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Author Topic: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?  (Read 3249 times)

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Offline BeorningTopic starter

Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« on: December 16, 2011, 07:29:57 PM »
Okay, here's something that I keep wondering about now and then...

When we, the modern people, look back at humanity's history, we often come to the conclusion that our ancestors were primitive. Brutal. Unelightened. That they had social norms and ethical principles that we now consider weird, disturbing or simply evil. Right?

I mean... it's obvious for us that slavery is a bad thing. Similarly, most of us wouldn't be supportive of punishing people by crucifying them. We shudder to think that, in Victorian society, it was considered perfectly acceptable for a husband to deliver corporal punishment to his wife or to literally lock her up. An average modern person wouldn't be in favour of racial segregation. And so on.

But... if we took an average person from 100 years ago... or 200 years ago... or 2000 years ago... then, this person would be surprised to learn of our opinions. To a citizen of Ancient Rome, slavery was something obvious and normal. A typical man from 1850s would be surprised to hear that disciplining his wife by hitting her was something immoral. And a lot of well-meaning people in the 1950s were quite sure that letting a Black man marry a White woman was simply unnatural.

What's more... all of these nice, well-meaning people from the past would most probably be *shocked* to learn of our modern way of life. I'm pretty sure that, by our ancestors, we would be considered crazy and immoral. A Roman would say to us: "You don't have slaves? What are you, stupid?". A Victorian man would be shocked to learn that our women are allowed to vote. Many people from 1950s would be disgusted by interracial marriages... And, once again: all of this criticism would be levelled at us by normal, nice, well-meaning people. Who would be stunned by us not seeing the obvious wrongness of our modern society.

And so, here's the big question: what if they are *right*?

I mean: we often assume that, when it comes to morality, we got it - more or less - right. We believe that it was our ancestors who were wrong. That, by virtue of living *after* them, we're wiser, more enlightened and so on.

The problem is, it doesn't work that way. There were instances in our history when some social norms were dropped as old-fashioned... and, then, reinstituted. Social progress can take wrong turns... and *had* taken wrong turns.

So... what if we're currently living in such a moment of "wrong turn"? What if some ethical norm we consider normal and crucial to our society turns out to be just plain wrong and evil?

What do you think? Is it possible? And, if so, then... isn't it a bit scary?

Offline Shjade

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2011, 07:40:37 PM »
What's that you say? Right and wrong are subjective labels placed on popular social mores of the present and all ethical interpretations are viewed through the lenses constructed of said mores making them impossible to judge by completely objective standards since their very existence is predicated upon subjectivity?

I am shocked, shocked I say, by this development.

To put it another way: no, I am not scared by the notion of other people having different values than I do. It's normal.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2011, 08:01:03 PM »
So... let's say you get a time machine. You travel into the future and learn that our descendants abolished democracy, reinstituted slavery and made half of the crimes punishable by torture.

What do you say to your grandchildren? "Hey, you and I have completely different idea of what's good and evil, but no problem! It's all relative anyway! Good luck with whipping these jaywalkers!"..? ;)

Offline Shjade

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2011, 01:42:45 AM »
So... let's say you get a time machine. You travel into the future and learn that our descendants abolished democracy, reinstituted slavery and made half of the crimes punishable by torture.

What do you say to your grandchildren?
"You guys have slaves? Hunh. I guess that's cool, if you like that sort of thing. Me? I have a fucking time machine. I think I win."

Something like that.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2011, 07:55:23 AM »
I mean: we often assume that, when it comes to morality, we got it - more or less - right. We believe that it was our ancestors who were wrong. That, by virtue of living *after* them, we're wiser, more enlightened and so on.

*blinks* I really hope that isn't what people go around thinking. Though I suppose it wouldn't surprise me given how little education on moral philosophy there is these days. If you view morality as a continually rising trajectory from 'primitive' to 'modern' you are wrong. If you further imply that there is a causative relationship there, then you are deluded. Asking the question you are asking is really important and I don't think I would like to know how few people actually bother to ask it...

Moral principles are rationally derived and not subjective, and their appropriate application could only change with fundamental changes to the human condition. I think your question assumes three things it shouldn't:
1) that past cultures are more homogenous than they are. I would be hard pressed to find a culture I would characterize as wholly brutal, unenlightened, or primitive. And even in some morally vincible cultures we have written record of dissenting moral philosophers. The idea of moral living is not a modern concept and moral philosophy has thousands of years of history;
2) that past cultures thought of themselves as moral. There are a number of instances, the Athenian attack on Melos springs to mind, where world powers in the ancient world have gone on record as having an understanding the morality of a situation and intentionally acting in an immoral fashion; and
3) that our culture is more homogenous than it is and thinks of itself as moral. I don't really see a lot of evidence that we do as there are a number of places where we remain (apparently willfully) morally vincible (and completely get away with it as the population as a whole has an immature understanding of morality).

Offline Shjade

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2011, 12:24:20 PM »
Moral principles are rationally derived and not subjective
Rationally derived based upon personal and societal values, which vary by person and society based on their views, not on anything objective or immutable; they're subjective. There is no firm "right" or "wrong," only what any given group believes to be right or wrong in a given context.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2011, 01:47:03 AM »
No, I said -rationally-. Which means not caring at all about your quaint, subjective values and beliefs. Do try not to misconstrue my meaning.

Offline Shjade

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2011, 02:11:24 AM »
I'm not trying to misconstrue your meaning. I'm questioning your usage of the term "rational" to mean "removed from values."

No human being is capable of deriving rational concepts to the exclusion of personal bias. We're not wired that way. We're not machines. Reasoning is influenced by what you know and what you do not know, what you believe and what you disbelieve. There was a time that the rational, reasonable understanding of the world determined that it was flat. That wasn't because people had "quaint" beliefs that told them flatness was superior to other shapes or qualities. It was simply what they reasoned to be correct at the time. As you might have heard, this was later determined to be inaccurate.

"Rationally derived" is not a shield you can hide behind any more than "God's will" when it comes to determining moral principles. It's just another lens through which one views the world. Whether it is a lens of greater merit for determining right or wrong than another is, as I mentioned previously, a question answered by the individual, the community, the entity that is currently in search of an answer that suits their understanding of existence.

To put it another way: placing hyphens around a word does not strengthen your position from a rational perspective.

Offline Jude

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2011, 05:25:06 AM »
Moral principles are rationally derived and not subjective
According to moral objectivist philosophers -- your comments pretend that they are the only ones who have anything to say on the matter.  They're not.

There are philosophers who conclude everything from "morality is a nonexistent illusion" (nihilism) to "morality is objective, absolute, and universal."  There are a lot of shades of gray inbetween and none of them are without problems.  That's one of the frustrating things for a first year philosophy student, they take you through a bunch of system of beliefs that have you going "aha!"  And then they systematically deconstruct them all one by one as you tear your hair out in frustration.  It's a kind of informal (and imperfect) "proof by mathematical induction" that leads most to conclude "ok, there's no perfect, rational moral system."

Kant's categorical imperative is useless because there is no "ether frame" which can be clearly defined (obscure physics/philosophy reference for the win).  Utilitarianism faces the problem of Omelas.  Moral relativism  does a great job of accurately describing human behavior through history, but justifies things like female genital mutilation.  Nihilism has an attractive honest simplicity to it but provides no basis for human cooperation.  And social contract theory is basically an acceptance of nihilism with a provision of "but if we pretend there are morals we'll all benefit from it, so lets do that."

What the OP is discussing is, in essence, explained perfectly by moral relativism, which basically states that generally speaking moral principles are derived by the society in which they exist out of utility as an adaptive method to fit their current environment.  I think it also venerates those moral systems by saying it's what's "right for them" and refusing to judge, but that's where a rational (and empathetic person) must diverge from the theory (in my opinion).

I think a combination of a moral relativist viewpoint and social contract theory really explain human behavior well:  it isn't that morals are absolute, rational things as much as they are practical things.  Considering certain things right and wrong helps guide humanity towards better ends, and civilizations which do this have happier, more product citizens.  For example, it makes sense to abhor homosexuality from a primitive perspective of survival:  we needed all the reproduction we could get when we were trying to multiply and conquer the earth.  Today we don't need more humans, in fact overpopulation could very well be a problem eventually, so it makes no sense to oppose homosexuality in such a context.  Of course morals from those days persist, which is why we need more self-awareness and criticism than mere moral relativism allows for.

In my view, in the end, it's best to think of morals as a set of rules aimed at bringing about a better world, and to think of positions as conservative or progressive related to individual morals.  Conservative positions attempt to preserve morals whereas progressive opinions try to change or destroy them.  In theory, rational discourse should occur between the two and conservative arguments should win out when the moral in question is still good for society.  For example, progressive opinions may propose elimination of rules against theft.  A debate would ensue, that conservatives should ultimately win because moralized theft would be destructive to society.

The process takes a long time to work unfortunately.  We've managed to use it to eliminate all sorts of barbaric practices in the past (slavery, women not having the right to vote, et cetera) and it's still being utilized today on the battlegrounds over homosexuality's moral status.  Up close the process is extremely ugly and slow, but when you pull back and look at it from a macroscopic viewpoint, it's amazing how far we've come in terms of human lifespans (2 of them ago, for instance, women couldn't vote).

Science, empiricism, and reason can be used to inform critiques of morals in this proposed ethical system, but after the cost benefit analysis it always comes down to a decision that is (in some ways) fundamentally illogical.  Yes, you can determine that the consequences of "x" being immoral is "y and z," but typically asking whether avoiding y because of z is a good decision is about as scientifically meaningful as asking if ducks are cuter than pandas (you could do research on which better resemble human babies and resemble the qualities of youth, but in the end there's still so much that is impossible to determine purely rationally).

In a lot of ways reason and emotion are inseparable to the human mind.  I think Objectivist viewpoints fail to acknowledge advances in neuroscience and our newer understanding of the human mind.  I suggest reading George Lakoff's theories about embodied mind.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2011, 05:29:51 AM by Jude »

Offline SirLost

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2011, 12:32:52 PM »
That's such an interesting conversation. I especially favoured Jude's statements, which I'm in agreement. I'd like to offer my humble opinions about the matter.

Do moral values advance/evolve in a rational way? As far as I know, we should have an objective criterion in order to be say that its development is rational. How societies go on with or without morals can be considered as such a criterion, I guess, if we assume that morals are there to keep the health of socities. For example, how Japan dealt with such striking earthquakes can be an example why societies need morals. And everyone would live much happier in a society where you drop your wallet in a bus and another passenger warns you about it.

But are all our moral codes based on such objective criterions? For example, the concept of "animal rights" is not about to keep our utilization and protect the environment just for our own good. We don't want animals to suffer in vain, but is it based on any objective fact? Or why exactly are the lives of human embryos so valueable?

I don't believe that ethics are based on rationality.

And about the chronological derivation of moral values (like woman rights and slavery), another factors that needs to be considered could be effects of religion, media and freedom of speech. Think of the dark years and societies where women were treated as a possession, rather than a human being. People were probably under the influence of religious beliefs, which they perceived as the absolute truth. Could anyone voice their opinions about woman rights without being condemned as a heretic?

I'm not saying that freedom of speech and the broadness of media caused our moral advancement solely by themselves, as another important part is how the societies would appraise these new ideas. But they must still have a significant role in this.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2011, 03:10:15 PM »
Personally, I think that as much as moral relativism is useful for sociological analysis etc., it's also not really true. Because, if everything is relative, then there's really no good or evil - and, if so, then basically... everything goes.

I think that there *is* some objectively moral way of living... the problem is, with us being only human, we can't really define it perfectly. We can only approximate... and, during the ages, various cultures managed to get the approximation correctly to differing degrees.

Of course, we have no way of knowing whether our current "approximation" is correct... and that's what puzzles and scares me. That we might believe that we've got it more or less right with democracy, human rights etc... and then, it might all turn out objectively wrong.

To put it in more concrete terms: there's this "time machine" scenario I mentioned earlier. Let's imagine that we travel 300 years in the future and learn that there's no democracy anymore, that the women are property once again etc. What your reaction would be?

1. That this kind of society is, for reason, needed in that time and age, so that makes it okay?

2. That the future humanity is horribly screwed up and needs to be saved?

3. That *we* are screwed up - and the fact that our humanitarian ideas didn't last proves they were incorrect?

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2011, 03:58:14 PM »
A lot of the rights that we take for granted now (absence of slavery, women's suffrage, etc.) were won through some form of civil unrest.  If that civil unrest hadn't been supported by enough people, those changes wouldn't have occurred.  Because they were supported heavily enough, it was in the best interests of the dissenting population to at least stop pushing the issue (although there are still pockets here and there who would rather see the 'old ways' return.)

Offline SirLost

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2011, 05:10:50 PM »
If the society we face in 2300 is really unrested because of the status, well, obviously what has been (hmm, "will be") done is wrong. Because they probably perceive it as unethical and wrong, like we do in 2011.

But what we should question is the situation where people see it as the correct way, like Beorning asks. Slaves or suppressed women in the past could believe that they were created to live that way, for example. And when we talked with women of 2300, they might say "What? Is our current status unethical? I don't understand it. Why do we need democracy? We are happy to be dictated, because we don't need to worry about who to elect. Oh, by the way, I better hurry to home, or my husband will beat me down! Well, I know that females had rights in your time, but believe me, we are happier when strictly dominated!". And whatever we told them wouldn't change their minds, because they are either under a heavy mind control or they have observed that socities function better with the new rules in fact. 

Personally, I don't believe that moral values will be changed to anything so much different from The Golden Rules we have today. Unless societies' minds are cleared.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2011, 01:03:34 AM »
To put it another way: placing hyphens around a word does not strengthen your position from a rational perspective.

And merely asserting the impossibility of something without basis does not make it impossible (although it does let us infer that it is impossible for you. Indeed, multiple experiments in exploring the human experience, and morality in particular, through the lens of pure/mere reason have been esseyed throughout the history of philosophy. At least one of these (Kant's), being particularly rigorous and comprehensive. Just because you lack the ability to 'derive rational concepts to the exclusion of personal bias' does not mean that humanity as a whole does (I shudder to think of the state of mathematics were that the case!).

A moral system can arise from wholly a priori principles and of necessity removed from our experience and subjective values, thereby remaining constant regardless of your society and circumstance. So what is immoral today will be immoral 300 years in the future, was immoral 2000 years in the past , would be immoral with a fox or in a box, etc. That said, I do think that the assumption that we live in a right acting society currently or that we measure up to said moral standard merely because we are more advanced, to be a common misconception of the modern person (and probably one that has been the status quo throughout the ages to past or the ages to come). People like to believe in moral systems that make them comfortable, this is the appeal of moral relativism or utilitarianism.

Offline Jude

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2011, 05:38:30 AM »
It's definitely true that a purely objective moral system can exist.  It's trivial to construct such a thing:  consider a moral system wherein everything is permitted.  That system is internally consistent and provides a definition for right and wrong that never changes.  The problem is, how do you show that any moral system (including that one) is the correct system to follow?

Traditional arguments for and against the adoption of specific moral systems is where the rationality breaks down.  For example, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas is a great counter-argument to traditional Utilitarianism, but the argument only works because the suffering of the boy in it to the town's benefit is seen as morally wrong.  Nearly every counter-point to a moral system is taken from similar angles:  we can't care purely about intent because if we do, we make ignorance a moral virtue.  We can't focus solely on the outcome, because then the moral value of our actions becomes a matter of chance that is divorced from our ability to control our own moral righteousness.  We can't focus purely on the action taken itself, because actions have context and this would make refusing to lie to a Nazi who asks you where a Jew is hiding immoral.  These are just 3 examples of placing emphasis in different components of moral behavior, and each is countered by an emotional response that is assumed to be a postulate in the discussion:  young children shouldn't suffer for a society's good, ignorance shouldn't be a virtue, Jews should be protected from Nazis; et cetera.

Emotional impulses aren't a good basis for purely rational morality, not even an observation of what principles human beings generally have in common forms a logical premise.  Why?  There could be something that every human being in the entire world has believed is wrong (there is no such thing, of course, but on a societal level there are a lot of things that successful civilizations have adhered to).  Arguing that because we have adhered to x historically, x must be a solid moral role is a type of is-ought fallacy:  this is the way things have been, so this is the way they ought to be.  Closely related is the notion of human beings doing what comes natural to us (pro-social behavior for instance being considered a moral good) being a moral good:  this is the Naturalistic Fallacy (a close relative if not penname of is-ought).

At one point Alice, you compared moral philosophy to mathematics, and I actually think that's a pretty damn good comparison.  The following is all true about moral and mathematical systems:  you can use rationality to expand on them, you can solve real-world problems using them as a framework, and they form a great framework through which to understand the spheres they influence (social behavior with morality and empirical data with mathematics).  Unfortunately, they also have another thing in common:  they're not based on pure reason and there are multiple systems for math and morality that have their merits.  All of mathematics is based on axioms, morality must also be based on first principles (as I spoke of earlier).  In mathematics, there are 3 different types of geometry:  Euclidean, Hyperbolic, and elliptical; the parallel of these for morality might be teleological, deontological, pragmatic, and virtue ethics.

To be fair, there are some things about mathematics that seems to go beyond our specific interpretation of it.  Transcendental numbers, for instance, describe the very nature of existence in some ways.  Perhaps the deep study of morality will reveal similar things (I think it already has, actually), but the significance and universality of these isolated facets is one of speculative and spiritual (and I don't mean that in a religious way -- think Neil deGrasse Tyson) significance.

It is possible we will discover something eventually that shifts our entire outlook on existence, moral, empirical, and mathematical otherwise.  At current however, I don't think it's rational to assume a purely rational morality will ever arise in an objective fashion that proves itself to be the "one true" outlook on proper behavior as a human being.

The lack of such a commanding outlook doesn't mean the morals serve no purpose, should be abandoned, or are a limiting concept.  We clearly need them to survive.  Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan says all that needs to be said about that.  So those of us who ponder morals are left to wonder which imperfect system is the best system -- and each of us has a differing definition of best.  If nothing else, stopping to think about it does some good.  Most people accept the limited, objectivist duty-focused list they're given by whatever religion they follow without attempting in the least to come at the question of ethics with an open mind.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2011, 05:43:47 AM by Jude »

Offline Shjade

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #15 on: December 23, 2011, 10:24:35 AM »
And merely asserting the impossibility of something without basis does not make it impossible (although it does let us infer that it is impossible for you. Indeed, multiple experiments in exploring the human experience, and morality in particular, through the lens of pure/mere reason have been esseyed throughout the history of philosophy. At least one of these (Kant's), being particularly rigorous and comprehensive. Just because you lack the ability to 'derive rational concepts to the exclusion of personal bias' does not mean that humanity as a whole does (I shudder to think of the state of mathematics were that the case!).

I like the way you keep making this about me in your responses. It's flattering.

It's early, I didn't sleep, and Jude already went full-bore on the topic in a way that doesn't really need repeating or shoring up, so I'll be terse: rigorous and comprehensive does not mean 'removed from humanity.' Just as asserting a thing to be impossible does not necessarily make it impossible, so too declaring a practice of determining objective morality does not make that practice objective in the sense of being removed from the judgment of those creating and/or making use of said practice. I remember my basic philosophy courses, too; Kant's process makes a good method for examining scenarios apart from social mores, but it has, itself, its own set of values and expectations for what is moral and what is not.

On a related note, even the consideration that an objective, all-applying sense of morality would be best is a judgment call rather than a certainty. Who's to say the 'universal right' is right for you, or for me, in any given situation as opposed to 'following your heart' or whatever other options may apply? Who's to say that following a set code all the time is better than deviating here and there? We can't make that assertion. We can have opinions on the subject - and obviously we do - but there is no firm ground to be had here.

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Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2011, 04:11:57 PM »
And merely asserting the impossibility of something without basis does not make it impossible (although it does let us infer that it is impossible for you. Indeed, multiple experiments in exploring the human experience, and morality in particular, through the lens of pure/mere reason have been esseyed throughout the history of philosophy. At least one of these (Kant's), being particularly rigorous and comprehensive. Just because you lack the ability to 'derive rational concepts to the exclusion of personal bias' does not mean that humanity as a whole does (I shudder to think of the state of mathematics were that the case!).

Why?  In my experience, mathematics is the one area where personal bias is routinely excluded in the derivation of rational concepts.  Otherwise, non-Euclidean geometry probably wouldn't have come into being.

Offline DudelRok

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2011, 06:28:41 PM »
Looked at the thread for a giggle, and I got one.

So... let's say you get a time machine. You travel into the future and learn that our descendants abolished democracy, reinstituted slavery and made half of the crimes punishable by torture.

What do you say to your grandchildren? "Hey, you and I have completely different idea of what's good and evil, but no problem! It's all relative anyway! Good luck with whipping these jaywalkers!"..? ;)

This made me laugh as that's EXACTLY how I'd twist the world.

Democracy gets in the way, slavery is only wrong when done for ethnic or religious reasons (rather than economic ones) and crimes should be punished with something most people actually fear... like pain and torture. (I know some people would break the law on purpose, but there's also a Two Strike Rule with death as the clause.)

So I'd say, "Wow... it's about freaking time!"


Though I have been called 'evil' on more than one occasion. :p



I will say one thing that may or may not have been said, that many people don't seem to grasp: As morality is both an emotional and subjective concept, it can't be judged logically. So, I'd suggest anyone trying to do that stop before they get very frustrated and suffer a headache. XD

Offline JG25

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2012, 04:37:08 PM »
The awnser is yes. History tool we use to analysis the present, and I think people should do serious thinking about thier values and ethics outside of context of thier societal norms. Of course, people don't like to think they are products of thier society, and everyone thinks they are enlightened. Most people do this sort of thinking badly.

There are plenty of areas of our culture that I feel are morally questionable. I would go as far as to say we're more enlightened in several repects.

Of course, this discussion leads quickly into one about what morals and ethics are and that get's tricky quick.

Offline Metalzephyr

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #19 on: March 30, 2012, 04:40:49 AM »
Morality seems to me to be largely relative.

Now I confess the difference between morality and ethics is one I often forget (one is individual and one is supposedly objective, but I forget which, and for the sake of contributing to a discussion, I hope you don't mind if I use the term morality here). However, it is, as was initially pointed out, very dynamic across human history, and I would even add, societies. It is one of those forces that is shaped by individuals and in turn shapes individuals. When enough people shape it back, it can go through major shifts, and those new ideals in turn effect individuals. Look for example at women's rights. When enough individuals worked to shape societal morality, eventually even those who did not initially agree were pressured by this new paradigm into change or at least a minority.

I don't hardly look back on history as barbaric or evil, just differently justified. Accepting the status quo is just what one DOES to fit or get ahead in society, at least to some degree. I doubt anyone has seen many financially successful individuals in North America who reject capitalism outright, at least alone (exceptions exist to what I'm saying, but they tend to live outside the system, as it's incredibly difficult to get ahead inside a system your rejecting the values of). Serfs in Europe of the 12th and 13th centuries, sort of had to accept the status quo of their level of power, and if you were a member of the upper 10% of society, you sort of had to accept that what you had was based on this system. Add the fact that ones understanding of their world is based pretty heavily on the values of the society one is raised in (example, see attitudes towards nicotine cigarettes in people born in the mid 80's or later vs those from before), and you can't say 'serfdom is wrong' because there is no system to which to compare it!

Sorry may have rambled, guess it's pretty late... okay bed now.

Offline Rhapsody

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #20 on: March 30, 2012, 10:46:12 AM »
Before anyone tells me "you're using those words wrong" or "that's not what it means", I am a proponent of examining a word's ever-evolving connotation in society, more so than just examining its technical denotation. The two are not always the same.

I've personally found that "morality" is just a fancy way of saying "I know better than you", and I much prefer the term "ethical behaviour". Morality, as a word, has been co-opted by religions and painted with the brush that only Christians/Moslems/Scientologists/etc can be moral. But "ethical"? That sounds reasoned and rational. Almost scientific. Think about it, you hear about "Christian morals", but "scientific and medical ethics". That's pretty much how we've divided the two terms in everyday conversation: one is religion, the other reason.

Morality is also the stonewall refuge of the intolerant and the ignorant. Gays cannot marry because it is immoral. Women who are raped must be stoned to death because they acted immorally. God says it's immoral for my son to have a blood transfusion, even though it would save his life. Contrast: It's unethical to operate on my son. I cannot tamper with my results, it is unethical. The Ethics board is reviewing my decision, I have to go justify it.

I much prefer my own code of ethics to be subject to questioning, periodic review and eventual evolution than to adhere to a strict set of guidelines that might not make sense for me, my family or my situation in a few years.

Offline Deva

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #21 on: March 31, 2012, 12:31:46 PM »
Let's take Sam Harris 'The Moral Landscape' and put it here*presents*

I dunno, just feel like some stuff out of that book would help with the answer finding.. for those that look for answers here.

Offline DrFier

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #22 on: March 31, 2012, 09:44:08 PM »
I believe that morality has been moving in a forward direction, but there have and likely will be multiple setbacks in the process.  I also believe morality has a very long way to go, and many people in this day don't seem to live by any moral code.

Offline Missy

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2012, 02:09:02 PM »
I just try to be considerate of other people's needs and that's good enough for me.

So I guess it depends on whether or not you think subjugation meets women's needs. I think it would it would be an excellent way to ensure their needs weren't met and would be therefore unethical or amoral.

Don't know if there are other arguments related to that, but I think such would cover the majority of people's ethical and moral needs.

Offline Rex Pacis

Re: Evolution of ethics, or: What if we're all evil?
« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2012, 06:48:40 PM »
Very interesting conversation and I'll admit I skimmed some of the larger posts so I probably missed on some juicy stuff and you guys used a lot of words I didn't readily understand. (Pts for 40-year old virgin reference?) I just feel this conversation is also null in a sense. Maybe I'm dumb for thinking this way but there really should be one way of thinking on this matter and that is coexistence. Society has bred us to be "evil". Our desires are used against us and we are put at each others throats in the largest arena ever created. Money, fashion, gadgets, race, religion, sex, etc. These things all separating us from each other and I feel that truly holds us back as a race. Individuals don't need be lost in the shuffle but we are one race on one tiny planet in a vast universe and what have we done with our time?

Killed ourselves...cavemen, ancients, colonials, I don't know all the eras like that but I'm pretty sure you look through every period of time and every people and the trend of murder has never faded. My gripe with this is animals act out of instinct...survival, territorial, whatever. I thought our brain separated us from the animals but isn't rationalized "evil" a million times worse then instinct? We don't have to kill each other. What is the point? More people have died or been harmed in the name of religion, country, and power then can be counted. You can blame the past on a misunderstanding of the world around them as what they saw was really all they had to work with, the heavens, animals, plants. They did not have much to work off really but what is our excuse now?

I'm going to harm, maybe kill you cause you have better sneakers them me, make more money then me, I want your job for me, I want your freedom for me, to get better profit margins for me, you're a threat to me, you want my sneakers so you scare me......I'm gonna kill you for me.

Comedian Bill Hicks said it best......"The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead view all of us as one." Now sure some people are just born evil and they should be dealt with accordingly but I don't need a man in a robe, a book, or some law to tell me that I shouldn't kill that guy because at the end of the day we are all humans we should be working together not against each other plus......I WANNA GO TO SPACE! We have a million different kinds of weapons and vehicles but I think we have landed a car on mars and it might be questionable if we actually landed on the moon.

Now imagine if all the world's scientists were working with each other rather then against each other? Mind blown? I hope so.