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Trying to Sound Out Morality

The strangest thing to me when writing was realizing that, potentially, morality does not matter.

It does not matter whether a thing is good or evil because people don't really care about that unless they, themselves, or the people they truly care about are being directly victimized by it or directly threatened by it.

Case in point, some people glorify, idolize, or lionize mobsters. These are particularly cruel, brutal people. They tend to have their own codes, ethics, and morals, supposedly, but they still do great harm to other people for self-interest. Yet people tend to like with them, side with them, and empathize with them. Some people dream of being them or living their lifestyle. It's not simply about being a criminal, however. Some are wooed by the rewards of the lifestyle while others see something attractive in the character of the person or organization. People value strength, daring, boldness, intellect, cunning, even ruthlessness so long as it's not being used against them. Like Scarface, these virtues can apply to the saint and the sinner.

This seems more true when comparing them to other criminals like pedophiles, rapists, wife-beaters, and child-traffickers? What's the difference between this latter group and the mobsters initially mentioned? The latter prays on the weak. They are, themselves, victims of their own lusts and instincts. They don't act against force or opposition, most of the time, they are swept away in it. Mobsters tend to be people in an under-dog setting who rise up through force, will, cunning, etc, to stand atop a hill or pinnacle of some sort. They fought against the odds and many people empathize with that. Many people idolize the strength and character it takes to fight and succeed, independent of what is being fought.

We lionize things like the Roman Empire or Genghis Khan. What moral justification is there for marching across the world slaughtering people left and right for the sake of money, power, land, politics, or what have you? However, since we are not the direct victims of these agents, we tend to empathize with these actors because they are brave, strong, powerful, or show other aspects of character that matter to us. Morality doesn't matter to us as much. We might easily sit down with a charismatic hit-man and befriend them more than we might a nerdy functionary in a library. So long as we aren't the target of that hit-man. So long as we aren't unduly affected by their actions.

This idea came to me because I realized it in it's fictional context first. That people, these days, would like to be vampires more than they would be afraid of them. If they were assured a vampire would not hurt them, but befriend them- or even more, make them one- they would likely accept this relationship. The evolution of the vampire and werewolf is also significant- going from pure evil and atrocious monster to dazzling icons of intense sexuality and jaw-dropping power. They still do evil, it's just they don't do it to a particular group of people and so they are endured...befriended...betrothed. There's people who would want to be Sherlock Holmes and there's people who would want to be Moriarty. Most kids say they want to live in a fantasy world. Mind you, this fantasy world is one where people are running around killing each other with supernatural powers. I highly doubt they want to be one of the powerless peasants running around screaming either, but they want to be the powerful and the gifted.

To me, morality is another one of those pleasant fictions we adopt and even try to adhere to as people. It's not like people are completely without a sense of morality, or that the moral ideals they consider themselves acting towards have no bearing on their actions. It's not like we couldn't care less if a charismatic maniac went around destroying and killing people. It's that this is not necessarily the case each and every time. It's one thing when these people are strangers. But what if they managed to work their way into your confidence. To get close enough to you that you saw in them virtues stronger than other men or women? And then, after this, they commit these crimes. Maybe your view of right or wrong is different? Maybe the blood-soaked mobster isn't evil, he's just a product of his environment. Maybe the blood-soaked police officer is just over-stressed. The predatory priest is just confused and needs counseling. The vampire is just devoid of human touch and love. No matter how many times a tiger has killed a mice, maybe if it is willing to be friendly, a mice might pull a thorn from it's paw...instead of fleeing away at the god-given opportunity.

I haven't thought too deeply on this enough to say whether I think this attraction distorts morality or whether morality plays no true part in the affair. I know there are times when my family members did things and I supported, defended, or fought for them even when they weren't right because I cared about them more than people I didn't even know and the loss or injury to my own was more important than some stranger or even someone I might have known but didn't care more about. I think, at those times, morals and religion are sort of similar. It's easy to believe you have them when pressure doesn't test their integrity, and when it does, you excuse the fact you dropped them because you were pressured. I come to believe that morality is a sort of delusion we place over ourselves. At least...the surface morality. We, each, do have things we consider right and wrong, good or bad, ideal, tolerable, or reprehensible. But those things that are personally generated are not likely to match evenly with societies. This can be a good thing, but as the Scarface example might signify, it's important to realize that even though moral ideals do affect society and influence behavior, you are always dealing with an individual- especially when pressured- and their true morality is revealed when they have no time or room to consider they external morals they've spent their lives trying to adhere to. When personal instinct overshadows the rational mind and it's ideals. But it's also to say even with our conscious morality, our personal, truer instincts still affect society and push it in ways that may steer us for better or worse.

Comments

Perhaps having a flimsy morality is a sign of weakness, a lack of character or experience. Yeah, a police officer may be overstressed, but he is accountable to his actions and it doesn't justify murdering a person. In my opinion, we should uphold the standard, not make useless excuses. An ideal friend or family member doesn't allow another friend or family member to act in a bad way, and certainly don't support it.

I like some things about Nazi Germany. That doesn't change my view of the Holocaust. Or, the examples you use were people lionizing the Roman Empire and Genghis Khan. That's called ignorance. What specifically do those people lionize about them? What do those people not approve of? One must make distinctions rather than clumsy statements. You might say you admire their strength but not how it was used or gained, or art, or technological advancements like aqueducts, or their courage in battle. You might admire certain figures and criticize others.

It seems to me like you're talking about people who don't have strong convictions, because they either lack confidence in their beliefs or they aren't able to say no. If you think about it, "no" taken to its (admittedly extreme) logical conclusion is martyrdom. It's saying that there isn't anything you can say or do that will make me do what you want.

Otherwise, I don't see how knowing a person better would somehow change the morality of good or bad decisions that they make. They'll probably seem more human, and you'll have a better understanding of why they did what they did. Granted, it might put your morality to the test, and you'll either pass or fail.

With the the hitman example, what you're describing is the same mentality that everybody has with the rise of men like Hitler and Stalin. In my opinion, it's evidence of a corrupted morality, or an absence of one. Mistake number one is thinking "as long as it happens to other people". If this phrase ever comes up in your head, check yourself before you go morally bankrupt.

A thought-provoking read. I just don't think morality is as socially constructed and relative as you think. We're social creatures. It's built into our nature. But the problem is that people conflate 'natural' with 'good'. Just because your natural impulse might be wanting to have sex with a lot of hot women, doesn't mean that you should. There's a reason why being impulsive is frowned upon. It isn't because it's unnatural. It's because it's low.

Morality isn't some completely amorphous, fictional abstraction in our heads. Key-word is completely.
 
Smith;bt13280 said:
Perhaps having a flimsy morality is a sign of weakness, a lack of character or experience. Yeah, a police officer may be overstressed, but he is accountable to his actions and it doesn't justify murdering a person. In my opinion, we should uphold the standard, not make useless excuses. An ideal friend or family member doesn't allow another friend or family member to act in a bad way, and certainly don't support it.

True, but what is bad and what isn't? Morality is subjective.

It seems to me like you're talking about people who don't have strong convictions, because they either lack confidence in their beliefs or they aren't able to say no. If you think about it, "no" taken to its (admittedly extreme) logical conclusion is martyrdom. It's saying that there isn't anything you can say or do that will make me do what you want.


Weak people would have a personal morality to. They are just unable to see it through- either because they are forced by someone or something, or because they personally lack the ability to live up to it.

Otherwise, I don't see how knowing a person better would somehow change the morality of good or bad decisions that they make. They'll probably seem more human, and you'll have a better understanding of why they did what they did. Granted, it might put your morality to the test, and you'll either pass or fail.

I think a person’s personal view on right and wrong can change. A lot of things can change a person’s personal morality. Brief, but profound quotes- like the ones from some scripture, poem, story, or person- can do this. A five minute YouTube video can do this.

Seeing a person you know do something versus seeing someone else do it and having two different reactions doesn't change how one views the morality, necessarily, but may reveal the persons real sense of morality in such a way as to ask was the person really so opposed to the thing the stranger did, or was it simply easier or reflexive to condemn the stranger for an act they considered amoral and whether, at the time, that consideration of morality was actually based on one’s own ideas or an external influence. No clear black or white here, but I think you see what I'm going for.

With the hitman example, what you're describing is the same mentality that everybody has with the rise of men like Hitler and Stalin. In my opinion, it's evidence of a corrupted morality, or an absence of one. Mistake number one is thinking "as long as it happens to other people". If this phrase ever comes up in your head, check yourself before you go morally bankrupt.


In the context of Hitler and Stalin, I can't say whether they actually agreed with their actions or not- or whether they were forced to them by certain circumstances. However, even considering that they were enacting their personal convictions, if that was how they believed, then it's not their sense of morality that's corrupted. They are doing what they believe is right. Our sense of morality has been transgressed or offended.

Also, you don't have to check yourself if a particular sense of morality is natural to you. Things like the mistake you mentioned or "do unto others" are external moral prompts made to make us rethink our personal sense of right and wrong for that of an externally generated one. Personal morality may be a social construct in my opinion, but social morality definitely is.


A thought-provoking read. I just don't think morality is as socially constructed and relative as you think. We're social creatures. It's built into our nature. But the problem is that people conflate 'natural' with 'good'. Just because your natural impulse might be wanting to have sex with a lot of hot women, doesn't mean that you should. There's a reason why being impulsive is frowned upon. It isn't because it's unnatural. It's because it's low.

Morality isn't some completely amorphous, fictional abstraction in our heads. Key-word is completely.

Not only “natural” with “good”, but “moral” with “good” rather than opinion.

Like…why shouldn’t you have sex with a lot of hot women?

I think morality is an abstraction. An idea that is tied to physical phenomenon. I believe that it originates from our perception of pain, loss, or danger. Our mind ties the idea of wrong to these things. The degree of empathy we feel determines how we apply this sense of wrong to others. Because a person could definitely consider being hit wrong, while not consider hitting others wrong if he has somehow justified this in their minds. This idea becomes further removed from that physical anchor by countless cultural refinement till it becomes a general set of rights and wrongs based on our ideas of right and wrong separated from that original context. But in all cases, it’s a subjective view that is often malleable and constantly changing because pressure changes our morality. The way we perceive new information changes our morality. If our morality is so easily changed then is there really a definitive morality, or is it the situation, itself, that determines our morality, and our idea of morality is merely a shifting Constitution that shifts with the times? Granted, there are people more stubborn in their beliefs than others, and one dying for their beliefs may impart the idea of firm convictions, but if that person lived rather than died, is it not true that there’s a good chance his views on the morality of things changes with time?

It’s just like old Luke versus kid Luke. Kid Luke was an idealist whose morality was centered in his experiences. He believed them so much he fought and killed for them. He was a hero because of it. But as time went by the intensity of his beliefs waned. In time, he began to see what he couldn’t see as a sort of zealous youth. And if you want to get really theoretical, imagine if Jesus lived past his 33 years to old age? Imagine if Buddha lived to be a hundred years older than he did? Would their views have changed? Did they change and we never heard about it because these parts- these waiverings in their convictions of right and wrong that come with time and experience- were never written down?

A very long read and I always appreciate you reading and replying with you insight, even if we always seem to be somewhat star-crossed in our ideology, lol.
 
Well our views are naturally opposed because I see a lot of issues with embracing relativism. Many of your blogs have a hint of postmodernism about them, and postmodernism I thoroughly despise. I could be off the mark with that though, and it might not even be something you're conscious of.

I mean, just to speak freely here, most of the time when I read your blogs it makes me depressed. I'm sure that isn't your intent. I feel a distinct lack of hope and order. Like, you took apart morality and examined all the individual pieces, and then didn't put anything back together, or bring to the table some kind of benefit or improvement by doing so.

Don't worry, I don't despise *you*. I despise postmodernism because of it's pointlessly destructive, cynical, nihilistic nature, and those are oftentimes the feelings I take away from reading your thoughts. But maybe there is no connection.

If you read stoicism, anything that is unnatural is bad. I'm actually a rather big fan of stoicism and I think it's the closest - or at least one of the closest - at being objective. Rationality and nature are at the core of the philosophy. Of course, it's less clear if you start moving into morality, which is only one of the branches that figures such as Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca talked about.

There isn't much sense in having even a subjective morality if you can't use it, or choose not to, due to weakness.

Yes, I can understand how being close with somebody who did x, versus seeing a stranger also do x, could have two different responses. And that's because morality doesn't exist in a vacuum. Something like this can cause cognitive dissonance and because that causes a meltdown in most people, they might make excuses for the person that they are close with but not the stranger.

Depends on how specific you get with Hitler and Stalin. Overall most people probably didn't agree with most of what was going on. The thing here that I find fascinating, is how force (or threat of force) undermines morality. It's why I'm *very* skeptical of moral busybodies trying to pass legislation. They don't get the irony of what they're doing. If you make it illegal to do something and manufacture man-made consequences, you aren't making people act morally. You took away the freedom from them to exhibit their goodness. Now there's really no way to tell who's doing or saying x because they think it's right, or doing/saying x because they live in East Germany and 1/3 people are government informants that could get them sent to the gulag.

I was saying it was corrupted because of the "as long as it happens to other people". These are two completely different things: the first person says "I don't care who they kill because I don't fall into those categories" (conveniently forgetting the possible "yet" at the end), whereas the second person says "I support them killing all the sick and cripples because it's making the gene pool healthier, and if it turns out I have some sort of genetic disease or get paralyzed then I'm alright with being euthanized."

Why shouldn't you? This partly depends on the reasoning given for banging a bunch of hot women. There's a lot of factors involved, but some reason *could* be increased risk of unwanted pregnancy or sexual disease, not reinforcing behaviors that are commonly associated with sexually objectifying women, not reinforcing behaviors commonly associated with guys bragging and faultily measuring their worth solely on how many tallies they've etched into their helmets, insatiable hunger for pleasure because of a weak will, so on and so on. You become what you practice, strengthening cognitive structures. You wouldn't be practicing commitment, emotional attachment, trust, etc. If you can't tell, I'm not a fan of hedonism, or trying to justify it, which tends to come across as an adult sounding like a child.

Your own morality does change. Why does it change? That's the next important question. Obviously there shouldn't be a single factor that determines why your morality changes. But ones to be careful about might be: my morality changes on a selfish whim because it's all about what benefits myself from moment to moment. Ones that might help you and those around you could be: my morality changes based on a rational understanding of facts and knowledge, striving for objectivity even though - practically speaking - it isn't achievable.

So yeah, morality is subjective. That doesn't mean you shouldn't strive for objectivity. It isn't much use to have a morality of ignorance, or one that harms other people without any inkling of justice. Or, if you don't care about other people at all, that might not be helpful because most people (fortunately) tend not to think that way, and you could quickly find yourself isolated because people won't put up with you being an antisocial dickhead... or depending on how little you care about other people, might find yourself dead, or in jail, a wanted criminal, etc.

Morality is a part of a strategy for how you play the game, and some strategies work better than others. Which is why morality isn't a relative, pointless cesspool.
 
Smith;bt13293 said:
Well our views are naturally opposed because I see a lot of issues with embracing relativism. Many of your blogs have a hint of postmodernism about them, and postmodernism I thoroughly despise. I could be off the mark with that though, and it might not even be something you're conscious of.

I mean, just to speak freely here, most of the time when I read your blogs it makes me depressed. I'm sure that isn't your intent. I feel a distinct lack of hope and order. Like, you took apart morality and examined all the individual pieces, and then didn't put anything back together, or bring to the table some kind of benefit or improvement by doing so.

Don't worry, I don't despise *you*. I despise postmodernism because of it's pointlessly destructive, cynical, nihilistic nature, and those are oftentimes the feelings I take away from reading your thoughts. But maybe there is no connection.

If you read stoicism, anything that is unnatural is bad. I'm actually a rather big fan of stoicism and I think it's the closest - or at least one of the closest - at being objective. Rationality and nature are at the core of the philosophy. Of course, it's less clear if you start moving into morality, which is only one of the branches that figures such as Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca talked about.

I think you're right...

...or more specifically, I'm a fan of the cosmic view, which does tend to be depressing since it minimizes the grandeur we like to put on the actions and meaning of our lives. Many peoples viewpoint is much more immersive and localized into what they are doing and getting through it. Almost like a soldiers will to survive, in many instances, that type of immersion necessitates a belief in the current goal without too many questions that will demoralize or confuse. I don't really see it as being light or dark though, but trying to uncover some sort of truth regardless of how I feel about it...ideally.

What you said is fascinating though, because I'm now wondering how many people look to philosophy as a way to make themselves happier rather than for the truth. Or whether we look to philosophy as a whole as a way of making humanity as a whole happier, and that if a philosophy robs humanity of happiness or, at least, hope, it's a bad thing.

Not that I'm saying I'm speaking the truth and everyone else are just happy-fiends, but it does make me wonder- the preference for happiness...does it extend to happiness ​and logic, or a preference for happiness over logic to the point where if things make us feel to unhappy we see it as, in some way, illogical or irrational.

There isn't much sense in having even a subjective morality if you can't use it, or choose not to, due to weakness.

Yes, I can understand how being close with somebody who did x, versus seeing a stranger also do x, could have two different responses. And that's because morality doesn't exist in a vacuum. Something like this can cause cognitive dissonance and because that causes a meltdown in most people, they might make excuses for the person that they are close with but not the stranger.

I don't think it's a matter of choosing not to follow your sense of morality, but being unable to because you are forced or impeded in some way by external forces, or that there is some sort of inner emotional or mental complication within you that prevents you from doing so. But then again, do you ever have a personal sense of morality, or an acquired one that's always shifting to some degree?

Depends on how specific you get with Hitler and Stalin. Overall most people probably didn't agree with most of what was going on. The thing here that I find fascinating, is how force (or threat of force) undermines morality. It's why I'm *very* skeptical of moral busybodies trying to pass legislation. They don't get the irony of what they're doing. If you make it illegal to do something and manufacture man-made consequences, you aren't making people act morally. You took away the freedom from them to exhibit their goodness. Now there's really no way to tell who's doing or saying x because they think it's right, or doing/saying x because they live in East Germany and 1/3 people are government informants that could get them sent to the gulag.

I was saying it was corrupted because of the "as long as it happens to other people". These are two completely different things: the first person says "I don't care who they kill because I don't fall into those categories" (conveniently forgetting the possible "yet" at the end), whereas the second person says "I support them killing all the sick and cripples because it's making the gene pool healthier, and if it turns out I have some sort of genetic disease or get paralyzed then I'm alright with being euthanized."

I think see some of the problems of my thinking. I was basing my idea of there being no morality and/or the idea of it not mattering on the basis that it’s a conviction subject to change with pressure. That a floor that ceases to maintain its role as a floor as soon as it’s stepped on has little or no value as a floor. But that doesn’t mean there’s no floor, it just means that some floors can be pretty crappy or practically useless while others may hold up for hundreds of years. All of them change, but some have a greater degree of integrity than others. In that sense, we do have a morality, but it's not our morality, necessarily. It's more like clothes we wear than flesh.

Why shouldn't you? This partly depends on the reasoning given for banging a bunch of hot women. There's a lot of factors involved, but some reason *could* be increased risk of unwanted pregnancy or sexual disease, not reinforcing behaviors that are commonly associated with sexually objectifying women, not reinforcing behaviors commonly associated with guys bragging and faultily measuring their worth solely on how many tallies they've etched into their helmets, insatiable hunger for pleasure because of a weak will, so on and so on. You become what you practice, strengthening cognitive structures. You wouldn't be practicing commitment, emotional attachment, trust, etc. If you can't tell, I'm not a fan of hedonism, or trying to justify it, which tends to come across as an adult sounding like a child.

I think I can sum it by saying morality does matter, even though morality tends to be in a restless state for many people. In terms of psychology, while we can always act consistently against what another person believes is right, we cannot often act against what we consider to be right without cost. Therefore, a person’s actions will always tend to align with what he believes is right if he is given the freedom to decide. The problem is that what a person believes to be right can be influenced and that a person’s concept of right and wrong can be so fickle that he seemingly has no morality. He is merely reacting to a barrage of influences.



Your own morality does change. Why does it change? That's the next important question. Obviously there shouldn't be a single factor that determines why your morality changes. But ones to be careful about might be: my morality changes on a selfish whim because it's all about what benefits myself from moment to moment. Ones that might help you and those around you could be: my morality changes based on a rational understanding of facts and knowledge, striving for objectivity even though - practically speaking - it isn't achievable.

So yeah, morality is subjective. That doesn't mean you shouldn't strive for objectivity. It isn't much use to have a morality of ignorance, or one that harms other people without any inkling of justice. Or, if you don't care about other people at all, that might not be helpful because most people (fortunately) tend not to think that way, and you could quickly find yourself isolated because people won't put up with you being an antisocial dickhead... or depending on how little you care about other people, might find yourself dead, or in jail, a wanted criminal, etc.

Morality is a part of a strategy for how you play the game, and some strategies work better than others. Which is why morality isn't a relative, pointless cesspool.

Well, this is where I get hung up on. At this point I think we can both conclude that morality does not equal virtue, it’s simply an opinion of right and wrong. The Gordon Gecko’s might say greed and a more self-centered approach to life is good for either the self or society while some others might say selflessness is the best approach. Both are abstract and dependent wholly on the person and neither has clear borders in any case. So all of these terms- moral, good, right, selfish, selfless, are loaded with prejudices while not exactly meaning anything definitive. In other words, with the proper spin, theft can be seen as selfless, and sacrifice can be seen as selfish. In all this fog or meanings, I’m back to wondering if there is any inherent meaning- or consistency- in it or does it matter. Is it all an abstract concept defined by the current nature of a person looking on it at a particular place at a particular time. In other words, outside of there being something we can define as subjective, we find ourselves very much in the dark as there is no objective right or wrong. It’s always opinion. Maybe. That’s how I see it anyhow… It’s just our beliefs and/or particular intensity or feelings about an idea that gives it the weight of a true or “truer” conviction.
 
kaminoshiyo;bt13294 said:
I think you're right...

...or more specifically, I'm a fan of the cosmic view, which does tend to be depressing since it minimizes the grandeur we like to put on the actions and meaning of our lives. Many peoples viewpoint is much more immersive and localized into what they are doing and getting through it. Almost like a soldiers will to survive, in many instances, that type of immersion necessitates a belief in the current goal without too many questions that will demoralize or confuse. I don't really see it as being light or dark though, but trying to uncover some sort of truth regardless of how I feel about it...ideally.

What you said is fascinating though, because I'm now wondering how many people look to philosophy as a way to make themselves happier rather than for the truth. Or whether we look to philosophy as a whole as a way of making humanity as a whole happier, and that if a philosophy robs humanity of happiness or, at least, hope, it's a bad thing.

Not that I'm saying I'm speaking the truth and everyone else are just happy-fiends, but it does make me wonder- the preference for happiness...does it extend to happiness ​and logic, or a preference for happiness over logic to the point where if things make us feel to unhappy we see it as, in some way, illogical or irrational.

Ah okay, so I wasn't too far off.

I think both are important. Philosophy used to be about how to live. What is the best way to live one's life? Somehow it became about logical quandaries that have little to no basis in our day to day lives.

Stoicism isn't actually about happiness at all. At least, from my understanding, that isn't the goal. If happiness is a secondary by-product then that's totally cool. But from the stoic point of view life wasn't about how to be happy all the time. 'Happy' and 'good' aren't synonyms.

You bring up a good question that I did not have an answer for, so thank-you for making me think. I believe I would actually err more your way and, much like the scientist, say that the truth is more important than our feelings. This isn't to say our feelings aren't important. But they're going to have to ride shotgun.

I don't think it's a matter of choosing not to follow your sense of morality, but being unable to because you are forced or impeded in some way by external forces, or that there is some sort of inner emotional or mental complication within you that prevents you from doing so. But then again, do you ever have a personal sense of morality, or an acquired one that's always shifting to some degree?

I believe there's free will, so I'm a compatibilist. I don't believe anything is so determined that one is completely unable to do x, but rather that one is unlikely.

It's probably a combination of a personal sense of right and wrong, an intuition, a nature, with an acquired morality.

I think see some of the problems of my thinking. I was basing my idea of there being no morality and/or the idea of it not mattering on the basis that it’s a conviction subject to change with pressure. That a floor that ceases to maintain its role as a floor as soon as it’s stepped on has little or no value as a floor. But that doesn’t mean there’s no floor, it just means that some floors can be pretty crappy or practically useless while others may hold up for hundreds of years. All of them change, but some have a greater degree of integrity than others. In that sense, we do have a morality, but it's not our morality, necessarily. It's more like clothes we wear than flesh.

This is a conception that I can get behind.

I think I can sum it by saying morality does matter, even though morality tends to be in a restless state for many people. In terms of psychology, while we can always act consistently against what another person believes is right, we cannot often act against what we consider to be right without cost. Therefore, a person’s actions will always tend to align with what he believes is right if he is given the freedom to decide. The problem is that what a person believes to be right can be influenced and that a person’s concept of right and wrong can be so fickle that he seemingly has no morality. He is merely reacting to a barrage of influences.

I also agree with all this. It's difficult to act against what one believes is right because, that thing we believed was right informed so many of our decisions. Now we have to come to terms with the fact that something about our map was wrong. And that being said, what else is wrong as a consequence of this misconception?

Well, this is where I get hung up on. At this point I think we can both conclude that morality does not equal virtue, it’s simply an opinion of right and wrong. The Gordon Gecko’s might say greed and a more self-centered approach to life is good for either the self or society while some others might say selflessness is the best approach. Both are abstract and dependent wholly on the person and neither has clear borders in any case. So all of these terms- moral, good, right, selfish, selfless, are loaded with prejudices while not exactly meaning anything definitive. In other words, with the proper spin, theft can be seen as selfless, and sacrifice can be seen as selfish. In all this fog or meanings, I’m back to wondering if there is any inherent meaning- or consistency- in it or does it matter. Is it all an abstract concept defined by the current nature of a person looking on it at a particular place at a particular time. In other words, outside of there being something we can define as subjective, we find ourselves very much in the dark as there is no objective right or wrong. It’s always opinion. Maybe. That’s how I see it anyhow… It’s just our beliefs and/or particular intensity or feelings about an idea that gives it the weight of a true or “truer” conviction.

That is a good point, morality and virtue are not the same.

What I propose to you is this. Goals.

I'm sure you've been in enough debates to know that often times you and the other person have the same goal: to solve problem x. You disagree on the proposed method of reaching that solution, or perhaps disagree on the causes. In fact, I would wager that majority of the time the real disagreement in debate isn't about what the outcome should be (problem x is solved), but how to solve it.

Anyway, my point is this. The selfish person might say that through his selfishness he's going to supply the world with great products. People get a good product, and he gets rich. Some of his riches have to go to his employees or else he can't make more products and become even richer.

The more selfless person has a different approach, oftentimes resulting in them working for a more selfish oriented person. But they both need each other.

A great deal of it is based on perception, and I think part of that is difference in goals. Having different goals completely changes what you focus on, what's relevant. People see obstacles and tools, and the same thing can be both an obstacle and a tool depending on the goal.

Ever seen the basketball video with the gorilla? Okay class, we're going to watch this video and tell me how many times the basketball is passed back and forth.

*after video*

Okay, now who saw the gorilla? Many people don't, because of how completely irrelevant it was to their current orientation, i.e. current goal.

I think that, in part, goals drive morality.
 
It's all a continuum.
When I worked in the jail, everyone hated wife-beaters, 'cuz women were perceived as weak. But, everyone hated child abusers worse.

People violate laws every day (when's the last time you ACTUALLY drove the speed limit?). But, until someone gets hurt, no one gives a moral damn.
And the status of the victim matters. If someone steals from your granny, you wanna beat their arse. If someone steals from Citibank, you friggin cheer.

Our personal gain in the criminal transaction is secondary. When a Gangster Disciple kills a Vice Lord, he gains prestige. But, there is a moral imperative to the act.
WE are better than THEM. Ipso facto.
 
Smith;bt13295 said:
That is a good point, morality and virtue are not the same.

What I propose to you is this. Goals.

I'm sure you've been in enough debates to know that often times you and the other person have the same goal: to solve problem x. You disagree on the proposed method of reaching that solution, or perhaps disagree on the causes. In fact, I would wager that majority of the time the real disagreement in debate isn't about what the outcome should be (problem x is solved), but how to solve it.

Anyway, my point is this. The selfish person might say that through his selfishness he's going to supply the world with great products. People get a good product, and he gets rich. Some of his riches have to go to his employees or else he can't make more products and become even richer.

The more selfless person has a different approach, oftentimes resulting in them working for a more selfish oriented person. But they both need each other.

A great deal of it is based on perception, and I think part of that is difference in goals. Having different goals completely changes what you focus on, what's relevant. People see obstacles and tools, and the same thing can be both an obstacle and a tool depending on the goal.

Ever seen the basketball video with the gorilla? Okay class, we're going to watch this video and tell me how many times the basketball is passed back and forth.

*after video*

Okay, now who saw the gorilla? Many people don't, because of how completely irrelevant it was to their current orientation, i.e. current goal.

I think that, in part, goals drive morality.

That sounds pretty good. It reminds me of how the legal system puts a lot of weight on intent to define the nature of an act committed. For instance, killing, in and of itself, is judged in part by its intent and not simply for the act of killing.
 
Winston;bt13298 said:
It's all a continuum.
When I worked in the jail, everyone hated wife-beaters, 'cuz women were perceived as weak. But, everyone hated child abusers worse.

People violate laws every day (when's the last time you ACTUALLY drove the speed limit?). But, until someone gets hurt, no one gives a moral damn.
And the status of the victim matters. If someone steals from your granny, you wanna beat their arse. If someone steals from Citibank, you friggin cheer.

Our personal gain in the criminal transaction is secondary. When a Gangster Disciple kills a Vice Lord, he gains prestige. But, there is a moral imperative to the act.
WE are better than THEM. Ipso facto.

That's true. Morality seems to be a conjured idea more often than not- a part of a mental and emotional coping process to fit the nature of our mental, emotional, and physical environment.
 
I enjoyed the essay and following discussion.
What I walked away with was my own enjoyment of the fictional aspect of bad behavior. From dressing up in black as a preteen and pretending you're a cat burglar, to fantasizing about being a gangster that leaves the "civilians" alone.

The imagination is the place to get it out of my system. I've never been to much of an enabler concerning bad behavior and it's cost me some relationships but I do see some fuzzy lines.

I would have liked it if you had dealt with the Confederacy and all the motives behind that event especially because of all the hoopla over the flag.

Another issue that occurs to me is that our sensibilities have changed since the whole world has been basically discovered and conquered. Might makes right isn't such a set in stone policy anymore.

Great essay and introduction to discussion.
 

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