• Seeking Wisdom
    4
    When it comes down to it the question I am asking is:
    If you are faced with two options and option A is morally right (deemed so by whatever moral theory you subscribe to) and option B is morally wrong, why would you choose option A?

    I am trying to understand what motivates people to behave morally.

    Another different way to look at it:
    Why would you choose to complete a difficult but morally right task over an easier but morally wrong one?
  • BC
    12.6k
    Congruence. (agreement or harmony; compatibility)

    Older children and adults do not arrive at a decision-making crossroads with blank minds. We have put together a moral system; over time it will become more refined as we apply it across a broad set of problems. Our moral system is wired into our emotional system, and it has force. Violating the rules of our moral system generally makes us feel very uncomfortable. Most people would rather forego some minor advantage and be congruent, than be morally uneasy and have the minor benefit.

    So, if you find a purse on a bench in the park, you can either turn it in to the park office, or you can check it out for anything valuable and take those items, then dump the purse in the trash. If your moral system is strong, you will feel compelled to turn the purse in. If you don't, you will feel bad about yourself. Some people have weaker moral systems and rifling the purse for goodies which you keep will cause at most a blip on one's moral radar screen.

    Donald Trump would sift the contents, dump the purse, and be on his erring way. Bernie Sanders would turn it in without thinking twice about it.
  • I like sushi
    4.2k
    That’s a bit like asking ‘If you’re hungry why do you eat?’

    Perhaps you could add more detail? If you’re just talking about morality being about putting in effort for the longterm good rather than pandering to immediate desires, then yeah, that seems a reasonable standpoint.

    I’m assuming you meant something different?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.6k
    "Morally right action" is synonymous with "thing you should do". So whatever you think is morally right is the thing that you think you should do, and thinking that is the same thing as deciding to do it. An intention just is a "moral belief".

    It's important to distinguish between what you think actually is morally right, and what you think is called morally right by others. There is no intrinsic reason to do something just because it's prescribed by some external system of morality. (There might be extrinsic reasons, like keeping favor with people or avoiding punishment, etc). But if you think it's the right thing to do, that just is the same thing as deciding to do it.

    Why would you choose to complete a difficult but morally right task over an easier but morally wrong one? Because you think the easier one is morally wrong and so not the thing to do. Compare: why would you choose to complete a difficult day at work rather than take an easy day off with no excuses? Because you, for whatever reason, think that you ought to go to work; maybe that's a completely selfish reason, maybe it's not, your reasons don't matter for our purposes here, all that matters is that going to work achieves some goal that you think is important to achieve and worth the difficulty. Same thing with any decision, including moral ones. You do it because it's something that you think ought to happen.
  • Seeking Wisdom
    4
    @I like sushi, when you asked if I meant something different I thing @Pfhorrest was able to put my thoughts into words when he/she was talking about extrinsic reasons to be moral. The reason the question came about was because in my University class we were talking about moral theories and those who subscribe to theories involving God(s) or some form of afterlife have the external motivator of preparing for a judgment and I was trying to discover if moral theories that did not involve those beliefs (God(s) or afterlife) had a comparable external motivator to choose to be moral.
  • I like sushi
    4.2k
    We behave as we behave due to theory of mind (‘others’) and empathy being in constant flux with what suits ourselves within a community of individuals.

    We all frame these biological ‘mechanisms’ in different ways and consciously assume different positions and try to align them with others.

    Essentially, theist or not, we all have a cosmogonical/cosmological view of existence and some of us attend to it more readily and in very different ways - on top of this we invest time into people and understand they’re invaluable ‘resources’.

    No matter what we do or think we all abdicate to some ‘higher order’: meaning we’re not omnipotent and so must struggle onward partially blind and ignorant. The dogmatic tend to choose to also hold their hands over their eyes and dwell purely within wishing the world to be more simplistic than it is.

    Does that answer you question? It at least relates to the topic.

    GL at uni btw :)
  • 180 Proof
    12.8k
    In my opinion...human suffering makes a direct moral appeal for help, while there is no similar call to increase the happiness of a man who is doing well anyway." ~Karl Popper

    The reason the question came about was because in my University class we were talking about moral theories and those who subscribe to theories involving God(s) or some form of afterlife have the external motivator of preparing for a judgment and I was trying to discover if moral theories that did not involve those beliefs (God(s) or afterlife) had a comparable external motivator to choose to be moral. — Seeking Wisdom

    Yes, they/we do: the misery suffering jeopardy or exigencies of others.

    Moral agents who do right and refrain from doing wrong because they are given permission or commanded to with the threat of punishment and promise of reward are, to my way of thinking, not acting morally at all, just instrumentally or "following orders". A moral act, simply put, is a non-reciprocal helping response to an other's foreseeable or immediate need/s for help; that one's acts are motivated by reward or punishment here and now and/or in the so-called "hereafter" amounts to a quid pro quo or reciprocal exchange like any self-serving profit-seeking or loss-avoiding interaction - instrumental not moral.

    Moral agents have a moral need for help because they suffer. To the degree they recognize one another as sufferers, moral agents respond to the same need for help in others which also afflicts them. The "external motivator" is the cry for help - heard now or anticipated in the imagination later - indicative of misery that can be prevented or, when not preventable, mitigated, even corrected, or, failing that, protected from getting worse until circumstances become more favorable to adequately help mitigate the need.

    Much more can be said (and, of course, has been); I hope the gist is clear, SW. For a eusocial species like us, endowed with empathy & habits of care, the suffering of others, all things being equal, suffices more often than not as the "external motivator" of our moral agency.

    (Overly simple - yes; but that, I think, is the bottom line.)
  • I like sushi
    4.2k
    With the above response in mind (from 180 proof) it might be worth considering this from a broader perspective too.

    How about asking why people sacrifice themselves for others. Of course, most of us would like to think we’d lay down our lives to save one or more innocent children (but maybe we wouldn’t do so). We don’t need a belief in a god to appreciate the value of life. If we cannot measure the value of life from person to person - at least not in universal agreement - then we can apply reason and say “I’m older and I’ve lived. Those dozen children have just started their journey. Is their combined value above mine?” If the answer is ‘probably’ let us say 80%, we will lean toward putting our lives above their lives. This is clear enough when it is our own children and necessarily extends to other children by association and an understanding that ‘children’ have ‘parents’ like us.

    The ‘moral’ is essentially the fortification of what we deem of value - above and beyond societal ethics and laws. The truly ‘moral’ individual acts as they see fit regardless of the fall out that will come down in them. There is embedded here a hint of martyrdom that is slightly repugnant to my mind.

    The unsung hero shunned in the annuals of history - the unknown soldier - is the perfection of morality. Mythic or not they will never be seen or known by anyone. I do think this explains the attitudes of do-gooders who end up slaughtering thousands and/or torturing a few. They have perhaps, in some cases, invested their actions in to some overarching ‘good’ and are utterly willing to cause great pain and misery (for self and others) because of unerring convictions.

    The very idea of such ‘perfection’ is to my mind the doorway to insanity and the immoral.

    No one said life would be easy! :)
  • alcontali
    1.3k
    Why would you choose to complete a difficult but morally right task over an easier but morally wrong one?Seeking Wisdom

    I recently saw a pack of hyenas on NatGeo Wild which were busy surrounding a lion. One hyena would distract the lion's attention, while the other ones would attack and bite the lion in the back. Lather, rinse, repeat until the lion had lost too much blood and could no longer try to break out. At that point, the hyenas bit his throat and killed him.

    Hyenas are a collaborative species. Therefore, they have collaboration rules, i.e. a morality.

    A single hyena would never be able to bring down a lion, but an entire pack of them will trivially smash a lion to smithereens, and have him for lunch. They are not mistaken nor impressed by the lion's teeth or claws. Their collaboration rules imply that they have obligations towards each other that they readily accept. It simply the name of the game.
  • I like sushi
    4.2k
    Yep.

    That brings mutual benefits, social contracts and game theory into the field of play too.
  • uncanni
    338


    When a person makes a decision to adopt a moral code, clearly it's because they believe it is "right,"
    and because it makes clear what is "wrong" or "damaging" behavior. I'm talking about traditional moral codes regulating our conduct in society--not some amoral/immoral self-serving, anti-social code.
  • I like sushi
    4.2k
    And if they are unwilling and/or unable to question the ‘moral code’ set out by society then I wouldn’t want them on my side when push comes to shove.

    It is possible to be self-serving whilst serving societal needs at the same time. More than that actually! It is prudent to do so and such things should be encouraged before they are stopped.

    Rebellions exist to dispose of what causes harm. Th’ ol’ ‘eggs and omelette’ analogy expresses this well enough. What is ‘wrong’ today may be ‘right’ tomorrow - hence why laws are not completely rigid or dogmatic in democratic societies.
  • uncanni
    338
    And if they are unwilling and/or unable to question the ‘moral code’ set out by society then I wouldn’t want them on my side when push comes to shove.I like sushi

    I wrote, "When a person chooses a moral code...": I had in mind the kind of person who takes philosopy seriously and thinks issue out--not someone who simply does or believes what s/he is told. That's not someone who has made a decision; that's someone who hasn't thought.

    I was not thinking of an unthinking person at all. One has to be able to question the application of a moral code in extreme circumstances that require singular decisions to be made. But bottom line: if one has chosen a moral code carefully with much thought, one knows how to follow it correctly, even if that means you have to violate some part of the code in order to uphold a higher principle of the code.
  • I like sushi
    4.2k
    My post was an amendment to your words not a protest against them.
  • deletedusercb
    1.7k
    If you are faced with two options and option A is morally right (deemed so by whatever moral theory you subscribe to) and option B is morally wrong, why would you choose option A?Seeking Wisdom
    Morally wrong according to whom? IOW it might be that I do something not because it is moral (to others, say) but because I feel empathy for someone suffering, for example.

    Then if I live in a group or culture where certain actions are considered moral and I don't really, deep down want to do them, motivations could include

    guilt
    shame
    egotism - wanting to be seen a certain way.
    fear
    strategic motives
    self-protection
    conflicr avoidance
    sneakiness
    secret goals


    I might, of course, just think it is good. to do that.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I am trying to understand what motivates people to behave morally.Seeking Wisdom

    Morality is all about your personal preferences (due to dispositions, intuitions, emotional reactions, etc.) with respect to interpersonal behavior that you consider to be more significant than etiquette.

    If there's some moral "theory" you subscribe to that's not of your own devising, (a) you're going to defer to it because it's the one closest to your personal preferences, and (b) you're going to interpret the theory to recommend whatever your personal preference of action would be in a particular situation.
  • god must be atheist
    5.1k
    When it comes down to it the question I am asking is:
    If you are faced with two options and option A is morally right (deemed so by whatever moral theory you subscribe to) and option B is morally wrong, why would you choose option A?

    I am trying to understand what motivates people to behave morally.

    Another different way to look at it:
    Why would you choose to complete a difficult but morally right task over an easier but morally wrong one?
    Seeking Wisdom

    I saw a video on Youtube that answered your question for me to my satisfaction.

    The guy was basically saying that there are two moralities, one carried by DNA structure and it is unavoidable to obey. You can't not obey it, and it involves such actions as saving your kids from a burning building.

    This morality simply acts on an unavoidable basis. If you can't do it, you get marred by guilt for the rest of your life, if you fulfill it, you feel good about yourself.

    So the reward-punishment comes from within. No matter how others judge you.

    Societal movements used this reward-punishment system to impress people with societal morals, which people CHOOSE to accpet or not accept; but if they accept them, they will be punished the same way if they don't follow it (I.e. if your peers teach you not to steal, you feel guilty if you steal, and you will feel good when you return a lost wallet. The feelings present regardless of outside praise or condemnation by others).

    The guy on the youtube video was basically saying, that morality is not one, but consists of two parts, and they have different attributes, which he describes, but similar reward/ punishment systems, both systems having rewards/ punishment coming from within, not from the outside world.
  • god must be atheist
    5.1k
    If you want to see the video yourself, please do the search term on Youtube, with this term: "ethics private and public 2019 09 22"
  • Hallucinogen
    182
    I think that people do make some of their choices on logic. Most of what people do is noncognitivism, error theory, mixing different ethical systems together etc. But occasionally, logic wins out.
  • god must be atheist
    5.1k
    But occasionally, logic wins out.Hallucinogen

    This is worth some thought.

    Can you give me an example of a common and not extraordinary logically chosen action by a person who follows ethical logic? I ask because my claim is that ethics has nothing to do with logic or reason in and by itself. Ethics is defined, created each instance that a rule of it is hung on it. Ethics / morals are not discovered or desdcribed as it is found in nature, other than "you have a feeling that some things are right, and some things are wrong". But since beyond this there is no universality of what right or wrong are, I claim logic is not part of ethical considerations.
  • Pantagruel
    2.8k

    Are you asking why some people actually do choose "right" over "expediency"? Clearly because that coincides with a higher value in their personal schema. It sounds more like you are wrestling with the question, "how can there be a higher value than expediency?" That is quite a different question though.

    Nevertheless, the evident fact is that some people do choose to act "morally," to the extent that is captured by the description "enacting a non-expedient value."
  • Seeking Wisdom
    4
    we invest time into people and understand they’re invaluable ‘resources’.I like sushi
    For a eusocial species like us, endowed with empathy & habits of care, the suffering of others, all things being equal, suffices more often than not as the "external motivator" of our moral agency.180 Proof
    Then if I live in a group or culture where certain actions are considered moral and I don't really, deep down want to do them, motivations could include

    guilt
    shame
    egotism - wanting to be seen a certain way.
    fear
    strategic motives
    self-protection
    conflicr avoidance
    sneakiness
    secret goals
    Coben
    The guy on the youtube video was basically saying, that morality is not one, but consists of two parts, and they have different attributes, which he describes, but similar reward/ punishment systems, both systems having rewards/ punishment coming from within, not from the outside world.god must be atheist

    I think these quotes that I have taken from the thread so far beautifully answer the question I am trying to pose. I'm sorry if the segments I took out might allow for some conclusions that are a result of the quotes taken out of context.
  • Seeking Wisdom
    4

    The very idea of such ‘perfection’ is to my mind the doorway to insanity and the immoral.I like sushi
    Can you explain what you meant by this?
  • I like sushi
    4.2k
    Sorry, should’ve been tagged onto end of paragraph really.

    Just meant that people do hideous things in the pursuit of ideas of a ‘perfection’ that can never be known. Nothing new or insightful - sorry!
  • Serving Zion
    163
    It is important to remember that not everyone does choose to do the morally right thing. When that happens, they have calculated that it will benefit them to do immorally.

    The difference is one is a righteous action, the other is wicked. I like the definition of righteousness that says it is "moral justifiability" - or "to be justified, morally". It is a rich definition for this purpose, because we understand that to be justified morally, we need to behave in such manner that the truth proves we have done morality instead of immorality. Therefore, to do immorality, we are forced to reconcile the question "how can we explain our actions as being moral, according to the truth?"

    In order to do immorality, one must choose therefore: oppose the truth (lying etc), or adjust the moral compass (which is a more serious type of deceit - to deceive oneself and to teach others to do likewise).

    When talking of God and the devil, the devil is the spirit of deceit while God is the spirit of truth. (Of course, it is natural that a person who is doing deceit will say they are doing truth, because that is necessary for them to be morally justified - therefore, a person who says they are doing morality in the name of God might well have fallen into the spirit of deceit - in fact doing the devil's work while saying they are doing God's work: Matthew 12:25, John 13:35, John 10:10).

    So in summary, "accountability according to the truth" and "honour" are the reasons that a person would do the morally good thing - where a willingness to forego these is required in order to not do the moral thing (their desire successfully bribes them to corruption - James 1:14-15).
  • uncanni
    338
    I appreciate the clarification.
  • Congau
    224
    You behave morally (according to your own moral system) because you have already decided that it’s the right thing to do. You do what you think is right because you think it’s right. It’s an obvious tautology.

    But then there are those many cases when we know what we think is right, but still do the opposite. How is that possible? Well, there’s the weakness of the moment and the wish for instant gratification, but in that case, it’s recognized as an irrational slip, and it’s easy to dismiss it as such.

    It’s odder when a person seems to admit that he did the wrong and immoral thing but adds that he doesn’t regret it and that he would do the same thing again. This is just a misunderstanding of language, however. He doesn’t mean to say that he actually finds his action wrong and immoral, but that other people do. What he in fact says is that he knows it goes against a moral system that he doesn’t subscribe to.

    A person’s morality is what is right for him, and correctly understood it is also what he considers to be good for himself. A person of strict personal morality thinks that following his own precepts would be good for him (make him more satisfied) and considering that it’s not hard to see why a person might choose to act morally.
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