General Question

manolla's avatar

Why should one be moral without a god or religion?

Asked by manolla (795points) June 14th, 2011
251 responses
“Great Question” (5points)

Well though I might not be a very moral person, but when I think about why I should be moral, the only reason I can think of is because of what I read in the bible. I can’t think of why I would have followed moral guidence like good will for others,compassion for the less fortunate,honesty, etc.. specially that they are not punishable by law if there is no higher power that will rewards me for my good deeds in return, what would there be in it for me in return?

I would like to understand on what the moral ethics of atheists are based on mostly?

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Answers

Coloma's avatar

Well, if you want to stay out of jail, have healthy relationships built on trust and mutual respect, those are just a few good reasons, regardless of your spiritual belief system.

Otherwise, fine, be a sociopath, guaranteed to lead to a long and miserable life, for others! lol

tom_g's avatar

@manolla: “Well though I might not be a very moral person, but when I think about why I should be moral, the only reason I can think of is because of what I read in the bible.”

Many atheists, including myself, would consider that statement as an admission of a lack of morals. It also concerns me, and would want to say nothing that would dissuade you from your current belief system. In other words, if the only reason you are not walking outside to murder someone is because you fear a god, I want you to continue to fear that god.

There are many of us that have a strong moral compass that is not dependent the threat of being punished. We develop this when we grow up.

Qingu's avatar

@manolla, this question terrifies me. The only thing stopping you from murdering other people, from stealing, from behaving like a psychopath, is a collection of ancient Mesopotamian myths and laws? Really?

There are so many reasons why one should act moral—reasons that have nothing to do with religion—that I don’t know where to start. First and foremost I suppose would be the fact that most people have little desire to hurt other people; concepts of fairness and empathy seem to be built into our brains, because we’re social animals. It makes most people feel good to help other humans, to nurture, and to act fairly and justly.

Then there is the fact that human beings have the capacity to reason. There are any number of rational approaches to ethics put on the table over the years—such as the golden rule—though my favorite is the idea of a veil of ignorance.

LostInParadise's avatar

@manolla , Are you saying that if the bible did not say that stealing or killing was immoral, you would not see anything wrong with them?

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Coloma's avatar

Heres the litmus test…would it bother YOU to be lied to, cheated on, physically harmed, swindled and conned by others?

If so, then, there’s your answer.

Do unto others as you would like done unto you!

If your psyche is oriented towards being the doer of dark deeds but not wanting to be done to…well….I’d say get some help.

ucme's avatar

Because I don’t need “wizard white beard” from way on high to dictate my life path.
I’m doing just fine without his/her guidance thank you very much bobbinoggins ;¬}

gasman's avatar

Are you suggesting that moral behavior arises solely from fear of punishment (human or divine)? So if you stop believing, you become a craven, rampaging monster with no social conscience? NOT!

I have no religious beliefs, yet I strive to act morally. Why? Because it makes the world a better place to live and improves the quality of my (and everyone else’s) life. I like to think my moral behavior is genuine and heartfelt—not just an act grudgingly performed for fear of retribution. The latter is cynical indeed.

Qingu's avatar

It’s also important to point out that the Bible is a despicably immoral book. It condones slavery, portrays women as the property of men, and is the only religious text to actually command genocide. Of course, if you’re a sociopath who only acts morally out of fear of Yahweh’s punishment, I don’t suppose such things would bother you.

JLeslie's avatar

These type of statements are why I am glad religion is around. It seems there are some people who would be raping and pilaging if not for some fear of the wrath of a God. Scary shit.

Bagardbilla's avatar

One simple reason: it’s gives a standerd by which an individual can interact with others in a society. If one chooses to behave otherwise the collective will take care of the individual. So it’s in the interest of the individual to interact with others within the norms of justness and with morality.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Shakes head, walks away.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I may not believe in gods, but I believe in people. And moral decisions directly affect people. I am good because I care about my fellow man… not because an ancient book says that I will be punished if I don’t live a certain way.

I find it incredibly sad that anyone might need more reason than that.

Hibernate's avatar

When helping one less fortunate you don’t do a good deed or something related to morality.
Remember that you can help today and be helped tomorrow. You never know how the life wheel spins.

manolla's avatar

“Well, if you want to stay out of jail”
@Coloma I can’t be sent to jail for beign an unethical person.

JLeslie's avatar

This question isn’t for real is it? Is it just some sort of bait? I just hate thinking there are sociopathic people like this.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

But just because the Bible works for you doesn’t mean that it’s the only solution for everybody. I understand the premise that all morals come from God/Jesus and you can’t be moral without God, but to me that’s like denying dinosaurs – we have the bones, so denial is senseless. You can see non-Christians every day devoting their lives to the service of humanity.. Saying “I’m moral because I believe the Bible” is actually pretty easy. Living a moral life is a challenge and by even Christian standards, non-Christians all over the world are doing the things some of us only wish we were doing to walk the talk.

I have had a lot of conflict about the God of the Bible, but I would never say that believers are more moral because the facts just don’t bear that out. Look around you.

Qingu's avatar

@manolla, so it sounds like fear of the law is enough to stop you from doing the really bad stuff, and you’re curious why you’d (for example) want to leave tips at restaurants, or give to charity without a god telling you to do so?

LIke I said, there are lots of reasons… but the root reason is a sense of empathy. If you don’t have it, I’m not sure what to tell you.

wundayatta's avatar

Ummm, do you want to survive? If you want to survive, then you develop rules of behavior. Don’t kill each other. Take into account others when deciding what to do.

The consequences of not doing these things will be disastrous. People will hate you and not include you in their company.

Humans are social animals. All the “morals” arose from our social behavior. They have nothing to do with religion, really. Religion kind of tries to write them down, but they are nearly built into us. One could argue that they are built into us, since they are necessary for us to be successful at tribal people.

Of course, some of those rules include love us and kill the others. People are trying to change that moral rule because it may backfire on us now.

Coloma's avatar

@Qingu

GA!

I wasn’t going to go there, but, I wholeheartedly agree. I think that ‘normal’ humans have a built in moral compass, part of being of a social nature. Infact, lack of empathy is THE #1 trait of seriously disturbed people.

manolla's avatar

So nobody could answer my question, on what do [you]* base your moral ethics on?

I said that I don’t know why I would have moral ethics if I didn’t have beleif in a higher power more powerful than me that with give me back what I do, I didn’t state anywhere that I would be doing immoral acts :)

*[mod says] Txtspk corrected via internal edit.

JLeslie's avatar

@sarahtalkpretty I usually give that sort of understanding also. That there are many paths to goodness. Those who perceive their moral compass to be from biblical teachings sometimes cannot understand how those who grew up void of religion and God are still moral. Bit the OP goes one step further, saying she in fact would not be ethical or moral without the fear of God, and in fact the fear of God and the teachings of bible aren’t quite enough anyway. That just really throws me.

This question asks where people get their moral code from by someone who also perceives his code from religion, but was not worrisome to me.

tom_g's avatar

@manolla – We did answer it. But just stop questioning it. Seriously. I could go into FMRI studies and psychopathy, or how humans have evolved to act in ways that we describe now as “moral”, etc.

All I want to know is that you will continue to read your bible, and live a life without causing others harm. Seriously. If that’s what it takes, go for it. Don’t listen to the evil atheists.
I will not sleep tonight. Scary.

JLeslie's avatar

@manolla Look at the link I just put up. The other similar question to yours. People did answer your question about where they get their code and why they behave morally, because we observe it benefits us as individuals and society to behave in a moral way. Golden rule, pay it forward, etc. Because our parents and others gave us examples of how to behave, and we see the benefit. Strong relationships, peace of mind, working within a cooperative community, and so on.

crisw's avatar

@manolla

As I wrote in the thread @JLeslie linked to above-

“My moral standard comes from the fact that we (and many others) are sentient beings who are subjects of a life that can go better or worse for us, and who can experience pleasure and wish to avoid pain. My basic moral code is that all actions that harm innocents are wrong unless they are the only way to prevent a greater harm. As a corollary, all actions that harm no innocent sentient beings are morally permissible.”

Coloma's avatar

I base my moral ethics on how I feel about MYSELF!

I have taken some flack here lately from some that think I am ‘too’ self righteous, have ‘too’ much integrity, as if there could be such a thing. lol

Bottom line…I believe we are all ONE, and what harm I do to others, ultimately, I do to myself.

I have never had any struggles with being an honest and morally inclined person, If there is such a thing as an ‘old soul’ I think I’d qualify.

I follow my ethics because I want to LIKE MYSELF, feel good about myself, be caring, and, most importantly, live in a place of lightness, free from shame, guilt, and other damaging emotions brought on by less than stellar conduct.

In being true to myself I show up in integrity with others, and that is the best gift we casn give to humanity.

To be free of our own darkness so we can better serve others, even if only in seemingly small ways.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@Coloma -... “lack of empathy is THE #1 trait of seriously disturbed people.”
@Quingu…- “but the root reason is a sense of empathy. If you don’t have it, I’m not sure what” to tell you.

Exactly.

CaptainHarley's avatar

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” is the Golden Rule and forms the centerpiece of the Bible. Anyone have a moral code that ISN’T biblically based? If so, what is it based upon?

poisonedantidote's avatar

You have no idea how spine chilling I can find it some times, when people ask things such as this. They will ask “if you don’t believe in god, what stops you from killing”. As if their belief in god was the only thing stopping them from trying to chew out your voicebox on the spot.

My morals are mostly based on logic, and often reinforced with pros and cons, and further reinforced with instincts and impulses that come from things such as empathy and so on.

The question about being moral without god is also inconsistent and hypocritical by proxy as the god in question in most cases, is morally bankrupt, even when when compared to the morals of your average dictator.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma I have never had any struggles with being an honest and morally inclined person

Exactly. I never understand when some Christians say they choose every day to do the right thing. I don’t usually feel like I have to choose to do the right thing, or constantly feel tempted by some devil on my shoulder to do the wrong thing. I find that way of thinking so odd, I would guess you do to.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Read some Spinoza. He’ll answer your question. He’s the only person I’ve ever heard of for being excommunicated from being Jewish.

You might start with his Politico-Theologico Treatise.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Coloma -... “lack of empathy is THE #1 trait of seriously disturbed people.”
@Quingu…- “but the root reason is a sense of empathy. If you don’t have it, I’m not sure what” to tell you.

textbook autism/Asperger’s

meiosis's avatar

I base my ethics on the simple principle of not being unnecessarily unpleasant towards others as that makes me feel bad in the inner recesses of my soul. No super-being, big book or threat of punishment required, just me, myself and I.

@CaptainHarley This is a humanist moral code, one which the bible (and the Koran) attempt to co-opt as their own.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

I think I did answer your question. Your assumption is that it’s necessary to base your life on something like a book and more specifically the book you believe. Non-Christians say it’s not. Apparently you asked a question that you think can only be answered in a way that points to your conclusion. But what if you behave ethically because you learned to do so from your parents and found that it helps you function in society and it makes you feel good? What if that’s all there is to it and you are the one who won’t accept the fact that people are living moral lives without the Bible or any other book, or a different holy text?

JLeslie's avatar

@CaptainHarley But, the OP wrote specially that they are not punishable by law if there is no higher power that will rewards me for my good deeds in return, what would there be in it for me in return? That is not simple Golden Rule. That speaks of punishment and a selfish desire for a specific reward. We can learn to treat others as we want to be treated without the bible, it just happens the bible has it also. Cultures older than Judaism and Christianity probably understood the benefits of the golden rule also.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@meiosis

The Bible predates any form of humanism.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@JLeslie

Granted that motivation is not the best for obedience to whatever law to which one is obedient, but the conversation seems to have expanded beyond the original post, as conversations on Fluther tend to do. : )

poisonedantidote's avatar

@CaptainHarley You can’t use the golden rule to try and claim morality as an exclusively christian thing.

Empathy, meaning the ability to imagine what it is like to experience something that someone else experiences, is a natural instinct found even in many species on this planet. Tests have show that even rats are capable of empathy. Saying “the golden rule” is just another way of saying empathy.

Just because the authors of the bible where intelligent enough to feel empathy and create a rule based on it, does not mean that the bible is by default true, moral, or anything else.

The bible containing the golden rule is no more impressive that the dictionary containing the word red. it’s just an observation. You don’t need to be a genius to figure out by your self that what goes around comes around.

Furthermore, there are plenty of phylosophycal and intellectual quotes, that express sentiments very similar to the golden rule, that pre-date the biblical version.

JLeslie's avatar

@CaptainHarley Well, atheists get offended many times with these sorts of questions, get all worked up. But, the wording of this particular question was not offensive as much as scary. Maybe the OP did not word their thoughts very well? I can see how Christians don’t realize the wrath they might receive when asking such a question. That they need to be careful with their wording. Plus, the OP seems either very young or English is a second language, which would, or could, be a disadvantage in explaining their thoughts well.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

“when I think about why I should be moral, the only reason I can think of is because of what I read in the bible” – I see that as a big problem, for you. As an atheist, I find plenty of reasons to be moral such as wanting to be treated the way I treat others (that one got into the bible too), trying to not harm those around me, helping those need (that one too).

meiosis's avatar

@CaptainHarley Are you seriously suggesting that the Bible predates humanity’s prohibitions on say, stealing or murder?

syz's avatar

when I think about why I should be moral, the only reason I can think of is because of what I read in the bible

Really? Really!?! Wow.

The Dalai Lama has said that compassion and affection are human values independent of religion. Try this very basic information on secular ethics.

syz (35649points)“Great Answer” (4points)
Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CaptainHarley Read some stuff here. This kind of philosophy pre-dated christianity. It’s also not very hard to figure out, whatsoever. A kid can do it. Mine can. And they don’t have a religion.

Qingu's avatar

The Bible’s golden rule only works if you’re an Israelite. The Hebrews didn’t want to be enslaved, or ethnically cleansed, and yet their God commanded them to enslave and commit genocide against their neighbors.

I can’t stress this enough. If you think the Bible is a morally worthy book, you either haven’t read it closely enough or you’re seriously deranged.

ninjacolin's avatar

@manolla asked: Why be moral? / On what do u base your moral ethics on?
@manolla, I’ll answer your question quite directly:

For an atheist, as it is for anyone, being “moral” is a matter of doing whatever seems to be the most logically sound. Morality is logical, nothing more.

As @Coloma suggested it simply SEEMS to make more sense to live a life where you stay out of jail, experience smiles and good memories from friends and family, have healthy relationships built on trust and mutual respect, etc..

Morality is based on sound logic often passed down as advice from our forefathers. The bible was among the first of man’s attempts to document “good, sensible ideas” for social living and ideas for generally living a life well. However, there have been many other ideas passed down through the ages that the bible didn’t record, for example, the limit on alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Any and every logically sound idea is a moral idea. If it seems to make sense, we do it.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, everyone gets so hung up on religious mandates.
Forget religion, which is a wholly man made construct.

All ‘spiritual’ philosophies say the same thing, in one way or another, independent of religious construct, that we are one, unified organism and the path to happiness comes from embracing our shared humanity.

Quantum physics proves this as well Watch ” The Black Whole” by Nassin Haramein

The eastern countries see very little sociopathic crime, because they operate from this unified perspective.
It has been argued that even IF ( and of course, much of sociopathic behavior is of a genetic nature ) these types of individuals are born into these societies, that the collective belief system of unity of humankind and all living things might prevent them from ever acting on their impulses.

So nature CAN be modified by nurture and strong societal unification.

Qingu's avatar

I disagree that morality is logical and “nothing more.” Logic requires some sort of input to work, otherwise it’s just an empty set.

Logic is certainly important in morality (or any branch of knowledge), because it can help us determine things like consistency. But I think the “input” for our moral-logic has to be empathy. You need to be able to sense that others’ feelings are real. If you don’t have empathy then it’s very difficult to be moral; this is why sociopaths are such a problem in society.

Qingu's avatar

@Coloma, I have to object: quantum physics does not prove that.

I mean, in quantum physics the universe can be described as a single wavefunction. But this has as much to do with human ethics as the fact that electrons have integer spins.

What’s more, appealing to some deep perceived patterns in nature to justify any given morality is textbook naturalistic fallacy.

ninjacolin's avatar

It’s cool @Qingu, you can’t be right all the time. haha
Empathy is just a feeling. Feelings don’t decide things. Decisions are made by rational brains that evaluate various factors, empathetic feelings being only one of those factors.

Empathy isn’t a requirement for morality. There are moral decisions that require no empathy.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@ninjacolin Agreed. My husband has little empathy for him it’s a learned skill but has an immense moral compass.

Coloma's avatar

@Qingu

Order ‘The Black Whole’ for the latest on that.
Freaking amazing ‘proof.’ ;-)

ninjacolin's avatar

I better tackle the sociopath angle. Some might consider this offensive but I’m willing to discuss it.

People always try to suggest that sociopaths (if they exist at all, not up for debate at the moment) aren’t moral. This is a silly conclusion. Sociopaths have different morality than others. Not lacking morality.

Truth is subjective. People tend to forget this truism is a truism; It applies at the moral level as well. Hitler, as an obvious example, created an empire based on very different moral principals than the rest of the world could agree to. The rest of the world thwarted Hitler’s moral ideas and established their own in his wake. But Hitler can’t be considered to have been truly amoral. Why else do you think he was fighting so hard to win? Because he thought he was doing right. He was moral in his own way. A shitty way, for sure.. in my opinion, anyway. But nonetheless, he was clearly moral and fighting for something he thought qualified as “right.”

He was amoral/immoral in the sense that his morals opposed/defied the rest of the world’s morals. But in the same sense, the rest of the world ought to be considered amoral/immoral from his perspective.

Coloma's avatar

Well..I must exit this discussion now. My moral code mandates I go hand pick all the little frogs out of my semi-drained hot tub and relocate them to a safe place while I scrub and refill.

I could just give them an acid bath, but, frog karma is some serious stuff.

@ninjacolin

True, to a degree, as perception IS reality in some forms, but, not even a comparison of Hitler vs. you see my dress as blue and I see it as green.

mazingerz88's avatar

Wow, what’s MORAL but just a word anyway. Hitler’s version of moral is exactly equivalent to the word evil to me. But not to him.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Qingu

How like you to tell me that I’m either lying, or insane. This is a typically liberal false dichotomy. “You must choose either of these two options, since I say there are no others.”

tom_g's avatar

@CaptainHarley: _”..liberal false dichotomy..”

A bit of a stretch here? I don’t recall this being a liberal/conservative debate. Just argue with the people in this post and the things they are saying.

mazingerz88's avatar

@CaptainHarley I think @Qingu was referring to people who believes the Bible is a book worth morally when in fact, as a book, it has a lot of God’s commands telling people to kill other people. I don’t think this specifically refers to your post about the Bible teaching the Golden Rule.

Personally, the Bible as a book is so full of contradictions that is why some people find it hard to take it seriously. I was raised Catholic but even I learned to realize the Bible was written by Hebrews for themselves and the only reason why Gentiles were included was Paul being talked to by God while he was on the road to somewhere. That was not reassuring enough that indeed, the testaments both old and new should include non-Jews.

JLeslie's avatar

Did Hitler speak of getting rid of the Jews and others he found less desireable as a moral good? Or, a commandment from God? I always think of him speaking in terms of inferior race, but that it was some bullshit in his head, not necessarily equating it with morality, but rather superiority.

ninjacolin's avatar

Not specifically about the jews but here’s some of hitler’s opinions of right and wrong regarding race: “Those who do not wish that the earth should fall into such a condition must realize that it is the task of the German State in particular to see to it that the process of bastardization is brought to a stop” (226). By ‘bastardization’, Hitler doesn’t refer to children born to unwed mothers; he speaks of the interbreeding of the raceslink

Seems clear that he was trying to do what he thought was best. If you scroll down in that link you’ll see what he has to say about jews and how he thought they were a problem halting progress. His behavior was based on his own morality no doubt. Flawed though it was… excuse me while I go spit

Rarebear's avatar

Read about Secular Humanism, and you will answer your question.

Qingu's avatar

@CaptainHarley, then explain why you think a book that is pro-slavery, pro-genocide, and pro-misogyny could ever be considered a useful moral guide.

JLeslie's avatar

@ninjacolin I don’t relate that to morality or a directive from God, but I see how it could be argued it is a moral judgement. To me he just thought Germans were better than everyone else, and he thought better not to have to deal with the dregs of the earth. I thinkof it as though he thought it was a practical approach, rather than him thinking in terms of moral good. But maybe he did think of it that way? I can see how that might be the case.

Qingu's avatar

@ninjacolin, I don’t think empathy is a requirement for morality, but it certainly goes a long way. And I think a lot of our moral framework that we’ve come up through reason is rooted on presumptions of empathy, and in the “sense” that empathy gives us that other people suffering is bad.

Blackberry's avatar

Talk to me when a group of atheists commit an act of terrorism, or prevent a group of people from getting married.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Qingu I hear ya. What I’ll say about it is empathy-based decision making is a premium moral technology. That is, it’s a great way to ensure a happier more satisfying life.

MilkyWay's avatar

Because my morals are what make me a human being.

CaptainHarley's avatar

God prompted those who wrote the Bible, he didn’t personally compose it. The book must be read with a degree of intelligence. Those who condem the entire book because there are parts ( again, written by men ) which are questionable, are on the same level as those christians who hold that every dotted “i” and every crossed “t” are to be taken literally.

mazingerz88's avatar

@CaptainHarley For Catholics, every reading of the Bible usually ends with “This is the Word of God”. A cousin of mine who is a Jehova’s Witness believes everything written in their version of the Bible was from God who used humans as merely instruments of writing. I wonder which Christian religion believes the Bible was not personally composed by him?

SpatzieLover's avatar

@mazingerz88 I’m a Catholic. We do not interpret that to mean God’s hand wrote that

JLeslie's avatar

@CaptainHarley Love that answer.

mazingerz88's avatar

@SpatzieLover Yes, but what does it mean then with regards to who is the ultimate source of what was written and afterwards read?

Qingu's avatar

@CaptainHarley, we’re not talking about dotting i’s and crossing t’s. We’re talking about major swaths of the Bible’s legal code (which both Jesus and Paul say we should follow). We’re also talking about entire books of the Bible. The entire book of Joshua, for example, is basically a victorious description of multiple genocide. So are huge parts of Judges, Kings, and Samuel.

Nor is this a question of taking things literally or metaphorically. You can’t take a law metaphorically. And I’d love to hear what you think the multiple God-ordered genocides in Joshua are a metaphor for.

You appear to be confusing “reading a book intelligently” with “flagrantly ignoring huge parts of a book that don’t correspond to nice-sounding modern morals.”

tom_g's avatar

@Qingu – Horrible analogy, but if I went to a restaurant that had a huge buffet, helped myself to just some noodle dish, washed them off in the sink, added my own sauce, sat down to eat, and then proclaimed that it was a great buffet, I would not expect you to take me seriously.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Qingu

You want to talk about “the law?” “The greatest commandment is this, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and mind and strength, and the second is like unto it, love thy neighbor as thyself. In these are summed up all the law and the prophets.” The Old Testament was largely a history of Israel, with that age and location’s attendant violence and war. The New Testament supplanted the Old, and love supplanted The Law.

By constantly referring to the violence of the Old Testament and calling it “The Bible’s legal code,” you put yourself in the position of “straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel.”

Qingu's avatar

The thing that Christians tend to ignore about that line is neighbors = fellow jews.

Jesus also said “Do not think I have come to abolish the law… anyone who follows even the least of the commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

And it’s surprising to see you’re such a moral relativist. You think genocide is acceptable because that was just what people did back in the old days? (No one else codified it in their religious text; Babylonians and Romans gladly incorporated conquered cultures into their own socieities, rather than exterminate them as the Jews did. Nor is genocide a relic of a bygone era. It’s still practiced today.)

I have an idea. The next time you feel like holding up the Bible as a great moral book, why don’t you first tear out all of the pages from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Kings, and Samuel, and Chronicles, plus all of the parts from the New Testament you don’t like, (such as Revelation, the parts where Paul says women are inferior to men, the parts where Jesus says we should follow OT laws).

In fact, you might want to just tear out John 3:16 and that line you quoted, tape them together, and throw the rest of the thing into the fireplace, and explain that your taped together little scraps are what you mean when you are talking about “the Bible.”

King_Pariah's avatar

For me, morals are abstract. I just do what I want to do, and haven’t gotten into trouble because of my lack of morals.

QueenOfNowhere's avatar

this is ridiculous.. this gets me mad.. being in a very strict christian school, I hate religion. It is necessary for many people but not for me and I realize how false/fake it is. Morals what makes people human beings. therefore, i think religious people are fake human beings

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Qingu

Would you go to a play and tear down all of the backdrops?

dannyc's avatar

I would postulate that it is innate, at least, in a general sense. It maximizes the efficiency, cohesiveness and ongoing benefit of the species, so we gravitate towards some form of order/morality/rules. Morality is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. Consensus drives it, and thus, thankfully, changes over time. It seems more logical than steadfast rules, in religion, which can never be changed. (except when broken by its leaders, of course). Religion is fraught with politics at its finest, and is a form of morality, not the only one, and certainly not the most logical. New information mandates morality adjustments, in my opinion. It is defining morality that is the problem. So following morality without god or religion is irrelevant, it just happens as a result of being human and part of a conscious being. However, I see nothing wrong with being moral due to religious reasons too, it is driven by people, just as is non-religious morality.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@QueenOfNowhere

Ok! I’ll add “fake human being” to the list of sobriquets already assigned me by others who dislike christians. : )

Qingu's avatar

Okay, @CaptainHarley.

Do you think God actually gave Moses those laws, or did people make them up?

Do you think God actually ordered the Hebrews to commit genocide, or did people make that up?

Do you think Jesus actually said to follow those laws (which may or may not have been made up) ... or did people make that quote up?

And most importantly, how exactly do you tell which parts of the Bible are made-up and immoral, and which parts are true and inspired by your god?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Now you’re just being ridiculous.

gorillapaws's avatar

If you want to really understand this stuff on a serious level, read up on meta-ethics. There are many different competing philosophical theories/viewpoints on this subject.

Qingu's avatar

@CaptainHarley, whether or not your God actually commanded slavery and genocide—and whether or not Jesus thinks you should follow those laws—is not important to you?

I do think you’re a great example of how religion doesn’t coincide with morality. I don’t know what your morals are personally, but your religion has apparently strangled your ability to unequivocally denounce genocide and slavery.

QueenOfNowhere's avatar

@CaptainHarley Im not even gonna argue ;)
I already know how it feels like to live with 300 christians and being the only non-believer

CaptainHarley's avatar

Kinda like being a christian on Fluter, eh? LOL!

King_Pariah's avatar

@CaptainHarley @QueenOfNowhere try being a nihilist in a family of Baptists

BarnacleBill's avatar

God and religion don’t make you a moral person; they make you act based on fear of the unknown or of unspecified punishment. “Do this, or you will burn in Hell for all eternity” dictates most Christian authority.

You do the right thing because it is the way you want to be treated. You recognize the dignity and self-worth of all people. All people are created equal. You don’t need to believe in God to recognize that all people have value, whether they value themselves or not. People do crappy and skanky things because they are unable to see value in themselves, and fear trusting others.

King_Pariah's avatar

@BarnacleBill some of us wouldn’t mind burning

Coloma's avatar

@BarnacleBill

Yes. What’s that saying about integrity…..

Integrity means doing the right thing whether or not someone is watching, including ‘God.’

And, right you are, if one does not value themselves they can not value another.

I posted somewhere yesterday another little mantra…” hurting people hurt others.”

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell, well, toss in a sprinkling of greed, selfishness and emotional immaturity, stir, and viola….the perfect recipe for spreading around misery like butter on toast. lol

Empathy like charity begins at home. :-)

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

The idea that there are tons of religious people just one crisis of faith away from going on a whole rape and pillage binge really scares the piss out of me.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@King_Pariah

I can only TRY to imagine! Heh!

But see… I have NO idea why anyone would ever want to be a nihilist in ANY sort of family. Were you just being rebellious, or what?? What a sad and dreary philosophy! : (

seekingwolf's avatar

I’m moral without religion.

I’m a Buddhist but my moral beliefs do not come from Buddhist teachings. I don’t think of spirituality and morality as connected AT ALL in fact.

I believe morals came about as humans evolved. It’s a universal code of conduct that we have in our brains. Why? because it’s more beneficial when humans live together in groups that are peaceful and not fighting amongst each other. They can band together during hard times. Thus, it make sense that we would evolve with morals. Don’t steal. Don’t kill other people. Don’t cheat on your spouse. Don’t envy your neighbor and steal HIS wife or his stuff. Don’t lie about things.

Basically, (and this is what I believe and also part from what I’ve read) we have evolved these morals to help us keep the “Group mentality” and think about what is best for the group, not just ourselves. Maybe it would be better for “me” to steal someone else’s wife, but it’s not good for the community as a whole because it would lead to strife. This is what keeps the human communities together.

I’m moral because I believe it makes me happy and others happy. I feel good when I am being moral and life is a bit easier. That’s why I’m moral. I don’t believe it has ANY place in a “higher existence” but that doesn’t mean that I’m less likely to follow it. I believe we need them.

King_Pariah's avatar

@CaptainHarley Rebellious had nothing to do with it, I’ve just been one longer than I have known what nihilism is.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@King_Pariah

Any idea why? ( not trying to pry, just curious )

BeckyKytty's avatar

Just my viewpoint on this…

If you Love, you need no morals, laws or religion.

Morals, laws and religion are for “the lawless,” those walking outside of love, to keep order among the masses.

Didn’t John Lennon mention something about “imagining no religion?”
giggle

CaptainHarley's avatar

I would think it more accurate to say that laws are to keep relatively honest people honest. The true outlaw isn’t going to worry about any laws at all.

ninjacolin's avatar

@seekingwolf said: “I believe morals came about as humans evolved. It’s a universal code of conduct that we have in our brains.”

I usually cringe at hearing things like this. Actually, I did cringe again when I read this. But.. okay, first of all, I do hold that morality is a matter of doing what is logically sound. However, speaking to the statistically moral concepts the majority of the human population adhere to.. I guess the answer to this question could also be stated: Morals are our animal instincts. (And I do have trouble with the term “instincts” in the same way that I have trouble with the idea of “sociopaths” but I’m ignoring that for now.) Consider:

All animals have instincts
Humans are animals
Therefore, humans have instincts.

You could consider morals as human instincts reared into us, as @seekingwolf suggested, the same way that tigers were taught to lick their newborn babies. We tend to have a way of doing things that makes our ears perk up when we see people straying from the norm.

seekingwolf's avatar

@ninjacolin

Yeah, that’s the way to think about it – instincts. I do believe morals are instincts that are there for a reason. It’s interesting to see that all over the world, even in remote areas, people of all different cultures tend to have the same basic morals.

I am just curious, why do you cringe when you read things like that? Did I phrase something wrong?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@seekingwolf

“People of all different cultures tend to have the same basic morals.”

Say what? I have NO idea where you got that, but it is totally errant BS!

SABOTEUR's avatar

Not sure I understand the question of morality, but I understand cause and effect. And everything that occurs in our lives is a direct or indirect result of positive or negative energy we send out into the world.

The energy you send out returns to you in some form or fashion. So what I do and say is conditioned by the consequences I hope to experience or avoid.

seekingwolf's avatar

@CaptainHarley

I’m not sure what you have in mind but it is true.

“Don’t kill” (perhaps some exceptions but the general consensus is that you can’t kill your neighbour)
“Don’t cheat on your wife” (different ideas on marriage but the general idea is that you can’t cheat on your partner without them knowing)
“Don’t steal stuff.” (name me one place that condones stealing)
“Don’t say mean stuff to people unprovoked”

Get my drift?

Really, a lot of people are the same when you boil things down.

King_Pariah's avatar

@CaptainHarley Without giving too much away… shit happened, a lot.

ETpro's avatar

@manolla Why should one be moral without a god or religion? Because it is logical to follow the Golden Rule. And I would reverse the question. Mayan Human Sacrifices , the Crusades, the Inquisition,the Salem Witch Trials, Muslim honor killings. Musim extremist murders of innocent men, women and children, using babies as bombs—where is the evidence that having a religion and believing in a God inherently makes one morally superior?

seekingwolf's avatar

@ETpro

I agree. And yes, following the Golden Rule is logical. You can see in human behaviour that if you treat someone poorly, they will often treat you poorly back. It’s not beneficial to you if you’re trying to find happiness and get things done in your life.

I always found it relatively easy to be moral because of how it betters my life in the long-term. People get along with you better, there is less drama, you (usually but not always) don’t get into trouble with the law so less hassle on your part, and it’s easier to get what you want and need.

Maybe that’s a “bad” reason to be moral but it works for me.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@seekingwolf [ Points at @ETPro ] What he said.

seekingwolf's avatar

@CaptainHarley

He didn’t disprove anything that I said All religions have their share of bad deeds done in the name of religion. Christians kill others for heresy (Crusades) and some these days mock and exclude those who aren’t Christian. They also get squirrelly and hang people based on no evidence (Salem). Muslim extremists blow themselves and others up. Mayans sacrifice each other.

Different actions, same agenda: religious extremists caught up in their ideology.

Sorry, but it’s still the same. don’t look at the details so much. I don’t see much difference between Christian fundamentalists/extremists and Muslim extremists in that regard.

ETpro's avatar

@seekingwolf I did not set out to prove all religious people are immoral, and nothing in my post should be so interpreted. I can also list a litany of crimes committed by atheistic communist dictators. My point was simply that the presence or absence of a belief in a god or gods is not an indicator of moral rectitude. Therefore it is illogical to assert that one cannot act morally without a religion and belief in a God directing one’s behavior.

seekingwolf's avatar

@ETpro

Oh, I know that. The other person disagreed with me on my previous point that “when you boil it down, different cultures have the same basic moral codes”. And in response to me disagreeing with him, he cited (to me) your post as his reply.

And your reply did nothing to counter the point that I made before.

I don’t think all religious people are immoral but I think ALL religions have some bad deeds in their past, mostly done by religious extremists. That is true for today. It’s the crazy extremists who do immoral acts in the “name of GOD” or whatnot and ruin it for the moderates.

ETpro's avatar

@seekingwolf Aha. Thanks for clarifying that. I’d certainly say the Mayan moral code differed substantially from ours. So did that of the Vikings and other rape-and-pillage nomads. And Wahabi Muslims are pretty different in their beliefs about what is right and wrong. They follow the Mosaic Code of the 10 commandments but certainly have a wide range of offense that they think it is OK to murder people over.

seekingwolf's avatar

@ETpro Well that’s what I mentioned before…with some exceptions, it’s not okay to kill people. Sure, if you’re raping/pillaging, it’s okay. If you’re avenging a wrong, sometimes it’s okay.

But generally, it’s NOT considered okay to just turn around and kill your neighbour, unprovoked, when he has done nothing against you/anyone, and he is one of you (not a foreigner).

It’s simple rules like these, very simple rules, that I’m finding are in many different cultures.

seekingwolf's avatar

If you know of a place/culture that condones/is fine with just randomly killing your neighbour unprovoked and not in sacrifice, please tell me. Because I sure as heck don’t know of any and would like to know, hehe.

ETpro's avatar

@seekingwolf No, I don’t know of such a place. But the devil is in the details. In the Muslim world today, it is OK to kill your child in an hooor killing. Granted they did something to provoke it. They had the temerity to get raped. Here, most of us find such a notion appalling and morally repugnant. The fact that we would let our daughter live disgraced is morally repugnant to them. We really aren’t on the same page on this.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
CaptainHarley's avatar

@seekingwolf

As with anything involving people, there are going to be those who behave in unacceptable ways. Were this Spain during the Middle Ages, I would be tortured to death for heresy. None of this, however, changes the fact that God is God and does not condone such things. Jesus accepts all who accept him.

ninjacolin's avatar

@seekingwolf said: “I believe morals came about as humans evolved. It’s a universal code of conduct that we have in our brains.”)
@seekingwolf asked: ”[ninjacolin,] I am just curious, why do you cringe when you read things like that?”

As ETpro is doing an excellent job of demonstrating.. specific moral concepts are not ingrained in our brains. There’s a limitless amount of diverse conclusions brains can come up with regarding what is right or wrong. We’re not born with the idea that murder is wrong. We’re not born with the idea that being greedy is dangerous. We’re not born with any specific ideas about how to behave at all.

Instead, we learn ideas of right and wrong subjectively. Some people are trained to believe that murder is right some people are trained to believe that rape is ok. Some people are trained to believe the opposite!

Morality is not ingrained. It isn’t really instinctual. I was offering that as a metaphor or a way of describing it. Not as a reasonable scientific observation.

Universal code of conduct? There isn’t one. There is simply our subjective experience and FROM THAT we learn an individual, non-universal, moral code that we live by. From our individual perspectives, experiences and understandings of the world around us our individual religions are born. When these perspectives trend and are shared, we end up with organized religions.

Morality is subjective, logical, and trendy.

talljasperman's avatar

To avoid pain at the least

seekingwolf's avatar

@CaptainHarley

I see that you’re quite Christian. I do not wish to engage in debate with you further about this subject. I hope you can respect this. :) Thank you for your contributions.

@ninjacolin

I can buy that but what about morality itself? Do you think the NEED to have morals is instinctual? Regardless of what they actually are?

I think there is something about morals that is instinctual, and that is my point. Even if they differ a bit, there is a need for them when humans live together, and thus as a society, we have a need for it. The need for morals is ingrained in all of us. I can’t think of a society that doesn’t have a moral code.

ninjacolin's avatar

As I hinted at earlier.. I don’t think “instincts” genuinely exist. I consider the term “instinct” to be a limited macroscopic label for the functions of a living system with a brain.. however, if anything, I would say humans are instinctively (or natively) rational. Nothing more. Brains are rational machines and they do their work based solely on whatever input they are given.

The rational process is capable of producing only 3 types of conclusions:
1) Valid and Sound conclusions,
2) Valid but Unsound conclusions, or
3) Invalid and Unsound conclusions.

The first type of conclusion, if acted upon, would always produce a moral behavior simply because it is Valid and Sound.

ETpro's avatar

@seekingwolf I would disagree with @ninjacolin on that. All social animals seem to have certain instinctive behaviors that show up in them even when they are raised without their own species present. Dogs or wolves raised from tiny pups by humans still retain their pack-animal instincts. They innately know how to behave among a pack if they return to one as adults. The weaker dog will know to roll on its back in submission when confronted by the pack leader. They know when they can challenge for pack leadership. They know how to hunt cooperatively in groups. They know when hunting a herd of grazing animals to cull out the weak, infrim or young since they make easy kills.

If this can be true of wolves, lions, chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos, I see no reason why humans should be born instinct free. It’s just that as fully sentient beings aware of being aware, we are able to recognize that we are executing something rather like a computer p[program; and we are programmers. We can write a new routine for at least some of our innate behaviors. Sword swallower can even learn to control their gag reflex.

ninjacolin's avatar

@ETpro, we won’t want to get into it I’m sure but.. the issue I have with those very astute observations as applied to question of whether “instincts” exist is that you would have to also say that instinctively humans are unable to fly.. when in reality it’s our physiology that informs our abilities and habits.

I theorize that the physiology of a dog’s body and brain inform it’s rational conclusions about how to behave in various circumstances. It’s easy and comfortable to roll over, as example. A dog responds to that physical comfort rationally. Compare that to putting a butterfly on it’s back. Not the same at all. the only difference being physical comfort.

When a man hears a loud jarring noise, he covers his ears. Not because it’s his instinct to raise his arms towards the sides of his head at loud noises but because that’s where his ears are situated and that’s where the pain is being felt.

This is why I say instincts seem like a label for the typical functions of a living system with a brain. The brain is just dealing with reality as best as it can imagine.. or at least so I imagine: It’s subjective and rational behaviors still.. not magical directives from the dog-god.

ETpro's avatar

@ninjacolin Sorry, but that just doesn’t compute. There is no connection with human flight and the behavior of pack animals. Dogs don’t roll over on their back in the particular instance I described because it’s easy and comfortable, they do it to show submission to an obviously stronger dog. The stronger dog rules the field, yet does not roll over. He instead displays signs of aggression and if the weaker dog challenges him instead of rolling over, it may mean a fight to the death. And even a puppy raised by humans with no contact with dogs will grow up knowing this.

The science showing that species develop instinctive behaviors that help them adapt to their environment and survive is overwhelming. Nobody has to teach an infant human how human breasts work. They come out of the womb already knowing how nipples work, and what one needs to do to express milk from them.

ninjacolin's avatar

@ETpro, I doubt cubs are born with a vision of what nipple looks like and what it should do for them. Again, I’m sure this is more of a physiological spasm and comfort response. Put your finger in their mouth, you’ll get the same reaction as if it was a nipple. Put a fake nipple, you’ll get the same response. They aren’t looking for their mom’s nipple. They’re spastic. The spasms result in reward, the memory is made, the action is repeated, they receive more reward.

Unless you’re willing to call heart beats, breathing, or eye lid opening instinctual.. I think it’s safe to say that “instincts” are nothing more than complex reactions to complex stimuli.

When a deer hears a cacophonous noise, why doesn’t it cover it’s ears instead of running? Because of instinct? Or because of physiological limitation?

Plucky's avatar

Because, if we were not moral, humanity wouldn’t have lasted this long. We would have made ourselves extinct a long time ago. A society that gets along will outlast one that does not.

Humans are an empathetic species. Religion has nothing to do with it.

Roby's avatar

As an agnostic try to live my life in peace. I have no intention of hurting anyone. I feel that if I was to concur with a devout christen life…Id have to be living in a vacuum. I tried this once and I could not stand the pressure of what God would do if I was to look at a pretty woman or bought myself a lotto ticket, or watched a movie with nudity in it. So what ever…you go to your church. I will stay home and build my bird houses.

manolla's avatar

I don’t know why I’m so suprised that my thread is filled with so many irrelevant information,and most didn’t answer my question “what are your moral ethics based on as a atheist?”, most of you guys just did what you can do best, used ridiculing attitudes and started attacking my beliefs, I guess that is what you get from people with nothing to base thier moral standards on and expecting anything more was ridiculous from my side.

manolla's avatar

As for my opinion on the matter, well basically we don’t see people with no belief system killing and stealing simply because they understand that society doesn’t put up with things that jeopardize the public’s best interest.

One example I’ll give is how in God’s set of rules, killing is wrong and there is no excuse, but when there is no God, then as long as it serves the best interest of society and the individual then killing is allowed, example is killing of the unborn, political wars, etc..

Plucky's avatar

I’ll state again…empathy. It also feels good to do good ..for both parties.

meiosis's avatar

@manolla Why would someone with no faith in any god refrain from committing immoral and illegal acts that have no chance of being detected by society at large? Why would they refrain from committing immoral but legal acts?

I presume you are a pacifist and against the death penalty (given you view on the permissibility of killing), and yet many people who call themselves Christian are not. Are they all acting immorally, despite the threat of retribution from their god?

tom_g's avatar

@manolla – Again, most people have answered your question. Since many of us atheists do not share your view of what morality is, I’m guessing our answers seem dismissive. I can honestly say that there are many great, direct responses to your question that should be sufficient.

Let me just add that I have 3 kids. We provide structure and rules for children because they do not yet have the mental capacity to understand right and wrong. When a young child doesn’t hit another kid because a parent is sitting right there, I believe it would be impossible to find a single person who would claim that this child is acting morally. When the child is older, however, and a parent is not there, and he doesn’t hit another kid because the child is now capable of empathy, etc, this will be considered something good and moral.

I have known many believers (Catholics, mostly) who answer the following questions like this:
me: If I am standing in front of a police officer and I decide not to steal from the person next to me, is this a moral act?
theist: no
me: Why?
theist: The way you phrased it, you’re only not stealing because you are afraid you will get caught.

In other words, I believe that theists understand the atheist/secular humanist position more than they are willing to admit. My theist friend nailed it. This is exactly why I don’t consider it a moral act to not murder someone because you believe that God is watching. God (the concept) is just a parent/cop replacement.

Also, when I speak to many Catholics, they at some point admit that the fact that the bible contains some quote they interpret as being some prescription for moral behavior is not the only reason they believe it is moral. I have yet to hear a single person argue that the omission of “though shall not kill” from the bible would result in their own mass killing spree. Christians emphasize things in the bible that they already feel are valuable moral precepts. This is my understanding of what happens to most people. If there are exceptions – those that are morally-lost and just want a parental/cop figure to tell them what they should do – I just hope they choose a religion that is of least consequence to humanity.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@seekingwolf

Of course! : ))

manolla's avatar

I’m happy that most of you have empathy, but we are all different as humans and what one person empathizes with, another might not, so what do you think should determines who is not acting morally?

ninjacolin's avatar

You’ll have a diverse set of understandings of morality that I’m sure you’ll get replies on. Myself, the way I gauge morality is simply by logical soundness: Whichever between two ideas makes the most sense, all things considered, is the option that is morally superior.

As an example, imagine you and your friend are very late for an important meeting. You’re driving and your friend suggests taking the Highway around town instead of cutting through the city. But if you happen to know the highway has major construction and delays, then the moral decision would be to veto your friend’s suggestion. The right path, the moral path, is the one that would actually get you there the quickest. (an example of counter-empathetic morality)

In this view, when morality is simply a matter of doing whatever seems to make the most sense, your guess could turn out to be incorrect but as long as you were trying your best to find the right answer, you can only be said to have been acting morally. However, a better guess than yours would be considered morally superior and yours would be considered morally inferior.

@manolla asked: what do you think should determine who is not acting morally?

Hence, I determine that Hitler’s sense of morality is inferior to my own. That judgement is based on my personal observations of the facts involved. No one else can judge moral superiority/inferiority besides me, the individual. Also, there are tools in the discipline of Formal Logic that help individuals to determine soundness.

Just as you can judge that someone’s opinion is inferior to your own in any matter, for example on whether or not to worship, likewise I can judge whether others’ opinions are inferior to my own. This is simply the way our minds make all their decisions: subjectively based on the evidence we’ve individually observed.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I think we are morally mature when we stop needing external reasons to be kind or friendly and not to be cruel or hostile. People who are terribly concerned with why we should act in such ways, or who insist on reasons like “God says so” or “that’s objectively right/wrong,” seem to be focused on things that are ultimately irrelevant. Just be kind, just be friendly. Don’t do it because you’re afraid that God or the universe will be disappointed otherwise. That’s the mindset of a child.

And since @Qingu didn’t link it, Tim Minchin has a good song about this.

@seekingwolf While there is convergence in many (not all) societies, I’m not sure what you take this to prove. After all, most of this can be explained by the fact that it is nearly impossible to have a cohesive society without certain rules. A society without a rule against murder quickly dies out (unless it also has a tendency toward paranoia and complicated security procedures). I do not doubt, however, that evolution led us to behave in certain ways that were later called “moral.” As Robert Heinlein once said, “baboons who fail to exhibit moral behavior do not survive; they wind up as meat for leopards.”

graynett's avatar

Child, Adolescence’s, Adult, These are periods of your life, not an age,there are many grown-up children who are self-centred, selfish, Just as there are 45 year old adolescence who will do only what is best for them,what feels good or exciting. Then there is an Adult who as
@SavoirFaire ^ Implies” We are morally mature when we stop needing external reasons to be kind or friendly” There are many successful grown-up children, adolescents, and adults and there always will be (It’s and intermotivespritionalcognetive thing)

tom_g's avatar

@manolla: “I’m happy that most of you have empathy, but we are all different as humans and what one person empathizes with, another might not, so what do you think should determines who is not acting morally?”

Great question. This is the task of humans today. We must go through the tough work of answering these questions. How does an action affect other people? How can we balance the rights of people with different agendas, etc? It’s difficult work, but it’s clear that we are working on it. If we were to merely stick with a rule-book written thousands of years ago, we wouldn’t expect to see progress.

gorillapaws's avatar

@manolla I’m not sure if you spent much time reading up on meta-ethics from the link I provided, but the justification for morality is a subject that is currently still being debated in academic philosophical circles.

One can reasonably make the argument that actively campaigning to remove the rights of choice for a woman to abort the child of her rapist is an immoral act, and that abortion isn’t necessarily an immoral act in some circumstances (and others have reasonably argued all circumstances). Furthermore, one could argue (as some have here) that there are many philosophical problems that result from deriving moral authority from God, including the fact that God seems to behave in ways that are contrary to some of the values espoused in the Bible. For example, treating others how you’d want to be treated is arguably contrary to the actions of God in the flood or ordering Abraham to kill his son—the emotional trauma of being put in such a position is cruel and antithetical to much of the New Testament. Internal consistency is a requirement for a valid philosophical position, and one could make the case that the Christian sense of morality isn’t internally consistent (although it can also be reasonably argued that it is).

I’m not making/defending these positions (here at least), but reasonable, rational thinkers can have intelligent conversations on these issues and it’s certainly far from a solved problem in philosophy. I have certain opinions on these subjects, but because it is still unresolved, I acknowledge that may ultimately be wrong in those and can therefore respect the opinions of others who hold beliefs contrary to mine. It’s the people who insist they’re right without having done the hard work to read, understand and thoughtfully consider the scholarly arguments of the other side that I have a major issue with. This would include many (but certainly not all) from the religious camp.

Qingu's avatar

@manolla, you said, “killing is wrong and there is no excuse, but when there is no God, then as long as it serves the best interest of society and the individual then killing is allowed, example is killing of the unborn, political wars, etc..”

This is an amazing statement coming from someone who claims to base their morals on the Bible, which commands all kinds of killing up to and including genocide.

Have you even read the book?

Qingu's avatar

And by the way, many of us have answered your question. Empathy is a large part of a secular morality, but there are also rational philosophies that help guide us. My favorite example is John Rawls’ veil of ignorance.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Qingu I’m also a big fan of Rawls’ position, although it’s not a meta-ethical justification for morality itself. Technically, it doesn’t fully answer the original question about the source of moral authority, but merely is one excellent example of a means for implementing a moral code once the justification for morality has already been established.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think there’s any “source” for moral authority. Morality is an emergent property of human organization and biology.

ETpro's avatar

@ninjacolin Cubs are born knowing how to suckle. Human fetuses suckle their own thumbs while still in the womb. Do they do this because ot comforts them. Yes, probably so. But the important thing to consider is why does it comfort a baby mammal to suckle? It does becausae we evolved to feel good doing that because it enhances our ability to survive. It isn’t because a tiny infant maammal thinks things over and comes to a personal realization that this is the best action for an infant of their sepcies. It is instinct. Evolution is what instills instincts in various species. Whales are born knowing how to swim, and knowing they must surface to breathe. Similar non-aquatic land mammals aren’t born with that knowledge. They need to learn to swim under water and to hold their breath while doing so. They need to learn to swim to the surface to breathe.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Qingu I think your beliefs fall under the Ethical naturalism meta-ethical theory. Although I could be wrong.

Qingu's avatar

I’m bad with labels.

Basically, I think morality is, simply, a behavioral code. The question of “what morality is best” can best be answered by looking at facts about both human societies and the individuals that compose them. We can compare different codes amongst different cultures and see which ones seem to work best. As human society changes, we ought to expect the optimal behavioral codes to change as well.

I would say what makes morality notoriously difficult to approach from a “scientific” or “naturalist” perspective is that many of the facts are necessarily descriptions of subjective feelings or beliefs that are often widely divergent. For example, it is a moral “fact” that Muslims get very offended by depictions of Muhammad. This fact is separate from the question of whether they should get offended, but it is nevertheless a description of reality and is something that moralists need to take into account.

soulin's avatar

@manolla,

Morality is subjective. There are no absolutes, so there are no rights and wrongs. The golden rule is a rule to some, not to others. We don’t only have empathy, we also have apathy, we have selfishness, etc.

Since there is no way of knowing what the right & wrong morals are, I do whatever I want.
However, the practical though, which I follow, is the law of the land wherever that maybe.

So if the law of the land allowed me to have slaves, and I was in the mood to own some slaves, I would have slaves. Likewise in reverse, if the law of the land doesn’t allow me to have slaves, so I won’t own slaves out of fear of jail.

Qingu's avatar

@soulin is a good example of why we need laws that reflect empathetic morals. Otherwise sociopaths would have free reign in our society.

Coloma's avatar

@Qingu

They already do. The sociopath next door is alive and well. lol

soulin's avatar

@Qingu,

No, since morality is subjective, there is no objective to have empathetic morals as a standard of morality. This is just your subjective objective, not mine, or anyone else who disagree’s with you. You seem to think your subjective objective is better then someone else’s subjective objective. Again, the golden rule is your rule, not mine, nor someone else’s.

But this is how laws come about, if enough people share a subjective objective, over the minority view of subjective objectives, it becomes the standard of morality of the land.

Qingu's avatar

The natural emergence of laws reflecting some sort of social consensus is not an excuse for individuals to make no attempts whatsoever to develop empathetic morals of their own.

soulin's avatar

Says who, you, the authoritarian?

Coloma's avatar

@soulin

Then again, fine, ‘use’ your subjective morality and see how happy you end up being if you take no issue with using, abusing and otherwise exploiting anyone and anything for your personal gain.

If you don’t mind being the renegade lone wolf with a bounty on your hide for all your wolfish behaviors, go for it. Nobody here is telling you how to live your life…clearly, your mind is made up…so, go forth and wreak havoc.

Maybe start with drowning some kittens or something. Pffft!

soulin's avatar

My name was addressed, so I’ve given my response.

The world is a playground. :)

Coloma's avatar

@soulin

True, as long as you’re not stealing my bucket and shovel. In which case I might have to break my moral code and bury you in the sandbox with a few dozen cats that need to need to take a crap. ;-)

Qingu's avatar

I can’t force you to develop empathetic morals. As your entire worldview appears to be framed in terms of your own personal self-interest, I can only appeal to the personal advantages that come with (for example) recognizing that slaves are human beings with aspirations deserving of respect and dignity; that other human beings are not merely repositories for things you want to extract from them but rather consciousnesses that you can build mutually beneficial relationships with.

tom_g's avatar

Either @soulin is sincere in being a psychopath, or he’s just playing a position to get a rise out of us. If he’s sincere, it’s a serious problem. I have a friend who’s son was murdered by another kid because he lacked the part of the brain @soulin appears to be lacking. I have no tolerance for this. All of the Christians who claim to be lost and in need of a (pretend) fatherly figure at least have their faith to ground them (somewhat). @soulin is admitting to us that he will murder your kids if he can get away with it.

soulin's avatar

@Qingu,

Yes, but your entire worldview appears to be framed in terms of empathy.

I would argue that I can benefit more from slavery because I benefit from the person without ever having to offer anything in return. It’s like a sex buddy without the relationship crap.

Why don’t you ask yourself why you feel a need to force or appeal your subjective morality to me? You seem to be craving authority.

soulin's avatar

@tom_g,

No, I have no murder, or stealing inclinations, but I can’t argue logically that either is right or wrong. Murder is justified during war time, but not during peace time. Specific murders are justified by various religions. When one is starving, stealing is justified. Etc. No absolute truths out there, so anything goes. It’s all subjective. As ninjacolin pointed out, hitler had his moral views, the rest of the world disagreed, that doesn’t mean either side is more right or wrong. Majority view doesn’t make it the right view.

Qingu's avatar

@soulin, I’m confused as to why you think I am remotely using “force” in this discussion.

soulin's avatar

Firstly, I said force or appeal.

Secondly, @Qingu wrote, “I can’t force you to develop empathetic morals. As your entire worldview appears to be framed in terms of your own personal self-interest,”

This is implied that had my view been different, or had I’ve been more “open minded” you would’ve been able to force your views to me.

soulin's avatar

@tom_g,

By the way, every year millions of people get murdered around the world. Obviously they don’t conform to your empathetic morals. You have no inclination to steal or murder, they do. You say it’s a serious problem, they don’t. What makes your morals better?

Also, if you’re going to start labeling people with names and accusations, please provide some argument for it. I don’t recall any blood test that can tell what’s going in one’s mind, or any technique that can test one’s mind. Unless there is a psychical abnormality, the person is perfectly healthy. Pseudo-science practices is as about as useful as a hit of meth.

Oh yeh, check this out. “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” -Psalm 137:9

You catch my drift? Had the bible had its way, that’s what would happen to your kids. They claim they’re right, you don’t. What authority decides who’s more right or wrong? None, because it’s subjective.

There is no blame or shame game here. It’s about people’s inclinations and those that judge them and aim to prevent, punish, reward, or control them.

As I said in my first post, the only practical point and morality that matters is the law of the land whatever it maybe. Everyone fights it out to get it changed based on their subjective moral views.

Coloma's avatar

@soulin

Alright, so, how do you feel if we just get a rope and string YOU up?
Can you set a horse young man?
I have a really BIG horse, and an even bigger tree.

Are you okay being on the other end of the rope you promote?

soulin's avatar

I wouldn’t like it, and that is the point. I wouldn’t like it if Hitler sent me to the gas chambers either. So, he thinks he’s right, I think he’s wrong.

What authority decides who’s right or wrong here? Picture this scenario but in the billions. You got so many moral views and everyone is trying to impose on each other. Each moral view makes someone else unhappy. No one will like it, hence the constant fighting, killing, etc…You’re never going to get along when everyone has their own moral values. This isn’t as clear cut as gravity.

Through this fighting you have laws. Then the law of the land rules, until it doesn’t.

So what would I do if someone wanted to string me up? I would defend myself. What do I make of a situation where one is being killed? I simply don’t know the answer of what to make of it. I can say it’s bad, but it doesn’t mean anything, especially when someone else says it’s good.

I’ve no problem with owning slaves, but I defiantly wouldn’t want to be one. You might find this appalling, I find it enjoyable. And on it goes, etc…

You’re searching for a right answer, but there isn’t one.

Coloma's avatar

@soulin

But there is. As plain as the nose on your face.
If you don’t wish to be treated in a certain manner, then, you afford that same courtesy to others.
If you do not wish to be a slave you do not enslave others.
If you do not wish to killed, robbed, beaten, you do not kill, rob, beat others.
We arn’t talking rocket science here, there is an occasional place for situational ethics, but, all in all. Do unto others…..

Qingu's avatar

@soulin, I’m sorry for the confusion, but I meant to imply no such thing. To be clear, there are no circumstances in which I would force you to have empathetic morals.

In order for us to discuss which morals are better, we first need to agree on some criteria for such a judgment. Would you agree that morals which tend to increase happiness and lessen suffering are better than morals that do the opposite?

soulin's avatar

@Coloma,

That’s your subjective moral answer.

Here’s my answer. “He who has the gold, makes the rules.”

You see, how does one know how others want to be treated? The obvious way is to ask them, but this cannot be done if one assumes they have not reached a particular and relevant understanding.

Differing tastes suggests that if your values are not shared with others, the way you want to be treated will not be the way they want to be treated. For example, it has been said that a sadist is just a masochist who follows the golden rule, or a man walking into a bar looking for a fight.

Immanuel Kant argued this point, that being sensitive to differences of situation, noting that a prisoner duly convicted of a crime could appeal to the golden rule while asking the judge to release him, pointing out that the judge would not want anyone else to send him to prison, so he should not do so to others.

soulin's avatar

@Qingu,

I agree.

Qingu's avatar

Okay. So if we agree that morals which maximize happiness and minimize suffering are “good,” we can look at various societies and human actions and get a sense of what kind of morals do a good job at doing this. Something like the Golden Rule (or my preference, the veil of ignorance) seems to maximize happiness and minimize suffering.

As you point out, the golden rule only gets you so far, because you need to deal with morals involving enforcement of laws. Most successful societies that maximize happiness base their laws on a basic idea that the weak should be protected from the strong.

Do we agree so far in general?

soulin's avatar

I think you misunderstood me. I agree morals which maximize happiness and minimize suffering are “good”, but only for me.

I don’t care about someone else’s happiness or suffering, hence why I said I have no problem with owning slaves. You will now tell me how immoral this is, but I will not care, because I will tell you in my book it’s moral. I benefit immensely from my slaves and it makes me happy.

So how’re you going to get me to see slavery as immoral, as you do? We obviously don’t agree here.

The only thing stopping me from owning slaves is the law.

Coloma's avatar

Well. all I know is that I have had a maximum-ally happy day.
And it feels GOOD!

And, if I feel GOOD about who I am, then any and everything/one that comes into contact with me feels good too!

Today I have made several people laugh, I have saved a few lizards, that are grateful to be back out in the sunshine, and, I have ‘performed’ a damn good comedy routine for some local biz. people that were on the floor when I left them. haha

Yep, the shakey beef jerky delivery guy, ya know ‘Parkinsons Jerky’ co.

Fine…if you sociopaths don’t get the JOY in being a decent speciman of humanity…well….MY day was one of loving, humor and making a dif, in a lizards life. So shoot me!

ninjacolin's avatar

@soulin said: “I have no murder, or stealing inclinations, but I can’t argue logically that either is right or wrong.”

@soulin said: What authority decides who’s right or wrong here? Picture this scenario but in the billions. You got so many moral views and everyone is trying to impose on each other. Each moral view makes someone else unhappy. No one will like it, hence the constant fighting, killing, etc…You’re never going to get along when everyone has their own moral values. This isn’t as clear cut as gravity

False. It is exactly as clear-cut as gravity. The scientific method determines truth based on peer review. The authority is sound logic based on observances. Sound logic prevails through rational discussion and review. For example, Quingu asked:

@Qingu said: “Would you agree that morals which tend to increase happiness and lessen suffering are better than morals that do the opposite?”

@soulin replied: “I agree.”

The basis for a superior morality is soundness of logic as Qingu just offered you and you accepted.

@soulin then suggested: “You will now tell me how immoral this is, but I will not care, because I will tell you in my book it’s moral.”

Fallacious. Your telling him it’s not in your book is not a valid reason for your not caring. Example: Just because I tell you “me not having apple pie is not okay in my books.” doesn’t make it true that I have apple pie.

Stings doesn’t it? And there’s the rub. You now feel the inclination to reword and make some sense of your argument but it’s too late. You’ve already proved a significant point about “right” and “wrong”:

No one wants to commit fallacies! They often are entertained and distracted by fallacious conclusions but NO ONE wants to believe what isn’t true; What isn’t actually right. That’s the beauty of sound logic. Everyone wants it to be on their side. Absolute statement. Truism. On that we can depend.

How do we know our conclusions are right? Well, we can’t know for certain but we can approach truthiness through peer review; See, public education; See, democracy. Through educating as many minds as possible on the relevant factors and letting everyone put in their final conclusion on the matter, we approach logical soundness en masse. What do you get after all that input? You get the world as it is. Mostly peaceful. Some hot spots. No one satisfied with corruption besides the few who are too ignorant, yes ignorant, to see how it harms their own visions for a more pleasant reality.

@soulin said: The only thing stopping me from owning slaves is the law.

Short sighted. What’s stopping you from owning slaves is valid and sound conclusions which coerce the rational majority into acting against your fallacies. Rest assured, if your conclusions can be shown to be logically superior to the current conclusions of the majority, everyone would take your side. Logic is fair that way.

Sound logic = Moral. And no one wants to have unsound opinions.

soulin's avatar

Alright, you want to bring up science and logic, very well. Explain the following:

1. How do you know logic is the criteria of knowing.

2. Answer by avoiding an infinite regress and without resorting to assumed axioms.

3. Debunk solipsism.

ETpro's avatar

@ninjacolin It is illogical to argue with a nihilist.

soulin's avatar

@ninjacolin,

So how does that sting?

ninjacolin's avatar

Short answers:

1) It just seems that way when you really think about it.

2) Assumption is all we have. Human brains don’t use anything else to base their decisions on. It just so happens that our assumptions are always logic based where sound logic is desirable over unsound logic.

3) Can’t. Solipsism is a fact as far as I can tell: It seems to be a necessary part of reality. I think therefore I am. Everything else that I “know” to be true is an assumption based on that inescapably apparent foundation.

Qingu's avatar

@soulin, out of curiosity, are you a college student?

And it appears the only thing that affects your behavior and prohibits you from doing whatever you want at the expense of others is the threat of force. So be it. I hope this is just an exercise in sophistry for you, and if not, it’s a shame people like you exist, but societies have laws for precisely this reason: to prevent sociopaths from taking advantage of others.

soulin's avatar

@ninjacolin,

1. It just seems that way? Haha. It doesn’t seem that way for everyone though, yet you feel what seems that way for you is more relevant then what feels a different way for someone else. How convenient for you.

2. If assumptions is all we have, then there are no absolutes, there are no rights and wrong accept our subjective meanings that express our will. This pretty much throws your entire argument out.

3. More holes in your argument.

ETpro's avatar

@soulin If a sociopath finds himself among a society without laws, his neighbors soon recognize the present danger he poses to life and property, and they simply gang up and execute him. Therein lies the logic of the golden rule.

soulin's avatar

@Qingu,

Yes, I’m currently at my university. Sophistry, really? Your clarification for this? Oh you didn’t provide any, how convenient for you. Again, I don’t care what you think of me. That’s pretty much your GO-TO, giving me various labels and calling me immoral in so many words. You’re so intellectually stimulating!

Yes, the law is there to prevent me from owning slaves, for now. But given the right condition, the masses will have a change in their subjective moral views, and this gives birth to new standards of morality. Possible one that allows slavery again.

soulin's avatar

@ETpro,

I’ve already explained the problems with the golden rule. Scroll up.

ETpro's avatar

@soulin You have argued by assertion regarding the golden rule. That does not negate what I just posted.

soulin's avatar

@ETpro,

Everything is an assertion. I think I made that point with ninjacolin.

ETpro's avatar

@soulin Argument by assertion is a well understood logical fallacy. If you wish to cling to it, I don’t care to waste time in further discussion. Go back to where the other sophomores hang out and pick a good fight there.

King_Pariah's avatar

It’s always amusing that it takes an absolute to get the point across that nothing is absolute.

soulin's avatar

@ETpro,

The golden rule is an assertion. Logic is an assertion. Reality is an assertion.

ninjacolin's avatar

@soulin said: “1. It just seems that way? Haha. It doesn’t seem that way for everyone though, ” – Yes it does. Find me a counter example if you can. Logic may not be the correct criteria.. but it’s the ONLY criteria anyone ever uses. We are all bound to it. It is our limitation as human animals. No exceptions. No recourse.

@soulin said: “If assumptions is all we have, then there are no absolutes, there are no rights and wrong accept our subjective meanings that express our will. This pretty much throws your entire argument out”

How would it throw my argument out? Please show your work.

@soulin said: “3. More holes in your argument.” – uh.. you didn’t show any holes to exist you just claimed they existed.

The only conclusions worth having are the ones that make sense to have. Conclusions that have no support aren’t worth sharing.. like.. why would you share them? Only dementia patients can get away with forming and acting on conclusions without basis.

soulin's avatar

@ninjacolin,

1. I’m not the one claiming, you’re. If you say it’s not the correct criteria, then you can’t use it to debunk my points, it’s obviously incorrect. Your words. If you claim otherwise, prove it without an assumed axiom, and avoiding infinite regress. Otherwise, I will label you as an anti-critical thinker/blind follower.

2. What work? If there are only assumptions, then that by definition means truth is subjective. Any answer I would give you is subjective. Any answer you would give me is subjective. The subjective is the objective.

3. Since you have no support for anything I asked, then it’s fair to say that you can’t obviously use science and logic against me. You clearly stated it is incorrect.

gorillapaws's avatar

@soulin you’re not by any chance related to @epoche from this thread are you?

ninjacolin's avatar

@soulin said: “If you say it’s not the correct criteria, then you can’t use it to debunk my points, it’s obviously incorrect.”

I didn’t say it wasn’t the correct criteria.

soulin's avatar

@ninjacolin wrote “Logic may not be the correct criteria..”

What do you call that?

soulin's avatar

@gorillapaws,

Wow, that user pretty much has the same background as me. I’m not him, but that’s wild.

ninjacolin's avatar

Oh, I see how you’re reading that wrong.
I’m not imply that it likely isn’t correct. I’m musing on the idea hypothetically that IF it wasn’t correct, it would still be the only thing we have to work with.

King_Pariah's avatar

Morals are abstract, all one has to do is look back upon history and see that this standard, this norm called morals is in constant fluctuation for the sake of what we call “fairness” which is utter bull, just because something is “equal” does not make it fair. “Fair” would technically be letting something go off and see how it fares naturally on its own without outside help, see how it does own its own in reality. Thus I refuse to live by morals to the best of my ability and do whatever the hell I want.

“Your God guarantees my insanity, but may I ask? Who guarantees your God’s sanity?”

soulin's avatar

@ninjacolin,

Your argument is it seems that way. There really isn’t any further discussion after an answer like that.

It seems not, there. I countered.

ninjacolin's avatar

@King_Pariah “Thus I refuse to live by morals to the best of my ability” – This sounds like your moral imperative.

King_Pariah's avatar

@ninjacolin what can I say? The lovely Nihilist Paradox rears its ugly head yet again

ninjacolin's avatar

@soulin

If something seems “not” like something.. then you’re still using deductive reasoning to come to that conclusion. That’s my whole point. Logical deduction is just how our brains work. Whether you agree or disagree with me on any point, you’re doing it using your rational brain using rational rules. The only difference between my conclusions and yours is the evidence our brains happen to be comparing. Different evidence produces different conclusions. Regardless, they seem to form those conclusions using the same set of rules.

King_Pariah's avatar

Logical deduction is a way that our brains work. You see people not use logical deduction at all almost everyday. “Love” as an example, has a brain wave signature nigh identical to what we call “Madness.” Also, acting on instinct doesn’t fall under the human definition of “logical.”

ETpro's avatar

@King_Pariah You know, if I were a true sociopath, which you are claiming to be, I would avoid announcing that in an Internet forum. Just saying…

ninjacolin's avatar

@ETpro said: @ninjacolin It is illogical to argue with a nihilist.

Nihilism has to worry about me, not the other way around.

soulin's avatar

Firstly, what we’re doing is language game. I don’t infer this to be logic.

Secondly, you still didn’t answer my question. How do you know logic is the correct criteria for knowing?

King_Pariah's avatar

@ETpro I’m not claiming to be a sociopath. Anyway, sociopath is no longer an appropriate medical term. I had that “beaten” into me by oh say… 7 doctors. I have antisocial tendencies, I have an extreme disgust for mankind, I suffer from PTSD and MDD, and that isn’t even a quarter of the full picture. Choosing to not live by societies norms and rules does not make one a “sociopath” all together. It may be a tendency towards being a “sociopath” but in no way actually indicates that I am a sociopath. Which I’m not.

ETpro's avatar

@ninjacolin I am duly impressed you have the patience for it.

@King_Pariah Thanks for the clarification. And no, certainly choosign to live by rules other than society’s norms doesn’t make one a sociopath. But with all due respect to your PTSD, this statement of yours, “Thus I refuse to live by morals to the best of my ability and do whatever the hell I want.” comes pretty close to the definition of a sociopath..

ninjacolin's avatar

Logical deduction is a way that our brains work. You see people not use logical deduction at all almost everyday. “Love” as an example, has a brain wave signature nigh identical to what we call “Madness.” Also, acting on instinct doesn’t fall under the human definition of “logical.”

Logical deduction is the way. Everything is cause and effect. Logic is an extension of that principal. For example, if you feel love, you express it. The love feeling doesn’t come from no where. It comes from somewhere. Then, having admitted to those feelings, the next thing you do is act on it rationally. It’s not like people fall in love with invisible people who they’ve never considered to exist. They fall in love with people they first discover. That discovery leads to emotional feelings. Those feelings lead to rational behaviors associated with those feelings. Everything in the universe occurs across time as cause and effect.

There is no such thing as an irrational thought. All thoughts are rational (meaning, they abide by the cause and effect axiom) although not all thoughts are soundly logically.

soulin's avatar

@ETpro,

Whether one is a sociopath or not, doesn’t change the subjectivity of morality. You find it bad, the sociopath finds it good. You’re no more of an authority then the sociopath. Empathy – Apathy. We have both. One is not better then the other. One is not worse then the other.

King_Pariah's avatar

@ETpro I don’t come anywhere close to being a sociopath according to 6 out of 7 doctors and admittingly myself as well.

ETpro's avatar

@soulin I’m a very old man and have lived a long, productive, very happy life. Let’s review how some famous sociopaths have fared in comparison. Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite. It’s your life to live as you see fit. You can pick your path, but you cannot escape the laws of cause and effect. You will live with the consequences of your choice of paths, or die by them.

@King_Pariah I am glad to hear that. The world doesn’t need more of them. And if you are suffering from PTSD from military service, you have my deepest sympathy and support for recovery. My son’s deployed in Afghanistan right now.

soulin's avatar

@ETpro,

You finally said something right. Everyone has their own life and they will live it as they see fit. The consequences are for them to deal with alone.

So lets stop with the empathetic propaganda crap. There is obviously two sides to the premise and both are neither right nor wrong.

ninjacolin's avatar

@soulin asked: “How is logic the correct criteria for knowing?”

Definitions are important. I’ll give you some of mine which I hope sheds some light on how I’m forming my conclusions:

Knowledge: To “know” is to “remember as being true.” – Time is so important. It’s easy to neglect the role time plays in everything. For me to “know” my name is Colin requires that I remember that being the case. If I don’t remember that being the case, I can’t and wouldn’t claim to “know it.” This seems (there’s that word again) to be uniformly the case for everyone in existence. (Eg. If I remember my mom telling me the truth all the time and if I remember her telling me that that Santa Claus exists and if I don’t remember any evidence to the contrary.. Voila. there’s a formula for my “knowledge” of Santa Claus’ existence and subsequently the reason why I might punch little jimmy in the nose in grade school for claiming otherwise)

Aristolte (lol, socrates) discovered and described the laws that human brains operate by in determining what they perceive to be truth. Those laws are referred to as Formal Logic. Brains don’t determine their conclusions any other way besides by these rules. These rules are adhered to strictly by all human brains but the output of those rules varies based on input across time. In grade 2 for example, having only observed the evidence of my trusty mother, I might believe in Santa Claus. But by grade 4, with new evidence taken in, my conclusions about Santa Claus’ existence and about the trust worthiness of my mother can shift.

Input coerces brains to switch the truth value of propositions. Each proposition is held in memory with 1 of 3 possible truth values, either True, False, or Uncertain. There are no other alternatives. The master set of all truth values relevant to a particular topic produces an opinion on that topic. As illustrated simply with the Santa Claus example above.

Knowledge is what we remember to be true. Conclusions are calculations of the truth values of propositions. New calculations across time produce new memories/knowledge. The calculations are always performed using the rules of logic as discovered by Aristotle.

Logic is simply how brains do their thing.

ninjacolin's avatar

^ edited for socrates

King_Pariah's avatar

Remember, there are many successful sociopaths as well. They’re just not recorded because it’s against “ethics” to list them as they’re not prisoners and still have the right to privacy

ETpro's avatar

@soulin I don’t see how you reach that conclusion from what I said. You can label it propaganda if you wish, but what I said about my own life versus that of famous sociopaths is truth. They got their consequences. I got mine. I’m very happy with the pay for living I have gotten for being an empathetic person. When you read the list of behaviors of the sociopath, I see NOTHING there that attracts me and suggest my life would be much better if I adopted their viewpoint.

@King_Pariah Ha! I can think of a number of politicians that some have listed. But reading the definition, I know of no successful people who live by such deranged standards. I’d appreciate a list of those you consider to qualify.

King_Pariah's avatar

@ETpro I have no desire to dig around for people I feel would fit the bill. Though maybe all lawyers, we pay them to lie after all. lol

soulin's avatar

@ninjacolin,

Whoa, this is too much for me at 2am, but lets see. apply this practically. If someone wants to steal something from someone, or enslave someone, how is one being illogical/immoral in doing so? How do you know empathy is moral and apathy isn’t?

ETpro's avatar

@King_Pariah Ha! Touche. Reading the list of sociopaths I can’t think of many lawyers who qualify on more than a few of the points. Oh, OK, maybe John Edwards. :-)

manolla's avatar

This has turned into a great informative discussion after all, and let me state that although I’m not requesting that we all base our morals on the bible or any other religious book since most of you don’t belief on it’s sorce and also because I personally think that many people are misinformed on it (religious people included), but I find that living within a society that has nothing to base thier morality on isn’t really in everyone’s interest because even though many people might be sincerely moral people, but there isn’t any guarantee that they aren’t sincerely wrong.

ninjacolin's avatar

@soulin

Why not steal? – In trying to provide a quick answer I’m learning that there’s a lot to be said. I’ll have to come back to this so I made it a real question. See you there. :)

@soulin asked: “How do you *know empathy is moral and apathy isn’t?”* – Empathy has done me great favors in my lifetime. From experience, I know it to be a social tool that gets me ahead, further toward my personal goals than apathy ever has. Conversely, apathy as a social tool has a very poor track record of helping me accomplish anything worthwhile.

In this case, it comes down to a plainly mathematical computation on probability here. For example, who would you rather place a bet on in a real basketball match between a group of your closest associates and the New York Nicks?

There’s no guarantees either way of course. But if you had the intention of making gains from the wager, who would you bet would win? I would bet on the Nicks, myself. And it would be a bet based on the history I’ve observed between the two groups in their ability to play the game in question.

Similarly, based on my personal experiences and observations concerning apathy and empathy, I would most often bet on empathy as the right choice to ensure a better future for myself.

This is how I “know” empathy to be. That is, this is how I remember empathy: as useful, beneficial for me. It’s my memories serving me in this moral call.

ETpro's avatar

@soulin I noticed this article today in the news about Ayman al-Zawahri being named the new leader of al Qaeda. It brought to mind our discussion of varying moral codes among different cultures and the inherent rightness of them. The radical Muslim world has a vision of morality that is very different from that of the Western world. They believe man should remain glued to the ways of the 1300s. They believe that only 50% at most of humanity should be educated. All women should be property of men, and subservient to them. They should be uneducated and silent supporters of whatever men want. They believe that if a man rapes a woman, it is her fault and she should be killed for having shamed her family by letting that happen.

We tend to believe in science and progress and education for all. But who is to say which vision is superior? Are we building toward such a devastation of Earth’s finite resources that our moral compass is leading us on a course to global ecological disaster, while theirs would result in a hostile world ruled by vengeance and brutality and suppression of a major part of humanity, but a world that is sustainable?

I have placed my bet. I cannot prove it’s on the right side, but history will prove it. One vision is actually better than the other, and the law of cause and effect will show which. Morality may be subjective and debatable, but the fact that there are consequences for the moral decisions we make is apparent to me. The only way to ignore the truth of that is to fall back on the solipsistic claim that there is no reality outside your own mind. Funny how few solipsists believe that enough to test its merits by trying to walk off the top of a skyscraper and tread on thin air.

Qingu's avatar

I think a lot of people go through this phase in college when they realize that morals are subjective; it’s sort of like how some people read Ayn Rand in college and jump to the wild conclusion that selfishness is the only worthwhile moral basis.

When it comes down to it, @soulin, if you do not have empathy for your fellow humans—if you have no interest in preventing other people’s suffering—then there is not much we can actually debate here. Because the idea that there is suffering outside of your own personal experience is fundamental to any meaningful debate about morality.

I hope you are not a sociopath and this is just a thought exercise for you. If your goal is to point out that moral discussions are necessarily based on a set of assumed axioms, congratulations, you’ve succeeded. But so is every aspect of human knowledge, and your argument (if I take it charitably as a thought exercise) strikes me as similar to people who claim that we can’t know anything whatsoever because we have no reason to assume that the world we experience is not an illusion. Most people get over the abstract implications of this in college.

soulin's avatar

@ninjacolin,

In regards to your empathy example, you’re clearly telling me this based on your personal experiences. Well, from my personal experiences I found apathy to be more beneficial. So the probability of success for me, would be, to be as much apathetic as possible. This has been working out so far.

Now we have your personal experiences and mine. What makes your personal experiences better than mine? Saying that you’re better because you said so, doesn’t make it a valid argument.

@ETpro,

Well there you have it. Morality is subjective and debatable. You placed your bets and feel you’re right. A Religious person feels he is right. I think I’m right. You think there is cause and effect, I don’t. You think consequences are bad, I don’t.

Solipsism is a given, no need for tests. My mental state is the only thing I can access. If I kill myself, then my mental states remain. The universe dies with me. The question is, why do I need to kill myself when I already know. I obviously created a universe that doesn’t allow me to float on air.

@Qingu,

I happen to agree with Ayn Rand. As I said earlier, through my experiences I found selfishness to be more beneficial for me. Emapthy isn’t. In fact, empathy is dangerous, because you can easily take advantage of an empathetic person. I agree that there is suffering outside of me, but I just don’t care. It’s not my problem.

A sociopath is too broad of a term. As I said, I have no inclination to kill. I don’t need to steal because my dad is rich, so I’m set for life with money, but, had the law allowed it, I would have no problem with owning slaves. This would be my inclination. Or for example, if someone was suffering, I wouldn’t harm him further, but I wouldn’t help him either. A person usually gets out of his suffering when he suffers enough. If you help a person, then you’re just enabling him. You’re enslaving him forever in welfare.

There is obviously no practical point to this discussion, which is why my first statement was the only thing that matters, is the law. We all do whatever we want within the confines of the law. We all do whatever we can to change the law to fit our subjective morals. When morality of the masses shift, and are in-sync with one another, you have the emergence of new standards of morality. Maybe in year time, bestiality will be a standard of morality, who knows. No rights or wrongs, just mood swing cycles which are probably based on the conditions of the environment.

Qingu's avatar

I swear there should be some alternate version of Poe’s Law where it’s impossible to tell on the Internet whether someone is actually an objectivist sociopath or a parody thereof.

Because I’ve been on the fence if you’re being genuine about your position this entire time.

ETpro's avatar

@soulin siad, “The question is, why do I need to kill myself when I already know. I obviously created a universe that doesn’t allow me to float on air.” But you do not know that. You may think that is what happens, but you have never been dead to test your belief. You have never communed with the dead to get their confirmation of that. For all you know, the theist is right, and the souls of the dead are either in Heaven, Hell, or some holding tank waiting final dispositin. And you don’t really believe that all exists within you, or that cause and effect don’t exist, because if you diod believe that, you wouldn’t recognize any possibility of killing yourself or take any steps (like avoiding stepping in front of a fast moving vehicle or walking off a high ledge) because you are the only thing that exists. The fast moving traffic isn’t real. The ledge isn’t real. And there is no cause and effect. Stepping in front of a Mac truck wouldn’t cause any effect. Sorry, my young Padawan, but your actions are inconsistent with your stated beliefs, so it is obvious to me that you don’t really believe them, you just like to argue that you do.

soulin's avatar

@Qingu,

Yes, I’m genuine. I have no reason not to be. I have my set of beliefs as you do with yours?
Wouldn’t what you wrote apply to you to as well? I suppose I can assume you might not be genuine either?

@ETpro,

True, but the only thing I do know is my mental states exist since I can only access it, right?

So yes, if I jump of the building, I don’t know what happens.

soulin's avatar

@ninjacolin,

What was the point of the stealing thread? To have a selected few tell you why it’s wrong?

If so, what about those like myself who will tell you it’s fine. One can benefit from stealing in many ways. One doesn’t have to work. If one is good, one will no get caught, thus no one will know. If you steal enough, you may attain power over others through wealth. Etc…

Well, back to square one. A group saying it’s wrong, another group saying it’s good.

My moral views on stealing is more right then their’s because I said so? Or visa versa?

soulin's avatar

woops. double post.

ninjacolin's avatar

@soulin, first off I want to thank you for putting forward a great philosophical challenge. I have a lot of work to do and a lot of intermittent sleep but I’ve been considering your questions pretty heavily and they aren’t small/simple questions at all. I really enjoy considering these and I don’t think anyone has ever put them to me as strongly as you have. Thanks again.

@ETpro said: “I have placed my bet. I cannot prove it’s on the right side, but history will prove it. One vision is actually better than the other, and the law of cause and effect will show which. Morality may be subjective and debatable, but the fact that there are consequences for the moral decisions we make is apparent to me. The only way to ignore the truth of that is to fall back on the solipsistic claim that there is no reality outside your own mind. Funny how few solipsists believe that enough to test its merits by trying to walk off the top of a skyscraper and tread on thin air.”

So well stated. It occurs to me that the moral thing to do in these cases is to ask ourselves the right questions. Asking the wrong questions produces irrelevant answers which, if acted on, would prove fallacious.

@soulin replied: “no need for tests… I obviously created a universe that doesn’t allow me to float on air”

I think the answer to many moral dilemmas is in this reasoning. Big moral questions like “Should I steal?” or “Should I murder” often come down to a question of risk taking that shouldn’t be fallaciously ignored. Just like the decision to drink and drive, the fact of the matter is that more people survive instances of drinking and driving experiences unharmed than they do suffer from them. Still, it’s considered a better idea not to Drink and Drive in any given instance and I think I know why. In trying to figure it out, I’ve come up with a moral principal I’d like to put to you for your review: Whether or not you perceive unharmed-survival in any one instance of Drinking and Driving (or stealing, or murdering, or what have you) is clearly a false dilemma since few (if any) drunk drivers perceive failure when they make their decision to participate. Get what I’m saying? The relevant (hence, logical/moral) question isn’t whether I will survive this instance. Similar to what you noted about the realities of the universe where concerns floating and air, we happen to live quite obviously in a universe that doesn’t guarantee our perceptions about the future will work out historically. The relevant (sound/moral) question to be asking myself then has to be: Are the consequences of failure in this instance worth the risk of participation in this instance? (Also consider: Are the consequences of failure in this instance superior to the consequences of failure of other optional instances, for example, an accident with a sober chauffeur (taxi/designated driver))

On the Subjectivity of Experience

@soulin said: “Now we have your personal experiences and mine. What makes your personal experiences better than mine?”

Honestly, I never did say my moral ideas are better than yours. I have suggested that some ideas are more logically sound than others. But which one is which? Only the instance can tell.

Walking off a skyscraper to test your ability to fly, as example, you’ve personally/subjectively concluded isn’t worth the risk. The consequences of failure are clear, undesirable and real-seeming.. to you. That’s why you opt against it. Now, I’ll bring you back to what I was saying about the time sensitivity of knowledge: If the consequences of failure for another moral dilemma are not as clear, undesirable or real-seeming for you.. Voila! there’s your formula for your “knowledge” that stealing, slavery, or what have you are perfectly acceptable behaviors for yourself. A baby just learning to walk or crawl, for example, has a higher tendency of crawling or walking right off a cliff as a result of his/her lack of experience. The child would only be acting on his subjective opinion. Doesn’t that mean the baby’s decision was morally pure? I’ll leave that for you to consider.

@Qingu has been able to predict that you are likely a student and even in acceptance of Ayan Rand’s selfishism concept. His ability to predict that kind of thing is telling. You’re lacking the kinds of experience that tends to educate a person on the value of certain concepts such as empathy just as a baby learning mobility lacks the experience to understand the value of sure footing. This isn’t a put down at all. You are where you are at the moment and that gives us the chance to learn from your unique, minority perspective. (for example, perhaps the baby would fall off the cliff safely into a pile of money hiding a foot or two down for his parent to find him in. Maybe that’s just what happens when babies fall of cliffs and no one knows it!) It hones our own understanding of the types of characters that can exist in this world, the sorts of opinions that some may come to and be living with, as well as the kinds of ignorance we have to be careful to watch out for.

Keep in mind that we live in a world where the experience of older people is valuable, often without intuitive reason, for younger people to practice until they gain more diverse experience. There are reasons why hundreds of thousands of years of human societal evolution has shied away from practices like stealing and murder. And it’s proven worthwhile to listen to our elders in most things. New experiences will modify your opinions and one day you may not think stealing is such a good idea. Hopefully it won’t be on a day when you’re behind a jail cell but there are no guarantees that that won’t be the case as long as you practice stealing. Hopefully it won’t be after you’ve convinced everyone in the world that stealing is great idea.

I may not be able to tell you with certainty that my personal experiences are better for you to adhere to than your own but your future self can. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Experience and age give us “better” opinions over our previous conclusions, as believe I’ve illustrated. As you get older you’ll gain new knowledge and new conclusions. Be resourceful in finding answers to your questions and minimize the risk of ruining your life or that of others. Regret is the worst thing you can do and it will only ever happen by accident and I promise you it will be caused by a younger version of yourself, not your present self. So, be careful.

Many youth in their limited wisdom end up in street gangs or as highly paid executives. Many politicians end up pawns or as heroes. Many sophists end up nihilists or ninjacolins. We get stuck in our opinions subjectively and simply by accident through our specific experiences and life story. Therefore, exploring diverse experiences frees us from the constraints of a tight and undeserved cage. Try new experiences. See what they really feel like. Listen to others with experience. Learn. Grow.

You don’t have to reply to all this, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Also, mammoth post says: mmmmwaaaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhhh!

soulin's avatar

1. Who’s more likely to be at risk, a stock speculator, or a skilled thief? Or a construction worker/waste management, or a skilled thief?

2. You think risk taking is bad, but risk taking is good. Take the stock market. There was literally a hand full of people in the entire country that were placing bets against the market prior to the market crash in 2008. Do you know how insane of a risk it is to bet against an entire market? You stand to not only lose everything, but you end up in debt for the rest of your life if the market doesn’t go the way you placed your bets. The risk was/is clear. So guess what? Those handful of people became multibillionaires over night while the rest of the country paid the price. So again, risk is subjective.

3. You seem to think a lack of empathy is ignorance, but I know exactly what empathy is through experience. I simply don’t care for it. I find apathy more rewarding. Also, I’ve shown the major risk factor of empathy. You get taken advantaged of. Empathy enslaves through welfare. it enables. Slaves revolt. Empathy dies. I’ve demonstrated the problems with the golden rule.

4. Meaning is a human construct. It is an expression of one’s will. If one seeks it in another, then one seeks to be dominated by another’s will. If one adopts it from another, then one is dominated by another. There is absolutely no way to know what an objective truth is when one is approaching it subjectively. People share subjectives, hence why you have an apathetic herd, or an empathetic herd.

5. So I ask myself. Why the hell would I want to be dominated by someone’s will?

ninjacolin's avatar

Your implications aren’t clear. The following are the conclusions I assume you’re implying, please clarify where you see fit:

“Who’s more likely to be at risk, a stock speculator, or a skilled thief? Or a construction worker/waste management, or a skilled thief?” – Therefore everyone should be a skilled thief.

“You think risk taking is bad, but risk taking is good.” – therefore you should always take risks always in all cases.

“I find apathy more rewarding” – Therefore, everyone ought to be apathetic towards you.
——-

As for 4 and 5..

“Meaning is an expression of one’s will.” – No, not “will” necessarily. For example, many meanings are undesirable (eg. That being mortal means I will have to die one day) but still held to be true. Rather, it would be appropriate to say meaning is an expression of one’s subjective understanding. (Unless you can defend the use of the term “will” I’d be open to that but it doesn’t seem like a good fit at first glance)

This modification changes the rest of your argument as follows, correct me where you see fit:
“If one seeks meaning from another, then one seeks the understanding of another.” – this sounds fine to me.

“If one adopts the meanings of another, then one is dominated by another.” – “Dominate” sounds very inappropriate and the sentiment is misplaced. It implies some kind of negativity that is utterly unnecessary to assume. A parent who guides a baby away form danger could be said to be “dominating” the baby.. but it’s not as if it’s for bad reason. The baby adopts the direction of it’s parents for good reason. In this sense “domination” isn’t at all a bad thing instead it becomes more desirable than the alternative.

Why would you want to adopt someone else’s understanding? Because often times their understanding is more beneficial to you than your own even if you don’t understand why that is.

@soulin said: “You seem to think a lack of empathy is ignorance”

All poor decisions are ignorant decisions. Decisions made without thinking them through well enough. The decision to behave apathetically, while you believe it’s of greater value to you than empathetic behaviors, is likely costing you many rewards. I would have to see a snapshot of your day to see exactly how you live this alleged apathetic life but from what I imagine, you’re missing out big time and I’ll throw wild guess out there and ask.. do you consider yourself depressive or generally dissatisfied in life? I’ve found a great number of people with similar perspective to your own are generally unimpressed with reality.

@soulin said: “I don’t need to steal because my dad is rich, so I’m set for life with money”

Actually, the reason stealing is outlawed is for the same reason that you outlaw it for yourself. It’s because no one needs to steal. There are sufficient alternatives that stealing causes more problems for everyone involved than it solves.

soulin's avatar

An example of the risk of empathy. You’re feeling empathy for a poor persons pain, so you help him out. What you expect is for the poor person to get back on his feet, however, he ends up being another mouth to feed, to cloth, and to shelter. He will ask favors from you for everything from now on. He see’s how good life is when someone else is supporting it while you, so he decides to continue taking advantage of you until you run low or maybe even out of resources. You end up in he same position as him.

ninjacolin's avatar

That specific example of empathy displays mass ignorance and a lack of sound decision making on the part of the benefactor. I agree with you living your life that way is silly.

I’ll contribute another example that I mentioned earlier. If you are late for an appointment and you happen to know that driving on the highway would take longer to get to your destination than taking a shortcut through the city, but out of a empathy you follow the advice of your friend in the passenger seat so as not to embarrass him… you’re again being silly.

There are definitely cases of empathy that are not productive. Do you think all cases of empathy are this silly, counter-productive, and more harmful for empathizers to practice than to avoid?

soulin's avatar

1. You’re claiming that things like thievery is worse due to the higher risk factors. So my point was not that everyone should be a skilled thief, but that thievery isn’t better or worse. It isn’t morally worse, it isn’t morally better do to the risk factors.

2. You can do whatever you want, that’s the point. Again your argument here is that risk is worse, so moral decisions that have a higher risk are worse. My point says otherwise.

3. No, I, personally, find apathy more rewarding. It’s logical for me to be apathetic. You, personally, find empathy more rewarding. It’s logical for you to be empathetic. The key difference here is you’re making the claim that your empathetic experiences are more logically sound then mine apathetic experiences. People can do what they want. We’re discussing your claim, that moral decisions which are riskier are worse. My points show otherwise.

4. Very well, subjective understanding instead of will. So you see my point with the baby – I choose not to be dominated by anyone, hence I’m the dominator. I find myself more beneficial than any other human being.

5. You assume I’m missing out on rewards with my apathetic lifestyle, but there is no validity to your assumptions, hence empathy isn’t a better morality. I can assume the same of your empathy, but it will be equally invalid. On the contrary, I’m very satisfied with life, the world is a playground. I can do whatever I want, whatever gives me pleasure. There is no right or wrong. The practical though, is keeping the law because jail, at least for me, it would be very unpleasant. Now, I can also argue, that since you’re empathetic, can I assume that you’re an authoritarian, or an authoritarian seeker that wishes to dominate, to enslave others? That is what empathy leads to, enabling irresponsible behavior by rewarding with welfare which enslaves the person and so on to the next generation.

6. The question is whether stealing is immoral or not. If I don’t have an inclination to steal, doesn’t mean someone else feels the same way. Plenty of thievery out there, so obviously people have a need to steal. I’ve given you examples of how it’s very beneficial, thus the thief feels it is good. You say otherwise, well then we’re back to square one with your example of risk, so see #1 for my refute.

7. This is just in addition, I’m only pointing out the risks of empathy. See above.

ninjacolin's avatar

I have to run at the moment but I wanted to point out quickly: I haven’t at all been trying to say that people all share the same perspective of what is or isn’t moral. Of course, due to both experience and ignorance, people arrive at divergent opinions about what is right. That’s a given. Moral conclusions, like any conclusion or opinion, are subjective based on experience.

King_Pariah's avatar

@ninjacolin I hope that most of us saw it that way since it has provided a most interesting discussion that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and occasionally participating in.

soulin's avatar

Oh, and someone here linked me to another thread where some of this was discussed, so here is an excellent critique on science and logic, and absolute knowledge in general. I think you confused language game with logic. In short, science is based on circular reasoning, and logic is an assumed axiom, if something assumed rather then justified, it’s not to be trusted. If everything is subjective, then solipsism (the subjective is the objective). 1. My mental states is the only think I have access to.
2. I cannot conclude the existence of anything outside of my mental states.
3. Therefore, only my mental states exist.

_“The scientific method works by logical fallacy as with all scientific theories. The problem stems from problem of criterion.

1. What do we know? or What is the extent of our knowledge?
2. How do we know? or What is the criterion of knowing?

The problem here is that since we cannot have an answer to the first set of questions without first answering the second set, and we cannot hope to answer the second set of questions without first knowing the answers to the first set, we are, therefore, unable to answer either. This has the result of our being unable to justify any of our beliefs.

Some philosophers try first to answer the second set of questions, these are usually the empiricist who answer that we know by the criteria of senses. Those who try to answer the first set of questions are usually particularists, which build from particular cases towards universal cases. Those who claim to possess the criterion of truth have a problem. This criterion is either justified, or it is not. If it is unjustified, then it is not to be trusted. If the criterion of truth is justified by a premise, then that premise has to be justified by another premise, and so on, ad infinitum. In other words, assuming that knowledge is justified true belief, then: suppose that P is some piece of knowledge. Then P is a justified true belief. The only thing that can justify P is another statement – let’s call it P1; so P1 justifies P, but if P1 is to be a satisfactory justification for P, then we must know that P1, but for P1 to be known, it must also be a justified true belief. That justification will be another statement – let’s call it P2; so P2 justifies P1, but if P2 is to be a satisfactory justification for P1, then we must know that P2 is true, but for P2 to count as knowledge, it must itself be a justified true belief. That justification will in turn be another statement – let’s call it P3; so P3 justifies P2, and so on, ad infinitum.

“Self-evident beliefs” or “basic facts” do not exist, but are an invitation to “beg the question”. Begging the question (or “assuming the initial point”) is a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise. The fallacy of “begging the question” is committed when a proposition which requires proof is assumed without proof. More specifically, it refers to arguing for a conclusion that has already been assumed in the premise, in effect “begging” the listener to accept the “question” (proposition) before the labor of logic is undertaken. There is a similar, yet a bit different logical fallacy that is used and that is circular reasoning. Circular reasoning is a formal logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises. For example, “Only an untrustworthy person would run for office. The fact that politicians are untrustworthy is proof of this.” Such an argument is fallacious because it relies upon its own proposition (“politicians are untrustworthy”) in order to support its central premise. Essentially, the argument assumes that its central point is already proven, and uses this in support of itself. Circular reasoning is different from the informal logical fallacy “begging the question”, as it is fallacious due to a flawed logical structure and not the individual falsity of an unstated hidden co-premise as begging the question is. Systems are always built upon some sort of assumed axioms which are taken for granted by them with the so called “self-evident beliefs”, but there are no such things, for if something were self-evident, it would have to be circular, proving itself, and there is no fact (A) which proves itself (A because A is not proof for A), but it always needs some other fact (B) to prove it (A because B), and so on, ad infinitum (A because B; B because C; etc).

So, from the problem of criterion emerges the next problem. All justifications of philosophical systems fail because they cannot escape the Munchhausen Trilemma. The three tropes are:
1. The infinite regress, in which any justification for a hypothesis requires another justification and so on ad infinitum (A because B; B because C; etc). Being impossible to justify to infinity, one cannot prove a hypothesis.

2. The circularity of an argument, when the truth asserted is grounded in a circular reasoning. The circular reasoning is closely associated with the begging the question fallacy (A is true because of B, and B is true because of A). They support each other in a vicious cycle.

3. Lastly, we have a suspension of argumentation. A hypothesis which is assumed to be true, common sense argument, appeal to authority (like scientific or religious authority) or “fundamental” principles of “reality” – in doing so, the search for certainty is abandoned, and the theory is attackable and refutable from its premise.

This trilemma destroys any type of certainty in philosophy, from morality to aesthetics to politics. Usually these domains rest upon begging the question reasoning. For example, in politics, the debates are confined by a constitution. In morality, the polemics are confined by the laws (which rest upon politics that he himself said it, or begging the question, or appeal to force, or appeal to popularity in the case of democracy). In aesthetics, the taste is usually confined by morality (which as I’ve shown rest upon politics, etc). These three domains are basically unreasonable.

As for induction, the problem concerns the explanation of how we are able to make inductive inferences. Inductive inference is reasoning from the observed behavior of objects to their behavior when unobserved. It is a question of how things behave when they go beyond the present testimony of the senses, and the records of our memory. We tend to believe that things behave in a regular manner; i.e., that patterns in the behavior of objects will persist into the future, and throughout the unobserved present (this persistence of regularities is sometimes called the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature). The principle of the uniformity of nature is the concept or assumption, fundamental to all physical sciences, that the nature of reality is consistent throughout all of space and time. More specifically, no observer can, under any circumstances, perform a measurement that yields a result logically inconsistent with a previous measurement, under a set of rules that are independent of where and when the observations are made. The argument is that we cannot rationally justify the claim that nature will continue to be uniform, as justification comes in only two varieties, and both of these are inadequate. The two sorts are: (1) demonstrative reasoning, and (2) probable reasoning. With regard to (1), the uniformity principle cannot be demonstrated, as it is “consistent and conceivable” that nature might stop being regular. Turning to (2), we cannot hold that nature will continue to be uniform because it has been in the past, as this is using the very sort of reasoning (induction) that is under question; it would be circular reasoning. Thus, no form of justification will rationally warrant our inductive inferences. Since deduction can no longer be justified by induction, and it would be circular to use deduction to justify itself, it seems that it too is unjustifiable by pure reason.

To understand induction a bit more, I’ll elucidate on causal relations. Causal relations is the relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first, which form the basis for “matters of fact.” Causal relations are found not by reason, but by induction. This is because for any cause, multiple effects are conceivable, and the actual effect cannot be determined by reasoning about the cause; instead, one must observe occurrences of the causal relation to discover that it holds. For example, when one thinks of “a billiard ball moving in a straight line toward another,” one can conceive that the first ball bounces back with the second ball remaining at rest, the first ball stops and the second ball moves, or the first ball jumps over the second, etc. There is no reason to conclude any of these possibilities over the others. Only through previous observation can it be predicted, inductively, what will actually happen with the balls. In general, it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past, as it is always conceivable otherwise that the negation of the claim does not lead to a contradiction. If all matters of fact are based on causal relations, and all causal relations are found by induction, then induction must be shown to be valid somehow. The fact that induction assumes a valid connection between the proposition “I have found that such an object has always been attended with such an effect” and the proposition “I foresee that other objects which are in appearance similar will be attended with similar effects”, one connects these two propositions not by reason, but by induction. This claim is supported by the same reasoning as that for causal relations above, and by the observation that even rationally inexperienced or inferior people can infer, for example, that touching fire causes pain. This is a challenge for other philosophers to come up with a (deductive) reason for the connection. If this is correct, then the justification of induction can be only inductive, but this begs the question; as induction is based on an assumption of the connection, it cannot itself explain the connection. In this way, the problem of induction is not only concerned with the uncertainty of conclusions derived by induction, but doubts the very principle through which those uncertain conclusions are derived.

Observing event A, coinciding with event B, for about a thousand times, does not allow us to logically prove that event A, and event B, always correspond. This is the problem of inducing knowledge from particular cases to universal cases. If there is a sense in which humans accrue knowledge positively by experience, it is only by pivoting observations off existing conjectural theories pertinent to the observations, or off underlying cognitive schemas which unconsciously handle perceptions and use them to generate new theories, but these new theories advanced in response to perceived particulars are not logically “induced” from them. These new theories may be wrong. The myth that we induce theories from particulars is persistent because when we do this we are often successful, but this is due to the advanced state of our evolved tendencies. If we were really “inducting” theories from particulars, it would be inductively logical to claim that the sun sets because I get up in the morning, or that all buses must have drivers in them (if you’ve never seen an empty bus).“_

Qingu's avatar

Knowledge is contingent on assumptions? You’re blowing my mind, dude.

ninjacolin's avatar

@soulin, too many misunderstandings going on.

I’ll say this: I don’t technically believe in altruism. I admit that I only please others to please myself. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But in my attempts to please myself, I’ve found that pleasing others SOMETIMES (maybe even most times) is far more rewarding than NEVER pleasing (empathy/sympathy) others as you’ve been suggesting. As we discussed, it is absolutely possible to put yourself in a position of trying to please others too much, to your detriment. I would never advise that.

Secondly, you seem to ignore the fact that everything you “know” has been taught to you by other humans, your parents, your teachers, the authors you quote, etc.. You can’t escape the “domination” of your educators from all your life.

ninjacolin's avatar

@manolla said: “living within a society that has nothing to base thier morality on isn’t really in everyone’s interest because even though many people might be sincerely moral people, but there isn’t any guarantee that they aren’t sincerely wrong”

There’s never a guarantee. You just have to do whatever seems to make the most sense. That’s the best we humans can do.

rockfan's avatar

I don’t need a God to have morals. I was raised in an Atheist family and they taught me to be a loving, caring, person.

ETpro's avatar

@rockfan Great testimony, and welcome to Fluther.

seperate_reality's avatar

The simple answer is, because of “our own native spiritual nature”.

Luke 17:21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@seperate_reality Many of the answers above apply even if there is no such thing as “our own native spiritual nature,” however. Indeed, a Bible quote seems somewhat irrelevant given that the question is about what could be the case in a world where there was no God and the Bible was merely a somewhat-historical work of fiction (a world many people believe is the one we live in today).

seperate_reality's avatar

No matter what you believe or don’t believe, no matter how much false-information you want to agree with, no matter who you are and what you have done or not done, no matter what, you still indeed do have a native spiritual nature. You just forget this truth.

ETpro's avatar

@seperate_reality There is zero evidence of a spirit within man. You may believe fervently that such a spirit exists, but that doesn’t license you to denigrate those who do not share your belief. You are not going to win that debate using proof by assertion any more than an atheist would win it with you using the same logical fallacy.

LostInParadise's avatar

@ETpro , Call it whatever you want, but we do feel the pain of others and there is a part of us that longs to connect to something beyond ourselves and we do feel guilt and shame for wrongful acts.

Qingu's avatar

The word “spiritual” is virtually meaningless. Can you be more specific, @seperate_reality?

SavoirFaire's avatar

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”
—Winston Churchill

@seperate_reality Now you are just evangelizing. The question sets up a hypothetical. It requires us to assume—merely for the sake of discussion—that there is no such thing as God or a native spiritual nature and then ask why we should be moral in a world like that. Saying “but the world isn’t like that” is just banging on a brazen pot.

ETpro's avatar

@LostInParadise If by spirit you mean feeling empathy, guilt, and a sense of awe and fascination with the grandeur of the Universe, then I fully agree most humans feel those things. It’s open to inquiry whether we do so through a combination or intelligence and nurture, or through some mystical and undetectable inner force. It’s also clear that there are those who do not experience even a tinge of those feelings. We call them sociopaths.

mattbrowne's avatar

Self interest.

JLeslie's avatar

Just came back to this thread, so I have not read the most recent answers. I saw 10 minutes of Glenn Beck yesterday (don’t pass out) and he used that line, “it is hard to be good.” went on about how we want to steal and be selfish. This just totally makes me sick that I hear this type of line come out of the mouths of the religious. It is not hard to be good. It is logical, it sits in our conscience best, it is human nature in my opinion to be good. All these people who talk about how “everyone sins.” This message of we are born bad, but God will bring us into the light and show us the path to goodness. I think it is a horrible destructive message. As I said way above, I am glad when religion can control these people who otherwise would have a lot of sociopathic behavior, but not that religion instructs people they are tempted by the devil at every turn. I am not implicating all religions by the way.

niki's avatar

@JLeslie one of the best and straightforward no-BS answers I’ve ever seen on this topic. I think you just hit the bull’s-eye there. thanks for sharing.

ninjacolin's avatar

To all, this video explains a lot. Pretty clear, I think.

ETpro's avatar

@ninjacolin Excellent lecture.

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