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Yes or No: are humans naturally moral?

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  • User profile image
    borosen

    Dharma Punk wrote:
    
    There was a segment that posed a hypothetical moral dilemma, taken from M*A*S*H, which basically asked this:

    Suppose you and a group of villages are hiding from a group of enemy soldiers scouring the village looking for you. Also, suppose you have a baby that's either coughing or crying. If you don't stop the baby from crying, the soldiers will find you. If, however, you smother the child, thereby killing it, the soldiers may not find you and you'll save the village.

    Almost no one they talked to would sacrifice the child. Even the hosts were divided (one did have children but the other didn't.)


    Yes, I can see that that is a hard dilemma to solve. But in this case it is a hypothetical one.

    Out of curiosity, these people who argue that moral is ingrained, how do they explain that in a short time span neighbors starts harassing and killing neighbors.

  • User profile image
    phreaks

    Take a look around you, pick up the paper, watch the news, listen to talk radio.

    If moraility were so hard wired into us, the world wouldn't be the way it is.

    From my perspective current events are roughly 85% bad, 15% good.

    Politicians lie to spread their agenda and power, cops beat children for skateboarding, husbands kill their pregnant wives and unborn children, thousands of people killing each other because they have slightly different interpretations of some religeon, people throwing puppies onto the freeway, children killing each other in gang violence, terrorist killing innocent civilians, students cheating on exams, hundreds of adult websites that cater to discreetly finding adulterous relationships for married people, child pornography, forced labour....

    I can go on for pages worth of this.

    Yeah, I am cynical, but from my vantage it is a rational state in this world.


  • User profile image
    borosen

    phreaks wrote:
    Take a look around you, pick up the paper, watch the news, listen to talk radio.

    If moraility were so hard wired into us, the world wouldn't be the way it is.

    ...



    Yes, News.

    Bad news clearly sells better than good, at least news agencies seams to think that.

    Edit:
    They rather report about two cases of assaults during a saturday night out, than 50000 people having a good time.

  • User profile image
    Dharma Punk

    borosen wrote:
    
    Dharma Punk wrote:
    
    There was a segment that posed a hypothetical moral dilemma, taken from M*A*S*H, which basically asked this:

    Suppose you and a group of villages are hiding from a group of enemy soldiers scouring the village looking for you. Also, suppose you have a baby that's either coughing or crying. If you don't stop the baby from crying, the soldiers will find you. If, however, you smother the child, thereby killing it, the soldiers may not find you and you'll save the village.

    Almost no one they talked to would sacrifice the child. Even the hosts were divided (one did have children but the other didn't.)


    Yes, I can see that that is a hard dilemma to solve. But in this case it is a hypothetical one.

    Out of curiosity, these people who argue that moral is ingrained, how do they explain that in a short time span neighbors starts harassing and killing neighbors.


    Pain or pleasure. Perceived slights that go unpunished could be one example.  The thrill of smashing into a supermarket and grabbing an ATM could be another.

  • User profile image
    esoteric

    To some degree. I feel that complexity, intelligence, love and solidarity is born out of interaction with the environment and has proven to be the best survival techniques. There is survival on an individual level and there is survivial on a group level and on a species level. The individuals with good survival instincts and tactics will survive. The groups with good survival tactics will survive. Specialization is a tactic for individuals within groups and for groups within larger groups. Industrialization and globalization are examples of extreme group specialization tactics and strategies. Morals form out of group tactics for survival. Different times and stages of evolution and civilization require tactics and strategies. I see religious scripture as a formalization of survival tactics. I don't know to what degree aspects and traits of these tactics over time propagate to our genetic makeup and become part of our personalities.

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    Deactivated User

    Comment removed at user's request.

  • User profile image
    esoteric

    Quite right - empaty is an interesting notion. The imagination of consequences projected onto oneself. To understand others through the consquences they have suffered, self-inflicted, or not, by imagining those same consequences upon oneself. It is tied to the "Kantian" imperative, or rather golden rule that you should "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". The problem with the scope of consequences taken into consideration. It's easy to look at a few consequences in isolation and say "If I did that, I should suffer the same consequences", without imagining or being aware of what went before those consequences. The level of empathy on an intellectual level is highly reflected in any society and legal system.

  • User profile image
    MasterPi

    AndyC wrote:
    Morality is, by definition, a collection of socially acceptable rules. Since these rules are inherently volatile, we cannot be naturally moral.

    Are we naturally "good" then? I don't believe so. We are naturally self-centered creatures who, like most other animals, are driven by a desire to survive and procreate, at all costs. It is society and the environment we live in that shapes our moral centres.


    Agreed. Humans are NOT naturally moral.

    If you talk about morality, you would be introducing the concept of good vs bad. Animals in the wild don't have a sense of conscience. If predators constantly attacked a species, AFAIK the species only ever defends itself. It wont gang up and kill the predators in an effort to save the species from extinction. Killing off the predators would be good for the defending population and bad for the predators. However, animals don't think of what is good and bad in situations; they act on their desires to stay alive. Thus, they will solely defend themselves.

    Humans are not exceptions to natural life processes. We, too, act on our desires to stay alive. On a fundamental basis, this is the truth. Though, when we introduce the environment into this issue, we see where morality comes into play. It is through socioeconomic status, and really anything that defines the environment in which individuals grow up, that creates the structured "socially acceptable rules" that is morality. The fact that some humans are better off than other humans generates imbalance in the human population; this further tilts needed resources towards a few humans, in turn stirring the desire for humans to reclaim their needed portions. When humans take from other humans, those other humans feel a loss in their resources, which then sets the two groups apart. This separation is the competition for resources between the well off humans and the not so well off humans (of course, it's more stratified). At this point, humans deviate from their natural course and move toward a course of reconstruction, the balancing of the populace. In this act of reconstruction, humans are forced to think of actions, such as wiping out an entire country, to reclaim their resources. And thus, day to day actions become a constant internal struggle of good actions vs bad actions.

  • User profile image
    Michael Griffiths

    AndyC wrote:
    Morality is, by definition, a collection of socially acceptable rules. Since these rules are inherently volatile, we cannot be naturally moral.
    Nonesense.

    The question isn't: Is there a univeral code of morality which all humans inherently subscribe to?

    The question, instead is whether or not morality - or some kind - is ingrained in humans.

    This is similar to the concept of The Language Instinct.

    The pro-argument is that humans are born with an instinct to adopt a certain morality, and they pick up what's around them. Whatever that is. The more isolated the individual, the less extensive their morality.

  • User profile image
    Minh

    I don't know how to define morality, but the more I drink, perhaps, I'll work it out.

    I know that a young child is self-aware. He looks into a mirror and knows that is him. He also has empathy, the ability to feel as others. He sees mother grief-strickened when his sibbling passes away and tries to comfort her. Perhaps this is the basis of the golden rule.

    This is a direct function of a higher-ordered brain. Only a few mamals have empathy. So, hells yeah! we have an inate sense of... something.

    But this empathy isn't universal. There is definitely a line between us and them. Them's people who are in direct competition with us. Them's Chevy when we're Ford. Them's the dark-skinned people who want to live in our neighborhood. Them's people who has a Pope when we don't. All bets are off for them.

    Otherwise, why did we, on the one hand, fought for cilvil rights & sufferage, while turning a blind eye to our colonial conquests.

    But we're learning, I think. Half of our country used to want to own slaves. I don't think we want that anymore. Perhaps, our end-goal is universal empathy. Not sure if that's morality, but I'd take that.

  • User profile image
    JohnAskew

    daSmirnov wrote:
    
    JohnAskew wrote:
    Yes.


    Yes.

    Human beings are natural co-operative, they're altruisitic by nature.  Morals come out of that and are developed further by society.  A species like ours needs to work together, or we go extinct.

    Where else would they (morals) come from?



    My wife and I were discussing this topic and she was trying to determine where morals come from, in fact, to help find an answer.

    I said the same as you, I think, that evolution has bred co-operation into us and we have this as default behavior since mutual benefit induces individual benefit. It is natural and progressive, I agree with what you say. It's instinctive, like with any animal herd or colony, I think, otherwise we'd go extinct.

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    JohnAskew wrote:
    

    I said the same as you, I think, that evolution has bred co-operation into us and we have this as default behavior since mutual benefit induces individual benefit. It is natural and progressive, I agree with what you say. It's instinctive, like with any animal herd or colony, I think, otherwise we'd go extinct.



    Pah, rubbish Smiley

    Watch babies play, watch them take toys from each other. Watch them snatch and cry and sulk.

    Now watch the parents admonish the children that snatch. Sharing is instilled behaviour.

  • User profile image
    JohnAskew

    yman wrote:
    By default I believe we have some form of limited morality, that morality comes from human empathy.
    For example, I believe it was in the documantary by Richard Dawkins, The Root of All Evil where he visited a zoo and was shown monkeys exerting "family morals" on their young, e.g, caring.

    This form of morality is probably a result of the natural and ongoing process of self preservation through offsprings. Nature has only continued as a result of previous generations looking after their young. As a result animals have an in-built desire to look after their young.

    Do I not shout abuse at someone in the street due to the fact that human empathy has told me not to, or is it a result of the consequences, or the way in which I was brought-up?

    Edit:

    I apologise if these points have already been made. I am only reading the entire thread now.


    This was essentially what my wife was telling me, that morality arises from emotion and empathy.

    I told her it should not be limited to only emotion and empathy, but also intellect -- more worker bees means greater harvest, no?

    I also said that moral and co-operative behavior results in more secure progeny and these ideas become genetic memory and thus default behavior for future generations. It isn't learned, it is genetic plus as more becomes learned through generations, it is passed on in genes and becomes instinct...

  • User profile image
    JohnAskew

    blowdart wrote:
    
    JohnAskew wrote:
    

    I said the same as you, I think, that evolution has bred co-operation into us and we have this as default behavior since mutual benefit induces individual benefit. It is natural and progressive, I agree with what you say. It's instinctive, like with any animal herd or colony, I think, otherwise we'd go extinct.



    Pah, rubbish

    Watch babies play, watch them take toys from each other. Watch them snatch and cry and sulk.

    Now watch the parents admonish the children that snatch. Sharing is instilled behaviour.



    Cart before the horse, you have, Blowdart.

    Children at the age of grabbing toys from each other have not yet become fully conscious or certain of the existence of other children. It is folly to ascribe babies with the sophistication required to understand the higher-thought-evolved notion of sharing.

    Sharing is taught to kids by parents as a means of socialization, and they teach their kids this - why? I say they teach them this to promote their survival. The parents have learned and been born with the ability to understand the notion and teach it to their kids also, naturally.

    Nothing prevents humans from being unreasonable and immoral, but when left to natural tendencies without compelling outside influences, I do believe humans are naturally moral agents, in as much depth as they may be capable of delving.

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    JohnAskew wrote:
    
    Sharing is taught to kids by parents as a means of socialization, and they teach their kids this - why? I say they teach them this to promote their survival. The parents have learned and been born with the ability to understand the notion and teach it to their kids also, naturally.


    Which is my point; morality, good behaviour etc. are instilled by parents and society, they are constructs, a step about herd behaviour, hence my contention that humans are not naturally moral.


    Nothing prevents humans from being unreasonable and immoral, but when left to natural tendencies without compelling outside influences, I do believe humans are naturally moral agents, in as much depth as they may be capable of delving.


    Except morality, by definition is a set of shared beliefs and behaviours. Without teaching of those beliefs there is no morality, and hence it cannot be inherent.

  • User profile image
    AndyC

    JohnAskew wrote:
    
    Children at the age of grabbing toys from each other have not yet become fully conscious or certain of the existence of other children. It is folly to ascribe babies with the sophistication required to understand the higher-thought-evolved notion of sharing.


    Then you accept that altruistic behaviour is not a natural instinct? It isn't a behaviour we are born with, rather it is one that we learn.

  • User profile image
    Larsenal

    There's two sides to consider:  1) what we know we should do and 2) what we actually do.

    Yes, humans are only "naturally" moral in the sense that they have a notion of generally what is right (sharing, humility, kindness, etc.) and generally what is wrong (murder, lying, rudeness).  To put it another way, we know the way things ought to be.

    However, we are not naturally inclined to do what we ought.  We are naturally inclined to keep as much as we can for ourselves, boast about all that we are and only be kind when we think it will benefit us in some way.

    These internal "laws" of morality are peculiar in that they describe what should happen rather than what does happen.

  • User profile image
    JohnAskew

    blowdart wrote:
    ...morality, by definition is a set of shared beliefs and behaviours. Without teaching of those beliefs there is no morality, and hence it cannot be inherent.


    Then I should clarify what I have been calling morality "acting with moral intent".

    I think we naturally "act with moral intent" throughout life, given the opportunity.

    I've been trying to use the word "moral" to describe raw motive, not subscription to a code of behavior.

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