Morality

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Morality can refer to:

  1. the general discussion of moral systems
  2. the question of whether an action is considered acceptable within a given moral system (the morality of an act).

Related Ideas

  • moral system: a set of rules or heuristics describing socially-acceptable behavior, for long-term maximization of social benefit
  • moral systems: a list of moral systems and codes
  • moral absolutism vs. the alternatives

Related Concepts

  • Moral syncretism [W] attempts to reconcile disparate or contradictory moral beliefs, often while melding the ethical practices and of various schools of thought. The cornerstone of moral syncretism is that religion cannot be morality's only arbiter.

Value Dichotomies

Most moral systems weigh in somewhere between the two extremes for each of these, but the differences in opinion between one system and another are significant. The following principles may or may not be truly basic, but they at least are closer to being principles than they are opinions about specific issues.

  • Human nature is essentially: good or evil (not quite the same as Hobbes vs. Rousseau; see below)
  • Human nature comes from: genetics and other factors fixed at birth ("nature") vs. training and learning after birth ("nurture")
  • Property rights: personal property is sacrosanct (propertarianism) vs. all property should be held in common
  • Power: absolutism (Hobbes: "abuses of power by [legitimate] authority are to be accepted as the price of peace") vs. separation of powers and social contracts (Rousseau). This may be a restatement of Brin's question "To what degree should the state or party have to power to coerce cooperation?", or it may be subtly different.

Other Possibilities

I'm throwing these in for further discussion because it's not clear to me whether they are basic or merely corrolaries/combinations of other dichotomies:

  • Moral externalism (important truths are discovered by observing reality) vs. moral internalism (important truths are discovered by meditation, reflection, prayer) vs. moral dogmatism (important truths come only from the wisdom of the past)
  • moral absolutism vs. the alternatives

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  • 2010-03-29 [Talk|Index] Moral confusion in the name of "science" § “My claim is that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions, just as there are right and wrong answers to questions of physics, and such answers may one day fall within reach of the maturing sciences of mind. As the response to my TED talk indicates, it is taboo for a scientist to think such things, much less say them in public.”
  • 2008-05-18 [Talk|Index] Exploring The Mechanics Of Judgment, Beliefs: Technique Images Brain Activity When We Think Of Others § “Using fMRI, [MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe] has identified an area of the brain (the temporoparietal junction) that lights up when people think about other people's thoughts, something we do often as we try to figure out why others behave as they do.”
  • 2008-04-25 [Talk|Index] Blaming The Unlucky § [2]by Robin Hanson: “A recent working paper finds that we call the same decision immoral when it leads to a bad outcome, but moral when it leads to a good outcome. .. This makes morality look more like a social convention for who we can blame for what, rather than a direct guide to decision making.”
  • 2003-08-27 [Talk|Index] Moore's Law: The immorality of the Ten Commandments § “The first four of the commandments have little to do with either law or morality, and the first three suggest a terrific insecurity on the part of the person supposedly issuing them.”

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