Philohof wrote:I am not really able to be very interested in what is an immoral action because ultimately I take "morals" to come from Latin "mores", English "custom", "tradition".
So, an immoral action ultimately is always something that goes against custums or tradition, also in the case that philosophers try to build a universally valid version of it and one that is based on reason.
But, you know, custums or traditions is always something, that does not belong to me; it belongs to the other people. I cannot change anything there, it is just about following the rule or not.
That is why I am much more interested in ethics. Ethics for me is to think about how I want to live, what I want to do?
An unethical action therefore would be, if a person does not reflect on what she is doing, if she just lives out of habit or if she lives automatically.
(If a person acts morally without thinking about her actions, according to my definition she would also act unethically.)
Well, you've certainly made your own mind up about what you'd like words to mean, and ignored their customary usage by the group you are trying to communicate with, but is that attitude really helpful?
In philosophical terms 'ethics' is concerned with evaluating different moralities, but not in the personal way as you interpret it ('how I want to live, what I want to do'), but in so far as is possible an objective manner, with the aim of achieving some sort of agreement. In common usage the distinction between 'morality' and ethics' is quite subtle and not relevant to what's at issue here. This is not surprising as, contrary to what you suggest, the Latin word 'mores' did not mean simply 'customs' or 'traditions', and has its roots in the translation of the Greek word for 'ethic'. The distinction you're making is between 'group morality' (what you call 'morality') versus individual morality (what you call 'ethics'). An action can be moral from the point of view of the group but immoral according to the beliefs of the individual, and vice versa.
I agree that an individual should not blindly accept group morality, but neither should they ignore it. You say you are not very interested in it because 'it belongs to the other people'. You forget that you are a member of the group, and therefore it belongs to you as well as 'the other people'. Group morality is the compromise we make with each other about the different beliefs that we hold individually about what is right. It is also a vehicle for conveying the accumulated wisdom from the experience of previous generations about what is a practical way of behaviour in a group. Without compromise we cannot cooperate or function as a group at all, and although what we inherit from previous generations is imperfect, we cannot ignore it, we have to understand it before we can improve on it.
Of course there will be people who go along with the group morality in order to have an easy time of it. But others may do so because they think it unfair to upset the majority of the group by adhering to a personal morality which they cannot be sure is objectively more valid than everyone else's.
What you are leaving out of your argument is nothing less than the whole problem of morality, namely that if individuals within a group disagree about what's right and wrong, how can an individual know whether what she thinks is the right thing to do is really justifiable, or whether someone else's different opinion is equally or more valid, especially if her view is a minority one?
-- Updated Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:28 am to add the following --
Nikole Doucette wrote:This opinion may be pretty out there, but in a survival of the fittest scenario, such as throughout the book Might is Right, the mightier person performing an act in another's offense is only immoral due to the mind frame we humans have today. Why is stealing immoral? What makes such things immoral? What makes murder immoral? It is the man made laws, religions, and ethics that make us think something is immoral. In reality, it is really just another action we take. If the Bible taught us survival of the fittest: stealing food from someone would not be immoral, especially if we needed it. That person one stole from had every right to fend one off and keep his/her food safe from that person. His lack of wit, strength, or knowledge is his own doing. Immorality is in the eyes of the individual.
I broadly agree. But suppose I suggested that we strive to reduce the total amount of suffering in the world, would you consider that as no more moral than suggesting I just try to look after myself? I can't prove that one viewpoint is better than another, but the understanding that if I find suffering unpleasant then so must other people, and that there is no reason to believe they are less important than I, suggests to me and perhaps a majority of people that all moralities are not equally defensible.
Nikole Doucette wrote:It is just a shame that morality has been fed to us through generations of mental training, making the individual standpoint to be in line with other, preventing us to think our own thought (but thats why we have philosophy!)...
It is a shame in some ways, but in another way it's just as well. What do you think would happen if society were to admit that there is no absolute right and wrong and everyone should make her own mind up? There would be plenty of people who would seize on this to justify behaviour which was less considerate to others. Technically it might be 'fair' to tell people the truth, but in practice societies depend on various lies and secrets to control people for the overall good of its members. It's not ideal, but we're still struggling to find a better way. A little knowldege is a dangerous thing, too many people are unable to understand the whole truth, so we have to keep quite a lot of things in the dark and play a bit of game in order to get things to work.
-- Updated Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:32 am to add the following --