What makes an action immoral?

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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#46  Postby Fanman » February 5th, 2012, 11:21 am

Hi Kingkool,

That's a very good quesrion. I think that it would depend on whether one knew what type of person Adolf Hitler was and would turn out to be, however I think that you covered this variable when you stated: "just before he rose to power." Being a theist, I could never advocate for poisoning anyone; even Hitler, because I perceive it as an immoral and dishonest action. But I am sure that some people would consider it an immoral act not to have poisoned Hitler, considering what he went onto do. Or at least a moral act to have poisoned him in order to stop him.

My 'knowledge' in this case I think, further highlights that the question of "What makes an action immoral" is priori.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?



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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#47  Postby Kingkool » February 6th, 2012, 12:48 am

Fanman wrote:Hi Kingkool,

That's a very good quesrion. I think that it would depend on whether one knew what type of person Adolf Hitler was and would turn out to be, however I think that you covered this variable when you stated: "just before he rose to power." Being a theist, I could never advocate for poisoning anyone; even Hitler, because I perceive it as an immoral and dishonest action. But I am sure that some people would consider it an immoral act not to have poisoned Hitler, considering what he went onto do. Or at least a moral act to have poisoned him in order to stop him.

My 'knowledge' in this case I think, further highlights that the question of "What makes an action immoral" is priori.


I think it boils down to Hitlers' intentions. *I want to make it perfectly clear that I do think he was an evil, genocidal lunatic.* If he sincerely believed those he persecuted were evil, does that make him in the right? And assuming that the previous premise is true, does his actions make him evil? Does it make you evil to kill someone who says they are going to kill a number of people, even though they haven't actually done it yet?
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#48  Postby Zarathustra2008 » February 6th, 2012, 1:47 am

When you learn value, norms, and beliefs, then you will know what is moral and immoral. It is a relative definition. An action can be seen morally acceptable to a culture, and not acceptable to the others. For instance, a woman having 10 husbands might be viewed as normal and nothing immoral about it. Or, a husband who commits an adultery can be viewed as normal to a culture. Is it morally acceptable to us? I can't accept it as morally correct. However, this is something that you have to judge for yourself.

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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#49  Postby dparrott » February 6th, 2012, 2:05 pm

It has always seemed to me to be the motivation behind an action that makes it immoral or not.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#50  Postby Xenos » February 6th, 2012, 3:14 pm

Fanman wrote:Hi Xenos,

You make a good point, but I would argue that the premise of attempting to poison someone no matter the circumstances is dishonest morally - in that it is not a honest or moral act. In my opinion, one would have to be dishonest in order to attempt to poison another person.


Hello Fanman.

I would agree that the example of the individual openly trying to poison another would be an immoral action, but I'm not sure how it's dishonest, because no lying or pretense about the nature of the act seems to be involved. Would you be interesting in explaining what you mean by your conception of dishonesty?

-- Updated Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:48 pm to add the following --

Kingkool wrote:I think it boils down to Hitlers' intentions. *I want to make it perfectly clear that I do think he was an evil, genocidal lunatic.* If he sincerely believed those he persecuted were evil, does that make him in the right? And assuming that the previous premise is true, does his actions make him evil? Does it make you evil to kill someone who says they are going to kill a number of people, even though they haven't actually done it yet?


I think the answer to that question depends on whether one considers morality to have an objective standard that is apart from the feelings an individual may hold. If it does, then we can measure whether or not his actions were justified or not, evil or not, and his personal sincerity discredited as irrelevant. For example, if Hitler sincerely believed the world was flat, does his sincerity make us consider that maybe his belief was true? Since it is a factual issue with which we can deal objectively, we can discount his sincerity and simply check the data. If morality can be dealt with in the same way, then a similar process may take place in evaluating his beliefs and their consequences. If we can't, though, the issue becomes even more complicated.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#51  Postby Fanman » February 8th, 2012, 10:00 pm

Hi Xenos,

I associate poisoning someone with dishonesty, because at least in my perspective, dishonesty comes under the umberella of immoral acts. I also believe that in poisoning someone, in order for it to work, one must be dishonest about what they are giving another person to eat or drink. One must also dishonestly prepare the poison.

In the case of openly poisoning someone, I feel that anyone capable of such an act, must of had experience of being dishonest, since it would take a dishonest character to attempt to poison another person.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#52  Postby NoPityNoRemorse » February 9th, 2012, 11:40 am

Hey guys, here's my 2 cents :)

Fanman: Just because 'dishonesty comes under the umbrella of immoral acts' does not mean you have defined 'dishonesty'. The word 'dishonesty' implies some sort of subterfuge or denial of truth; in the context of preparing poison (with the intent of killing/harming the recipient), one cannot be dishonest about it. Why? Simply because the only time anyone can be dishonest is when they are lying or telling half-truths with the intention of giving a false impression/account of events. Poisoning is an act and the person engaged in an act is neither honest or dishonest; the person is just doing something. It seems that you are confusing poisoning someone with getting caught whilst trying to poison someone. In order to succeed in poisoning someone, lying about your current actions would be the most viable way of avoiding trouble and arousing suspicion. In that case, it would be dishonesty because you are hiding the truth.

Morality is priori. Morality is subjective. Why? Morality is a concept and its definitions will change based on the personal experiences of the person thinking/trying to define morality. It can be said 'morality' is a more sophisticated way of self-preservation, created(subconsciously) to take advantage of humans' ability to think and reason. Current morality always[i], in some way or another, involve the Golden Rule. Of course this is a bit crude but it is true. Why is killing innocent people deemed immoral? Its because if we were killed when we have done nothing to deserve it, we would feel like our rights have been violated. We feel it is unfair. We. This may be hasty generalisation but I beg to differ!

Furthermore, morality is subjective because it depends on what the public perceives as moral/immoral. Why? Consider this: a group of people think [i]x
is moral. An individual in that group thinks otherwise. However, as the group is the majority, the individual would be seen as immoral because no one else thinks so. The individual is deemed immoral not because the rest of the group has some unquestionable and undeniable truth/set of rules (both of which are troubling in ways more than one), but because the majority thinks so. If morality depends on what the majority thinks, it is entirely possible that it can change just because the concept of morality itself is flexible.

Thus, morality and immorality depend on the individual and their circumstances. Take Hitler for example. Although it is accepted his actions were immoral and evil, Hitler himself never thought so (whether we can make this assumption is a battle for another day). Was it because he did not have morals? If his actions are anything to go by, I would say he thought it was morally right to kill the Jews. He craved for 'purity' and saw genocide as a morally acceptable action. Are his morals somehow 'inferior' in quality or somehow less 'right'? Of course not! If they were, where do we draw the line? Hitler was a soldier in WW1 before his rise to power. His morals would, logically, be similar to those of his fellow soldiers no? Definitely. So can it be postulated that some event(s) caused him to change his concept of morality and thereby making it not worthy of equal standing with 'our' morality? Definitely not!

I am beating about the bush but I insist on making a point. Morality is subjective. Therefore the deciding factor when trying to determine the morality of an action would be the person's own set of morals. 'Does the person doing the action find the action immoral?' would be the way of determining the morality of an act.


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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#53  Postby Shubh » February 9th, 2012, 11:50 am

If any action is undesired or inappropriate according to local community then it is immoral. If you see a poor boy and show him your ugly doll famous toy but don't give it to him for playing, it is immoral.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#54  Postby Kingkool » February 9th, 2012, 7:36 pm

Shubh wrote:If any action is undesired or inappropriate according to local community then it is immoral. If you see a poor boy and show him your ugly doll famous toy but don't give it to him for playing, it is immoral.

But you know nothing of this boy. You could be operating under the assumption that he is evil.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#55  Postby Thinking critical » February 9th, 2012, 7:55 pm

An action only becomes immoral when observed by a moral agent, until then it is just an act. The agents subjective judgement will then decide for themselves if what they veiw is immoral or not.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#56  Postby Kingkool » February 9th, 2012, 11:27 pm

Thinking critical wrote:An action only becomes immoral when observed by a moral agent, until then it is just an act. The agents subjective judgement will then decide for themselves if what they veiw is immoral or not.

The point is that we are trying to set rule for those agents, if not already us.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#57  Postby Thinking critical » February 10th, 2012, 12:17 am

Kingkool wrote:
Thinking critical wrote:An action only becomes immoral when observed by a moral agent, until then it is just an act. The agents subjective judgement will then decide for themselves if what they veiw is immoral or not.

The point is that we are trying to set rule for those agents, if not already us.


Sorry I don't understand what your saying? What do you mean trying to set rule for those agents, if not already us.

What rule are you talking about, morality? If we can't decide ourselves what is moral and what isn't then who can?
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#58  Postby Fanman » February 10th, 2012, 2:13 pm

Hi NoPityNoRemorse,

I think that poisoning someone is a dishonest and immoral act. In that someone who is moral and honest would not poison another human being. The whole act is dishonest in my view. What if when you went to obtain the materials for creating the poison, someone asked what you were collecting those materials for? You would invaribly have to lie about why you were collecting the materials. I think that if you were going to poison someone you would have to be dishonest somewhere along the line.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#59  Postby dparrott » February 10th, 2012, 9:33 pm

Who could feed a family with a piece of fruit? Stealing is immoral because it harms who your stealing from. It can be justified by the motivation behind the theft. But if caught the person should still be punished.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#60  Postby Wittgenstoned » February 12th, 2012, 11:01 am

philoreaderguy wrote:What makes an action immoral? How do we know if a certain choice, action, or behavior is immoral?


Arguing for one particular view is illfounded if we have not made clear the various contenders.

First, which all agrees upon:

What makes an action morally good is the fact that it conforms to morally valid norms.

That should be eatable for both relativists and objectivists, deontologists and teleologists of all kinds (perhaps not virtue ethicists, but **** them).

What is a moral fact, then? And what things count as such? The first answer narrows in whatever might be said to occupy the set of things that fall under the second sentence, i.e. things that count as moral facts. We could go the other way, of course, and argue from a substantive theory to an ontological thesis. There is, however, widespread controversy about the logical relationship between metaethical views and normative theories. I think the connections are more clear than most contend, but who am I? Hehe.

So, we have various theories of moral facts and reasons. The question "What makes an action right or wrong?" is perhaps best framed in terms of reasons: "What counts as a reason for doing or not doing an action?". The battlefield is pretty well mapped (check out Shafer-Landau's awesome articles on the subject, he summes up every view out there!):

We have reasons internalism and externalism, basically. Internalism holds that a reason is never external to an agent. That is: you can't have a reason to act without being disposed, upon deliberation, to act on that reason. Externalism hold's that a fully rational agent can, logically, resist acting on a reason, since it holds that reasons are external to an agents motivational profile. The most plausible versions of both theories lie very close in their practical consequences. It is mainly a dispute about whether one can sincerely hold a moral judgement without being motivated to act in accordance with it. So the views link to two opposing theories of motivation: does judgements about morality nec. motivate? Yes: motivational judgement internalism, no= externalism. If you are a MJI, then most likely you are also an internalist about reasons. Very often these two views are the reason for scepticism, since they couple well with humeanism: beliefs never motivate. So if a belief don't motivate, and if a moral judgement nec. motivate, then moral judgements are not beliefs, hence they don't have a truthvalue = moral scepticism. We are forced to hold, on this picture, that moral "judgements" are a mere matter of beliefs about the world coupled with desire. Since moral judgements motivate, and since beliefs never do, the "moral" component seems linked to the desire. We can easily believe, say, that the water is cold without being motivated to anything on account of the belief. We can't judge that murder is wrong without being in some sense motivated to abstain from murdering, hence what "wrong" has a normative input only at the price of killing cognitivism.

If you want to remain a cognitivist and a humeanist, then we must say that moral judgements are merely reports of inner motivational states of the form "I disapprove of murder", hence the cognitivist ingredient does nothing to save morality.

To argue for an objectivist thesis we must either accept reasons externalism or deny motivational judgement internalism. Since reasons externalism is trivially true if we take "external" to refer to all reasons outside an agents actual motivational profile and beliefset, we must idealize it slightly: external means external to an ideally rationally deliberated agent. That is: an agent that acts on good reasons and know the relevant stuff. So basically, this view collapses into judgement externalism: can an agent judge something to be morally relevant as a reason, and not be moved in some sense? The answer, of course, is simply the answer to this: what is a moral reason? I think looking at normative theories would inform us. Take Kant. A moral reason is simply a duty. You have a duty no matter what you care about or believe, since a duty is derived from reason alone. This implies, I think, that an ideally rational being is disposed to act morally. So on this weak reading of externalism, externalism is false. The answer to the question can thus be said to be:

what makes an action moral is that it conforms to the dictates of morality, which could be, for instance, the categorical imperative.

Hope this makes sense.
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