Joined: Feb. 2006
I was typing while PuckSR was...
I'll address the issues PuckSR has raised, then I'll shut up.
|but my argument is that a lot of what your terming "morality" is just instinct....|
And I tried to point out that your examples are not of "moral" acts, because a chimp can only do what chimps do, based on their chimpy instinct, a lion can only do what lions do, based on their liony instinct, etc. all throughout the animal kingdom.
By applying the scientific method, we can determine exactly what the limits are of chimp behavior, lion behavior, etc. [Trying as hard as possible not to become part of the experiment]. And once we've done so, then we can predict how chimps will react when they encounter the natural events of their chimpy worlds.
As you pointed out, humans, on the other hand, can react in nearly an infinite variety of ways when they encounter the same events. You describe how different societies apply capital punishment, even when they are equally "advanced," whatever that means.
I counter with this: Capital punishment, abortion, death with dignity, euthanasia, even traffic laws are not the cause, they are the symptoms.
Moral codes and their practical applications know as laws and societal norms are, as you-all have pointed out quite accurately, a product of social interaction. If you are all alone on a desert island, morality and law are irrelevant.
The place that I see tension is between the individual and the state, which I define as any governmental system.
In societies where the state prevails there are almost no human rights, especially for weaker members of the group. The laws range from punishing entire ethnicities for the supposed transgressions of a few, to punishing individual evil-doers for just not fitting in. The harshness of the punishments is an inverse relation to the ability of the members of the group to defend themselves from the force of the law.
In societies where individuals prevail, we have nearly perfect human rights. Those rights are codified in an objective law that any member of society can read and apply. Those laws do clearly demarcate where one person’s rights end and another person’s rights begin.
Societies with objective moral codes tend to develop more individual protections than those with subjective moral codes – as thordaddy tried to point out - laws result from the moral codes of the members of the society. If the moral codes change, then the laws change.
So here is what I propose as the “perfect” moral code and basis for all laws: The rights of the individual are paramount but not infinite. The purpose of law is to define the limits to other people’s behavior so they do not trample your rights. But the rights defended by the law are very few:
Your life is your own to dispose of as you please.
The fruits of your labor belong to you.
You can enter and exit any contractual relations you choose, whenever you choose.
You can say or do anything you like so long as you don’t interfere with the rights of others to do the above.
If you compare all the other laws and moral codes that exist to these, you will see that they all subject the individual to some arbitrary tyranny in the name of gods or “society.” Everything else is just some people trying to benefit at the expense of others.
We try to defend the rights of minorities. What minority deserves more defense than the minority of one?
We promote democracy. What is more democratic than ruling yourself without interference from others?
******** (When I put in stars like this I mean to address all readers, not just the first person I replied to.)
How does this apply to abortion? If the life of the baby is a threat to the mother’s life (not just her comfort), then the baby must go. You say the baby is innocent and should live. But if the mother dies while carrying the baby, how will the baby live?
In all other instances, the mother is violating the rights of the child.
People can try to define the child away. People can say anything they want. People can even get the bigger gang to agree with them, using force to implement their will. But, in the end, people are just sacrificing those who cannot defend themselves from the state for the benefit of an arbitrarily selected group: Women who want abortions.
But this is one idea we “as a society” have correct: Just because you want something, doesn’t make it a right.
You still have to define the time at which human life begins and rationally defend your choice.
[Sorry, ericmurphy, you may try to uncouple your ethics from reality, but the science of ethics is just as much a science as chemistry or biology. It just has a different subject and different tools.]