reply to post by Bluesma
It arises from early education, it does not exist without that education and training.
I think we need to rewind a little to look at our premises.
Why do you put more emphasis on the process of how morality enters human consciousness, as opposed to the unique manifestation of it in human
You mentioned the biblical episode of 'the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. Really, what the Hebrew scribes were referring to was mans
existential condition: when knowledge is attained, so is responsibility. This is what I find to be relevant when assessing morality. This is what
morality essentially means.
I don't deny that conscience can be perverted, but it is nevertheless a purely human phenomenon. When you look at nature and ascribe "morality" to
it's functioning, you are making a moral judgement upon it. It's not nature - but you - the human being, who applies a moral ruler to it. Outside of
man, what could be moral? The concept doesn't even arise!
When I was two (strangely enough I remember the experience clearly!) I walked by myself to the store (my parents were apparently not so responsible )
I was looking at the candy, and I took some that looked good. I had observed that adults put thigns they want on the counter first, before they leave,
so I did that. The man on the other side leaned forward and looked over the edge down at me and said "You need money for that." I remember images of
coins in my head- I knew what money was! Okay! I'll go get some! I headed home, seeing in my head places in the house I had seen coins.
Wow, all this at 2?
I'm surprised the clerk wasn't more conscious of who was making the purchase.
But that was AFTER I was taught the moral- it was not inherent. Other acts which I feel repulsed to are ones that I experienced being on the recieving
end of, and found to be painful or uncomfortable, so I naturally feel repulsed to them, no matter who might be doing it.
You were acting as a being ignorant of the moral of why stealing is wrong. In Jewish tradition (amongst others) a boy becomes a man at 13 (and a girl
becomes a woman at 12). The source of this tradition is the observation that moral understanding - particularly emotional intelligence - doesn't quite
enter our way of thinking until we reach a certain age of development. This is probably why the clerk didn't make a big deal about you taking some
candy; your parents response was also exaggerated: a child of 2 has no concept of morality, so how could you punish her for it? A simple admonishment
"taking things without paying isn't good" would suffice, but actually hitting, whats the point in that?
Your parents response also provides another example of the scope of morality: how we respond to individual situations. If knowledge isn't available,
how could the child be punished? And consider the moral consequences of physical punishment for something she had no ability to have any knowledge of.
Physical punishment itself represents a devaluation of morality in the eyes of the punisher: he imagines that people will be led to do right simply
because they've been "trained" to do it, as if the moral understanding, as Kant rightly understood, wasn't a moral imperative that comes with self
But social animals also have morals and rules they are taught in their groups and they exhibit similar behaviors. Two dogs that live together- if one
does something they know is not allowed, they both act guilty and shamed (happened with mine yesterday). They feel bad inside if they accidently cross
into the alphas spot, you can tell by their behavior.
Human morality is predicated in the sense of justice. What is this morality predicated in? Justice? The concept doesn't exist to them, and that I
think is the point. Man is confronted with a sense of justice - what Kant calls the moral imperative. At that moment, we can either abide by our
knowledge of whats right, or go against it. In the human sphere, we have the possibility and allowance to reject the directives of conscience. We can
'break away'. This is the first thing which makes human conscience different from the animal rules you describe. All animals abide by the rules and no
animal has the capacity to stop, reflect, and consciously oppose the rules of the guild. They abide because they're programmed to abide.
I will however admit that there is an interesting metaphorical consonance between these animal behaviors and human conscience, but to reduce human
conscience to this is once again to engage in reductionism, where the human phenomenon is taken out of it's unique context and reckoned on par with
animal behaviors that emerge in a totally different existential context.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" well, I've started threads on that one, as I think it is NOT a reliable axiom- though I think it
is a common instinct, which arises from our natural empathy. Animals have that too.
How is it not a 'reliable' axiom?
And again, you're engaging in reductionism. To be moral - to be conscientious - is to be knowledgeable of the experience. You have to be able to
"hold" it in mind for the word 'moral' to enter the equation. Without decision, what significance does moral have? It's law. It's no longer moral
outside the context of decision.
And in what circumstances do animals act morally? I for instance am capable of being moral with all creatures. For example, when I feel the need to
let my dog off the leash to run around, I do so because I'm conscious of her existential needs - as a dog - to run; as some have said, a tired dog is
a happy dog. Could a dog do the same? Of course not! Way too often, when I'm feeling down and could use a lick from my dog, she's cold, she's idle,
she's not interested, she pulls away - when I'm most in need of her cuddling. This is just how she is; I don't account it as a "moral failure" on her
part, because she doesn't have a moral sense to begin with!
This is not to say she doesn't love. She does. Her loyalty is a beautiful expression of her love. But her love is ephemeral, it comes and goes
according to how she feels; she can't "summon" an understanding that it's time to be loving. For example: If my sister does me a favor, and later on,
I want to take a shower, am about go in, and she rushes up to me "Mike, I have to take a shower!" I could easily be annoyed by this. Certainly, if I
were animal minded, I would take my shower and ignore her situation. But, since her situation was more pressing than my own, and, she had shown the
kindness of doing me a favor earlier, I restrained myself and gave her the shower. This is a unique example of what we call conscience. This has no
cognate to anything in nature. There are only 'metaphors' which have a similar dynamism, but the experience, the constituent elements, the ingredients
of self conscious awareness, comparative analyses, etc, are not there. They are not moral. They are simply animal level behaviors which occur by rote.
I just don't see it as anything that makes us superior- no more than the ability to fly makes birds more special than other animals.
What does it matter whether it makes us superior or not? Does it absolve us from our responsibilities to animals and nature? Should we entertain
haughty notions about our 'superiority'? Man is clearly the most evolved and inclusive creature in the animal kingdom. His consciousness encompasses
everything; his creations cover the face of the earth (which may not be such a good thing i.e. highways, roads etc). I think this gives us
metaphysical superiority over all other creatures - but this superiority can only be properly appreciated in the context of the whole: we have
obligations; we our caretakers, as the Bible poetically describes it, of Gods green earth.
edit on 29-11-2012 by dontreally because: (no