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Thread: Is there a Rational Ground for Morality?

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    Is there a Rational Ground for Morality?

    Is there a Rational Ground for Morality?

    There can be no morality without law but there can be law without morality.

    Law can create particular obligations but law cannot create a law that dictates an obligation to obey law. Law can punish but cannot create the general obligation to obey law. Such an obligation comes via moral character. “Morality must be distinguished from self-interest, although the two can often coincide…What is the rational ground for morality and its obligation?”

    The rational ground for morality rests upon the need for mutual cooperation within a community. With mutual cooperation comes mutual dependence. Mutual cooperation demands trust, which relies upon honesty. Honesty implies obligation. Violence destroys cooperation.

    Cooperation is essential for social life; only if we wish to withdraw into isolation can we afford to ignore cooperation. Empirically we can find cooperation within every community. Morality is about human relationships thus empirically we can find both the need and presence of morality in all communities.

    Morality exists in all communities but it has many variables and much diversity. Three factors are important here: differences in religion, differences in politics, and differences in production and economic relations.

    “Certain moral commitments with their attendant obligation are necessary for any kind of human co-operation whatever. These must first be acknowledged before there can be other values which vary. This is an a priori not an empirical thesis.” By definition, a group of individuals without human co-operation is no community at all.

    A diversity of moral codes within a community can be accepted but primary loyalty to all within the community must be to the community and not to particular groups or classes within the community. Those values that unite must be more important than those that divide.

    A community is a group committed to the rule of law, which entails three specific principles of law: the law is supreme with equality and freedom under the law. Legal rules are supreme and all members are subjected to and protected by those rules.

    Public interest, when properly understood, forms the “rational basis of both government and politics”.


    Quotes from The Morality of Politics edited by Bhikhu Parekh & R. N. Berki

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    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    There can be no morality without law but there can be law without morality.
    Can't agree with that at all - morality is independent of law, but law is dependent upon morality.

    Thorny general question, but I'm pretty comfortable that what we describe as "morality" is simply the result of hard wired instinct + several dozen millennia of socially-acquired human constructs.
    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

    Anon

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Morality is dependent on society, society, based on its moral values, as prescribed by its desire to maintain the status quo, creates law as a way of enforcing what is "moral", also known is what is most beneficial at the time for the ruling classes. The Rule of law, for instance, isn't naturally moral, but moral in the sense that it keeps people from rebelling and destroying the status quo, by offering them more rights. In this sense, as society progresses, morality becomes more populist, or less populist, depending on the power structures of society.

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    Humans are social animals. We can survive only within a community. Civil law is a necessity for the existence of a community. For civil law to function properly requires the members of the community to feel obliged to abide by law, i.e. the obligation to cooperate. This obligation to abide by law is the moral instinct.

    “Certain moral commitments with their attendant obligation are necessary for any kind of human co-operation whatever. These must first be acknowledged before there can be other values which vary. This is an a priori not an empirical thesis.” By definition, a group of individuals without human co-operation is no community at all.

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    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    Humans are social animals. We can survive only within a community.
    Are you sure? I think it would be difficult to pin that down. Communities offer better chances of survival, but tribal outcasts often survive alone.

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    Civil law is a necessity for the existence of a community. For civil law to function properly requires the members of the community to feel obliged to abide by law, i.e. the obligation to cooperate. This obligation to abide by law is the moral instinct.

    “Certain moral commitments with their attendant obligation are necessary for any kind of human co-operation whatever. These must first be acknowledged before there can be other values which vary. This is an a priori not an empirical thesis.” By definition, a group of individuals without human co-operation is no community at all.
    I'm not sure this is any different to what happens in elephant/lion/etc communities.
    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

    Anon

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
    Are you sure? I think it would be difficult to pin that down.

    I am not sure of anything. In my head everything is up for grabs. That is not to say that I am not convinced about many things but certainty is not in my play book.

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    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Ha! You have the same rule book as me.

    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

    Anon

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    I have a constantly changing attitude toward morality. My views are changing because I am constantly studying subject matter that is related to the problem of morality. In fact as I study these matters I find that the most important concerns of sapiens is morality based.

    I have a cartoon figure that my son has crated for me that speaks to my general attitude toward morality. The figure has an Arnold-like upper torso set on two spindle weak veracious veined legs. The upper torso is our ‘man of science’ and the lower body represents our ‘science of man’, i.e. morality. We are rapidly running out the clock on human survival unless we quickly develop a moral code that will allow us to live together.

    I suspect that almost all of us would behave uniformly when encountering face-to-face with another person’s misfortune—we would all feel instant sympathy. We are born with ‘sympathetic vibrations’--we often automatically tear-up in all the same situations. However there seems to be two moral concepts that determine many social-political situations.

    “The two main concepts of ethics are those of the right and the good; the concept of a morally worthy person is, I believe, derived from them.” This quote and any others are from “A Theory of Justice” by John Rawls.

    It appears that both philosophy and common sense distinguish between the concepts ‘right’ and ‘good’. The interrelationship of these two concepts in many minds will determine what is considered to be ethical/moral behavior. Most citizens in a just society consider that rights “are taken for granted and the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests.” The Constitution of the United States defines the rights of all citizens, which are considered to be sacrosanct (sacred or holy).

    Many consider that the “most rational conception of justice is utilitarian…a society is properly arranged when its institutions maximize the net balance of satisfaction…It is natural to think that rationality is maximizing something and that in morals it must be maximizing the good.”

    Some advocates of utilitarianism believe that rights have a secondary validity from the fact that “under the conditions of civilized society there is a great social utility in following them [rights] for the most part and in permitting violations only under exceptional circumstances.” The good, for society, is the satisfaction of rational desire. The right is that which maximizes the good; some advocates of utilitarianism account for rights as being a socially useful consideration.

    Captain Dave will under no circumstance torture a prisoner. Captain Jim will torture a prisoner when he considers such action will save the lives of his platoon.

    Some utilitarians consider the rights enunciated in the constitution are a useful means to fortify the good. Captain Jim, while recognizing the rights in the Constitution, considers these rights are valid and useful but only because they promote the good. The rights defined in the Constitution can be violated but only in the name of the common good.

    Captain Dave may very well be an advocate of utilitarianism but he considers that right is different in kind from good and right cannot be forfeit to good under any condition.

    Liberals take the stance that to agree on the fact means to agree on the morality of the situation. Any deviation is indefensible and reflects only selfish rationalization. Liberals find it almost impossible to respect the moral position of conservatives and conservatives find it impossible to judge that liberals are the intellectual equals of conservatives.

    The apparent reason for this disjunction is the fact that liberals and conservatives seem to have “their own kind of morality” according to the analysis in ”The Morality of Politics” by W. H. Walsh.

    “What we need to observe is that conservatives and liberals are working within different traditions of morality. The morality of the conservative is closed morality; it is the morality of a particular community. The morality of the liberal is an open morality; it is a morality which has nothing to do with any particular human groups, but applies to all men whatever their local affiliations.”

    I was raised as a Catholic; I was taught by the nuns the Catholic doctrine regarding sin, punishment, and consciousness. Venial sins were like misdemeanors and mortal sins were like felonies. However, this is not a completely accurate analogy because if a person dies with venial sin on the soul s/he would be punished by having to spend time in purgatory before going to heaven but if a person died with mortal sin on the soul s/he went directly to hell for eternity.

    Confession was the standard means for ‘erasing sin from the soul’. A confession was considered to be a ‘good confession’ only if the sinner confessed the sins to a priest and was truly sorry for having committed sin. A very important element of a good confession was an examination of consciousness, which meant the person must become fully conscious of having committed the sin.

    Ignorance of the sin was no excuse just as ignorance of the law is no excuse. Herein lays the rub. Knowledge and consciousness of sin were necessary conditions for the erasure of sin from the soul in confession.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    Public interest, when properly understood, forms the “rational basis of both government and politics”.[/b]
    This is an extremely old thread, but I just now stumbled across it.

    In regards to this quote: how does public interest form the rational basis for anything? What's the rational basis for caring about public interest? It seems like this statement assumes that public interest is somehow a rational goal to strive toward. Of course, I'm sure we all agree that public interest is a wonderful and necessary goal, but is it really a "rational" one?
    "If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love." - Fyodor Dostoevsky

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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisiacovetti View Post
    This is an extremely old thread, but I just now stumbled across it.

    In regards to this quote: how does public interest form the rational basis for anything? What's the rational basis for caring about public interest? It seems like this statement assumes that public interest is somehow a rational goal to strive toward. Of course, I'm sure we all agree that public interest is a wonderful and necessary goal, but is it really a "rational" one?
    It's just as rational as the opposite view. What matters reason? It's just as open to sobriety as it is open to insanity. Regardless, public interest is indeed a necessary goal in the progress toward globalization of democracy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisiacovetti View Post
    In regards to this quote: how does public interest form the rational basis for anything? What's the rational basis for caring about public interest? It seems like this statement assumes that public interest is somehow a rational goal to strive toward. Of course, I'm sure we all agree that public interest is a wonderful and necessary goal, but is it really a "rational" one?
    In the interest of giving this thread new life, I would suggest that there is no rational ground for morality and reference Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind" as a place to start exploring to what extent reason plays in morality.

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