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Old 03-01-2009, 09:17 PM   #41 (permalink)
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So they're selfish? How can something that someone has no choice but advocate be selfish? Ethics are something we all inherently desire to establish. I wouldn't listen to Ayn Rand about anything, really.
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:26 PM   #42 (permalink)
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The sense of right and wrong are innate. We don't need ethics to know the difference between the two, and I've never said or thought that. Ethics are a collective definition of right and wrong. You could say the 'reason' behind ethics is that it helps to encourage good behavior and provide validation for it, and discourage bad behavior. Ethical dilemmas would, indeed,only be issues as to how good should be done. People argue all the time over what's right or wrong, but as I explained in the "Morality and the Bible" thread, that has a lot to do with corruption of morality via religion or other cultural factors. This is another thing that ethics can help with: attempting to create a moral common ground between various groups.
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since moral dilemmas over what is right and wrong are due to cultural and religious corruption, we must all innately know whether abortion is right or wrong and what the proper ethical treatment for animals is. you might think you innately know the answer to both of these questions, which would explain why you can hold such a view, but since i don't know whether it is wrong to abort an unborn fetus or whether it's wrong to hold an animal in close captivity for most of its life so you can eat it, it must be that the ability to know such things is not innate.
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:33 PM   #43 (permalink)
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this is going to be my last post in this thread

since moral dilemmas over what is right and wrong are due to cultural and religious corruption, we must all innately know whether abortion is right or wrong and what the proper ethical treatment for animals is. you might think you innately know the answer to both of these questions, which would explain why you can hold such a view, but since i don't know whether it is wrong to abort an unborn fetus or whether it's wrong to hold an animal in close captivity for most of its life so you can eat it, it must be that the ability to know such things is not innate.
We all innately have an idea of right and wrong and how to recognize it when we see it. However, religious and cultural corruption can displace these feelings or drown them out. In the case of religion it's probably because our desire to know the answers to big questions is very strong, and when we're offered an answer and then told it requires something of us, we often give in. I don't innately know that abortion is right or wrong or how to treat animals, but I have an idea of in which direction the right answer lies. This is why morality is constantly evolving and changing, and while you may not have decided yet, it is possible for a decision to be made based on your sense of what the right answer should be. The potential to discern between right and wrong decisions as they present themselves is all that matters, and it most certainly is innate.
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Old 03-02-2009, 12:04 AM   #44 (permalink)
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i am in absolute disagreement with the notion that ethics are selfless. in order to deem something to be selfless or selfish, you have to first define 'self', then outline its motives.

humans are animals, and animals (in fact all organisms) are nothing more than complex mechanisms which have evolved to ensure the duplication of DNA molecules. life began as an inorganic, self-replicating molecule, and has evolved by means of a mindless, mechanistic, algorithmic process to the myriad forms we see today. but no living thing is any more than a DNA duplication machine.

the 'motives' of any living creature (if we can make a giant leap and impose a telos onto a process as mindless and mechanistic as self-replication) are therefore ultimately selfish. seemingly selfless acts, such as rare bouts of altruism, or a mother caring for its young, ultimately function only to increase the fitness of an organism, or of other organisms with closely matching DNA. if right and wrong exist on any level at all, it is on this biological level, not on the illusory level of our social or mental 'selves'.

but right and wrong, or good and evil, are still too abstract. really, all we can really talk about is 'promotes DNA replication' and 'inhibits DNA replication'.

the telos of a human being, if we can be said to have one at all, is to reproduce. it is therefore in an individual's best interests to play nice so that one's DNA may be multiplied as many times as possible.

as for this nonsense about innate feelings of right and wrong, this facts quite simply don't support the hypothesis. if this were true, then we would see very strong trends throughout history which show the majority of the global population acting the same way in similar situations.

actually, patterns do emerge: we find repeated instances of war, cruelty, greed, and corruption! ultimately, humans reliably exhibit unabashed selfishness, not good will towards men. it just doesn't add up!

if you want to blame social or religious pressures for all this 'evil', then you're ultimately calling the entire edifice of society an evil thing which we would be better off without!

last but not least, people tend to be forgetting natural 'evils'. what of earthquakes? gravity gone wild? rat-borne bubonic plague? rusty nails that poke without bias? grapes that choke?
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Old 03-02-2009, 04:24 AM   #45 (permalink)
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^I applaud you for your insights into selfishness and evolution of genes. I think that knowledge is crucial to understand many aspects of humanity such as much of our behaviour. However, you must remember that humans are social beings and working in numbers raises the fitness of everyone. One hunter can't take down a mammoth, but 10 or 20 could. Thus, something that looks like altruism does arise out of what is essentially selfishness. This is what explains the "biological morality" and innate sense of right and wrong. As you would understand, killing your own child makes no sense because it's DNA is so close to your own - it has 50% of your genes. But killing someone elses child might not be a good idea either because it's the child of someone whom you are in a community with and who your fitness is partially dependent on. If it is a child from a community competing for the same resources as yours, then the act may make sense from a biological point of view.

So you have some good points, but don't overlook these essentials.
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Old 03-02-2009, 04:53 AM   #46 (permalink)
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yes, good points. i am aware of them, and glossed over the whole thing when i said "it is therefore in an individual's best interests to play nice so that one's DNA may be multiplied as many times as possible."

by this i meant that cooperation can ultimately benefit an individual organism's quest to reproduce.

but in the end, i honestly don't believe any of this. i'm not a materialist, and i don't think that humans can be reduced to mechanisms as i described.

i really don't know what i believe anymore. i read a lot about evolution and life sciences, so i'm inclined to believe what i argued above. but on the other hand, i'm trained in anthropology, so i know how important the role of society is in human endeavors. i'm also well-versed in philosophy which just adds another branch to the tree. and then there's quantum uncertainty which comes along like a chainsaw and cuts the whole damned tree down. what a mess!
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Old 03-02-2009, 05:21 AM   #47 (permalink)
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Just for the sake of chatting a bit about the topic, I think a lot of people find it hard to bridge the ideas of selfishness with practical experience. According to selfish theory, it might make sense to kill another child as I mentioned if that child comes from a competing or hostile community. From that, it sounds like people are cold machines and often, that's how theory describes all organisms - machines that reproduce genes (you wrote it yourself). However, a killing behaviour is not switched on or off like a lightswitch. Instead, we have evolved the multitude of feelings that trigger and motivate us. You're not a robot, so seeing the child won't turn on your killswitch .. but if you were out with your hunting group and you saw a different group of hunters that you'd never seen before take down the mammoth that you and your hunter-friends were going for, that could start feelings of animosity and other things to promote self-preservation (those bastards stole our mammoth!). Those feelings could eventually lead to a war between groups with resulting killings. It doesn't have to, having to fight is also not good for your fitness, so it should only be done if the potential gain by doing so outweighs the potential loss. Thus, a peace tactic is probably more commonly employed.

However, I think people are very community minded and so the same kind of morale does not apply to all people. From a selfish point of view, people you consider from your community deserve a lot more morality on your part than people outside it. When you think about it - a lot. This alienation thinking is very important. It subjectively morally justifies acts that would otherwise be considered gruesome. Soldiers killing others in a war can be one example. For a KKK member, it might justify racism.

I think a bad thing for a community to degenerate into is a group of individuals fighting for their space and resources - where everyone feels like they're on their own instead of a part of a whole where everyone lifts everyone up. Maybe a large community can get comprised of many smaller communities where people belonging to one don't naturally extend the same kind of morale to people from others. Something like that could lure out the "worst" sides of our caveman nature and could well help explain a degeneration of morale in a community.

Needless to say, I lean towards leftist thinking and I think that aside from having very high living standards, the kind of social democratic politics we have in Norway also help make people more community minded. And that in turn help lower crime rates, etc.
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Old 03-02-2009, 05:23 AM   #48 (permalink)
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I don't think reproduction is "the ultimate goal" by any means. While I do see why it could be considered as such, I know that I tend to pull out.
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Old 03-02-2009, 05:25 AM   #49 (permalink)
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I don't think reproduction is "the ultimate goal" by any means. While I do see why it could be considered as such, I know that I tend to pull out.
^The "urge" to reproduce manifests itself as a want for sex, something you probably do feel. In other words, don't blame evolution for coming up with condoms (Seriously, people should know this by now).
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:44 AM   #50 (permalink)
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^I applaud you for your insights into selfishness and evolution of genes. I think that knowledge is crucial to understand many aspects of humanity such as much of our behaviour. However, you must remember that humans are social beings and working in numbers raises the fitness of everyone. One hunter can't take down a mammoth, but 10 or 20 could. Thus, something that looks like altruism does arise out of what is essentially selfishness. This is what explains the "biological morality" and innate sense of right and wrong. As you would understand, killing your own child makes no sense because it's DNA is so close to your own - it has 50% of your genes. But killing someone elses child might not be a good idea either because it's the child of someone whom you are in a community with and who your fitness is partially dependent on. If it is a child from a community competing for the same resources as yours, then the act may make sense from a biological point of view.

So you have some good points, but don't overlook these essentials.
This is along the lines of how I would have responded. When I say that morality is innate, I don't mean that we're born knowing to advocate stem-cell research and give to the poor.
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