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Morality is based on one's Personal early-life experiences...


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All politics are simply about the negotiations (or forces) of people who base their ideals upon morality. But what is not understood is that all morality is arbitrary to nature itself and the only thing that defines our differences are due to our evolution of consciousness to take some part of our personal environmental experiences during early life through windows of 'assignments' that dictate how and what will later BE what we interpret is or is not 'moral'.

I am absent of religion and relatively nihilistic in a logical way. So of course this may appear at first to seem that I think that there is no hope for finding a way to address politics or ethics of any sort. I differ from many other atheists in that many still believe that we have somehow evolved into being 'moral' via some evolutionary mechanism, often of "altruism". But I don't even believe this and think it is begging, in sync with even many religious people who assert this of us. So let me explain what is a better description of 'what' morality or ANY 'value' (such as 'truth' or 'non-truth' is) prior to assuming that I default to some internal self-serving preference regardless of circumstances.

Some may have heard of what is called, "windows of development", in psychology. See Critical Period as an overview of this by Wikipedia. Coming from a non-religious position, I used to wonder how and why my own lack of belief in any natural preference for moral values in Nature itself still didn't cause me personally to BE as self-serving or 'immoral' as you'd think I should be considering this rationally. I understood the religious argument for those asserting even at least to require some religion for the sake of promoting some moral laws EVEN if they didn't actually exist because it seems rational to fear what could or would happen if we merely accept no actual morality in common with others.

It is at least certain that at LEAST we pretend or have to pretend some morality in common with us all when it comes to fighting for certain political laws. Politics and our courts can be thought of as a "practical" means to defined morality even if these may lead to incorrect conclusions. That is, for many who may agree that Nature doesn't provide any common morality, that we have to at least negotiate them in competition even if only to maximize the utility of it for the majority. This is quite 'fine' if we happen to be ones who are defaulted to be represented on the majority side or to those at least empowered in law to be favored in this way. However, if you are one who must be penalized for the sake of some 'utility' of a majority, this is only more satisfying should one be religious. This is because if you don't believe in some means to later achieve some relief by any injustices brought against you via some afterlife court of some just god, there is no means that can rectify your own personal circumstances. Many non-religious people tend to focus favor on some 'future' progeny as a means to rectify injustices. But this to lacks substance logically where no actual means exist for us to 'experience' the justice of such a future reparation. To those who have offspring, this often at least DOES provide them justice emotionally if only to fear seeing their own children or grandchildren suffer in the future. But if you have no kids then what?

So let's first examine a non-religious interpretation of morality based on the 'critical periods' of development that I hold is true. There, what becomes ANY value, such as pleasures or pains, sight sensations like color, or sound, etc, are ALL arbitrary data that require windows of critical development periods that act like programs that TEST the environment for factors during that period and then ASSIGN what is most prevalent during that period as what the brain will later default to assuming as specific values.

So, for instance, if you have some part of the brain working on developing a link to one's sensation of touch and experience an environment such that it cuts you, while such cutting sensation is normally associated with pain, given the association to what it expects at the time, the critical period could default to assigning this sensation as pleasure. However, since such interpretation by the brain as this may hinder your survival, the likelihood that such an assignment could only persist to pass on this as normal would be diminished because such 'pleasure' may inevitably kill you.

This is generally how I believe that morals, with even more complex relations get assigned. And depending on the prevalence of such environmental experiences, only where the extremes could certainly eliminate you, the variation of what becomes a moral value assigned should always vary. That it, most morals are merely only relatively beneficial to individuals. It is not enough to assert some FACTS as religion may impose to assure one does not act out against some acceptable behavior. This is because the emotional 'comfort' of those assigned values may have no other appeal than to favor one's individual comfort regardless of how popular it is or not.

For example, some believe that killing animals is wrong. But this may be about how in early life you might have experienced a set of experiences that realistically allowed you to assign comfort in the lack of such actions, such as 'killing'. For example, you may have never experienced hunting or saw anything killed. You may have not even eaten things that have been 'killed' as far as you knew. In an opposite way, you could be assigned through experience the nature of killing as a norm when young and this window of development is opened. As such, you might normalize this by such default as to find it even odd that others would think this problematic. Even should you learn later that this is not 'politically' acceptable in some adult environment later, the emotional distaste for it may not be sufficiently present....only the logical understanding that others in society assert this 'wrong' or 'consequentially inhibiting'.

Take a lion that might accidentally interpret other animals as compassionately worthy to be delicate with. If this lion does not learn that some things are default 'food', while as 'compassionate' as this quality could be to outsiders, the nature of such an environmental adjustment could literally set the stage for the very demise of that lion. As such, "killing" is not morally wrong any more than right, but relative to ones' environmental realities. Some factors are apparently 'inherent'. A lion may seem default to automatically find killing non-immoral. But it is also as likely that such a trait occurs by accident regardless by merely BEING a relatively large enough creature that would inevitably kill or witness killing in its youth regardless. For example, take a pet cat that might seem callous to kill a mouse. This may have accidentally occurred in some original 'window'. It may not have intended to kill nor know that it represented 'food' in this way. It may have just thought it was being playful and it accidentally kills it. But this experience and what other possible benefits, like the satisfaction experienced for tasting its blood, is sufficient to create an experience in a window of development that enhances a lack of compassion for mice without regret. It wouldn't help further should some human later try to penalize the cat. Even if it learns something is 'wrong', this 'wrong' is only some latter reflected interpretation of what some other 'value' the cat derives of its owner.

This does NOT mean that punishing is effective as a deterrent from moral differences either. Whatever triggering factors that go into such moral evaluations in these windows have to be derived first. Otherwise, even penalizing them later doesn't necessarily MAKE them actually alter their internal idea of what is or is not valued. This would be like assuming that if one likes the taste of chocolate that they could internally turn this 'likeness' off later on at will by either yourself or others. It is possible but would best require some means to 'reopen' that window in some way to effectively 're-assign' new values. [Note that recent discoveries actually make this possible! See Nova's "Memory Hackers" for this recent set of discoveries]

Okay, so I've written a good long intro and believe this is enough to get the conversation going. What's your own take on this explanation. AND, do you think if knowing this, would we be able to find some means to use this to help frame our morality upon others in these windows with some common ground politically? I'm dubious since it might require first HAVING some set of common morals long enough to make it happen in reality. But then this too could also create a similar problem for messing with as some fear we do when advancing ways scientifically to shape our genetics, for instance.

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I believe the ethic of reciprocity is evolutionary morality. Yes, in the end it is self serving, but it is based on the concept of "pay it forward" instead of "pay back". Evolution has created a hierarchy of life, and we are only viewing evolution from a window in time and cannot make any reliable predictions about how we will have evolved in a billion years. Most of life, in terms of diversity of species, is unable to live in its environment without feeding on other life. That is natures conflict in basic morality that we have to resolve. The cat's concept of morality is obviously very different than our own, but it can learn that that there are superior long term benefits rather than immediate gratification. As we have evolved, we have been able to understand and express those learnings in more abstract terms. We have also become much better passing that knowledge from generation to generation. We don't just kill the pet mouse, we nurture it. We understand that we cannot just take away indiscriminately, we have to build and sustain our environment. We evolve from foragers to farmers.

Yes, basic morality is evolutionary. The complexities of how we express our morality however is entirely arbitrary.

Edited by ?Impact
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I believe the ethic of reciprocity is evolutionary morality. Yes, in the end it is self serving, but it is based on the concept of "pay it forward" instead of "pay back". Evolution has created a hierarchy of life, and we are only viewing evolution from a window in time and cannot make any reliable predictions about how we will have evolved in a billion years. Most of life, in terms of diversity of species, is unable to live in its environment without feeding on other life. That is natures conflict in basic morality that we have to resolve. The cat's concept of morality is obviously very different than our own, but it can learn that that there are superior long term benefits rather than immediate gratification. As we have evolved, we have been able to understand and express those learnings in more abstract terms. We have also become much better passing that knowledge from generation to generation. We don't just kill the pet mouse, we nurture it. We understand that we cannot just take away indiscriminately, we have to build and sustain our environment. We evolve from foragers to farmers.

Yes, basic morality is evolutionary. The complexities of how we express our morality however is entirely arbitrary.

You seem to be arguing for a "Karma" or "What-comes-around-(will)-go-around" type of position. Is this correct?

If so, while I think this is nice, I don't believe it has any actual essence in reality except for those fortunate to have actually looked back in retrospect of their successes and thought they earned it by virtue of their kindness "paying it forward". That one assumes they 'earned' their fortune BECAUSE they were moral should imply being moral is sufficient for success. It's not even necessary for humans since we can inherit our fortunes both genetically and environmentally.

All animals already default to 'favor' things more of their own kind. If you have ears to hear, you at least have a more likely tendency to favor those things which have both the capacity to make sounds in your range of hearing and to the feedback of one another. This is 'genetically reciprocal' and what I think most of our other forms of genetic altruism relates to by extension.

How do you extend morality beyond initial self-serving as some universal trait for all of some species though? Take the moral claim, "you should not steal". "Stealing" implies some intrinsic right of 'ownership' to some degree. To animals in nature, this is limited to what one can 'hold' or has immediate access to. It actually only implies one's capacity to have the power over something in their present environment. Humans, though, treat this power absolute and far beyond this limit. Even if we aren't present, we think that we have a right to command something to which we 'own' even if another is only borrowing it at some remote distance. So how, for instance, is there a genetic possible link to the moral rule that one should not steal for something one is not directly empowered to hold? That is, would you still assert that our human rule not to steal acts as some justified genetic inherent factor we evolved through reciprocity?

What I'm asking in general is to what extent do you interpret "morality" to extend to by some evolutionary standards if it is not based on proximity* alone in some way?

* "Selfish interest" is just a derived form of control of something in one's proximity. "Greed" is extending one's self-interest far beyond one's proximate range. So 'greed' though a moral vice, competes with the act of 'stealing' in an unusual way. We don't deem 'greed' a crime punishable to any extent for owning something, but to 'theft', however trivial, it is most contemptuous for our supposedly 'evolved' superiority.

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I don't think think any changes in morality in humans can be explained by genetic evolution (at least not in the last few millennia). Scott similar to what you're saying, I think a great deal of it comes down to conditioning.

When we're small children we behave instinctively and are constantly corrected by our parents, teachers etc. Hit another child when we're 3 or 4, and we're corrected and shown it's wrong, and if we continue we're punished. If we steal, then same thing happens. This continues throughout adolescence until we're old enough to be conditioned "properly", know "right from wrong", and until we're able to think critically for ourselves.

We're also influenced to think more left-wing or right-wing by our environment, ie: parents, teachers, friends, media etc. You're more likely to think conservatively if you live in rural Alberta or the US south than if you live in metropolitan Toronto or San Fransisco.

I also think some of our morality is changeable because we become able to think more critically. When we're adults we can use reason to realize when something we've been taught as children may not be morally right for us anymore, like religion, ie: no sex before marriage or anti-homosexually. Many people break with their parents and upset them when parts of their morality differs.

On the whole, our morality is changeable also because virtually every human also has the ability to feel compassion and altruistic or feel selfish. It is a biological evolutionary human need to feel an emotional attachment to somebody else, ie: a parent, so that love between parent and child means the child will be fed and survive. People naturally share love and compassion for other people like parents, siblings, pets, friends, neighbours etc, and humans are social beings that have lived in groups (communities) for many millennia as a survival tactic & need to live peacefully with others in our proximity. Children/humans also have a biological evolutionary instinct for survival so they instinctively exhibits selfish behaviour towards others like hogging all the cookies, or will punch another child they see as a threat, or steal from them. So that potential for love/compassion or selfishness/greed toward others is within us all, but needs guidance and the "rules" for what is right and wrong is called "morality".

Edited by Moonlight Graham
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I believe that morality is our template for survival. It is not necessarily what one should do to be good but what one should do to survive. All religions have the same base - do not do things that will cause you harm. Using the ten commandments, believers are warned that if you do certain things it may (or probably will) come back to cause you harm.

Every religion has some specific entity that you are supposed to worship but the other tenets are general rules for survival. You kill somebody then that somebodies family and/or friends will kill you. What you do to other folks, they will do to you. You mess with other peoples money or goods or wife those other people will do you harm. Prioritize your parents and your spouse. Parents give you stability and if you screw around on your spouse you will not have a family (or get harmed by said spouse). You tell lies then they will come back to hurt you.

For this reason, many young parents use religion to assist them in preparing their children for life. Some things they learn quickly - take a toy from another toddler and you get a bite on your nose. The more complicated issues can be addressed in their holy books.

Our view of the world is then colored through our adherence to these rules. People who are nurtured to attain wealth and protect their assets for their own use tend towards the right, those taught to share what they have will tend to the left. My view is that neither is wrong or right - it just is. I believe that people are generally good and their political positions do not label their morality.

In closing, morality for me is the individual template that one has created for themselves to guarantee that your decisions will be made that will assist in your survival and you will feel good about those decisions.

Edited by Big Guy
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