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Morality, you say? STOP THAT!

Started by Promethium147, December 23, 2007, 02:07:01 AM

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Quote from: "MommaSquid"Morality is subjective.  Ethics are situationally subjective.  Very few things in life are black and white.  Most of us live in the gray...

Quote from: "Chris Johnston"MommaSquid, I couldn't possibly disagree with you more. Religious based morality, or irreligious hedonism are subjective. But the mind-based ethics that Promethium exposed is based in objective reality. It is the only kind that does not rely on the whim of the god or the spoiled child.

It relies on the mind and on reality.

I'm not a philosopher, so I'm not going to try to disagree with you; I'll simply state what I know.  Everyone has a different mind and, therefore, a different view of reality.

Your view of reality is, no doubt, different than mine.

BTW, welcome to the forum.  :)


Hi guys - this has been an educational thread for me.  Particularly,

Quote from: "donkeyhoty"You cannot divorce ethics and morality. Morality is simply the what, and ethics is the how and why.

If, in whatever belief system you follow, it is morally "right" to kill the other, it is through ethics that this action is shown to be "right".

By proclaiming that atheists cannot be moral you are allowing theists to lay claim to a word that belongs to everyone. When theists say, "atheists can't be moral" they mean that atheists can't be moral based upon their worldview. If you say we cannot not be moral, then you are agreeing with the theists that their beliefs hold the one and only truth.

simplified example: When you say, "It is wrong to do X, but right to do Y" that is morality. When you ask, "Why is it wrong to do X and not Y?" that is ethics.
Yeah, I really see your point.  Using the terms this way does make the most sense.  Kudos donkeyhoty - you laid this down really well!

So - I'd like to revise my opinion, I might not have been misusing the word 'moral' after-all.

However, Promethium's point that "ethical thinking" allows you question why things are wrong and why they are right, and to subject the answer to rational thought (critical analysis), still holds as a clear distinction from religious morality where the morals are simply read out of an ancient scripture and strictly adhered to because they are believed to have come from some god's mouth directly (and therefore can't be critiqued or questioned).

I'd also like to emphasize that I dramatically agree with the sentiment that American Christians play a deliberate word game with morality.  They basically equate the word "moral" with the word "Christian" and then accuse anyone non-Christian of being amoral.  Which, according to how they use the word, is true.  Its just that they're using the word "moral" in a really f#%^ed up way that is deliberately misleading.  Then they use this to disguise "Christian principles" as "moral principles".  Because who would be opposed to moral principles?  It is a true shame that transparent stunts like this seem to work on a lot of people.

The like-minded retaliation would be to accuse Christians of being "unethical".  Its just that I'm intellectually honest enough to recognize that while there may be "amoral atheists" and "unethical Christians", trying to paint whole groups of people with such broad brush strokes never really works.  Seems to me like the world has its fair share of both "bad" atheists and "good" Christians.


Quote from: "Chris Johnston"jcm,
You have done an injustice to morality and to christians. The only christians I have ever known who felt justified in mistreating an animal were twisted, sick individual who were nominal christians. Many do not pay close attention to where their food comes from, but kick their dog or cat and watch them.

If you wish to broaden the "mistreatment" category to the point that requires a rabbi to actually kill our food, then you have another issue entirely.

One of the big surprises of the 21st century is the way that evangelical christians are joining environmental activists. This is because their god has told them not only that they have dominion over the earth, but that they are stewards of the same.

I was not talking about intentional torture, though I'm sure it happens. I was talking about how a Christian might not care about the welfare of an animal. You said it yourself, "Many do not pay close attention to where their food comes from." I think it is that lack of attention to the suffering of an animal which is unethical.

QuoteMany do not pay close attention to where their food comes from, but kick their dog or cat and watch them.

I'm sure you would get the same reaction if you kicked their car. Christians I know enjoy using squirrels as target practice as well as hunting for the thrill more than the meal. It is much cheaper to go down to the grocery store and buy a box of steaks than it is to go in the woods to hunt a deer.

Ok here is another example, explain to me, why being gay is considered wrong by christians. It is written in the bible that a man should not lay with another man, but aside from god saying so, explain to me why it is "wrong," "a sin" or "immoral".

Most Christians are not good stewards as far as I am concerned. That part of the bible is overlooked from what I see, ask Al Gore.
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. -cs


And here we have the basic DisAgreement - some here assert that morality and ethics are synonymous. Others assert that they are quite different.

However, they are two words, and there is a reason for that.

I assert they are quite different. I assert again - Morality is only Objective in relation to some premises. Ethics is the same in this respect.

However, Ethics selects the least assumptions, and is constantly subject to revision of those assumptions if they should fail, and further offers evaluation and revision of these premises in light of actual results, the results being evaluated on the basis of some clear criterion - it is results-oriented.

Morality is adherence to a set of rules or premises that are arbitrary, generally, those of the group to which we desire to belong (the group from whom we seek the personal benefits of society.) This means -  Morality is a GroupThink, preffered to Thinking - and one of the social benefits we seek is a cessation of personal thinking, thereby the abdication of personal responsibility. It is Conformity-Oriented, and assumes validity of the fallacies of Ad Populum and Ad Hominem argument.

And in this context, I find Morality to be a dirty word; it is inferior to a process of Ethics in theory and performance, and the primary benefit of Morality over Ethics is a lack of Labor is - I don't have to think for myself, I am intellectually lazy.

However, Intellectual Laziness is neither an Ethical OR a Moral value, and Morality contradicts itself here - from the GetGo.

Further, Morality seeks primarily group agreement, and the group becomes a (quick and dirty) Static Society.

Ethics seek what works best, and offers a process to evaluate and determine the best results - there are no criteria other than success, the premises are not "sacred" in any sense, merely the means to a best end. It promotes efforts to improve - and we have a Dynamic Society, seeking constant improvement, Progressive Society.

If this be True, Ethical Society wins in the battle of Most Fit - Ethical Societies DEVOUR Moral Societies.

I see it again and again, our Society, in practice, is Ethical - the Law, for instance, is based in Ethics. We often complain of Moral Laws, but no one complains about Ethical Laws - except Fundamentalists.


I am the long-term Moral Victim of Child Sexual Abuse. According to the Moral Law, my Abuser is a Pedophile, period, and deserves punishment.

But I married her anyway, two days after I came of legal age, after three years of effective partnership, and we were married some time, I think exceptionally Happily and Productively.

In the case where argued in Court, the obvious defense would be - no one was hurt, everyone benefited, society improved - and by a process of Ethics, we would be entitled to make that argument, and would expect it to be effective, as well - because the Jury is probably more Ethical than Moral. No one in their right mind would punish my wife as a Pedophile here.

What is very interesting here is we speak of a Moral Law - that has absolutely no basis in Morality, it is a bizarre hybrid involving a misplaced Moral Impulse; Christian Morality actually has no limits to the relative ages in a sexual relationship mentioned in it anywhere, and very old men with very young wives is presumed to be good by way of Scripture.

The Law requiring me to be 18 to choose in my state is even more arbitrary than Morality - somebody just made it up, a false vision of sudden, instantaneous transition to adulthood where none exists. It was nothing more than an attempt at simplification (and assemblage of a GroupThink) - and the result is absurd.

However, the State of New Mexico at the time had a legal age of sexual consent of 13 yrs. - yet we did not attack New Mexico because they are backward Pedophiles -

That would have been Unethical.


I'm still on the same page with you, Promethium.

I think the disagreements stem mostly from a misunderstanding of what you have been trying to say here. Perhaps this will clarify the position better.
Elvis didn't do no drugs!
--Penn Jillette

Girl Dancing In Orbit

I just finished reading the original post by Promethium, I haven't read the replies yet, so I don't know if what I'll say already have been said, sorry for repeating if that's the case.

My first reaction was : Huh ?

My second was : What the ?

And here is my third one : Morality is a matter of religious doctrine ?

I could NOT agree less with that. Simply but : Morality is knowing the difference between right and wrong. Ethics on the other hand is a "code of conduct" that a moral person will adopt. "I know that it is wrong to kill (moral) now, will I still allow myself to kill (ethics) ?"

Of course this is a very simple definition and it could be discussed further but morality as nothing, I mean, Nothing to do with religion. But religion really wants us to believe that without them, Morality is impossible...

Let me cut and paste something I wrote in another post, this had to do with the Christian Community rejecting the ideas that the Fred Phelps family have :

"Of course the Christian community condemns what the Phelps family is doing, stating that it is immoral, hateful and simply non-religious. Yet, the Phelps actually apply what is written in the bible (supposedly a source of morality) and they do what they do for pure religious reasons. Homosexuals are abominations that God deeply despise. So to paraphrase Steven Weinberg, what is really going on here is that the Christian community, instead of using their religion to say what is moral (like they claim they do), they are using their moral sense to decide what is religious. If that's the case then what's the point of the religion ?"


I guess I'm seeing this both ways, really.  I could not agree with Promethium more strongly that simply following rules, especially arbitrary ones, is idiotic.  But, I really like the usage that donkeyhoty put forth - that morals are the principles, and ethics guides how morals are created.

Anyway, rather than what words we use, isn't the important message here that right and wrong take consideration?  And that sometimes we have to revise our previously held opinion about right and wrong?  That a static system is bound to failure?  That no matter what, we can never excuse ourselves from having to think if we want to make sense?

This is the gist of what I'm taking from reading Promethium's posts.  How we use 'moral' and 'ethic' is a semantic issue that I'm not sure is as important as this central message.

Promethium, here's something that I really agree with:

Quote from: "Promethium147"The Law requiring me to be 18 to choose in my state is even more arbitrary than Morality - somebody just made it up, a false vision of sudden, instantaneous transition to adulthood where none exists. It was nothing more than an attempt at simplification (and assemblage of a GroupThink) - and the result is absurd.
I hate age laws.  All of them.  For this same reason: they are completely arbitrary.  When it comes to laws it seems we must either choose an ambiguous standard (like "reasonable doubt") or we must choose an arbitrary standard (like .08 BAC is too drunk to drive).  I have a strong inclination to favor ambiguous standards over arbitrary ones.



Before I go further with this, you may have a look at the above articles from Wikipedia, and note - the articles are apparently in some disagreement of the proper application of the terms. These are General articles on complex topics.

Note however that the Morality entry has chapters largely on religion and morality, while the Ethics entry refers largely to Greek and modern Philosophy. Therein lies the difference - actual application or precedent.  

I note also that the dictionaries themselves define the two terms in a cyclical manner, but - this is a popular corruption, an oversimplification to fit in the dictionary.

ETHIKOS is Greek, and Ethics is specifically applied to the MEANS OF CALCULATING correct action, whereas a specific Ethic implies a certain set of premises. Note the long listing of Grecian ethical systems in the Ethics article - that state the specific objectives of each Ethic.

I note also the idea expressed above that one need merely know the difference between right and wrong - that is my point.

There IS NO single universal human or planetary standard of right and wrong - yet here we are in the 21st century, cheek to jowl, all assholes and elbows - we simply are not getting along well enough, and have to fix it.

Suicide bombers think they are right - and can back it with scripture.

Slave owners of the Old South had good Biblical arguments supporting slavery - the Bible allows it, encourages it, even regulates it.

Infanticide and cannibalism are popular in several major world cultures - such as the Chinese.

Manifest Destiny tells us it's OK to kill all those pesky redskins - almost, not quite. We'll put the rest in the desert.

All these things and many, many more were done because they were "right" (well, they seemed right at the time.)

Now, if we try to fix these Moral Values, and come to something more Universal, we should probably step back and try to consider what we really want as a group, before we all go off half-cocked chasing it - for we may collide violently. We start as simple as we can, and then apply a little Logic.

I say that a good, simple definition for this is Ethics, an essentially scientific process of determining best action with an objective of some specific best outcome, as opposed to -

Morals, a collection of generalized beliefs CONCOCTED BY SOMEONE ELSE, traditional and severely resistant to change, often amongst a small, geographically isolated group.

YOU need to determine for yourself what Right and Wrong are. It is a PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. However, if you want me to trust you enough to engage in potentially useful social interactions, YOU must tell me what you think these things are, and give me some idea of how you will act, and I must do the same for you, or - it's a powderkeg.

For if we come from opposite sides of the planet and we are somehow forced to cooperate or die, we need to establish some Universal rules for interaction, or else we just may kill each other.

You are on the Internet - it makes no difference where you are, but it still makes a big difference where you came from (ethnically, ethically.)