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#30461 - 04/22/09 12:46 PM Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter?
coberst Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter?

I suspect most of us would agree that principles of morality can and do legitimately vary from one nation to another.

Within a nation would we also agree that principles of morality can and do legitimately vary from one political party to another? Would we also agree that such variation is legitimate from one state to another; or perhaps from one city to another or from one family to another?

Is there a universal morality that overrides all community boundaries?

In his essay Open and Closed Morality as published in the book of essays The Morality of Politics W. H. Walsh has written about the difficult and elusive concept of an ‘open and closed morality’.

“You have a right to remain silent.” I guess all Americans who have reached the age of seven have heard this expression many times on TV. I also expect that all adult Americans agree that our nation was founded on the principle that all citizens have rights. Human rights are written into our constitution.

‘Right’ and ‘good’ are important moral concepts. Those who believe that all humans have certain rights are convinced that these rights supersede any consideration of the good. In other words, it is believed by some that humans, qua human, have certain inalienable rights that cannot be denied even in the interest of the good. These rights are considered to be universal and thus applicable to all humans wither they are members of my community or not.

Those who hold the existence of such universal moral principles are considered to have an “open morality” while those who believe that such universal rights do not exist and only the good determines the moral are considered to have a “closed morality”.

Walsh contends that those with the conviction of a closed morality “For them morality is, first and foremost, an affair internal to a particular community rather than a phenomenon covering the whole of mankind…[this individual] wants to make his own society as good as he can, rather than to construct some finally valuable Utopia.” The individual with a closed morality insist that the virtues on which they “insist are in the first instance communal virtues, and the vices they seek to avoid are modes of conduct which would disrupt socials life as such”.

Those with an open morality hold that moral law “holds without distinction of persons…privilege and preferential treatment have no place in morality, which is a sphere of pure principle…that the moral law commands for its own sake and not for the sake of any good its observance produces or might be expected to produce, whether private or public…man’s only overriding loyalty is to the moral law itself.”

Those with a closed morality are convinced that there are no rights, there is only the good. Any act that is beneficial to the community, i.e. is a common good, can be judged as moral or immoral based upon the consequences of the action.

I consider myself to have an open morality; what do you consider yourself to be, are you open or closed?

#30477 - 04/22/09 11:20 PM Re: Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter? [Re: coberst]
Zephir Offline

Registered: 07/01/08
Posts: 498
Originally Posted By: coberst
Is there a universal morality that overrides all community boundaries?
In my understanding the morality is an utilitarian principle of Lagrangian/Hamiltonian mechanics, which introduces an categorical imperative for every system of particles: to follow the environment along path, which maximizes the life of particles, i.e. it minimizes the lost of their mass by evaporation in gravitational waves. This criterion follows simply from the fact, the observable matter is just a tiny remnant of preselected particles, which have avoided/evaded their evaporation during Universe formation - so they're pretty careful about it as a whole. The optimal path isn't always the most straightforward one and it depends on outer conditions including time - but it's always a path, which minimizes the lost of energy along path.

While such criterion is quite general, it manifests rather weakly in complex system, where the forces / density gradients for individual particles overlaps mutually, so that the system becomes chaotic. For example, if we compress a spherical cluster of particles (a model of black hole), these particles will make a coalitions, i.e. a nested aggregates of increasing size and complexity. But at the certain limit of condensation the particle cohesion becomes weaker again and the behavior of such system becomes chaotic. This is because the motion of every particle at the center is affected by many surrounding particles at the same time.

The same behavior we can observe in human society, which appears rather social and moral under low social pressure, but when pressure of environment increases, the society becomes more competitive, chaotic and asocial again. The problem here is, the speed and intensity of information spreading inside of such system decreases, so that feedback mechanisms of moral society cannot take place here. So that during wars or in revolutionary times we can met with many deep offenses against morality and social behavior (compare the Stanford Prison Experiment, the rise of Stalin or Hitler during global economical crisis, etc). But AWT makes all of this a rather predictable phenomena - these people aren't moral/amoral in general sense - they just follow a trivial laws of inertial physics.

#30487 - 04/23/09 05:33 PM Re: Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter? [Re: Zephir]
coberst Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Captain Dave will under no circumstance torture a prisoner (open morality). Captain Jim will torture a prisoner when he considers such action will save the lives of his platoon (closed morality).

“The two main concepts of ethics are those of the right and the good; the concept of a morally worthy person is, I believe, derived from them.” This quote and any others are from “A Theory of Justice” by John Rawls.

In teleological (explaining phenomena by final causes) theories of ethics the good is defined independently from the right.

The attitude of the individual is to seek the satisfaction of desire, more appropriately it is “the satisfaction of rational desire”. Many people find that society should be just an extension of this attitude. The good, for society, is the satisfaction of rational desire. The right is that which maximizes the good.

Others in society reject this utilitarian view and find that the right comes before the good and embodies a boundary for the good. The right becomes a principle that has priority over the good. In the United States the right is placed in the Constitution and each individual determines the good.

Captain Dave rejects the utilitarian view of morality (open morality). Captain Jim embraces the utilitarian view of morality (closed morality).

Morality/ethics is a matter pertaining only to the relationship between subjects and thus there is nothing objective about it. All such matters are subjective and thus relative. Religion interjects God into the matter and thus makes it a matter of absolutes for believers.

Many individuals think of the individual as constituted by the community to which s/he belongs—their value is dependent to a large extent upon the community. It is this interdependence upon the community that makes ideology so very potent. For the individual who embraces closed morality the ideological association is more important than to the person with an open morality.

#30490 - 04/24/09 04:42 PM Re: Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter? [Re: coberst]
Tutor Turtle Offline

Registered: 06/19/08
Posts: 1249
Loc: Everywhere and nowhere
Originally Posted By: coberst
Captain Dave will under no circumstance torture a prisoner (open morality). Captain Jim will torture a prisoner when he considers such action will save the lives of his platoon (closed morality).

A while back the television news show "Dateline" aired a special on the Power of Authority.

They started the show by showing an old clip from the television "Candid Camera." In this clip the victim of the show entered an elevator with about six other people in it. The funny thing was that the other six (who worked with "Candid Camera") were told to face different directions at different times.

Normally when you are in an elevator you face the door, but this group all faced the inside panel with their backs toward the door. Even though this was very odd, the victim did not want to be different so he turned with his back toward the door. Then they showed several clips of the people in the elevator and every time the group turned, the victim turned with them.

It seemed kind of funny and I'm sure the "Candid Camera" audience got a good laugh out of it, but the reality behind this is the scariest human trait we possess. That is, most of mankind will follow the leader or group even if it makes no sense or if it goes against every moral teaching they have ever been taught.

The second part of the feature had an experiment done with college students. Again, they had an unsuspecting victim participating with a group of about a half dozen that knew what was going on. The group was shown a set of four lines and of the four there were two of equal length. They were then asked to pick the two lines that were equal. They showed the lines on TV and it was obvious which two were the correct match.

The next thing they did was to have the planted students all give the same wrong match. Then when it became the victim's turn you could tell he began to doubt what his eyes and reasoning were telling him. Some of the victims gave the right answer for a round or two but one by one each victim gave in and started giving the wrong answer as the right answer, even though he knew within himself that it was wrong.

The interesting thing about watching their faces on TV was that they all looked a little depressed when they started knowingly giving the wrong answers as right answers. It was almost like the poor kids were selling their souls.

Finally they showed the most alarming experiment of all authority which was conducted by Stanley Milgram way back in the 1960's.

Milgram was curious about how a group of apparently normal people like the Germans could have participated in the Nazi atrocities which was against every moral teaching that they ever believed in. Their excuse was always the same: "I was just following orders."

When the "teacher" asked whether increased shocks should be given he/she was verbally encouraged to continue. Sixty-five percent of the "teachers" obeyed orders to punish the learner to the very end of the 450-volt scale! No subject stopped before reaching 300 volts!

At times, the worried "teachers" questioned the experimenter, asking who was responsible for any harmful effects resulting from shocking the learner at such a high level. Upon receiving the answer that the experimenter assumed full responsibility, teachers seemed to accept the response and continue shocking, even though some were obviously extremely uncomfortable in doing so.

What was interesting about watching this on "Dateline" was that when the subject hit the high voltage the pretended victim screamed like crazy and even said he had a bad heart and that the experiment was killing him.

The subject then turned to the authority as if asking what to do and the authority told him to continue. If the subject seemed to doubt the authority told him that he would take responsibility.

Then the subject continued to shock the supposed victim past 300 volts until he went silent. This indicated the victim was either unconscious or dead. Still the subject did not cease. He continued to increase the voltage clear up to 450 which would mean that if the victim was not dead yet this would surely kill him.

The interesting thing is that if this was a real happening, the subject would not only have killed another human being which was against every teaching that he believed in, but he would have also been brought up on murder charges. It is scary that even that possibility did not deter the subject from following authority.

The funny thing about these experiments is that the scientists predicted that only one out of a thousand would follow an authority to shock up to 450 volts, but 65% went that far and 100% of the subjects went up to 300 volts, which is still enough to kill.

Thus we have a great example of the true mark of the Beast on the right hand -- the willingness to follow blind authority no matter what the consequences.

The interesting thing is that very few people know themselves well enough to know whether or not they would administer the 300 or more volts to an innocent brother. Most would think that they would never do such a thing, but are they right? Remember, 100% of those in the experiment yielded to the authority.
I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but then I turned myself around!!

#30492 - 04/24/09 06:25 PM Re: Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter? [Re: Tutor Turtle]
coberst Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Freud informs us the reason for this form of behavior, group psychology, is the tendency for humans to be suggestible and influenced by a psychic form of transference.

What do the following entities have in common: fascism, capitalism, communism, political parties, and religions? They all have a common characteristic that can be called “group mind”.

What is striking is that members of these entities often undergo a major change in behavior just by being members of such entities. Under certain conditions individuals who become members of these groups behave differently than they would as individuals. These individuals acquire the characteristics of a ‘psychological group’.

What is the nature of the ‘group mind’, i.e. the mental changes such individuals undergo as a result of becoming a group?

A bond develops much like cells which constitute a living body—group mind is more of an unconscious than a conscious force—there are motives for action that elude conscious attention—distinctiveness and individuality become group behavior based upon unconscious motives—there develops a sentiment of invincible power, anonymous and irresponsible attitudes--repressions of unconscious forces under normal situations are ignored—conscience which results from social anxiety disappear.

Contagion sets in—hypnotic order becomes prevalent—individuals sacrifice personal interest for the group interest.

Suggestibility of which contagion is a symptom leads to the lose of conscious personality—the individual follows suggestions for actions totally contradictory to person conscience—hypnotic like fascination sets in—will an discernment vanishes—direction is taken from the leader in an hypnotic like manner—the conscious personality disappears.

“Moreover, by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized group, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization.” Isolated, he my be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian—that is, a creature acting by instinct. “He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings.”

There is a lowering of intellectual ability “pointing to its similarity with the mental life of primitive people and of children…A group is credulous and easily influenced—the improbable seldom exists—they think in images—feelings are very simple and exaggerated—the group knows neither doubt nor uncertainty—extremes are prevalent, antipathy becomes hate and suspicion becomes certainty.

Force is king—force is respected and obeyed without question—kindness is weakness—tradition is triumphant—words have a magical power—supernatural powers are easily accepted—groups never thirst for truth, they demand illusions—the unreal receives precedence over the real—the group is an obedient herd—prestige is a source for domination, however it “is also dependent upon success, and is lost in the event of failure”.

I have read that some consider objectivism to be a cult rather than a philosophy; I asked my self what is the difference between a philosophy and an ideology. I turned to Freud and his book “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” for my answer. I discovered that Freud had turned to the Frenchman Gustave Le Bon for an understanding of group behavior.

Gustave Le Bon was a French social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist. His work on crowd psychology became important in the first half of the twentieth century. Le Bon was one of the great popularizers of theories of the unconscious at a critical moment in the formation of new theories of sociology.
English translation Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1922) was explicitly based on a critique of Le Bon's work. The quotes and short phrases in this post are from this book.


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