Individual Morality vs. Defining Right and Wrong?

Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by Mirage, Jan 11, 2009.

  1. Mirage

    Mirage Administrator Staff Member V.I.P.

    Another thread here "How do you teach children right from wrong" gave me the idea for this thread.

    How do you define right or wrong in the first place? The "To each his own" argument is used all too often here and I find it to be flawed. For example, if you believe murder is ok (if not for everybody, at least for you personally), is it ok for you to be a serial killer? Most people would argue that it is not.

    On core issues, can what's right for one person be wrong for another and vise versa? Even then, how do you define "core" issues? Who has the right to define laws that govern morality? Couldn't such laws be construed as forcing ones beliefs on others?

    Do you believe in an absolute set of morals and if so who should decide which laws should be set in place to govern such a thing?

    Let's keep this serious. I imagine it could get heated so be careful to respect other people's opinions.

    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009

  2. Smelnick

    Smelnick Creeping On You V.I.P.

    I'm a christian, so alot of my morales come from what my religion says is right or wrong. However, even some of those I don't follow since I think they're wrong as well. However, even before I became a christian, I still had basic morals that I just kind of decided were right.

    As far as 'what is wrong and what is right' goes, I always went by the principle, that if it affected someone elses course of life negatively or caused pain etc, then it must not be right. So killing someone, stealing, hurting someone etc were not good things. However, telling someone they're doing something wrong, voicing my opinion, etc, are good things since they only work to help things. Their reaction is out of my control, so why should I base what I do on it.

    I think the 'to each his own' argument is complete bullshit. Everybody lives in the same reality, and each of our actions has the same result, and the same consequences. Just because we 'decide' that it isn't bad, doesn't make it good. Its still a bad thing that we don't think is bad.

    I believe that there is a core set of morals. As society shifts, these morals tend to shift a little but there is always that one set of core morals to fall back on.
  3. PretzelCorps

    PretzelCorps Registered Member

    When I say ethics are subjective, I mean that on a sociological level, rather than a personal one.

    Murder is bad, because a vast majority of people agree that it is bad. If the same majority of people agreed that murder was good, then... Well, then murder would be considered ethically good.

    It might be a poor example, but that is why I think that there is no objective truth to ethics --> Instead, people just develop an ethical guideline for themselves based on that of those around them .

    RECENT EXAMPLE - Many Canadians and UKians are against guns, whilst many Americans are for them --> Frankly, I suspect location and upbringing plays more to that opinion than actual fact.

    And I say that in relation to all sides of the issue, including my own.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  4. Wade8813

    Wade8813 Registered Member

    Didn't Steerpike already do this one? (Recently?)
  5. Stab-o-Matic5000

    Stab-o-Matic5000 Cutting Edge in Murder

    I was waiting for this thread to be posted, I quite nearly started it myself. Apparently Hybrix realized as well that most debates that happen in divisive issues boil down to individualism vs. populism, usually in regard to morality and ethics.

    Hybrix, the thing you have to understand about the "To each his own" mentality, is that it's a two way street. Just as other people should not interfere with your daily life, you should not interfere with theirs. In your hypothetical question of murder being fine to someone, so should he be allowed to murder people? The answer is no, because I don't know about you, but I personally love my freedom to be alive. To each his own.

    As long as what you are doing does not affect other people in a negative manner, then there should not be a problem. For instance, if pro2A wants to buy enough guns to have a personal arsenal, so be it. As long as he doesn't start indiscriminately killing people, he should be allowed these guns. If two men want to marry, so be it. They are not harming anyone with their act. If I were to steal from someone, however, I have infringed on their personal life in a negative manner, taking away their ability to live their life as they choose. Same thing if I were to assault them.

    If you compare the world's major religions that have been around for centuries that are still around today, you will notice that the things that are considered immoral in pretty much all of them are things like murder, theft, rape, and other things of that nature. That is because naturally, as social creatures, humans realize the benefit of not harming other humans. A community is not fostered by negative acts towards each other, after all.

    Things like murder, theft, rape, all of these things are immoral, no matter what. Not because the bible or the law states it to be so. The bible, or any other religious document, and any code of laws adopted by a nation, are simply stating what is known to all humans that have the best interest of society at heart know: it is not right to harm others.
  6. Merc

    Merc Certified Shitlord V.I.P. Lifetime

    There is no absolute right and there is no absolute wrong unless you believe that your religion trumps everything.

    Children used to work centuries ago alongside men because that's how it went. Nowadays, that's wrong, illegal too! It's just a matter of what current society believes in correct that determines boundaries of propriety.
    it is not right to harm others.

    Who said so, Stab? Where anywhere in nature does it say, "Do not harm others"?
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2009
  7. Stab-o-Matic5000

    Stab-o-Matic5000 Cutting Edge in Murder

    Humans are naturally social creatures. We form social groups, whether they are tribes, villages, nations, whatever, and in those groups, those who hurt the group as a whole through their actions are usually ostracized. A few basic actions have almost universally been held as wrong by societies throughout time. Things like murder and theft. Now, the question is, why? Most people would say because the majority deems it so. I go a bit further than that. Why does the majority deem it to be wrong? Because it is human nature. Even though humans have distinct personalities and are individuals, they all share common traits, in fact, traits common to all living creatures. Namely, the need for survival. Humans meet the need for survival by banding together to work towards the common safety.

    Do you think that we have reached the point in history that we are at now by chance? That the great nations of the earth have been formed based on the whims of a few people who have deemed it this way? A few people did not sit down and arbitrarily decide that murder was wrong. The held belief that you should not murder other people or steal their property is common around the world. In fact, usually when a society does take part in sanctioned murder of other people, it is because a select few have convinced the society that it is necessary for the safety of the community. The Nazis were able to round up anyone they deemed inferior due to public outcry to do so, they were able to do it because they convinced the nation of Germany that it was the best course of action to protect them.

    We hold these common beliefs because it is human nature. It is human nature to look out for the safety of the community, because the community looks out for your safety. Actions that bring detrimental harm to other people harm the community, and thus, they harm you. Especially when the community is a small tribe, which is after all what humans began as.
  8. OverLoad65

    OverLoad65 Registered Member

    Wow, this is a very intriguing thread. Please allow me to share my thoughts.

    Ultimately, I believe everyone on the planet is born with an innate understanding of "right and wrong" to some degree. Granted that understanding is greatly hindered by sociocultural circumstances and/or mental/personality disorders. That is why this stuff is studied. Not just for understanding, but as to the origins of "right and wrong."

    These collective innate understandings have led sociology, psychology, religion, cultures, and governments to attempt to study, understand, and define these very issues. The problem is that none of them agree on their own results. This is why there needs to be an author of righteousness; of good. Whether you believe that "author" to be God, Jesus Christ, Yahweh, Allah, Heavenly Father, The Great Spirit, your respective government's constitution, your religious mentor, your mom and dad, or yourself is not necessarily the object of my discussion. The point is there must be an author. Yet, problem still lies in the agreement of who that "author" is.

    So back to the original question that was posed, "Who or what decides/defines good and evil?" I still believe we the people do. We do it every day through rationalizations, decisions, expectations, standards, and personal belief. I don't think the question should be as previous asked, because of the key point made in the original post, "To each their own is a flawed statement." So again, I return to my original point: there needs to be a single author of righteousness, of good and evil.

    Yet, again, how do we agree on who that author is? Unfortunately, we never will. Despite all the wars that have been fought, lives that have been lost, and suffering that has been caused; mankind will never be able to agree on that one author.
  9. Merc

    Merc Certified Shitlord V.I.P. Lifetime

    A few people did not sit down and arbitrarily decide that murder was wrong.

    Actually I'd probably argue this is true. It may not have been a few people, but some people definitely at some point decided it was wrong. Let's put it this way. You kept describing human nature saying that it's natural to not kill people (which it is, especially in self-defense we are animals after all) because humans look after their herd. However, that's more of a self-preservation thing. Life protects life, you know? It doesn't make murder wrong though. A gazelle will run if a cheetah chases it. Doesn't mean that it's wrong for the cheetah to catch the gazelle however. Now I now murder doesn't entail the same thing as hunting, but the point remains.

    You still haven't shown me how there is an ultimate "right" and "wrong", but that's because they're isn't. We haven't been contacted by a higher being telling us what is right and wrong (keep your preaching to yourself, it's only what I believe) and mother nature doesn't have rules printed out or carved on any rocks. The only rules are: Live, reproduce, die. One may argue that murder interrupts a natural order, but then again, hunting in order to live does as well which means murder ends up becoming more of an argument about meaning and if it's so bad for a person to die. In this day and age, we have a lot of value placed on our lives and those around us, we are obviously a far way away from the days of the cavemen in terms of society (in some ways anyways). Value of life is determined by the living, sounds pretty biased, eh?
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Registered Member

    Some of the ten commandments, in principle, do make the level of objective ethical law.

    Self-contradiction :rolleyes:

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