...scientists have been on a rampage writing ill-considered public announcements about free-will which … in some case verge on social irresponsibility … The recent flood of books by neuroscientists has very little worthwhile stuff and a lot that’s seriously confused; and now, as we’re actually beginning to get some scientific confirmation, it makes a difference … because … some research shows that if you present people with the claim that science has shown that we don’t really have free-will … they will actually behave less morally; they will be more apt to cheat. — Daniel Dennett, from a podcast to be found here

The research he refers to isn't consistently replicable, which is like saying it's false. 

Yeah, OK, let’s pretend guns don’t exist, because if we say they do they might be used to kill people. I find it astonishing that a philosopher would use an argument from social concern to attack an argument from evidence – evidence that he actually agrees with: that there is no contra-causal free-will. Dennett wants to insist on using the label associated with dualism, because that might persuade people to be good; or, that to remove that label and emphasise the reality of physicalism might lead them to be bad? This doesn’t fit with Dennett’s arguments against religion, where he acknowledges that religion might persuade some people to be good, but that’s not a good enough reason to claim religious beliefs as truths. (Ron Murphy)

Dennett basically embraces Kant's ridiculous and fallacious argument that we need God because if he didn't exist, bad people would ultimately go unpunished. No, Dennett doesn't believe in God. He embraces the form of the argument but without the content. He argues, basically, that if we didn't have free will, everything is permitted. You can invert the expression and see what he's really getting at: if we didn't have free will, nothing would be impermissible. 

So, what grounds grounds do we have for controlling people, for that is what morality is all about, is it not?

Are we responsible for our actions? Of course we are in the sense that we are the proximate cause of our actions. But does mere proximity result in moral responsibility? What grounds do we have for taking people's political freedom from them and placing them under arrest, in jail or prison, or even for taking their life from them in capital punishment. 

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Morality is essentially supposed to be wanting to choose right over wrong.

Society is not harmed by those who do no harm...regardless of what is done instead.

Responsibility for morality is not a real concept that lends itself to rules, as, we are each responsible for our own morality, and cannot impact another person's morality.

We CAN influence another's BEHAVIOR, and, critters have been doing so for millions of years.  If a fellow critter is a PITA/not helpful/harmful....we might gang up on it and kill it/banish it/discipline it, etc.

So, if a person is immoral....we can't change that, we can only encourage them to not do things that piss us off.

The encouragement can be rewards for good behavior and/or punishment for bad behavior.

That won't make them moral though...just act it.

So, we CAN'T be responsible for that which is beyond our control...only what we CAN control.

As to if we WANT to take responsibility for ANOTHER'S actions...well, yes generally we DO, if it might impact us.  Even monkeys etc, do this, and, its the "rule of law" that defines societal behaviors.

These rules are fluid, and, not exactly the same from society to society, or for different times for the same society, etc.

A 2016 string bikini at the beach in NJ in 1920 would result in arrest, and in Muslin countries, a 2016 NJ winter parka, ski pants and boots, would get you arrested for indecent exposure in Saudi Arabia, and so forth.

To these places, morality includes how much skin can be exposed in public...in the Amazon, where people might go naked everyday...all of that is a non-issue, they see no right/wrong issue with skin...the other groups have VARIED moral codes as to how much skin is immoral.

Stealing horses was a common activity among native americans, and was not wrong, or right....just part of what the tribes did from time to time to get more horses.   It had no moral connection.  Stealing a horse from your OWN tribe had moral implications though.

When white settlers had horses stolen, they were outraged...it was "a hanging offense" to steal a horse.  The native americans who stole their horses had no understanding of why the whites were reacting so strongly, as in, well, why didn't they just steal them back like any normal person would?

All groups have their own version of morality and what is required to be moral.  

I agree, if I understand you correctly, that all morality is local, that the notion that there's some metaphysical basis for right and wrong is ridiculous, and that so-called "morality" is typically the majority deciding what it doesn't want going on in its midst.



But here's where it gets difficult: When outside our culture they do something we think of as very very wrong, we want to be able to criticize them. It goes both ways, too. We might think it's horrid that in some polynesian cultures the village elders would introduce adolescents to sex by having sex with them. On the other hand, a Hindu might think it's outrageous that we eat beef (although chicken, pork, and lamb are just fine).

Its only difficult if you want to impose your location's morality upon another location's population.

Being naked is only wrong to some people, sex is only wrong to some people, eating or not eating a wide variety of things can have polarizing impacts, and so forth.

If you are raised to be embarrassed if a man were to see your lips (the ones you smile with), or those lips were ok, but your other ones (the ones you don't smile with) were off limits, its simply how you'd feel. there's no right or wrong to it other than what you were raised to feel is right or wrong.

If those who felt smile-lips MUST be shown or you are in danger of angering them...or must NOT BE shown or you are in danger of angering them...

...its not about how your smile is relative to good or evil, but to the society your smile is viewed by.

When a behavior is linked to a culture, typically in terms of taboos or religious practices, not adhering to those mores is essentially considered immoral.

If the CULTURE says its "wrong" then it is immoral, there.

1,000 miles away, it may be moral.

Killing people is the sort of thing that is generally immoral, yet even that can be moral if "an honor killing" etc.

Personally, I think ethics is a better word than morality for things that fit the above description, as ethics specifically accounts for specialized/specific rules by situation.

Morality, to me, should only involve what is right or wrong free of mores.

The problem is that what is right or wrong TO ME is probably influenced by the mores I was raised with/my own world views etc...and in conflict with other's versions....if I were to try to get others to consider my morals as their compass, etc.

EVERYBODY typically considers how THEY feel to be the correct view point/interpretation of right/wrong.

For example, are children only scared for life by sex with an older person, if sex with an older person was not considered normal?

If normal, as in the Polynesian societies mentioned above, ARE the children scarred for life, or, was it just a right of passage they all expected to go through on their path to adulthood?

I don't KNOW any Polynesians to ask...so, I don't know.  I'm GUESSING that it is simply considered normal by them, and, therefore, no more traumatic than perhaps having to speak in public/go to the prom or something...but for all I know, all Polynesians are fucked up for life by the experience.


When diverse cultures seem to agree on something as right or wrong, it's not evidence of an overarching common morality based on a metaphysic. It's just coincidence.

Incest seems to transcend cultures. I know the genetics argument for divergence, but it is almost knee-jerkingly taboo in unconnected societies.

I don't know how else to tell you this other than you're just wrong, though I understand how a Western person can get that impression. It's hard to even find anyone who will talk about incest, and bringing the topic up is likely to have people wondering if you might be a practitioner. 

An incest taboo is common as is a taboo on stealing and murder, but it's nowhere near as universal as those. Many tribal societies have institutionalized incest.

Japanese moms sometimes help their sons keep up their grades by going down on them. Source #1. Source #2Source #3.

The Universality of Incest.

I love me some guitar rich music...screw hiphop.

The video has nothing at all to do with incest, but I couldn't resist because of the title (dirty mind). 

Anyway, I hate Joe Bonamassa for (a) being the best blues guitarist around and (b) not being afraid to show he knows it.

Nothing beats a great guitar band.

One of the biggest problems with moral relativity is that it starts from the premis that a culture has organically and meta-democratically come up with their moral laws and that it is up to them to do with it what they will. In that sense interfering with that culture would be tantamount to the U.S. overthrowing an elected leader as they did in Central America in the 20th century. Unfortunately moral laws don't work that way, much of it is formed by those with power and influence and people from disenfranchised groups have next to no say in the matter. In effect, in Saudi Arabia, women have minimal influence over moral rules and yet usually suffer the punishements to the greatest extreme. In effect, incest isn't just a social problem but more so regarding the victims. In other words, it is not a case of people forming laws through a democractic-cultural-world-view but instead a minority of people imposing moral laws onto those who cannot fight back, usually the least capable of standing up for themselves. What does this then say about little girls forced to marry a cousin or raped by a family member with impunity. By disagreeing with this are we disagreeing with the girls culture or are we disagreeing with how a minority of the culture things the girl should be treated as an object that has next to no choice in most of her decisions and is hardly allowed to break any of the moral rules to begin with considering the severe punishments inflicted and the near lack of choice on the far majority of their daily limited activities in their kitchen and segregated livingroom. If you generate a rule through reason (that forced marriage...especially to a family member...is wrong) than the cultural differences don't justify them from being shielded from moral critique. This is especially the case when the victims of these moral laws have no say in it and when we critique these laws, we are not only critiquing them in a categorical way (if it is wrong to rape it is wrong to rape no excuses) but also standing up for the victims that no one else will stand up for. 

Decontological ethics bypass the randomness and unfairness of moral systems which change depending on location, gender, wealth, language, minority culture etc. so that situations where one group isn't forced into accepting the moral system of a minority, where each human being is treated as an autonomous agent and where principles are applied evenly to everyone and most importantly these principles are entirely based on reason rather than recieved morality or indoctrination. If you've worked out why rape is bad, then the subtleties and circumstances and excuses for it...are irrelevant. When a psychotic culture somehow ends up legalizing or forcing unspeakable and rarely-found human behavior (like cannibalism or obligatory bother sister marriage) it is easier to critique it because it seems not just horrible but also exceptional not to mention disturbing for most. That still doesn't mean it's wrong until one works out through reason why it is and are able to apply that sufficiently to all circumstances.

I hate the argument that without God people would suddenly start behaving badly either, I suppose, because they're not being watched or they no longer fear hell.

I'm reminded of Penn Jillette on it. In response to people who say that God is useful because without him people would rape and steal as much as they wanted his reply is "I already rape and steal as much as I want. That amount is zero."

I agree with him. What sort of dark shit do these people have inside them that the only thing stopping them raping and stealing is the fear of punishment after death.


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