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Old 02-04-2014, 10:04 AM #1
TheSilentAssassin
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Sociopaths and Morality

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Originally Posted by spracks21 View Post
If you chose murder, more or less, because it seemed to be the most agreeable potential moral absolute, then I must ask why you think that is? What about murder resonates with humans in such a negative way? Or are you positing that there isn't a traceable reason, but it is simply wired in our brains that way, similar to (Example off the top of my head) touching fire causes us pain, murder causes us mental discomfort/uneasiness/anger?

From an evolutionary psychological perspective, I think our human distaste with murder can be explained quite simply.

Consider this. Most humans today have a taste preference which favors fatty/salty foods. This trait helped our ancestors survive, in a time when food was often scarce. Those who couldn't stomach the taste of these foods likely did significantly worse in terms of surviving and reproducing. Thus, this trait made it into Humanity's genetics, and is still here today (At least for now).

Similarly to this, I think humanity's general distain for murder could quite possibly be explained. There has always been murder, since the dawn of man. There is still murder today, but only amongst a very small percentage of the population. Perhaps a more neutral/tolerant, or even favorable, attitude towards murder was prevalent in our ancient ancestors. Wild animals today seem ok with the concept, for most part. Maybe once we were too. But over time, as things played out, the anti murder crowd became more and more abundant, and those holding sentiments of indifference or favorability began being increasingly incarcerated or killed off (hypocritical/cognitive dissonant as it may be), these people were less and less reproductively successful.

I don't know if I am prepared to say that an attraction/indifference to murder is entirely due to some genetic predisposition, but between that and a continued advancement of knowledge/reason/order in forming societies, I think the phenomena can be largely explained.

Now to my main point, some people (Now and throughout history) have had no problem with the action of murder. Some people feel no regret or remorse for committing murder. While the people may be said to be mentally abnormal, this does not change the fact that they are humans who lack the seemingly innate trait for a sentiment of disdain towards murder. If murder were objectively Immoral, could people who do not feel this sense of wrongness from murder even exist?

Whether it be genetic predisposition (A psychological compulsion, varying levels of empathy or testosterone/aggression, etc.), or cultural conditioning, it seems likely to me that our sense of morality could have possibly ended up different than it is today, given different conditions and contributing variables. Which to me, suggests a subjective morality when it gets down to it.

Again, typed this on my phone, please excuse any errors or lapses in thought.
There are a few things to be addressed here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sociopaths
Now to my main point, some people (Now and throughout history) have had no problem with the action of murder. Some people feel no regret or remorse for committing murder. While the people may be said to be mentally abnormal, this does not change the fact that they are humans who lack the seemingly innate trait for a sentiment of disdain towards murder. If murder were objectively Immoral, could people who do not feel this sense of wrongness from murder even exist?

Whether it be genetic predisposition (A psychological compulsion, varying levels of empathy or testosterone/aggression, etc.), or cultural conditioning, it seems likely to me that our sense of morality could have possibly ended up different than it is today, given different conditions and contributing variables. Which to me, suggests a subjective morality when it gets down to it.
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Originally Posted by Evolutionary Explanation for Morality
From an evolutionary psychological perspective, I think our human distaste with murder can be explained quite simply.

Consider this. Most humans today have a taste preference which favors fatty/salty foods. This trait helped our ancestors survive, in a time when food was often scarce. Those who couldn't stomach the taste of these foods likely did significantly worse in terms of surviving and reproducing. Thus, this trait made it into Humanity's genetics, and is still here today (At least for now).

Similarly to this, I think humanity's general distain for murder could quite possibly be explained. There has always been murder, since the dawn of man. There is still murder today, but only amongst a very small percentage of the population. Perhaps a more neutral/tolerant, or even favorable, attitude towards murder was prevalent in our ancient ancestors. Wild animals today seem ok with the concept, for most part. Maybe once we were too. But over time, as things played out, the anti murder crowd became more and more abundant, and those holding sentiments of indifference or favorability began being increasingly incarcerated or killed off (hypocritical/cognitive dissonant as it may be), these people were less and less reproductively successful.

I don't know if I am prepared to say that an attraction/indifference to murder is entirely due to some genetic predisposition, but between that and a continued advancement of knowledge/reason/order in forming societies, I think the phenomena can be largely explained.
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Originally Posted by Why Murder is so Morally "Charged"
If you chose murder, more or less, because it seemed to be the most agreeable potential moral absolute, then I must ask why you think that is? What about murder resonates with humans in such a negative way? Or are you positing that there isn't a traceable reason, but it is simply wired in our brains that way, similar to (Example off the top of my head) touching fire causes us pain, murder causes us mental discomfort/uneasiness/anger?
.
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Old 02-05-2014, 01:00 AM #2
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Sociopaths can have morals.
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Old 02-06-2014, 10:29 PM #3
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Despite most of the words of the op coming from me, I am not really sure where to go with this. My comments were from a thread where I was providing argumentation against an objective morality, or more specifically, murder being objectively immoral.

But in regards to sociopaths, yes, I contend that they can have morals, although they may not feel similarly towards the rest of society's consensus on morality.
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Old 02-07-2014, 08:24 AM #4
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Sorry. My response is still coming.

Also, I was using sociopaths loosely.
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Old 02-07-2014, 11:15 AM #5
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I think it would be useful in both these threads to define morality, especially in how it differs from or is based on values and ethics.
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Old 02-07-2014, 02:51 PM #6
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I think there is an unstated assumption that morality is based on empathy. Which is not always true outside the cultural norms of the west.
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Old 02-07-2014, 04:59 PM #7
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There are a lot of unstated assumptions regarding underlying values here.
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Old 02-09-2014, 02:39 PM #8
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There are a lot of unstated assumptions regarding underlying values here.
I would agree. Thanks.

I would like to encourage all of you that have interest in this thread to view this three part series from NOVA.

"Becoming Human"

I found it PROFOUNDLY moving. Light bulbs went off in my head right and left. Things I have never considered before. What makes us SOOoooo darn special in the animal world. Vanity or Genes? Before I saw it, I felt it was pure vanity to think we looked like GOD.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evoluti...g-human-part-1

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evoluti...g-human-part-2

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evoluti...g-human-part-3

I thought it was going to be all about Evolution. Yes, but just a fraction of it.

50,000 years ago. A blink of time in terms of evolution, there were 4 'human species'. All but one went extinct. Rather quickly too. The one species of human -US- almost went extinct as well. Down to less that 600 mating individuals. Give or take a little statistical error, we were really, really close to ADAM and EVE....

How come OURS made it and others didn't. LOTS of theories with evidence to support them. Maybe a combination of a variety. Maybe just LUCK. One theory suggests the different species followed the food supply that migrated as a result of known and dramatic environmental changes in Africa. The group that went south towards South Africa just starved to death as their food supply diminished. Living off sea urchins in caves along the coast.

Some of the most interesting were the theories that are the foundations of being human. Family, mutual support by families, Cooperation, Communication and the development of speech. Intelligence. The opposable thumb needed to make and use tools. Raises questions and provides some ideas about what has to happen for form civilization.

One theory specifically mentions the ability to have EMPATHY for others.

That one really got me. If we did not have fundamental trait of empathy. Would we have hospitals? Health care workers? Health Insurance? If we didn't CARE if someone was ill or injured, we would have left them for the wolves and would still be living that way. How would that change the world we live in today? Is that why we tend to bury our dead? Develop religions? Is that WHY we have Welfare, Morals about right and wrong, about murder, sodomy. Laws in general? Where did all this stuff come from. What traits laid the cornerstones of civilization? Humanity itself?

It has all sorts of implications.

I guarantee, it will be worthwhile to watch the series and shed a lot of light on this discussion..
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Old 02-09-2014, 03:31 PM #9
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Okay; I finally found time to give this thread some attention and came to realize that I'm not quite sure what I can say at this point (especially thanks to the nonsense and/or irrelevant posts above me). There seem to be a few different directions going in the OP. Spracks, as this came out of a response from you, are there any specific things you would like to address? I would be interested in talking about evolutionary morality. If that is the case, perhaps we can begin with you making an argument for it, if you would like. It wouldn't seem very helpful for me to post about it before someone who agrees with it at least sets the groundwork. Also, Umami, as you seem to be of the same taking, if you would like to post on your views as well, that would be appreciated. I'm genuinely interested in both of your thoughts on the subject. Martian, I didn't include you because I'm not sure where you stand but of course your input is appreciated. Boom, you can go away.
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Old 02-10-2014, 12:14 AM #10
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Without anything further being contributed by anyone else, I did have a few more elaborated thoughts on some things I was getting to earlier. I would love to hear other people's thoughts. I am trying to be as objective as I can, so I hope the sort of things I'm saying don't make me come off as too cynical.

I haven't looked into evolutionary morality very much per se, but psychology is my preferred area of study, and I personally could see how morals could in some way follow a similar setup/origin/development as things like food/taste preferences, predisposition to addictions, phobias, etc. Gene-environment interactionism seems like a pretty all inclusive explanation for this, though I admit I haven't studied/investigated morality in this light very thoroughly to date.

If this explanation does hold water, I would think it to be argument for a less than objective morality. For myself, in all honesty, I currently lean more towards moral skepticism really. I definitely have my values and conscience/moral compass, but I don't have any illusions that I am on the "correct" side in a dualistic moral feud or anything like that.

I can imagine the perspective of someone who feels exactly as I do, but with their moral compass simply pointing in a different direction.

I can provide reasoning for the things I contend to be moral/immoral in their given contexts, but I think it largely comes down to empathy, justice/fairness (a veil of ignorance is relevant here I think), fidelity, honesty/truthfulness, and perhaps even something like duty/honor. I don't know, I haven't narrowed down the exact categories, but this sort of ethical pluralism (Of how I understand it at least) seems to make the most sense to me. But important to note, this morality is still subjective, in my mind at the moment at least, and maybe even a choice to some extent. No matter the explanation for how my conscience/compass came to be as it is, it largely makes up the self whom I identity as "me."

Be it because of my genes, my parental influences, or general cultural conditioning, my emotions and mental comfort seems to be tied to my positions on actions of moral significance. I see a person suffering, I empathize, I get emotional anguish. I relieve someone's suffering, I get positive emotional sensation. That stated, my allegiance is to this morality, and to be frank, I am opposed and intolerant of moral positions in some of the more extreme opposite directions.

For example, someone who does not value empathy (or doesn't care at all about the suffering in others) and could torture righteously, I have no tolerance for, and I would push for this sort of worldview to be eradicated from humanity/society. I recognize that a person like this, given the absence of an objective morality, can not be said to be inherently evil and I not inherently good (Thus, my moral compass being on no higher ground than his, or no more "right/valid"). But, I can say mine is more conducive to modern society, and that his views have no place in the world that exists here and now on Earth. In another version of reality, perhaps my moral compass would not belong in this same way (Hard for me to imagine though, probably due to my gene-environment biases which I mentioned earlier).

This has been a hard line of thought for me to articulate, so I mostly was "talking out loud." So take it for what it's worth.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:53 AM #11
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Spracks,

The idea that the modern world is different than in the past, that ideas and morals fit neatly into little boxes in periods of time, is a major cultural narrative. Check your social conditioning. The flip side is that your kind of thinking, well the kind of thinking you inherited, that says man is on an upward trajectory, was very helpful in giving direction to industrial civilization. It doesn't matter that the vision of history and the history of ideas and ethics was and is entirely wrong. Pragmatics tend to beat out accuracy in the questions of the metaphysic of a whole society. It's probably worth mentioning that most societies who have written anything down consider themselves and their views to be objective reality.

It's hard to argue that this particular society is more empathetically moral than the "barbaric" past. They sacrificed animals in the name of Gods. We sacrifice animals in the name of science and medicine. I wonder which societies have killed more animals? The answer seems obvious but the important insight to all this comes when you realize how often we criticize other ethical systems for behaviors we condone. The difference is in the ends

TSA,

My position on morality is that it is multifaceted. A lot of what catches on after periods of collapse is happenstances. A group or two in a cauldron of ideas catches on and their ppresuppositions form the basis for what the emergent civilization thinks is important. How that civilization tells itself to behave is always going to reference the dominant narrative of that time. There is a religious dimension to it as well. Whatever it is, the religious experience is a cardinal experience for humanity. This experience has a large effect on individuals. Get enough together who share in similar contacts with "divine" things and you have the basis for potential dominant cultures down the road. Of course, the trajectory of morality within a civilization is going to be subjected to the particulars of the lifecyle of those socities. Literacy rates almost always correlate with a rationalist period. During which time the religious ethics are put to scrutiny by whichever school of rationalism happened to be developed. I don't know of a case where the old religious ethical system was jettisoned in its entirety during one of these times.

So really, I don't think morality is something people have much control over with respects to what is believed and what is chosen. You have environmental and resources base pressures that will dictate which narratives become popular by virtue of their adaption to such circumstances. Not all moral codes think empathy and compassion are terribly important. They get by without wholesale slaughter. A sociopath is not inherently immoral because empathy and compassion are not baselines of morality in any objective sense.

For myself, I've picked and chosen from other stories outside the ones I grew up with and that forms the basis for my ethics.

TLDR: Morality is like Milton's Game of Life. The only objectivity is found in the whole and complex system that emerges from evolution and the evolution of ideas. Not so much the particulars.

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Old 02-10-2014, 08:12 PM #12
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Martian, what responses/points of mine were you responding to? Or what are your points here? It's been a really long and busy day, so my mind may not be working properly, but I didn't pick up what you were saying exactly. Either quoting my parts which you took issue with, or stating concisely what principle/idea/premise you are referring to would be really helpful to me.

Keep in mind, I wasn't trying to argue for or against any specific ideology really, but was more just rambling off thoughts. I don't have my moral beliefs pinpointed or cemented at this point.
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:41 PM #13
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B"ut, I can say mine is more conducive to modern society, and that his views have no place in the world that exists here and now on Earth. In another version of reality, perhaps my moral co"

Right there.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:41 PM #14
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Oh, yeah I thought about deleting that part. All I meant was that, at least in most of the western world, my morals in present day are much more accepted than the hypothetical morals of someone who may feel that murder is ok or even a moral action/duty.

And however they came about in me, my morals exists as a part of the self which I identity as. And seeing as they are largely empathy based, and most of the world is in favor of roughly the same morals, I fit in pretty well and am generally seen as good. This makes my life much easier than if I were the only guy suggesting that maybe we shouldn't murder eachother for kicks, while the rest of the world boos and hisses in unison as they joyfully tear me apart, feeling righteous in their actions.
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Old 02-11-2014, 09:32 AM #15
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Most of the world has been hammered into submission by western imperialism for quite a long time now. It's quite one thing to say most of the world agrees and another to say, most of the world hasn't had much of a choice in the matter due in part to conquest and part in sublimation.

I don't know of any series culture that has actually endorsed "murdering for kicks." I know some schools of Vedic thought believe that you can't create or destroy souls and therefore shouldn't fret about having to kill someone if your duty or a circumstance calls for it. Fall not from the virility of the warrior, hero and all that. Depending on your translation.
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Old 02-19-2014, 07:23 PM #16
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I have another humongous post written up, but before I submit that I throught I would restate that I am not trying to justify or posit my moral views as better than any others. Just the opposite, I don't think that any moral compass can be said to he objectively good/bad/better/righter/etc. I was speaking as a matter of fact, when I mentioned my views being more of a fit in today's world than someone who's compass points to a different position, even one on the extreme opposite end of what most people today hold a consensus on as to what moral/immoral actions break down most basically to.
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Old 02-20-2014, 09:48 AM #17
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I understood and was attempting to shatter your view of "today's world" through wider perspectives.
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Old 02-20-2014, 10:19 AM #18
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Ah, got it haha. Fair enough then.
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Old 03-14-2014, 11:47 AM #19
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Good read
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