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Demosthenes's avatar

Can rationalism be used to derive morality?

Asked by Demosthenes (13537points) February 10th, 2020
37 responses
“Great Question” (1points)

Can moral and ethical principles be arrived at through reason alone? Or is some kind faith or dogma needed? Is the only moral outlook available to the atheist moral relativism?

Last philosophical/religious question of the day. :)

Please note that all these questions are intended to be open-ended. I have my own ideas, but I’m not here to argue against the answers or shut down any of them. I’m welcoming all answers. If you don’t like the question, explain why.

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Zaku's avatar

I think one needs a frame of reference to start building a morality, and there is room for great differences between rational moral systems.

Plato argued for a rational basis of morality, for example, and ancient Greek moral opinions were different in many ways from modern Western ones.

Religions and dogmas are examples of particular starting points for building moralities, and some of them assert that they have an authority or even a monopoly on morality, but other moral frameworks would all tend to strongly object to that and find such assertions themselves amoral.

LostInParadise's avatar

The religious person is not on any better grounds than an atheist. Nobody is going to say that the reason that they behave morally is because it is written in the Bible. Would that mean that if the Bible did not say Thou shalt not kill then murder would be okay? Nobody in their right mind would say such a thing.

What I share with religious people is the belief that we are part of something larger. We are members of mankind and ecosystems. By extending our view we are able to attain a higher level of goodness.

MrGrimm888's avatar

It could be used to derive, a person’s morality. But. Only versus your own.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, since morality is a human construct, you can only use rationalization to determine what you think your own moral compass should be.
When I was in my late 20s I took some time and thought, “What do I want people to say about me, when they talk about me?”
I settled on
“She’s honest.”
” If she tells you something happened, it happened, no matter how far fetched it may seem.” ”
“She does what she says she’s going to do.”
“She’s hard working.”
“You can count on her.”
I’ve worked to maintain my own principals, and religion had absolutely 0 to do with it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why not @Sagacious? It seems to me that morality derived from logic would be stronger than morality derived from a burst of passion or emotion.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^So. Females, have no morality, based on passion, or emotion?

seawulf575's avatar

Yes, you can set your morals based on rationalism. However there is a problem with that. People change. We fool ourselves into believing all sorts of things and justifying even more. So what you deem moral today, may not match what you call moral later on. And what you deem moral later on might be considered abhorrent to your current self. We don’t like to think of ourselves as flawed and certainly don’t like to really look too closely at our actions sometimes.

gorillapaws's avatar

“Is the only moral outlook available to the atheist moral relativism?”

No. Moral relativism is considered bogus because it doesn’t hold up to the most basic levels of scrutiny.

There are many moral theories that are all based on reason.

josie's avatar

What else could be the basis of morality?

The caprice of corrupt politicians?

Biblical fairy tales?

Your book club?

Dutchess_lll's avatar

What @MrGrimm888? The words “it seems to me” was the hint that it was my _opinion,_not an assertion for all women.
Besides, I was talking to @Sagacious asking them to expound.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I am not understanding comments like “Is the only moral outlook available to the atheist moral relativism?” “Available”? Someone please explain that. Do we have some limited number to choose from? Some prepared packages of morality to shop for on Amazon?

raum's avatar

That seems to imply that moral relativism is the natural consequence of reason.

I’d have to disagree with that premise.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The question is about standards and how crucial they are. The answer to Josie’s question “what else could be the basis of morality” was answered with last week’s impeachment verdict, and that answer is necessity. Wulfie’s point above regarding the shifting of those standards is correct, because in the end the dispute over that verdict rests on whether the evidence rises to heretofore accepted standards or in fact those standards must be shifted to accommodate the “necessary” verdict. And regarding this one, there can actually be little doubt as to which proposition carried the day. And as with Trump himself, this verdict will go down in History as the shifting of “acceptable” standards decidedly in the wrong direction.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

“That seems to imply that moral relativism is the natural consequence of reason. I’d have to disagree with that premise.

Why would you disagree @raum?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Not the rational consequence of reason, rather the NECESSITY to accommodate the requirement for “flexible” ethics.

raum's avatar

There are a ton of theories on normative ethics that don’t rely on faith or dogma. Moral relativism is just one.

stanleybmanly's avatar

a very useful one

LostInParadise's avatar

One thing we can agree on is that most of morality is about helping others, or at least trying not to harm them. One area not completely covered by this is the question of whether it is ever appropriate to tell a lie. Kant said that lying is always immoral. Most others can think of circumstances where lying is the proper thing to do.

kritiper's avatar

To each his (or her) own.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Of course there are circumstances where lying is the kindest, proper thing to do. That is just logical.

LostInParadise's avatar

To @Dutchess_III and others, I highly recommend Michael Sandel’s book Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? You can also find the free video lectures on the Web. Justice is not quite the same thing as morality, but there is a lot of overlap. Sandel includes a chapter on Kant.

Kant’s theory of morality is brilliant, even if ultimately flawed. He argued that what is immoral becomes self-destructive if practiced universally. Imagine if everyone tried to steal from one another or everyone lied to everyone else. My brief description does not do justice to what Kant wrote. I suggest reading Sandel.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^With all due respect, I don’t need a book to get my values from.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, our justice system is based on our ideas of morality, so of course there is overlap.

@MrGrimm888 I don’t think the book is telling you what morals to have. It’s more of a “Philosophy of Morals” kind of thing, I’m guessing.

And of course, if everyone were lying and stealing capriciously it would be a pretty bad deal. But there are circumstances when lying and stealing is the moral thing to do.

LostInParadise's avatar

I agree, but you have to admit it is an interesting argument.

My way of countering it is to ask, what would happen if everyone wanted to be a baker? That would cause things to fall apart. That doesn’t mean that wanting to be a baker is immoral.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Everyone would quickly go out of business because they couldn’t get the food and equipment they’d need, plus there would be no demand.

Dutchess_III's avatar

In college a professor discussed exactly this. He started out by asking if lying was always wrong. Everyone said, “Yes. Of course.”
Then he said, “What if a young girl comes banging on your door. You open it and she rushes in, begging you to hide her from some guy who is trying to attack her. You put her in a closet. The attacker comes to your door and asks if you’ve seen a girl. What do you say?”
It really made an impression on me.

LostInParadise's avatar

Kant addresses this exact situation of hiding someone from an attacker, and claims that you should still tell the truth. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the specifics. Sandel examines this situation and suggests saying something true but misleading. You could say something like, “I saw her about an hour ago.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL! So lying a little bit is OK!

This just came up in my memories : “Morality comes from the idea that how you treat people matters, because how people feel matters.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Morality, is a matter of convenience. And, is subjective. What is moral to one, is immoral to another.
And, depending on the situation, morality shifts…

This occurs, in all of the prisms of morality…

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Exactly @MrGrimm888. Thank you.

LogicHead's avatar

In Judaism and Christianity Jesus is LOGOS, reason, present at creation. God is reasonable and reason is part of how we are in His image.

This is the modern Logos theology of Pope Benedict and it represents the most foundational element of Judaism and Christianity.

LogicHead's avatar

If morality were a matter of convenience one would have to ask about that principle: Should I be doing just what is convenient? that is a non-answer. And what is convenient to one person is not to another so this is just Law of the Jungle, whatever is convenient to the guy with the bigger gun wins

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s like this @LogicHead. Women who have multiple sex partners are demeaned and shamed. Men who have multiple sex partners are praised. So, which one is the moral one?

MrGrimm888's avatar

@LogicHead . When it comes to things that have shaped history, morality IS a matter of convenience….

LogicHead's avatar

Well you are talking about morality and asking for reasons so to that extent you prove that it does.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Who are you talking to @LogicHead?

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