• TheMadFool
    6.6k
    This maybe a biased, prejudiced, one-sided, point of view on my part but I've come to believe that people, some, maybe nine out of ten of us, have lost hope with mankind. There's a general tendency to distrust, view with an eye of deep suspicion, fellow members of the human race.

    Some may object and claim such an outlook isn't justified - "there are good people out there" is something I've heard a lot - but the problem is, in very simple terms, no smoke without fire - there's usually a grain of truth even in the mother of all falsehoods. Indeed I won't, actually can't, deny the existence of good people but what I can deny is their ability to counter the forces of evil, produce enough good to dilute the negativity emanating, like a suffocating vapor, from the multitude of morally challenged folks that inhabit the Earth. I'm including myself in this "multitude" as I suppose you would too but that's not important. What's important is the existence of this cynical viewpoint - if everything was/is alright with us, it shouldn't be part of the wolrdviews in circulation.

    All in all, things are not alright with us. Dare I say we're afflicted with an illness of a moral nature? We are, like it or not, bad, despite our protestations that we're not. It appears then that we're in a not so admirable position - to be bad is what we want to avoid but given our nature it requires that we avoid ourselves - an impossibility.

    However, all is not lost. There appears to be, in my humble opinion, a silver lining on the edges of this dark, ominous cloud that looms over us. Notice that the spark of morality is found only in humans. No other organism on Earth has anything that resembles a moral theory of the kind humans have built. Granted that all moral theories that are our handiwork are deeply flawed in one way or another but do give the devil his due - take note of the singular fact that only in humans has the light of morality been lit. Given this is so, I liken this situation we find ourselves in to one in which a group of people are lost in a dark cave and one person, lucky/unlucky( you be the judge), is in possession of the single flashlight that eventually illuminates their way out of the blackness of the cave.

    I accept, wholeheartedly, although with much sadness, that all people are not good and that, to our collective dismay, it actually maybe true that most people are bad, but I receive some comfort, as little as it may be, from the realization that all that's good in the world comes from mankind.
  • unenlightened
    5k
    It is alas the Christian tradition to rush to judgement, notwithstanding the man saying quite clearly 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.' (Matthew 7.1)

    It comes of worshipping the Great IAM, and though we are nominally a secular society, the finger wagging Christian remains in the unconscious of the supposedly rational atheist. But let us comfort ourselves with the understanding that the individual is almost entirely helpless for good or ill, and everything one might achieve is with the assistance of the mass of society and the generations of the ancestors. Those traditions that venerate the ancestors have the more realistic view, for the ancestors have de-stoned by hand every arable field that grows our crops, and laboured endlessly to glean the little knowledge we have accumulated.

    Literally nothing can be done without cooperation, we cannot even feed ourselves.
  • Pantagruel
    975
    I receive some comfort, as little as it may be, from the realization that all that's good in the world comes from mankind.TheMadFool

    Fresh air and clean water are good.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    Why cooperation? What does it have to do with morality?


    Fresh air and clean water are good.Pantagruel

    Are you speaking metaphorically? I don't get it.
  • Pantagruel
    975
    Are you speaking metaphorically? I don't get it.TheMadFool

    I'm in the same boat when it comes to your topic....

    Just because one doesn't have a moral theory doesn't preclude one from acting morally. Things may be good and bad in a natural way. If you are saying that only man can formulate the idea of good, that is one thing. But saying the good is man seems to me the height of anthropomorphism. Unless you were being ironical?
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    But saying the good is man seems to me the height of anthropomorphism.Pantagruel

    Is there any creature, other than man, that has a moral sense? :chin:
  • Pantagruel
    975
    I don't see human beings as being toto caelo different from other creatures in this respect (or many other respects, for that matter). What we call "morality" simply aligns with a naturally beneficent (or maleficent) disposition which results in behaviours that are either communally beneficial, or communally destructive. This seems to me as intuitive as saying that moral sense suddenly emerges when the human brain achieves a certain level of sophistication (e.g. Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis, what have you).
  • opt-ae
    33
    If there is any greater evil, that is good in it's ill-doings.

    I think all evil people use good with evil-intent or are mostly unsuccessful, the original post is confusing morality of all with morality on Earth (suggesting that Earth is one of the few evil's that were successful).

    If we find the root of any human's power, that likely didn't begin with ill-doings, but maybe evil-intent (there are cases where that did.)

    The universe is mostly good, but humanity's planet-upkeep is mostly evil, and people have lost their passion for good; so much so @theMadFool declares that good is something redundant.
  • Athena
    807
    Hum, I would say the op is a little heavy-hearted. The animal kingdom is full of tricksters who deceive each other and steal from each other and may even do worse things such as kill and eat a neighbor's babies. We don't have to be too morbid about our human failure to be saints, but with a light heart just accept that is the way it is and then take steps to protect ourselves and enjoy the game of life. Like in the game of Monopoly the object is to win, so consider life as a game we play to win and how much fun would it be if there were NO challenges?

    PS I do not believe anyone is purely evil or purely good. Good people do bad things and bad people can do good things. It is way too simplistic to label people good or bad. I like Pantagruel answer.
  • Athena
    807
    t is alas the Christian tradition to rush to judgement, notwithstanding the man saying quite clearly 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.' (Matthew 7.1)

    It comes of worshipping the Great IAM, and though we are nominally a secular society, the finger wagging Christian remains in the unconscious of the supposedly rational atheist. But let us comfort ourselves with the understanding that the individual is almost entirely helpless for good or ill, and everything one might achieve is with the assistance of the mass of society and the generations of the ancestors. Those traditions that venerate the ancestors have the more realistic view, for the ancestors have de-stoned by hand every arable field that grows our crops, and laboured endlessly to glean the little knowledge we have accumulated.

    Literally nothing can be done without cooperation, we cannot even feed ourselves.
    unenlightened

    I think you are being very nice to Christians by not mentioning the superstition.

    Zoroastrianism was a Perian religion before Christianity and it imagined two forces, one of good and one of evil. This a belief in supernatural powers that got added to Judaism. It is my understanding Judaism is not polarized good and evil but a continuum of good and bad. Judaism and Christianity would then be very different religions and what happens if we remove superstition from the religion?

    Romans did not have the words to convey Greek concepts and they had to invent new words before the Greek created religion could be accepted by the Romans.

    I want to mention the pagan good man is not the same as a Christian good man.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    I don't see human beings as being toto caelo different from other creatures in this respect (or many other respects, for that matter). What we call "morality" simply aligns with a naturally beneficent (or maleficent) disposition which results in behaviours that are either communally beneficial, or communally destructive. This seems to me as intuitive as saying that moral sense suddenly emerges when the human brain achieves a certain level of sophistication (e.g. Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis, what have you).Pantagruel

    Well, what you say is correct - morality is, at its core, about harmony - but I see harmony of two kinds if that's even the right way to look at it. First, there's the "harmony" of opposites, the so-called duality that I hear Heraclitus was sympathetic toward but such harmony appears to be wordplay of some kind don't you think? For instance duality would call war so long as its between the good guys and the bad guys harmony. Dualistic points of view tend to view what is actually discord and conflict as "harmonious".

    The error of dualistic philosophy is exposed when we look at "real" harmony, peace, for instance. In peace there is no clash of opposites is there? The whole system is not balanced, as dualistic thought would have you think, between opposites; to the contrary, the system is actually unbalanced, in one particular state, peace, rather than in some sort of equilibrium between antagonistic parties.

    To come to the point, nature seems to prefer a dualistic-based [false] "harmony" emerging out of the interplay between positive and negative. Humans, on the other hand, have attempted to develop a "true" harmony akin to peace I mentioned above. In other words, unlike natural harmony or the "ethics" of mother nature which would have us make war to maintain peace, human morality/ethics, no matter even if deeply flawed, has, the mighty armies of the many nations of the Earth notwithstanding, as a central goal a point in history at which armies would be obsolete, unnecessary, more of a burden than an asset.

    Human morality, the human sense of harmony, despite its origin in nature, is radically different to the harmony of nature.
  • Pantagruel
    975

    What you say is very true. There in an intrinsic energy of dialectics that needs to be considered. The human world is definitely polarized; and I think from the appropriate perspective, nature really is too. Systems theory shows natural systems exhibit a similar state of "heightened imbalance".

    Excellent point.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    the original post is confusing morality of all with morality on Earthopt-ae

    How? What's this "morality of all" and "morality on Earth" you refer to?

    As far as I'm concerned, the one thing that's intriguing and, perhaps important, is the fact that among the billions of species that populate Earth, only humans have a sense of right and wrong. Yes, we fail miserably at being good but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's only us that know the difference between good and bad.

    Hum, I would say the op is a little heavy-hearted. The animal kingdom is full of tricksters who deceive each other and steal from each other and may even do worse things such as kill and eat a neighbor's babies. We don't have to be too morbid about our human failure to be saints, but with a light heart just accept that is the way it is and then take steps to protect ourselves and enjoy the game of life. Like in the game of Monopoly the object is to win, so consider life as a game we play to win and how much fun would it be if there were NO challenges?

    PS I do not believe anyone is purely evil or purely good. Good people do bad things and bad people can do good things. It is way too simplistic to label people good or bad. I like Pantagruel answer.
    Athena

    I'm not saying humans are good or that they're bad but I am saying we're the only ones who knows the difference between the two. If all life can be thought of as a group of people lost in the wild, the one person who knows the way is the human who possesses knowledge of morality and hence has everybody's welfare on his agenda. We are this planet's only hope of building an Edenic paradise if that's possible. Issues with overall competence and the possibility of lapsing into behavior misaligned with Edenic goals aside don't you find the peculiar position humans are in to be something we must take seriously?
  • opt-ae
    33


    How I see good and evil is it's personal, like you, except when I exist in a universe, I presuppose a father and mother, and I can also do good an evil by my parents; what's good to them is what's good to me; you, alien life, so I assume there's some consistency.

    (Without causing you to outburst in rhetoric; you know - heaven and hell logic. Where if you do good you are rewarded, and if you do evil, you are punished).

    (It's a very hard topic - you may be right where I am wrong, or vice verse;' I(and mostly anyone)'ve not come up with an answer I can trust with a whole-heart. I imagine there's some doubt in your mind. I'm a little bit un-confident in myself, but I prefer my argument to yours)
  • Athena
    807
    I'm not saying humans are good or that they're bad but I am saying we're the only ones who knows the difference between the two. If all life can be thought of as a group of people lost in the wild, the one person who knows the way is the human who possesses knowledge of morality and hence has everybody's welfare on his agenda. We are this planet's only hope of building an Edenic paradise if that's possible. Issues with overall competence and the possibility of lapsing into behavior misaligned with Edenic goals aside don't you find the peculiar position humans are in to be something we must take seriously?TheMadFool

    I agree and disagree with you. Let us check to be sure we are using the same sources of information.

    My information comes from books and documentaries about animal behavior. Are you working with what is learned by studying animal behavior?

    I don't think it is possible for animals to discuss concepts of good and bad as humans do, but some of them teach the young how to behave and in groups of social animals such as chimpanzees, bad behavior that is not corrected leads to being driven off. Even horses are said to teach the young proper behavior. Squirrels steal each other's nuts and know they better not get caught, so we might wonder exactly what is our sense of conscience? However, an animal is not going to reason through polluting water and people getting sick and dying, therefore, it is wrong to pollute the water.
  • TheMadFool
    6.6k
    I agree and disagree with you. Let us check to be sure we are using the same sources of information.

    My information comes from books and documentaries about animal behavior. Are you working with what is learned by studying animal behavior?

    I don't think it is possible for animals to discuss concepts of good and bad as humans do, but some of them teach the young how to behave and in groups of social animals such as chimpanzees, bad behavior that is not corrected leads to being driven off. Even horses are said to teach the young proper behavior. Squirrels steal each other's nuts and know they better not get caught, so we might wonder exactly what is our sense of conscience? However, an animal is not going to reason through polluting water and people getting sick and dying, therefore, it is wrong to pollute the water.
    Athena

    I did mention that animals have what can be called standards of acceptable behavior - proto-morality? - that are observable even in non-social animals so we need not mention their prevalence among those who live in groups.

    However, the benefits of such non-human proto-morality don't extend beyond the group in which they exist toward other species. A lion can be said to be good toward the members of his pride but he kills other species, even other lions. It can be said, in some sense, that a lion's "morality" doesn't have a cognitive basis and is probably hard-wired in its genes. The situation is different with humans because 1) though I can't deny the existence of a morality gene, our brand of good behavior clearly has a cognitive element to it i.e. we reasoned to it and 2) because of 1, our moral sense is inclusive of other species too. Therefore, for better or for worse, humans are at the forefront of the evolution of morality and that places a huge responsibility on our shoulders, no?
  • Athena
    807
    I thought other social animals were mentioned but my memory isn't that good and drops details.

    "a lion's "morality" doesn't have a cognitive basis and is probably hard-wired in its genes" I like the way you worded that. We can think about what we think and I don't think other animals can do that. There are some cross-species relations that would be totally unexpected but it is not the norm. I also don't think that is really important, but knowing what causes global warming and knowing the growing water problem, and continuing what we are doing, as though our planet had infinite resources and God will protect us from harm, is insanely immoral.

    I think intelligent people in high places have extremely poor judgment because they are not using the information they need to know before making the decision. Shaming low-income people and repeatedly saying they don't want to work and inferring they could get a job if they really wanted to, no matter how bad the economy is, is cruel and not based on necessary information. Some people in high places hold very negative beliefs because they do not understand the reality of low-income people. Over and over again, people believe they are more deserving than "those people". That is way too wordy- I should fall back on Socrates and his concern that we must expand conscience before we can have good judgment.

    I think those living during the Roosevelt years and long before most of us gained the mentality of abundance, had better reasoning. In the past, far more was done to assure people could own their own homes. Owning a home was seen as essential to good citizenship and a belief in capitalism. I think socialism has become more popular because of the high divorce rate when it takes two incomes to support a family, and repeated economic collapses and the cost of housing spiraling out of control. And we do not fully grasp democracy is awesome because it is a collective consciousness, not the elite controlling with policies made for "those people".
  • Benj96
    200
    I would say any animal that can feel shame or fear after doing something we consider bad has a sense of right and wrong. Dogs certainly do this - a cowering dog that knows he is in trouble after having taken a piece of bread from the table before anyone has even given out to them.

    My dogs know what they are allowed to do and what they are not. I would consider this a basic level of moral. A lot of moral is innate and instinctual - the preservation of anothers life at the risk of ones own ie. Maternal instinct or pack instinct. And some is trained (like not taking bread from your owners table) both of which a dog can demonstrate.

    I believe a lot of animals are highly perceptive and intelligent and it is our own arrogance to assume we are the only ones that possess the capacity for morality etc.
  • thewonder
    473

    Nah, people are, if you will, by nature good, and the problem is just with common sense.

    I spent a lot of time thinking about the album, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, and have discovered what evil is. Evil is to exploit human cruelty in order to accumulate information and social capital and to conspire to continue to do so. Everyone knows that they just want to be a libertine, but not everyone knows that they just want to be an ethical libertine. Thus, where the common sense comes in. The other libertines think that they'd just be better off being somewhat evil, without ever considering that people are likely to thwart them from doing so. In order to get away with being evil, they have to constantly think about how to, which vitiates their libertine experience. It's just kind of pathological.

    As is evident by kind of a lot of human history, that whole sort of thing does escalate, but that evil even exists is really just kind of a social problem that even the most rudimentary Ethics could easily do away with.
  • EnPassant
    395
    Dare I say we're afflicted with an illness of a moral nature? We are, like it or not, bad, despite our protestations that we're not.TheMadFool

    Some are good. Most are weakly bad. Some are evil.

    I receive some comfort, as little as it may be, from the realization that all that's good in the world comes from mankind.TheMadFool

    But doesn't a dog love its owner? Isn't love the ultimate moral good? The beauty of the world is also a good. Even cats love and defend their 'children'. The good permeates all nature. But the world is fallen.

    Corrupt are some religions have become, the loss of Christianity and the moral collapse of society are not merely coincidental. Unless mankind has something higher than mankind to aspire to, things will go badly.
  • thewonder
    473
    Corrupt are some religions have become, the loss of Christianity and the moral collapse of society are not merely coincidental. Unless mankind has something higher than mankind to aspire to, things will go badly.EnPassant

    I disagree entirely. Morality has always been considered as according to social conventions. In the West, aside from, perhaps, a few libertarian socialist or Anarchist experiments, there has almost never been a society that could, at all, be considered to be exemplary. The change in social attitudes during The Victorian Era towards morality, for instance, may have been somewhat positive, as the British Empire did become less imperious during that period of time, but were ultimately hypocritical, as The Opium Wars were waged then as well. The social repression resultant from the reliance upon morality has also been notoriously fictionalized by any number of British authors.

    At best, morality relies upon an appeal to a kind of quasi-ascetic superiority complex arbitrated by those who decide who is and isn't virtuous. Rather than analyze the situation that resulted in sexism within the music industry, the Catholic faith will tell you that people are being punished for playing music that isn't solely comprised of devotional songs to God. People can and should enjoy life and all that the world needs is to let whatever way of life there is that develops from situational ethics become as it naturally should.
  • EnPassant
    395
    Morality has always been considered as according to social conventions.thewonder

    Social contexts are just that, a context in which moral standards are interpreted. But morality, in spiritual terms, should be a guard against crimes against life. Life is sacred/valuable (depending on whether we are speaking from a theist/atheist point of view) and this concept is the keystone of moral ideals. For the Jews, morality was not merely a social convention, it was seen to be a representation of God's Justice on earth.

    At best, morality relies upon an appeal to a kind of quasi-ascetic superiority complex arbitrated by those who decide who is and isn't virtuous.thewonder

    That is more like an abuse of moral concepts. No doubt, these concepts can be abused in the way that concepts of justice can be abused. But corruptions of moral concepts are not a measure of ideal moral concepts.
  • thewonder
    473

    Eh, perhaps, I was being too critical. The respect for life is laudable, though, since I'm pro-choice, I don't really like how the discourse gets carried out. To me, it's a real shame that the only people who are willing to come out against Eugenics, having provided the rationalizations and justifications for more or less every genocide on the planet, are Catholics who all too often want to blame the Chinese government for all of the evils in the world. A sincere moralism that meaningfully invokes the respect for life, even if making an appeal to the divine, I don't have too much a problem with, though.

    That is more like an abuse of moral concepts. No doubt, these concepts can be abused in the way that concepts of justice can be abused. But corruptions of moral concepts are not a measure of ideal moral conceptsEnPassant

    I was raised Catholic, but I'm an atheist now. I guess that I feel like even the best of Catholicism is kind of condescending. People tend to assume that plights are incurred because of how a person relates to God rather than thinking of everything else that could be happening. There are some Catholics who are humble in spirit, whom I don't really mind too much, though. I used to be kind of a single-minded atheist, but have since come around to that people can have a relationship with the divine without necessarily being like what I tend to dislike about moralists.

    As it concerns Ethics, though, I'm not too sure about how I feel about the Ten Commandments, or any either moral or ethical universals, though. Sure, that you shouldn't kill someone else is probably true in almost every given context, but stealing, for instance, I think can, in cases, be either not wrong or not all that wrong. Jean Valjean in Les Misérables was right to steal the bread for which he was imprisoned. It's also the case that I just don't think that music piracy is an ethical concern at all, really. Sure, you shouldn't wage a hostile takeover of another company and, then, proceed to liquidate it out of avarice, but I don't think that it is the case that you can say that something like stealing is wrong in every given context.
  • EnPassant
    395
    I don't think that it is the case that you can say that something like stealing is wrong in every given context.thewonder

    I believe there is a law in Britain that says if you're starving you can steal a few vegetables from a farmer's field without breaking the law. There is always the danger of condescension when it comes to the law/morality or even world views. The central lesson of philosophy is, we don't know. Sometimes I think philosophers are among the most confused people of all because they are wont to believe in their own philosophy.
  • thewonder
    473

    That's pretty cool of the United Kingdom. I feel like I've given the UK too much guff in the past.

    Socrates only believed that he was wise because he didn't assume to be wise. I kind of like Socrates, but am only so sure as to how I feel about the guy. Good philosophy does seem to result from a willingness to doubt, though. People who think that they know everything already almost never discover anything at all. Though I think that this so-called virtue, if believed in too directly, loses out on a certain potentiality for free expression, which I do think is just good in its own right, there is something to be said for humility.
  • EnPassant
    395
    which I do think is just good in its own right, there is something to be said for humility.thewonder

    True. Philosophy is like a workout for the mind, it teaches us how to think critically provided we don't take ourselves too seriously.
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