There was an amusing part in the movie Madagascar where a New York cop on horseback was on the radio reporting an escaped zoo animal and what he wanted to get an answer for was the question "can I shoot it?"geron wrote:Not exactly. Morality is simply a code of behaviour that operates to improve the survival of the tribe. We have taboos against homicide, theft, rape and whatever because -- unchecked -- they damage our viability and prosperity as a group. We all understand these unwritten rules instinctively. Religions, all of them, harness this understanding: in essence they are systems of social control, and they work by threatening offenders with supernatural sanctions which are unchallengeable (and unverifiable). In modern times, governments have taken over this role: they have codified offences in much more detail and they prescribe real punishments. Nonetheless, people don't generally need a book of rules to know whether they're doing right or wrong -- it's built in to us.Dust wrote:...Morality without a firm grounding, however, tends to decay over time. We try to justify our misdeeds, and if we are the arbiters of our own morality, sooner or later we reach a place where nothing is immoral. Even the "organized" churches who have splintered off have started allowing all sorts of things that were once universally condemned in the Christian West.
Morality has to be enforced on some level. If society universally believes in punishment in the afterlife, that is a start. Otherwise, it comes down to laws from the government.
People are not really all that good at discerning right from wrong, especially in complex situations. What was "right" yesterday can be "wrong" today. When I was young it was "right" to let children outside to play independently. Today it is "wrong" because we perceive risks and parental responsibilities much more severely.
People generally DO need a "book of rules", is what I'm saying, but those rules will be most understandable and likely to gain wide assent if they also seem intuitive. If you want to convince me that stealing is wrong then asking me to imagine being stolen from is going to help.
Hardest of all, I think, is collective morality for collective acts. We collectively pump CO2 into the atmosphere, for example, and it has bad effects. Does that mean that I, an individual, am "wrong" if I drive my car, or light a candle when I meditate? At some point in time the very concept of morality may become non-serviceable as a way of usefully governing human affairs. (Don't ask me what the name of its replacement, if any, might be.)