Morality - Why should we do good?

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TheoDutch
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Morality - Why should we do good?

Post by TheoDutch » Mon Mar 28, 2016 11:20 am

Hey, I am new here and I have a question about morality which has bothered me for a long time. I know many people that want to do the right thing in life. They want to move forward, do what is right or do what their moral compass tells them to do. They say certain things 'matter' and therefore they take certain actions. The question which has bothered me is 'Why?'. Why do (intellectual) people choose to do the 'right' thing? The underlying question would then be: 'Why SHOULD we do the right thing?'. Why can't we just ignore our moral compass and do whatever we like? And if we can ignore them, what reasons are there for us to not ignore these?

Is there some sort of axiom that I am not aware of? Is there just no logical reason to act based on what you think is the right thing to do?

I'm looking forward to your opinions on this matter.

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Jebus
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Post by Jebus » Mon Mar 28, 2016 12:51 pm

Good question. I am looking forward to Brimstone's answer but here's my take.

Earlier this week, I saw a beautiful woman walking down the beach. I noticed I was not the only guy looking. I would have loved to bang her but realize that I have no chance in hell with her. My only chance to get with her would be by rape, so why not do so if I would be sure to get away with it?

Ignoring the fact that I might get caught, I would feel awful about myself if I were to take away the life or happiness of another sentient being. This is precisely the reason why I should not rape her. There are many others like me although our opinions differ about what constitutes an immoral act.

What about the rest? Those who don't have this moral compass. Those who wouldn't feel bad if they raped that beautiful woman and got away with it.

I really don't think there is any underlying reason why they shouldn't rape her. This is why it's important to have laws and subsequent punishments that deter individuals from acting in ways that lower the weighed average of happiness among all sentient beings.

In an ideal society there would be laws that deterred immoral and amoral people from committing acts that lower the collective happiness level. However, what we have today is a society where laws were in large drawn up by deontological rather than consequentialist values.
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

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Jaywalker
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Post by Jaywalker » Mon Mar 28, 2016 1:09 pm

Hello, welcome!

I don't think there is any reason to act morally outside of the desire to be good. If you care only about yourself, you can get by just fine - and sometimes excel - acting largely immorally. Morality is a guideline for people who want to be good.

I think your questions should be the other way around, the underlying question being "why do people want to do the right thing?"

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:00 am

The paradox of hedonism dictates that human beings are rarely fulfilled or happy when pursuing personal gratification. Our minds are goal oriented, and in order to be fulfilled, you have to set certain goals and ambitions in your life and work toward them, preferably seeing some substantial success.

If you're religious, obviously fulfilling the will of your god in a grand cosmic battle of good vs. evil is a very fulfilling and rewarding purpose.
Of course, the danger of that is realizing at some point down the line after you've devoted a substantial part of your life to it that it's all [the dogma] bullshit... that's not a nice feeling. (If we assume a god exists, and this god is good, we have to ask what "good" is, we can't just appeal to a bunch of dogmatic rules with no evidence or circular reasoning "This is good because god says, and god is good, because he said so")
I would not recommend it.

If you're an atheist, it's a little more complicated. There are a number of potential goals available, or that would seem viable.

If you aren't a psychopath, the obvious best choice would seem to be aspiring to be a good person, and fighting for secular morality. This kind of goal has double payback: Not only are you striving for something you can find meaning in, but it also gives you some bonus warm fuzzies from empathy.
If you ARE a psychopath (as something like 1% of the population is), you can still advocate for secular morality, and it would be a good idea since it's one of the biggest games in town. Although since you aren't predisposed, you'd have to look at it like this:

If you go to a spectator sport and you don't care about the outcome, you aren't invested or rooting for any team, it's boring as hell. However, the moment you make the smallest wager or root for particular players or a particular team (for any reason, even just because you flipped a coin, or one team is wearing your favorite color), it starts to become more and more interesting to watch.

Now, you could take the position OPPOSITE of secular morality, or as close as you could get, perhaps by deciding to join the Jihaddists (at least in terms of rhetoric), or some of the more socially evil evangelical Christian groups. Your life may be just as fulfilling advocating and rooting for hate and regressive ideas, I just don't think you'd find yourself surrounded by the kind of people you could relate to, since the vast majority of them would actually believe in the religion (few people are evil deliberately).
I would not recommend joining that side of the ideological war. Not only because they're unpleasant to be around, but also because they're losing. We do like to win.

You might think there are other goals out there up for grabs, but surprisingly it's pretty desolate if you're at all social. Everything relates back to ideology.

You could go with politics, but that's more of a secondary goal, which is a crude application of moral/ideological issues to the political sphere. You'll find yourself with weak arguments if you aren't engaged with the subject on a more essential level, and it's likely to be unfulfilling. You also have a much better chance of discovering the things you've been fighting for (like religion) are bullshit, because much of politics is built on pseudoscience, or very soft and unreliable information. And a better chance of losing.

You could go with just amassing huge amounts of wealth and playing the money game, but the endeavors that pay off in that game are also the most risky, and you have a much better chance of going broke than ever becoming ridiculously rich. It has also been shown that wealth and life satisfaction/happiness don't correlate above a modest income, so that's a long shot. Most people who are rich AND happy, are happy because they spend their wealth working for causes they care for (see Gates).

You could go into art or music. Some people make creating art a major source of purpose and meaning in their lives. A significant portion of whom are miserable and commit suicide (much higher than the national average). And even then, most art is tertiary in nature, reflecting political ideals. Artists who make art only for art's sake tend to be the most disturbed in my experience.
Art and music are better used as a job, a hobby, or a means to an end, while deriving purpose from something else.

There are no doubt things that you can superficially devote your life to in order to realize a sense of meaning, purpose, and the goal oriented nature you need to be happy and fulfilled. Most of them are just rubbish, though.

If you're autistic (another 1% of the population), you're in luck: You may be able to devote your life to model trains (or some other trivial hobby, more deeply than any normal person can) and be totally fulfilled. That doesn't work for most neurotypical people, though.
Of course, if you're not a psychopath, you would still be MORE fulfilled by devoting your life to some interest with moral significance (like rescuing cats, or something), and acting consistently with those values.

If you're autistic and a psychopath (maybe one percent of one percent, or one in ten thousand people), there probably is no personally compelling reason to take sides in the grand battle of good vs. evil in the world.

Although, for any psychopath, since it is a spectrum condition, I would still advise that he or she would be better served by cultivating empathy if possible.

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Unknownfromheaven
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Post by Unknownfromheaven » Sun Apr 03, 2016 9:09 am

I think its a very important aspect about our own evolution..the main keys are empathy and compassion. Without these the human species cannot survive.
All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force..We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.” ~ Max Planck - Quantum Theory and Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

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