Where does morality come from? – My take.

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This topic contains 102 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Simon Paynton 1 month, 1 week ago.

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  • #51793

    unapologetic
    Participant

    Where does morality come from? – My take.

    “Morality” is just an acquired survival mechanism.
    From viruses to human, from the first strand of DNA to today, every living thing survives by extracting nutrients/resources from the environment around it.

    Since the simplest organisms (timewise), with no neural activity or outside influence, resources were taken without regard to the source. (still are) Without regard to if something else is using those resources. That is neither moral nor immoral. Just biomechanics. Routines, and perhaps appendages, developed for the most efficient means of extracting resources. If the routines led to extracting resources from it’s own kind, the organism died-out. These bad routines tended to get bred out. The good routines began to look like our idea of “morals”.
    “thou shall not take resources from thine own kind”.
    “thou shall not cause the death of thine own kind”.
    But with no neural activity or outside influence, it is still just biomechanics. Neither moral nor immoral.

    As organisms got larger, and developed neurons, critters developed more complex survival routines. Every animal has them. It takes humans to list their acquired routines, talk about them, and call them rules … or ‘morals’.
    It takes a cult to give credit for recommended habits, to their supernatural sock-puppet.

    I can’t be the first one to say this. Please point me to online sources or vids.

    Consider this:

    We evolved from single cells that had a complete disregard for where their waste products went. So as a species, we still don’t give a shit about polluting our environment. Rationally, that should be immoral. But it ain’t, cus it didn’t kill our single-celled ancestors. It hasn’t killed us yet. We thrive, even overpopulate.

    #51794

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I’ve been studying evolutionary ethics for about 13 years.  I’ve found that morality is both simpler and more complicated than people think.

    Morality is the self-regulation within a cooperative unit or group.  So, I govern myself; you govern me; I govern you; we govern each other and ourselves on behalf of the group, in the directionof the joint goal.

    The joint goal can just be living together within a group.  The members of the group govern themselves and each other on behalf of the group to be moral with each other: i.e., to follow moral principles which can be defined as methods of achieving the joint goal.  So, if the joint goal is “mutual benefit”, principles generated by this requirement can be things like helping, fairness, reciprocity, conflict avoidance, etc.

    If you want to see more, I have written this article on “Other-directed moral emotions”.  Once you start unpacking it, it is a huge and intricate subject.

    I have no time for most of the hidebound “old school” of moral philosophers who just go round in little circles saying the same things over and over, and never making any sense.  To them, everything I say is just “blah” because it’s new to them.

    #51818

    unapologetic
    Participant

    Thanks Simon.

    So what’s your take on where morals came from? Do you think they started from the selfish behaviors of microbes and became cooperation out of necessity? As I tried to say.

    Your article is a lot to unpack, will take me some time to digest. And a breakdown of individual morals is more than I need. I’m looking for a rational alternative to ‘doG did it’. I think your article does not go back far enough. I suspect moral like behavior started before there were neural networks for doG to fuck with. I probably could have said it better in the OP, but my language skills sux.

    #51829

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Do you think they started from the selfish behaviors of microbes and became cooperation out of necessity?

    I would say your intuitions are pretty spot on.

    Normativity is the pressure to achieve goals.  Morality comes in two parts: instrumental normativity, and joint or moral normativity.  The second is the joint version of the first.  Accordingly, morality involves features like partner control, partner choice, duty, accountability, agreements, etc., because it involves partners depending on each other to achieve a joint goal.  Thereby, it consists of the self-regulation of the cooperative unit – partners regulating themselves and each other on behalf of “us”.

    Humans are forced to cooperate to survive because our environmental niche is risky and difficult.  Hence, morality, and many other aspects of human social life.  Human morality builds on the social and cognitive skills of great apes.  For example, monkeys would not have the intelligence necessary to cooperate like humans do.

    Where does instrumental normativity come from, the pressure to achieve goals?  It is an evolved, fundamental direction of the entire organism.  We can only hypothesise how it came about using logic and evidence.

    All organisms experience a pressure to do the things that will allow them to thrive, survive and therefore reproduce.  This may be accounted for by evolution and natural selection: those organisms that behave this way (they possess a drive to reproduce) get to reproduce more and become more prevalent in the population than those that don’t try and preserve themselves for survival and reproduction.  Over time, since in a local environment, space and resources are limited, those species of early life that reproduced more than those that reproduced less, crowded them out of an environmental niche.

    Animals display some of the components of human morality, which represents the full spectrum.  Ants and bees cooperate closely, but only within one giant genetically related family.  Humans cooperate with non-kin and help strangers.  Elephants breed cooperatively: they share childcare, along with a lot of other species, and this has an effect on their social system: they are very caring.  Killer whales and some dolphins hunt cooperatively, using communication and coordination.

    #51835

    Unseen
    Participant

    I’ve been studying evolutionary ethics for about 13 years.  I’ve found that morality is both simpler and more complicated than people think.

    Morality is the self-regulation within a cooperative unit or group.  So, I govern myself; you govern me; I govern you; we govern each other and ourselves on behalf of the group, in the directionof the joint goal.

    By that definition, if I were to find myself the last person on Earth and thus not a member of any community or group of any sort, could I even have a morality? Or can someone live by a code of their own without reference to anything other than himself?

    So, whatever the group’s goal happens to be is ipso facto the basis of moral action? Suppose the group is a Hell’s Angels chapter or Atilla’s hordes or the German people under Hitler or a Mormon group that marries children as  young as 10 to adult men?

    #51839

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    By that definition, if I were to find myself the last person on Earth and thus not a member of any community or group of any sort, could I even have a morality? Or can someone live by a code of their own without reference to anything other than himself?

    By that definition, you would require instrumental rather than moral normativity.  In other words, you would purely be achieving your goals without reference to anyone else.  But your personal code would probably be something like, I want to stay healthy and alive for as much and as long as possible.

    So, whatever the group’s goal happens to be is ipso facto the basis of moral action? Suppose the group is a Hell’s Angels chapter or Atilla’s hordes or the German people under Hitler or a Mormon group that marries children as  young as 10 to adult men?

    It’s not the nature of the joint goal that is the basis of morality – it can be an awful goal.  It’s having a joint goal in the first place.  Having a joint goal requires having moral principles in order to reach that goal, as well as other normatively-loaded behaviour, like partner control.

    If the goal is a morally bad goal – think, Putin’s Russia – then some of those ideal behaviours will also be morally bad.  But some of them would be praiseworthy in other circumstances, like loyalty, solidarity, self-sacrifice, etc.

    #51842

    Unseen
    Participant

    If the goal is a morally bad goal – think, Putin’s Russia – then some of those ideal behaviours will also be morally bad.

    Rome did a lot to civilize the world and it do so by subjugating peoples, often brutally. Were the Roman emperors acting morally?

    #51843

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Rome did a lot to civilize the world and it do so by subjugating peoples, often brutally. Were the Roman emperors acting morally?

    It’s possible to follow moral rules while doing immoral things.

    #51844

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Rome did a lot to civilize the world and it do so by subjugating peoples, often brutally. Were the Roman emperors acting morally?

    Once the Romans had decided to achieve their goals at the expense of others – you still wouldn’t expect them all to turn into thieves and liars towards each other, and start fighting like rats in a sack.

    #51847

    Unseen
    Participant

    It’s possible to follow moral rules while doing immoral things.

    Then what’s the use of having such a system.

    Once the Romans had decided to achieve their goals at the expense of others – you still wouldn’t expect them all to turn into thieves and liars towards each other, and start fighting like rats in a sack.

    And yet, that often happens. Look at the January 6 conspirators, the Manhattan Project, and The Beatles. Prosecutors take advantage of this sort of thing in building cases all the time.

    Anyway, I agree with the moral philosophers who see a morality as needing to be universal. “Where does morality come from?” is a philosophical question in search of a philosoophical answer, not a sociological one. So, but you are not engaging in moral philosophy, which would be telling us what justifies a moral code (where morality comes from). Even if your description is a good description, that doesn’t make it a moral system. Nor does it justify it.

    You’re telling us how you think people arrive at the moral (in their mind) choices they make. You’re not telling us what actually makes those choices moral.

    Real moral choices have a power forcing one to do something simply because it’s right, even if it is the last thing one wants to do and even if it spells doom for one’s group.

    #51849

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    And yet, that often happens. Look at the January 6 conspirators, the Manhattan Project, and The Beatles. Prosecutors take advantage of this sort of thing in building cases all the time.

    Then, they’re being competitive with each other and not moral.

    So, but you are not engaging in moral philosophy, which would be telling us what justifies a moral code (where morality comes from). Even if your description is a good description, that doesn’t make it a moral system. Nor does it justify it.

    You’re telling us how you think people arrive at the moral (in their mind) choices they make. You’re not telling us what actually makes those choices moral.

    What justifies morality is the need to thrive, survive and reproduce.  In morality, we achieve these goals jointly.  Individually, we achieve the first two instrumentally: without reference to others.  Morality is the internal self-regulation of the cooperative unit.  No cooperative unit – no morality.  If a cooperative unit is behaving immorally to another agent – so it is.  It’s still capable of regulating itself in a way that we call moral.

    I think you’re confusing “justification” with “rightness”.  Moral realists think that something is right, and binding, because it’s a moral fact.  There are no moral facts: something is not factually right and wrong in itself – only in relation to some criterion or measure, like a moral value.  Moral values are factual ways to achieve factual goals.

    Anyway, I agree with the moral philosophers who see a morality as needing to be universal.

    It is universal, in that people have the same basic joint goals the world over.  They vary in the ways in which they reach these goals.

    “Where does morality come from?” is a philosophical question in search of a philosoophical answer, not a sociological one. So, but you are not engaging in moral philosophy, which would be telling us what justifies a moral code (where morality comes from).

    In order to do philosophy, you have to have a system of knowledge and information to use as data.

    #51854

    Unseen
    Participant

    @ Simon

    Let me put this bluntly: Telling us how we make moral choices doesn’t tell us where morality  comes from.

    In order to do philosophy, you have to have a system of knowledge and information to use as data.

    That’s simply absurd unless you mean something as puerile as “you need to have eyes, ears, and a sense of smell operating.” To do science you need that, not to do philosophy. And when it comes to value theories (ethics/morality and aesthetics) no fact is going to affect the theorizing by proving or disproving it.

    You are doing description, not philosophy, and your descriptions are reductionist (you don’t recognize any nagging problems, there’s no area yet to be explored). And reductionist theorizing is simply uninteresting. Thus, your approach isn’t even scientific. You have a belief and you’re standing on your head to show that every single fact fits. That’s the opposite of science.

    Most people don’t understand how a scientist proves a hypothesis. He formulates it and then most people think he sets out to prove it. NO! He sets out to disprove it.

    The one area where we do agree is that there are no universal moral codes or facts or anything of a moral nature that applies to everyone, everywhere, at all times. Unfortunately, perhaps. But maybe not:

    Sartre, in an echo of Dmitri Karamazov wrote: “If God is dead, then everything is permitted. And that is just the point. Man is condemned to be free, because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

    He’s arguing that because morality is impossible, we can’t appeal to it as a justification, which means we ourselves, each individual, are fully responsible for everything that we do.

    If God exists, that would make moral choices much easier. Just look at how certain the anti-abortion folks are.

    A lot of people like things certain and neat and tidy. Religious people, for example, and reductionists.

    #51855

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Telling us how we make moral choices doesn’t tell us where morality comes from.

    It’s the other way round – telling us where morality comes from tells us how we make moral choices.

    You are doing description, not philosophy, and your descriptions are reductionist (you don’t recognize any nagging problems, there’s no area yet to be explored).

    I can recognise nagging problems, I just haven’t mentioned any.  Give me some examples, I’ll say if they’re nagging or resolved.  Morality is vast and sprawling, and we’ll never get right to the end of it.  What is reductionism?  I take a fundamental, systematic approach.

    And when it comes to value theories (ethics/morality and aesthetics) no fact is going to affect the theorizing by proving or disproving it.

    Well, a value is a standard or measure of something, so X can either measure up or fail according to this standard.

    #51857

    Unseen
    Participant

    It’s the other way round – telling us where morality comes from tells us how we make moral choices.

    Morality doesn’t “come from” a statistical or behavioral analysis. Behaving the way my group or clan or tribe expects or wants me to isn’t morality. What’s “moral” about it?

    I can recognise nagging problems, I just haven’t mentioned any.

    Gee, I wonder why(?). OK, give us some examples of issues in your theory yet to be explained.

    Well, a value is a standard or measure of something, so X can either measure up or fail according to this standard.

    So, you are a babe in the woods when it comes to value theory. Value theory isn’t about standards or measures or, if so, only obliquely. The “value” in this case has more to do with what one finds worthy or worthwhile than what one can measure or use as a standard.

    Have you studied philosophy? At all?

    #51858

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I can recognise nagging problems, I just haven’t mentioned any.

    Gee, I wonder why(?). OK, give us some examples of issues in your theory yet to be explained.

    I can’t think of any.  I’m sure there are some.

    Value theory isn’t about standards or measures or, if so, only obliquely. The “value” in this case has more to do with what one finds worthy or worthwhile than what one can measure or use as a standard.

    In this case, it’s the same thing, if you think about it.  Ideal behaviour aimed at a certain joint goal.  If I walk into a shop and buy a £10 book, but only give the cashier £5, that’s not reciprocal.  If I gave her £10, it would be.  Very concrete.

    You criticise this system for being descriptive.  But it’s also prescriptive, in the only way that makes sense.  I could say, “you ought to X“.  You could rightly say, “why?  On what authority?”  This system says, if you have joint goal G, then you should X.  That is the only way to be prescriptive – to say you ought to do something – that doesn’t violate the fact/value distinction.

     

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