If you agree with the definitions that follow, do freethinkers havr morals or ethics, or a combo?

Ethics:  A system of thinking about correct behaviour that comes from personsl introspection.

Morals:   A system of thought about behaviour that is based on some outward form od authority such as government ornreligion.

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I don't agree with the definition of morals provided; however, for the sake of conversation, I'll abide by it.

I'd wager most atheists are subject to a moral hangover of cultural mores which can be as irrational (or even include) as religious dogmas. I even hear atheists talk about how my society is structured on judeo-christian values, which is a really ham-fisted statement. Setting aside the superfluity of the 'judeo', the issue is believing that our laws are not subject to reason, but rather are based in the commands of religious doctrine, or what limited reasoning is offered in the Bible.

It is fine to recognize that our laws ban murder, and that the Ten Commandments also forbid it, but without having a reasoned argument for why murder is wrong, would an individual meet your standard for ethics? No. 'Judeo-Christian ethics' or 'because it is the law' are mere fragments of answers to the ethical question.

Still, many atheists (and theists too) could probably present answers, yet undoubtedly we all hold unexamined rules which for no clear reason must be observed. The taboos against nudity or public sex come to mind. I am not saying that there are no reasons these things should be disallowed, but I have met many atheists who will defend public 'indecency' laws, yet cannot provide a reason for why it should be illegal to walk around as naked as we were born. It's just a societal thing.

So I guess what I would say is that there is a wide grey area of ascribing to both moral and ethical sets of conduct (as you have described ethics and morality). Virtually everyone is probably firmly in the grey, but perhaps those without religion are more likely to trend towards ethics than those who follow a particular religion.

First of all thanks for the reply.

And I admit those definitions are trite, but they are what I grew up with. I'm trying to come up with an idea or concept that I can use to explain to others where my ideas of right and wrong come from.  Since you seem to have a different POV, I would love to know what it is.

Morals are principles concerned with concepts of right and wrong. Ethics, which can include morality, refers to a philosophical system of correct conduct or practices.

That may be a bit of a hazy description, so I will try a practical example:

  • I can deem it wrong to physically harm or kill another human.
  • I can also deem it wrong to let children come to harm when I can prevent it.
  • A scenario arises in which an individual is attempting to harm children, and I can only suppress this individual violently.

In that scenario, I have morals against causing harm and against allowing harm to be caused which are in direct conflict. The philosophical considerations I apply to resolving that moral conflict and to determine a right course of action is part of my ethics or ethical system.

While possibly not the best description, I believe these definitions fall more in line with convention.

"A scenario arises in which an individual is attempting to harm children, and I can only suppress this individual violently."

I will whack the hell outta somebody.  Don't mess with the babies in front of me.

Hi Lori,

"I'm trying to come up with an idea or concept that I can use to explain to others where my ideas of right and wrong come from."  - I've been developing one, it's here and here.  Some parts of it are more developed than others.  I think it's neat, accessible, and powerful, but at first sight it may seem very abstract. 

Sorry, Simon, but aside from the religious rants, uh, I mean quotes, you blurbled, you didn't say anything about ethics vs morality.  You talked of a healing principle, which wouldn't be able to guide you in a decision making process when confronted with the situation of: either you harm someone else or they'll harm you AND others.  YOUR philosophy would say to not do anything but forgiveness and "allowing yourself and others to make mistakes."

Yeah, I'll bet if one of your loved ones was being threatened at knife point and you could save them with violence - you would, thoroughly preventing the knife-wielder from making a mistake called MURDER.  You selfish person - you prevented him from making that mistake!

See, THIS is why we say religious people are insane.  They have no consistency, logic, or reason in their ramblings.

I would fight the murderer. 

But, HOW would you do it Simon?

As much as I hate to admit it, I'd do as much damage to Jack's hypothetical knife dude as it took to protect my loved one.

But then again, that goes back to my definitions of Ethics and Morality.  It would be ethically correct to do so.  

@Lori - I'd do the same as you. 

People are free to do what they like.  I'm suggesting what is the right thing to do.  If you do the wrong thing, the consequences tend to be bad.  Hence, Mr Knife Dude will be unpopular and people will try to hurt him. 

Everyone who is affected by my actions gets the maximum benefit and the minimum of harm.  Therefore: stop the knife man, let everyone else get away, if possible. 

This is what the Dalai Lama says about it

So, when a problem first arises, try to remain humble and maintain a sincere attitude and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, others may try to take advantage of you, and if your remaining detached only encourages unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand, This, however, should be done with compassion, and if it is necessary to express your views and take strong countermeasures, do so without anger or ill-intent.

You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end, their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, you should recall your desire to practice compassion and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts.

Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate and more forceful. Retaliation based on the blind energy of anger seldom hits the target.

- do not kill the knife man but allow him to survive and be educated and be given the chance to become a compassionate human being. 

You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end, their destructive activity will damage only themselves.

No, it will damage more than the assailant (both physically and mentally). There is no deeper, hidden truth to the matter; in that scenario there is potential for considerable, visceral harm for all parties involved. If your philosophy becomes too detached from reality, you become rather dangerous, I have to say.

Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate and more forceful.

Based on what? Perhaps if you have some relevant training that would be consistently true, but apart from that, it seems rather contextual.

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