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Old 07-31-2018, 05:00 AM   #1
tame_deuces
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Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

There are many theories regarding morals. Objective morality, subjective morality, relative morality, evolutionary theories of morality and aesthetic theories of morality - to name but a few.

On theme that often repeats itself revolves around something I have come to think of as "the moral baseline". A set of moral values which should not be crossed. It is not really that important to this line in the sand which moral theory you subscribe to, that is more relevant to your reasoning as to why.

We have had a lot of threads that revolve around this issue. Sometimes in good faith ("do you believe X is permissible?") and sometimes in bad ("you believe X is permissible!"), so it seems to be a topic that engages people. For good reason, morals is perhaps the most important shaper of our cultures beyond biological necessities (I realize that one can argue that a fair bit of morals stem from biological needs, but at least consider that for a fair bit of morals that is a bit of a stretch).

So my questions become simple enough: Do you believe there is a moral baseline? Do you think there should be one? Do you think it is permanent? Why do you / do you not consider it to be an objective one?

A last note: There should be no need to let this thread devolve into a quarrel of competing theories of morality, we have plenty of those.
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Old 07-31-2018, 07:23 AM   #2
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

I don't really understand your question, but I'm leaning towards no. Take murder. It is generally wrong. It can be sometimes right.

But this is highly dependent upon the theory of morality, which you sort of want us to stay away from. A deontologist and a utilitarian fundamentally disagree on how much line crossing should be allowed.
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Old 07-31-2018, 10:04 AM   #3
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

Whenever we try make moral proscriptions there is inevitably some proposal of a hypothetical set of circumstances for which that moral rule may not apply.

While that's a fun game, and occasionally useful, it doesn't seem to defeat the point that, in order to have anything resembling what we consider a functioning society, there are general lines we have to draw.

It may be the case that we choose to ignore the genuinely starving man stealing a single loaf, but it remains the case that a society that allows all theft doesn't get anywhere.

I think anything you could refer to as a "moral baseline" can only ever be in such general terms.
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Old 07-31-2018, 10:41 PM   #4
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

Yes. The moral baseline is to always adopt ‘the existential attitude’ (TEA) and pursue what is most meaningful. Every ethical principle that we currently have has been abstracted out after operating within that framework. Enforcing ethical principles strictly at the cultural/societal/legal level, while necessary in the early stages of life, is unsustainable over the long term. It is in opposition to the adoption of TEA and the pursuit of meaning that follows consequentially.

Without adopting TEA, humanity will be unaware of and unable to solve the fundamental problem, and until this fundamental problem is solved, humanity incrementally trends toward destruction. Enforcing ethical principles from the top down is not strong enough to curtail this gradual trend toward destruction. Ethics need to be discovered at the phenomenological level, from the ground up, in the pursuit of meaning after adopting TEA. This means ethics are secondary to the pursuit of meaning. Equating or focusing morality on ethics is inferior to incorporating ethics within the framework of adopting TEA and pursuing what is most meaningful.
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Old 08-01-2018, 08:55 PM   #5
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

Cause and effect ate my dogma and pooped it out in the yard.
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Old 08-02-2018, 05:31 AM   #6
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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I don't really understand your question, but I'm leaning towards no. Take murder. It is generally wrong. It can be sometimes right.

But this is highly dependent upon the theory of morality, which you sort of want us to stay away from. A deontologist and a utilitarian fundamentally disagree on how much line crossing should be allowed.
I did not intend for people to stay away from the competing theories, I just didn't want it to become the usual quarrel of objective morals vs subjective morals.

I'm a bit interested in how similar / different various moral perspectives really are.
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Old 08-02-2018, 05:36 AM   #7
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Whenever we try make moral proscriptions there is inevitably some proposal of a hypothetical set of circumstances for which that moral rule may not apply.

While that's a fun game, and occasionally useful, it doesn't seem to defeat the point that, in order to have anything resembling what we consider a functioning society, there are general lines we have to draw.

It may be the case that we choose to ignore the genuinely starving man stealing a single loaf, but it remains the case that a society that allows all theft doesn't get anywhere.

I think anything you could refer to as a "moral baseline" can only ever be in such general terms.
I think that is a good point. While there has certainly been attempts at "taxonomical" approaches where you merely classify a type of act as moral or immoral, in the real world we almost always tend to look at the circumstance surrounding an action. The law, as an example, differentiates self-defense from assault, and while it certainly complicates matters it is not hard to understand why. If we can do that in a binary system of judgment ("legal" or "criminal") we should be able to do it under almost any framework.
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Old 08-02-2018, 05:39 AM   #8
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Yes. The moral baseline is to always adopt ‘the existential attitude’ (TEA) and pursue what is most meaningful. Every ethical principle that we currently have has been abstracted out after operating within that framework. Enforcing ethical principles strictly at the cultural/societal/legal level, while necessary in the early stages of life, is unsustainable over the long term. It is in opposition to the adoption of TEA and the pursuit of meaning that follows consequentially.

Without adopting TEA, humanity will be unaware of and unable to solve the fundamental problem, and until this fundamental problem is solved, humanity incrementally trends toward destruction. Enforcing ethical principles from the top down is not strong enough to curtail this gradual trend toward destruction. Ethics need to be discovered at the phenomenological level, from the ground up, in the pursuit of meaning after adopting TEA. This means ethics are secondary to the pursuit of meaning. Equating or focusing morality on ethics is inferior to incorporating ethics within the framework of adopting TEA and pursuing what is most meaningful.
But aren't there "existential meanings" you would not accept, either from individuals or societies?
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Old 08-02-2018, 05:39 AM   #9
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Cause and effect ate my dogma and pooped it out in the yard.
Jokes aside, Cause and Effect would be fun pet names.
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Old 08-02-2018, 09:15 AM   #10
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Originally Posted by tame_deuces View Post
I did not intend for people to stay away from the competing theories, I just didn't want it to become the usual quarrel of objective morals vs subjective morals.

I'm a bit interested in how similar / different various moral perspectives really are.
I still don't think I really understand what you mean by moral baseline, or how that is a concept that exists accross a lot of different moral theories.

Like is this a sort of axiomatic thing, that you are asking what the "baseline" axioms are? Is this more of a hierarchical thing where there are some really serious "baseline" moral views that really shouldn't be crossed, and less important ones that are only sorta bad to be crossed? Is it a sort of certainty issue, where we are pretty certain that murder is wrong but much less certain that oh i dunno refusing service to gay cake buyers is wrong? Or something else?
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Old 08-03-2018, 04:43 AM   #11
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Originally Posted by tame_deuces View Post
There are many theories regarding morals. Objective morality, subjective morality, relative morality, evolutionary theories of morality and aesthetic theories of morality - to name but a few.

On theme that often repeats itself revolves around something I have come to think of as "the moral baseline". A set of moral values which should not be crossed. It is not really that important to this line in the sand which moral theory you subscribe to, that is more relevant to your reasoning as to why.

We have had a lot of threads that revolve around this issue. Sometimes in good faith ("do you believe X is permissible?") and sometimes in bad ("you believe X is permissible!"), so it seems to be a topic that engages people. For good reason, morals is perhaps the most important shaper of our cultures beyond biological necessities (I realize that one can argue that a fair bit of morals stem from biological needs, but at least consider that for a fair bit of morals that is a bit of a stretch).

So my questions become simple enough: Do you believe there is a moral baseline? Do you think there should be one? Do you think it is permanent? Why do you / do you not consider it to be an objective one?

A last note: There should be no need to let this thread devolve into a quarrel of competing theories of morality, we have plenty of those.
I'm also not quite sure what you mean by "moral baseline," so I'll give an answer to at least one plausible sense of it. I think moral foundationalism is likely false. I generally find foundationalist models of knowledge more a result of wishful thinking than an honest open-minded appraisal of the evidence. Sure, it would be nice if we had some of those cool self-justifying beliefs substantive enough to derive an actual metaphysics, but we don't. Folk theories and intuitions in areas studied by science have proven to be too unreliable for me to regard them as self-justifying in contexts (like morality) where science hasn't or can't provide us with an accurate account of the subject.

The failure of theological and philosophical moral theories to generate consensus on the nature of this moral foundation also shows that accepting a moral theory as accurate nearly always involves a bit of faith or a leap beyond the evidence or arguments. Thus, for me the really pressing philosophical question about morality is a practical rather than descriptive one: "Should we be moral?" rather than "What is the nature of morality?" We have lots of speculative theories about the nature of morality, but it seems unlikely to me that within my lifetime we will have the ability to resolve this question in a scientific (or non-scientific, but with equivalent epistemic rigor) way. But nonetheless, it does seem quite clear that my life can be lived poorly or well, and that which of these is the case is at least partially due to my character and the choices I make. Thus, if I want to live a good life, I should endeavor to make the decisions that lead my life in that direction. Human psychology and sociology is such that most conceptions of a good life typically requires a certain level of moral thought and action (broadly construed).

However, this need for moral thought doesn't get us to a self-evident truth about morality that we can use to justify an entire body of moral knowledge. Our conception of the good life, our favored theory of the the nature of morality, the practical principles we learn through experience, all of these remain epistemically provisional and defeasible due to our lack of knowledge about how humans and societies actually work. Thus, moral foundationalism just isn't a good model for evaluating the epistemic strength of our moral claims.

Last edited by Original Position; 08-04-2018 at 02:01 PM. Reason: to more accurately convey my thoughts.
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Old 08-03-2018, 09:34 PM   #12
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

Hasn't this been solved already? We humans are social animals. We need each other for our own personal welfare. Therefore the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the primary moral baseline. From this stems further moral guidelines.
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Old 08-04-2018, 12:10 AM   #13
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Hasn't this been solved already? We humans are social animals. We need each other for our own personal welfare. Therefore the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the primary moral baseline. From this stems further moral guidelines.


I sorta agree with the code switch that the golden “rule” is an individual choice of virtue. An example to do no harm, and leave others to do no harm to you, and that is how it must be approached as a social moral baseline. To codify the golden rule as social animals can violate the golden rule as individuals. Hence must be cautious.
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Old 08-04-2018, 01:56 PM   #14
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Hasn't this been solved already? We humans are social animals. We need each other for our own personal welfare. Therefore the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the primary moral baseline. From this stems further moral guidelines.
I'm not sure what you mean by "solved" here. Do you mean - here is a decision heuristic that if followed would lead to better outcomes for everyone? That would be assuming that people want better aggregate rather than personal outcomes, which is often false.

Second, while I do agree that the Golden Rule is a good moral heuristic, I don't think it is on its own sufficient for a moral life. The Golden Rule is a procedural rule instituting a minimum level of agent-neutrality in your actions. That's a good rule for improving aggregate utility and for treating people fairly, but a moral life requires a more substantive account of the good (or what we should strive for) and not just rules constraining how we try to achieve our otherwise amoral ends.
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Old 08-04-2018, 03:03 PM   #15
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

The realm of the moral can only be appreciated by a "free man". One can only operate in the moral sphere if one is "free".

This mans that each and every man is responsible for his actions but also, to be clear, the idea of any fixed moral tenet is anathema to the individual man.

Once we have fixed tenets, laws, commandments, ethical conscious behavior, etc... we are in the realm of coercion or "unfreedom" .

The "free man" doesn't enter an action with a fixed perspective but acting within the love of the deed performs a moral action which is founded from the higher realm of moral intuition or in other words a "spiritual intuition" .

This is not the "intuition" to which many will say 'I had an intuition" which comes out of a nether realm but an intuition accomplished through thinking and therefore consciously accomplished.

But of course, we are not all free in our actions( the moral activity), so to speak, and live within our nation, race ,gender, clan, family , etc.... even our conscience, and so long as we act, head down without consideration we are not acting within "freedom".

The individual man doesn't have to recreate all moral platforms in originality but he can, through proper conscious consideration, act within the "law of the land" as a "free being", nor does he need act against this "law of the land".

The outer law can only act such that "thou shalt not" reigns and punishment given for a particular act. the "free man' doesn't deny this outer law but in this acts freely for what are these outer laws but the structured pillars of "free men" who have brought to their fellow man the fruits of their labor.

For the philistine who demands that mankind be coerced into an aboriginal tameness, and if he is correct, then why debate the issue and forget about "freedom" altogether and go off and have our cup of coffee, always hiding from the hangman.

The history of morals should be evident to the historian, not as if the particular moral maxims are primary but the evolution of morals is the evolution of the individual man who brings these moral concepts to his fellow man . Man , in his moral tonality, is co creator of the moral , the action of his individuality, that of a "free man".

Oh yes, we are all interlayed with free and unfree type actions as this is the nature of man, a limited being, in progression into the moral realm of the "free".

Last edited by carlo; 08-04-2018 at 03:29 PM.
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Old 08-05-2018, 01:03 PM   #16
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

The golden rule is consistent when alive as examples. As one can imagine, one example of living by the golden rule can be very quiet.
A moral baseline is loud and if we look at a whole array of moral baselines as examples, we have some examples to face that aren’t rosy as ‘doing no harm and letting all do no harm to you’.

So it’s definitely a hard pidgin hole to moral baseline the golden rule socially.
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Old 08-05-2018, 04:15 PM   #17
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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I'm not sure what you mean by "solved" here. Do you mean - here is a decision heuristic that if followed would lead to better outcomes for everyone? That would be assuming that people want better aggregate rather than personal outcomes, which is often false.

Second, while I do agree that the Golden Rule is a good moral heuristic, I don't think it is on its own sufficient for a moral life. The Golden Rule is a procedural rule instituting a minimum level of agent-neutrality in your actions. That's a good rule for improving aggregate utility and for treating people fairly, but a moral life requires a more substantive account of the good (or what we should strive for) and not just rules constraining how we try to achieve our otherwise amoral ends.
Without a definition of "outcomes", "wants" "decision heuristic" I would waste my time responding. The Golden Rule seems quite reasonable to most all people worldwide. It has been used for millennia, and humankind has thrived. I do understand that it is a bare minimum moral guideline but that's what the OP seemed to ask about.
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Old 08-06-2018, 12:31 AM   #18
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Without a definition of "outcomes", "wants" "decision heuristic" I would waste my time responding.
Sure: By "outcomes" the way a thing turns out, or the consequences; by "want" I mean something like desire or preference; and by "decision heuristic" I mean a mental shortcut (usually a rule) used to simplify a particular category or aspect of decision-making.

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The Golden Rule seems quite reasonable to most all people worldwide. It has been used for millennia, and humankind has thrived. I do understand that it is a bare minimum moral guideline but that's what the OP seemed to ask about.
Yes, I agree it is a quite reasonable rule. Following it, along with many of the other heuristics like "don't murder," "don't steal," "don't lie" given to us by folk morality, is probably helpful in living a moral life. If what you are claiming is that there are some rules that have wide agreement as useful for morality, I'll agree. I just don't think the Golden Rule on its own is sufficient as a moral baseline. It gives you some part of morality - agent-neutrality - but you can treat everyone the same for evil as well as good ends. I also think that the Golden Rule is often in tension with other commonly held moral values, such as pride, fairness, and loyalty, and those other values are often held as more important.
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Old 08-06-2018, 12:56 AM   #19
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

How come you haven't brought up Rawls Theory in this thread? Doesn't it fit?

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Old 08-06-2018, 01:56 AM   #20
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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How come you haven't brought up Rawls Theory in this thread? Doesn't it fit?

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You have sussed me out. However, reflective equilibrium is non-foundationalist, hence my repudiation of foundationalist approaches to moral justification ITT.
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Old 08-07-2018, 03:49 AM   #21
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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I'm also not quite sure what you mean by "moral baseline," so I'll give an answer to at least one plausible sense of it. I think moral foundationalism is likely false. I generally find foundationalist models of knowledge more a result of wishful thinking than an honest open-minded appraisal of the evidence. Sure, it would be nice if we had some of those cool self-justifying beliefs substantive enough to derive an actual metaphysics, but we don't. Folk theories and intuitions in areas studied by science have proven to be too unreliable for me to regard them as self-justifying in contexts (like morality) where science hasn't or can't provide us with an accurate account of the subject.

The failure of theological and philosophical moral theories to generate consensus on the nature of this moral foundation also shows that accepting a moral theory as accurate nearly always involves a bit of faith or a leap beyond the evidence or arguments. Thus, for me the really pressing philosophical question about morality is a practical rather than descriptive one: "Should we be moral?" rather than "What is the nature of morality?" We have lots of speculative theories about the nature of morality, but it seems unlikely to me that within my lifetime we will have the ability to resolve this question in a scientific (or non-scientific, but with equivalent epistemic rigor) way. But nonetheless, it does seem quite clear that my life can be lived poorly or well, and that which of these is the case is at least partially due to my character and the choices I make. Thus, if I want to live a good life, I should endeavor to make the decisions that lead my life in that direction. Human psychology and sociology is such that most conceptions of a good life typically requires a certain level of moral thought and action (broadly construed).

However, this need for moral thought doesn't get us to a self-evident truth about morality that we can use to justify an entire body of moral knowledge. Our conception of the good life, our favored theory of the the nature of morality, the practical principles we learn through experience, all of these remain epistemically provisional and defeasible due to our lack of knowledge about how humans and societies actually work. Thus, moral foundationalism just isn't a good model for evaluating the epistemic strength of our moral claims.
I was not really looking for some logical justification for morals, I am more curious to see how people genuinely think about morals. With "moral baseline" I was thinking of certain moral values that people think should never be crossed.

I have this notion (which might be incorrect) that most of us hold certain moral values to be external and others to be internal, regardless of what ethical theories we espouse. Perhaps I am wrong.

That isn't intended as direct criticism of various views on subjective or objective morals, but I do feel that when we frame discussions specifically towards theories of that ilk that we tend to automatically frame our morals in them. It is, I guess, more a criticism of how we tend to discuss morals.

An analogy could be economics. An economic model that models human decision making as rational is compelling because it is simple and elegant, and it is indeed easy to fit our behavior into such models. Very intelligent men and women have done so for a long time. The problem arises when we start modelling irrational behavior as rational. "Joe bought the car he could not afford because he wanted higher status" sounds perfectly fine, but it obfuscates problems with the model.
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Old 08-07-2018, 11:22 AM   #22
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

tame can you give some examples what you think might be moral baselines, or what you expect others would give as them?

The "never be crossed" line seems to me to be too strong a condition for many people's moral views to assert anything as meeting that condition.
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Old 08-07-2018, 02:06 PM   #23
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

An issue I have with how morality is discussed is that it is incomplete. There is a presupposition that everyone’s well being should be thought of as equal. This is correct at the macro, objective level and necessary for general rules and principles that help societies function in an orderly, efficient way.

However, life is suffering, which causes us to feel unfulfilled, and this pain elicits a survival response which involuntarily makes us value our own well being over the well being of others at the subjective level. It’s understandable why this truth is often suppressed as it is in conflict with ethics and how we want people to behave in society, but without contending with it, moral progress eventually stagnates and both individuals and society start trending toward disfunction.

I think a good exercise is to discuss morality with this in mind: how should we act assuming that our personal well being is more important than the well being of others. This is morality for adults. The usual way morality is discussed is morality for children. I’m not just saying that to be condescending. I think this is the progression. First, the focus should be on stabilizing things at the societal level in which we should think of everyone’s well being as being equal. But once that is sufficient, we should shift our moral focus to the subjective truth. In the West, it is past time to make this shift.
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Old 08-07-2018, 02:37 PM   #24
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

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Sure: By "outcomes" the way a thing turns out, or the consequences; by "want" I mean something like desire or preference; and by "decision heuristic" I mean a mental shortcut (usually a rule) used to simplify a particular category or aspect of decision-making.


………….snip...…………...


The above reminded me of this book (which I think is an excellent and worthwhile read)

thinking-fast-and-slow
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Old 08-07-2018, 11:06 PM   #25
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Re: Do you believe there is a moral baseline?

A thief "wants" to steal your money for the "outcome" of getting high on meth. Is that the of personal wants and outcomes that the "aggregate" of society should accommodate in its moral system?

Last edited by Pokerlogist; 08-07-2018 at 11:27 PM.
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