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Can thoughts be moral or immoral?

laughing dog

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I am not a regular in this particular subforum, so please excuse this OP if it is duplicative. I am interested in your thinking about this question.

Do you think thought (or a thought) can be moral or immoral?

I am not interested in whether there should be punishment or criminal liability for thought but just the basic idea - can a thought be moral or immoral and why?
 

Jarhyn

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....can a thought be moral or immoral....

In principle, yes. Thinking is an action, arguably a deed.

If someone hates you, and wants to torture and kill you, and you know it, that causes you harm (distress) even if they never attack you.

I think I will go back to the example I made i PD, as it is equally valid in this side of the forum:

Thoughts can be immoral.

Thoughts cannot be unethical.

One may ask how this is not some kind of bizarre contradiction. It is quite simple insofar as morality can be seen as separate from ethics, as the way you drive your own experience, and exert agency.

But this is different from ethics insofar as ethics is created by social interaction, with respect to what obligations we have for each other if we would so have others bound to us.

For a concrete example, let us suppose one day I am accosted by someone on the train who starts screaming bad poetry. This man is black, and from the depths of my mind, I have an invasive thought "what a ------..."

This is a thought. It is most certainly not the sort of thought a person should want to have. It is so much a thought that I personally do not want to have that I spend the next ten minutes lecturing myself on why such thoughts are inappropriate.

The fact of the matter is, when a thought of such repugnance is had, a response is warranted.

But, nobody can punish this racist thought. It wasn't said out loud, was not even expressed in any intentional way. It was not unethical. It did not impose on anyone but me, and it came from me!

I would rather think that the tendencies of someone who pays no mind to the appropriateness of their thought would not be a good neighbor. I believe some guy named Camus wrote about someone who paid no reflection on his actions, and another named Voltaire had some things to say about such a failure to reflect as well.

... I would note that in the example, the obnoxious person was, still, a terrible neighbor.
 

Metaphor

Sjajna Zvijezda
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....can a thought be moral or immoral....

In principle, yes. Thinking is an action, arguably a deed.

If someone hates you, and wants to torture and kill you, and you know it, that causes you harm (distress) even if they never attack you.

If someone hates you, and wants to torture and kill you, and you know it because they told you that in order to cause you distress, they've taken an action to harm you. But it was the making you believe it that harmed you. In fact, their internal thoughts about how much they want to torture and kill you are irrelevant. They might not want to do that at all. The harm was making you believe it was a serious possibility that they'd do it.

Thoughts are not actions, they are thoughts.
 

Loren Pechtel

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....can a thought be moral or immoral....

In principle, yes. Thinking is an action, arguably a deed.

If someone hates you, and wants to torture and kill you, and you know it, that causes you harm (distress) even if they never attack you.

If someone hates you, and wants to torture and kill you, and you know it because they told you that in order to cause you distress, they've taken an action to harm you. But it was the making you believe it that harmed you. In fact, their internal thoughts about how much they want to torture and kill you are irrelevant. They might not want to do that at all. The harm was making you believe it was a serious possibility that they'd do it.

Thoughts are not actions, they are thoughts.

This. The immoral action was expressing the thought, not having it.
 

laughing dog

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One definition of moral is

adjective
adjective: moral

1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.


It seems to me that means thoughts (since principles are thoughts) can be moral or immoral.

Again, I am not asking about whether having a particular thought is moral or immoral. Just whether a thought can moral or immoral.
 

Metaphor

Sjajna Zvijezda
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One definition of moral is

adjective
adjective: moral

1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.


It seems to me that means thoughts (since principles are thoughts) can be moral or immoral.

Again, I am not asking about whether having a particular thought is moral or immoral. Just whether a thought can moral or immoral.

Thoughts can be about morality but that doesn't make any thought moral or immoral.
 

ruby sparks

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... let us suppose one day I am accosted by someone on the train who starts screaming bad poetry. This man is black, and from the depths of my mind, I have an invasive thought "what a ------..."

This is a thought. It is most certainly not the sort of thought a person should want to have. It is so much a thought that I personally do not want to have that I spend the next ten minutes lecturing myself on why such thoughts are inappropriate....

Yes, nothing is in and of itself objectively moral or immoral, these are judgements. And your own thoughts can be judged immoral, by you. No one else has to know them. Qed, I think.
 
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ruby sparks

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Thoughts are not behaviour.

Sure they are.

I agree. Thoughts (or thinking) is literally the behaviour of your brain.

And it can also be a deliberate, intended action or activity.

For example: 'What did you do last night'? 'Oh I stayed in my room and spent most of the night just thinking; there were some things I knew I needed to think carefully about'.
 
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Politesse

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All morality is a thought. There is no "moral" or "immoral" until someone assigns a moral judgement to an action, an act that occurs purely within their mind. And as such, it seems little different to me whether I say "I think that action is immoral" or "I think that thought is immoral", it's all in my head either way.
 

ruby sparks

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One definition of moral is

adjective
adjective: moral

1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.


It seems to me that means thoughts (since principles are thoughts) can be moral or immoral.

Again, I am not asking about whether having a particular thought is moral or immoral. Just whether a thought can moral or immoral.

Imagine two hypothetical scenarios. In both, a man is driving a car at night on a dimly-lit street. The car drives over a drunk man lying unconscious in the middle of the road. The scenarios are identical in every miniscule way, except that in one, the driver did not see the drunk man and in the other he saw him but drove over him deliberately. The only difference in the moralities is the thinking, legally the mens rea.
 

ruby sparks

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Wiploc

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This. The immoral action was expressing the thought, not having it.

So lusting in your heart isn't a sin? Nor covetousness?

...no, of course they are not.

A sin is a sin because it offends god. And there is no god.


I agree with you (more or less -- that's not exactly how I'd define sin, because bible god loves sin, which is part of his plan) but the question was directed at Loren. If Loren also agrees with you, we'll have to work a different angle.
 

Metaphor

Sjajna Zvijezda
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Not even in principle.

moral

/ˈmɒr(ə)l/
Learn to pronounce



adjective
adjective: moral


1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour.

Ok. That's 1. How about...

2. Holding or manifesting high principles for proper conduct.

https://www.lexico.com/definition/moral

So the holding of the principles can also be said to be included. And humans don't hold principles in their arses. Well, not usually.

That thoughts can be about morality does not mean thoughts can be moral.
 

Metaphor

Sjajna Zvijezda
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One definition of moral is

adjective
adjective: moral

1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.


It seems to me that means thoughts (since principles are thoughts) can be moral or immoral.

Again, I am not asking about whether having a particular thought is moral or immoral. Just whether a thought can moral or immoral.

Imagine two hypothetical scenarios. In both, a man is driving a car at night on a dimly-lit street. The car drives over a drunk man lying unconscious in the middle of the road. The scenarios are identical in every miniscule way, except that in one, the driver did not see the drunk man and in the other he saw him but drove over him deliberately. The only difference in the moralities is the thinking, legally the mens rea.

Yeast makes bread fluffy, but yeast is not fluffy.
 

ruby sparks

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That thoughts can be about morality does not mean thoughts can be moral.

Rewording previous claims is not advancing an argument, and ignoring points made by others in the interim is arguably intellectually dishonest.

To summarise what has already been posted: Morality is, it seems reasonable to say, only what is judged to be moral or immoral, and thoughts can be and commonly are judged to be morally wrong, not least by the person themselves, but also legally, by others. Examples of both have been given already. Furthermore, a dictionary definition has been given which states that the (mental) holding of a principle can be said to be moral. And also, how thinking is both a behaviour and an (often deliberate) activity has been described. Plus, your food analogy has been shown by counterexample to be logically flawed.
 

fromderinside

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Thoughts only if acted upon can be treated by rules governing morality. I've never identified a moral thought in the laboratory and I've used EEG and MRI methodologies. One might argue that software capable of predicting action might be that method, but it still depends on execution or behavior to bring the pot to boil.
 

Metaphor

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Yeast makes bread fluffy, but yeast is not fluffy.

Goodness knows why you think that is any kind of response to what I said.

As a type of analogy, it doesn't even necessarily hold anyway. For example, green food colouring makes cake green, and green food colouring is green.

Oy gevalt. Oy gevalt.

The purpose of the analogy is to refute that something that imparts a quality to something else does not have to have the quality itself. laughing dog seemed to think he had made some kind of unassailable claim that because intent made actions moral or immoral, intent itself had to be moral or immoral.
 

Metaphor

Sjajna Zvijezda
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That thoughts can be about morality does not mean thoughts can be moral.

Rewording previous claims is not advancing an argument, and ignoring points made by others in the interim is arguably intellectually dishonest.

To summarise what has already been posted: Morality is, it seems reasonable to say, only what is judged to be moral or immoral, and thoughts can be and commonly are judged to be morally wrong, not least by the person themselves, but also legally, by others. Examples of both have been given already. Furthermore, a dictionary definition has been given which states that the (mental) holding of a principle can be said to be moral. And also, how thinking is both a behaviour and an (often deliberate) activity has been described. Plus, your food analogy has been shown by counterexample to be logically flawed.

If somebody decides that thoughts can be immoral, they are using language in a personal way that does not accord with common usage.

A "guilty mind" in law does not mean thoughts are moral or immoral. It is a simple category error.

The dictionary definition you are referring to, I assume, is laughing dog's:

One definition of moral is

adjective
adjective: moral

1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.

Right and wrong behaviour and human character. A moral person is somebody who can be characterised as somebody who tends to behave morally.

Thoughts about morality are not moral or immoral. It is a category error. Thoughts about the colour green are not green thoughts.

My food example was not logically flawed. It would have been flawed had I been trying to argue that nothing that imparts a property can contain the property itself, which would be a stupid thing to argue. It was to show that something that imparts a particular value does not necessarily have to have the value itself.
 

ruby sparks

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If somebody decides that thoughts can be immoral, they are using language in a personal way that does not accord with common usage.

A "guilty mind" in law does not mean thoughts are moral or immoral. It is a simple category error.

The dictionary definition you are referring to, I assume, is laughing dog's:

One definition of moral is

adjective
adjective: moral

1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.

Right and wrong behaviour and human character. A moral person is somebody who can be characterised as somebody who tends to behave morally.

Thoughts about morality are not moral or immoral. It is a category error. Thoughts about the colour green are not green thoughts.

My food example was not logically flawed. It would have been flawed had I been trying to argue that nothing that imparts a property can contain the property itself, which would be a stupid thing to argue. It was to show that something that imparts a particular value does not necessarily have to have the value itself.

What are you even on about? You're mostly just rehashing things you've already said that have been answered. For example, there is no point in (again) resorting to a dictionary definition that suits you after I have provided a different one that's also from an everyday dictionary.

I was citing your definition.

Your food example was logically flawed if it was being used to support, by analogy, your claim that thoughts are not moral.

Mens rea applies to crimes, so it's clearly and obviously not a category error.
 

southernhybrid

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I'll keep it simple. The things that we think aren't moral or immoral. They are just thoughts that pop into our heads. We have no control over our thoughts. So, if someone makes me angry due to their behavior and my anger makes me wish the person was dead, but I don't tell the person that I want him dead and I don't try to hurt or kill him, that is just a harmless thought, one that might calm me down in my moment of anger and help me move on to something better. As long as no action is taken as the result of our unpleasant thoughts, I don't see how an argument can be made that having such thoughts is immoral.

The same goes if it's the other way around. If I see a stray dog who looks hungry by the side of the road and I feel sadness and wish that the dog could be helped but I do nothing to help that dog, then my thoughts were worthless, as my empathy did not motivate me to help the dog. Feeling sad for a victim doesn't equate with being moral, as we can't help what we think, as far as I can tell.

I don't see how an argument can be made that thoughts alone are moral or immoral if those thoughts don't lead to any action.
 

ruby sparks

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I don't see how an argument can be made that thoughts alone are moral or immoral if those thoughts don't lead to any action.

People often morally judge their own thoughts and attitudes. Prejudices or other opinions they may hold, for example. And others will judge them too, if they hear about them in, for example, situations where they are being aired as views, away from scenarios that would involve action (or inaction). Religion has appropriated it, so that in some religions there are said to be wrongs (ok, sins, they call them) in thought, word and deed, but it's only reflecting human psychological nature. And they're all closely inter-related (and often happening at the same time). Can we even say a certain action was morally wrong if there were no thoughts? I don't think so. If you killed someone with an axe for no good reason while you were genuinely fully asleep, you can get acquitted.
 

southernhybrid

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I don't see how an argument can be made that thoughts alone are moral or immoral if those thoughts don't lead to any action.

People often morally judge their own thoughts and attitudes. Prejudices or other opinions they may hold, for example. And others will judge them too, if they hear about them in, for example, situations where they are being aired as views, away from scenarios that would involve action (or inaction). Religion has appropriated it, so that in some religions there are said to be wrongs (ok, sins, they call them) in thought, word and deed, but it's only reflecting human psychological nature. And they're all closely inter-related (and often happening at the same time). Can we even say a certain action was morally wrong if there were no thoughts? I don't think so. If you killed someone with an axe for no good reason while you were genuinely fully asleep, you can get acquitted.

Sure, but if you keep your thoughts to yourself, there is nobody but you to judge them. I don't judge my thoughts because I know I can't help what I think and I don't put any potentially dangerous thoughts into action. But to be honest, I rarely have thoughts that are about hurting others. When I do, it's usually just an immediate emotional reaction to something that other person has done or said.

My sister, who suffers from anxiety, frequently feels guilty because of something that she thought about. I'm always telling her not to feel guilty but I guess feeling guilty is another emotion that some people can't help feeling. I've never been guilt ridden over things that I can't control, especially when it comes to thoughts.
 

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One definition of moral is

adjective
adjective: moral

1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.


It seems to me that means thoughts (since principles are thoughts) can be moral or immoral.

Again, I am not asking about whether having a particular thought is moral or immoral. Just whether a thought can moral or immoral.

Thoughts can be about morality but that doesn't make any thought moral or immoral.
Thou shalt not kill is a moral statement.
 

Angra Mainyu

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From what I read in this thread, the word "thoughts" is ambiguous (e.g., "I don't judge my thoughts because I know I can't help what I think and I don't put any potentially dangerous thoughts into action." suggests "thoughts" only denotes things one does not choose).

But in a nutshell: choices (made by a mind like that of an adult human or similar enough) are immoral, or morally obligatory, or morally permissible but not obligatory (which they can still be morally praiseworthy). Whether that counts as a "thought" in this context, I do not know.

Other than that, it is possible for someone to be a morally bad person because of his predispositions, even if he hasn't yet made immoral choices, but that's extremely rare in reality (you'd need some sort of sudden and very specific brain damage).
 

southernhybrid

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I'm beginning to think that we are all interpreting the OP in different ways. To me, thoughts are not within our control so I see no reason to judge our thoughts as being immoral. From some of the other responses, it appears as if some of you aren't thinking of this in the same way that I am. Sure, there are moral concepts that are human universals, but I see no correlation with those with the stray thoughts that stray into our minds as the day progresses.
 

ruby sparks

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Sure, but if you keep your thoughts to yourself, there is nobody but you to judge them.

Sure, but that still leaves them being judged (or maybe better to say 'felt' because that's commonly how our consciences operate) which is the point. Otherwise, we are only talking about other people's judgements about what is or isn't right and wrong, and leaving ourselves out of the equation, and we are the moral agents after all.

I don't judge my thoughts because I know I can't help what I think....

Really? You can't successfully change your thinking about anything, by for example saying to yourself, 'I wonder if I'm right about that?' You can't decide, today, that you're going to think about something tomorrow, when you get the chance? How do you even plan holidays? I'm not saying holidays are necessarily immoral. :)

In the end, we may not have free will to do anything at all, of course, so in that sense all bets are off.

But to be honest, I rarely have thoughts that are about hurting others. When I do, it's usually just an immediate emotional reaction to something that other person has done or said.

So you've rarely felt bad for thinking something bad about someone? I know the nickname (over here) for nurses is 'angels' but.....:)

I definitely have. But I'm a man, and we're by and large a bad lot, well I'm definitely flawed. I've thought something and then maybe even straight away sometimes (though sometimes not until I've reflected later) I've thought, no that's unfair, or prejudiced thinking. I might sometimes even aplogise to the person. Not always, I guess, but sometimes I might say to someone, 'you know, I thought this about you the other day, but now I realise....etc'.

And you can even think bad things about yourself, and then you know about them without being told, and you may even have been harmed by the thoughts.

My sister, who suffers from anxiety, frequently feels guilty because of something that she thought about.

I'd say most people are like that to at least some extent. I think we (or rather our systems) actively monitor and evaluate our own internal views and opinions (ie thoughts) quite a lot of the time. How would we know if we are thinking the wrong thing otherwise?

Now, there are, I think, some significant differences between thoughts and deeds (and between thoughts and words, and words and deeds) but that does not mean thoughts are morally neutral (or better to say judged to be that, because imo all morals require judgements) and perhaps as politesse implied, the morality literally is the judgement, which of course is the equivalent of saying morality is thoughts.
 
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Wiploc

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People have some control of their thoughts.

A friend of mine reported that he used to be negative, cranky, unhappy. So he chose to think of good things.

When he found himself thinking unhappy thoughts, he would interrupt them with happy thoughts. Thus, over time, he became an upbeat person.

In an earlier incarnation of this website, we had a poster named Alonzo Fyfe. He came up with a morality called desire utilitarianism. In this theory, some desires are better (more moral) than others.

Suppose ten white racists want to beat up a black man. This will make the victim unhappy, but it will please the rapists. A naive criticism of utilitarianism would say that -- according to utilitarianism -- the racists should go ahead and beat their victim, because that will make ten people happy and only one person unhappy.

Fyfe would say, I believe, that the ten racists are in the wrong for wanting to hurt someone. They should adjust their desires. They should learn to take pleasure in kindness rather than cruelty. It is by learning better desires that they can make the world a happier place.

I haven't studied Fyfe's theory well enough to be a qualified spokesman for it, but I believe it to be the best version of utilitarianism, and thus the best theory of morality.

Desire utilitarianism depends entirely on our ability to have some control of our thoughts.

Sometimes I get an unpleasant earworm, a song I keep remembering. Sometimes I'll interrupt that loop by deliberately thinking about another, less-unpleasant, song. Often enough this works; I'll have started a new earworm, one that I like. This may be a crude example of someone controlling his own thoughts, but it is an example.

In the movie Moonstruck, John Cage's character tells Cher's character that he loves her. She responds, "Snap out of it!" Not an unreasonable request, I think, but nonsensical if you don't think people have some say in their own thoughts.

Current events distress me, so I choose to avoid most news sources. I avoid the distress by choosing not to think about current events.
 

Metaphor

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What are you even on about? You're mostly just rehashing things you've already said that have been answered. For example, there is no point in (again) resorting to a dictionary definition that suits you after I have provided a different one that's also from an everyday dictionary.

And the definition you provided talked about character and behaviour, not 'thoughts'. You also confused moral reasoning with 'thoughts being moral'. It's a category error. Thoughts about the colour green are not green thoughts.

Mens rea applies to crimes, so it's clearly and obviously not a category error.

It clearly and obviously is a category error.

First, some people do not equate 'immoral' with 'crime'. There are immoral acts that are not criminal and there are criminal acts that are not immoral. If you need examples, I will be happy to provide them for you.

Second, a guilty mind is not necessary for some criminal acts, like strict liability offenses.

Third, whether a guilty mind is necessary does not mean that the thoughts themselves are moral or immoral, just that they are necessary to turn an act into a crime.
 

Metaphor

Sjajna Zvijezda
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One definition of moral is

adjective
adjective: moral

1.
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.


It seems to me that means thoughts (since principles are thoughts) can be moral or immoral.

Again, I am not asking about whether having a particular thought is moral or immoral. Just whether a thought can moral or immoral.

Thoughts can be about morality but that doesn't make any thought moral or immoral.
Thou shalt not kill is a moral statement.

The statement itself is not moral or immoral. It's about the morality of a specific act - killing.
 

rousseau

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Thoughts only if acted upon can be treated by rules governing morality. I've never identified a moral thought in the laboratory and I've used EEG and MRI methodologies. One might argue that software capable of predicting action might be that method, but it still depends on execution or behavior to bring the pot to boil.

This. If we could determine that someone is immoral by thought alone, that would by definition make everyone immoral, which would make the moral domain arbitrary and meaningless.

The only reason people (and other animals) have a moral nature at all is because expressions of their thought - actual behavior - are filtered through natural selection, which shapes cognition. Thought itself is also affected by natural selection because thought and behavior are contiguous, not disparate. But natural selection via moral sentiment can't act on thought until it's been expressed into behavior. So yea - there is a kind of framing error in the question because thought and action aren't fundamentally different things.

Ultimately, I think the puzzle is solved when we stop thinking of the moral domain as trying to be a virtuous person, and start thinking about it as a cultural construct that channels behavior in a very specific way. Logically, a person can't be 'morally good' - this makes no sense because everyone is a contradiction of good and bad - but they can be good at following moral norms to their own benefit. Whether they accomplish that is where morality is actually relevant.

In short, it doesn't matter what our thoughts are, how we define them, or what we think about them, all that matters in the actual moral domain is how they're expressed.
 

ruby sparks

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And the definition you provided talked about character and behaviour, not 'thoughts'.....

No, it didn't. The short dictionary definition of 'moral' I provided only referred to the holding or manifesting of high principles for conduct, and the first option (underlined) is mental. At leat read other people's posts properly before replying inaccurately, ffs.
 

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If someone hates you, and wants to torture and kill you, and you know it because they told you that in order to cause you distress, they've taken an action to harm you. But it was the making you believe it that harmed you. In fact, their internal thoughts about how much they want to torture and kill you are irrelevant. They might not want to do that at all. The harm was making you believe it was a serious possibility that they'd do it.

Thoughts are not actions, they are thoughts.

This. The immoral action was expressing the thought, not having it.

No. An immoral act was to have the thought and let it pass unreflected, unconsidered. An unethical act would be to act on it. One person I would turn away from. The other I would forcibly stop from such action.

I find it disappointing that so few people, even here, can parse a difference between the two
 

Amelia

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Surly thoughts could be moral or immoral. If you are a character of the society you will act upon your thoughts right, If thoughts are moral you will be nice and if your thoughts are immoral you are a bad guy. Just like a movie script.
 

ruby sparks

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Surly thoughts could be moral or immoral. If you are a character of the society you will act upon your thoughts right, If thoughts are moral you will be nice and if your thoughts are immoral you are a bad guy. Just like a movie script.

Yes. However, those arguing that 'thoughts alone' can't be immoral would say that so long as you don't act on them, it is ok. On the face of it, this seems a well-founded position, and by and large most would go along with it in principle, including me. It wouldn't matter, from that perspective, whether it was extremely rare (perhaps almost impossible) that our thoughts did not affect our outward behaviour in any way because it is nonetheless possible for it to at least substantially be the case (I can think of raping and torturing babies, but never actually do it).

In that way, the thoughts only create the potential for outward behaviour, as in being a trigger. If you were to counter your own bad thoughts, you would have effectively cancelled any badness at source. Perhaps, as Jarhyn suggests, it would be immoral not to do that countering, to allow the bad thoughts to continue unchecked. Even if the 'inner countering' were merely done on a harm-prevention basis, I think we could say it was moral thinking, and if so, good thoughts (eg my mentally deciding not to rape a baby, because it would be wrong if I did) can be moral, in and of themselves.

The issue of whether we have any free will at all, or at least the question of how much agency we actually have, hovers in the background, of course.

I think that our moral intuitions recognise that it is almost certain, perhaps even causally inevitable, that our thoughts will affect our outward behaviour, to at least some small extent. Is it even possible for us to hate someone, a neighbour or a partner, a daughter or a parent for example, without it ever manifesting in any way? That may be why, if someone is racist but never outwardly acts on it, we would nevertheless tend to think it is wrong to hate other people for no reason except their skin colour. Who here would say that hating someone for no good reason is totally ok just because you keep it to yourself?

Furthermore, our legal systems take our thoughts into account when judging how immoral some outward behaviour is. I think this is why both intent (and possibly remorse) for example, will affect sentencing. So maybe thoughts, as a component, can affect the degree of moral judgement.

And then there is the question of whether we have any moral obligations to ourselves, but that is a slightly separate issue. Were we to include it, then even 'thoughts alone' could cause direct harm.
 

laughing dog

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Thou shalt not kill is a moral statement.

The statement itself is not moral or immoral. It's about the morality of a specific act - killing.
It is moral based on this well-recognized definition of moral (that I will repeat) -
concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character. Clearly it is concerned with the a principle of right and wrong behavior.
 

fromderinside

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I'm only going to take issue with one statement from your post ruby sparks, which, to me explains a lot about your approach to thought as moral.

our legal systems take our thoughts into account when judging how immoral some outward behaviour is. I think this is why both intent (and possibly remorse) for example, will affect sentencing. So maybe thoughts, as a component, can affect the degree of moral judgement.

Our legal system are neither scientific nor materially correct. Any argument built on how the legal system operates needs be judged by the context in which it applied. In this case the legal system has no standing as something upon which one should judge the material correctness of what thought is or is not. It certainly has no standing as to what constitutes thought. Obviously neither intent nor remorse can be justified beyond some preachy babble lifted from those who pose as arbiters of such behavior.

Again I think we've come down to a demonstration for why material interpretation is superior to rational interpretation for even those things for which reason is considered as champion.
 

southernhybrid

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Maybe I can explain it better with the following example. One can think or fantasize about actions that are generally considered immoral, such as shooting someone that they don't like, but if they don't act on those thoughts, nothing immoral has occurred. So, there is no reason to feel guilty or concerned about those thoughts, as long as the person has no intentions of actually carrying out that fantasy.

Don't most people fantasize about things at one time or another that aren't considered moral. Having the thoughts isn't immoral, even if the things that we are thinking about are immoral. If you don't get that, I give up. :D
 

Angra Mainyu

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Maybe I can explain it better with the following example. One can think or fantasize about actions that are generally considered immoral, such as shooting someone that they don't like, but if they don't act on those thoughts, nothing immoral has occurred. So, there is no reason to feel guilty or concerned about those thoughts, as long as the person has no intentions of actually carrying out that fantasy.

Don't most people fantasize about things at one time or another that aren't considered moral. Having the thoughts isn't immoral, even if the things that we are thinking about are immoral. If you don't get that, I give up. :D

But even if the particular choices you mention (as a kind of thought) are not immoral (which I think depends on the case), clearly others are. For example, someone might ask God to punish his enemy and torture him forever in Hell. The prayer happens only in the head of the man. But he is making an immoral choice, and actually attempting to persuade God to torture another person for eternity. Sure, God does not exist, but the perpetrator does not know that.
 

Wiploc

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Maybe I can explain it better with the following example. One can think or fantasize about actions that are generally considered immoral, such as shooting someone that they don't like, but if they don't act on those thoughts, nothing immoral has occurred. So, there is no reason to feel guilty or concerned about those thoughts, as long as the person has no intentions of actually carrying out that fantasy.

Don't most people fantasize about things at one time or another that aren't considered moral. Having the thoughts isn't immoral, even if the things that we are thinking about are immoral. If you don't get that, I give up. :D


I get it. You were perfectly clear.

But you can't prove that no thoughts are immoral by giving an example one thought that doesn't happen to be immoral.

"Joe" hired a female engineer (back, I think, in the seventies) who screwed up some project. Joe declared that he would never hire another woman. Now, somebody talked Joe around, but that was a bad thought while he had it. It was a wrong and hurtful attitude.

It would have been better, more moral, for Joe to have been more alert to his prejudices, to have been less willing to generalize in that way.
 

fromderinside

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Its a problem when one considers faeries and gods as real. Then it follows that thoughts are also real.

Our mental world is our own and owned by us to the extent we permit it. Letting faeries and gods in the door confuses us. Our material senses report one thing the mind choses to interprets as another. If we give into the mental interpretation we are going to fail as material beings.

I choose to leave the mental world alone and private. That leaves me free to treat transactions with the material world in material and objective terms.
 

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If someone thinks "Gee, murdering Joe is a good idea because it would be fun for me" - is that an immoral thought?

As a historical aside, the philosopher Adam Smith wrote a treatise entitled "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" - that suggests he thinks sentiments (which are thoughts) can be moral.
 

Angra Mainyu

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laughing dog said:
If someone thinks "Gee, murdering Joe is a good idea because it would be fun for me" - is that an immoral thought?
It's complicated, but seems to depend on the details. I just thought it and similar ones just to try to figure what you were asking, and I'm pretty sure it was not immoral. But it's a superficial kind of thought, like someone role-playing, an actor in a movie, etc. That is not immoral.

Now if they really believe it's a good idea, and feel inclined to do so even if they choose not to, then that is an instance of a flaw in the person's moral character. To the extent that there are choices involved - including the failure to act, in this case to try to improve their character -, those choices are blameworthy. So, I'm inclined to say 'yes', but in an indirect manner.
 
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