What makes an action immoral?

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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#61  Postby Steve3007 » February 16th, 2012, 4:01 am

Fanman:

Hi again! I was just reading back through this interesting discussion and see that your view is that acts which are dishonest and hurt other people are a priori immoral. Not surprisingly, being of a Christian faith, you are presumably not a fan what is sometimes called "moral relativism" - the idea that there are no acts that are intrinsically right or wrong. Fair enough. A perfectly consistent position for a believer in God to take.

I'm wondering, though, what are your thoughts are about harm to non-human animals? It seems to me that this is one of those subjects where the morality is impossible to define objectively. To what extent are humans "allowed" to cause harm to other animals, in your view? Most people seem to agree that we are allowed to deprive some animals, but not all, of their life and freedom in order to be able to eat their bodies, because we like the taste of them. But not all people believe that. And opinion varies considerably about causing harm to other animals for other reasons, like medical research.

And I think most people have a natural informal sliding scale of "importance" when it comes to the animal kingdom. Most people would generally value the lives and well-being of animals that are most closely related to us as being more important than others. Apes are values more than mice. Mice more than spiders. Spiders more than bacteria. Etc. Although there are many deviations from this scale due to cultural differences. E.g. in our society we tend to value the lives of dogs and cats much more highly than the lives of cows and pigs, even though they are all mammals at a similar distance from us with similar capacities for suffering and awareness.

In short, an examination of our attitudes toward other animals is one illustration, to me, of the subjective nature of morality. What do you think?

P.S: I'm new to this thread and only skimmed through it. So apologies is this topic has already been covered.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?



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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#62  Postby Fanman » February 16th, 2012, 10:53 am

Hi Stevee3007,

I think that peoples attitudes towards the morality or immorality of taking the lives of animals has much to do with the society that we're brought up in, and what animals we eat while we are being brought-up. I was brought up in the UK, where I watched films like Bambi, Watership down, Lion King and Lassie. I also watched alot of nature programmes. These types of programmes inbedded a regard and respect for those animals in me. I don't eat rabbit, venision and duck, because the images of those animals appear in my mind when I imagine eating them. I grew-up eating; bacon, sausages, chicken, ham and beef. Those animals which are not so endeared to me and that I grew-up eating I now don't mind eating.

I agree with your sliding-scale theory, but I think that it ranges from animals that we value as a society and individually. For example: Western society values cats and dogs as pets; whereas in eastern society cats and dogs are eaten. I would never dream of eating cats and dogs, for me it is a totally immoral action, but people from the east who eat cats and dogs don't see it as an immoral action. Individually, some people value spiders and keep them as pets i.e. - tarantulas, those individuals would view the killing of spiders as immoral, because they value them.

It is not so straight-forward when it comes to discussing the morality of causing harm to non-human animals, and I would say that its definately not a priori immoral. If I had to define causing harm to non-human animals objectively I would say that its a "does the means justify the ends " situation. i.e. - is the reason for killing an animal justifiable? In my view eating is justifiable, depending on the animal.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#63  Postby Thinking critical » February 17th, 2012, 8:00 pm

Fanman said:
I grew-up eating; bacon, sausages, chicken, ham and beef. Those animals which are not so endeared to me and that I grew-up eating I now don't mind eating.


Obviously you never grew up watching Porky Pig or Miss Piggy :lol:


I agree with your sliding-scale theory, but I think that it ranges from animals that we value as a society and individually. For example: Western society values cats and dogs as pets; whereas in eastern society cats and dogs are eaten. I would never dream of eating cats and dogs, for me it is a totally immoral action, but people from the east who eat cats and dogs don't see it as an immoral action. Individually, some people value spiders and keep them as pets i.e. - tarantulas, those individuals would view the killing of spiders as immoral, because they value them.


I to agree, as empathetic agents, we tend to find it hard to eat species which we form emotional bonds with. In westernised societies dogs & cats are often companions or considered family members. This certainly is evidence to support the fact that morality is founded from subjective humantiy.
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What makes an action unethical

Post Number:#64  Postby Philohof » February 17th, 2012, 8:30 pm

Hi folks,

I am currently reading a lot about ethics and moral philosophy, but I have also got my own concerns about them.

So, here is what I would say: 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.)

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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#65  Postby dparrott » February 20th, 2012, 3:57 pm

There is nothing immoral in the action of swinging an axe but put a person in front of it and then it becomes immoral but then put the motivation of defense for the one swinging and it is not immoral anymore.
I think what makes an action immoral depends on to many variables an unknown motivations all decided on by personal opinion to, ever really know if it is immoral or not. I'm not amoral I think it is important to have morals as personal standards to live your life by.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#66  Postby Nikole Doucette » February 24th, 2012, 10:28 pm

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. 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!)...
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#67  Postby Thinkingcat » February 27th, 2012, 4:00 am

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 --

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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#68  Postby Nikole Doucette » February 27th, 2012, 11:49 pm

Thinkingcat wrote: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.


To make an attempt to end suffering in the world seems to be what people nowadays do. There are charities, donation banks, missions, volunteering and so on that give people a better rest at night. I do not consider their conscience of morale to be better than mine (which I am very selfish). So no, their morale is not any better than mine, because the people who attempt to better the world are doing it for a reason, which is ultimately selfish anyhow. Offering the monthly tithes and sponsoring a poor child like stated before, merely makes them feel like they have good morale. It is a part of the conditioning process we have gained through worldwide occults and religions. It has become a part of our culture and daily existence, which also infers to your other questions...

Thinkingcat wrote: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 --

.


I do not believe that society as a whole (as in each person within a nation) would EVER realize that right and wrong is man made and a way to control the mass, resulting in their own choices being made. So yes, I agree with you that people would be less considerate of others. However, in a survival of the fittest scene you'd find the mightiest person to be feared the most and not be bothered, maybe even respected. And if he abused his power the mass could rise up against him and tear him to shreds. This is cheesy but applies, "With great power comes great responsibility." A person's power can be taken from him easily. A people's power is more of a challenge, which is why we have the term immoral in our vocabulary.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#69  Postby HexHammer » February 28th, 2012, 8:43 am

philoreaderguy wrote:What makes an action immoral? How do we know if a certain choice, action, or behavior is immoral?
Moral and ethics differ from area to area, thus it can be a matter of local culture.

Greater moral and ethics may depend on situation, does one sacrifice the many for the few, or the one? Sometimes the goal outweight the means, and vice versa.

Chruchill in WWII, was in a dilemma, he had to sacrifice a city to the german bombers, as he recently had broken the enigma coding, but if he recused the city by evacuating it, he would reveal that the enigma machine was deciferd, so he had to choose the lesser evil.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#70  Postby Thinkingcat » February 29th, 2012, 9:31 am

Nikole Doucette wrote:To make an attempt to end suffering in the world seems to be what people nowadays do. There are charities, donation banks, missions, volunteering and so on that give people a better rest at night. I do not consider their conscience of morale to be better than mine (which I am very selfish). So no, their morale is not any better than mine, because the people who attempt to better the world are doing it for a reason, which is ultimately selfish anyhow. Offering the monthly tithes and sponsoring a poor child like stated before, merely makes them feel like they have good morale. It is a part of the conditioning process we have gained through worldwide occults and religions. It has become a part of our culture and daily existence, which also infers to your other questions...

Just because someone is motivated to do something by the pleasure they get from it, does not mean that what they do is any less 'good' in terms of impact. It only means that the person is not to be regarded as 'good' for doing it.

Arguing for the greatest good of the greatest number seems to me a matter of mathematical logic:
- I am an object of type 'person'.
- There are other objects of type 'person'.
- X amount of suffering that I feel = X amount of suffering that another person feels.
- If I suffer X, N times, I know that that is worse than suffering X once.
- It follows that N people suffering X amount is worse than 1 person suffering X amount, even if that person is me.

It's possible to accept intellectually that the greatest good of the greatest number is a defensible morality without actually caring whether it happens or not. This is apparently the experience of the psychopath. In a recent TV documentary, one such person (not a criminal but someone who had been shown to have a gene associated with a type of measurable brain activity associated with psychopathic behaviour) described his experience on an occasion when he went to a party rather than a relative's funeral. He said he understood that it was the wrong thing to do (the upset he caused the other relatives was greater than the upset he would have felt by missing the party) but he just couldn't feel that he cared.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#71  Postby Rainy Hammer » March 24th, 2012, 10:06 pm

I believe morality is based upon the idea of justice which is based upon the existence of two or more principalities (groups and/or individuals) of relatively equal strength and influence. I'll just quote Nietzsche: "...the origin of justice as a mutual adjustment between roughly equal powers (balance being the precondition of all covenants, and hence of all law)."
Hence African-Americans were freed in the late 19th Century and given half the vote. (Bear with me. My knowledge of history is fragmentary and shallow--and often incorrect. Nevertheless, I hope you catch the dark irony of that statement :roll:

I favor Nietzsche's views (which are inflammatory and, even, sinister) on morality. His espousing of immorality or Unmorality though radical and, like I said, rather sinister (his apocalyptic attack on Judeo-Christian values, or Slave Morality, certainly sent chills of inspiration up and down Hitler's spine :twisted: ) Nietzsche's essential intent is to consecrate the individual, free him from the self-effacement and enervation of Herd Morality. And I think freedom and personal choice are a Good thing even if it requires an Evil negation. At least that's what my last fortune cookie told me... :P
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#72  Postby dparrott » March 25th, 2012, 1:50 am

What makes an action immoral is the motivation behind the action.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#73  Postby Gamnot » March 25th, 2012, 3:25 pm

Morality can be broken down into two components; an objective and subjective component. The objective component is taken to be a qualified practical imperative from kant's philosophy along with qualified consequentialist theory. The subjective component is taken from situational ethics; Jose Ortega y Gasset fundamental dictum: "I am myself and my circumstances."

So objective morality means hitting the target and the subjective component means through the use of thinking, feeling, and intuition hitting somewhere on the target, without necessarily hitting the bulls eye.

-- Updated March 25th, 2012, 3:32 pm to add the following --

so missing the target altogether indicates immorality and hitting somewhere on the right target remains open to interpretation.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#74  Postby RabbitMatrix » March 25th, 2012, 4:08 pm

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



1) Immoral = When their is malicious intent and another is caused harm, immorality results.
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Re: What makes an action immoral?

Post Number:#75  Postby James S Saint » March 25th, 2012, 5:52 pm

What makes an act immoral is that it causes people to question what should be moral.
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