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mererdog

Moral Basics

61 posts in this topic

How can you tell that what you are doing is right?

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21 minutes ago, mererdog said:

How can you tell that what you are doing is right?

Well, the only way I can do this is by trying not to cause harm to others, to be compassionate and helpful. In life we are all going to make mistakes, but we should try and recognise, learn from them  these and make amends. That's my thoughts anyway.

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24 minutes ago, Rev Richard said:

Well, the only way I can do this is by trying not to cause harm to others, to be compassionate and helpful.

Yet how can you tell that doing those things is right?

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If we seek to harm and cause upset, that is clearly the wrong thing. Therefore we should seek to do the opposite, which is a good thing and the right thing. Okay, sometimes good intentions may result in the wrong outcome. From this we need to learn. If we fail to learn this is the wrong thing, but if we learn from our mistakes surely this has to be the right thing.

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I find it difficult to answer this kind of question in the abstract.  That is the problem with moral absolutes.  It is always possible to come up with a situation, where bad actions are needed for good reasons.  Is it wrong to kill?  Yes.  What about killing someone, intent on shooting down a yard full of children?  Suddenly, "yes" becomes "no."  Life is like that.

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9 hours ago, Rev Richard said:

If we seek to harm and cause upset, that is clearly the wrong thing.

How so?

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1 hour ago, Jonathan H. B. Lobl said:

It is always possible to come up with a situation, where bad actions are needed for good reasons. 

Do such situations exist in the real world, as opposed to in theory? Assuming they do, how can we tell when bad actions are actually needed, as opposed to when we simply think they are? Is "I can't think of a better solution" morally identical to "There is no better solution"?

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57 minutes ago, mererdog said:

Do such situations exist in the real world, as opposed to in theory? Assuming they do, how can we tell when bad actions are actually needed, as opposed to when we simply think they are? Is "I can't think of a better solution" morally identical to "There is no better solution"?

 

Real life creates problems.  I don't like State violence.  The police need their weapons.  Pragmatism wins out over idealism.

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Just now, mererdog said:

How so?

Because if we cause harm simply out of vengeance or for sadistic purposes it is against the principles of life. It serves no purpose other than to cause harm. How can causing harm or hate or upset be a good thing. Okay I get the saying 'Having to be cruel to be kind but in ending a life to end which would otherwise be one of pain and suffering. Some might say 'This is playing God and we have no right to do this'. I have this debate frequently with Father Michael, a Catholic friend of mine. My reply (which may resonate with some believers) is God has given us moral judgement, and if we use the judgement to end suffering this is part of God's work.

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1 hour ago, Jonathan H. B. Lobl said:

 

Real life creates problems.  I don't like State violence.  The police need their weapons.  Pragmatism wins out over idealism.

None of that actually answers my questions?

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1 hour ago, Rev Richard said:

Because if we cause harm simply out of vengeance or for sadistic purposes it is against the principles of life.

How so?

So, are you suggesting that it is a process of elimination thing, where if what you are doing isn't on the list of things you know are wrong,you kknow it must be right? Edited by mererdog

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In some ways yes, but it needs lengthy discussion to determine right from wrong in numerous circumstances. To cause harm for some sadistic pleasure has no benefit to humankind for instance. Along the path of coming to such decisions we will also encounter moral arguments, like the one I have with my Catholic friend.

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5 hours ago, mererdog said:

None of that actually answers my questions?

I'm trying.  It might help if you restate the question.

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Because what I do suits my thoughts and desires as they fit into my idea of the society I live in.  I don't go around hitting other people or stealing from them or doing other things that might enter my mind because I can understand rationally that if everyone did so, society wouldn't function as well as it does.  Some of my thoughts on morality come from other places, other people that is, or groups, like the church.  That is because I was brought up with those ideas.  I don't follow ALL the ideas of the church because as I have grown as a human I have come to consider them myself, and TRY to be independently thinking about them.  

Ultimately, thought, how I tell what I do is right is comparison with what I feel is wrong.  I think it's all an internal consideration by each of us.  The guy down the street thinks it's right to take things out of the dumpster on a regular basis, and I see him down here daily digging through the trash.  Another guy in town just got pinched for knocking off his neighbors house for drugs.  Probably, they think they are right to do what they do.  I can use compassion to understand that I wouldn't like it if someone walked up to me and slapped me in the face for no apparent reason, and so I try to apply that same principle to myself, if that makes sense.  I am certain that at times I fail, but I try.

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4 hours ago, Jonathan H. B. Lobl said:

I'm trying.  It might help if you restate the question.

I asked more than one. Perhaps rereading what I wrote would help?

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3 hours ago, cuchulain said:

Ultimately, thought, how I tell what I do is right is comparison with what I feel is wrong.

So if what you do doesn't make you feel guilty, you assume you did right?

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Not always.  Sometimes, though.  Sometimes, I do something that I think is right, but still feel guilty for it.  I think that comes from outside influences.  But for the most part, if what I do doesn't make me feel guilty, I don't feel like it was the wrong thing to do.  Sometimes I assume, but I regularly try to examine my assumptions for error, though I fully admit I probably miss some.

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52 minutes ago, cuchulain said:

 But for the most part, if what I do doesn't make me feel guilty, I don't feel like it was the wrong thing to do.

And is not doing wrong the same as doing right?

Also, you seem to be saying that when your emotional reaction (guilt, in this case) doesn't match with what you think it should be, you side with your intellect over your emotion. Do you have reason to think the intellect more accurate than the emotion?

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22 minutes ago, mererdog said:

And is not doing wrong the same as doing right?

Also, you seem to be saying that when your emotional reaction (guilt, in this case) doesn't match with what you think it should be, you side with your intellect over your emotion. Do you have reason to think the intellect more accurate than the emotion?

Emotion doesn't analyze. It's a reaction to circumstances or experience, therefore a learned response.

Intellect does analyze. Which is to say, it looks at solutions and possible outcomes based on past experience and common sense.

Think of a boiling pot. Emotion knows to react with pain or contentment depending on how one deals with the pot, at the time. Whereas, intellect helps determine what action one takes before dealing with the pot, based on foreseeable outcomes that past experience has taught. However, it is possible for one to absently not use their intellect and touch the boiling pot unprotected, causing emotion to fill us with enragement, sorrow, pain, embarrassment, or any wide range of combinations.

As for your first question, not an easy one to answer. Depends on the quandary at the time. Much like asking why, which requires a different answer for elaboration each time it's asked.

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I personally rely on my belief for moral guidance. Without a belief system, our compass relies on our own sense of right & wrong behavior, resulting in the goodness or badness of our own character. When we reason within ourselves, morality becomes a matter of self-justification. Example; Stealing is wrong, but I stole a loaf of bread to feed my hungry children.... Speeding is wrong, but I broke the speed limit to get my pregnant wife to the hospital.. As the saying goes; "There's an exception to every rule, and I'm usually it". Given a good enough excuse, we are all upstanding moral citizens. But a poor excuse; 'Yes I shot him because I didn't like the way he looks', somehow makes us immoral.. Go figure :)

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