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?

Tags: evolutions, heredity, moral intuition, morality, religious, values

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Oh, and to actually reply to your statements (whoops), I would have to say "go for it." Right now it's just a few ideas bouncing around in my head that stem from my problem with most moral philosophies being derived from society (I think the whole point of morality is to have a society) or attempt to explain society (sometimes in an insightful way, but we can thank science for the how's and why's of society's existence). When it's properly formulated, I expect and welcome criticism and counter-arguments.

But yes, deviating from this moral standard would either be less-than-optimal, amoral or (in the case of total contradiction) immoral, while few (if any) things would be cut-and-dried, black and white issues. As I said previously, strict adherence is not required to be considered a moral person, since there is a limit to what morality can ask of a person (utilitarianism is a good example of a branch which argues this).

Previously, you've strongly alluded to the fear that this would be an authoritarian model which forced morality on people. To that, I have two responses: 1) The beauty of any philosophical idea is that it does not require societal change to exist. 2) it is not the realm of this idea to prescribe punishments for aberration. Those punishments come no different than they do today. For serious offenses, laws prescribe prison. For minor offenses, the court of public opinion judges you, which results of a poor reputation. This is no different than the way society judges based on the Symbolic-Interaction method of sociology. No Orwellian "Ministry of Love" is necessary.

As an aside, I wasn't aware of the Oxford competition. I just might have to take them up on it. ;) Also, keep in mind that religious types who claim an objective standard are those who are trying to force their beliefs on everybody else. This is more of an attempt to find out exactly what morality is, where it comes from, why it's necessary, and what, following from these, is moral.
@Frink,

I see, so it's more of an academic exercise for you.

As I've previously admitted, it does seem that a "system" of objective morality would inevitably be enlisted to reform laws, by-laws, policies and rules. What do you think of this inevitability?
Well, my ideas are vague overall because of previously stated reasons, but I'm thinking in the sense that society itself would have to necessarily follow from the theory, and laws would follow from society. It's less "ought we" and more "how did it happen?" That's not entirely accurate, but I'm not sure how else to articulate it yet.
I think the reason they're having problems is also the reason why morality is not (I don't want to say cut-and-dry, since relatively few things seem to fit this description) easy to interpret through the lens of culture. Both of them (as with most philosophies) seem to be based on a some social level, ranging from intrapersonal to international. That's not to say that all philosophical thought in the world is useless (I would never say that), but I think they all share the common fault of starting late in the game. The foundation, since we are organisms, should be biology and how the outside world affects it in such a way that we can perceive it. After that, all else follows.
Hi Jen,

Isn't it the point that Frink's "scientific framework for objective moral standards" would free the U.N. (or any other forum) from deciding what are de facto norms of morality (and therefor, law)? An objective standard would replace opinions with a system that will produce objective answers.
Hi Jen,

Here's the paragraph in question:

"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."

Compare it to your reply. It's not ambiguous at all. It goes as far as it goes and no further. Want to take it somewhere else? Be my guest. But don't fault me for not taking it there.

Even though this discussion got off on the wrong foot here, with Reggie, it has had no problems elsewhere. Disagreements? Of course. But none of this arguing over what WASN'T written.

I will always reserve the right to identify logical fallacies. If it's clearly an intentionally dishonest reply, I might express anger or frustration. I make no apologies for that.
Do you even read what you write? Is English your second language? Or your third?
@doone,

Yes, most of those laws are procedural. However, I do see: manumissions of slaves, the establishment of permanent extortion courts, the expulsion of senators convicted of a crime, punishment for conjugal unfaithfulness, limitations on female adornment, and regulation of election fraud.
Hi Jen,

Actually, I believe that the Torah (Old Testament) was written long before the Romans and their legal system came to the region. Religious morality is simply the moral values religions teach. To me, this is independent of which morals are shared by other moral systems.
I didn't say the Torah is older than Rome. I said it was written before Romans brought their legal system to the region.

Nice try though :-)
@Jen,

LoL. Funny. That's all the response this one's getting. :-)
Social Contract theory describes this quite nicely.

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