue (over and above issues with epistemology generally) as long as one understands that what it means to "know" about social phenomena is a different and less rigorous kind of knowledge from science or math. But that's why the analogy to biological or other scientific models breaks down in the case of social sciences. In terms of methodology, my initial intuition is that statistics is good way to investigate social "facts" with some degree of precision. I'm not sure how helpful that methodology will be though in the case of morality treated as a social institution since, unlike social statistical facts, social institutions, as I noted, are inherently normative. Statistical facts might provide some evidence for arguing about what those institutional norms should be, but they won't determine them.

    Further, since statistical methods are already in frequent use by social scientists, I wouldn't think you'd need a more complex mind to deal with them. Our present minds should work just fine since we're only trying to understand behavior that arises from minds of similar complexity.
  • Jamesk
    317
    Reason is highly overrated and only Hume had the guts to stand up and make the point. We are an irrational species because we are not ruled by reason.
  • A Seagull
    621


    If social Darwinism or evolutionary ethics do not fit in with the norms of ethics or morality it would seem far more sensible and rational to presume that it is the norms of ethics and morality that are in error than the evolutionary social theory.

    The primary reason for this is that evolution is based on a solid foundation whereas normative ethics is not.
  • Tzeentch
    1.4k
    Morality; good and evil, virtue and sin, is a universal, absolute concept. It cannot change. It simply is. Mankind can try to interpret good and evil and act accordingly, but morality itself does not change. As a result, humans often get it wrong. Society may try to interpret morality differently to justify their actions in view of their situation, but again, this is not how morality works.

    Example:
    When faced with famine, a warlike society may look at their neighbour's land and conclude it should rightfully be theirs. So the societies go to war and the warlike society wins. To justify their actions they may say that they committed no evil, because they were faced with famine. They changed their interpretation of morality according to their situation. However, this doesn't change the fact that they violated two universal rules of good and evil: "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's assets". Two very sensible rules, regardless of whether you are a Christian (I am not).

    So no, morality is not a social construct and it does not evolve. Only our interpretation of it changes, which means we vary the degree to which we are wrong about the nature of good and evil and the nature of our own deeds.
  • Jamesk
    317
    However, this doesn't change the fact that they violated two universal rules of good and evil: "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's assets". Two very sensible rules, regardless of whether you are a Christian (I am not).

    How do you support this conclusion? Where do your 2 universal rules come from? As a species we have an amazing propensity for killing, we are the best on the planet at it. Jealousy also seems to be a powerful, natural emotion felt by all.

    Morality and the concept of good and evil only seem to emerge as a social response. Moral considerations to one's family are the most simple. When applied to the tribe it gets a little more complicated, however the basics are the same because the tribe is the family extended. Once different tribes cohabit, far more complex rules are needed. The more advanced the society becomes the more technical the rules need to be.

    It is true that "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's assets" are probably the first and most important rules we develop however that does not make them universal.
  • Tzeentch
    1.4k
    Would you agree that if the entire world took these two rules to heart and would follow them devoutly, the world would be a better place?
  • Jamesk
    317
    It really isn't relevant if I agree or not. I probably do agree with the second one, at least to some degree, however to say that all killing is wrong seems a bit of stretch to me. When you say follow them devoutly do you mean 'fanatically'? Is there a difference? I don't think that we should do anything out of fanaticism, ever.
  • Tzeentch
    1.4k
    Devout means with deep commitment. Fanaticism requires an element of excess, so they are not the same. And in what instance would you say murder is justified?
  • Jamesk
    317
    Killing is not the same thing as murder.
  • Tzeentch
    1.4k
    When is killing justified?
  • Jamesk
    317
    When we justify it.
  • Tzeentch
    1.4k
    You're purposely dodging my question, I would assume because you are afraid what I might do with your answer. I'll put it plainly:

    You disagreed with the statement that all killing is wrong.

    So when is killing not wrong?
  • Athena
    1.9k


    Killing is not wrong when it is done to maintain a moral order. I like the Aztec game plan. You screw up, you become a slave. You screw up again, you are sold to someone else. You screw up a third time you become a sacrifice to the gods.

    However, we know the Aztecs failed. Using your neighbors to sacrifice to the gods leads to enemies and that makes their survival need the destruction of your civilization. But is it possible they may have done better if they had assimilated their neighbors, and limited their sacrifices to the few who violated the moral code?
  • Athena
    1.9k


    "Morality and the concept of good and evil only seem to emerge as a social response. Moral considerations to one's family are the most simple."

    :gasp: That is what I thought until enduring a bad marriage for 21 years. In the recent past it was pretty easy for a man to have a wife for life, because females didn't have many options other than to be supported by a man. Especially not if they had children. That seems to have lead to a lot of miserable marriages and we are still struggling with an adjustment to our changed reality. It is really nice to see fathers in the park with their children today. Now was not common 40 years ago.
  • Tzeentch
    1.4k
    The use of the term "moral order" seems rather vague here, but you seem to be suggesting that killing as a means of maintaining public order, capital punishment, is not wrong. I'll disagree with this on the basis that two wrongs cannot possibly produce a right. In your example, you would kill a killer, committing the same act you wish to condemn him for. And to what end? Retribution? Terror? Utility?
  • Jamesk
    317
    Our modern times are definitely a challenge. The societies I was referring to tend to marry in. The husband would have been a first or second cousin and so would be under the same family law as the wife. I have studied a Bedouin village in Sinai for many years now and the women have a lot of strength. The divorce rate is like in New York, around fifty percent and the only real fear the women have is that their husbands will leave them or take a second wife.
  • Jamesk
    317
    In self defense. In order to ensure the survival of the society. As punishment for truly heinous crimes. Those are the immediate instances where I can find justification for killing and no grounds for your argument.
  • Athena
    1.9k


    It is said, we punish people so others will fear the punishment and avoid the wrong. By the way, I think the present judgment is terrible, but for the sake of argument, other points of view need to be brought up so I will be that contrary voice in a discussion that is important to me. I was once headed for being a probation officer, but after researching this choice, I realized I am opposed to what we call criminal justice in the US the correction institutions that have been created.
  • Mentalusion
    93


    Maybe, I wasn't making any claims about either evolution or morality being in error, only that the attempt to find an analogy b/w the theory of biological evolution and the development (if there is any) of morality is going to fail because the types of phenomena they deal with are decidedly different. Evolution deals with biological facts, whereas morality deals with norms. The only error is trying to extent theories designed to explain phenomena in one set to the other. It doesn't follow from the inability to make that analogy that there are, therefore, no possible grounds for finding epistemic or other kinds of justifications for moral norms. It's only that the attempt to explain moral institutions via evolution doesn't seem like it's going to be useful.

    The primary reason for this is that evolution is based on a solid foundation whereas normative ethics is not.A Seagull

    I'm not sure why you would assume this. As noted, they're entirely different kinds of phenomena, so the "bases" for each are also going to be entirely different. Perhaps you have an argument for privileging one over the other, though. If that's the case, what is it?
  • Athena
    1.9k


    Are you speaking of a society where women can be stoned to death as it is explained in the Christian Bible, and was commonly practiced throughout the ancient world, where Jesus steps in and says only those without sin should throw the stone? That would be a very radical idea for people who fear the punishment of God because this God destroyed entire cities when He was displeased with people. In fact, He almost destroyed all life on the land of the earth with a flood because humans had displeased him.

    How about defending the family's honor by killing daughters who might seek the company of men? Such acts are strong in maintaining social order and we can call this maintaining moral order and hold the notion that is about pleasing a god, not about men ruling. Pleasing the god is essential because this is a jealous, revengeful, punishing and fearsome god. Terrible things will happen if this god is displeased and that is a matter of reasoning for those who believe their holy book is the word, God, right?
  • Tzeentch
    1.4k
    To terrorize people into following the rules can only be seen as wrong. It is the sort of practice that made Stalin's regime so terrible. If terror is the objective, I cannot see your argument that killing in this instance is not wrong.

    This is where we need to make a distinction. Do you think that it is okay to kill in self-defense, or do you think you're allowed to defend yourself and the attacker's death may be an unintentional side-effect? The latter is a very reasonable stance, and I would say in such an instance we are hardly talking about killing in its intended context. With the former I cannot agree, since I do not believe that if you can overpower your assailant, you should then kill him because you can. If you overpower your assailant and you then kill him out of spite, vengeance, dominance, pride, you're committing a wrongful act that cannot be justified.

    The survival of a society is an interesting point, but again hard to defend. I used such an example in my first post, in which a warlike society facing famine chose to go to war against another society. Clearly this cannot be justified, because why should one's misery be reason to impose even more misery on another?
    If you're talking about a society defending itself against aggression, we are back to the point that was made about self-defense. In such a situation the society should defend itself, and people may die as an unintended side-effect of their defense, but it would be wrong if a society would then overpower their enemy and exterminate them.

    The issue of killing as punishment has been addressed in my reaction to Athena, but to recap: Two wrongs can under no circumstances produce a right. Any goal such a killing may have; terror, revenge, utility, are clearly no moral grounds for such an act.
  • Jamesk
    317
    Honor killings are rare but not unheard of, every society has it's share of fanatics and nut jobs, remember how much senseless family violence and abuse happens in the west.

    No one really follows the literal translations of the bible anymore, at least not the educated. Religious fanatics are a problem everywhere.
  • F.C.F.V.
    9
    I think one of the main aspects of this discussion is also how moral values happen to be what they are, how they are created and by whom. Thus, this is not ultimately a matter of what is right or wrong, but how we come to think what morally right and wrong are, and whether what we think of them is what they really are.
  • Athena
    1.9k


    I am not so sure we want to get too far from nature when making moral judgments? As I understand, a moral it is a matter of cause and effect.

    I would like to see our morals based on what a child needs to have a good life as an adult. Violating our human nature may not be a good choice, and our industrial society has violated human nature with obviously negative results. In the past, we may not have had better choices but technology has changed our choices and our future may be far different and could be better for our human nature than our past. That makes a better understanding of our human nature even more important to our moral decisions.
  • Jamesk
    317
    I was not claiming that killing can be good, only that it is not always evil. I thought that your point was that it is always evil.

    With self defense, the person would be dead either way if you intended to kill them or if it was by accident so the loss is the same. What about accidental killing in general? The only way to judge the morality of the agent that kills is by judging his response to it. If he feels remorse or not.

    Someone who takes the life of another with no remorse is probably what we could class as 'evil'.
  • Athena
    1.9k


    :grin: I hope I am not too much of a pain in the ass to all of you. I agree there are extremists everywhere and that secular education has radically changed our reasoning. Personally, I believe there are problems with religious reasoning. However, the title of this thread is

    "The Rules Of Morality Are Not The Conclusions Of Our Reason"

    My point is- our awareness of the rules is about our reasoning. We may have a good base for reasoning or a bad base for reasoning, We may have good higher order thinking skills or we may not. But how we come to moral decisions is a matter of reasoning. :lol: it might be as poor reasoning "because the Bible says so" but I think we do rationalize our understanding of morality. However, up to age 8 we learn without making judgments or having much discretion in what we accept as truths, and we tend to go through life proving ourselves right, and avoiding questioning if what know is right or wrong and that would make Hume's statement correct.
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