What makes something moral or amoral?

I feel like we've had this discussion a million times on Think Atheist in some way shape or form. I should know the answer already. Without a holy book to tell me what to do or how to act I do feel pretty.....lost.

Can I admit that out loud? Yes I feel lost. I feel pulled in many directions on a number of issues and I really don't know how to resolve this turmoil. 

So my question is really that simple:

What makes something moral or amoral?

Views: 2675

Replies are closed for this discussion.

Replies to This Discussion

It's sometimes hard for me not to feel preachy.


Morality is behaving in a manner so as to please an imaginary, objective, and omniscient outsider who truly cares for creation and sentient life.  Would an atheist object to that?

I'm not speaking for others. I personally feel that I can't imagine such an entity as singular or an outsider to be pleased. I think our need to care about what's "universally" moral is built in, but unfortunately leads to gullibility and then arrogant certainty, so much so as to keep the beliefs and teachings going from generation to generation.

These intrinsic needs to conform and play community roles were at once necessary for group survival, before we accumulated tools, efficient travel, agricultural homesteads, books, science, governments, churches, isms, and all that other crazy, novel stuff that goes into civilization.

Sounds like an okay heuristic to me.

Hopefully I would only need this in the hard cases, and would for the most part be inspired to help others for their own sake and not just for the pleasure of the theoretical outsider.


Wanna go outside with me for some fresh air and a smoke?

I don't think your arguments are very well thought-out, Davis. 

No intent to preach, just some intent to offer perspective on the original question from a different point of view, with a mindfulness of the local rules and my status as guest.  I even incorporated notions like @Unseen's commentary "there's the metaethical question where someone examining from outside the system asks questions".

Now, other than banal and supercilious ridicule, perhaps you can expand on your notions above by way of intelligent commentary?

There are many ways you might go that could be productive.  You pretend on occasion to be a student of philosophy.  Do you suppose, perhaps, that acting in the way an imaginary external observer who cares for humanity should act is similar to the Kantian categorical imperative?  You might point out that my commentary avoids the deontological frameworks that are a regular feature of Judeo-Christendom, and ask about those and speculate that the G-d components are not necessary.

You chose "LOL" as the response to a notion that a moral choice should not be culturally conditioned.  Do you feel that morality only exists embedded within a particular culture?  So there is no basis for condemning a culture which embraces, for example, chattel slavery?  That doesn't seem consistent with your previous writings, though I do think it is perhaps intellectually consistent.

You are "laughing your ass off" at my criticism of religious leaders who seek after secular power and control over civil law.  I find that surprising.  Do you embrace the notion that religion should seek after opportunities to wield traditionally secular authority?  Or are you merely embracing the role of religion as a voice counter to the natural tendencies of group politics as Pope Francis attempts in today's encyclical? 

You have at various times begged me to share what I think.  Well, there is an example, full of possible avenues of exploration and dialog.  Surely you can do better than that?  Feel free to spin off, though, if you're worried that it will hijack @Belle's discussion too much.

You pretend on occasion to be a student of philosophy.

No I'm a graduate from the Catholic University of Leuven Philosophy department...one of the oldest and most prestigious philosophy institutes in the world. Several of my professors were priests meaning I had to suffer the torture of philosophy of religion and rediculous absurd conversations about faith and the soul and religious woo. Shall I scan and upload my diploma? Does it even matter if I hadn't? Most users here could easily argue with a philosophy student without having studied it. There is quite the intelligent bunch at think atheists. They certainly turn out better arguments and sounder analysis than the dribble I often read from our resident christian sophistry master. 

they are susceptible to being co-opted by the secular power structure

I laughed my ass off at this as you seem to believe that separation of church and state is possible (from the side of the religious) and that forces which corrupt religious leaders are those that draw them from the sacred and into the secular. I beg to differ Dr. Bob. Corruption easily happens from within and the desire to spread ones religious tyranny against those who don't want anything to do with it manifests itself within the church as opposed to a pulling force from outside. This is especially the case amongst the dogmatic religious whose sole sense of morality is cherry picking from their fictional holy texts...as opposed to secular forced co-opting the religious. LOL

You have at various times begged me to share what I think. 

No. I have never asked you to share what you think. I have begged you various times to answer a number of extremely straight forward and simple questions. You never ever have because you are incapable of defending your responses and unwilling to submit them to criticism and analysis. That's why I don't take our resident christian seriously anymore and usually laugh at the drivel that comes from his keyboard.

@Dr. Bob, how to you define morality from your worldview? You personally. I don't give a shit if people criticize what you say, I genuinely want to know. 

I suppose morality would be those choices that would comport with the will of God

Is this the same to you as your own personal will? Is Got not just ourselves? I've often thought recently that theists just substitute the word "God" for what they want, and so in that way, God is simply...ourselves. We just for some reason cannot always allow ourselves to take credit for our own thoughts and ideas, so we need some 3rd party to give it to....

An Atheist would just remove that third party altogether and eliminate the excessive mind-twisting. But isn't our "will" just what we want? How do we know what we want is the best thing for ourselves? 

If I told you I was thinking about doing something that could potentially ruin my life, but could also potentially solve most of my problems....what criteria would I use to decide if what I am going to do is "moral?"

How would I know if I'm making a good decision?

"... the best thing for ourselves?"  

- I would say, think about the long term.  After all, that's what lasts the longest time.  Is anything worth ruining your life for?  

What we "want" in the short term often conflicts with what we "want" in the long term.  These are the simple criteria I use in making judgements.  Then it can come down to a trade off between different courses of action.  

It's difficult to be more precise without knowing more details.  

Sorry to butt in but I felt I had something useful to say.  

I thought you were going to do the phone line thing and that sounds pretty safe and legit. 

I just spent two weeks on a locked mental ward because I took exception to my nightmare neighbour.  In the end I decided that however long I have to put up with his extreme stress, it's not going to be 20 years and I can keep my freedom and reputation and the things I want to do.  

Good, evil and morality doesn't exist without humans. Imagine a universe that only contained plants. We may believe that there is some absolute morality, but we are deceived by millions of years of evolution as social, self-aware creatures whose survival depends on natural competition being balanced by social cooperation.

And of course personification of morality into supernatural human-like good guy(s) and human like bad guy(s) and some great eternal and universal battle is so typical of our warped sense of the universe. When all humans are gone, the universe will not even notice yet another evolutionary mistake on a spec of sand that lasted a tick of a clock.


© 2019   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service