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Choosing community morals

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What should public policy on morality be based on?
 
Since we live in a world where opinions abound, I was wondering what various people think would make
an agreeable standard for determining what values of morality communities and law should define. How should
or would such a thing be defined. I have a few thoughts, and their potential flaws.
 
Authoritarianism: The standard is set by some authority (such as the bible, king, or law). The flaw is that there has to be an agreed upon authority, otherwise it won't work (unless you live in a dictatorship), and just because an authority sets a code of morality doesn't mean it will be right or good. Unless the authority is set, what is moral will continue to shift.
 
Utilitarianism/Prioritarianism: A logical way to determine things based on maximum utility. However, this leaves to question what the best things are for utility. Sometimes the choices based on utilitarianism can lead to decisions that generally would not be seen as humane.
 
Hedonism: Pleasure is good and should be maximized and sought after. This seems to be what society is trending towards. Current and past stands on morality can't all be encompassed by this. It doesn't take into account productivity of a society. It would not resemble current morals society seem to have roughly agreed upon.
 
Non-Aggression principal: So long as it doesn't hurt others people are free to do as they choose. This doesn't account for a general belief in stopping people from destroying their lives via drugs, sex, suicide etc...
 
Golden Standard: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Even if all people did this, there would still be hurt feelings as not all people are sensitive to all of the same things.
 
Majority rule: The majority of the community decide. The flaw is that minority opinions get silenced.
 
I think most people apply a mix of these ideas, however when there is conflict between these ideas how would you resolve which one to follow, or how to act. Also I think to an extent many LDS moral beliefs are Authoritarian in nature, due to the fact that we follow what we believe God to have professed is good and right.
 
 
Typically from what i've seen through history is that there are 2 major ways that are usually used to resolve issues on morality, culture, and differences in society. War, and Diaspora. There can and will be compromise on occasion. Generally though like minded people gather into new communities. The problem with this is that pretty much all land is regulated by various governments, there isn't many places new social groups can move to, other than concentrating within a pre-existing nation. I thought it was an interesting thought in that people have to work more to find compromise rather than moving away.

Are morals an absolute truth that can be seen or derived, or relative, or arbitrary? What people belief can have a huge impact on how they approach these subjects. 
Any other ideas, or things that I have missed?
 
I'm somewhat partial to the non-agression principal, yet with utilitarian exceptions.

 

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This question has an easy answer.

 

America's version of Representative Democracy as codified in the American Constitution.

 

That's the best.

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The biggest problem as I see it is that there are always going to be certain moral codes that are mutually exclusive. For example, there are certain types of atheists that would never accept a moral code that factors in religious principles, and there are certain types of religious folks who would never accept a moral code that doesn't.

 

I personally believe that we have to operate under the assumption that (moral) truths exist and that we can reasonably know what they are. That may or may not be true, but operating under any other assumption would seem to render this or any other discourse on the topic pointless. That being such as it were, public moral policy should conform to whatever objective moral truth is.

 

That all being said, its obvious that even if there is an objective moral truth, it isn't universally recognized. Typically it seems like the moral code established in a society then is determined (or at least influenced by) by the subjective moral truths held to by whoever happens to be in power. In effect we end up with a sort of de facto Nietzchian "will to power."

 

So where does all that leave us? I think what it amounts to is this: on an individual basis, we need to push for our society to embrace the moral truth as best we know it while continuing to refine our beliefs. Basically this amounts to trying to push whatever we happen to believe is truth onto society while working with one another to try to determine whatever actually is truth. Ideally, this could eventually result in a society that embraces objective moral truths. More realistically, we'll probably end up with a society that's legislated moral standards shift with broader shifts in cultural beliefs in what is moral (i.e. pretty much what happens now anyway).

 

My biggest problem with the particular examples you provided is that they are all based on philosophical models of what's "good" that I generally don't ascribe to. My problem with non-aggression principle in particular is twofold: it presumes that people are "islands," and defining what constitutes "harm to another" is going to vary depending on which of the other standards you hold to. To the first point, I don't really ascribe to the concept that I CAN do anything that doesn't have an impact beyond just myself. If I were to, for example, kill myself, it would probably have a significant negative impact on my friends, family, employer, ect. As far as harming another goes, abortion and euthenasia seem like the most obvious examples of categories where we simply don't agree.

 

As far as American representative democracy goes, I think it's certainly enjoyed a certain degree of success here, but I don't know that it's a universal panacea. We have certainly attempted to force it on radically different cultures (i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan) in the past, and I wouldn't really count those as success stories. It just doesn't work in a society where the majority of the populace believes in restricting individual freedoms, as opposed to maximizing them.

 

Anyway, I know my response put forward a fairly vague course of action and then concentrated on critiquing others. The main reason for that in my mind is because I think the appropriate public policy with regards to morality is going to vary greatly depending on where that particular society is in their search for objective truth.

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In essence as we speak of morals there is no real difference between morals and laws.  In essence the two are reflections of each other in any enduring society or sentient individual.  The question is far more reaching than just communities in which we live.  In essence our morals and laws are reflected of our actual religion - especially in our concept of heaven and eternal consequence - or if you will, karma.  Also our notion of moral is a fundamental reflection of our notion of divine nature.

 

If there is difficulty in defining individual moral - the difficulty is in self realization.  It seem to me that we tend to lie to ourselves about what our morals really are.  Thus we are conflicted inspiring feelings of guilt because we make exceptions for ourselves that we do not make for others.  Perhaps the greatest lie is in thinking G-d will accept our exceptions and forgive us for what we will not forgive in others.  In this we make our religion false and our morals upside down.

 

I would suggest that we are what we want of heaven.  That we live our divine destiny according to our understanding of divine nature and heaven society.  Thinking of a better heaven society is an illusion and a lie we tell ourselves to justify our ignorant failures.  It not the failure of others that do not deal with us properly - it is a failure within us to deal with others and worse of all -- to deal with ourselves.

Edited by Traveler

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This is the mechanism--and it is a sound one.  It allows me, for example, to join with many LDS, most Evangelicals, a good many Muslims and Jews, etc. to lobby for controls on alcohol, drugs, pornography, abortion, etc. My views may not always prevail.  Sometimes we will go through a season where blatant immorality seems to become public orthodoxy.  However, even then, we can be a prophetic voice.

 

What concerns me today is an apparent willingness by some (Left and Right) to curtail some of our cherished freedoms, as outlined in the Bill of Rights.  :(

 

This question has an easy answer.

 

America's version of Representative Democracy as codified in the American Constitution.

 

That's the best.

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This question has an easy answer.

 

America's version of Representative Democracy as codified in the American Constitution.

 

That's the best.

 

Unfortunately, this process seems to be failing bit by bit.

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This question has an easy answer.

 

America's version of Representative Democracy as codified in the American Constitution.

So what you are saying is that you support a system of majority rule. There is a slight alteration in the american implementation of this idea in that there are some protections for minority populations, and controls placed on majority rule(legislative branch). It seems to work reasonably well, about as reasonably well as rule under a righteous authority, and not quite as bad as rule under an unrighteous authority generally.

 

This is the mechanism--and it is a sound one.  It allows me, for example, to join with many LDS, most Evangelicals, a good many Muslims and Jews, etc. to lobby for controls on alcohol, drugs, pornography, abortion, etc. My views may not always prevail.  Sometimes we will go through a season where blatant immorality seems to become public orthodoxy.  However, even then, we can be a prophetic voice.

 

What concerns me today is an apparent willingness by some (Left and Right) to curtail some of our cherished freedoms, as outlined in the Bill of Rights.  :(

 

 

Unfortunately, this process seems to be failing bit by bit.

 

This seems to be the major down fall of such a system, with an population that respects less and less of the controls placed on the system, the system works less and less as intended. Except majority rule allows for the majority to choose a system that is different than the one they are currently under.

 

Here is a question then, is it moral to act against such a system if a majority is against your position? A rhetorical question, but here is the point; if civil disobedience can be right what purpose is there of law, and what is acceptable disobedience and what is not? Would this also be determined by majority rule, or the currently utilized democratic system?

 

What about when the majority acts against a stronger sounder argument for what is right and what is not? Should your personal morals be set by this? Of course not. It is interesting to note that majority rule is simply a form of authoritarianism where the majority becomes the authority. 

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The biggest problem as I see it is that there are always going to be certain moral codes that are mutually exclusive. For example, there are certain types of atheists that would never accept a moral code that factors in religious principles, and there are certain types of religious folks who would never accept a moral code that doesn't.

 

I personally believe that we have to operate under the assumption that (moral) truths exist and that we can reasonably know what they are. That may or may not be true, but operating under any other assumption would seem to render this or any other discourse on the topic pointless. That being such as it were, public moral policy should conform to whatever objective moral truth is.

 

That all being said, its obvious that even if there is an objective moral truth, it isn't universally recognized. 

 

So where does all that leave us? I think what it amounts to is this: on an individual basis, we need to push for our society to embrace the moral truth as best we know it while continuing to refine our beliefs. Basically this amounts to trying to push whatever we happen to believe is truth onto society while working with one another to try to determine whatever actually is truth.

 

My biggest problem with the particular examples you provided is that they are all based on philosophical models of what's "good" that I generally don't ascribe to. My problem with non-aggression principle in particular is twofold: it presumes that people are "islands," and defining what constitutes "harm to another" is going to vary depending on which of the other standards you hold to. 

 

As far as American representative democracy goes, I think it's certainly enjoyed a certain degree of success here, but I don't know that it's a universal panacea. We have certainly attempted to force it on radically different cultures (i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan) in the past, and I wouldn't really count those as success stories. It just doesn't work in a society where the majority of the populace believes in restricting individual freedoms, as opposed to maximizing them.

 

Anyway, I know my response put forward a fairly vague course of action and then concentrated on critiquing others. The main reason for that in my mind is because I think the appropriate public policy with regards to morality is going to vary greatly depending on where that particular society is in their search for objective truth.

 

I agree such a question becomes meaningless if there isn't some form of morality. It becomes difficult to argue that there is an objective morality rather than a subjective one, especially with how views change over time. Whether objective or not seeing through the glass darkly is a subjective exercise, and hopefully like you state we are moving towards a better, or objective moral truth. (with all of the accompanying ups and downs)

 

What I take from your statement  "we need to push for our society to embrace the moral truth as best we know it while continuing to refine our beliefs." Is that you are in favor of a form of majority rule, generally, though certain cultures and people are exceptions.

 

There are flaws with a non-aggression principal in defining exactly what constitutes aggression and harm. However it would also avoid the flaws in a majority system where people seem apt to harm others. There are also circumstances which I personally view as immoral that a non-aggression principal wouldn't cover.

Edited by Crypto

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In essence as we speak of morals there is no real difference between morals and laws.  In essence the two are reflections of each other in any enduring society or sentient individual.  The question is far more reaching than just communities in which we live.  In essence our morals and laws are reflected of our actual religion - especially in our concept of heaven and eternal consequence - or if you will, karma.  Also our notion of moral is a fundamental reflection of our notion of divine nature.

 

If there is difficulty in defining individual moral - the difficulty is in self realization.  It seem to me that we tend to lie to ourselves about what our morals really are.  Thus we are conflicted inspiring feelings of guilt because we make exceptions for ourselves that we do not make for others.  Perhaps the greatest lie is in thinking G-d will accept our exceptions and forgive us for what we will not forgive in others.  In this we make our religion false and our morals upside down.

 

I would suggest that we are what we want of heaven.  That we live our divine destiny according to our understanding of divine nature and heaven society.  Thinking of a better heaven society is an illusion and a lie we tell ourselves to justify our ignorant failures.  It not the failure of others that do not deal with us properly - it is a failure within us to deal with others and worse of all -- to deal with ourselves.

 

This seems to be a variation of the golden rule, in that what we are (how we act unto others) is what we want of heaven.(others to act unto us) Even if we fail to always act as how we would like heaven to be.

 

There is still the flaw of 

 

 

Even if all people did this, there would still be hurt feelings as not all people are sensitive to all of the same things.

Which could and can be solved by communities that are in disagreement separating. 

Edited by Crypto

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I agree such a question becomes meaningless if there isn't some form of morality. It becomes difficult to argue that there is an objective morality rather than a subjective one, especially with how views change over time. Whether objective or not seeing through the glass darkly is a subjective exercise, and hopefully like you state we are moving towards a better, or objective moral truth. (with all of the accompanying ups and downs)

 

What I take from your statement  "we need to push for our society to embrace the moral truth as best we know it while continuing to refine our beliefs." Is that you are in favor of a form of majority rule, generally, though certain cultures and people are exceptions.

 

There are flaws with a non-aggression principal in defining exactly what constitutes aggression and harm. However it would also avoid the flaws in a majority system where people seem apt to harm others. There are also circumstances which I personally view as immoral that a non-aggression principal wouldn't cover.

 

I agree that it's probably impossible to prove that there is such a thing as absolute moral truth, I just think it's something that has to be assumed for any discussion on morality to have meaning. If there is not such thing, then it doesn't matter who wins out because either option is just as good as the other. If there is such a thing, then the discussion very much does matter. The same goes for the assumption that it's knowable.

 

I don't necessarily condone majority rule. I guess what I really meant was, in-so-far as a person has the power to enforce morality, they should enforce what they understand it to mean while making every reasonable effort to ensure that their morality is correct. What this means is that, if for example you were the king of a nation, and you think something like abortion for example is never okay, you should outlaw abortion. At the same time though, you should make reasonable efforts to try to periodically review the issue and do your best to ensure that abortion really is evil. Basically we're each responsible for whatever our sphere of influence is.

 

Honestly, I don't really condone any particular form of government, since they all have their advantages. Heck, there's probably no better form of government than absolute monarchy IF you have a good monarch. There's also probably no worse form if you have a bad one. The reason I don't like advocating one form of government over another is precisely because it's possible to have a populace that generally supports a moral evil ruled by a monarch who doesn't. Then again, the opposite is also true. The best form of government in any given place is the one that gives power to the people who are most likely to enforce moral principles that are objectively true. The trick is figuring out who those people are.

Edited by Claire

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So what you are saying is that you support a system of majority rule. There is a slight alteration in the american implementation of this idea in that there are some protections for minority populations, and controls placed on majority rule(legislative branch). It seems to work reasonably well, about as reasonably well as rule under a righteous authority, and not quite as bad as rule under an unrighteous authority generally.

 

This seems to be the major down fall of such a system, with an population that respects less and less of the controls placed on the system, the system works less and less as intended. Except majority rule allows for the majority to choose a system that is different than the one they are currently under.

 

 

I would argue that the major downfall in majority-rule systems is largely mitigated by our Constitution.  Yes, I said that there are voices now calling to restrict and restrain the rights of the minority, enshrined in our founding documents.  However, the beauty of our system is that it is very difficult to change.  Even large majorities have failed--many times.  We do not have the Equal Rights Amendment, for example, despite approval rates that were sometimes in the 60s.  Likewise, though some would diminish the First Amendment, in particular, I doubt they will succeed over the long haul.  They will soon return to using intimidation and other culture pressures to enforce political correctness.  Thankful, American rugged individualism means some non-theists will side with us just because they don't like others telling us (or them) what we can and cannot say and believe.

 

So, I continue to agree with Anatess--a general majority-rules system, but undergirded with powerful protections for minorities, is the best thing going right now.

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I had a discussion with a friend recently and one of the ideas that came up is that morality could potentially be defined as  any act that is for the growth, betterment, and reproduction of the human race.

Surprisingly, using this set of logic you can come to many of the morals that Christians believe in. We also decided that it leaves the door wide open to rationalization on choices and can go the completely opposite way.

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Unfortunately, this process seems to be failing bit by bit.

it always has sooner or later.

from dust we come, and to dust we shall go.

As with the body so too shall the works of man.

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The plain fact of the matter is that morality IS defined by authoritarianism. God defines right and wrong. Ultimately, there may be other ideas in play (utilitarianism, etc) that bind principles as law that even God follows. But only one with complete and perfect knowledge of the way things really are can actually understand things on this level, which leaves those of us with a less than perfect knowledge of the way things really are to depend entirely upon authoritarianism for our understanding of morality.

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To the first point, I don't really ascribe to the concept that I CAN do anything that doesn't have an impact beyond just myself. If I were to, for example, kill myself, it would probably have a significant negative impact on my friends, family, employer, ect.

 

By that logic, any woman who declines a marriage proposal is harming the man doing the asking.  If I wreck my car, it has a negative impact on the used car dealer I was thinking about trading it in to, since he won't be able to resell it at a significant profit.  If a grocer sells me his last loaf of bread, we're conspiring to deprive everybody else of bread.

 

Realistically, all of these presuppose some entitlement to the person or property of another that, in the absence of some specific contract, simply doesn't exist.  Unless you have contracted to one of those people to not kill yourself, your life, your person and your property should still be entirely under your control to do with as you determine.  Any negative impact suffered by others from those actions is of far lesser harm than that suffered when we deprive mentally sound adults of the freedom to act upon themselves and their possessions as they see fit.

Edited by NightSG

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The plain fact of the matter is that morality IS defined by authoritarianism. God defines right and wrong. 

 

fyi, I expected someone to come along and post something like this. Not surprised it was TFP.

You are right. When talking to others who don't believe in God it is still good to find some common ground, to defend your beliefs, and as an intellectual exercise in better trying to know the mind and will of God.

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When talking to others who don't believe in God it is still good to find some common ground, to defend your beliefs, and as an intellectual exercise in better trying to know the mind and will of God.

 

I go with utilitarianism. Of course, the problem with that is finding common ground upon wherein lies the greatest good. Even as an intellectual exercise. I mean, realistically, how many of us can actually understand polygamy?

 

Common ground can only go so far, of course, with those who simply do not believe in God and/or universal truth.

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By that logic, any woman who declines a marriage proposal is harming the man doing the asking.  If I wreck my car, it has a negative impact on the used car dealer I was thinking about trading it in to, since he won't be able to resell it at a significant profit.  If a grocer sells me his last loaf of bread, we're conspiring to deprive everybody else of bread.

 

Realistically, all of these presuppose some entitlement to the person or property of another that, in the absence of some specific contract, simply doesn't exist.  Unless you have contracted to one of those people to not kill yourself, your life, your person and your property should still be entirely under your control to do with as you determine.  Any negative impact suffered by others from those actions is of far lesser harm than that suffered when we deprive mentally sound adults of the freedom to act upon themselves and their possessions as they see fit.

 

The woman who turns down the marriage proposal may not harm the man, as it may be the right decision, but the decision to turn it down on has significant implications for them, their families, their friends, and countless others. If you wreck your car, various elements of society are affected, ranging from the cops and paramedics who may need to respond, to the tow truck that has to pick you up, to the dealerships that either sell you a new one or would have bought your old one. When you buy the last loaf of bread, there's not necessarily a conspiracy at work, but the next guy in line is affected. 

 

Note that all those institutions you've mentioned have had regulations imposed on them in one society or another. Marriages are often arranged for reasons ranging from the personal to the political. Many of our traffic laws are specifically in place to prevent wrecks. If there's a shortage of bread, particularly in wartime scenarios, it's not unrealistic that rationing may take place.

 

Yes, there is a place for personal liberty in all that, but there is no action you take which does not have some affect on others, and the scope of that affect needs to be taken into account. Some effects will be so minor or subtle they can't be perceived, at least not without some contemplation, but they need to at least be considered when deciding whether or not an action should be permissible. 

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