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Are most decisions moral decisions?


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#1    coberst

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 10:36 AM

Are most decisions moral decisions?

In an attempt to comprehend the nature of ethics/morality one will find a forest of writings but essentially each person must build his or her own model of what ethics/morality means. Somewhere along the way toward becoming an enlightened person regarding this matter we all must settle on that which makes sense for us. That does not mean that we remain static about the matter but it means that we settle on some model that is our personal guide until we decide to change it.

I cannot remember where I read it but is resonates for me; ‘all decisions, wherein there is a choice, are moral decisions’. One may find quibbles to get around this message but the essence of the matter is that for a person seeking to be moral, all judgments from which decisions are derived warrant careful consideration.

Our community and our family mold our moral sense as we grow up. But at some point we must remold that model to fit our adult self. I am an American and my sense of ethics/morality was codified by the Declaration and the Constitution as I grew up and it is what determines, to a large extent, my adult sense in this matter.

The Declaration declares ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, all men are created equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights’. The Constitution sets forth a listing of the rights of all citizens that are to be protected by law. These declarations are part of my heritage and are what I accept as the foundation of my sense of morality.

It appears that the two concepts ‘right’ and ‘good’ form the foundation of any moral system. The ‘good’ is ‘rational desire’ and the ‘right’ has varying meanings. The status of the right seems to be the important variable that determines what one’s ethical/moral model becomes.

I call my model of morality as being a closed system as opposed to an open system. I call my system a closed system because ‘right’ is clearly defined in the Declaration and the Constitution as being prior to the good. That which is right has a fence around it with a big “No Trespassing” sign and is closed to usurpation by the good. A different system could be called an open system when there is no closed area representing rights but that the right is considered as being that which maximizes the good.

I suspect that often we do not have the knowledge and understanding to determine at the time we make our decisions which matters might be immoral, or amoral, as opposed to moral. I think that a moral person needs to have that consideration constantly in mind and thus to form habits that help to keep us on track even though we often act unconsciously. It is all a part of developing character I guess.

This is not to say that we must become fanatical about it.  Is flossing a moral act?  If I floss or do not floss, does it, in some minute way, affect others?  I think so.  Is watering my lawn a matter for moral consideration?  It might be.


Questions for discussion

Would you say that an act can be a moral or immoral without our being conscious of the matter?  Can a sociopath perform an immoral act?

Where do these two concepts, right and good, fit into your model of morality and or ethics? I use the term ethics/morality to mean that the two terms are the same for me.

Assume that some young person reads my OP and is inspired by it to study what morality is all about. Then that person goes on to read a response and s/he sees that the responder ridiculed the OP. This then deflates the idea to study morality. Can the ridicule be considered to have been an amoral act?




#2    TRUEYOUTRUEME

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 10:52 AM

My definition:

Morality is the human determination of right and wrong.

So yes all decisions are moral decisions.  Every decision has a moral component to it.

I am heading out but saw this thread and wanted to give a quick comment.  Great thread!!

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#3    oslove

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 12:53 PM

coberst on Jul 23 2009, 06:36 PM, said:

[...]

Would you say that an act can be a moral or immoral without our being conscious of the matter?  Can a sociopath perform an immoral act?

[...]



For myself there are three kinds of acts which are done consciously and freely:  

Moral acts
Amoral acts
Immoral acts


So all moral acts and all immoral acts and all amoral acts are consciously and freely done by the human agent enacting them.

If there is no consciousness of the action then it is not any one of the three kinds of acts which I enumerate as moral, amoral, immoral.

Moral acts are right as opposed to wrong acts, for example, supporting your parents in their old age.

Amoral acts are neither right nor wrong acts, for example, taking a walk to relax.

Immoral acts are wrong as opposed to right acts, for example, stealing your neighbor's jewels.


Can a sociopath do moral acts, amoral act, immoral acts?

Of course he can, because sociopathy is not insanity; the sociopath just does not have any qualms of conscience, but he is not bereft of the use of reason to know when an act done consciously and freely is wrong, for example, raping someone, when it is right, for example, paying his debts, and when it is amoral, for example, sitting down to relax after exercising with the stationary bike.





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#4    coberst

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 06:56 PM

Where, in American culture, is the domain of knowledge that we would identify as morality studied and taught?

I suspect that if we do not quickly develop a science of morality that will make it possible for us to live together on this planet in a more harmonious manner our technology will help us to destroy the species and perhaps the planet soon.

It seems to me that we have given the subject matter of morality primarily over to religion.  It also seems to me that if we ask the question ‘why do humans treat one another so terribly?’ we will find the answer in this moral aspect of human culture.

The ‘man of maxims’ “is the popular representative of the minds that are guided in their moral judgment solely by general rules, thinking that these will lead them to justice by a ready-made patent method, without the trouble of exerting patience, discrimination, impartiality—without any care to assure themselves whether they have the insight that comes from a hardly-earned estimate of temptation, or from a life vivid and intense enough to have created a wide fellow-feeling with all that is human.” George Eliot The Mill on the Floss

I agree to the point of saying that we have moral instincts, i.e. we have moral emotions.  Without these moral emotions we could not function as social creatures.  These moral emotions are an act of evolution.  I would ague that the instinct for grooming that we see in monkeys is one example of this moral emotion.

We can no longer leave this important matter in the hands of the Sunday-school. Morality must become a top priority for scientific study.





#5    oslove

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 08:16 PM

coberst on Jul 24 2009, 02:56 AM, said:

Where, in American culture, is the domain of knowledge that we would identify as morality studied and taught?

I suspect that if we do not quickly develop a science of morality that will make it possible for us to live together on this planet in a more harmonious manner our technology will help us to destroy the species and perhaps the planet soon.

It seems to me that we have given the subject matter of morality primarily over to religion.  It also seems to me that if we ask the question ‘why do humans treat one another so terribly?’ we will find the answer in this moral aspect of human culture.

[...]



I am not American, but exposed to American culture and ideas and media reports of events in America.


The way I see it, Americans are still in the vast majority believers in religion as the source of morality, whether their religion is Christianity or other systems, but all having a fundamental dictate on human behavior commanding the obligation to not do to others what you don't want others to do unto yourself.

Any religion that does not advocate that kind of a norm for human interactions will not survive in any society where the members want to live safe and peaceful and thus enjoy some measure of happiness, i.e., satisfaction with life.


Since nowadays the state is running things for mankind as opposed to and distinct from the church, namely, men without religion instead of men with religion -- understand however that men without religion here means men who don't publicly profess a religion so as to regard their religion to be in charge of their reason, states like for example America, England, France, Japan, China, etc., they all agree to not do something or to do something in regard to activities that impact on each other, like for example trade relations among themselves, in accordance with their commonly agreed upon 'conventions'.


Who or what is the body enforcing these conventions? The United Nations.

However, since the United Nations does not wield the physical resources to physically invade a country and occupy it within weeks, it is at most only a public relations institution when it declares a state to be acting contrary to the agreed on conventions binding on all members of the United Nations.


Luckily for mankind, the USA is still predominantly Christian and adheres to Christian morality, notwithstanding that it is first at the service of the American people before it goes into any activities at the service of humanity, to prevent humanity from extinguishing itself.

When godless people get to be in power in America, that is the time when peoples of the world should worry and fear and pray to God or Allah or hope that their karma is on balance in regard to their good deeds and their bad deeds, because these godless people no matter how they talk about bringing utopia to mankind will launch into a bloodbath to get rid of humans who are useless to themselves in their pursuit of their kind of utopia.


Yes, I for one maintain that the Christian morality should be the one to prevail over mankind, but not necessarily the Christian religion which however is like a body without a soul if you don't bring in the Christian religion while you embrace Christian morality.


Now I will say something to the credit of atheists of America and of the world, you do serve a good end for mankind, namely, keeping religious peoples on their toes to not get overly power-crazy and use religion as any kind of justification and entitlement for the attainment of your kind of religious utopia.





Oslove





#6    TRUEYOUTRUEME

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 11:55 PM

I agree wholeheartingly that morality is very much neglected by science and that it shouldn't be.

As I said before I belief that every single decision has a moral component to it.  It is only how much emphasis we put on this moral component that lets us realize it is there.  But it is always there on some level of our consciousness.

Many people make the error that morality is the realm of only religion when in reality morality is the fiber of all consciousness and in many the fiber of the entire Universe.

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#7    coberst

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 11:22 AM

I was listening to the radio the other day and the speaker said something to the effect ‘let the market decide the value of our higher education system…and the market appears to think that our higher education system is doing a good job’.

Is it wise to allow the market to set the standard of value for our colleges and universities?

Philosopher, tycoon, philanthropist, author, and international political activist George Soros said in his book “Open Society” that as an anonymous market participant I never had to weigh the social consequences of my action.  “Still my decisions had social consequences…When I sold sterling short in 1992, the Bank of England was on the other side of my transactions, and I was in effect taking money out of the pockets of British taxpayers…Britain would have devalued sterling whether I had been born or not.”

Soros makes clear that he recognizes that the argument ‘If I didn’t do it someone else would’ holds true only for financial markets.  Anonymous market participants are immune from moral considerations as long as they play by the rules.  In this sense financial markets are not immoral; they are amoral.

There is a difference between immorality and amorality.  Amorality makes markets more efficient and without this difference such markets could not flourish.  Soros argues that such an argument applies to the person who considers her or him self as being a moral person or not.

Collective values must be safe guarded by collective political and civic actions and institutions.  The amorality of the markets makes it essential that social values find expression in the rules that govern financial markets.

Rules are made by the authorities and the authorities are chosen by the citizens.  Morality must be safeguarded by the citizens.  

If the citizen fails to meet some minimum level of civic responsibility, is that citizen acting in an amoral manner or in an immoral manner?


#8    behaviour???

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 12:08 PM

View PostTRUEYOUTRUEME, on Jul 24 2009, 06:25 AM, said:

I agree wholeheartingly that morality is very much neglected by science and that it shouldn't be.

As I said before I belief that every single decision has a moral component to it.  It is only how much emphasis we put on this moral component that lets us realize it is there.  But it is always there on some level of our consciousness.

Many people make the error that morality is the realm of only religion when in reality morality is the fiber of all consciousness and in many the fiber of the entire Universe.
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#9    oslove

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 09:37 PM

If you here anyone suggest that science should study morality.


That morality should not be left to religion.



Let us take the example of an act that is everywhere taken by mankind to be immoral, namely, rape.


How would science go about studying rape?


It will employ the scientific method, yes? no?


Perhaps you would like to present some procedure whereby with the scinetific method you are going to study rape.





Oslove


#10    Lt_Ripley

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 11:43 PM

Brain research has shown that it takes about half a second for a person to become aware of an event, thought, emotion, etc. Many bodily activities, speech, thought processes, decision making, imaginings require less than this time for sensory input (if needed) and to react to it.

It has been found that brain activity becomes intense during this half second, then we become aware of the bodily activity, words, thoughts, decisions, and opinions that come from the unconscious part of our brain. In other words these things have already been formed in the unconscious, before they suddenly "pop" into our head and we become aware of them.
The physical changes in your body due to an emotion are happening before you realize you are emotional.  Example: Anger.  Your body is already changing for anger before you know you are angry.
It looks like the conscious "I" is not the origin of these things, but is only a receiver of these things after they have been produced by the unconscious part of the brain.

The question of free-will arises here. Is there such a thing as unconscious free-will? Does free-will really reside only in the unconscious and the conscious part of us is pre-determined?

http://members.shaw....sen/Buckman.htm


#11    oslove

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 11:06 AM

View PostLt_Ripley, on Jul 26 2009, 07:43 AM, said:

[...]

The question of free-will arises here. Is there such a thing as unconscious free-will? Does free-will really reside only in the unconscious and the conscious part of us is pre-determined?

http://members.shaw....sen/Buckman.htm


This is my rational conclusion:

Whether anyone believes in free will or not, society has decided that everyone who is not crazy has free will.

So the only way that society will not punish you for doing something that is illegal which often is also immoral, for example, rape, is that you have recognized expert witnesses like psychologists and psychiatrists certify that you are insane, and therefore society will not punish you for committing rape or unconsented penetration of somebody else's private posterior orifice whether in front or behind.

Why? because insane people do not have the use of free will, that is why.


The socalled defense of insanity is that if you are insane in such a way and to such an extent that you do commit rape or injure and even kill people, then society will not really put you behind bars as punishment -- because you are bereft of free will; but society will put you just the same and keep you in an asylum from which you cannot leave, for the safety of the sane members of society, namely, folks who are not crazy.



Hence, people who want to talk about any possibility of no free will in a human being, let them beware that society will not tolerate them if they should act to the detriment of other people and claim that they did not enjoy free will in so acting to the detriment of other people, like for example committing rape or shooting people for no reason whatsoever of self-defense.

Unless they can bring recognized experts of insanity to certify that they (people who rape or shoot other people without any need for self-defense whatever) are genuinely insane, and hence not in possession of free will and of course do not also have the use of reason.




Oslove


#12    Beckys_Mom

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 01:46 PM

I'd say most are  moral decisions...unless you are me and then they all become risky decisions :lol:

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#13    coberst

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 05:43 PM

View Postoslove, on Jul 25 2009, 09:37 PM, said:

If you here anyone suggest that science should study morality.


That morality should not be left to religion.



Let us take the example of an act that is everywhere taken by mankind to be immoral, namely, rape.


How would science go about studying rape?


It will employ the scientific method, yes? no?


Perhaps you would like to present some procedure whereby with the scinetific method you are going to study rape.





Oslove


Science is the disciplined, systematic, and empirical study of a domain of knowledge.  We have allowed religion to become dominate in teaching morality and thus we are left with this childish Sunday school comprehension of morality.

I am presently studying the book Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts by Alois Riegl.  This is exactly the kind of book we need about morality.  I would say that grammar and science are very similar types of study.


#14    coberst

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 05:51 PM

View PostLt_Ripley, on Jul 25 2009, 11:43 PM, said:

Brain research has shown that it takes about half a second for a person to become aware of an event, thought, emotion, etc. Many bodily activities, speech, thought processes, decision making, imaginings require less than this time for sensory input (if needed) and to react to it.

It has been found that brain activity becomes intense during this half second, then we become aware of the bodily activity, words, thoughts, decisions, and opinions that come from the unconscious part of our brain. In other words these things have already been formed in the unconscious, before they suddenly "pop" into our head and we become aware of them.
The physical changes in your body due to an emotion are happening before you realize you are emotional.  Example: Anger.  Your body is already changing for anger before you know you are angry.
It looks like the conscious "I" is not the origin of these things, but is only a receiver of these things after they have been produced by the unconscious part of the brain.

The question of free-will arises here. Is there such a thing as unconscious free-will? Does free-will really reside only in the unconscious and the conscious part of us is pre-determined?

http://members.shaw....sen/Buckman.htm

Very interesting information.  I would say that we are free within certain boundries.  One of the things that we can control is our habits.  We can learn to develop the habit of fair-mindedness for example.

Fair-mindedness is the corner-stone of CT (Critical Thinking).  Without fair-mindedness there is no Critical Thinking.

To be fair-minded one must be vigilant (consciousness plus intention) of the need to treat all viewpoints alike.  This demands that we adhere to intellectual standards such as accuracy and sound reasoning, which are unaffected by self-interest.

A contrast with fair-mindedness is intellectual self-centeredness.

Fair-mindedness is a challenging task that demands a family of character traits:  intellectual humility, courage, empathy, honesty, perseverance, and a confidence in the value of reason.

Our culture places maximum value not on fair-mindedness but upon self-interest, and maximizing production, and consumption.  

Intellectual humility begins with the recognition that absolute certainty regarding any matter of fact is beyond human capacity.  There exists no mind-independent reality that we have the capacity to know.  We can know only that which is “colored” by our experiences and historical perspective.

Our common sense views, coupled with philosophical tradition and religious dogma, all teach us that such is not the case, that we can find absolute certainty.  This cultural tradition works aggressively against our goal of intellectual humility thus demanding that we must become more intellectually sophisticated in order to gain the level of intellectual humility required.

Intellectual courage is a difficult assignment.  We all tend to place great value on our own opinion, which is more often than not just something that we grabbed as it flew by.  But this is even more of a problem when we are “wedded” to something that we have a strong commitment to, for what ever reason.  Our political affiliation is one example.

Intellectual courage is especially difficult, and even dangerous to our well being when we hold ideas that society considers them to be dangerous; even though we are confident that they are rationally grounded.  Society often punishes severely all forms of nonconformity; the execution of Socrates by the citizens of Athens might serve as a good example.  

By developing this character trait of intellectual courage we will often be ostracized from a group or even a large community.  Such an experience will give us incentive to recognize that most people live their lives in such a manner as to be secure in the middle of the approval of those about us.

Intellectual courage ain’t for sissies!

Intellectual empathy is a consciousness that one must engage the imagination in an effort to intellectually place your self into the shoes of another so as to comprehend that other person as well as possible. To accomplish this transaction we must try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s situation so as to reconstruct that person’s assumptions, premises, and ideas.

It appears to me that civilization is presently constructed on the firm foundation of baked-in bias, that is to say that religion forms the foundation of today’s civilization.  If this is correct one might ask the question ‘can we construct a world on a foundation of reason when we begin with a world where the understanding of and confidence in reason is seldom observed’?

Many of these ideas were gleaned from the book Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life by Richard Paul and Linda Elder


#15    IamsSon

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 06:00 PM

View PostTRUEYOUTRUEME, on Jul 23 2009, 05:52 AM, said:

My definition:

Morality is the human determination of right and wrong.

So yes all decisions are moral decisions.  Every decision has a moral component to it.

I am heading out but saw this thread and wanted to give a quick comment.  Great thread!!
Very well put.  I agree.

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