Where do you get your morals/ethics?

Someone proposed this question to me today, and I had kind of a hard time answering it. I said something about it being based on what works best to preserve and create good relationships with others. The person then asked me where that comes from. I said it's the way I was taught, the way I grew up...but I'm an adult now, so what is it based on?

He asked me is it ever okay to lie. I said it's okay if for self-preservation in desperate situations or the preservation of another's life. He asked if I thought lying in and of itself was wrong. I kind of think of it as situational though....it depends. Like, for example, if I didn't lie to save my husband's life, to me, that is wrong! I think lying is the right thing to do in a situation like that.

I don't know. I've thought about it but I'm having a hard time really working through my thoughts about ethics, morals, and the relativity of values. I know this is a very philosophical question that's been debated for centuries. Can someone help me with this please.? Any books you can recommend will also be appreciated. Thanks fam.

Views: 18

Comment by Mario Rodgers on May 4, 2010 at 8:12pm
Morality is actually older than religion, and many animals display what we might call it.

People always want to look for "miracles" in things, but a miracle is just a meaningless word. People hate it when I say that everything we do and everything that goes on in the world are just physical and electrical processes.
Comment by B. on May 4, 2010 at 10:20pm
They're a psychological by-product of human evolution to ensure the best possible success of our genes, ensuring they are passed on & protected by the cooperation of us with the members of our tribe.

In short: don't lie, steal or murder because it pisses off members of your tribe and then they're liable to kill or maim you, or at least make sure you don't get any dinner that night -- you know, depending on the crime you committed and all. It is in your best interest to remain alive, unmaimed and fed, so heed the morality Nature gave you.
Comment by Wesley on May 4, 2010 at 10:59pm
I always like to turn this question on the asker. It's always fun if they reply they get their morals from god or the bible.

Then you have a whole shit load of stuff to pick from that were considered 'moral imperatives' in the old testament and even the new but would get you thrown UNDER the jail today.

Lots of stoning back in the old testament for all kinds of offenses..(thats because they didn't have guns)

A man could accuse his wife of adultery and give her bad/cursed water to drink..and if she got sick she was guilty..... and here's the kicker.. If she didn't get sick she was exonnerated....but the man gets off scott free even though he made a false accusation!

Great Morals and ethics here.
Comment by Shanika on May 5, 2010 at 10:11am
@ Jean lol..yeah that's kind of how I feel about it too. It's hard to explain but it is based on what we've been taught, what from our "moral feelings" as Nelson pointed out, from what is acceptable in our society as B. said. Thanks everyone. Thanks for the link Nelson. I'll look it up now :-)
Comment by Bernie Hayen on May 5, 2010 at 1:46pm
Hi Shanika ~

Interesting question but a fairly easy answer that respects all religions--or none--as well as most civilized societies. Think of values, morals and ethics in this context:

Values are the base -- we all have them and they have been engrained in us from the time we were toddlers. How we are suppose to act, share, interact with parents, siblings, others, etc. A value can be as simple as a sense of humor to something much more complex like trustworthiness. Regardless of whether they are simple or complex, we have them, we know what they mean to us, and we can describe them. But, no two people share exactly the same set of values--which is why this never ending debate about right versus wrong cannot be solved.

Morals then reflect all of our values (or lack of them) along with principles which are sort of the "guideposts" or "sounding boards" in our lives. These principles are composed of our values and often overlap each other. So, it's possible that a person could be described as "very trustworthy" based on the values that create this particular principle in their life--but, at the same time, that same person may not be considered to be "honest" based on a lack of those values that reflect "honesty." (I know...that could include trustworthiness. Gets messy for my students as well.)

Regardless, morals or morality speaks to who we are as individuals. And, we are all different based on those differing values. But, as members of a society with minimal standards, we all act reasonably civil to each other based on those expectations that we have as individuals to be treated similarly.

Ethics then is the composite of we individuals all thrown together in what we call the United States, Pakistan, Argentina, etc. Ethics reflects both the values, principles, and morals of that particular society. Probably tells us why we can have such a shrill voice over those issues that challenge our values (immigration, abortion, capital punishment, religion, no religion, etc.)

Apologize for the diatribe. Enjoyed looking around your website. I'll be back.

Comment by Bernie Hayen on May 5, 2010 at 1:50pm
Oh, one more thing. Is it okay to lie? Let me ask you...how many lies does it take to be considered a liar?
Comment by Shanika on May 5, 2010 at 6:13pm
Oh goodie! lol...thank you!
Comment by Shanika on May 5, 2010 at 6:15pm
I really appreciate this. Thank you :-D
Comment by Velogiraptor on May 5, 2010 at 11:22pm
Asking if it's right or wrong to lie in and of itself is best answered with another question: Was it right or wrong for Germans to lie about hiding Jews in their homes during the Nazi era? Do those people "burn in hell" for risking their own lives so that others may live?

Next i would ask "If you believed that God told you to kill a child, as described in the Bible, is it right or wrong?" Would they assume if a voice or voices told them to do that, that they were suffering from a mental break? They should.
Comment by Renshia on May 6, 2010 at 1:22am
It's all situational, You do what you need to do to survive.
Under normal situations it is easy to reason out that lying, cheating, stealing or killing are not typically beneficial ways to conduct yourself. As the situations change then it is easy to reason the line in the sand changes. Often we make errors of judgment or fear based decisions which, under those circumstances the line changes yet again.


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