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Moral is a line with fuzzy ends. One end might be the Holocaust. The other might be the woman who washed Mother Theresa's underwear. Everyone has different ends to the line, but they're not that different.

Then everyone has two spots on the line. The place where they are at, and the place where they think they are at.

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How should humans determine what is moral? Is there a universal morality or is it acceptable for different groups to adhere to different morals?

I think that there is a universal morality and that it is basically tied to our selfish gene and natural desire to survive in an evolving world.

If you believe in evolution, then you will know that all we basically do all day is either compete or cooperate. Evolution has created us to instinctively know that cooperation is a better survival mechanism than competition that always created a loser. Losing is not a good survival strategy.

Here is a clip that shows, I think, the fact that we are hard wired to cooperate and do what we call good, as compared to competition that we would call evil as it creates a loser.

This other clip shows That morality as about the same everywhere and is always based on survival. It basically mimics ancient religious thinking while excluding God.

http://blog.ted.com/2008/09/17/the_real_differ/

Regards

DL

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How should humans determine what is moral? Is there a universal morality or is it acceptable for different groups to adhere to different morals?

I think it's universal and pretty simple - you do unto others as you'd have them do to you.

Most human beings can probably grasp the fundamentals of this concept by the time they graduate Kindergarten if as was pointed out they weren't already born with them.

It's when we start putting too much faith in our institution's and government's prescriptions for morality that we fall down the hardest.

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How should humans determine what is moral? Is there a universal morality or is it acceptable for different groups to adhere to different morals?

I can recall that the concept of moral has an evolutionary history dating back to the time of hunters and gathers to look out for each other since their population would be quite small, so it would start off as a universal morality. But over time as population coalesce in specific regions of the world, the concept of morality evolved independently but still retains the characteristic of universal morality that nearly all cultures recognizes today.

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How should humans determine what is moral? Is there a universal morality or is it acceptable for different groups to adhere to different morals?

I think there is clear evidence that we are hardwired to favour kin over strangers -- so it's been a struggle for centuries for governments and religions to try to maintain that notion of being nice to complete strangers. That part doesn't come naturally to us, even today....so right now, at this point in history, when the world has become a very small place where setting global standards and rules would save us from extinction, it still isn't sinking in to most people that what goes on half way around the world still affects us here.

I'll accept any group or any method that's working towards a universal morality, regardless of what approach they have taken to start the journey.

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I think that there is a universal morality and that it is basically tied to our selfish gene and natural desire to survive in an evolving world.

If you believe in evolution, then you will know that all we basically do all day is either compete or cooperate. Evolution has created us to instinctively know that cooperation is a better survival mechanism than competition that always created a loser. Losing is not a good survival strategy.

Here is a clip that shows, I think, the fact that we are hard wired to cooperate and do what we call good, as compared to competition that we would call evil as it creates a loser.

This other clip shows That morality as about the same everywhere and is always based on survival. It basically mimics ancient religious thinking while excluding God.

Regards

DL

Morality and ethics can't be derived from the biological principles of natural selection because the evolutionary process is devoid of such values. The only value is survival and furthering of the species, and survival odds may be improved through developing altruism, but that would be a co-adaptation, since there is nothing altruistic in the evolutionary process itself. Evolutionary principles do not guide us in how we should treat strangers. All we have to do is check the historical record for how many times murder, genocide, rape, theft etc. are justified as a holy cause against the enemies of God. Working towards a universal moral sense takes a leap beyond human nature and our evolutionary principles....that may be why it still isn't happening other than through rhetoric today.

Where I believe this becomes a problem is when some humanists try to insist they have, or like Sam Harris, could develop an objective moral system through scientific means. Our modern day moral judgments are no more universal or eternal than those that are sourced in religious texts. I would say that the closest we can come to universal or objective morality is still what can be agreed upon through general consensus. If most people are in agreement

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There is no universal morality. Morality is a concept brought about by community, and different communities have had different beliefs in what is/isn't moral. Go back into time and you find cultures where attacking and slaughtering people from a different village, different tribe, different nation were considered entirely natural. That includes slaughtering the children, raping the women and turning any survivors into slaves. Cannibalism was quite moral, too, in some cultures. Western concepts of morality have tended to spread in this day and age, because of how communications has allowed the spread of ideas. But it is hardly universally accepted in third world cultures.

Had a conversation with a woman the other day about the Toy Mountain charity. As most know it shows up every year, with help from numerous celebrities, to buy toys for children on Christmas. Well, it shouldn't surprise that many, many non-Christians show up to get toys each year. Why? Because these people come from cultures which have a hardscrabble existence. Their 'culture' is to get anything you can, any way you can, to survive. The fact they don't need to scramble like that now that they're in Canada is irrelevant. The value set that creates means they will take advantage of anything they can, be it Toy Mountain, food banks, or other charities designed for the poor. These people are not being immoral by their standards, just smart. Take anything you can get. Work the system, whatever that system is. They'd be honestly puzzled if you suggested they were being immoral.

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There is no universal morality. Morality is a concept brought about by community, and different communities have had different beliefs in what is/isn't moral. Go back into time and you find cultures where attacking and slaughtering people from a different village, different tribe, different nation were considered entirely natural. That includes slaughtering the children, raping the women and turning any survivors into slaves. Cannibalism was quite moral, too, in some cultures. Western concepts of morality have tended to spread in this day and age, because of how communications has allowed the spread of ideas. But it is hardly universally accepted in third world cultures.

Had a conversation with a woman the other day about the Toy Mountain charity. As most know it shows up every year, with help from numerous celebrities, to buy toys for children on Christmas. Well, it shouldn't surprise that many, many non-Christians show up to get toys each year. Why? Because these people come from cultures which have a hardscrabble existence. Their 'culture' is to get anything you can, any way you can, to survive. The fact they don't need to scramble like that now that they're in Canada is irrelevant. The value set that creates means they will take advantage of anything they can, be it Toy Mountain, food banks, or other charities designed for the poor. These people are not being immoral by their standards, just smart. Take anything you can get. Work the system, whatever that system is. They'd be honestly puzzled if you suggested they were being immoral.

True.

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So a culture acts a certain way and people follow its teachings, but does that really excuse their actions? A person may kill others and himself while truly believing he is doing God's work on earth and ensuring a place in paradise for his closest family and friends. Based on the person's beliefs they are certain they are committing the ultimate selfless act; but, do you really believe it is moral?

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There is no universal morality. Morality is a concept brought about by community, and different communities have had different beliefs in what is/isn't moral. Go back into time and you find cultures where attacking and slaughtering people from a different village, different tribe, different nation were considered entirely natural. That includes slaughtering the children, raping the women and turning any survivors into slaves. Cannibalism was quite moral, too, in some cultures. Western concepts of morality have tended to spread in this day and age, because of how communications has allowed the spread of ideas.

Now, show me the community that sanctioned murder within the community? This is where morality begins...we've already pretty well established that humans are not blank slates! We do have physical traits that are universal, which are necessary for a social animal living in groups. What is fluid, is what if any regard we have for the 'other.' Primitive societies usually had one word in their language for their tribe, or community, and one word for everyone else, no matter what tribe they were from, they were all outsiders....our historic legacy leaves us with the example of Jew and gentile. And, whether they would immediately kill all strangers or seek cooperative arrangements, such as trade, depended on the situation on the ground: the degree of crowding and competition for food and other resources, and whether or not their main camps had secure natural barriers that protected them from attack. As civilization progressed, political and religious identifications have developed to try to unite people of different family backgrounds, and the future of the human race itself right now, hinges on our ability or inability to develop a universalist sense of the world and all of the people of the world having the same primary interests in common, and mutual survival requiring everyone's cooperation, regardless of race, nationality, or religious background.

But it is hardly universally accepted in third world cultures.

Could you explain further? Are you implying that opposing cannibalism and the slaughter of innocents is a western value that has to be spread or imposed on the third world?

Had a conversation with a woman the other day about the Toy Mountain charity. As most know it shows up every year, with help from numerous celebrities, to buy toys for children on Christmas. Well, it shouldn't surprise that many, many non-Christians show up to get toys each year. Why? Because these people come from cultures which have a hardscrabble existence. Their 'culture' is to get anything you can, any way you can, to survive.

I guess that is what you are trying to imply....that based on this dubious anecdote, third world people are ruthless and self-interested...or at least more so than the 'third world' people I live near and work with!

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Now, show me the community that sanctioned murder within the community?

Murder is unlawful killing. If the community sanctions it then it's not unlawful. All communities decide on what basis people will be killed, what justifies killing them. Sometimes killing is done for religious reasons, as in human sacrifices, or heresy. Sometimes it's done in order to maintain order. Sometimes it's just that certain people are considered offensive (ie, gays).

This is where morality begins...we've already pretty well established that humans are not blank slates!

We pretty much are, and those slates are written on as we grow within a society and adapt its ways. What do you do with babies who are deformed? Well, if you grow up here, you give them every medical assistance. If you grew up in Sparta you simply tossed them off a cliff. What's the right thing to do with someone who wants to convert from Christianity to some other religion? We don't have any laws on that, but in some Muslim countries the punishment is death. And I'm quite sure they consider that the be thoroughly appropriate and 'moral'.

Could you explain further? Are you implying that opposing cannibalism and the slaughter of innocents is a western value that has to be spread or imposed on the third world?

Yes, largely. It was Europe which first turned against slavery, remember, and the British navy which started enforcing that prohibition on the high seas. The rest of the world was fine with it. Wholesale slaughter is still conducted in many third world countries, witness Rwanda, or CAR, or, for that matter, the middle east. Western concepts of individual liberty and respect for individual rights are what has spread and tended to elevate the world's sense of morality. Where else do you think it came from? China? Where they still murder baby girls because they want boys instead?

I guess that is what you are trying to imply....that based on this dubious anecdote, third world people are ruthless and self-interested...or at least more so than the 'third world' people I live near and work with!

Depends on where they came from and the culture in which their formative years was spent. Most third world countries are very poor by our standards, and have no governmental guarantees for the unemployed or unemployable. No welfare, no pension. You grow up with that fact, and you learn to take advantage of any and every opportunity to get stuff for nothing. And lying to the government, given the types of corrupt government which populate the third world, is not really considered terribly immoral.

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I think he is trying to imply that morality is relative to what your needs are. It'd easier to be moral when we are wealthy and have leisure time to think.

It's easier to compromise and be relaxed about people doing things you don't necessarily approve of when your life is more relaxed and comfortable. You tend to be more forgiving and follow the rules of the society which has benefited you with such a good life.

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It's easier to compromise and be relaxed about people doing things you don't necessarily approve of when your life is more relaxed and comfortable. You tend to be more forgiving and follow the rules of the society which has benefited you with such a good life.

I tend to agree. However, there is also a higher level of immorality. As people do have more leisure time and the ability to relax, something else happens. They eventually get bored and seek to be "entertained". Amused, what have you. Now that can include all kinds of things, couldn't it...

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Leisure time and comfortableness can be a double edged sword.

There are religious quacks who have the extra time to picket funerals with signs claiming "God hates fags" and other nasty stuff.

H.L. Mencken once defined puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is happy."

Give these freaks too much time, and political power, and watch out.

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Murder is unlawful killing. If the community sanctions it then it's not unlawful. All communities decide on what basis people will be killed, what justifies killing them. Sometimes killing is done for religious reasons, as in human sacrifices, or heresy. Sometimes it's done in order to maintain order. Sometimes it's just that certain people are considered offensive (ie, gays).

My point is that we are hardwired to distinguish between those close to us and outsiders. It doesn't mean that indiscriminate killing of outsiders is sanctioned by a group, and it's an unfounded and poorly sourced extrapolation for some, like evolutionary psychologist - Stephen Pinker to try to claim in his latest book (bent on framing a case that civilization is making us act better) to assume that the default position of hunter/gatherers is one of hostility and contempt for others. Sometimes it happens...I would say that most of the books of the Old Testament follow the dictum that is fair game to do whatever you want to enemy tribes like the Caananites. But, one archaeologist I heard interviewed, who also had a PHD in psychology, noted that there are many cases of people suffering PTSD from causing great harm to others, even if they did not know them or have a close interaction with them. Whereas no one has suffered from giving or doing something out of kindness to strangers. So, our default position might show that there is hope for humanity if we can break down the barriers that cause divisions.

We pretty much are, and those slates are written on as we grow within a society and adapt its ways. What do you do with babies who are deformed? Well, if you grow up here, you give them every medical assistance. If you grew up in Sparta you simply tossed them off a cliff. What's the right thing to do with someone who wants to convert from Christianity to some other religion? We don't have any laws on that, but in some Muslim countries the punishment is death. And I'm quite sure they consider that the be thoroughly appropriate and 'moral'.

But, for your blank slate interpretation of human behaviour to be correct, the Spartan tossing babies off a cliff would have to do more than be willing to carry out the action -- he would have to carry it out without any remorse. In modern day polite society, the only way this can be done without any psychological damage to the aggressor is if he is someone who could be categorized as a psychopath or sociopath by clinical definition. And there is some evidence that constant conflict and need for aggression over long periods of time encourage the increase in psychopathy. So, a warrior society like the Spartans would likely be populated with more emotionally disabled men than would normally be average. It's worth noting that scriptural sources like the Bible or the Quran, which contain passages exhorting the believers to go off to war without fear or remorse, seem to feel the need to include a few verses of condemnation towards those who do or would be trouble by having to slaughter enemies. Maybe that's because this is not the most natural way for humans to behave during the longest history of our species - during the long Pleistocene Epoch.

Yes, largely. It was Europe which first turned against slavery, remember, and the British navy which started enforcing that prohibition on the high seas. The rest of the world was fine with it. Wholesale slaughter is still conducted in many third world countries, witness Rwanda, or CAR, or, for that matter, the middle east. Western concepts of individual liberty and respect for individual rights are what has spread and tended to elevate the world's sense of morality. Where else do you think it came from? China? Where they still murder baby girls because they want boys instead?

This is why I am leery of both the religious and the atheistic trumpeters of the Enlightenment. The West's and especially England's ban on slavery was just sheer hypocrisy and total BS, since they enslaved their own citizens in debt bondage during the Industrial Revolution, and natives in colonized territories. They just switched labels and refrained from calling it slavery. But it was still slavery and oppression none the less.

We could, and maybe should open the topic of Rwanda, since the massacres that have occurred began through deliberate strategy of the colonists to divide the native population, and even today, a major story that will not be seen in American media is that this so called rebellion in eastern Congo is nothing but the American use of Ugandan and Rwandan proxy forces to invade the Congo and either permanently occupy mineral-rich territories or give it back to the Congo Government after they have aquiesced to the terms demanded by foreign mining companies.

Depends on where they came from and the culture in which their formative years was spent. Most third world countries are very poor by our standards, and have no governmental guarantees for the unemployed or unemployable. No welfare, no pension. You grow up with that fact, and you learn to take advantage of any and every opportunity to get stuff for nothing. And lying to the government, given the types of corrupt government which populate the third world, is not really considered terribly immoral.

I still wonder about the veracity of this story because of my personal experiences, which are largely that poor people are more generous than those with more available to them. Most of the people that I've seen when I've volunteered at a local downtown Anglican Church mission are women on welfar or drug addicts. I don't see a lot of foreigners looking for free food and clothes. I see them at the thrift shops where 2nd hand clothes are sold, but that's a different matter entirely.

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Modern day "Spartans" are abortionists....no remorse.

Maybe you can explain to me why you are so concerned about whether or not pregnant women have abortions, while showing a complete disregard for the wanton killing of the living today and express a total lack of concern for the likelihood that modern human civilization is paving the way towards extinction? Is killing a fetus immoral, but causing the deaths of everyone in a few generations perfectly acceptable by whatever sort of moral standard you adhere to?

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There is no universal morality. Morality is a concept brought about by community, and different communities have had different beliefs in what is/isn't moral.

The OP question is an age-old question of philosophy. I agree with Argus. Morality is culturally relative, and even different from person to person. What was considered moral even 100 years ago in the Canada/the West is considered morally reprehensible to us now, and in another 100 years our current society will be considered a moral abomination. So it goes.

For one culture to call another immoral and demanding them to change, like the West calling an African culture or Arab culture savage, is cultural imperialism. Morality is like a social contract within a society. As long as the vast majority agree to it (there will always be outliers, even in our society), that is the defined morality of that society. That said, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a Western, imperial document. It was apparently written with "consultation" with different global societies, like Africa and Asian delegates, but it's clearly a western document of liberal democratic human rights, not "universal" as claimed.

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Maybe you can explain to me why you are so concerned about whether or not pregnant women have abortions, while showing a complete disregard for the wanton killing of the living today and express a total lack of concern for the likelihood that modern human civilization is paving the way towards extinction? Is killing a fetus immoral, but causing the deaths of everyone in a few generations perfectly acceptable by whatever sort of moral standard you adhere to?

Don't bother, just save yourself the trouble and ignore him.

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For one culture to call another immoral and demanding them to change, like the West calling an African culture or Arab culture savage, is cultural imperialism. Morality is like a social contract within a society. As long as the vast majority agree to it (there will always be outliers, even in our society), that is the defined morality of that society.

So as long as the majority agree with a practice then anything goes? How do we determine the majority, with a referendum?

I suspect that slavery would still be practiced in the south if its removal was dependent on popularity contest.

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Don't bother, just save yourself the trouble and ignore him.

Well, since the subject is about what principles and guides we use to make decisions about morality and ethics, I expect even trolls to be consistent in the application of their moral rules.

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So as long as the majority agree with a practice then anything goes? How do we determine the majority, with a referendum?

I suspect that slavery would still be practiced in the south if its removal was dependent on popularity contest.

Well, let them have their own referendums on these issues! If they are moral issues...no matter how egregious, that do not impact on life in the rest of the world, it should not be up to Team America to imposed new and improved morality upon them.

The biggest problem with western supremacism - usually packaged these days as 'Enlightenment values' is that we are presenting our societies and our cultures as the models for Africa and the rest of the Third World to emulate. Let's look at the downside to them if they scrap their cultures and just adopt everything western: our modern capitalist system has promoting and is still promoting a culture of promiscuous consumption, where everything is for sale. And the values of ever-growing consumption are now pushing the world to the brink of extinction. How does that stack up in comparison with public stonings and child marriage, and whatever backward practices they still engage in? It should be more up to them to work through their problems and make the adjustments that can be provided with improved knowledge and education. Trying to impose culture from the outside....especially when it is imposed by an outside force that is trying to subvert their culture and control their economies, is more likely to fuel the reactionary forces than bring any society into modernity.

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