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If you want to get truly pedantic about it, "right" and "wrong" are feelings, emotions, responses generated in the limbic system based upon genetic and environmental factors (neuroplasticity, previous memories, etc). While the environment can modify this to some degree, many facets of human emotion, "right" and "wrong" feelings, etc arise from genetic determinism, driven by evolution to enhance personal and social survival. So I think things aren't quite as "relative" as many suspect. Certainly, other aspects of morality are much cognitive in nature, especially the suppression of impulses upon the evaluation of consequences, that in turn eventually change the way the limbic system itself reacts. The stronger the impulses, the more difficult the suppression; hence why men, especially those with high T levels, tend to wind up in prison a lot -- androgen induced hypertrophy of the amygdala. But no, I don't really see how morality is completely relative.

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A thing is not right or wrong in and of itself. Is murder wrong if a killing happens during a war or in self defense? Is murder wrong if the act is in revenge to an offense? If the situation dictates the morality of the act thought or word then the thing is not inherently right or wrong in and of its self. If murder occurs in revenge or just for "kicks? does that serve you? The answer is obvious. The act of murder is not right or wrong in and of itself. did the act serve you? Depends on what your trying to do.

Many elderly lay wasting away in nursing home all across this country. These residents have no chance of regaining a viable independent life. Yet Our medical institutions keep these people alive at all cost. Its viewed as Immoral to let grandma or grandpa die in peace, to end the suffering. Feeding tubes and round the clock nursing care keep their bodies alive. Is it good to keep them alive? is it right to allow that life to continue? We would put a dog or horse down in such conditions but not our aging parents. Is it moral to keep one alive in such conditions? Depends on what your trying to do. Murder or life just is. Is it the "situation" that determines its rightness or wrongness and not the act itself?

If your going from NY to Florida and travel to Kansas on the way. is it right or wrong? Does it serve you to go through Kansas? depends on what your trying to do.

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If you want to get truly pedantic about it, "right" and "wrong" are feelings, emotions, responses generated in the limbic system based upon genetic and environmental factors (neuroplasticity, previous memories, etc). While the environment can modify this to some degree, many facets of human emotion, "right" and "wrong" feelings, etc arise from genetic determinism, driven by evolution to enhance personal and social survival. So I think things aren't quite as "relative" as many suspect. Certainly, other aspects of morality are much cognitive in nature, especially the suppression of impulses upon the evaluation of consequences, that in turn eventually change the way the limbic system itself reacts. The stronger the impulses, the more difficult the suppression; hence why men, especially those with high T levels, tend to wind up in prison a lot -- androgen induced hypertrophy of the amygdala. But no, I don't really see how morality is completely relative.

 

 

 

Ahh... Not sure where exactly you are going with the genetics end of things, but I see morality being more a combination of empathy and social pressure than anything else. But we might be saying the same thing.

 

Regarding the relativity of it, I have difficulty thinking of an action that is considered "wrong" that has not at some time or place been considered "right".

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Ahh... Not sure where exactly you are going with the genetics end of things, but I see morality being more a combination of empathy and social pressure than anything else. But we might be saying the same thing.

 

Regarding the relativity of it, I have difficulty thinking of an action that is considered "wrong" that has not at some time or place been considered "right".

 

But morality is action from intent, is it not?

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But morality is action from intent, is it not?

 

 

Right, and I think that intent is frequently informed by empathy, and social pressures, or at least modulated after the fact by those forces.

 

Basically, anything I don't do because it is "wrong", I do because I either have empathy towards the victim, or I have been taught since childhood not to do it, or I fear the potential punishment of the action.

 

(I hope thats an answer to where you were going with that..)

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But morals change over time. Morals of 2-3 thousand years ago would not be viewed the same today.

My point is we are making it all up as we go. The discussion logically leads to one of theology as the standard.

According to Wikipedia encyclopedia:

 

Judeo-Christian is a term used to describe the body of concepts and values which are thought to be held in common by Judaism and Christianity, and typically considered (sometimes along with classical Greco-Roman civilization) a fundamental basis for Western legal codes and moral values. In particular, the term refers to the common Old Testament/Tanakh (which is a basis of both moral traditions, including particularly the Ten Commandments); and implies a common set of values present in the modern Western World.

 

Our morals are decided by a standard by which most of our society agree upon. And THAT is the key. We must agree.Do we as a whole agree to those standards. Yet in each society those standards change or alter to varying degrees.

It is the views/common perspective, which see a thing as right or wrong...not the act, word or thought themselves.

Does it serve society to make the taking of a life wrong: Yes

Does it serve a government to make taking of a life right in times of war: Yes

Then logic dictates the act of taking a life or any act, be it viewed good or bad, is not in and of itself.

Moral principle is a state of human perspective not ultimate reality.

In the beginning post it was stated in his opinion that "religion is a tool of morality". I think it is the opposite.

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Right. It does change. But it also stays the same, because there's biological underpinnings underlying feelings of "right" and "wrong" which are found in the (relatively) simplistic limbic system, and genetics drive a large part of that. I think when people talk about moral progress, they talk about the progress made to include more dissimilar people into our "tribe", people we treat as equals, "you" rather than "it". But the capability to treat someone as either will always exist within us.

 

Group morals change the lens in which we interpret religion, and religion changes societal morals as well-- both effect each other. I think you'll find in history when a certain culture adopts a religion, it does so in a unique way and is also effected by the moral philosophy of that religion to some degree as well. Confirmation bias, perhaps.

 

I'm not making the argument it's wholly driven by genetics, society and the conscious mind do play important roles, but the roles they play are all based on these systems underlying feelings of morality, and they aren't infinitely neuroplastic. So from a biological standpoint I just can't accept total relativity of morality. Much like beauty.

 

Personally my definition of morality includes both conscious and unconscious elements. There are these feelings of right and wrong, many of which are innate to us from the structure of the brain and "primal" empathy via mirror neurons, and there is also the role of the mPFC/OFC in suppressing things that feel right or wrong that we deem would harm us based on society's standards-- but even then, that is driven also by anxiety, guilt, shame, embarrassment etc so the limbic system is still involved. And we can change these reactions and feelings to some degree, but I think a lot of the time we simply modify our reaction to certain things, rather than the system as a whole, which is a lot more difficult (though possible as fMRI studies with Tibetan monks show; literally, differential hemispheric activation of various emotions). And of course there are also fear and anger that can suppress these reactions, or arise partially from them. (consider the studies where people are asked to accept an unfair split of money, take it or leave it, and don't accept anything to "punish" the unfairness, even though rationally they lose money they would otherwise gain.)

 

One of the stumbling blocks here imo is this is largely emotion-driven, and yet when we discuss it we use cold, hard logic and rationalizations... but the emotional aspects of this make it a bit more "stimulus-response" based on previous conditioning and genetic factors, which you aren't going to find in most logical arguments. In the end, right and wrong are simply words describing feelings.

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I have not considered a link between morality and any biological origin. If there is in fact a biological Etiology to moral law, it may have something to do with the fear of biological death. Death and (the fear there of)in fact does set a precedent to all law. I don't feel it is the origin. Fear would be IMO the origin to many laws of our early ancestors. The fear of retribution of a GOD or Gods is a true origin to our current laws.

I think your saying there is a kind of instinct much like what many mammals are born with, that dictates behavior. Humans have grown far more intellectually than to be governed by a biological instinct. Most men would agree that a male instinct would be to have sex with any woman they are attracted to. Our law forbids such behavior. So I would have to say, for the most part, our society has set up its standards of values according to function, ie. "what works" for the greater good of all rather than a biological impulse to act in a given manner. We have far to go as a species as far as learning about "what works" for the common good. Our governments need to learn that if you have a hammer and hit your neighbors toe he will get a bigger hammer and strike yours. In other words if we learn what we do or fail to do to/for another we as a society do or fail to do to ourselves. I'm not saying your wrong, but I disagree in regards to a biological imperative.

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Nah, it's not fear. It's the feeling of right and wrong themselves, the whole underlying aspect of any code of morality. Do you will to feel right or wrong? No. You just do. And that is because they arise from the limbic system of the brain.

 

Go Google mirror neurons and look up some of the studies on an "unfair" distribution of money. I think you'll find there's a very strong basis for common feelings of right or wrong that underlie everything here.

 

All these discussions try to apply logic and rationalizations to a decision process that is primarily made with emotion. While there is indeed logic in how the limbic system works, the high-level decision process based upon emotion isn't usually the paragon of a rational argument.

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No I think you way of with a biological moral link. That view is to simplistic.

As far as how I feel... that is taught. Im taught what to fear, what to find pleasure in and how to think. Morality is a learned behavior. much like prejudices are learned. If we all went on how we feel as the basis of our morality, then we as a species would still be in caves. There will come a time when our species becomes evolved enough to exist without laws to govern our behavior but not today.

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I think Frangible's argument is interesting, but I'm just not seeing the empirical evidence for morality being of uh..low flexibility. Even a cursory view of human history shows a dramatic shifting and range of moral behaviors. Can anyone provide an example of a behavior that is considered wrong in every situation, at any place, and at any time in human history? And while yes, there tends to be a bell curve of change, with a certain set of moral behaviors that tend to stay pretty static, (all things considered) I don't see how that precludes morality being, by nature, relative. Clustering patterns tend to show up in all complex systems.

 

I agree that morality is largely emotionally driven, and that the social pressure and empathy that serve as motive forces for morality have strong roots in genetics. So I'm not sure if we are really disagreeing too much in that department.

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So all of your emotions arise by will alone? You would not have emotions if you were not taught to have them?

No I,m not saying emotions arise by simple will. I believe its is both normal and natural for humans(us...LOL Im human too) to be loving and caring. If that is true (that humans are loving by nature), why do they/us have to have a moral code...what happened to our natural tendencies? We Learn to compete, to judge, to hate, to get even.... thats my point.

In recent experiments with infant monkey babies where taken away from there mother at birth and never given a chance to nurse or have any contact with another monkey. Resulting in a very dysfunctional ,withdrawn adult monkey. I don't think any animal is totally "hardwired" to have any behavior as you suggest. Emotions, social conduct, as well as aggression and lack of empathy is a behavior that must be taught. I've said it before: In the absence of that which is not, that which is-- is not. Remember my white room analogy.

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I don't see how that precludes morality being, by nature, relative. Clustering patterns tend to show up in all complex systems.

 

Right, I'm not saying it's totally hardwired, just that it's driven by emotions that tend to be hardwired to some degree (but also affected by memory and neuroplasticity). I'm saying it's not totally relative, either.

 

I agree that morality is largely emotionally driven, and that the social pressure and empathy that serve as motive forces for morality have strong roots in genetics. So I'm not sure if we are really disagreeing too much in that department.

 

Indeed.

 

No I,m not saying emotions arise by simple will. I believe its is both normal and natural for humans(us...LOL Im human too) to be loving and caring. If that is true (that humans are loving by nature), why do they/us have to have a moral code...

 

We like to back our emotions up with logic... makes us feel rational? ;)

 

what happened to our natural tendencies? We Learn to compete, to judge, to hate, to get even.... thats my point.

 

Do we really learn these things? How about animals raised without parental guidance that display these behaviors and emotions? The amygdala does most of these things automatically, inflecting emotion based upon past memories and the degree of stress that was present when they were created.

 

In recent experiments with infant monkey babies where taken away from there mother at birth and never given a chance to nurse or have any contact with another monkey. Resulting in a very dysfunctional ,withdrawn adult monkey. I don't think any animal is totally "hardwired" to have any behavior as you suggest.

 

Sounds like they're hardwired to be pretty fucked up if they're isolated!

 

Emotions, social conduct, as well as aggression and lack of empathy is a behavior that must be taught.

 

So emotions have to be taught? How about if I hatch an animal from an egg, one that doesn't go insane like an isolated monkey, and it displays emotion? Social conduct is a combination of many things, some very basic and limbic in nature, others from the neocortex. Empathy is quite natural as well-- as can be shown by mirror neurons and autism.

 

I've said it before: In the absence of that which is not, that which is-- is not. Remember my white room analogy.

 

The human brain does not work on logic alone, Mr. Spock!

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Oh, and another fun fact here: in people with a damaged amygdala-PFC pathway (from cancer or whatever), they can make decisions, but all of their decisions are completely horrible and ruin their lives. For example, one dude had surgery for brain cancer where this pathway was destroyed, and though he tested normally on an IQ test, he soon lost his wife and any job he could get. Why? Because so much of our decision making is weighted with emotion. And even on the high level, rational logic performed by the PFC uses emotional judgments from the amygdala to weight which choices are better or worse than others. So even when you consider things "rationally", are they truly free from emotional influence of the limbic system?

 

This might also relate back to the unfair distribution of money studies I cited earlier. In it, a person is faced with either accepting a grossly unfair split of money, or their sole alternative is to "stick it to the man" and deny both them and the other getting the bulk of the split any money at all. (pretty much all the time, they end up denying both money, even though they walk away poorer due to it) So I think within these emotional judgments of "right" and "wrong" is also perhaps some drive towards balance.

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Can anyone provide an example of a behavior that is considered wrong in every situation, at any place, and at any time in human history?

 

 

Ishtar??

 

Even the Jews washed their hands of that.

 

 

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Ishtar??

 

Even the Jews washed their hands of that.

 

 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Par Deus! He's here all week folks! Tip your waitress, and try the veal. "

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Oh, and another fun fact here: in people with a damaged amygdala-PFC pathway (from cancer or whatever), they can make decisions, but all of their decisions are completely horrible and ruin their lives. For example, one dude had surgery for brain cancer where this pathway was destroyed, and though he tested normally on an IQ test, he soon lost his wife and any job he could get. Why? Because so much of our decision making is weighted with emotion. And even on the high level, rational logic performed by the PFC uses emotional judgments from the amygdala to weight which choices are better or worse than others. So even when you consider things "rationally", are they truly free from emotional influence of the limbic system?

 

This might also relate back to the unfair distribution of money studies I cited earlier. In it, a person is faced with either accepting a grossly unfair split of money, or their sole alternative is to "stick it to the man" and deny both them and the other getting the bulk of the split any money at all. (pretty much all the time, they end up denying both money, even though they walk away poorer due to it) So I think within these emotional judgments of "right" and "wrong" is also perhaps some drive towards balance.

 

Funny isn't it, even in discussing the right and wrong of morality.. there is no right or wrong.

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Funny isn't it, even in discussing the right and wrong of morality.. there is no right or wrong.

 

 

Has anyone done a right-wing bumper sticker using something like "Right or Wrong" (i.e. substitute "wrong" for "left")???

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Oh, and another fun fact here: in people with a damaged amygdala-PFC pathway (from cancer or whatever), they can make decisions, but all of their decisions are completely horrible and ruin their lives. For example, one dude had surgery for brain cancer where this pathway was destroyed, and though he tested normally on an IQ test, he soon lost his wife and any job he could get. Why? Because so much of our decision making is weighted with emotion. And even on the high level, rational logic performed by the PFC uses emotional judgments from the amygdala to weight which choices are better or worse than others. So even when you consider things "rationally", are they truly free from emotional influence of the limbic system?

 

This might also relate back to the unfair distribution of money studies I cited earlier. In it, a person is faced with either accepting a grossly unfair split of money, or their sole alternative is to "stick it to the man" and deny both them and the other getting the bulk of the split any money at all. (pretty much all the time, they end up denying both money, even though they walk away poorer due to it) So I think within these emotional judgments of "right" and "wrong" is also perhaps some drive towards balance.

 

Everything is feeling, and emotion is reactions to feelings.

 

When I first started building my model of 'self' - before those studies were even done - I realised this and it was most fruitful. The brain has evolved by modifying a feeling self - my realisation aged 19, and these thoughts led on simultaneously to that, and the notion of mirror neurons. Everything is built around good and bad sensations - pain, anxiety, fear, terror, plain discomfort, and states of pleasure. So naturally cautionary processes have to go through a fear registering system.

 

Morality ultimately relates to a system of emotional plea bargaining and trading to obtain more resources from the group.

 

That's why it so often sucks, and yet, our natural communal instincts, thanks to the way our self is formed of others, we are stiill able to act in the interests of the group, and use morality to group benefit.

 

Without that, you or I could not have evolved a sensitivity to it.

 

Anger is also gated around social cues, and morals are used to help justify it to others and garner support, to reduce the likelihood of serious conflict, forcing down the opponent.

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Funny isn't it, even in discussing the right and wrong of morality.. there is no right or wrong.

 

Certainly there is. How do you think you feel "right" and "wrong" within your brain? Magic? Mysical energy sparklies? Small rats? You can get hooked up to a fMRI and find out which regions are specifically involved.

 

"Nuh uh" isn't really a very effective rebuttal to neuroscience.

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