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: 3055

Replies are closed for this discussion.

Replies to This Discussion

You know you like it. 

No offense or redundancy intended, I assure you.

I understand that you have a personal interest in the philosophy of ethics, and I'm happy to go back and read if you think I've missed something.  There are lots of other folks here, though.   And I am genuinely interested.

If I were to frame it for you, on what objective evidence do you choose deontological frameworks over utilitarian ones?  What makes your particular deontological rule set any better than someone else's?   Don't those same questions/objections that you apply to religions (lack of objective evidence, what makes your Christianity more true that Vishnuism, etc.) apply also to evaluations of ethical philosophy?

Why isn't a-ethicalism the proper choice here in the same way that you conclude a-theism is the proper choice?

I think we can test any set of rules against what's better or worse for human beings. Are "better" and "worse" vague? Sure. Am I concerned? Not particularly. There are some natural factors promoting moral behavior, such as empathy and the fact that we are evolved social animals. The basic values against murder, rape, theft, and the like are basically universally valued, while kindness, generosity, etc are pretty much universally lauded. Even in places where violence is rife, people know that it's wrong, they can recognize others' suffering—other sociological and psychological factors are at play. Even the Bible gives ample evidence of the fact that dictating values and getting people to abide by them are separate issues.

I suppose I just don't really sense an urgent problem that needs to be solved by discerning one best deontological or utilitarian moral system and trying to apply it in all situations—partly because, in spite of all the moral systems that have been proposed, we seem determined to just muddle through on a case-by-case basis, and all things considered, we do fine most of the time; partly because when you take care of people's basic needs with a functioning society, morality tends to take care of itself; and partly because, even in functioning societies, the greatest atrocities tend to be committed by those beholden to an ethical system or "greater good" that overrules their natural empathy.

Of course, everyone can point to immorality everywhere, all the time. We can do better. Historically, we're doing better than ever before. But I'm skeptical of any moral system, whether it's rational or some divine mandate, being able to make a big difference in people's behavior.

With moral frameworks, I only care insofar as they work to nudge or inspire people to do better. If you want to defend a particular religion by claiming that it does this well, be my guest. Doesn't make the religion true, it just makes it (debatably) useful.

Very logical and objective.

So Belle, here I'll reinforce what some others have said about it being normal to be confused about morality, at least sometimes. It's not the destination but the journey. I.e. we'll never find or agree on a perfect moral framework; we're stuck with always wondering about and striving for the best, moral answers on a case by case basis.

Morality is biologically hard-wired into the human race, and religion has done an excellent job of encoding the simple rules of good morality, morality that works to further well-being, fairness, duty and self-control.  Much better than anyone else so far. 

Whoa whoa whoa

"...religion has done an excellent job of encoding the simple rules of good morality..."

Things religion says are ok: slavery, misogyny and rape, burning witches, stoning people for various reasons, etc.

Things religion says are not ok: being gay, working on a sunday, eating shellfish, choosing your family over your church, etc.

Maybe "an excellent job" is a bit of an overstatement?

Don't forget this biblical crazy talk: "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled (King James, Deuteronomy 22:9).

We know that alternating crops is a good way of reinvigorating fields depleted of nitrogen. And what does this "defilement" consist of?

I don't listen to anything in the Old Testament. 

They said all that stuff too, but I'm talking about compassion, reciprocity, forgiveness, God's love, the moral formula, duty, service, love of goodness, probably fairness and self-control too.  The basic building blocks of morality. 

Those lofty ideals sound great, but in actual practice: Compassion, unless you're gay. Reciprocity, unless you're a slave or a woman. Self-control, unless you feel like raping.

I guess the devil is in the details.

The details say everything. The exceptions a person (or culture) make against their lofty impossible deals...tells us a whole world of thingies about them.

No, compassion even if you are gay.  Or a tax collector.  Or a criminal.  Or an enemy.   Charity even if you are a slave, or an employee, or a poor person. 

I know that all Jews kill and eat babies and all Christians commit holocausts in your imaginary world, but that really is an imaginary world.


© 2022   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service