# When should immoral behaviors be illegal?

##### Contributor
Clearly, there are cases where something is illegal and immoral for roughly the same reasons. However, there are also behaviors that are immoral but not illegal. It may be said, the consequences of making such actions illegal would be worse than the consequences of performing the action legally. Lying is a straightforward instance of this, as it is legal in the vast majority of scenarios. Is this always true, though? If something is immoral, when do the bad consequences of letting it happen without legal repercussions outweigh the task of enforcing it?

#### Angra Mainyu

##### Veteran Member
One can assess such matters on a case by case basis, but as far as I know, as usual there is no known and correct theory that addresses those matters with that level of generality, except perhaps for trivial answers like transparently tautological ones.

#### Juma

##### Gone
Lying is a straightforward instance of this, as it is legal in the vast majority of scenarios.

Eh. I would say that lying that really is immoral is pretty much already illegal (fraud, perjury, slander etc)

#### rousseau

##### Contributor
The wisdom of our collective sub-conscious has largely worked this out already, at least in some places.

#### Angra Mainyu

##### Veteran Member
Lying is a straightforward instance of this, as it is legal in the vast majority of scenarios.

Eh. I would say that lying that really is immoral is pretty much already illegal (fraud, perjury, slander etc)
There is plenty of immoral lying that is usually legal, like (assuming they're false, they're at least often immoral), "I'm not married", "I don't have a girlfriend [or a boyfriend", "Don't worry, he/she is just a friend", "I swear nothing happened", "I will call you tomorrow", etc., not to mention "I saw the Virgin Mary", "We don't know how, but the blood turns liquid every year. It's a miracle.", or even "I didn't mean that: you're misinterpreting my post", and a very long etc.

I would say that the vast majority of immoral lying that actually takes place not illegal.

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
Now we get into that "what is morality?" question, which has been beaten flat in a couple dozen threads, a month.

The point of morality and moral codes is to define acceptable behavior and what we should do when someone violates the moral code. This is a pretty simple concept when we lived in a small village and everybody was our cousin. As population groups got larger, all kinds of problems arose. The first was that not everybody knew everybody and not everybody had access to all the facts, any more. This is the point where people had to accept government, in whatever form it took. Someone was put in charge of taking care of things that people didn't have the time to do.

Governments of all forms have a common problem. They can't do everything that everybody wants done, so they drop the small stuff and concentrate on what keeps people safe and reasonable public order. Such things as revenge killings and retribution between families or clans cause chaos, so government takes over prosecution for murder and theft. Most people are content to let them take the job.

There was a time on this continent when government prosecuted things such as illicit sex and adultery. They don't do that anymore, even though most people still consider cheating on a spouse to be an immoral act.

As for lying, we had to create a special category of lying, known as perjury, because ordinary lying just wasn't worth the trouble. When it's really important to tell the truth, we make people swear to tell the truth, under penalty of some kind, if they don't. The rest of the time, it's someone else's problem.

#### fromderinside

##### Mazzie Daius
As for lying, we had to create a special category of lying, known as perjury, because ordinary lying just wasn't worth the trouble. When it's really important to tell the truth, we make people swear to tell the truth, under penalty of some kind, if they don't. The rest of the time, it's someone else's problem.

Good presentation of Pinker's 'lumping it' category supporting trust option in the prisoner's dilemma in
The Better Angels of Our Nature".*

* "The Better Angels of Our Nature" https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct...Wwecf57wpHk-jjgDg&sig2=ALJn1605LngCNX1PHCMoAg

##### Contributor
Now we get into that "what is morality?" question, which has been beaten flat in a couple dozen threads, a month.

The point of morality and moral codes is to define acceptable behavior and what we should do when someone violates the moral code. This is a pretty simple concept when we lived in a small village and everybody was our cousin. As population groups got larger, all kinds of problems arose. The first was that not everybody knew everybody and not everybody had access to all the facts, any more. This is the point where people had to accept government, in whatever form it took. Someone was put in charge of taking care of things that people didn't have the time to do.

Governments of all forms have a common problem. They can't do everything that everybody wants done, so they drop the small stuff and concentrate on what keeps people safe and reasonable public order. Such things as revenge killings and retribution between families or clans cause chaos, so government takes over prosecution for murder and theft. Most people are content to let them take the job.

There was a time on this continent when government prosecuted things such as illicit sex and adultery. They don't do that anymore, even though most people still consider cheating on a spouse to be an immoral act.

As for lying, we had to create a special category of lying, known as perjury, because ordinary lying just wasn't worth the trouble. When it's really important to tell the truth, we make people swear to tell the truth, under penalty of some kind, if they don't. The rest of the time, it's someone else's problem.

Good post. It seems to be a matter of logistics, then. It's interesting how different countries approach the issue of lying. We have slander/libel laws, but news and radio personalities can spew forth falsehoods to millions of voters with no consequence. In other countries, I don't know that they get a pass.

#### Tom Sawyer

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
I'd say when it causes unnecessary harm to another person. If it doesn't do that, why would you call it either immoral or illegal?

##### Contributor
I'd say when it causes unnecessary harm to another person. If it doesn't do that, why would you call it either immoral or illegal?

It's not that simple, though, otherwise the Westboro Baptist people wouldn't still be shouting mean things at every funeral. That certainly causes unnecessary harm, but I don't feel like it should be criminally punishable. Same with many cases of lying and adultery.

#### Tom Sawyer

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
I'd say when it causes unnecessary harm to another person. If it doesn't do that, why would you call it either immoral or illegal?

It's not that simple, though, otherwise the Westboro Baptist people wouldn't still be shouting mean things at every funeral. That certainly causes unnecessary harm, but I don't feel like it should be criminally punishable. Same with many cases of lying and adultery.

Good point. I'd certainly classify that as immoral, but it doesn't cross the line into illegal.

#### fromderinside

##### Mazzie Daius
It's not that simple, though, otherwise the Westboro Baptist people wouldn't still be shouting mean things at every funeral. That certainly causes unnecessary harm, but I don't feel like it should be criminally punishable. Same with many cases of lying and adultery.

Good point. I'd certainly classify that as immoral, but it doesn't cross the line into illegal.

The notion of harm is important. Thanks for that. What level is harm to be addressed? When and by whom should sanctions for harm be addressed.

I only want to respond to legal sanctions for behavior based on moral behavior codes need be applied.

First, what is unnecessary harm and to whom does that apply. Many things cause unnecessary harm to others. Telling the truth and telling lies may both be harmful in the same situation. Its then we are advised to withhold information by some moralists. All of these may be illegal under some circumstances.

Its in these conditions when I think the lump it principle should apply. That is there will be harm but those who receive the harm should just suck it up and move on. Some laws and some moralists say this is immoral too.

My recommendation that the lump it to unnecessary harm principle of morality needs to refer explicitly to the greater good. For instance, those who are bombarded by Westboro Baptists should just seethe and there should be public officials around to control the venom that may arise on both sides as seems to be the case in most situations.

What is needed is to codify, at some Leviathan level, sanctions against groups who side with groups that bother, unnecessarily, other groups in such situations. The problem will be where that level of group recruiting must stop or be knocked down to maintain order and continued cohesion for which the moral and legal rules are underwritten.

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
Good point. I'd certainly classify that as immoral, but it doesn't cross the line into illegal.

The notion of harm is important. Thanks for that. What level is harm to be addressed? When and by whom should sanctions for harm be addressed.

I only want to respond to legal sanctions for behavior based on moral behavior codes need be applied.

First, what is unnecessary harm and to whom does that apply. Many things cause unnecessary harm to others. Telling the truth and telling lies may both be harmful in the same situation. Its then we are advised to withhold information by some moralists. All of these may be illegal under some circumstances.

Its in these conditions when I think the lump it principle should apply. That is there will be harm but those who receive the harm should just suck it up and move on. Some laws and some moralists say this is immoral too.

My recommendation that the lump it to unnecessary harm principle of morality needs to refer explicitly to the greater good. For instance, those who are bombarded by Westboro Baptists should just seethe and there should be public officials around to control the venom that may arise on both sides as seems to be the case in most situations.

What is needed is to codify, at some Leviathan level, sanctions against groups who side with groups that bother, unnecessarily, other groups in such situations. The problem will be where that level of group recruiting must stop or be knocked down to maintain order and continued cohesion for which the moral and legal rules are underwritten.

Harm or the threat of harm is the only thing to be considered when determining if a crime is committed. Motive, or reasons for the action, are only considered as secondary. This is why we have so many degrees of the crime of murder. A person who is shot and killed in a robbery is just as dead a person hit by a falling piano. The first is consider one of the most heinous forms of murder, while the other is negligence on the part of a piano mover. Punishment is warranted in both cases, but there is a wide difference between the two. In either case, the morality of killing is not really factor.

The critical factor in both cases is the law's responsibility to protect the public from both armed robbers and incompetent piano movers.

#### Dutch_labrat

##### Junior Member
Clearly, there are cases where something is illegal and immoral for roughly the same reasons. However, there are also behaviors that are immoral but not illegal. It may be said, the consequences of making such actions illegal would be worse than the consequences of performing the action legally. Lying is a straightforward instance of this, as it is legal in the vast majority of scenarios. Is this always true, though? If something is immoral, when do the bad consequences of letting it happen without legal repercussions outweigh the task of enforcing it?

Law should not be used to regulate what people ca or cannot do according either religion or ethics. Why should the government have any interest in what people do?

What law should be (but rarely is) is the protection of people, the shield that guards the weak against the strong.

The question is not what kind of behavior should be illegal but who should be protected.

WAB

#### fromderinside

##### Mazzie Daius
The notion of harm is important. Thanks for that. What level is harm to be addressed? When and by whom should sanctions for harm be addressed.

I only want to respond to legal sanctions for behavior based on moral behavior codes need be applied.

First, what is unnecessary harm and to whom does that apply. Many things cause unnecessary harm to others. Telling the truth and telling lies may both be harmful in the same situation. Its then we are advised to withhold information by some moralists. All of these may be illegal under some circumstances.

Its in these conditions when I think the lump it principle should apply. That is there will be harm but those who receive the harm should just suck it up and move on. Some laws and some moralists say this is immoral too.

My recommendation that the lump it to unnecessary harm principle of morality needs to refer explicitly to the greater good. For instance, those who are bombarded by Westboro Baptists should just seethe and there should be public officials around to control the venom that may arise on both sides as seems to be the case in most situations.

What is needed is to codify, at some Leviathan level, sanctions against groups who side with groups that bother, unnecessarily, other groups in such situations. The problem will be where that level of group recruiting must stop or be knocked down to maintain order and continued cohesion for which the moral and legal rules are underwritten.

Harm or the threat of harm is the only thing to be considered when determining if a crime is committed. Motive, or reasons for the action, are only considered as secondary. This is why we have so many degrees of the crime of murder. A person who is shot and killed in a robbery is just as dead a person hit by a falling piano. The first is consider one of the most heinous forms of murder, while the other is negligence on the part of a piano mover. Punishment is warranted in both cases, but there is a wide difference between the two. In either case, the morality of killing is not really factor.

The critical factor in both cases is the law's responsibility to protect the public from both armed robbers and incompetent piano movers.

Aren't we discussing whether moral transgressions should be treated as illegal? If so the starting point is a moral issue. All willful killing of one by another is the immorality you apparently present. If we take immorality actions harmful to another then it is illegal because the community agrees that it is immoral to kill in a society.

It may be the threshold for illegality is sufficiently harmful to others to have a probability of harming the society. That is the immorality of an individual or group needs to have the potential for disrupting, causing the collapse or alteration, a society.

That we play with intent and/or extent of harm caused by the act clearly signals the societal concern. It may be, in some societies, a killing of an individual, say a wife for committing adultery, is justified by joint morality considerations as in a society where heredity is the link to power.

Not in my world. But still.

Put that with your negligent piano mover and we join cultural with secular illegalities. There are secular moral codes too which often nearly match those of the more pious which may be used to justify continuing a morality legality parallel. Or the society may set up a purely secular or political secular such as some think was Russian Communism.

Which brings us back to the issue you presented. Almost always something other than logic mixes with legality in a society in fabricating laws. So what is harm and threat of harm but code words for subjective determination of what is a crime. My harm may be other than physical as has been posted by others. So here we are back at eliminating the separation of motive from what act transpired.

So while there is the need for law to accommodate social need to respond to both armed robbers and negligent piano movers we come back to intent as motive setting the bar for whither and extent of punishment. My insertion of lump it has a place there.

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
Harm or the threat of harm is the only thing to be considered when determining if a crime is committed. Motive, or reasons for the action, are only considered as secondary. This is why we have so many degrees of the crime of murder. A person who is shot and killed in a robbery is just as dead a person hit by a falling piano. The first is consider one of the most heinous forms of murder, while the other is negligence on the part of a piano mover. Punishment is warranted in both cases, but there is a wide difference between the two. In either case, the morality of killing is not really factor.

The critical factor in both cases is the law's responsibility to protect the public from both armed robbers and incompetent piano movers.

Aren't we discussing whether moral transgressions should be treated as illegal? If so the starting point is a moral issue. All willful killing of one by another is the immorality you apparently present. If we take immorality actions harmful to another then it is illegal because the community agrees that it is immoral to kill in a society.

It may be the threshold for illegality is sufficiently harmful to others to have a probability of harming the society. That is the immorality of an individual or group needs to have the potential for disrupting, causing the collapse or alteration, a society.

That we play with intent and/or extent of harm caused by the act clearly signals the societal concern. It may be, in some societies, a killing of an individual, say a wife for committing adultery, is justified by joint morality considerations as in a society where heredity is the link to power.

Not in my world. But still.

Put that with your negligent piano mover and we join cultural with secular illegalities. There are secular moral codes too which often nearly match those of the more pious which may be used to justify continuing a morality legality parallel. Or the society may set up a purely secular or political secular such as some think was Russian Communism.

Which brings us back to the issue you presented. Almost always something other than logic mixes with legality in a society in fabricating laws. So what is harm and threat of harm but code words for subjective determination of what is a crime. My harm may be other than physical as has been posted by others. So here we are back at eliminating the separation of motive from what act transpired.

So while there is the need for law to accommodate social need to respond to both armed robbers and negligent piano movers we come back to intent as motive setting the bar for whither and extent of punishment. My insertion of lump it has a place there.

Yes, we are discussing discussing whether moral transgressions should be treated as illegal and the answer is maybe. Morality, moral codes, morals are cultural in their details. Moral codes are rules developed to allow people to live in groups. This is why all moral codes have the same basis, which is "Don't kill your friends and don't steal from your friends. After that, it gets kind of fuzzy. Moral codes are not some absolute divination of right and wrong. It simply doesn't work that way. Moral codes define when something maybe right, and when it maybe wrong. The particular act is relevant. The context and circumstances are.

Thy shalt not kill.
Okay got that, but what if a man is strangling my mother? Can I hit him on the head with a club, even though this maybe a fatal injury?
Well, that's different. It's allowed to fracture the skull of a motherchoker.

Moral codes work fine as long as the group remains small and everyone knows everyone else. We run into a problem when our village, town, city, culture, society, yada yada yada, grows so large, this is no longer possible. There is no way for any person to know everybody or everything about a particular person. We have to appoint agents who are given the job of dealing with people who rob or steal from friends. It is their job to collect facts and determine what happened. This is time consuming. If we are to keep order in our giant village, our moral code has to be condensed to cover the more serious problems.

Soon our village is actually made of many villages and it is inevitable to find conflict between moral codes. This is mainly because different cultures have different beliefs about property. Some may think it is proper to kill a thief, while others say this is a great overreaction. As societies increase in population and take in other cultures, the part of the moral code which is handled by the agents becomes more narrowly focused and the legal code becomes a least common denominator of all the different moral codes.

The property thing becomes significant in your question about killing and adulterous wife. Adultery is a crime against property, and falls under the "killing a thief" provisions of the law. When the denominator is lowered, murdering your wife for cheating on you is always one of the first things to go.

In any workable legal system, the first priority is to determine if a crime has been committed.
"Officer, my car has been stolen." After the policeman establishes who I am, and that I do in fact own a car, he will take my word for it, that it is no longer in my possession.

The second priority is to determine who is responsible.
They find my car and apprehend the person driving it. He can't provide proof of ownership, so he is held as a thief.

The third priority is to establish all the facts, so a proper decision can be made.
The thief is put on trial and given a chance to answer the accusation.

The fourth priority is to decide what to do with him.
He is either found guilty or not guilty. Yeah, he did it.

At this point, everything is straight forward. It's all facts based on what happened in the past. Now, we must project into the future. What do we do about a car thief? We must discourage him from this behavior, and thus discourage other car thieves.

We could rerun this whole scenario with, "Officer, my pen has been stolen." Unless my pen was a Princess Grace Mont Blanc(retail price $895), the policeman is likely to say it's my problem and he can't help me. Here is what it comes down to. Both are immoral acts of theft, but a stolen ballpoint pen is insignificant. It works the same way with other immoral acts. It's always a maybe. WAB #### Valjean ##### Veteran Member Law may legitimately enforce the first three 'foundations' of Moral Foundations Theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Foundations_Theory Enforcement of the following three are illegitimate and authoritarian, typical of repressive, tyrranical governments. (From the Mighty Wiki):The Six Foundations 1. Care/harm for others, protecting them from harm. 2. Fairness/cheating, Justice, treating others in proportion to their actions (He has also referred to this dimension as Proportionality.) 3. Liberty/oppression, characterizes judgments in terms of whether subjects are tyrannized. 4. Loyalty/betrayal to your group, family, nation. (He has also referred to this dimension as Ingroup.) 5. Authority/subversion for tradition and legitimate authority. (He has also connected this foundation to a notion of Respect.) 6. Sanctity/degradation, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions. (He has also referred to this as Purity.) #### PyramidHead ##### Contributor Clearly, there are cases where something is illegal and immoral for roughly the same reasons. However, there are also behaviors that are immoral but not illegal. It may be said, the consequences of making such actions illegal would be worse than the consequences of performing the action legally. Lying is a straightforward instance of this, as it is legal in the vast majority of scenarios. Is this always true, though? If something is immoral, when do the bad consequences of letting it happen without legal repercussions outweigh the task of enforcing it? Law should not be used to regulate what people ca or cannot do according either religion or ethics. Why should the government have any interest in what people do? Because what people do has effects on the interests of other people represented by the government. What law should be (but rarely is) is the protection of people, the shield that guards the weak against the strong. The question is not what kind of behavior should be illegal but who should be protected. That question is reducible to what people should do. You cannot make a law saying who is protected without it stipulating specific actions that are and are not permissible. Guarding the weak against the strong, by the way, is meaningless without some moral/ethical framework. #### arkirk ##### Veteran Member I'd say when it causes unnecessary harm to another person. If it doesn't do that, why would you call it either immoral or illegal? It's not that simple, though, otherwise the Westboro Baptist people wouldn't still be shouting mean things at every funeral. That certainly causes unnecessary harm, but I don't feel like it should be criminally punishable. Same with many cases of lying and adultery. I think it is immoral for the Westoboro Baptists to shout mean things at any funeral. That is unnecessary and definitely hurtful. Adultery is a religious abstraction and not really a moral issue, depending on the parties involved. The issue of adultery is bad only if lying is connected to it. That leaves lying. Now Kant thought lying was indeed a big no no...an immoral act. Actually lying facilitates harmful activities in almost every case. We know of course about the white lies, sometimes used to protect the feelings of others. We know about the lies of omission used to protect people from undue persecution. But in general, if your moral considerations are humanistic, "immoral" essentially equals "ought to be illegal." #### Dutch_labrat ##### Junior Member Law should not be used to regulate what people can or cannot do according either religion or ethics. Why should the government have any interest in what people do? Because what people do has effects on the interests of other people represented by the government. What law should be (but rarely is) is the protection of people, the shield that guards the weak against the strong. The question is not what kind of behavior should be illegal but who should be protected. That question is reducible to what people should do. You cannot make a law saying who is protected without it stipulating specific actions that are and are not permissible. Guarding the weak against the strong, by the way, is meaningless without some moral/ethical framework. That mode of thought brought us legal systems where people end up decades in prison for growing weed while people that defrauded for millions walk free. (And fill in hundreds of similar injustices.) Most legal systems are rituals where following the rules and rites are more important than anything else. The whole system is broken from the ground up, easily demonstrated by the fact that more severe punishments do not prevent crimes. There have been legal societies where people were tortured to death in public for a minor theft and people still stole. Harsh prisons only enforce the causes of the criminal behavior (Social isolation, removing any sense of belonging, distrust of society and government etc..) and create a class of people that can never function in society again. The mistake is in thinking that an act in itself can be evil and that society should regulate ethics. It is a logical fallacy brought on by dualistic thinking born from monotheism and other strict ethical systems like confucianism. This way of thinking is as old as Hammurabi and it is about time it got buried as well. The other mistake is thinking that "criminal" is a property of a person, like the iconic Disney criminals. It isn't, criminality is the result of complex interactions between society, personal traits, social status, economics etc.. The result is a system that enforces and punishes out of habit. Compare it to somebody cleaning a room with a leaking vacuum: The dust keeps shifting around and al that dust is used to validate the vacuuming that keeps redistributing the dust. Now approach it from a totally different side. Person A killed somebody, is that right or wrong? You can't answer that easily, it requires deep understanding of all kinds of related facts and motivations. It is also irrelevant. YES, it is irrelevant. Who cares if what somebody does is unethical to your philosophy? There is nothing you can do short of breathing that some society or religion could not consider evil, up to and including eating certain foodstuffs or playing ball in the park on a certain day. Isn't that exactly the kind of decision you want to keep away from government? How about you ask yourself the question: 'What danger is this A to society?' and act on that answer. Now you have a proper ground for a government and society to act upon: Keep harm away from society. You don't set out to punish A, that would be a visceral reaction that helps no-one. If A is danger to society he should be kept in a safe place, be cruel to A and you sink to their level and lose all moral high ground and with that the right to intervene. A legal system that sets out to protect can both be harsher and more ethical. For example if you keep a serial rapist locked up not to punish him (lizard-brain revenge thinking) but to protect a society from such violence you don't need limited incarceration time. Last edited: #### PyramidHead ##### Contributor I'm not exactly sure what you're disagreeing with. I said nothing about punishment, "criminal" as a property, or growing weed. I actually share most of your views. Earlier, you said: Why should the government have any interest in what people do? In your reply to my reply, you seem to concede that the government should be very interested in what people do: Now you have a proper ground for a government and society to act upon: Keep harm away from society. That would suggest that the prevention of harm is a good justification for making behaviors that harm society illegal, at least in some cases. You also appear to conflate any action-centered system of morality with religious thinking, which I reject. Just about every secular moral philosophy in existence is interested in actions, because people can't affect other people without doing something. It has nothing to do with monotheism nor Confucius. As I said before, it is impossible to come up with a compelling reason to protect society from harm, or shield the weak from the strong, without reference to some sort of consequentialist ethics. #### fromderinside ##### Mazzie Daius We could rerun this whole scenario with, "Officer, my pen has been stolen." Unless my pen was a Princess Grace Mont Blanc(retail price$895), the policeman is likely to say it's my problem and he can't help me.

Here is what it comes down to. Both are immoral acts of theft, but a stolen ballpoint pen is insignificant. It works the same way with other immoral acts. It's always a maybe.

I'm disappointed you chose to put a price on whether it is a crime. If it is the only pen in the community it is a crime worth significant sanction. The point is what is the relative social motive, not just the economic motive. As far as immorality if it is a lump it level act it isn't considered immoral. It is forgotten almost immediately.

#### Bronzeage

Staff member
We could rerun this whole scenario with, "Officer, my pen has been stolen." Unless my pen was a Princess Grace Mont Blanc(retail price $895), the policeman is likely to say it's my problem and he can't help me. Here is what it comes down to. Both are immoral acts of theft, but a stolen ballpoint pen is insignificant. It works the same way with other immoral acts. It's always a maybe. I'm disappointed you chose to put a price on whether it is a crime. If it is the only pen in the community it is a crime worth significant sanction. The point is what is the relative social motive, not just the economic motive. As far as immorality if it is a lump it level act it isn't considered immoral. It is forgotten almost immediately. It's a matter of resources. We have a finite amount and must use them wisely. The root of your disappointment lies with the idea of what is right and what is wrong. Neither of these has anything to do with morality, even though that is the veneer glued to every moral code. Morality is not about right, it is about the right expected behavior and what to do when someone engages in the wrong expected behavior. There is nothing right or wrong with stealing. I might pull an apple from a tree and eat it. If it's a wild tree, growing in an untended forest, no one cares. If it is an apple orchard, waiting to be harvested, I have committed theft. How am I supposed to tell the difference? It's fairly simple. I consult my moral code, which defines property and property rights. My society has decide to let some people claim dirt and the trees which grow in it, to be theirs and allow them to restrict other people's access. It doesn't really make any sense that a human could own a tree, something which appears from no where and grows to be huge, with no assistance from the human. It's a crazy idea, on the face of it. However, I like living with and around people. If I want to stay, I have to understand all these crazy rules, or suffer for it. That's what morality is all about. It has nothing to do with right or wrong. #### arkirk ##### Veteran Member I'm not exactly sure what you're disagreeing with. I said nothing about punishment, "criminal" as a property, or growing weed. I actually share most of your views. Earlier, you said: In your reply to my reply, you seem to concede that the government should be very interested in what people do: Now you have a proper ground for a government and society to act upon: Keep harm away from society. That would suggest that the prevention of harm is a good justification for making behaviors that harm society illegal, at least in some cases. You also appear to conflate any action-centered system of morality with religious thinking, which I reject. Just about every secular moral philosophy in existence is interested in actions, because people can't affect other people without doing something. It has nothing to do with monotheism nor Confucius. As I said before, it is impossible to come up with a compelling reason to protect society from harm, or shield the weak from the strong, without reference to some sort of consequentialist ethics. So because you call something "consequentialist" does that make it wrong? That is what secular ethics is all about. If you persist in doing things that hurt society and know the consequences of your actions will be harm, that would make you immoral in my eyes. Gawd! We are all a bit immoral aren't we. The bad part is that we can't seem to stop being immoral. #### fromderinside ##### Mazzie Daius I'm disappointed you chose to put a price on whether it is a crime. If it is the only pen in the community it is a crime worth significant sanction. The point is what is the relative social motive, not just the economic motive. As far as immorality if it is a lump it level act it isn't considered immoral. It is forgotten almost immediately. It's a matter of resources. We have a finite amount and must use them wisely. The root of your disappointment lies with the idea of what is right and what is wrong. Neither of these has anything to do with morality, even though that is the veneer glued to every moral code. Morality is not about right, it is about the right expected behavior and what to do when someone engages in the wrong expected behavior. There is nothing right or wrong with stealing. I might pull an apple from a tree and eat it. If it's a wild tree, growing in an untended forest, no one cares. If it is an apple orchard, waiting to be harvested, I have committed theft. How am I supposed to tell the difference? It's fairly simple. I consult my moral code, which defines property and property rights. My society has decide to let some people claim dirt and the trees which grow in it, to be theirs and allow them to restrict other people's access. It doesn't really make any sense that a human could own a tree, something which appears from no where and grows to be huge, with no assistance from the human. It's a crazy idea, on the face of it. However, I like living with and around people. If I want to stay, I have to understand all these crazy rules, or suffer for it. That's what morality is all about. It has nothing to do with right or wrong. Did I actually indicate right and wrong were involved? I haven't checked. But my presentation was all to the relative merits in a given social group at a given social level. Not very much right or wrong there. Seems to me that we agree.. #### WAB ##### Veteran Member I'm disappointed you chose to put a price on whether it is a crime. If it is the only pen in the community it is a crime worth significant sanction. The point is what is the relative social motive, not just the economic motive. As far as immorality if it is a lump it level act it isn't considered immoral. It is forgotten almost immediately. It's a matter of resources. We have a finite amount and must use them wisely. The root of your disappointment lies with the idea of what is right and what is wrong. Neither of these has anything to do with morality, even though that is the veneer glued to every moral code. Morality is not about right, it is about the right expected behavior and what to do when someone engages in the wrong expected behavior. There is nothing right or wrong with stealing. I might pull an apple from a tree and eat it. If it's a wild tree, growing in an untended forest, no one cares. If it is an apple orchard, waiting to be harvested, I have committed theft. How am I supposed to tell the difference? It's fairly simple. I consult my moral code, which defines property and property rights. My society has decide to let some people claim dirt and the trees which grow in it, to be theirs and allow them to restrict other people's access. It doesn't really make any sense that a human could own a tree, something which appears from no where and grows to be huge, with no assistance from the human. It's a crazy idea, on the face of it. However, I like living with and around people. If I want to stay, I have to understand all these crazy rules, or suffer for it. That's what morality is all about. It has nothing to do with right or wrong. How different are 'right' and 'right expected behavior'? I think this reasoning is leading you down a rabbit hole. Right and wrong has everything to do with morality. You can't discuss morality without discussing our concepts of right and wrong. #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member It's a matter of resources. We have a finite amount and must use them wisely. The root of your disappointment lies with the idea of what is right and what is wrong. Neither of these has anything to do with morality, even though that is the veneer glued to every moral code. Morality is not about right, it is about the right expected behavior and what to do when someone engages in the wrong expected behavior. There is nothing right or wrong with stealing. I might pull an apple from a tree and eat it. If it's a wild tree, growing in an untended forest, no one cares. If it is an apple orchard, waiting to be harvested, I have committed theft. How am I supposed to tell the difference? It's fairly simple. I consult my moral code, which defines property and property rights. My society has decide to let some people claim dirt and the trees which grow in it, to be theirs and allow them to restrict other people's access. It doesn't really make any sense that a human could own a tree, something which appears from no where and grows to be huge, with no assistance from the human. It's a crazy idea, on the face of it. However, I like living with and around people. If I want to stay, I have to understand all these crazy rules, or suffer for it. That's what morality is all about. It has nothing to do with right or wrong. How different are 'right' and 'right expected behavior'? I think this reasoning is leading you down a rabbit hole. Right and wrong has everything to do with morality. You can't discuss morality without discussing our concepts of right and wrong. There's no rabbits down here and there's no right or wrong, either. "Right" is what we want people to do. We don't want people to kill each other, most of the time. We do want a police sharpshooter to kill the man who is strolling the mall and shooting random shoppers. Our concepts of right and wrong are based on what makes life easier and safer for people who live in close proximity. This depends upon a lot of things, including the environment and population density. Killing and stealing are wrong, most of the time. We always find a time when it's not only "not wrong," but the expected thing to do. #### WAB ##### Veteran Member How different are 'right' and 'right expected behavior'? I think this reasoning is leading you down a rabbit hole. Right and wrong has everything to do with morality. You can't discuss morality without discussing our concepts of right and wrong. There's no rabbits down here and there's no right or wrong, either. "Right" is what we want people to do. We don't want people to kill each other, most of the time. We do want a police sharpshooter to kill the man who is strolling the mall and shooting random shoppers. Our concepts of right and wrong are based on what makes life easier and safer for people who live in close proximity. This depends upon a lot of things, including the environment and population density. Killing and stealing are wrong, most of the time. We always find a time when it's not only "not wrong," but the expected thing to do. I think you're dead wrong. There is no rational discussion of morality without considering what are good, or right actions, and what are bad, or harmful actions. You make an assertion that doesn't make any sense on examination. But have fun down that hole! #### WAB ##### Veteran Member What you mean is we judge right and wrong according to context. But we still judge right or wrong. #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member What you mean is we judge right and wrong according to context. But we still judge right or wrong. Can you tell me whether or not it is right or wrong to kill another person? #### WAB ##### Veteran Member Depends on the context. (See my prior post.) It's sometimes perfectly justifiable to kill; other times it isn't. ie: sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong. Note: I'm not arguing for some kind of Platonic absolute for 'right' and 'wrong'. My argument is that our concept of what is moral is tied to our concepts of right and wrong. This could be a great discussion, but I have to go back to work in about fifteen minutes. **gotta go. Will check back in about four or five hours. Last edited: #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member Depends on the context. (See my prior post.) It's sometimes perfectly justifiable to kill; other times it isn't. ie: sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong. Note: I'm not arguing for some kind of Platonic absolute for 'right' and 'wrong'. My argument is that our concept of what is moral is tied to our concepts of right and wrong. This could be a great discussion, but I have to go back to work in about fifteen minutes. **gotta go. Will check back in about four or five hours. This comes very close to a tautology. Morality is the code of human behavior. The driving force of this code is the need for humans to live in close quarters. When this is combined with our strange desire to collect things which don't have immediate use, we need some kind of guidelines. The two basic guidelines are first, our behavior must make those around us safer and second, predictable. It just so happens that killing people does not make them safer and stealing their stuff makes them unpredictable. Thus, the core of all moral codes involve killing and stealing. It's not that life is so precious or sacred, it's that life is miserable when we have to worry about getting killed or losing all our stuff, so we won't tolerate it. As you said, sometimes it is perfectly moral to kill someone. A good moral code makes it clear who, when, and why someone can be killed. Right and wrong are just shorthand for the possible consequences, but no action is intrinsically right or wrong. It is the moral code which determines right and wrong. Right and wrong are the product of morals, not producer. #### WAB ##### Veteran Member Depends on the context. (See my prior post.) It's sometimes perfectly justifiable to kill; other times it isn't. ie: sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong. Note: I'm not arguing for some kind of Platonic absolute for 'right' and 'wrong'. My argument is that our concept of what is moral is tied to our concepts of right and wrong. This could be a great discussion, but I have to go back to work in about fifteen minutes. **gotta go. Will check back in about four or five hours. This comes very close to a tautology. Morality is the code of human behavior. The driving force of this code is the need for humans to live in close quarters. When this is combined with our strange desire to collect things which don't have immediate use, we need some kind of guidelines. The two basic guidelines are first, our behavior must make those around us safer and second, predictable. It just so happens that killing people does not make them safer and stealing their stuff makes them unpredictable. Thus, the core of all moral codes involve killing and stealing. It's not that life is so precious or sacred, it's that life is miserable when we have to worry about getting killed or losing all our stuff, so we won't tolerate it. As you said, sometimes it is perfectly moral to kill someone. A good moral code makes it clear who, when, and why someone can be killed. Right and wrong are just shorthand for the possible consequences, but no action is intrinsically right or wrong. It is the moral code which determines right and wrong. Right and wrong are the product of morals, not producer. Like I said, I wasn't suggesting that any action was intrinsically right or wrong, only that any discussion of morality is inextricably tied to our notions of right or wrong. Naturally, what behaviors are right or wrong, moral or immoral, are different across various epochs and cultures, and are dynamic, in a permanent state of change and progression (or one would hope). I don't think a moral code determines right or wrong. I think it's the other way around: Human ideas of right or wrong have produced moral codes, over time. You can't make a moral code without first determining what right and wrong behaviors are. Again, lest I'm misunderstood: what's right or wrong will be slightly different from person to person, let alone group to group. As an example, I think it's wrong to keep alcohol legal and other drugs illegal, but many people disagree. That's just one example among many. On reflection, I don't know anyone who consults a moral code when going about their lives. Most of us are good and decent, and have intelligence and sympathy enough to avoid doing unnecessary harm to others. I don't think a good person needs a moral code. It's basically not-so-good people whom laws and moral codes are written for. I once ran a poll (on FRDB) asking for the primary reason people did not commit sexual assault. The far greater majority selected the right answer: because they were not tempted to do so; but there were a few rogues who admitted that they abstained from sexual assault primarily out of fear of repercussions (incarceration/social stigma). The moral codes we live by are mainly written for those latter people, not the former. I suppose this could be argued. As for whether life is precious: again, this is different from person to person. I would say that in nature, life is not precious; in fact nature appears quite hostile to me, hence my gratitude for being born in a relatively safe place, in a relatively safe time period, and at the top of the food chain no less! Better that than a thousand alternatives that may have happened. I have no problem saying that I regard life as a supreme value. I don't expect anyone else to agree with me if they'd rather not. #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member This comes very close to a tautology. Morality is the code of human behavior. The driving force of this code is the need for humans to live in close quarters. When this is combined with our strange desire to collect things which don't have immediate use, we need some kind of guidelines. The two basic guidelines are first, our behavior must make those around us safer and second, predictable. It just so happens that killing people does not make them safer and stealing their stuff makes them unpredictable. Thus, the core of all moral codes involve killing and stealing. It's not that life is so precious or sacred, it's that life is miserable when we have to worry about getting killed or losing all our stuff, so we won't tolerate it. As you said, sometimes it is perfectly moral to kill someone. A good moral code makes it clear who, when, and why someone can be killed. Right and wrong are just shorthand for the possible consequences, but no action is intrinsically right or wrong. It is the moral code which determines right and wrong. Right and wrong are the product of morals, not producer. Like I said, I wasn't suggesting that any action was intrinsically right or wrong, only that any discussion of morality is inextricably tied to our notions of right or wrong. Naturally, what behaviors are right or wrong, moral or immoral, are different across various epochs and cultures, and are dynamic, in a permanent state of change and progression (or one would hope). I don't think a moral code determines right or wrong. I think it's the other way around: Human ideas of right or wrong have produced moral codes, over time. You can't make a moral code without first determining what right and wrong behaviors are. Again, lest I'm misunderstood: what's right or wrong will be slightly different from person to person, let alone group to group. As an example, I think it's wrong to keep alcohol legal and other drugs illegal, but many people disagree. That's just one example among many. On reflection, I don't know anyone who consults a moral code when going about their lives. Most of us are good and decent, and have intelligence and sympathy enough to avoid doing unnecessary harm to others. I don't think a good person needs a moral code. It's basically not-so-good people whom laws and moral codes are written for. I once ran a poll (on FRDB) asking for the primary reason people did not commit sexual assault. The far greater majority selected the right answer: because they were not tempted to do so; but there were a few rogues who admitted that they abstained from sexual assault primarily out of fear of repercussions (incarceration/social stigma). The moral codes we live by are mainly written for those latter people, not the former. I suppose this could be argued. As for whether life is precious: again, this is different from person to person. I would say that in nature, life is not precious; in fact nature appears quite hostile to me, hence my gratitude for being born in a relatively safe place, in a relatively safe time period, and at the top of the food chain no less! Better that than a thousand alternatives that may have happened. I have no problem saying that I regard life as a supreme value. I don't expect anyone else to agree with me if they'd rather not. There are no human ideas of right and wrong and the last thing one can trust a human to do is understand why they do or not do a particular thing. As I said earlier, moral codes are the social strictures which allow humans to live close to each other without tearing each other to shreds. It's really as simple as that. We dress them up, ascribe their authorship to Gods, try to figure ways around them when we want something, but it always comes down to the same problem. How can a species like a human, who needs the support of a social group in order to survive in every environment on this planet maintain safety and order within the group? That is the source of every moral code, no matter who or where. It was much simpler when we were hunter gatherers and a person's property was limited to what one could carry. Once we decided we could own stuff, this immediately led to disputes and fights. It was unsafe and disorderly. We went from a simple, "Don't kill members of our group," to "and don't take other people's stuff, either." The rest of it involves defining who is in the group and what to do with group members who violate the rules. #### WAB ##### Veteran Member Ok, Bronzeage, I believe I understand your position, but I don't agree with it. This statement: There are no human ideas of right and wrong and the last thing one can trust a human to do is understand why they do or not do a particular thing. Doesn't ring true to me. In fact, I believe it's false. Naturally, there are people who are mentally unsound, to whom your statement could apply, but it isn't true with respect to all people. Are you saying that you don't understand why you do anything that you do? Does a brain surgeon not understand why she is operating on a patient? Not to belabor the issue, but to say there are no human ideas of right or wrong is proved false by virtue of this conversation. Here we are, sharing ideas about right and wrong. Whether those ideas are valid or not is open to debate, but that we have such ideas isn't. Last edited: #### Bronzeage ##### Super Moderator Staff member Ok, Bronzeage, I believe I understand your position, but I don't agree with it. This statement: There are no human ideas of right and wrong and the last thing one can trust a human to do is understand why they do or not do a particular thing. Doesn't ring true to me. In fact, I believe it's false. Naturally, there are people who are mentally unsound, to whom your statement could apply, but it isn't true with respect to all people. Are you saying that you don't understand why you do anything that you do? Does a brain surgeon not understand why she is operating on a patient? Not to belabor the issue, but to say there are no human ideas of right or wrong is proved false by virtue of this conversation. Here we are, sharing ideas about right and wrong. Whether those ideas are valid or not is open to debate, but that we have such ideas isn't. What I said is we can't trust a human to know why they do something. This does not mean they don't think they know and certainly anyone can present a reason for their actions. A brain surgeon can go on about the miracle of preserving life, but his/her real motivation is the ego boosting adoration he receives, or just the money. His says his reasons are altruism, but could be vanity or greed. We don't actually care, as long as the patient recovers. An incompetent, but morally straight brain surgeon will not be tolerated. As for right and wrong, you have yet to present any human action which is wrong, without regard to the circumstances. These circumstances dictate whether or not the action is the correct thing to do. #### Emily Lake ##### Might be a replicant We could rerun this whole scenario with, "Officer, my pen has been stolen." Unless my pen was a Princess Grace Mont Blanc(retail price$895), the policeman is likely to say it's my problem and he can't help me.

Here is what it comes down to. Both are immoral acts of theft, but a stolen ballpoint pen is insignificant. It works the same way with other immoral acts. It's always a maybe.

I'm disappointed you chose to put a price on whether it is a crime. If it is the only pen in the community it is a crime worth significant sanction. The point is what is the relative social motive, not just the economic motive. As far as immorality if it is a lump it level act it isn't considered immoral. It is forgotten almost immediately.

Substitute the more generic "value" for "price" and you're closer. It's marginal value of the item stole relative to the "cost" of trying to reclaim it that comes in to play. It's all about utility. If someone steals my completely generic and easily replaceable #2 pencil... I might be irritated at the principle - theft is still theft after all. But the cost to me to take action about that theft is higher than the value of that pencil; chances are I'd have given it to the guy free if he'd just asked so why bother stealing it in the first place? But if he'd stolen something of high value to me personally - say the painting that my dead granny made in the last year of her life (that's worth absolutely zilch on the open market, but worth a lot to me in terms of sentiment), then I might consider that the cost to me in terms of time and hassle needed to take action to try to reclaim that stolen good is absolutely worth it.

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
I'm disappointed you chose to put a price on whether it is a crime. If it is the only pen in the community it is a crime worth significant sanction. The point is what is the relative social motive, not just the economic motive. As far as immorality if it is a lump it level act it isn't considered immoral. It is forgotten almost immediately.

Substitute the more generic "value" for "price" and you're closer. It's marginal value of the item stole relative to the "cost" of trying to reclaim it that comes in to play. It's all about utility. If someone steals my completely generic and easily replaceable #2 pencil... I might be irritated at the principle - theft is still theft after all. But the cost to me to take action about that theft is higher than the value of that pencil; chances are I'd have given it to the guy free if he'd just asked so why bother stealing it in the first place? But if he'd stolen something of high value to me personally - say the painting that my dead granny made in the last year of her life (that's worth absolutely zilch on the open market, but worth a lot to me in terms of sentiment), then I might consider that the cost to me in terms of time and hassle needed to take action to try to reclaim that stolen good is absolutely worth it.

Consider this question: why is it moral to own property? Why can you possess something you don't use or need, but can prevent me from taking it, or using it?

#### WAB

##### Veteran Member
Ok, Bronzeage, I believe I understand your position, but I don't agree with it.

This statement:

Doesn't ring true to me. In fact, I believe it's false. Naturally, there are people who are mentally unsound, to whom your statement could apply, but it isn't true with respect to all people.

Are you saying that you don't understand why you do anything that you do?

Does a brain surgeon not understand why she is operating on a patient?

Not to belabor the issue, but to say there are no human ideas of right or wrong is proved false by virtue of this conversation. Here we are, sharing ideas about right and wrong. Whether those ideas are valid or not is open to debate, but that we have such ideas isn't.

What I said is we can't trust a human to know why they do something. This does not mean they don't think they know and certainly anyone can present a reason for their actions. A brain surgeon can go on about the miracle of preserving life, but his/her real motivation is the ego boosting adoration he receives, or just the money. His says his reasons are altruism, but could be vanity or greed. We don't actually care, as long as the patient recovers. An incompetent, but morally straight brain surgeon will not be tolerated.

As for right and wrong, you have yet to present any human action which is wrong, without regard to the circumstances. These circumstances dictate whether or not the action is the correct thing to do.

What you say about surgeons probably applies to a lot of them, but does not apply to others. As you know.

I didn't realize I was supposed to 'present any human action which is wrong, without regard to the circumstances' ? Did you ask me to? Perhaps you did and I missed it.

BUT: please note, I have already stated twice that 'right or wrong' actions depend on context, in other words: on the circumstances. Perhaps you didn't catch that? Could be.

These circumstances dictate whether or not the action is the correct thing to do.

No kidding? I've been saying the same thing all along.

#### WAB

##### Veteran Member
Substitute the more generic "value" for "price" and you're closer. It's marginal value of the item stole relative to the "cost" of trying to reclaim it that comes in to play. It's all about utility. If someone steals my completely generic and easily replaceable #2 pencil... I might be irritated at the principle - theft is still theft after all. But the cost to me to take action about that theft is higher than the value of that pencil; chances are I'd have given it to the guy free if he'd just asked so why bother stealing it in the first place? But if he'd stolen something of high value to me personally - say the painting that my dead granny made in the last year of her life (that's worth absolutely zilch on the open market, but worth a lot to me in terms of sentiment), then I might consider that the cost to me in terms of time and hassle needed to take action to try to reclaim that stolen good is absolutely worth it.

Consider this question: why is it moral to own property? Why can you possess something you don't use or need, but can prevent me from taking it, or using it?

That's an excellent question. But it raises another: is there a workable alternative? Can society function with no concept of personal property? Examining that question might help to answer the first question: 'why is it moral to own property?'

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
Consider this question: why is it moral to own property? Why can you possess something you don't use or need, but can prevent me from taking it, or using it?

That's an excellent question. But it raises another: is there a workable alternative? Can society function with no concept of personal property? Examining that question might help to answer the first question: 'why is it moral to own property?'

I'm listening. Can society function with no concept of personal property? What conditions would have to exist where everyone could have whatever was needed, without denying anything to another person?

The only thing I can imagine is a very dreary environment where there would be enough food and water for sustenance, but very little variety. We would of course be naked, so I hope the nights are cool and there is plenty of shade.

#### WAB

##### Veteran Member
That's an excellent question. But it raises another: is there a workable alternative? Can society function with no concept of personal property? Examining that question might help to answer the first question: 'why is it moral to own property?'

I'm listening. Can society function with no concept of personal property? What conditions would have to exist where everyone could have whatever was needed, without denying anything to another person?

Another excellent question. I guess it would have to be someplace like Eden. Problem is, we humans don't seem to enjoy living like pets with everything provided for us. Who would? I imagine it would be something like slavery. Sure, all your needs are met, you are safe and secure; but all on the condition that you obey a master without question and with total obedience.

If God made man in His image, which I take to mean more than just physically, then He had to have known that man would not want to live in slavery. Man is inspirited. Spirit meaning basically, breath. God breathed His spirit into us, so He knew we would not and could not behave ourselves for very long in a cage, no matter how gilded. The Truman Show is a great film, addressing what I've just said with dramatic clarity. (Though the 'director' in that movie doesn't have God's foreknowledge, of course.)

We're God, and God is us, and all of Nature. And the brute fact is: Utopia cannot exist. Fictional utopias are a direct contradiction to nature and to mankind. Democracy, communism, theocracy, military state, dictatorship, whatever the system, will fail to make everyone happy and secure. Some systems are better than others, but none can solve the problems humanity is beset with; which means: No political system will alter nature.

Leastways at's what I rekkin.

#### Tom Sawyer

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
Exactly. If you put people in a utopia they just rebel against it and don't accept the programming. Entire crops can be lost.

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
I'm listening. Can society function with no concept of personal property? What conditions would have to exist where everyone could have whatever was needed, without denying anything to another person?

Another excellent question. I guess it would have to be someplace like Eden. Problem is, we humans don't seem to enjoy living like pets with everything provided for us. Who would? I imagine it would be something like slavery. Sure, all your needs are met, you are safe and secure; but all on the condition that you obey a master without question and with total obedience.

If God made man in His image, which I take to mean more than just physically, then He had to have known that man would not want to live in slavery. Man is inspirited. Spirit meaning basically, breath. God breathed His spirit into us, so He knew we would not and could not behave ourselves for very long in a cage, no matter how gilded. The Truman Show is a great film, addressing what I've just said with dramatic clarity. (Though the 'director' in that movie doesn't have God's foreknowledge, of course.)

We're God, and God is us, and all of Nature. And the brute fact is: Utopia cannot exist. Fictional utopias are a direct contradiction to nature and to mankind. Democracy, communism, theocracy, military state, dictatorship, whatever the system, will fail to make everyone happy and secure. Some systems are better than others, but none can solve the problems humanity is beset with; which means: No political system will alter nature.

Leastways at's what I rekkin.

What I described is the life of a troop of chimpanzees. Humans may have been content with that kind of life at one time, but apparently it got old.

At the risk of repeating myself again, if humans are to do better than chimpanzees, we must cooperate. This is critical in all environments, but once we move out of the tropical forest, where we moved with the ripening fruit, it became absolutely imperative. We could either exist in tight cooperative groups, or we die. The rules we develop to insure cooperation are what we call morality. As our societies and cultures become more complex, especially as we compete with each other for resources, the rules become more complex. There are layers upon layers in our morality. It is so deep and dense, we take it for granted, as if it is ingrained in our DNA. It's not. We must learn these rules and abide by them as we grow.

Right and wrong are meaningless without the context of cooperation in order for our group to survive.

#### WAB

##### Veteran Member
Another excellent question. I guess it would have to be someplace like Eden. Problem is, we humans don't seem to enjoy living like pets with everything provided for us. Who would? I imagine it would be something like slavery. Sure, all your needs are met, you are safe and secure; but all on the condition that you obey a master without question and with total obedience.

If God made man in His image, which I take to mean more than just physically, then He had to have known that man would not want to live in slavery. Man is inspirited. Spirit meaning basically, breath. God breathed His spirit into us, so He knew we would not and could not behave ourselves for very long in a cage, no matter how gilded. The Truman Show is a great film, addressing what I've just said with dramatic clarity. (Though the 'director' in that movie doesn't have God's foreknowledge, of course.)

We're God, and God is us, and all of Nature. And the brute fact is: Utopia cannot exist. Fictional utopias are a direct contradiction to nature and to mankind. Democracy, communism, theocracy, military state, dictatorship, whatever the system, will fail to make everyone happy and secure. Some systems are better than others, but none can solve the problems humanity is beset with; which means: No political system will alter nature.

Leastways at's what I rekkin.

What I described is the life of a troop of chimpanzees. Humans may have been content with that kind of life at one time, but apparently it got old.

At the risk of repeating myself again, if humans are to do better than chimpanzees, we must cooperate. This is critical in all environments, but once we move out of the tropical forest, where we moved with the ripening fruit, it became absolutely imperative. We could either exist in tight cooperative groups, or we die. The rules we develop to insure cooperation are what we call morality. As our societies and cultures become more complex, especially as we compete with each other for resources, the rules become more complex. There are layers upon layers in our morality. It is so deep and dense, we take it for granted, as if it is ingrained in our DNA. It's not. We must learn these rules and abide by them as we grow.

Right and wrong are meaningless without the context of cooperation in order for our group to survive.

May I venture some direct questions, in the hope of direct and honest answers?

1) Is there anything in my posts that suggests that people should NOT cooperate with one another? If there is, would you please point it out to me?
2) Do you believe that humans are born with a brain that is 'tabula rasa', or a 'blank slate' (figuratively)?

Last edited:

#### arkirk

##### Veteran Member
What I described is the life of a troop of chimpanzees. Humans may have been content with that kind of life at one time, but apparently it got old.

At the risk of repeating myself again, if humans are to do better than chimpanzees, we must cooperate. This is critical in all environments, but once we move out of the tropical forest, where we moved with the ripening fruit, it became absolutely imperative. We could either exist in tight cooperative groups, or we die. The rules we develop to insure cooperation are what we call morality. As our societies and cultures become more complex, especially as we compete with each other for resources, the rules become more complex. There are layers upon layers in our morality. It is so deep and dense, we take it for granted, as if it is ingrained in our DNA. It's not. We must learn these rules and abide by them as we grow.

Right and wrong are meaningless without the context of cooperation in order for our group to survive.

May I venture some direct questions, in the hope of direct and honest answers?

1) Is there anything in my posts that suggests that people should NOT cooperate with one another? If there is, would you please point it out to me?
2) Do you believe that humans are born with a brain that is 'tabula rasa', or a 'blank slate' (figuratively)?

Social structures are so ubiquitous in human societies many moral memes seem to be imbedded in our genetics, but it is all a matter of how strong the social pressure is that enforces a social moral notion. Religious morals are hard to swallow most of the time because they are so punitive for such minor differences....examples abortion, blasphemy, etc. Well debated democratically determined social ethics on the other hand is another matter. It occurs to me that if we could only erase the confusion of religion from our considerations, our ethical codes and laws would be a lot more civilized...and also a lot more similar. Brains that are of similar construction probably individually arrive and many common preferences and a consensus is possible on such issues as murder and greed and torture. What always seems entangled in much of the murder and torture and robbery are fairy tales supporting human maltreatment. We are witnessing this behavior today in Palestine and Washington and pretty much any culture that places a high value on monotheism. It is as Gore Vidal said....rigid monotheism is the problem.

#### WAB

##### Veteran Member
I agree that rigid monotheism is a problem, but I wouldn't call it the problem. There is also the problem of human nature, or just plain nature. Let's face facts. No political system will make the entire population happy and content. It's just not possible. Not that we shouldn't try to make everyone comfortable and happy, only that the ultimate goal is out of our reach. There will always be emotion (see the film 'Equilibrium'). There will always be anger, conflicts of interest, disagreement, just as there will always be joy, a sense of community, and Love. Plus, the ego gets in the way. We always want to be in the right, to do things the correct way. The saint and the psychopath thinks his way is the right way. We don't like to feel ashamed, outsmarted, outshined. So we experience things like envy and jealousy. These emotions can easily lead to mockery and false witness. Spinoza lays it all out in his Ethics, quite nicely.

God or no god, we have each other to contend with, and we have a lot of blood on our collective hands, theist and atheist alike.

In reference to tabula rasa, I'm not convinced either way.

#### Malintent

##### Veteran Member
When the outcome of the untruth leads to physical or financial harm to another. did you expect some other form of answer to the OP?

#### Bronzeage

##### Super Moderator
Staff member
What I described is the life of a troop of chimpanzees. Humans may have been content with that kind of life at one time, but apparently it got old.

At the risk of repeating myself again, if humans are to do better than chimpanzees, we must cooperate. This is critical in all environments, but once we move out of the tropical forest, where we moved with the ripening fruit, it became absolutely imperative. We could either exist in tight cooperative groups, or we die. The rules we develop to insure cooperation are what we call morality. As our societies and cultures become more complex, especially as we compete with each other for resources, the rules become more complex. There are layers upon layers in our morality. It is so deep and dense, we take it for granted, as if it is ingrained in our DNA. It's not. We must learn these rules and abide by them as we grow.

Right and wrong are meaningless without the context of cooperation in order for our group to survive.

May I venture some direct questions, in the hope of direct and honest answers?

1) Is there anything in my posts that suggests that people should NOT cooperate with one another? If there is, would you please point it out to me?
2) Do you believe that humans are born with a brain that is 'tabula rasa', or a 'blank slate' (figuratively)?

We are arguing over whether there are any human acts which are right or wrong, without regard to their context. I stress cooperation because it is critical for survival and moral codes allow cooperation. I don't believe you argued that we shouldn't or don't cooperate.

One must remember, before any of this can have meaning, we must be able to define our group. There is a definite and distinct difference in the way we treat others of our group and outsiders.

As for blank slates, humans may retain some of our animal instincts, but we can't migrate without a map, build a dam just because we hear running water, and we don't fight other males because we smell a female in heat. Our social structure, our family structure, and the ways we deal with members of our group are learned. We are not born with this knowledge or ability.

#### Bomb#20

##### Contributor
Consider this question: why is it moral to own property? Why can you possess something you don't use or need, but can prevent me from taking it, or using it?
...
I'm listening. Can society function with no concept of personal property? What conditions would have to exist where everyone could have whatever was needed, without denying anything to another person?

The only thing I can imagine is a very dreary environment where there would be enough food and water for sustenance, but very little variety. We would of course be naked, so I hope the nights are cool and there is plenty of shade.
...
What I described is the life of a troop of chimpanzees. Humans may have been content with that kind of life at one time, but apparently it got old.
You'll have to go back further than chimpanzees to find a society without property ownership. Once monkeys stop eating all the food in their hands the second it gets there and start saving some for later, who gets to eat saved food becomes an issue. It's moral to own property -- i.e., to prevent another from using something -- because ought implies can, and in most cases it's physically impossible for everybody to get to use the same thing. So the problem to be solved is who should own what, not whether there should be any owning going on. And owning things you don't use is mostly a moot point -- when people and other chimpanzees aren't using something but still exclude others, they're normally saving it for future use -- that's the whole reason there's something to be owned in the first place.

Why can you possess something you don't need? That's another way to ask "Why isn't everything owned by whoever needs it most?". You wrote "Once we decided we could own stuff, this immediately led to disputes and fights." That's backwards. There were always disputes and fights. Chimps owning food another chimp needs more is a way to reduce disputes and fights. There's never going to be any consensus about who needs a piece of food most. It's hard to see how an "Everything is owned by whoever needs it most." rule could possibly evolve. In a population where uneaten food will be grabbed by any monkey who thinks he needs it and a fight will start whenever there are two who think they need it, genes for eating every bit of food as soon as you pull it off a plant will be selected for, and genes for grabbing uneaten food even if you're only slightly hungry will be selected for; but a monkey who picks a fruit and carries it around until a hungrier monkey takes it will be deselected.

At the risk of repeating myself again, if humans are to do better than chimpanzees, we must cooperate. This is critical in all environments, but once we move out of the tropical forest, where we moved with the ripening fruit, it became absolutely imperative. We could either exist in tight cooperative groups, or we die. The rules we develop to insure cooperation are what we call morality. As our societies and cultures become more complex, especially as we compete with each other for resources, the rules become more complex. There are layers upon layers in our morality. It is so deep and dense, we take it for granted, as if it is ingrained in our DNA. It's not. We must learn these rules and abide by them as we grow.
What makes you think it isn't ingrained in our DNA? Property rights are a human universal. Chimpanzees cooperate; they respect property rights; and it's hard for cooperation to evolve without property rights. Cooperation, at root, is a food storage technology -- you store the food you don't need right away in another animal's body, and when he has some he returns the favor. Inventing a food storage technology that works and that won't be torpedoed by natural selection for uncooperative genes is not an easy trick to pull off. There are only so many solutions. Wasps have one: a wasp is more closely related to her sister than to her own daughter so she has no incentive not to share. Vampire bats found another -- they store the food in their own bellies, so needier bats can't take it, and when they choose to share they regurgitate the blood to one another. Chimpanzees invented a third solution: property rights.