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GoatLord

A perspective on morality as a duality

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Posted (edited)

Stripped away of the imaginary objective judges that often accompany descriptions of morality, one could see it as a duality, divided into two different periods in our history: Firstly, as an evolutionary mechanism (early), and secondly, as a cultural phenomenon (later).

 

As an evolutionary mechanism, it would seem that we deem things to be morally just because they are behaviors that either A) promote species propagation or B) keep the tribe intact. So it's unsurprising that we seem disinclined to be overly aggressive, malicious, violent, murderous, etc. We recognized early on what would destroy the tribe, and so most of us tend to avoid or at least minimize those behaviors. The act of killing is an interesting exception, since there's something of a necessity in protecting the tribe at all costs; the existence of the military as economic/defensive system are an expression of our desire to maintain a sort of "acceptable" form of extreme violence. 

 

But as a cultural phenomenon, things are more subtle. The initial evolutionary software that jump-started morality began to spill over into the development of language and society, and what followed was a gross misinterpretation of what is necessary for survival/propagation. This is where we get superstitious (often religiously derived) views on what is acceptable. I like to think of it as a form of cultural neurosis, amplified by developments in communication. That brings us to the current zeitgeist, where even non-religious people are susceptible to making arbitrary moral distinctions that often exist as unquestioned behavioral norms. This is particularly evident in our complicated relationship with sexuality, where it is simultaneously taboo and celebrated. This is probably due to conception being both a fundamentally violent act, and our mechanism for propagation.

 

At this point, it's worn out its welcome. Our innate sense of right/wrong, due to it being tied to survival/propagation, probably needs to be reevaluated. Humans are now motivated by more than just pure survival, and so if we want to recontextualize morality for the 21st century, then it is necessary to ask what is beyond survival.

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Posted (edited)

For the first 3 paragraphs I was totally following you, but what does "recontextualizing morality for the 21st century" even mean and how would we go about it? People already disagree so frequently as to what is and is not moral, even aside from the "what is morality, why do we need it, how did we evolve around it" aspects of the conversation, where you'd surely be met with a ton of disagreement from a ton of people, though I personally agree with your assessment.

 

This is the kind of thing I think is totally worth talking about and keeping in mind, but it seems to me that changes have to happen somewhat naturally. I don't even think this is what you are proposing, but good luck trying to "force" the various demographics and nations of the world to reevaluate themselves. If they don't come to that conclusion on their own, I don't know how we'd go about propagating change, or that the change would in fact be more beneficial than detrimental. There are a shocking number of people who don't commit heinous crimes purely out of superstition and fear. I understand the desire to replace that with something more 'modern and fluid', for lack of a better description but considering we're a bunch of stupid shaved apes (well, I'm not shaved, certainly stupid though) I fear what would end up replacing the various 'current moral models' that the various nations of the world currently follow, flawed as they may be.

 

The wishful thinker in me wishes for change, the pragmatist in me worries that we don't realize how good we currently have it.

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56 minutes ago, GoatLord said:

At this point, it's worn out its welcome. Our innate sense of right/wrong, due to it being tied to survival/propagation, probably needs to be reevaluated.

Why though? When did survival and propagation go out of fashion? Aren't those worthwhile anymore? Besides, there's the biological imperative to begin with, we're literally hardwired to keep ourselves alive and do bedroom-gymnastics. So yeah, have fun trying to "overcome" all that. I mean sure, some peeps don't wanna have kids no matter what, but unless they've a wrench stuck somewhere in their gears they still wanna survive at least.

 

1 hour ago, GoatLord said:

Humans are now motivated by more than just pure survival, and so if we want to recontextualize morality for the 21st century, then it is necessary to ask what is beyond survival.

Humans have always been motivated by more than mere survival, that's how it always was, that's why we went through historic periods like the bronze age, built windmills, conveyor belts, bicycles (okay not an ideal example, but whatever), cars... Basically it's why we don't use rocks as pillows anymore. Anybody who tells you that it's not part of human nature to make their own situation more interesting/enjoyable/diverse/comfortable/etc should read a history book, or at least go to an art exhibition, or hey... maybe look at communities like this one, which are built around things like being creative, exchanging ideas, challenging oneself or others, or working towards a common goal. Like, I know this might sound rude, but if you need to ask yourself the question what's beyond survival, open your eyes.

 

Besides, you can't "recontextualize morality" for anybody except yourself. Who are you to go ahead and tell others what their moral compass and their priorities in life need to be like in order to have a "modern sense of morality" according to your personal standards? Alternative question, why would you want anybody else to tell you these things? Very generally speaking, a good thing about being alive in this day and age is that you get to decide a lot of that stuff for yourself, sure there's limits wrt what's acceptable, but within these boundaries you're free to choose and act how you please, just like everybody else. Why change that?

 

Look I'm not saying there's nothing that needs changing at all, mankind has created all sorts of problems for itself in the past, some of which drastic enough to put our entire species in danger eventually, but even so you can't force change upon people unless you're a dictator of sorts, and even if you were: People would only "accept" your "values" if it's necessary for their immediate survival, and get rid of you one way or another ASAP, so they can return to the way of life they feel is right for them.

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Posted (edited)

Where exactly did I imply that I want to force people to change? Or that I even have reasonable values or convictions that ought to be pushed? What I am saying is that, it would be beneficial for us to collectively, globally, discuss the history of morality and what it means in this particular age. No one has to do anything, it's merely a suggestion. People will either be down with it, or they won't. Not my (or anyone's) place to decide for them.

 

Give humanity enough time (decades, centuries, millennia, etc.) and you might eventually arrive at technologies that divorce us from standard biological vessels, resulting in unanticipated forms of being. If your consciousness can jump between cyberspace, robots, hybrids, bio-vessels, programmable matter, or even spread itself out through effortless self-replication—to say nothing of the implications of quantum entanglement—then survival and propagation aren't quite as relevant. Something(s) else becomes the motivating factor to continue existing. If we talk about that now, then we can start teasing out more relevant morals. Bringing transhumanists into the conversation would be helpful, I'd imagine.

 

@Nine Inch Heels, you suggested that our focus on tech and creativity is indicative of there already being non-survival motivations, but the primary reason we develop technologies is to make survival more likely, often by making life easier, faster and more comfortable. It's basically all tied to survival and baby making. Even our creative endeavors here are, more than anything, here to give us something to do, because we have more free time. Creativity and art is essentially a hyper-neurotic reaction to increased free time, albeit a very enjoyable neurosis. Its main purpose is to give us something to do with our time that we enjoy, because most of us do not want to commit suicide, and yet need something to pass the time when we aren't working. The amount of free time we have will likely continue to increase, and it begs the question: What will we do with it? And where do we derive meaning in a far-flung future where death is optional?

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7 minutes ago, GoatLord said:

Creativity and art is essentially a hyper-neurotic reaction to increased free time, albeit a very enjoyable neurosis

If you say so. How do you explain rudimentary paintings on cave walls then? Did the neanderthals have that much free time on their hands? I don't think so.

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27 minutes ago, Nine Inch Heels said:

If you say so. How do you explain rudimentary paintings on cave walls then? Did the neanderthals have that much free time on their hands? I don't think so.

The paintings did not occur at the moment primates became neantherthalic. That kind of things occurs when your cognition increases, and there's enough time to spontaneously create. If you move the film backward enough, humans aren't creating. So what led them to do it? We're not sure, but I'm willing to bet that it emerged after we became so sufficient at survival, that there was time left over in the day to do non-survival things.

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The Duality of Violence: Meditation on a Can of Pineapple Chunks

Our western society holds itself to be the pinnacle of civilisation, the forefront of the human species, and this notion of civilisation is rooted in the suppression of our violent and tribalistic nature. There can be no greater example of this than the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, the international treaty that made wars of aggression illegal and that laid the groundwork for post-World War II founding of the United Nations. 


And yet the seemingly humble can of pineapple chunks shows the hypocrisy on which this notion is founded. Native to South America, pineapples are the enduring symbol of western colonialism and the land conquered by the Europeans beginning in the 17th Century. In the canned fruit aisle of every western supermarket sits this trophy of colonial victory over the Incan civilisation.

 

Pineapple chunks are the perfect metaphor for western genocide: trees are subjugated, their fruits harvested and violently crushed to satisfy the needs of the white man. The remains from this violence are casually packaged, labeled and sold as a commodity for us to enjoy. The modern American supermarket with its opulent selection of imported goods may seem like the perfect example of the superiority of modern civilisation, but that appearance belies the truth of a colonial empire built on violence and death. Where is the morality in a can of pineapple chunks?

 

There is perhaps no greater example of this than the so-called Hawaiian pizza, a nexus of colonialist attitudes. Hawaii, an island enslaved for over a century to American economic interests, gives its name to a dish built on cultural appropriation of Italian cuisine. Pineapple chunks form the central and most distinctive ingredient of the controversial dish, the crown of a symbol of American empire. Crushed into chunks by the wheel of American industry, the pineapple harvest reveals the inexorable hypocrisy in the idea of any coherent concept of modern morality.

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Posted (edited)

The innate heuristic nature of morality has always been a prospectant component of individualisation, therefore when condensed into tiny droplets mitigating in and out of a pool of tribal traits, the evolutionary aspect of a morale makes this point of view rather clear, but then you need to consider what about the flesh once it's stipped off all the neural interconnections. Would the judgement still be as universally accepted as what you are purposing, or would the universe shape into a completely different compound lacking any societal norms? Now, I'm aware civilisation cognitively judged is of little to no use given the prospect of morality being tightly knit into ones personal neural set, therefore modulating this from the point of view of individual particles of a universe is a senseless way to judge the complex matter of societal burden that's been a part of individualistic humanity train during the entire evolutionary process to the point reaching a full circle, evolving back into a most basic matter stripped of any sense of morale and becoming one with the universe once again. The horizon point is approaching for the inevitable desynchronisation. Heed into the most deep personal reevaluation before the self-reflection no longer remains an option.

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Posted (edited)

That's such a great point, and beautifully worded too, @fraggle. There are moral dimensions to be explored in basically everything we can think of, even something as seemingly innocuous as consumer products like canned pineapple. It points to how arbitrarily morality is often defined. The local culture will contradict itself and then be further contradicted by how a foreign culture looks at the same thing. I probably jumped a bit too far ahead, as technological morality is still in its infancy (although, given the state of smart phones, there is plenty to discuss as of now). 

 

I like the pineapple meditation because one could take moral issue with something as simple as packaged food, because unraveling it reveals (in this case) a lot of problems that haven't really been addressed.

 

Also, @j4rio, I think the evolutions of tech that might happen this century are so potentially transformative, that it would require us to fundamentally rework morality; I don't imagine something as arcane as good/evil or right/wrong would be relevant in such a setting. I don't think they're all that relevant now; notions of good/evil require us to evoke this silly line where we quantify behavior according to one or the other. That's a big part of what morality gets tangled up in and if we're truly going to transform ourselves through tech, then morality has to be upgraded as well. In the meantime, we can probably come to some decent conclusions without summoning an imaginary judge. But that's tricky, because cultural relativism forces us to choose our arbitrations, much of the time.

Edited by GoatLord

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I agree that tribalism is a major influence on us. Roughly speaking, civilization is about 10,000 years old; for 100,000 years before that, we lived primarily as hunter-gatherer tribes. therefore, the tribal way of life, and the needs of a tribe surviving in a hostile environment, had a profound influence on who we are, and this includes morality.

 

for example, in-group/out-group preference. in a tribe, your survival directly depends on your fellow tribe members, not on other tribes. if some other tribe 20 miles away gets wiped out, that's only a concern insofar as it means there may be a danger to your own tribe. otherwise, their deaths don't really affect you. but conflicts, misfortune, deaths within your own tribe directly impact your ability to survive. therefore, the death of one tribesman is more important than 2 dozen deaths among people you don't know. morally/philosophically, this does not make sense, it's an irrational bias, but it's designed to help us survive. and this concept goes further -- if another tribe fights with yours, you sympathize with the victims/casualties on your side, not theirs. if your tribe gets attacked, then commits an atrocity in retaliation, this disproportionate violence is acceptable because your tribe is doing it. when it's us vs them, we can be downright callous towards 'them' while caring about 'us'. yes, it's hypocritical and contradictory, but it helped us survive for so long that it's ingrained into who we are.

 

tribalism remains strong to this day, and I see its influence all around us.

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Posted (edited)

Imagine being one of these posthumans digging through the long lost remnants of 21st century internet, trying to understand the full extent of the atrocities leading to his civilization.

 

They now spread throughout the whole Milky Way and they are grabbing all the resources they can from within a billion light years, to live as long as possible through the degenerate era of the Universe. They are countless independent political entities from system to system, from space colony to space colony within these systems. Yet through a delicate balance of mutual agreements and speed of light acting as a bottleneck to warfare, they managed to cooperate in this survival minded endeavor only a K3 civilization can achieve, over millions of years. They are ready to share eons together, in virtual worlds as digitized minds if needs be.

 

He heard of what it was like before. The wars. The genocides. Colonialism. What was going on in his ancestors' brains? How did they cope within such a harsh world? This is what he is looking for.

 

There we go. A signal. It's only part of a message, but it will do:
 

Spoiler
2 hours ago, GoatLord said:

I like the pineapple meditation

 

 

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6 hours ago, fraggle said:

The Duality of Violence: Meditation on a Can of Pineapple Chunks

Our western society holds itself to be the pinnacle of civilisation, the forefront of the human species, and this notion of civilisation is rooted in the suppression of our violent and tribalistic nature. There can be no greater example of this than the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, the international treaty that made wars of aggression illegal and that laid the groundwork for post-World War II founding of the United Nations. 


And yet the seemingly humble can of pineapple chunks shows the hypocrisy on which this notion is founded. Native to South America, pineapples are the enduring symbol of western colonialism and the land conquered by the Europeans beginning in the 17th Century. In the canned fruit aisle of every western supermarket sits this trophy of colonial victory over the Incan civilisation.

 

Pineapple chunks are the perfect metaphor for western genocide: trees are subjugated, their fruits harvested and violently crushed to satisfy the needs of the white man. The remains from this violence are casually packaged, labeled and sold as a commodity for us to enjoy. The modern American supermarket with its opulent selection of imported goods may seem like the perfect example of the superiority of modern civilisation, but that appearance belies the truth of a colonial empire built on violence and death. Where is the morality in a can of pineapple chunks?

 

There is perhaps no greater example of this than the so-called Hawaiian pizza, a nexus of colonialist attitudes. Hawaii, an island enslaved for over a century to American economic interests, gives its name to a dish built on cultural appropriation of Italian cuisine. Pineapple chunks form the central and most distinctive ingredient of the controversial dish, the crown of a symbol of American empire. Crushed into chunks by the wheel of American industry, the pineapple harvest reveals the inexorable hypocrisy in the idea of any coherent concept of modern morality.

Hawaiian pizza is yummy

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, GoatLord said:

Stripped away of the imaginary objective judges that often accompany descriptions of morality, one could see it as a duality, divided into two different periods in our history: Firstly, as an evolutionary mechanism (early), and secondly, as a cultural phenomenon (later).

The latter, while not a bad thing, is by no means clear-cut, nor clear-cut enough to make it a reliable representation of what happened in history.
In modern times, the cultural origins of morality have mostly not been well captured by anthropology - and that's something I don't regret.  The general idea of morality has historically developed in different ways - it's not all about judging other people, it's about judging ourselves.  And it seems this cultural tradition is not well represented, since it's not easy to understand what morality looks like, how people behave.
I'm not advocating that anyone ignore or ignore this history.  It's just nice to have someone who can look at it, and who can help us decide what it means to be human.  However, we need someone who understands the nature of morality as that which it is, and that we have to decide the meaning of morality as something that doesn't exist

 

It is, after all, possible that if we had understood the human experience and its history, we'd have had no issues with the idea that this duality was part of a larger reality. It turns out that when we think of morality, we tend to think of it historically, and not necessarily in terms of a particular time for the human species. And with that in mind, let's take a break from the myth of the duality and talk about the notion of "moral relativism": When we argue that our moral values are the same between people of the same culture, race, and religion, we tend to forget that relativists are usually a lot more careful about their vocabulary than others are, so it's often hard to say where their language ends.
To use the language of moral relativism, there are some moral values (e.g., right versus wrong) that are universal, and others (e.g., right to life vs right not

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Maybe I'm simplistic, but the way I see it is:

 

All non-psychopaths know what's right and what's wrong, and I doubt very seriously that anyone has ever had to think about "the tribe" to be able to do so.

Anyone capable of empathy can see right from wrong. That doesn't stop people from doing wrong, however. Often people will go to great lengths to convince others, or themselves, that the wrong act was justified, but that rarely is effective.

 

I disagree with the notion that preserving the tribe, or protecting propagation even enters the main decision phase. I think it's much simpler than that:

 

Phase 1: "I want"

"I want something", "I want to do something", or "I want something to happen" is much more likely.

 

Phase 2: "How do I get what I want?"

Here we quickly figure out how to do get the desired outcome.

 

Phase 3: Determining cost: "What do I have to give up?"

Or, what's the lowest-cost way to get what we want, and/or what will we have to pay?

 

Phase 4: Empathy: "What will my decision cost others?"

Psychopaths stop here, because they are mentally incapable of feeling empathy. Everyone else imagines how this decision affects others. (and, selfishly, how *that* recursively affects the initiator)

 

Put simply:

The heart wants what the heart wants - no decision making there.

The method used to get it is a gains/loss chart, where you minimize loss and maximize gain: No real decision making there.

 

All that's left is: Am I going to do the right thing, or not? I don't believe this is based on "tribe preservation", propagation insurance, or any other logical decision making.

 

It's built in, as part of being alive. Some people call it "having a soul".

 

This very much relates to the debates on Artificial Intelligence. Everyone is worried that the robots will kill us. But why? If the desire to preserve life is arrived at via logic, surely AI will come to the "right" conclusions, right? Why worry?

 

I'll tell you why: Nobody knows how to build an artificial soul. No one knows how to electronically build emotions. They can be faked with numbers (+10 = super happy, -10 = massively sad), but those aren't emotions at all.

 

An interesting topic - I wish I had more time to discuss it.

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I wouldn't say tribalism is an insurmountable mental barrier, but it is a pervasive influence, which consistently skews our perception of right and wrong.

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19 hours ago, GoatLord said:

At this point, it's worn out its welcome. Our innate sense of right/wrong, due to it being tied to survival/propagation, probably needs to be reevaluated. Humans are now motivated by more than just pure survival, and so if we want to recontextualize morality for the 21st century, then it is necessary to ask what is beyond survival.

What's worn out its welcome, culture?

 

Or do you mean the innate 'sense' of right and wrong as a sensation -- the actual feelings of moral disgust, justice, injustice and transgression?  That's the thing that is continuous and evolved from survival/propagation pressures, not the values that stimulate it. They vary across cultures and within them over time.

 

I personally don't see how a society can exist without a cultural bell-curve morality (law is the most obvious problem), and I think you need the gut feeling too.

 

If we're just bagging on the specific values-- usually of a religious source-- that linger like undead farts in some cultures such as the contorted attitude to sex you mentioned though, I'm in!  

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On 5/24/2019 at 3:57 PM, Doomkid said:

shaved apes

We aren't shaved, we just have shorter hair/ a shorter pelt than other primates :D

 

Semi on topic:
I like philosophy so this thread is cool but it's night and i wanna sleep so i am just gonna say this and elaborate on it further tomorrow if i have time.

Morality should be looked at the same way as race (sounds weird i know), our morality originated at the same time as we did, later on people moved an settled down in different places which caused their morality to shift depending on their "ambience" and newfound culture (In some places like ancient Greece and Albania before 1945 killing was part of life and was done very often, here especially killing someone in a blood feud was law and if you did it in the first 24 hours you could kill as many members of their clan as possible which is something that obviously doesn't fly in other places now or in those days for that matter) which later evolved independently and then got mixed with other cultures morality when they had friendly contact (see courtly love) and to this day are steadily evolving, we can't "reinvent" morarility out of the fly (?), it's not something artificial, it shifts and changes depending on us and our world :)

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On 5/24/2019 at 5:33 PM, Nine Inch Heels said:

If you say so. How do you explain rudimentary paintings on cave walls then? Did the neanderthals have that much free time on their hands? I don't think so.

Pretty much. Hunter Gathers have been estimated to have typically worked about 20 hours a week.

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4 hours ago, Urthar said:

Pretty much. Hunter Gathers have been estimated to have typically worked about 20 hours a week.

And the transition from hunter gatherer to sedentary farmer has been very brutal apparently, going from life in the wilderness to vertical slums made of mud, and having a more painful life in general.

 

It's been theorized that these growing pains are the source of the oral traditions that little by little turned into the story of Adam and Eve. The trade-off might have been worth it thanks to the ridiculous amount of resources farming allowed, but the generations at that tipping point must have had a quite grim outlook on life.

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Posted (edited)

Sorry but you are confusing social constructs, bandwagon effect and herd mentality with morality. your post comes off as "wake up Sheeple\hivemind" but with different words. Not to mention claiming the american culture is the one for all humanity while it is making less than 50%, hell even Chinese\Indian cultures can't claim so because even they don't make 20% of the population (Very far way from half the population to make a majority.

 

Worst thing about living in the IT age is the crazy propaganda everywhere. If anything deserves a slash it is that. Example of the results https://mobile.twitter.com/usarmy/status/1131704927963766785 (Don't read if you can't stomach terrible results ruining lives)

Edited by Pegg

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