Murder is not Wrong

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Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 09:08 am
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:

[quote="Morality"]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 says:
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?

Wesley says:
ok

Morgoth the Oppressor says:
Murder is not wrong.

Wesley says:
How can that be, you're causing harm to another human being.

Morgoth the Oppressor says:
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?

Wesley says:
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 says:
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?

Wesley says:
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 says:
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.
 
de budding
 
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 09:45 am
@Mephistopheles phil,
My morality is driven by the the acceptance that I pretty much have no choice but to live with other humans. The political and social structure of today pretty much forces a dependency on others on myself and therefore I have no choice but to interact. If I want to eat and sleep- the basics to stay alive, I can not simply go foraging for food and sleeping where I please, this is in fact illegal. I must get a job to provide myself with shelter which, more than likely, is from a limited choice of houses in streets with many other people. To have the opportunity to live completely alone like Heidegger, alone in a mountain hut on the outskirts of the Black Forest... paradise, but completely unrealistic for someone like me who pretty much has to accept his fate as cog in some ancients dream-machine, living the dreams of men long dead.

For those reasons I develop morals which I think help us to co-exist with each other, mostly based on empathy and putting each other first when in the vicinity of each other but, the more considerate I am to others the more I get exploited, for it is men with morals who set the stage for men without morals to exist... The gunman needs an honest shopkeeper to rob just like a liar needs truth tellers who trust each other so he can lie to them. For know I will maintain it is wrong to hurt or upset each other, but I'm sure I will get sick of trying to be nice and accept the fact that the efforts are futile.

It has to be a completely mutual system to work properly, and I don't think that is possible... although I don't think I could murder someone anyways, I'm a soft touch.

Dan.
 
Mephistopheles phil
 
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 10:47 am
@de budding,
de_budding wrote:
My morality is driven by the the acceptance that I pretty much have no choice but to live with other humans. The political and social structure of today pretty much forces a dependency on others on myself and therefore I have no choice but to interact. If I want to eat and sleep- the basics to stay alive, I can not simply go foraging for food and sleeping where I please, this is in fact illegal. I must get a job to provide myself with shelter which, more than likely, is from a limited choice of houses in streets with many other people. To have the opportunity to live completely alone like Heidegger, alone in a mountain hut on the outskirts of the Black Forest... paradise, but completely unrealistic for someone like me who pretty much has to accept his fate as cog in some ancients dream-machine, living the dreams of men long dead.

For those reasons I develop morals which I think help us to co-exist with each other, mostly based on empathy and putting each other first when in the vicinity of each other but, the more considerate I am to others the more I get exploited, for it is men with morals who set the stage for men without morals to exist... The gunman needs an honest shopkeeper to rob just like a liar needs truth tellers who trust each other so he can lie to them. For know I will maintain it is wrong to hurt or upset each other, but I'm sure I will get sick of trying to be nice and accept the fact that the efforts are futile.

It has to be a completely mutual system to work properly, and I don't think that is possible... although I don't think I could murder someone anyways, I'm a soft touch.

Dan.


I don't suggest hurting and upsetting others senselessly is not wrong, I am suggesting it's only wrong because one of us says so.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 01:10 pm
@Mephistopheles phil,
I say that a product of acting morally would be to cause virtue in the society. Therefore, it's not about saying that something is right or wrong but to know the beneficial cause of acting morally. I believe that one is sane by implying that an action is meant to benefit the whole society, not just yourself. Therefore, if murder is for a sort of coalescent betterment, then it si morally acceptable, but if murder is due to a more narrow cause it is completely wrong. Personally, I don't see any reason to kill somebody unless that person is going to do far worse and that fact is inevitable, it has to be inevitable, or completely certain.
 
de budding
 
Reply Fri 20 Jun, 2008 01:53 pm
@Mephistopheles phil,
Mephistopheles wrote:
I don't suggest hurting and upsetting others senselessly is not wrong, I am suggesting it's only wrong because one of us says so.


If it is only wrong because one of us says so then it would explain why it is so hard to try and uphold a moral structure today. I am defiantly more morally skeptic than I use to be.

Dan.
 
Afallucco
 
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2008 08:40 pm
@de budding,
I've always said morality is subjective. Your right, there is no universal morality and views of morality differ from person to person. Many people may agree that killing is wrong because your taking a human life and denying them their right to life. It all depends on the person in general.

Also, to add to the argument that killing someone isn't harming anyone else: Emotionally hurting someone is still hurting them. Sure, like all wounds human endure they heal. Nevertheless, they were still harmed.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2008 03:52 pm
@Afallucco,
How about this: If you commit murder, you allow the possibility of it to be commited to you, for you allow it to be brought into the world at a personal level, and in allowing it to come into the world at a personal level, you do not condemn but affirm its existence as a whole. In doing this, you allow for it to happen to your children or relatives, the carriers of your genetic infromation, and thus alow for the end of not only yourself, but every trace of you. It is antithetical to survival to allow for murder, but only if every party realises this, or can avoid attack through some means other than lethal force. It is certainly logical to avoid death as staunchly as one can both on the recieving end and the giving end. It is a position that most certainly be taken down to the matter of survival and human furtherment as are many laws which are considered malum insae or evil in and of the selfs.
 
Teena phil
 
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2008 05:01 pm
@Afallucco,
Morality is definitely tough to define, I think there are several different types of it used under one term.

I do believe that we might have certain "moral codes" instilled in us (and perhaps in other animals) by nature. Murder for example I can imagine murder being one, along with certain other "basic" morals.
(ex. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html?_r=1&oref=slogin )

The other "morals" in the other hand may be just a product of society, where & how we are raised & what we are taught. The obvious need for this of course rises out of the need for people to co-exist in a more complex society.

I would probably group it in 3 categories
1 - Most fundamental, natural/genetic morals. Majority would hold agreement on these regardless of environment. ex. murder
2 - Basic rules/foundation of a functioning society. ex. regarding property etc.
3 - More minor moral "rules" which are likely to vary quite a bit (by time period, place etc). Things such as sexuality for example.

Laws I think are a combination of all 3. From murder being illegal to homosexuality (which I would place in the 3rd category)
 
Mephistopheles phil
 
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2008 05:54 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235 wrote:
How about this: If you commit murder, you allow the possibility of it to be commited to you, for you allow it to be brought into the world at a personal level, and in allowing it to come into the world at a personal level, you do not condemn but affirm its existence as a whole. In doing this, you allow for it to happen to your children or relatives, the carriers of your genetic infromation, and thus alow for the end of not only yourself, but every trace of you. It is antithetical to survival to allow for murder, but only if every party realises this, or can avoid attack through some means other than lethal force. It is certainly logical to avoid death as staunchly as one can both on the recieving end and the giving end. It is a position that most certainly be taken down to the matter of survival and human furtherment as are many laws which are considered malum insae or evil in and of the selfs.


You can't invent murder. It's something most lifeforms do.

To Teena, murder is not genetically abhorrent. Just ask feral humans who commit murder. Oh wait, you can't, they're mentally retarded if they even live long enough to be captured.

We only find murder wrong because it's what we're taught. If you grew up in Nazi Germany murder isn't bad at all. If Nazism had won the war, our world wouldn't find a problem with genocide and random murder. And then there's the literary world of 1984; murder is encouraged.
 
Teena phil
 
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2008 06:22 pm
@Mephistopheles phil,
Mephistopheles wrote:
You can't invent murder. It's something most lifeforms do.

To Teena, murder is not genetically abhorrent. Just ask feral humans who commit murder. Oh wait, you can't, they're mentally retarded if they even live long enough to be captured.

We only find murder wrong because it's what we're taught. If you grew up in Nazi Germany murder isn't bad at all. If Nazism had won the war, our world wouldn't find a problem with genocide and random murder. And then there's the literary world of 1984; murder is encouraged.


Hmm, perhaps I shouldn't have put it so plainly as "we're genetically set against murder". I do believe that it's very possible that there's something along those lines in our nature (read link in last post), but there can also be different factors. For example the survival instinct could very well override the instinct to not harm.

As far as the Nazis, I see what you're saying...but you cant really say if we're by nature open to any behavior (murder for example) and we are lead by what we're taught to feel that it is wrong OR we're by nature "against" murder but can be "brainwashed" to accept it or encourage it.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 04:01 am
@Teena phil,
Your dialog exposes the most fundamental fallacies of your argument:

You say: "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?"

Yet in your introduction you say: "right being actions which benefit us or others, and wrong being actions which unbenefit us or other"

The murder is not the only individual involved - his murdering certainly causes harm to the victim, and therefore murder is wrong.

You argue that, because moral values vary and often conflict that there are no universal moral rights or wrongs. However, there does not have to be universal moral right and wrong in order for there to be moral right and wrong.

As for your claim "there are no moral values except the ones put into law", this is, on it's face, untrue - and your support for the claim is nonexistent. You go from saying that laws 'express a form of morality' to saying that laws are the only moral values. The claim is patently false because I can hold a moral value regardless of legislation - even you admit that men held moral values prior to legislation.
 
Justin
 
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 09:01 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Moral or immoral what you do to your brother the world will do unto you. You treat people the way you would want to be treated. If you really desire to hurt yourself, then hurt someone else because that's exactly what will happen.

The murderer may live on but if one believes they can hurt someone else without equally balanced hurt and pain to themselves, they're seeing ghosts. The surest way to hurt oneself is to deliver hurt to another.

The naivety behind this original post is sad because there are some that actually believe this type of thing. It's no wonder this world is so screwed up with people trying to raise themselves up or lift themselves higher by pushing another down. Set all the man made laws aside so we can observe the laws of nature.

Do unto others as you would want others to due unto you. PEACE!
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 10:51 am
@Justin,
I feel that my last post was fairly thouroughly misunderstood. I simply was saying that murder is wrong because it places undue danger of pain of death and does not maximally benefit humanity in comparison to rampant murder as it deprives us of potential resources and threatens survival. Non leathal force for this reason is preferred.

The first post essentially said "Do unto others ..." but with reasons to do so and a little logical build up(albiet maybe not the clearest)
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 24 Jun, 2008 11:30 am
@Mephistopheles phil,
Mephistopheles wrote:
If you grew up in Nazi Germany murder isn't bad at all. If Nazism had won the war, our world wouldn't find a problem with genocide and random murder.
That's utter nonsense that would be revealed by even the most cursory understanding of the period.

The Nazis took tremendous pains to keep their atrocities a secret even from their own people. They left very few written documents, they ensured that Hitler's name never appeared on a document related to the treatment of Jews, they burned and destroyed all of the Operation Reinhard camps (Sobibor, Belzec, Chelmno, Treblinka, and Majdanek), they destroyed the crematoria at Auschwitz, they killed the sonderkommando at the death camps regularly to prevent them from disseminating what they'd witnessed, and they relegated the atrocities against civilians largely to the SS (with some exceptions, especially in the occupied Soviet Union). The German populace was NEVER told of the campaign to exterminate Jews (and others), and while many suspected it it was never an openly declared policy. And at Nuremburg (and other war crimes trials) the Nazi defendants always did their best to either deny that their atrocities had happened, deny knowledge of them, or use the Eichmann defense that they were just little puppets following orders.

Sounds like a whole lot of secrecy -- and perhaps shame.
 
neo-anchorite
 
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2008 01:52 pm
@Mephistopheles phil,
"Murder is not wrong" is a contradiction. Surely you mean killing is not wrong.
Walter Benjamin described what he called divine violence, referring to a spontaneous revolutionary upheaval in response to unbearable repression. According to everyday moral codes killing is wrong, but Kierkegaard was right (a line that Benjamin was following) there are times and situations in which there is an understandable (if not morally justifiable) teleological suspension of the ethical.

By the way "morality is subjective" is also a contradiction. If morality is radically subjective (i.e. "this is just what I think") there is no morality (for reasons akin to Witgenstein's argument against a private language).
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2008 02:08 pm
@neo-anchorite,
neo-anchorite wrote:
"morality is subjective" is also a contradiction.
The terminology I've always heard, including in an ethics class when I was an undergraduate, is that morality is individual, whereas ethics are shared. People colloquially use the word "morality" to refer to ethics.

Quote:
If morality is radically subjective there is no morality.
So if opinions are subjective does that mean there are no opinions?
 
neo-anchorite
 
Reply Tue 22 Jul, 2008 12:44 am
@Aedes,
Who said that morality is individual and ethics is social, and what did they mean?

They are both individual in the sense that in each case the individual needs to make a decision about what is right or wrong when they act (this is the starting point of Kant's moral theory, but it really follows from Descartes' "reminder" that all knowledge involves judgment by individuals - the "I think" must accompany every claim to knowledge).

At the same time they are both social. Firstly, they presuppose a social background of generally accepted norms (these sorts of actions are wrong and those sorts are right) - we can argue about the details of whether, for instance, abortion should be viewed as murder or as respect for the liberty of women only because we already have some general agreements (social) about what murder is and its wrongness and about what liberty is and how important it is (for us).

The big divide in philosophy between ethics and morality arose mainly with Kant. He wanted to come up with a way of being good that would be universally valid (i.e. recognisable as right not only by the members of our community (the attitude which is retrospectively read into an ancient Greek notion of the ethical) but recognisable as right by every imaginable rational agent in the universe). Kantian morality believes it has freed itself completely from dependence on local customary ideas, which is why the Kantian moral agent can be confident that it is not compromising its autonomy (and being autonomous is the core of Kant's moral theory - although we talk (according to the Kantian view of things) about the right and the good, really what we want is to make sure we are acting in a radically free way (i.e. not just doing what we want and not just following local traditions). This very negative view of local customs and traditions is one of the things that makes Kantian morality very individualistic.

Is Kantian morality subjective because it is all focused on individual judgment? No. Someone trying to be Kantian knows they must be able to justify their actions - they need to be able to say that when they went for that abortion, for instance, they were doing the right thing. This involves a claim to objectivity - it must be possible (in principle at least) for us to agree that it was right to have an abortion. There never could be any agreement if I just said: "Hey, it seemed to me like a good idea at the time" (which is what you would say if you thought it was a merely subjective issue).

In practice, Kantian morality also relies on shared norms (although Kant never admitted this and it really undermines his theory to admit it). For the reasons given above, those discussions about what is right and wrong in particular cases can never get going and could never (even in principle) come to any conclusion without a shared moral/ethical vocabulary (and those vocabularies are always local, both geographically and historically).

Conclusion: there is a useful and enlightening distinction between ethics and morality, but it still doesn't make sense to say that morality is (purely) subjective (if you mean that it is purely a private matter and discussion is pointless).

Advice: while thinking about particular moral issues it is worth thinking about how morality/ethics are social, and how they have evolved historically. A VERY thought-provoking work that takes this approach is Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" (a free e-book is available from Gutenberg and my summary can be found at philosophical anvil). By the way, for Nietzsche EVERYTHING is morality (ethics, science, politics included) because every human activity involves evaluations about what is good and what is bad. A less in-your-face book is Alisdair MacIntyre's "After Virtue".

One of the things that come into view when you look at things historically is how closely the rise of morality is linked to the rise of liberalism (the breakdown of the older, more closely knit communities that could share more fully developed ideas about the right way to live). MacIntyre talks at length about the crisis of morality/ethics in the modern world because the moral vocabulary has been diminished to such a great extent. In the past, ethics encompassed just about everything (including business, for instance). In modern liberal societies huge areas of social life come to be seen as morally neutral and morality shrinks to arguments about abortion, same-sex marriages and whether it is okay to smack your kids. Liberalism (some would say capitalism) has been eroding the social basis for morality (for a morality that our society can be unanimous about). This, though, (following Nietzsche) implies a whole set of value judgments (praising a dubious notion of individual liberty and an equally questionable notion of human equality) which deserve a ruthless criticism (a criticism which would necessarily go beyond the decadent ethic/morality of the age - hence Nietzsche's title "Beyond Good and Evil")
 
Critz
 
Reply Sat 2 Aug, 2008 05:44 pm
@Mephistopheles phil,
Mephistopheles wrote:


We only find murder wrong because it's what we're taught. If you grew up in Nazi Germany murder isn't bad at all. If Nazism had won the war, our world wouldn't find a problem with genocide and random murder. And then there's the literary world of 1984; murder is encouraged.


I strongly disagree with this statement. If you grew up in Nazi Germany the genocide would be more then likley unknown to you. And if you did know about it, you were tauch that it was enacted on people without the status of an actual person. If I smash my computer, is it murder? No.
Likewise, Nazi Germany worked to dehumanize the people it was commiting genocide on. To the ones commiting the act, it wasn't seen as murder, no more then we see cows lined up to become steak as murder.

And the ones who disagreed? They mysteriously dissapeared at night, and it was probably best for ones health if they didn't delve too much into why this was. This isn't 'accpeting' random murder, this is the love of your life and the safety of your familiy taking premise over the death of someone you didn't know that well anyway.

So from this, I'de conclude that murder is thought of as wrong, but if you can convice yourself what your doing isn't murder, then you can convince your self it isn't wrong.
 
 

 
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