Happy New Year! The January Philosophy Book of the Month is The Runaway Species. Discuss it now.

The February Philosophy Book of the Month is The Fourth Age by Byron Reese (Nominated by RJG.)

If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Discuss morality and ethics in this message board.
Featured Article: Philosophical Analysis of Abortion, The Right to Life, and Murder
Post Reply
User avatar
Gogol1387
New Trial Member
Posts: 3
Joined: December 2nd, 2018, 6:14 pm

Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Gogol1387 » December 7th, 2018, 8:52 am

I studied psychology at a university some 25 years ago. Even back then, psychologists and social scientists were waking up to the realization that it's not nature *or* nurture, it's nature *and* nurture that drive the personality of a person.

Morality is *not* just a social construct. Humans are born with an innate sense of right and wrong. It's a very basic sense, and it immediately begins to be forged and further developed by social surroundings. Fear is also an innate instinct, and is a strong tool that is used against a child in order to mold the child's behavior.

Both morality and fear are survival instincts created by evolution. Morality is faint but grows fast with social development. Fear is a more basic instinct that becomes interwoven in time with morality.

It's very simple. There is no need for mental gymnastics or logical traps.

There are some people who are obviously trying to connect the God question with the morality question. There is absolute logical and statistical proof that the Abrahamic God that people refer to when they say “God” simply does not exist. No deities exist. And yet religious people keep wanting to posit that if there is no God then there can't possibly be morality. Well, morality has been proven to be an evolutionary survival instinct at both the individual and species level. So it's a disingenuous logical argument with no merit and no utility. The proof that God does not exist can occur without being connected to the question of where morality comes from.

However, here is where there may be some middle ground if religious people would just think about it: Religion and belief in a God is also, by association, a tool to develop and build upon the innate sense of morality. So one cannot say that religion and belief has absolutely no utility. Religion is an easy and codified way of developing morality in a child, as well as telling fictional stories about why things are the way they are.

The problem of course is that when children grow up and find out that the religion and deity part is a lie, they can harbor great resentment toward their parents and society. So that's why it's best just to avoid the religion and deity lie and teach children the secular reasons why they need to be good people.

And if you need further proof that we need to walk away from organized religion, you need to look no further than the enormous authoritarian structures it created that have always been plagued by love of money, abuse of power, and sex scandals.

GE Morton
Posts: 439
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by GE Morton » December 7th, 2018, 12:32 pm

Gogol1387 wrote:
December 7th, 2018, 8:52 am

Morality is *not* just a social construct. Humans are born with an innate sense of right and wrong. It's a very basic sense, and it immediately begins to be forged and further developed by social surroundings.
Well, some of them may be. Others appear not to have been. Moreover, what is counted as "right" and "wrong" (in the moral sense) varies from person to person, and what is further developed by social surroundings varies from culture to culture.

What (most) humans are born with are social instincts and dispositions, which entail making distinctions between right and wrong. But what acts are assigned to which category is idiosyncratic and culturally conditioned. The result is a plethora of "vernacular moralities."

Moral philosophy is not social psychology or cultural anthropology. It is a search for a rationally defensible set of principles and rules governing human interactions in a certain type of social setting. Its aim is to replace those vernacular moralities with a rational one.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2070
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » December 7th, 2018, 1:31 pm

Gogol1387
innate sense of right and wrong.
But our "freedom" undoes all of this in terms of moral decision making, doesn't it? We may be predisposed, some of us more others less, to care about each other in one way or another, but the ability to take this up, in terms of what to actually decide to do, not as an instinct, not as some autonomic function that drives us willy nilly, but as a possibility among others: this changes everything, for the talk of innate senses and libidinal drives and natural instincts and all the rest, becomes talk of things that can be simply be ignored, and the decision to act rests entirely elsewhere, namely, the choice among what is possible that lay before a free agency.
Of course, freedom is a problematic term. Another issue.

Eduk
Posts: 2372
Joined: December 8th, 2016, 7:08 am
Favorite Philosopher: Socrates

Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Eduk » December 7th, 2018, 1:44 pm

not as an instinct, not as some autonomic function that drives us willy nilly, but as a possibility among others: this changes everything, for the talk of innate senses and libidinal drives and natural instincts and all the rest, becomes talk of things that can be simply be ignored, and the decision to act rests entirely elsewhere,
The decision to act is circular with the innate instinct to act. Both depend on one another in my opinion.
We can through rationality transcend our instinct but the only reason to do so is an innate desire to act.
Unknown means unknown.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2070
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » December 7th, 2018, 2:39 pm

Eduk
The decision to act is circular with the innate instinct to act. Both depend on one another in my opinion.
We can through rationality transcend our instinct but the only reason to do so is an innate desire to act.
Well, I did say freedom was another issue, but another not in the sense that it has no relevance, but in that it was waiting in the margins to see if it would be discussed.
You could choose to define choice as one instinct among others, a kind of instinct to choose; after all, choice comes upon us quite naturally, and inquiry is not invented; it is a structural feature of experience, a given if you will. But this does not allow us to dismiss the characteristics of choice, the description of what it is, and it is the drive, if you will, to deny what you might call prereflective motivations a reflexive obedience. Instead of simply acting, reaching for food when hungry, for example, choice (or the freedom to choose, or the ability to entertain alternative possibilities; whatever) gives pause, stands back and reconsiders, acknowledges competing options, and so on; and then moves forward with action. But then, why not call reason an instinct, for the same circularity would apply?
The problem with using this term 'instinct', it seems to me, to apply to all things we do that have motivation behind them, is that it becomes a useless term in doing so, for it loses any particular defining qualifications that would justify it existence. In other words, if it everything, it becomes nothing at all. Better to keep with terms that have distinct conceptual features. Choice is very much unlike instinct in that it is bydefinition an interruption, a break with things instinctual. In this it is different from reason as well: one plus one equals two, and I believe it, but there is also the option to disclaim it, to ignore it, to defy its prescriptive value. I thing choice is extraordinary and stands beyond instinct. It is the opposite of instinct, even though to exercise choice comes from we not not where, as its nature is to defy motivations, not engage.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2070
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » December 7th, 2018, 2:41 pm

pardon the typos

Eduk
Posts: 2372
Joined: December 8th, 2016, 7:08 am
Favorite Philosopher: Socrates

Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Eduk » December 10th, 2018, 5:18 am

@Hereandnow My point was not that we don't choose or that everything is instinctual but rather one is a mixed up part of the other. Humans love linear things but the brain is parallel and unravelling what is really going is is complex, to say the least. I agree choice and instinct are distinct, although where one ends and the other begins is unknown.
I think you are trying to say that logic can totally override our innate sense of right and wrong to the point that our innate senses are inconsequential? I'm not convinced. Why would logic want to? Also are not our innate senses real? Why should we logically wish to ignore them?
Not saying I have all the answers by the way.
Unknown means unknown.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2070
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: If there is no God, murder isn't wrong?

Post by Hereandnow » December 10th, 2018, 11:21 pm

Eduk:
All the answers? Well, like me, you have some and they work more or less here and there. For me, I look at human choice for the way it presents itself first, like I would look at a flower and talk about what I see. Choice is free; not metaphysical freedom, which makes no sense to me, but freedom that is defined as it is offset from other things that are not free. A tree is not free, and by this I mean that it has before it no possibilities to other than what it is. A person has such possibilities. I identify freedom with possibilities that are their for choices to be made. I just look and describe. (I am certainly NOT the author of this idea, but I am convinced it is right. See Heidegger) Logic is constrained by what one puts into it. We are not compelled by logic, but by the things we like or otherwise that the utility of logic helps us get. It is what we care about that motivates. Choice is bound to logic, but only as a utility, a means to an end. It is hard to put rationalism down, for it is surely a structural part of just being aware of things in the world. But in a given choice, we work through logic, and our fate would be sealed with no choice at all if it wasn't for the openness that is presented when logic is utilized. I may want to murder the old lady and take her savings, and this is certainly a possible way to go, and even the conceiving of it makes me a rational agent; but there stands before me possibilities, framed in logical structures, but not binding any one of them, for that is what a possibility is, non binding. I could spare her life, see that she might suffer, or, consider how cruel she has been, consider how in need I am, and so on; but when I pick up that weapon to do the deed, I could stop in my tracks and this is an extraordinary moment, when pause steps in and interrupts the decision, and possibilities are presented. Here is where freedom and choice assert themselves. Reason/logic certainly pervades all of this, but the pause is alwasy an interruption, a discontinuity that undoes what was moving forward. It is the question that is at the heart of human freedom.
Of course, one could frame all of this in terms of fixed idea of causality by which there is a cause behind every choice. But what is causality? It is found in what we witness in the world, and it is there in or among the pool balls on a table, but those are not us. Am I a piano key? asks Dostoevsky's Underground man. Obviously not.
I for one find this line of thought critically important because the very act of questioning leads the inquirer inevitably to question Being itself, to that precipice of wonder about what it means to be a person at all. Our freedom is realized when inquiry questions Being itself.

Post Reply