< 1 2
 
   
 

Seven Universal Moral Rules?

 
Jefe
 
Avatar
 
 
Jefe
Total Posts:  7082
Joined  15-02-2007
 
 
 
14 March 2019 08:18
 
Poldano - 13 March 2019 11:12 PM

It could be argued that the examples in the following quotes are either too culturally-specific, too detailed, or not focused on in-group interactions.

The other thing was that they seemed light on rules like “don’t kill the stranger in town and serve him for dinner” (violated in the Odyssey by the Cyclops).

How much better would the 10 C’s - and western history be if, instead of referencing mythical dieties the first four were more real-worldly - if they contained proscriptive instructions not to buy and sell people, not to sexualize children, not to rape people, not to be too trusting of clergy hiding behind church beauracracy…

I grant you that the 10 C’ referenced are culturally specific.
I wonder, however, if everyone is equipped to utilize the generalized points in your list.
The authoritarians may have trouble with them, as might insular, discriminatory cultures.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
Avatar
 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
Total Posts:  6725
Joined  08-12-2006
 
 
 
14 March 2019 09:12
 
Poldano - 13 March 2019 11:25 PM

I would not set the bar so far in the direction of self-sacrifice. As I’ve said before, one of the features of an effective moral rule set is its teachability, and one aspect of its teachability is its demonstrable benefit to the one being taught. An acceptable rule need not get you everything you want, but it should make sure you are treated on a par with those you consider your peers. Indoctrination only goes so far, say no farther than early adolescence in most cases. So I would say that win-win situations are moral, or at the very least not immoral. I would also say that there is quantification beyond zero and one on the scale of both mutual benefit and degree of goodness. That is where the rule divide resources fairly applies.

This is probably the crux of our disagreement. The beauty of morality, in my opinion, is that it reconciles self interest with the well-being of others using an intangible carrot and stick. Any time your behavior leads to a net decrease in your own tangible, or material, well-being and an increase in someone else’s, there has to be a motivating factor for engaging in that behavior. The motivating factor—the intangible carrot and stick—is the feeling associated with rightness or wrongness: the warm fuzzy feeling you get from helping others, or the shame and remorse you experience from not helping them, or from taking advantage of them.

Morality isn’t needed for win-win cooperation scenarios; like you say, even if the tangible benefit isn’t obvious, it’s easily demonstrated, or taught. Win-win cooperative behavior is neither morally right or morally wrong; it’s just self-interest.

I think of ethics as the process of deciding what moral rules people ought to follow. Morality is the set of those rules, like the list from the OP. I agree that indoctrination (the process of programming moral rules into the conscience) works best on children. Partly because children’s brains are more malleable than adults’, but also because children aren’t as rational as adults. And moral rules, at least from the standpoint of tangible/material well-being, are irrational. Only the intangible carrot and stick makes moral behavior rational, by putting an intangible thumb on the tangible cost/benefit scale.

 
 
Poldano
 
Avatar
 
 
Poldano
Total Posts:  3333
Joined  26-01-2010
 
 
 
19 March 2019 03:27
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 14 March 2019 09:12 AM
Poldano - 13 March 2019 11:25 PM

I would not set the bar so far in the direction of self-sacrifice. As I’ve said before, one of the features of an effective moral rule set is its teachability, and one aspect of its teachability is its demonstrable benefit to the one being taught. An acceptable rule need not get you everything you want, but it should make sure you are treated on a par with those you consider your peers. Indoctrination only goes so far, say no farther than early adolescence in most cases. So I would say that win-win situations are moral, or at the very least not immoral. I would also say that there is quantification beyond zero and one on the scale of both mutual benefit and degree of goodness. That is where the rule divide resources fairly applies.

This is probably the crux of our disagreement. The beauty of morality, in my opinion, is that it reconciles self interest with the well-being of others using an intangible carrot and stick. Any time your behavior leads to a net decrease in your own tangible, or material, well-being and an increase in someone else’s, there has to be a motivating factor for engaging in that behavior. The motivating factor—the intangible carrot and stick—is the feeling associated with rightness or wrongness: the warm fuzzy feeling you get from helping others, or the shame and remorse you experience from not helping them, or from taking advantage of them.

Morality isn’t needed for win-win cooperation scenarios; like you say, even if the tangible benefit isn’t obvious, it’s easily demonstrated, or taught. Win-win cooperative behavior is neither morally right or morally wrong; it’s just self-interest.

I think of ethics as the process of deciding what moral rules people ought to follow. Morality is the set of those rules, like the list from the OP. I agree that indoctrination (the process of programming moral rules into the conscience) works best on children. Partly because children’s brains are more malleable than adults’, but also because children aren’t as rational as adults. And moral rules, at least from the standpoint of tangible/material well-being, are irrational. Only the intangible carrot and stick makes moral behavior rational, by putting an intangible thumb on the tangible cost/benefit scale.

(1) Your construction only works if all facts and conditions are known to all participants. That is hardly ever the case. Real human decisions always operate in the realm of uncertainty about initial conditions and the likelihood of various outcomes.

(2) Win-win scenarios are not necessarily obvious to those involved in them, even with complete knowledge of the initial conditions and outcome likelihoods. If one of the participants doesn’t understand the mechanics of the win-win, then that person might be unwilling to agree to it. The feel-good and peer-pressure aspects of behavior may then be important contributors to individuals’ decisions.

(3) Even with win-win scenarios, the degree to which each participant wins is always subject to differences in opinion. Going along with the group or agreeing just to avoid further conflict, even if one believes that one is not getting an equitable deal, can be considered moral behaviors. Even you must agree, because they are to some extent altruistic, which you claim moral actions must be.

(4) Which is the intangible carrot and stick, and which is the tangible one? Are the feel-good (or feel-bad) feelings intangible, or are the natural selection drivers of those feel-good feelings intangible? I don’t think either one of them are necessarily intangible. If they are not necessarily intangible, then for you moral behavior would be necessarily irrational. In my opinion, morality would not exist if it were not in some way rational, in general. When a morality does not seem to be rational, it’s most likely because we do not know of or understand its provenance. Note that I leave open the possibility that a moral rule is irrational; I would consider this most likely with a rule that was once rational but no longer is so because of changed conditions, but I leave open the possibility of an irrational choice in the rule’s provenance.

 

 
 
RoseTylerFan
 
Avatar
 
 
RoseTylerFan
Total Posts:  28
Joined  23-05-2018
 
 
 
22 June 2019 12:20
 

I prefer Ted Kaczynski’s 6 principles to this guy’s 7 rules.

1. Do not harm anyone who has not previously harmed you, or threatened to do so.
2. (Principle of self-defense and retaliation) You can harm others in order to forestall harm with which they threaten you, or in retaliation for harm that they have already inflicted on you.
3. One good turn deserves another: If someone has done you a favor, you should be willing to do her or him a comparable favor if and when he or she should need one.
4. The strong should have consideration for the weak.
5. Do not lie.
6. Abide faithfully by any promises or agreements that you make.

https://lib.anarhija.net/library/ted-kaczynski-morality-and-revolution

 
EN
 
Avatar
 
 
EN
Total Posts:  21500
Joined  11-03-2007
 
 
 
22 June 2019 17:00
 

The Unabomber?!?!  Is there another Ted K.?

 
unsmoked
 
Avatar
 
 
unsmoked
Total Posts:  8591
Joined  20-02-2006
 
 
 
23 June 2019 11:20
 
Cheshire Cat - 13 March 2019 11:57 PM

These are great rules if one is spiritually evolved enough to see all humankind as one’s tribe, one’s family. But the bloody history of mankind, tells me at least, that this gentle, altruistic morality frequently ends at the boundaries of one’s village, ethnic tribe, city state or nation. Once one sees those outside “our group” as “the others,” with resources to be taken, (women, livestock, territory, plunder), then that’s where the moral rules listed above end, or at least, become dramatically perverted. They mutate into a set of similar, but very different rules in spirit; rules that in a myopic, parochial way, have their own twisted morality and inner “logic.”

1. Help your family — by killing those considered foreigners and taking their resources.
2. Help your group — by showing the power of force and violence, because others will think twice before attacking us.
3. Returning favors — as in “an eye for an eye,” and a tit-for-tat reciprocity.
4. Be brave — kill, rape and pillage for the love and glory of your village, ethnic tribe, city state or nation.
5. Defer to superiors — one needs generals and other authorities to command the troops and discipline must be kept.
6. Divide resources fairly — the spoils of war must be divided for the benefit of all.
7. Respect others property — but only within your own tribe; we cannot tolerate inner strife and division.

In the Bible, Numbers 31 - notice that even God got a share when the spoils of war were divided.  (#6 - divide resources fairly)

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+31&version=CEV

God:  Wait a minute!  Wait a minute!  Stop the music!  He got one more virgin than I got!

Soldier:  Did not!

God:  Did!  Look, I’ve only got 31, he’s got 33!

Moses:  Stop it!.  You there, give God one of those virgins!

Soldier #2:  I’ve only got 29!

 

[ Edited: 23 June 2019 11:29 by unsmoked]
 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
Avatar
 
 
Brick Bungalow
Total Posts:  5104
Joined  28-05-2009
 
 
 
24 June 2019 22:28
 

For me to make sense of any essay on morality I need to understand the emphasis. I need to know what the author intends to persuade me of. Whether its the nature of some system as observed from the outside- moral anthropology - or whether its intended to persuade some behavior - moral argument.

Frequently I read pieces where the emphasis is unclear and I’m therefore unable to evaluate the premises.

What is the author trying to convince us of?

 
Poldano
 
Avatar
 
 
Poldano
Total Posts:  3333
Joined  26-01-2010
 
 
 
28 June 2019 16:55
 
Brick Bungalow - 24 June 2019 10:28 PM

For me to make sense of any essay on morality I need to understand the emphasis. I need to know what the author intends to persuade me of. Whether its the nature of some system as observed from the outside- moral anthropology - or whether its intended to persuade some behavior - moral argument.

Frequently I read pieces where the emphasis is unclear and I’m therefore unable to evaluate the premises.

What is the author trying to convince us of?

It’s possible that the authors aren’t trying to convince us of anything, but are simply bringing interesting research findings up for consideration and discussion.

However, BB, your main question does emphasize the general muddiness of thinking about this topic. The muddiness can be seen in many of the follow-on posts, showing that even generally sharp thinkers can have trouble separating the empirical facts about human moral thinking and their own preferences in the way of moral thinking. This is probably abetted by the situation in which morality is learned, as symbolically-transmitted general rules that are either too concrete to classify all contingencies or too abstract to easily apply to any contingencies.

Getting back to my first sentence, we as a rule do seem to reflexively treat any discussion of morality as either an implicit criticism of our own morality or an opportunity to correct someone else’s presumed morality.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
Avatar
 
 
Brick Bungalow
Total Posts:  5104
Joined  28-05-2009
 
 
 
01 July 2019 08:16
 
Poldano - 28 June 2019 04:55 PM

However, BB, your main question does emphasize the general muddiness of thinking about this topic. The muddiness can be seen in many of the follow-on posts, showing that even generally sharp thinkers can have trouble separating the empirical facts about human moral thinking and their own preferences in the way of moral thinking. This is probably abetted by the situation in which morality is learned, as symbolically-transmitted general rules that are either too concrete to classify all contingencies or too abstract to easily apply to any contingencies.
.

I cannot discern the intention of the article but your OP seems to be the former so I’ll try and respond to that.

I like that it isn’t dogmatic. One beneficial attribute of moral prescriptions is exactly that they be universalizable. (as opposed to universal) By avoiding explicit prescription and prohibition these axioms allow for interpretation and intention. They are flexible enough to allow for compromise and cooperation. In contrast to more dogmatic lists of rules.

Another thing I wonder is whether universal rules are a starter given the fact that communities do sometimes have genuinely different objectives. Once you get past survival and propagation that is. Is there some kind of biological directed internal witness that marries our intuitions and makes cross-cultural cooperation feasible? Or is there a hard stop when two communities actually have goals in opposition? This I have no idea about. I think there is evidence to support both notions.

There is also evidence that we are wired for a certain amount of protracted hostility and conflict for-its-own-sake. A lot of culture seem formed by tribalism and specifically militaristic tribalism. I can make sense of bravery in the face of natural threats but human beings are their own predator. Our bravery is necessary precisely because the axioms that ought to inspire cooperation have failed. Or maybe they haven’t failed. Maybe protracted conflict is actually necessary for our biological and cultural fitness. We are not meant to end war. We need it as a source of significance and to thin our herd. Again, I have no idea of this is true but looking at our species through a long lens I think its the kind of repugnant conclusion we need to evaluate seriously.

 

 
unsmoked
 
Avatar
 
 
unsmoked
Total Posts:  8591
Joined  20-02-2006
 
 
 
01 July 2019 12:48
 

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/preview-the-nuremberg-prosecutor/

CBS 60 Minutes repeated this episode last night.  When Leslie Stahl asked this 90+ year-old who had prosecuted Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials (he had records to prove they had murdered countless people) if they were evil monsters - he asked her it the man who dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima was an evil monster.  He said these Nazis were patriots doing what their government asked them to do.  He said that war makes ordinary people into monsters.  You can certainly get a sense of that if you read ‘KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES’ by Nick Turse. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kill-anything-that-moves-the-real-american-war-in-vietnam-by-nick-turse/2013/01/25/f6f8db0c-5e95-11e2-90a0-73c8343c6d61_story.html?noredirect=on&utm;_term=.4d82687ade54

“With his urgent but highly readable style, Turse takes us through this landscape of failed policies, government mendacity and Vietnamese anguish, a familiar topography for those steeped in the many histories — the best ones by journalists — of this 1964-75 debacle. But Turse is up to something different and even more provocative: He delves into the secret history of U.S.-led atrocities. He has brought to his book an impressive trove of new research — archives explored and eyewitnesses interviewed in the United States and Vietnam. With superb narrative skill, he spotlights a troubling question: Why, with all the evidence collected by the military at the time of the war, were atrocities not prosecuted?”

Seven Universal Moral Rules?  If there are such things, kiss them goodbye in warfare.

But what if Moses, he of the Ten Commandments, was Commander in Chief?

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+31&version=NIV

 

[ Edited: 01 July 2019 12:54 by unsmoked]
 
 
Jb8989
 
Avatar
 
 
Jb8989
Total Posts:  6373
Joined  31-01-2012
 
 
 
07 July 2019 07:35
 

I missed this thread. It’s pretty interesting. I always casually thought of moral reasoning and moral behavior as two separate categories. After reading this thread, I figured out that I do that because I also treat self-interest as its own consideration. For example, a person is faced with a typical moral dilemma, they have (1) their “should-do’s,” which is the moral reasoning they grew up with, and (2) what they actually wind up doing, which is their moral behavior mixed in with whatever compromise their self-interest led them to.

 
 
Jefe
 
Avatar
 
 
Jefe
Total Posts:  7082
Joined  15-02-2007
 
 
 
07 July 2019 11:06
 
Jb8989 - 07 July 2019 07:35 AM

I missed this thread. It’s pretty interesting. I always casually thought of moral reasoning and moral behavior as two separate categories. After reading this thread, I figured out that I do that because I also treat self-interest as its own consideration. For example, a person is faced with a typical moral dilemma, they have (1) their “should-do’s,” which is the moral reasoning they grew up with, and (2) what they actually wind up doing, which is their moral behavior mixed in with whatever compromise their self-interest led them to.

I’m always reminded of a scene in one of the new star trek movies, when Young Spock is learning in the pit of education.
One of his response is that (an action) is morally laudable, while not being a morally necessity.

I think sometimes, during these conversations, we miss out on the ‘optional, but respectable’ behaviours, and their corollary, the ‘optional, but non-respectable’ behaviours.

 
 
Garret
 
Avatar
 
 
Garret
Total Posts:  473
Joined  16-01-2019
 
 
 
07 July 2019 16:26
 
unsmoked - 01 July 2019 12:48 PM

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/preview-the-nuremberg-prosecutor/

CBS 60 Minutes repeated this episode last night.  When Leslie Stahl asked this 90+ year-old who had prosecuted Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials (he had records to prove they had murdered countless people) if they were evil monsters - he asked her it the man who dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima was an evil monster.  He said these Nazis were patriots doing what their government asked them to do.  He said that war makes ordinary people into monsters.  You can certainly get a sense of that if you read ‘KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES’ by Nick Turse. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kill-anything-that-moves-the-real-american-war-in-vietnam-by-nick-turse/2013/01/25/f6f8db0c-5e95-11e2-90a0-73c8343c6d61_story.html?noredirect=on&utm;_term=.4d82687ade54

“With his urgent but highly readable style, Turse takes us through this landscape of failed policies, government mendacity and Vietnamese anguish, a familiar topography for those steeped in the many histories — the best ones by journalists — of this 1964-75 debacle. But Turse is up to something different and even more provocative: He delves into the secret history of U.S.-led atrocities. He has brought to his book an impressive trove of new research — archives explored and eyewitnesses interviewed in the United States and Vietnam. With superb narrative skill, he spotlights a troubling question: Why, with all the evidence collected by the military at the time of the war, were atrocities not prosecuted?”

Seven Universal Moral Rules?  If there are such things, kiss them goodbye in warfare.

But what if Moses, he of the Ten Commandments, was Commander in Chief?

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+31&version=NIV

 

A similar concept came up in another thread, in regards to what would happen to the navy SEAL that was on trial.

It’s such a common phenomenon throughout history, that while I wouldn’t attribute it to “human nature,” but more about how the leaders of powerful empires treat crimes committed by those who enforce their will abroad.  French, British, Roman, etc, soldiers who committed what would be classified as crimes within the metropole have so rarely actually been punished that those who are punished are an aberration.  An empire has to justify it’s actions in the place to begin with.  Primarily it is structured around creating a dichotomy between the metropole and the periphery, and placing each within a hierarchy.

If we of Morally Righteous Empire are superior to the people of Primitive Lazy Land, then our soldiers aren’t really guilty of crimes, that’s just how you have to treat those people.  If anything, it is the people of Primitive Lazy Land’s fault for infecting our soldier with their barbaric and tribal nature.

You can see it in the 7 moral rules in the OP.  Definitions of the in group and out group, along with basic codes of fairness.  A sense of fairness is likely a defining trait of social species.  Experiments with primates, dogs, rats, and crows have all shown that these other (quite social) animals all have basic concepts of fairness that we can actually test for.  The specifics of how this fairness is determined and exhibited can differ between species, but it seems to be a defining trait for whether a species has a strong social element to their existence.  It is essentially a sense just like our vision or hearing.  As a species we have evolved with a basic ability to determine whether or not members of our community are treating other members fairly.  How that sense is honed and used varies based on culture, since we are a species that relies heavily on learning.  Another analogous example would be speech.  Typically, we are born primed to learn how to speak and communicate, but the specifics of how that actually develops depends on the culture.

 
Poldano
 
Avatar
 
 
Poldano
Total Posts:  3333
Joined  26-01-2010
 
 
 
13 July 2019 01:21
 

I’ll add a little more fuel, because I don’t think the discussion has played out yet.

I read the two articles—the commentary article and the article about which the comments were made—with my bias that morality is a human work-in-progress in full operation. I see in the distilled common set of rules attempts to rationalize the competing demands of self-interest and group-interest. I see in the work of moral philosophers starting in the Axial Age attempts to extend group-interest rules to non-group members, or the universe at large if you will. I see the original article (not the commentary) as a work of science attempting to say something about the human moral work-in-progress, even if it doesn’t explicitly recognize it as a work-in-progress. I see the commentary article as treacle that doesn’t quite get it, and mixes things up the way most people do.

I also see what’s left off the list of rules as significant as well. There are some things we feel a need for that we cannot yet articulate in a form that is acceptable to all, and perhaps cannot even conceive of well enough to attempt to articulate.

 
 
Jb8989
 
Avatar
 
 
Jb8989
Total Posts:  6373
Joined  31-01-2012
 
 
 
07 August 2019 10:16
 

The issue is that most people are aware on some level that self interest and altruism have the potential to conflict significantly - especially when considering out-group tastes and preferences.

A moral standard that might control for that would look something like a spin on utilitarianism - say: “morality maximizes the greatest amount of happiness for the most amount of people regardless of self-interest.”

The problem then being that it puts emotional considerations at the forefront of moral analyses. And since they’re not visible and easily fakable, it parts ways from a more objective standard.

 
 
 < 1 2