I believe that morality is derived from a combination of factors and sources.

Family, culture and religion definitely influence morality. Those "seekers" out there who actually read scripture, philosophy and literary classics for their insights into the human condition are also influenced by their quest. Finally, there's abundant evidence that evolution contributes a hereditary component to morality. Empathy and altruism have obvious survival value for social animals such as us humans and other primates.

But none of these factors are necessarily dominant, nor are they the same for everybody. For instance, scriptural influence can be undone by a personal quest.

The factor I find most intriguing is the evolution of empathy. In our tribal days, before religion existed, experience informed us of what hurt or angered us, and empathy told us that the same things probably hurt and angered others as well. This combination of experience and empathy is enough to instill a generalized "sense" of the Golden Rule between tribe members -- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . because we need each other to survive. The Golden Rule, in practice, can be further distilled to: "Do no unnecessary harm."

Nobody is born with a moral code, of course, but empathy and experience are commonly shared by virtually all of us (except aberrant cases): it's part of the human condition. We start developing empathy as toddlers, maybe earlier. As we mature, this "moral intuition" matures: often without our realizing it. This moral intuition is the crux of the Hippocratic Oath and should be the essential principle of our laws. I believe it constitutes a moral substrate that is often more powerful, in some of us, than the morality we learn from other factors. I think this is because it's what we learn first-hand, through observation and experience. All the other sources I can think of are second-hand, from: other people, scripture, literature and authorities.

We actually see the power of moral intuition (and/or other non-religious sources of morality) at work when we consider religious reforms. We no longer tolerate slavery, the subjugation of women, battlefield excesses, child brides, or criminal punishments disproportionate to the crimes committed. These are all values upheld by the Bible, yet we've long since rejected them. In effect, our non-religious morality has overruled and usurped religious morality. Our non-religious morality actually decides what IS religiously moral.

If our own morality actually decides what is religiously moral -- why have religious morality in the first place?

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Yes, Frink,

I don't doubt that I don't understand you. But you just stated, a few minutes ago, that your theory is new and hasn't been fleshed out. How am I supposed to understand it if YOU don't understand it?

I GUARANTEE you one thing. You won't ever come anywhere near an objective moral system. The best you can achieve is majority agreement. This experiment of yours has actually been ongoing for centuries: it's called law. Objectifying and codifying morality has been attempted by lawmakers and philosophers for millennia. There's been no objective standard just yet. Every country defines its laws a little differently. But we do have standards of consensus or majority. They'll have to do until you deliver those objective standards.
They may have been attempting to do it through law, but this is not what I'm trying to do. Law comes from society. I'm arguing the society is necessitated by and is a product of morality. Whatever that morality is, is the objective standard. Everything else anyone has told you about morality is fluff. From that objective standard (which I've yet to discover) some other objective moral practices can arise if they logically follow from the base morality. Whether this applies to all social interactions, I don't know, but I think there's a fair chance it might, so long as those actions carry the potential of moral worth.

Those are the ideas I'm committed to in this exercise at the moment. I don't think there's a clearer way of expressing those. "Society necessarily follows from morality" is pretty cut and dry.
@Frink,

Yes, okay. Believe it or not, I really HAVE grasped that concept from a prior post . . . but it gets obscured by all those facts to the contrary. Okay [talking to myself], repeat after me: objective morals precede society . . . objective morals precede society. Morals from society are not objective . . . morals from society are not objective.

So, I suppose these objective morals existed in nature somehow before man formed his own morals. I'm assuming they are timeless unless your idea of "objective" is conditional somehow. I know you can't mean a complete set of detailed morals but something like fundamental morals from which all morality necessarily stems. Is that about right?

Damn, wait . . . that's right . . . you're not sure yet. So consider this an academic, exploratory, exercise.

If nature holds the secret to objective morality, then survival has to be the highest moral standard . . . wouldn't you agree? Nature is, after all, red in tooth and claw. In that case, morality would be based on survival value.

What holds survival value for one species might not in another species. For instance, empathy and altruism might be values that, in general, increases the chances of individual and genetic survival in social animals (man) but not in solitary animals (birds of prey).

If you agree, then we should limit the search for objective moral standards to survival value to humans. Within that scope, wildlife conservation, reduction of pollution and birth control would be positive values because it helps preserve the ecosystem we need to survive. They would be morally positive choices.

An objective moral standard based on survival could get tricky when we don't know, or disagree about, what is best for our survival. What then? Isn't gray areas inescapable? If so, can we say this system is quantifiably better or different that the one we have now? It seems to me that the values we (in the West) have evolved are guided (right or wrong) by survival (among other things). However, I'm not saying our values are in step with survival: there's always a lag between understanding and change.

What if human values don't align with nature's values? Is nature's values necessarily superior? For instance, we will send soldiers to die for our way of life. Millions of them have been killed, along with civilians. Our actions seem to say that we value our way of life more than life itself. We will threaten and jeopardize all life on earth for the sake of preserving our way of life. Whether it be nuclear weapons or global warming . . . even though we're aware of the risks.

If our survival-based, objective, moral, standard were implemented, would that mean it would be moral to bomb Iran's and North Korea's nuclear facilities because they threaten our survival? If the standard says that's the most moral choice, would it be immoral to ignore it? Wouldn't we be held responsible if we DID ignore it and then suffered the consequences (nuclear attack)?

The subject is wide ranging and we're just scratching the surface. After some thought, I suspect we'll find that NO system can be objective because there will always be the question: objective to who?
Yes, okay. Believe it or not, I really HAVE grasped that concept from a prior post . . . but it gets obscured by all those facts to the contrary. Okay [talking to myself], repeat after me: objective morals precede society . . . objective morals precede society. Morals from society are not objective . . . morals from society are not objective.

Yyyeah, I have more explaining to do.

So, I suppose these objective morals existed in nature somehow before man formed his own morals.

No. If were were not a social species, they would not exist. Since we are a social species, they necessarily have to.

I'm assuming they are timeless unless your idea of "objective" is conditional somehow.

Timeless? No. Objectivity has to be qualified. Football has objective rules. Running the ball into the end zone results in six points. The guy who throws the ball is the quarterback. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the game wins. These are objective within context. They are not objective when it comes to the entire range of sports. For instance, in baseball, at any given point of the game, everyone but the batter has the potential of throwing the ball at some point, and there is no quarterback. If you were trying to specify an objective standard between them, these would not apply.

Likewise, what I'm talking about applies to humans, not to birds, not to monkeys, not to fish. In that baseball and football share the common attributes of balls, points and determining a winner, all higher organisms may share certain common truths, but the specifics of this are not universal.

I know you can't mean a complete set of detailed morals but something like fundamental morals from which all morality necessarily stems. Is that about right?

Sort of. Detailed? No. There will not be an objective answer to whether abortion is moral except in circumstances where the human race is in serious risk of extinction. What there are are certain maxims which must be true for society to exist. From these, certain moral principles will logically follow. The point is that this system describes society because it is also fundamentally responsible for it. It is inescapable, just as inescapable as the fact that every human being on the planet has a biological mother. For now, anyway.

Damn, wait . . . that's right . . . you're not sure yet.

C'mon, don't be a dick.

If nature holds the secret to objective morality, then survival has to be the highest moral standard . . . wouldn't you agree? Nature is, after all, red in tooth and claw. In that case, morality would be based on survival value.

Incompatible comparison. While survival is the point of the standard in question, nature is "red in tooth and claw" in a Hobbesian state of nature, not in society. The nature of a society is some level of cooperation.

What holds survival value for one species might not in another species. For instance, empathy and altruism might be values that, in general, increases the chances of individual and genetic survival in social animals (man) but not in solitary animals (birds of prey).

See my sports analogy.

If you agree, then we should limit the search for objective moral standards to survival value to humans. Within that scope, wildlife conservation, reduction of pollution and birth control would be positive values because it helps preserve the ecosystem we need to survive. They would be morally positive choices.

That's an example of what would follow from this foundation, yes.

An objective moral standard based on survival could get tricky when we don't know, or disagree about, what is best for our survival. What then? Isn't gray areas inescapable? If so, can we say this system is quantifiably better or different that the one we have now? It seems to me that the values we (in the West) have evolved are guided (right or wrong) by survival (among other things). However, I'm not saying our values are in step with survival: there's always a lag between understanding and change.

Whether or not we agree what's best for our survival, there is an objective answer out there; one which will yield better results than all others. Gray area is inescapable, but only surrounding issues beyond the foundation. This is why I think it's necessary to plug in and connect the ideas of other ethical systems. Many of those systems are, in and of themselves, objective ways of measuring things. However, they're not always comprehensive, nor are they universal. Sometimes they become entirely subjective depending on the variables. They'd need another mechanism to account for this. A philosophical Plan B.

What if human values don't align with nature's values? Is nature's values necessarily superior?

I'd rather not impose the idea of "values" on nature. Nature seems pretty indifferent, but if we were to assign some sort of value of nature where it concerns life, it would be on the ability to survive, and only the ability to survive. Before you say it, no, that does imply that the ends justify the means, since the wanton destruction you mentioned with nuclear weapons would hurt our own survival. As you previously argued, it's in the interest of our survival not to do this. Perhaps this solitary "law" could be used to explain the basis of what I'm talking about. Beyond that, I imagine it would be purely biological.

For instance, we will send soldiers to die for our way of life. Millions of them have been killed, along with civilians. Our actions seem to say that we value our way of life more than life itself. We will threaten and jeopardize all life on earth for the sake of preserving our way of life. Whether it be nuclear weapons or global warming . . . even though we're aware of the risks.

They were probably also sent there by people who believe Jesus will come and save the world, and that their immortal souls will go to heaven. To them, biological survival is not important since they think they survive death. Delusion does not preclude the desire for any species to, above all else, survive--even when they think they're going to survive no matter what happens. Then again, we're not the first species to hasten our own extinction. According to this example, at least in the way I'm interpreting it (you may have meant something different, after all), people are acting immorally.

If our survival-based, objective, moral, standard were implemented, would that mean it would be moral to bomb Iran's and North Korea's nuclear facilities because they threaten our survival? If the standard says that's the most moral choice, would it be immoral to ignore it? Wouldn't we be held responsible if we DID ignore it and then suffered the consequences (nuclear attack)?

This is a good question. I'm not going to answer it, but it's good. When I get the basics hammered out, I'd be happy to run it through the model. For now, I'd rather not answer something that specific without a working model in place. At this point, I can see several possibilities that can't be narrowed down without it.

I could give you my personal opinion instead, if you'd like.

The subject is wide ranging and we're just scratching the surface. After some thought, I suspect we'll find that NO system can be objective because there will always be the question: objective to who?

It precludes "who." If there were only one person in the universe, there would be no need for morality. Even if there are two or more people within walking distance of each other, there is no need for morality until they interact with the common goal of survival, aka, by forming a society.
I think certain morals are virtually universal. The prohibitions on theft, homicide and fraud are pretty universal. But a lot of that is a matter of definition: for instance, i's not homicide if you kill for your government.

With all due respect, I can't see how you, or anybody else, are going to mandate morality to me -- much less everybody else. It would take the authority of God himself to mandate morality to everybody based on claims of objectivity.

Unless you got one hell of a mind-blowing, earth-shattering thesis, Frink, I think you're overstepping yourself.
You're misunderstanding it completely. An objective morality is not an imposition, it's a standard to refer to when making a decision that has moral worth. It's not a binary is-or-isn't type of system, but a tool for maximizing moral outcome. Finally, nobody mentioned "mandating" adherence; most moral philosophers would agree that there's a limit to what morality can demand of a person.

You can un-toggle the "you're not the boss of me" key, thanks. ;)
@Frink,

I just replied to a prior post of your, above. In it I ask:

How is morality objective?

Why do you want a robust system of objective moral standards?

I believe that, if there were an objective moral standard to be found, we would have found it already and that the reason we haven't is because there is none.

I'll have to admit, I assumed (because you didn't explain) the robust system of objective moral standards is to serve as a framework for societies rules . . . for laws. However, I've since thought of a couple of other purposes: a new religion or a new philosophical school of thought. Beyond that, I can't think of any other purpose for such a system.
Don't worry, Atheist Exile will come along and point out that logical fallacy. It's what he does.

argumentum ad ignorantiam

Look it up, AE.
It's more of a toggle switch, Jen. Goes either way. Statements of the obvious are sometimes required and frequently facetious.
If you come up with an objective standard of morality and tell me that it's an objective standard of morality, I would have to say "prove it". Implicit in your claim would be the logical conclusion that ANY deviation from the objective moral standard is immoral . . . or at least less than optimal.

Help me out here, answer some questions (previous asked). Until you (or anybody else) do, I have to assume you don't have an answer. I've just Googled "objective moral standard" and come up with a lot of religious types and other (mostly) crap. However, I did find a prize competition on "An Objective Moral Standard", at OxfordJournals.org. There wasn't much detail, but I'm willing to bet it's a prize that will never be handed out.
...where are my previous responses?
Nevermind, I found them. WTF is going on with the threading in here? O_O

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