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Squishy morality
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Squeeself



Joined: 23 Mar 2008
Posts: 258

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Squee thinks people missed the boat on what Squee was saying about color. Squee was pointing at basic language theory, that is, there is no distinction between colors until we give them a distinction. Doesn't matter what we call the categories; we can't actually perceive something until we give it SOME name. Do some reading on child language/cognitive development, especially on feral children. Children can't actually distinguish properly between colors until they've been taught language. Or rather, memory is based on classification of colors and not the colors themselves. It's fascinating stuff.

The process of choosing names for colors, in fact, the distinction in colors themselves, is completely arbitrary, and is a product of culture, not any fundamental property of the color wavelengths.

That brings it back to the points that Squee was trying to make: the classifications of cultural morality between good and bad is an arbitrary thing. The general idea behind murder being bad has some very good socialogical reasons, as has been pointed out, but Squee was pointing out the degree to which they are classified is arbitrary based on culture. Squee only pointed out one of many murder examples; some cultures define capital punishment as wrong, others as ok. What about wars? Whole bigger issue there. The point Squee was making: there just IS NO black and white. Ever. Because there are far too many different views in a society to ever agree on anything, especially morality.

See, even if there is some universal true morality out there (Squee, being religious, will say there is), we're really never gonna know it. Squee is a proponent of relativistic morality in so far as that. Try to dispel the illusions, but live as if they are reality until you know better. The real trick is making the calls; it's no easy feat that any one group of people will ever get fully right.
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Tenshi



Joined: 18 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since I should have been in bed hours ago, but I just wanted to make this point before I leave on my trip...

Tam, you said that killing one person to prevent genocide is likely considered right. You consider it right, I think you said? I don't. Mostly because to kill another living, sentient, conscious and living being that is self-aware and feels pain... requires becoming a monster that I have serious doubts can be a tamable monster. To kill, is to feed that inner demon, and it eats at a person. I've seen quite a few people be devoured by inner demons, and I've seen so scant few of them rebuild their lives... even then, they're never the same. No part of them is ever whole again.

Morality, though. Yes, it's like color. Without someone to tell me that green is, in fact, green, I would have never known it from blue. Or yellow, or even red for that matter. I'm told what green is, so I associate the wavelength of light passing through my retinas as a "green". Then, from that, I can associate similar colors with green. We give it names, thus we give it power.

In much the same way, we give morality power. We give murder a bad name, thus we make it evil. We give life and help and public service good names, and so we give them power.

In the end, morality comes down to a very simple idea. What we pass on to the future generations becomes the future itself.. If we pass on theft and bribery and jealousy and anger, then that's the world we're building. If we pass on to our children honesty, kindness, generosity, and benevolence? Well, maybe they're going to be hurt a few times...but maybe they'll make the world just one shade more grey... toward the lighter end of the scale. Wink

Now, off to Boston... and I was so deeply enjoying this conversation!
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Tamir



Joined: 22 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm unconvinced that morality is simply something we pass down, as stated. Since feral children were mentioned, what do we know about them in terms of morality? I confess myself quite ignorant of this.

Tenshi wrote:
Tam, you said that killing one person to prevent genocide is likely considered right. (...) I don't. Mostly because (...) requires becoming a monster

I don't think I've heard that one before - you won't do it because of its effect on you? You sure this is a moral choice and not a selfish one? Confused Is becoming a monster really so bad that you'd prefer genocide would take place?
Would you die to prevent genocide? Is that any different?
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Tenshi



Joined: 18 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I should have slept tonight, but I don't know that I will... hrm.

To answer your question, Tam? Yes, I would give up my own life to save many lives without a second thought. Well, okay, maybe without a third thought...

I just, personally, don't believe in taking another life by my own hands.

On the other hand, I believe in defending those I care about, and would likely kill as a (very) last resort to see that goal succeed...

I suppose I'm a bit of a hypocrite then. Razz

It boils down to more that I don't believe I, personally, should have the power to decide who lives and who dies. If somebody launches an attack at me, then they're throwing in their life with mine, it's a battle of physical contest to see who can win the fight and win their life back. As for, say, planning an assassination of Hitler before the Holocaust?

While it would probably make a lot of people happy, I don't think I have the right to make that decision. Who am I to value any life over any other life(lives)? No, if there is a divine power, then that power has the right to choose life or death. If that divine power's choice is to let us work it out ourselves...well, then we're all back to square one, aren't we? Razz

I suck at these when I'm tired...
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Keeper of the Siderean Swords

"If by chance some day you're not feeling well, and you should remember some silly thing I've said or done, and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled."
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Tamir



Joined: 22 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That argument is perfectly fine - we, as humans, do not know the full consequences of such a heavy action. In keeping with my earlier definition, we cannot be sure which option will cause more happiness. What if Hitler's descendants save billions of lives? (Or any such similar thing)

I think killing Hitler would be the right thing to do, but I can understand why you wouldn't. Knowing your human ignorance, you fear that such an irreversible action is wrong. That's legitimate.

I still don't agree with your previous reasoning, though.
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Tyris



Joined: 14 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

theBSDude wrote:
Like Tam, I believe that universal morality exists, but our perceptions are flawed. Most significantly, they are all flawed differently.
Which brings up a new question: with what are you perceiving it? It doesn't filter in through any of the major sensory organs...
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Tamir



Joined: 22 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He didn't say our perceptions of morality are flawed, rather that our normal perceptions are flawed in that we do not perceive all.
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Asa



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I perceive morality through my brain and the filter of my religion. It's a very strong filter. And really, I guess the reason I see morality in close to black and white is because I choose to. I don't want to be faced with unanswerable issues. I'm comfortable with where I am, what I think, the direction I'm going in. I refine myself in that direction, but I don't want to be blindsided by issues like this. Killing is wrong, but relative levels of killing wrongness? G-d willing, I'll never have to decide, so I don't want to talk about it now. Which, I'm sure, most of you will take an immediate dislike to, and jump all over me trying to prove me wrong. I know - it's better to think. I'm just not ready to yet. Also, 90% of the moral issues in the world I'm not equipped to deal with - I don't have the knowledge to make an informed decision.

And yes, I'm aware that most of the preceding paragraph consists of excuses.
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Tenshi



Joined: 18 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Outslept my alarm by an hour! Go me.

@Tam: I was playing Devil's Advocate at first. I have a habit of doing that, because I like inspiring thought about things. Once we all got thinking, we could all really get into the meat of the problem. I just wanted to clarify my own stance, really.

@Asa: That's my take on it, I just think about the worst case scenario too often. I once had a text document on my desktop that I would open periodically, not remember what it was. Contained therein was a question I posed to myself.

In this little query I was an air force pilot, married, with a child on the way. My wife had been flying out to see me on base, and I had been called up in an emergency flight. After taking down a few fighters, my guns had jammed and I was all out of missiles. Well, there's a plane headed for a major population center with some sort of really nasty weapon/toxin/etc on board. And my wife and unborn child.

So here's the question. Do I ram into the plane, taking it down while it's still over the ocean?

And instead of giving you my answer, I'll just let you ask it to yourselves. I never expect to be in that position, no. On the other hand, it's not the destination that shapes us, but the journey, and preparing (and knowing) what and why you will act in a situation, will tell you who you are. Or, so I find.

Be good, happy discussing Wink
_________________
. Dubbed "Usagi" by AsA .
Keeper of the Siderean Swords

"If by chance some day you're not feeling well, and you should remember some silly thing I've said or done, and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled."
Red Skelton
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Tyris



Joined: 14 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tamir wrote:
He didn't say our perceptions of morality are flawed, rather that our normal perceptions are flawed in that we do not perceive all.
If our perceptions are flawed, then it is implied that our perceptions of morality, being a subset of our perceptions, are flawed.

The question of what we actually perceive morality with was a side question and not part of a direct logical argument. If we perceive morality, with what?

Asa wrote:
I perceive morality through my brain
What, beamed in from space? Confused
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Tamir



Joined: 22 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tyris wrote:
If our perceptions are flawed, then it is implied that our perceptions of morality, being a subset of our perceptions, are flawed.

Not really. The assumption of universal morality implies that morality is ingrained in us. Our perceptions affect the way we will act anyway, but not because we're perceiving morality wrongly.

Thebes, I really hope I'm not misrepresenting your opinion. ^^;;
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theBSDude



Joined: 09 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Tam: Nope, that's pretty much what I meant.

Flawed perceptions also have to do with the way we learn (or don't learn) morality in the first place. We can't possibly know we're right (or wrong), because the possiblity exists that we never learned the correct meaning of right and wrong.

I'm a religious person, but I'm also an engineer. I'm also a naturally decisive person with a very clear-cut and (based on data I've collected) logical view of the world. This to say, don't hate me for my next point: standard deviation.

The principles behind standard deviation are what make a basic morallity.
Individuals get things wrong all the time, but the average of everyone's guess is d*** close to the right answer. There's always room for error, but we can be reasonably sure that society's definition of morallity is at least close to the real thing.
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Tyris



Joined: 14 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tamir wrote:
Not really. The assumption of universal morality implies that morality is ingrained in us.
No wonder we seem to have been speaking different languages. We thought you meant that universal morality existed as a sort of nebulous Platonic ideal.


So... if we're not perceiving morality wrongly, why is it that we can't agree on what is and isn't moral?
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Asa



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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't be so literal, you know what I mean. I perceive morality because I'm a thinking human being. Morality doesn't apply to animals - they don't have free will. They can't make choices, they react on instinct. So because of my higher-functioning brain, I can handle such concepts as morality. I perceive it through the filter of my religion, which teaches me right and wrong, moral and immoral.
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Nem: "It's the sort of face you just know is getting ready to poke you with something sharp."
BS: "...then insist you eat a brownie."
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Think but this and all is mended...
Give me your hands if we be friends,
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Tamir



Joined: 22 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tyris wrote:
So... if we're not perceiving morality wrongly, why is it that we can't agree on what is and isn't moral?

Our differing knowledge, perceptions and opinions. Many choices aren't clear-cut simply because we lack understanding and knowledge, and those are open to opinion. I mentioned examples in this post, no sense repeating myself.
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