Origin of morality:

I was in the shower today and I began thinking about philosophy as I often do in such lonesome places. Now an idea popped into my head which seems to question the whole concept of morality, in fact, it shakes it to the core. Consider this:

  1. We have ideas about what is right and wrong (a sense of morality)
  2. We derive these ideas from other ideas (for instance, while creating a general principle on what situations allow for one person to kill another person, we draw on already known concepts of right and wrong. If the principle allows such an obvious wrong such as killing 2 year olds because we enjoy it, we alter it.)
  3. These ideas in turn were reasoned using other ideas which we know to be true (or false)

But this is where it seems to break down. These ideas result from these ideas and so on and so forth, but we have a problem, where did the first (or firsts) moral statement come from. If the basis of every moral statement draws upon previously known ones, how can some original statement be made since it lacks any other moral knowledge to work from.

We might arrive at two possible solutions to this problem (neither of which I am very happy with).

  1. The ideas loop, they assume that a is true because b is true and b is true because c is true and c is true because a is true


  1. We simply made an assumption at the starting point.

Option number one obviously suffers from the circular logic fallacy. Option number two makes our morals, at best, a stab in the dark.

What might one consider as perhaps a third option? Perhaps I was mistaken in my understanding of how we develop our current ideas of morality?

Morality is what we have been told to do in the past, normally biblical times. Examples are the ten commandments, which I believe to have come from the Lord, but seeing as the original tablets were shattered by Moses when he came down from Sinai, they could have been rewritten by someone else. It IS possible.

Most things we consider to be morals are really rules which have been ingrained into society to such a degree that they almost do not need to be written down. Incestuous relationships, for example. These are banned because of the issues deriving from any child born as a result of one (the child would have half the immunity of the parents and may sufffer mental/physical disabilities), not because all of us have some kind of inbuilt resistance to thoughts along that line.

Morals are also relative. Consider the bully that thought you were a punchbag in high school; did he have morals? Did he have no morals, or just different ones to your own? Perhaps his moral was “Survival of the fittest”?

It’s indeed very much a cultural thing, what is very normal here might be a taboo in a far off country and vice versa.

Most of all morals a set of unwritten rules that try to keep a society together if you ask me. Or at least to give some form of direction in life.

Exactly. From what I’ve heard, the age of consent in Japan is 12. TWELVE. And in some states in the U.S. it’s 18, and even then frowned upon.

Morality is common sense.

But isn’t that different from culture to culture, heck , sometimes from person to person as well?

I lilke the way you put that, also human instinct has some thing called common good. Where at the core one naturally knows if what actions they take are right or wrong. What you do afterwards depends on the person you are.

i personally don’t believe in morality but i will humor you since your definition of it was quite realistic (something simply passed on from the older generation to the younger).

the problem isn’t that complex. “morality”, as you call it, is merely cultural protocol to ensure the survival of the group. different groups decide for themselves the best way to survive given their population and environment. this can be extrapolated to the severity with which acts like murder, theft, or infidelity are received by the group.

if you subscribe to the concept of evolution, i suspect that this behavior began with man’s earliest social ancestors. for instance, chimpanzee groups have exhibited “moral codes” unique to their group.

so you could say it began with #2, though it wasn’t simply a shot in the dark, it was calculated reasoning aiming to keep the group alive.

since then, i would say that it has transistioned to #1. few present day cultures have updated their obsolete and nonsensical customs. for instance, the strict gender roles imposed in the middle east or the posessiveness of relationships that seem to span the globe. territorality, superstition, arbitrary obligations regarding family, sensitivity to verbal insults, the list goes on.

my culture’s conduct is liberal - perhaps hedonistic, but it is not naive and if you are feeling repressed or tense, you might consider assessing the etiquette that was forced upon you before you could question it. i guess what i’m trying to say is that most of the world is governed by sentimentality and if you are willing to give that up, you’ll know yourself much better from being honest with yourself and then you’ll be able to make decisions about your life with a clear perspective (and you won’t be a possessive, easily insulted, whiny jerk (assuming you are one)).

On the other hand sentimentality can help a lot sometimes.

Yes it is.I was just clearing things out of the way.It all comes down to the way you were raised and then there are some aspects that can change later own.

I can agree to that ^.^

Its moral socialisation, but that doesnt mean your morality cant change.

Morality is completely subjective and is nothing but a result of the culture from which is springs forth.

In western cultures, morality is primarily derived from Christian origins, but even those differ greatly from culture to culture. For example, though America is primarily a Christian state, the type of Christianity in America differs greatly than that of, say, Italy. America’s morality comes from a mixture of Puritanical views, and a bit of cowboy mentality. In Italy, it is much more closely related to Roman Catholicism.

However, you look at a culture like Japan that isn’t traditionally Christian, and their view on morality is vastly different. However, recent western influences (and by “recent,” I mean in the last couple hundred years) have pushed Japan toward a slightly more conservative morality, but their non-Christian roots are constantly at war with their newfound Christian ideals. In fact, for example, pornography wasn’t censored in Japan until after WW2, when McArthur enforced his morality upon the Japanese.

What is right and what is wrong is completely subjective. Take a look at all animals in nature… do they have a sense of what is right and wrong? They know what they’ll get in trouble for… they know what’s dangerous. But, do they care about morality? No. Humans are only different because we have been granted the curse of reason.

However, there is a commonality in morality across cultures. In order for a society to succeed, there needs to be a social contract. People need to be able to live in a relative state of harmony in order for a social structure to work, and that brings with it a certain basic minimum: no random killing, no stealing, etc. The presence of culture brings about the idea of the self, but not as an individual organism, but defined as a person including his/her domain (possessions, property, etc). The need to protect the self then becomes more important, and as culture gets more and more advanced, more detailed guidelines of morality are required.

I could go on and on for hours :smiley:

Actually, not even all cultures agree on this one. For example. Scandanavian eskimo folklore has a lot of stories of incestuous relationships. It was relatively commonplace for fathers to marry their own daughters, believe it or not.

<-- Had to take a class on Scandanavian Eskimo Folklore in college…

i think it has very much to do with the culture but i think your definition of culture, in this case, is much broader than mine. when i had mentioned my culture ealier, i was not referring to my nation, religion (or lack thereof), or ethnicities. i was actually referring to the more liberal types living in the northwest of the united states mostly comprised of college-aged kids but also including some older folk that are still into the same modes of thinking.

i find that groups of people even within the same region of the US can live and think in completely different ways, that is why i call them separate cultures. on a legal level (laws being based off of morals and all), you are entirely correct - our morality has been handed down from the church and mixed with a little yehaw. but if you examine the issue down to the ‘sub cultures’, i think morals begin to vary between those groups as a result of the understanding a group has of their place in the world.

<-- Had to take a class on Scandanavian Eskimo Folklore in college…[/quote]

That is SO kick ass.

My definition of culture covers those grounds, too. Although, technically, those would be considered “sub-cultures,” but they are distinct cultures, nonetheless.

What I mean by culture is generally the history of the society in which the subject lives, modified by the immediate surroundings (whether that be pop culture, family culture, etc).

As for Scandanavian Folklore… wasn’t all that exciting, really. Some interesting stories on occasion, but overall, I was disappointed in the class =\

i can dig it, i actually made my reply after misreading your opening statement as “Morality is completely subjective and has nothing to do with the culture from which it springs forth.”

at least the comments i made were still half-relevent :anjou_embarassed:

I’ve been meaning to share my thoughts on this topic, so here goes…

Unless you’re totally devoid of compassion and empathy, a person should have their own moral compass to guide them. There comes a time when you simply know that something is wrong and it won’t be based on preconceived morals.

Are morals merely shared beliefs separating subjective ideas of right and wrong? You have to draw the line somewhere, not because you’ve been taught that something is wrong, but because it just is. Morality is only subjective to a point because society would basically collapse under its own weight if we didn’t have shared morals. In the end the moral majority decides what is truly right and truly wrong with the world.

Jesus said that whoever follows him shall never walk in darkness but will know the light of life (John 8: 12). I suppose you could question the brand of morality that Jesus shared with the world, but what’s so wrong about teaching others to love their enemies/neighbors? Faith reflects a person’s beliefs just as much as it shapes them. That’s something a lot of people seem to forget.