Human morality as we know it comes in many different varieties, but largely it is a way for our group-unit species to interact with each other and avoid harming each other. Many cultures and many societies have different sets of morality, and rarely agree, except on major issues involving life, liberty, and property. An extremely complex subject, morality largely involves interactions between individuals, groups, societies, and civilizations.
How do we define something like morality? And how do we separate it from ethics? Wikipedia best differentiates morality and ethics by stating:
"]Morality (from Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behaviour") refers to the concept of human action which pertains to matters of right and wrong-also referred to as "good and evil"-used within three contexts: individual distinction; systems of valued principles-sometimes called conduct morality-shared within a cultural, religious, secular or philosophical community. Personal morals define and distinguish among right and wrong intentions, motivations or actions, as these have been learned, engendered, or otherwise developed within individuals. By contrast, ethics are more correctly applied as the study of broader social systems within whose context morality exists. Morals
define whether I should kill my neighbour Joe when he steals my tractor; ethics
define whether it is right or wrong for one person to kill another in a dispute over property.[/quote]
With the construct of morality clearly defined, we see that morality is a sense of "right" from "wrong", right being actions which benefit us or others, and wrong being actions which unbenefit us or others, at least, generally speaking. However, not all established foundations for morality is so blackwhite, and clearly definable. Sodomy, a moral value considered to be wrong by most major mainstream monotheistic religions, harms no one, yet is considered wrong. Homosexuality, which harms no one, is also considered wrong. Patriarchy, which is male household rule and a common standard among fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and Jews, is considered right, but without any serious rationale. There are a plethora of other moral values without rationale, making the whole issue of morality complicated beyond belief, and contradictory amongst itself.
Why was morality developed? If we look into the distant past, and learn about how humans progressed from being instinct based to being sentient animals, we realize that in order to survive, humans had to survive in packs. It was possible to survive alone like the great predatory felines, but if we had done that, there would have been no cities, and no civilization for us to develop into technologies for all sorts of things, including our computers we are using to debate right now. Humans banded together into packs, and as a system of basic despotism gave rise to basic tribes which tended to develop temporary settlements, eventually, the benefits of agriculture which was recently discovered at that point was greater than risky hunting and gathering. To better facilitate interaction between individuals for the benefit of not just the individuals, but the rest of tribal society, norms and expectations were developed, probably first unconsciously, until finally realized, and codified.
Do laws express a form of morality? Most certainly. Laws are simply the contemporary form of these norms and expectations programmed into us by society, adopted from thousands of years ago, and adapted for the modern times. What makes a law a law at all? Laws are a contract between government and people; the people obey the rules, and they can live their lives in peace; break the norms and expectations, and various methods of punishment ensue.
But what makes something moral or what makes something legal?
This is a question I am having a difficult time answering. There is no universal physical law saying murder is wrong. There are laws basically etched into stone declaring murder illegal, but what makes murder wrong? By virtue of being "illegal"? That's not a rational answer. What makes murder intrinsically, fundamentally wrong?
Taken from an MSN conversation with Wesley's permission:
Morgoth the Oppressor
I'm writing up an essay on morality and ethics... my basic premise is there's no right or wrong. At all. Take murder, for example. Wes[ley], let's play-debate, shall we?
Morgoth the Oppressor
Murder is not wrong.
How can that be, you're causing harm to another human being.
Morgoth the Oppressor
What does it matter to me if I cause harm to another human being, or even end their life? Does the human race end because one human dies?
no but it denies the person their future and I also think that Causing harm to another human being is wrong because you don't want to cause more pain but reduce it.
Morgoth the Oppressor
Why does their future matter to me? My future will go on, and they'll be dead. Why do I care if someone else is in pain?
Because we humans have a thing called grief and if you are a kind and caring person, you will feel grief if you kill someone and you'll also have to deal with the families and friends.
Morgoth the Oppressor
But why does the emotional state of us matter? We won't die from it, will we? If my survival is the most important thing to me, why should it matter to me if someone else is killed by me, unless I'd be killed in the process? See what I'm getting at? What intrisically makes murder fundamentally bad? It's something to think about, at the very least.
So how do I justify unmurder? How do I justify not killing, not ending the life of another? There are several arguments I can think of, some already mentioned.
- Economic - that the murder of an individual would decrease their power on the economy, and end their contributions to society.
Rebuttal - The economy will not be affected so tremendously by one individual that it would collapse. The human race goes on, and society goes on, and I, the murderer, will go on, assuming I am not caught or killed because of my actions.
- Emotion - that the murder of an individual would increase the emotional state of the people affected by that individual's death, and possibly, increase my own emotional state, I, the murderer.
Rebuttal - Emotions are completely irrelevant because they do not cause death in most cases. Emotions go away in time.
- Rights - that the murder of an individual is a breach of their human rights by I, the murderer.
Rebuttal - There is no universal law granting human rights. Human rights only exist so far as the law allows them, or as far as people's opinions soon-to-become-laws permit them.
Let it not be said I advocate or condone murder. I believe it is wrong. I just recognize the fact I cannot justify why
murder is wrong. I just feel it's wrong. This brings us to another point: are morals natural or are they learned? If we observe the behavior of feral children, adolescents, and adults, we realize they possess no moral values unless they learn new ones, or retain some from their infancy, and act largely upon instinct. Many attempts to re-educate feral humans to become productive citizens have, in the large majority of cases, been unsuccessful. We are not born with morals, but rather, learn them from our guardians and from society.
Morals are a set of behavioral codes designed to maximize the benefits of life, liberty, and property, in the liberal sense. Some moral values have no bearing on benefiting life, on benefiting liberty, or benefiting liberty, but largely, most accepted modern moral values have some sort of beneficial power. It is considered immoral to cause a deficit in life, liberty, or property, but again, we run into more contradictions. The murder of an individual in retribution for a killing is legalized
in the form of execution
. True to a Newspeak concept, execution is a legal form of revenge, and is considered by the majority of American society to be a moral value of benefit for the family and friends of the one killed by the individual about to be killed in turn for the killing.
An argument on this forum against the reasoning that morals are not natural is that there are universal morals imposed upon us by a creator. The flaw with this argument is the observation of feral humans, and the fact that people can "get away with" criminal behavior and are not divinely punished in, at least, this life. Another argument against environmental morality as opposed to naturalistic morality is that if the universe came into being without the help of a creator and is thus a result of random (or logical) chance, how did morality, which is not random, come into being? Well, the problem here is that the person who put this forth, namely Batonfromage, is that he did not take into account logic and rationality. If murder were acceptable as if one blew a nose, human society would be largely destroyed. Obviously, this is unacceptable, and rules against killing were put into place. Some killing remained, such as through war, through execution, and through sacrifice/ritual killings. A social contract benefits everyone.
In conclusion, there are no moral values except the ones put into law. There are no universal rights or wrongs, and there is nothing wrong with anything or right with anything unless society or the individual who owns themself determines it to be so.