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Thread: Morals, Ethics

  1. #1 Morals, Ethics 
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
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    I'm taking this internet bioethics class at my college (well... really at my computer :?). We have been asked to find some definitions on the words "Morals" and "Ethics". We are allowed to ask others.

    I have done my own research but I am curious if anyone here has any particular ways they like to define these words. Or any favorite deffinitions. Feel free to argue.

    Let me know if I can use any of your deffinitions. Thanks.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Sophomore Nanobrain's Avatar
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    Well, what about the thread "Are morals even real?"? It's contains plenty of views within it on this subject. Is this not what you need? Sorry, just a suggestion.


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    Morality is the herd instinct in the individual. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

    One's conscience is nothing short of the will and the drive to conformity.
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  5. #4  
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    Here's one:

    Morals: a set of rules relating to 'right' and 'wrong' behaviour that evolve within a society and which are believed by that society to benefit its welfare, stability and cohesion.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by HomoUniversalis
    Morality is the herd instinct in the individual. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

    One's conscience is nothing short of the will and the drive to conformity.
    I'm begining to think philosophy is more about the abiblity to quote the thoughts/words of others rather than cogitate reality.
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  7. #6  
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    The topic of morals/ethics is a complex one.

    Morals may be viewed as relative to the culture that one has; the morals that the culture itself has is due to the basic need for survival that humans have. After years of observing what actions are best for survival, and which are not, humans slowly incorporate certain "rules" that they consider Morals, kind of like an Rule Utilitarian concept. This was Nietzsche's conception of Morals; it kind of makes sense. In any case, from this overview one may deduce the following definition(s):

    1. Morals, on the basic level, are those things that best advance the human person. (following HU's definition)
    2. Morals, on a general level, are those things that best advance society/culture. (following redewenur's definition)

    Something you may want to examine is Kant's Categorical Imperative (not much of a definition, but more of a 'what's moral; what's not'. It establishes morals as set duties that one must follow. No question of whether or not an action advances you (it's not relative to the situation), but rather whether its right or not based on your duties (morals). It follows the deontological (as opposed to teleological) idea of morals.

    There's also the Utilitarian view which follows close to my above definitions; though it considers not necessarily advancement, but more happiness/pleasure or prevention of pleasure thereof. Act Utility doesn't really follow any of the above. It says morals are relative to the situation: if you find that killing someone will save five, then kill them. So long as its the greatest good for the greatest number (at that instant), then the moral thing to do is to take action. Rule Utility, on the other hand, is almost an incorporation of my two definitions and my Kant's CI. It's called a teleological MS, but really it follows very close to deontology. What rule utility basically states is that whatever proves to procure the greatest happiness for the greatest number most of the time is a moral action, and should always be taken, regardless of the situation (note this is different from Nietzsche's idea in that he's saying it's relative to the society and the individual, in which case they virtually don't exist <at least not universally>). For example, lying often produces bad results; thus, by Rule Utility, lying is always bad: even "white lies".

    So to modify our list:
    Morality may be defined as:
    1. Those standards that best advance the human person. (Nietzsche,
    basic)
    2. Those standards that best advance society/culture. (Nietzdizzle,
    general)
    3. Specific duties one must follow. (Kant's CI, deontology)
    4. That which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers,
    relative to the situation. (teleology, <or consequentialism>)
    5. That which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers,
    based on observation of its past effects. (teleology, <or
    consequentialism>)


    *Utilitarianism was produced by Bentham (can't remember his first name), then modified by John Stuart Mill. I believe Act Utility was Bentham's version, and Rule Utilitarianism was JS Mill's version...not sure, though, I've been in the philosophy business for just a few months now.

    **Some argue that 'morals' and 'ethics' aren't the same; they're used interchangeably for the most part, though.

    ***Moral theories you may want to examine:
    -deontology
    -teleology
    -moral relativism
    -moral subjectivism
    -Utilitarianism (act and rule): Bentham and JS Mill ( http://www.utilitarianism.com )
    -Categorical Imperative
    -consequentialism
    ----------------------->there's probably a lot more that I forgot or don't know of.

    MY PERSONAL FAVORITE: Moral relativism makes the most sense, Utilitarianism is great (if there could be a nice incorporation of act and rule utility), the CI/deontology is also great. So my personal favorite would be an incorporation of all three (can't really define that).
    Whence comes this logic: no evidence = false?

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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    Quote Originally Posted by HomoUniversalis
    Morality is the herd instinct in the individual. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

    One's conscience is nothing short of the will and the drive to conformity.
    I'm begining to think philosophy is more about the abiblity to quote the thoughts/words of others rather than cogitate reality.
    Philosophy:
    For n00bs--> quote famous dead people.
    For experienced folk--> say famous dead people are wrong; don't agree with anyone: everyone but you is wrong.
    Whence comes this logic: no evidence = false?

    http://www.atheistthinktank.net/thinktank/index.php

    Theists welcome.
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  9. #8  
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    Morality is merely one's perception or right and wrong, and the applications of such beliefs. - Leo Hopkins 2007.
    The hand of time rested on the half-hour mark, and all along that old front line of the English there came a whistling and a crying. The men of the first wave climbed up the parapets, in tumult, darkness, and the presence of death, and having done with all pleasant things, advanced across No Man's Land to begin the Battle of the Somme. - Poet John Masefield.

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  10. #9  
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    Thanks a bunch y'all!! I'm going to have the same discussions in two forums... sorry but you can't see the other one unless you pay for the class.

    Nanobrain, I have sifted through that thread also. Thanks though.


    scientstphilosophertheist (say that 10x fast), Thank you, hopefully I have time between today and tomorrow to look up some of those terms.
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  11. #10  
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    It's an admission that we all feel we instinctively know what morals and ethics are, but (at least in my case) cannot express this eloquently. To me morals (are codes by which I think peaople should live) are a personal thing, ethics are more like 'group morals'. - THere now you can all have a laugh and take the piss.
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  12. #11  
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    Megabrain I believe you are right... or wrong depending on your moral ground I suppose. :?

    Anyways, here's what I have chosen from my research:

    Moral: based on what somebody’s conscience suggests is right or wrong, rather than on what the law says should be done

    Ethics: a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct for an individual or group

    Which is basically what you said although slightly different. Instead of ethics being "group morals" it is more like a group of morals that could affect the conduct of an individual or a group. How does this sound?

    One more thing

    Ethics: the study of moral standards and how they affect conduct

    In this case the word can be used to describe a feild of study.


    All definitions from: Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2004. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  13. #12  
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    I guess a doctor may behave in an unethical way, yet believe he is morally correct to do so. Which was why I indicated 'group' - so we are basically both right or wrong, anyway hope it was useful.
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  14. #13  
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    YES!! So maybe there is a diference between group ethics and personal ethics. hmm... I'm thinking to hard now...
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  15. #14  
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    For me, the definition of morality is whatever behavior benefits the largest group in the largest way when the individual members of that group conform to it.

    "Thou shalt not steal" is a great example. There's no direct benefit for an individual who refrains from stealing, but there's a tremendous benefit for the group if nobody steals.

    This is why it's practical to make laws against stealing and enforce them. By artificially creating an environment where stealing is not a beneficial choice for individuals to make, the group benefits.
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  16. #15  
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    It is important to remember, however, that what you are saying is not the definition of morality but more like an aproach to how you deal with your own moral choices.
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaBob
    It is important to remember, however, that what you are saying is not the definition of morality but more like an aproach to how you deal with your own moral choices.
    Isn't this true for everyone debating this topic?
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  18. #17  
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    DaBOB
    Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:33 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

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    It is important to remember, however, that what you are saying is not the definition of morality but more like an aproach to how you deal with your own moral choices.
    I'm inclined to disagree with you here. Ask yourself why mankind ever invented them. Hamurabi's code, one of the earliest legal systems claimed that it's purpose was to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land so that the strong should not harm the weak.

    Think about what that means. It's pure economics. If competition for survival is based on who's best at stealing, then nobody's growing food. Then there's less and less out there to have.
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  19. #18  
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    I think you did not understand. What we are looking for is the meaning of the word. Not examples of the meaning.

    I am happy when I run. This does not mean the definition of happy is: to run.
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  20. #19  
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    I guess I defined the goal.

    A moral would be any behavior individuals are directed to undertake because it is believed to be of benefit to the larger group.

    Jesus Christ's version was very simple. Supposedly the whole of christian morality is meant to hang on two commandments:

    1. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
    2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

    I think "God" is really meant to be the bigger picture. Or at least, that's one way of looking at the concept without having to be a thiest. When religious people claim to be talking about God, that's usually the concept they go on to discuss. God's just a way of personifying it.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    A moral would be any behavior individuals are directed to undertake because it is believed to be of benefit to the larger group.
    I believe this would be the method towards the goal. I think it would be considered consequentialism. The idea that the best choice is that which benefits the most.

    Are you suggesting there are no definite morals.

    For example: Would you torture someone to save others?
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  22. #21  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    I guess a doctor may behave in an unethical way, yet believe he is morally correct to do so. Which was why I indicated 'group' - so we are basically both right or wrong, anyway hope it was useful.
    elaborating on this one, acting in an unethical fashion seems to imply breaking an ethical code, which in its turn implies a more formal set of rules describing how one should act

    morals, on the other hand, are more vague but also more deeply felt, presumably because they originate from an unwritten code that has been drip-fed into each and everyone of us from an early age
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  23. #22  
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    Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 2:30 pm Post subject: Reply with quote

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    I believe this would be the method towards the goal. I think it would be considered consequentialism. The idea that the best choice is that which benefits the most.

    Are you suggesting there are no definite morals.

    For example: Would you torture someone to save others?
    Maximum benefit questions are very complicated because there's so much to take into account. Saving a number of people by torturing one might not be in thelarger group's long term best interests. If you undermine people's perception of the ethic against torture, that could come back to bite us all later on.

    A sensible utilitarian must take into account the difference between a goose that lays golden eggs, and a golden egg.
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  24. #23  
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    well, heres a book by a lawyer which puts biblical morality under the magnifying glass:

    http://www.hendrickson.com/html/prod...l?category=all
    when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth
    A.C Doyle
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Saving a number of people by torturing one might not be in thelarger group's long term best interests.
    But, It might be more in their interest than the death that comes with not torturing him. I suppose this could go on and it is a little off topic for this thread but non-the-less important to think about.

    The question I was posed was: There have been many bombs going off and it is known that one person has been planting them. A call comes in that a nuclear device will go off at a specified time in a busy location. A very likely suspect is found but after an hour of interrigation will not give the location. Time is running out and someone suggests torture. If the choice was up to you what would you choose?

    You don't have to answer but I thought I would put it out there.

    Thanks, for the link dejawolf but, I personally don't have time right now to read any more books. I'll kepp it in the back of my head though.

    P.S.

    kojax,

    when you make a quote this is how you insert the name:

    No name = [ quote ] blah blah... [ /quote ]
    blah blah...
    Name = [ quote="name" ] blah blah... [ /quote ]
    Quote Originally Posted by name
    blah blah...
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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  26. #25  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaBOB

    kojax wrote:
    Saving a number of people by torturing one might not be in thelarger group's long term best interests.


    But, It might be more in their interest than the death that comes with not torturing him. I suppose this could go on and it is a little off topic for this thread but non-the-less important to think about.

    The question I was posed was: There have been many bombs going off and it is known that one person has been planting them. A call comes in that a nuclear device will go off at a specified time in a busy location. A very likely suspect is found but after an hour of interrigation will not give the location. Time is running out and someone suggests torture. If the choice was up to you what would you choose?

    You don't have to answer but I thought I would put it out there.
    There... trying it out.

    The interesting thing is that the scenario you're presenting would probably be answered in a similar way by most different kinds of moralistic approaches as by the utilitarian one.

    If you pile up enough golden eggs and compare their value with a single goose that lays golden eggs, you may well find that the goose isn't the better thing to choose.
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaBOB

    P.S.

    kojax,

    when you make a quote this is how you insert the name:

    No name = [ quote ] blah blah... [ /quote ]
    blah blah...
    Name = [ quote="name" ] blah blah... [ /quote ]
    Quote Originally Posted by name
    blah blah...
    Or you can click "quote" at the top of the person's post. :wink:
    Quote Originally Posted by DaBOB
    The question I was posed was: There have been many bombs going off and it is known that one person has been planting them. A call comes in that a nuclear device will go off at a specified time in a busy location. A very likely suspect is found but after an hour of interrigation will not give the location. Time is running out and someone suggests torture. If the choice was up to you what would you choose?
    Torture
    Whence comes this logic: no evidence = false?

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  28. #27  
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scientstphilosophertheist
    Quote Originally Posted by DaBOB

    P.S.

    kojax,

    when you make a quote this is how you insert the name:

    No name = [ quote ] blah blah... [ /quote ]
    blah blah...
    Name = [ quote="name" ] blah blah... [ /quote ]
    Quote Originally Posted by name
    blah blah...
    Or you can click "quote" at the top of the person's post. :wink:
    Quote Originally Posted by DaBOB
    The question I was posed was: There have been many bombs going off and it is known that one person has been planting them. A call comes in that a nuclear device will go off at a specified time in a busy location. A very likely suspect is found but after an hour of interrigation will not give the location. Time is running out and someone suggests torture. If the choice was up to you what would you choose?
    Only if you're quoting one person. I use my way for multiple quotes.

    Quote Originally Posted by scientstphilosophertheist
    Torture
    Yeah, that's what I chose...
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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