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#31372 - 08/01/09 10:34 AM Why do we seek moral absolutes?
coberst Offline
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Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Why do we seek moral absolutes?

Let’s consider the moral argument that is often rendered to justify making abortion illegal.

The argument goes something like this: murder (killing an innocent person) is morally and legally prohibited, the fetus is an innocent person, abortion kills the fetus, and therefore abortion is murder.

This argument turns on the premise that the fetus is a person. The category person must be absolutely and universally understood and fixed to make this argument work. The category (concept) person must be either value-neutral or it must be based upon some absolute value. If such is not the case then each time we consider this matter, person can take on a different meaning.

If each “application of the concept determines its meaning, either (1) we would need a rule for applying the concept in various cases (and this would be the same as saying that the meaning of ‘person’ is fixed), or (2) we would be left with the possibility that different people might apply the concept differently.”

If the category person is a function of our personal value system then we can expect that our view of this matter would vary accordingly. We might avoid this variability if the concept person is value neutral and thus does not depend upon our personal value system. Another way is to claim that we all have access to some absolute or ultimate value that is binding upon each of us.

Without absolute truths we recognize that we must depend on the judgment of fallible, and frail creatures living within constantly evolving communities; non critical individuals who are forced to make decisions with little training or understanding of critical thinking skills within what are typically highly ambiguous situations.

“In sum, moral absolutism is motivated by a very widespread human longing for clarity, certainty, order, and constraint in a world that confronts us constantly with change, obscurity, doubt, contingency, and aggression.”

Quotes from Moral Imagination by Mark Johnson

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#31373 - 08/01/09 04:20 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: coberst]
Revlgking Offline
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Me?

Coberst, because of my own imperfections, I think of myself as one who never--well, almost never--expects truth to be absolutely clear to me.

At this point, as one who does not like using absolute labels on self or others--I think of myself, more or less, as being an absolute relativist, or a relative absolutist--so to speak. Relatively speaking, I am fairly sure that its okay, now and then, to change ones mind. smile

I forgot to mention: I have just started a blog. Feel free to comment.

http://revlgking.blogspot.com/


Edited by Revlgking (08/01/09 08:15 PM)
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31374 - 08/01/09 05:41 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Revlgking]
Tutor Turtle Offline
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Originally Posted By: Revlgking
Me?

Coberst, because of my own imperfections, I think of myself as one who never--well, almost never--expects truth to be absolutely clear to me.

At this point, as one who does not like using absolute labels on self or others--I think of myself, more or less, as being an absolute relativist, or a relative absolutist--so to speak. Relatively speaking, I am fairly sure that its okay, now and then, to change ones mind. smile

(A morally/politically correct answer??)

Obviously with a changing mind comes changing definitions of reality and morality. One day one thing and another day another thing.

This is reflective of the history of the church and religion. One day we kill in the name of God and another day we forgive. The will of the absolute God according to the trends in democratic beliefs and the identification with an imperfect humanity created by a perfect God.

In this there can be no absolute because it would mean that those who hold to their changing beliefs and opinions as the absolute will never sacrifice the personal reality for anything greater if that greater threatens the personal beliefs and opinions one believes is all that they are.
_________________________
I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but then I turned myself around!!





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#31375 - 08/01/09 08:15 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Tutor Turtle]
coberst Offline
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Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Most of what each of us learns, whether moral or anything else, we learn via social osmosis.

I went to Catholic schools and we were taught our Catechism, which gave us all the moral absolutes very early in life. Protestant churches taught about morality in Sunday school.

In the United States I can think of no other place where morality is taught, of course, it is taught in the home but this is the parent passing on what they were taught in Sunday school or by the nuns or by social osmosis.

Our (American) culture has kept its hands off of teaching morality because everyone is reluctant to trespass on the territory that religion has classified as its own.

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#31376 - 08/01/09 10:09 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: coberst]
Revlgking Offline
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Quote:
Most of what each of us learns, whether moral or anything else, we learn via social osmosis.
I agree.
Quote:
I went to Catholic schools and we were taught our Catechism, which gave us all the moral absolutes very early in life.
And did they stick with you. Were you taught to go to mass at least once a week? And, did it stick?
BTW, my younger sister is married to a RC--a great brother-in-law.
Quote:
Protestant churches taught about morality in Sunday school.
We also learned morality from day to day living. Perhaps we need to dialogue about: Finding a common morality. ...
You say:
Quote:
Our (American) culture has kept its hands off of teaching morality because everyone is reluctant to trespass on the territory that religion has classified as its own.
Surely there is a common North American morality. Let's dialogue about it.
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31381 - 08/02/09 06:13 AM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: coberst]
Tutor Turtle Offline
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Originally Posted By: coberst
Most of what each of us learns, whether moral or anything else, we learn via social osmosis.



Our (American) culture has kept its hands off of teaching morality because everyone is reluctant to trespass on the territory that religion has classified as its own.


Putting these two statements together tells me you don't get out much.
_________________________
I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but then I turned myself around!!





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#31382 - 08/02/09 06:20 AM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Revlgking]
Ellis Offline
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Loc: Australia
Coberst- May I suggest that what you learned as Sunday school, or school generally, as 'morals' were in fact a Code of Conduct. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, providing it does not become a rigid code which is imposed on others who may not share the certainty of that dogma, and not be committed to its truth.

Mostly such codes of conduct embody "The Golden Rule"-- Treat other people as you would like them to treat you. This is an imperative recognised world-wide.

Is the true, correct moral imperative peculiar only to certain religions or nations? I don't think so.

Are there certain codes of conduct within religions or nations which others find immoral or distasteful? Certainly there are.

I think a common morality exists-- we need to allow it to show itself.

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#31383 - 08/02/09 10:16 AM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Ellis]
coberst Offline
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Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
The point of the OP s to focus attention upon our inclination to seek absolutes and that this inclination tends to lead us into catastrophes.

We must learn how we think and why we do the things that we do so that our species may last a bit longer. Our greatest problem is learning how to just get-along. Our technology has placed extraordinary power into the hands of ordinary people and if we do not become more sophisticated we will destroy our species and perhaps all life on this planet.

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#31385 - 08/02/09 04:51 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: coberst]
Tutor Turtle Offline
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Originally Posted By: coberst
The point of the OP s to focus attention upon our inclination to seek absolutes and that this inclination tends to lead us into catastrophes.
I see, so the point here is to make absolute statements regarding the failure and futility of seeking absolutes, or to seek an absolute definition of how we as a species think so that we can understand how futile seeking an absolute understanding is.
Originally Posted By: coberst

We must learn how we think and why we do the things that we do so that our species may last a bit longer.

Becoming self aware might be a boon. In other words becoming aware of our own attachment to thoughts and feelings would help to understand reactionary behavior, coupled with the obvious programming of competitive behavior and the grading of human potential that comes from parental influences and the influences of educational systems and their programs.
Originally Posted By: coberst
Our greatest problem is learning how to just get-along. Our technology has placed extraordinary power into the hands of ordinary people and if we do not become more sophisticated we will destroy our species and perhaps all life on this planet.
Becoming aware of how tolerant we are of ourselves will give a clue as to how tolerant we are of others. Once we have mastered our own selves it is possible to embody a way of life that has a positive influence on others. It then becomes like popcorn where the natural tendency is to apply the heat of need to create the momentum of change. I think the universe is a great reflection of our own selves, and when we describe what is wrong with it we describe ourselves. If we learn to understand the nature of reflection and how it operates we might understand how we can change and how perfect we are to begin with in the way we create perfect reflections.
_________________________
I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but then I turned myself around!!





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#31386 - 08/02/09 06:56 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Tutor Turtle]
coberst Offline
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Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
Tutor

Amen brother/sister

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#31388 - 08/02/09 08:57 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Ellis]
Revlgking Offline
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Registered: 01/17/07
Posts: 2311
Loc: markham (Thornhill), Ontario, ...
Originally Posted By: Ellis
Coberst- May I suggest that what you learned at Sunday school, or school generally, as 'morals' was in fact a Code of Conduct....


I agree, Ellis--BTW, I hope you do not mind my edit. Then I heard you add: "But please do not dictate to me, even when you may be right. I just do not like being bossed around."

Quote:
Mostly, such codes of conduct embody "The Golden Rule"--that is, treat other people as you would like them to treat you.
Again I agree.

Then I heard you say: "I especially do not like it when certain nations and/or religions try to dictate they think is the "true, correct and moral imperative" which we all need to follow. I agree.

And then you added: "Are there certain codes of conduct within religions and/or nations which others find immoral, or distasteful? Certainly there are." I agree, you are right.

Finally, you added: "I think a common morality exists--we all need to allow it to show itself."

OK! Let's dialogue about the best way of going about letting this happen.


Edited by Revlgking (08/02/09 09:04 PM)
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31392 - 08/03/09 12:38 AM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Revlgking]
Ellis Offline
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Registered: 01/08/07
Posts: 1490
Loc: Australia
I have spent too much time pondering this topic. I was hoping for sleep last night, but found myself wondering about absolute morality-- and that is not as soothing as counting sheep!

So I am asking today--does moral behaviour only exisist beacause of the presence of others? If you were on an island deserted except for you, would it be necessaary to behave in a moral way? All the replies here have indicated an obligation to regard others and their code of conduct as being as important to them as ours may be to ourslves. Even the 10 commandments (the only code I know reasonable well) all stress the importance of getting along with others- excluding the god ones because I do not keep them as you know- :-)

So is there a moral code which would exist if there was no-one else to consider but yourself? I suspect not- so could it be that there are no moral absolutes as a logical deduction when we examine the state of morals in solitude. After all if you are totally on your own and you behave in a certain manner it has to be within the parameters of your own morality-- who is there who can tell you it is not, and really what are you going to get up to all on your own without you agreeing with it first?--- you are now the only one making judgements.

I think morality implies, actually I think it needs, that judgement factor-- both from self and others!

That said, I do not feel that there can ever be moral absolutes. It seems so easy to insist that there are, but there cannot be. Every action takes place in a different environment and for the vast majority of us our view of our moral behaviour is never challenged. We are the lucky ones I think, we can keep our illusions.

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#31398 - 08/03/09 10:39 AM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Ellis]
coberst Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 07/04/07
Posts: 369
If humans wish to reason together and thus save the species from quick extinction they must find a foundation of common unity. They must find a foundation upon which to construct society. We are social creatures and thus we have emotions that support our social behavior. For a while that unity was formed generally upon religion, because religion formed a basis of eternal life upon which all humans want to believe because all normal humans fear death and seek immortality.

The eighteenth century Enlightenment destroyed this religious unity and focused upon reason as the unifying force. Modern society has demonstrated the problem with this solution. We must find something within our self upon which to build a foundation and the only base that I can see is to start with what we all have in common.

Objectivity is our shared subjectivity.

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#31401 - 08/03/09 03:47 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: coberst]
Revlgking Offline
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Registered: 01/17/07
Posts: 2311
Loc: markham (Thornhill), Ontario, ...
Ellis, about the 10 commandments: Read Matthew 22:34-40, where Jesus sums up the 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-23) by quoting Deut. 6:5--the basic creed, if they have one, of Judaism--a religion based on deeds, not creeds.

Take note: In the Greek New Testament Jesus omits the word 'strength' and adds 'mind'. He speaks of the 'OLE KARDIA, 'OLE PSYCHE, and as if for emphasis he uses another way of saying 'mind'--'OLE DIANOIA. That is to say, he spoke of the whole heart--the seat of the spirit (pneuma); working with the whole person--body, mind and spirit.

Coberst, it seem that Jesus would have been very comfortable in the Age of Enlightenment. He encouraged people to use their brains and to think for themselves. Of course there are some dogmatic and narrow Christians, but it is this kind of action-based teaching, found it the words of Jesus and Paul--open to all kinds of wisdom, even that found is the secular community--which keeps me loyal to a broad kind of Christianity with its very valid outlook on life.
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31403 - 08/03/09 05:22 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: coberst]
Tutor Turtle Offline
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Registered: 06/19/08
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Originally Posted By: coberst
If humans wish to reason together and thus save the species from quick extinction they must find a foundation of common unity. They must find a foundation upon which to construct society.

The unity Jesus spoke of was with the absolute/God. He called it the Father, he called it God and he also called it Absolute yet he said no name could contain it and as such any name coming from someone who did not know it in Unity was just a label based on personal opinion and belief of the ego.

The Vertical bar in the Christian Cross represents the Father or the masculine, the un-manifest. It doesn't change, it is all pervasive and it is also something that is not a thing, it embodies the potential of direction and expansion. If you were to look for Consciousness or a mind that is not just mechanical neural impulses, but inspiration and love, it resides there and in everything perceived as physical.
The Horizontal bar of the Cross represents the feminine or the Manifest, neither the manifest or the un-manifest ever exists without the other.
Jesus spoke of this Unity as the foundation of all life and living.

Originally Posted By: coberst
We are social creatures and thus we have emotions that support our social behavior. For a while that unity was formed generally upon religion, because religion formed a basis of eternal life upon which all humans want to believe because all normal humans fear death and seek immortality.

When sensory oriented to the outside world we easily allow our attachments to the mental stimuli of mind association rule our direction of approach. We allow our emotions to rule us. We seek to find and live with those things that make us happy and to avoid and build our walls of belief to protect us from that which makes us unhappy and causes us pain.
Psychologically speaking anything that creates a painful experience makes a psychological impression and a belief is created by that association and lay in the subconscious mind.
There is a difference between an aged adult and a child in the way one thinks and acts. A child who has not been conditioned by belief is more innocent and forgiving. The child experiences everything new. The Adult experiences everything with conditions and beliefs based on past experiences. The Child's innocence is free from beliefs in fear of social injustices, political prejudices and even scientific theories and their reasons for being part of the universe.
Jesus' approach was very scientific. It was based on the nature of reality, the mechanics of time and space and the universal construct of cause and effect. His words were put (in his time) to the best effect possible for those who would listen and for those who were capable of understanding. Religion followed his teachings as a matter of belief, from a less aware mindset based on fear, judgment and their handmaiden... superstition.
The cosmic perspective that was taught, was the immortal soul continues to live beyond the concepts and beliefs which solidify into the mortal experience of Flesh or "human being." Once the mind tunes its awareness beyond social programming based on fear and superstition the experience of ones self is observed as changing from one experience and belief to another. Jesus called this merry go round of emotional attachment Hell. He advocated the expansion of awareness to ascend the attachments to belief and to return the mind to its clear state beyond any programs and to a clear state similar to the innocence of a child, which is why the analogy in scripture. Obviously to the lesser mind this would seem to mean that one gives up all knowledge but that is not what he meant.
Some things are useful like remembering your name, how to drive a car if you have one and to remember you have a relationship with your loved ones, etc. But then those beliefs and opinions based on judgments made from past experiences keep the mind from experiencing anything in the present moment, or as Eckhart Tolle states it to be, in the NOW. To live in the Now requires that the mind be relieved of all stress that are the underlying subconscious psychological subjective influences which cause reaction, rather than allowing one to be objective. Reaction is instantaneous it is the mind body association that comes with programming. If you take a child and put their hand on a hot stove they will not resist until the experience of being burned. If you take an adult who has an experience of a hot stove and try to place it on the burner the instantaneous reaction will be to question whether the stove is hot or not before allowing the hand to be placed on the burner. If there is any question there will be no innocence and no trust. The world filled with conditioning like this breeds human reaction.
People believe they can stand aside of their ego and objectively perceive the world around them by keeping all these programs inside of them, but they can't and they won't. The only way to release the mind from these programs is to immerse it in something greater which is what every Spiritual Teacher maintains as the Spiritual Science of cause and effect and of psychological awareness and understanding.
If you are psychologically aware of Truth then any untruth has no ability to stick to the mind and as such illusion does not creep into subconscious programs of fear, judgment, prejudice and personal delusion.
A clear mind witnesses with wisdom and an unclear mind influenced by personal opinion derived from belief sees everything from past experience and projects a future based on what it thinks about the past. The unclear mind can never be in the present moment or the now.
Every argument is based on an unclear mind, every conflict is based on the attachment to personal opinion and belief. Every democratic process that includes the diversity of personal beliefs, superstition and fear is an ongoing conflict of beliefs and opinions. For this kind of mind unity is a dream that everyone will either get what they want regardless of their beliefs and differences or that all will come to an accord in beliefs and opinions.
In one sense as a reflection of Truth in cause and effect, everyone gets exactly what they want because their experience is based on what they have coalesced into form and experience from belief long gathered in the process of birth and death accumulating the identity of reality thru many lifetimes. But the mortal man does not remember anything other than this lifetime and the clutter of belief and opinion accumulated in just a few years is reflective of those other lifetimes as the habit of ones attention to the details of mortality and belief.
The Unity Jesus spoke of was much clearer and much greater in that God was not democratic, and that each of us sees what we want to see but not necessarily what we are capable of seeing. In order to see what we are capable of seeing, we would necessarily need to rise above individuality that is the subconscious programs in the identification with all of our bodily experiences and beliefs in the world around us that we fear and judge. To see that everything of the relative is a reflection of our beliefs.

No one person of great belief is free nor does that person have anything that will free another.
One who is beyond the changing belief system has the ability to lead others. I'm not talking about Science unless Science can find an absolute, because even science deals with changing beliefs in theory and application of new knowledge without the constant that underlies everything which spiritual science is based on. Science limits itself to that which can be measured and studied with physical instruments and doubts the validity and potential of the Human instrument unless it is consistent in belief and experience. The absolute consistency of that which supports all order and life is not in any way attached or invested in life the way the ego is invested in finding reason. It exists apart from reason and gives life to reason as long as reason is given life thru belief and opinion.

Originally Posted By: coberst

The eighteenth century Enlightenment destroyed this religious unity and focused upon reason as the unifying force. Modern society has demonstrated the problem with this solution. We must find something within our self upon which to build a foundation and the only base that I can see is to start with what we all have in common.

Objectivity is our shared subjectivity.

Now you are approaching the grounds of Spiritual Science...
_________________________
I was addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but then I turned myself around!!





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#31404 - 08/03/09 09:50 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Tutor Turtle]
TheFallibleFiend Offline
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"Why do we seek moral absolutes?"

As an aside, this might actually be a question with which science can one day assist in a solution. Example: we're already starting to hook up believers and non-believers to MRIs to look at differences in brain function.

I suspect a number of factors, broken or non-functional logic circuitry, including willful ignorance, the desire to feign wisdom, fearfulness of the unknown, fearfulness of change, and so forth.

There is an utterly baseless opinion of certain moral absolutists that if person X does not accept absolute morality, that "anything goes" for that person X or that the person "has no basis" for morality or that "morality that isn't absolute isn't morality."

We are deluded into thinking the universe cares. They assert that if the universe doesn't care for us, we are not important. Our sense of self-worth is not important. It's strictly the worth given to us by some outside conviction that matters. It's a sort of psychological abuse. In the extreme, it can produce these sorts of effects:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_CfqqzFndk

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#31406 - 08/03/09 11:48 PM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: TheFallibleFiend]
Revlgking Offline
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Originally Posted By: TheFallibleFiend

"Why do we seek moral absolutes?"
Because the absolute, G0D, is beyond me, I do not seek moral absolutes.

Sure TFF, I agree with you when you say, "...this might actually be a question with which science can one day assist in a solution. Example: we're already starting to hook up believers and non-believers to MRIs to look at differences in brain function."

I also agree when you say, "I suspect a number of factors, broken or non-functional logic circuitry, including willful ignorance, the desire to feign wisdom, fearfulness of the unknown, fearfulness of change, and so forth...."

Again I agree when you say, "We are deluded into thinking the universe cares."

But to whom are you referring when you write? "They (the moral absolutists) assert that if the universe doesn't care for us, we are not important. Our sense of self-worth is not important. It's strictly the worth given to us by some outside conviction that matters...."

Thanks for the valuable dialogue.
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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#31407 - 08/04/09 12:28 AM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Revlgking]
Ellis Offline
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coberst- I think that there is a 'common unity' at the basis of most of our views on moral behaviour ( I prefer to discuss the behaviour than the belief- or an imperative because behaviour can and is fairly easily modified- or otherwise advertising would be a useless industry.)

We need to have cohesion as a society, and so there must be rules, and willingness to work within those guidelines. This salient fact emerged on my recent musings on morality--- there have to be others around for moral rules to be needed. The 'treat others as you want them to treat you' imperative should be the basis for the rules that we evolve within our society. This sentiment is at the basis of all laws, religious or otherwise. When it goes wrong it is usually because someone interprets it as 'what is good for me is definitely good for you and I feel that so strongly that I'll kill you if you don't agree'.

Allowing for the differing ideas of differing people has always been difficult, and I, like you FF, am interested in the notion that one day science may be able to add some objective facts to the vast array of subjective ideologies that dominate this field wherever it is discussed.


Edited by Ellis (08/04/09 12:32 AM)
Edit Reason: As Rev said- It's a good idea!

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#31408 - 08/04/09 12:53 AM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: Revlgking]
TheFallibleFiend Offline
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Originally Posted By: Revlgking


But to whom are you referring when you write?
Originally Posted By: TheFallibleFiend

"They (the moral absolutists) assert that if the universe doesn't care for us, we are not important. Our sense of self-worth is not important. It's strictly the worth given to us by some outside conviction that matters...."

Thanks for the valuable dialogue.




Specifically, I'm referring to the numerous absolutists with whom I am sick arguing this issue.

"You deny absolute morality because you want to be able to do whatever you want."

or the equally brainless

"The Bible says you KNOW the truth, but just won't admit it."

Well, who can argue with that?

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#31409 - 08/04/09 03:38 AM Re: Why do we seek moral absolutes? [Re: TheFallibleFiend]
Revlgking Offline
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My argument would be: "Do whatever I want? Then that would make me an absolute a moralist. But there are many things I do not want to do; nor do I choose to do them."

Then I would challenge them to be absolutely honest, at all times, especially about the Bible.

For example, I would ask them if they would obey every commandment given by the biblical god. Then I would read to them Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and ask: What kind of morality is that, and if they follow such a god?

Then I would read 21:18-21 and ask: When was the last time Bible believers followed this teaching?

What about Exodus 32:25-29? Was the Biblical god moral? Why did he exempt Aaron?

I would challenge them to believe ALL the Bible and compare what it says to the facts.

THE TRUTH? IN THE BIBLE
=======================
The Bible is filled with scores of nonsense statements and contradictions to commonsense. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html


Edited by Revlgking (08/04/09 03:45 AM)
_________________________
G~O~D--Now & ForeverIS:Nature, Nurture & PNEUMA-ture, Thanks to Warren Farr&ME AT www.unitheist.org

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