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What do you believe about good and evil? What are your morals? I tried to get some discussion started on the topic some months ago, but it didn't really work. So I'm proposing to play a Socratic game: You tell me what your moral beliefs are, and I'll ask questions to see if those beliefs are internally consistent.

Of course, I'm perfectly open to someone else doing the same thing with me.

So, do you believe you have what it takes? Do you have moral beliefs that make sense? Step up! :)

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As for my morals, I consider nothing to be inherently good or evil, just what makes us happy or unhappy. What makes me happy is a) what is to my benefit, b) what is to the benefit of those I care about, and c) what makes me feel good. I'm not hiding the fact that I may help a stranger out because it would make me feel like a good person. As such, altruism is insanity.

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The reason helping out a stranger makes you feel like a good person is because you grew up in a culture that holds altruism to be a standard of goodness; as such, even if you do not act for altruistic reasons, your actions are still caused by altruism (in this case, altruism as a social standard). But I digress. Question time!

1. You only explained what moral standards you apply to your actions. What about other people's actions? When are they good or evil?

2. If torturing children made you feel good, would that be a moral action? If no, why not?

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The reason helping out a stranger makes you feel like a good person is because you grew up in a culture that holds altruism to be a standard of goodness; as such, even if you do not act for altruistic reasons, your actions are still caused by altruism (in this case, altruism as a social standard). But I digress. Question time!

1. You only explained what moral standards you apply to your actions. What about other people's actions? When are they good or evil?

I tend to look at their intentions. If they mean harm for their own benefit, then they are "bad." If they don't mean harm, but cause it, then they are neither under that detail. If there really had to have to evil act, it would be taking the life of another away from them when there is no harm to their own or another's life (which is really replacing their cared one's life for the less cared-for's).
2. If torturing children made you feel good, would that be a moral action? If no, why not?

I wouldn't think so, because it is ruining the happiness of that child. Sort of a deontological guideline. I resist things that cause unhappiness, and strive for what causes happiness.
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I tend to look at their intentions. If they mean harm for their own benefit, then they are "bad." If they don't mean harm, but cause it, then they are neither under that detail. If there really had to have to evil act, it would be taking the life of another away from them when there is no harm to their own or another's life (which is really replacing their cared one's life for the less cared-for's).

I didn't understand that last part... as for intentions, what if someone truly, deeply, absolutely believes that it is good and noble to crash a plane into the World Trade Center? (real life scenario) Are they neither good nor bad, as you just said? Can good intentions compensate for evil acts? If I kill infidels believing that I am doing good, is it better than killing infidels believing that I am doing evil?

I wouldn't think so, because it is ruining the happiness of that child. Sort of a deontological guideline. I resist things that cause unhappiness, and strive for what causes happiness.

Actually, that's consequentialist (striving for what causes X implies that you care about the effects of human action).

It appears that it is not only your happiness that matters, but other people's happiness as well. Is that so? What about when your happiness conflicts with another person's happiness? Consider several scenarios:

1. A person is drowning in the sea. To save them, you need to swim over and drag them to the shore. Do you expend the effort to save them?

2. Same as above, except there are sharks in the sea. Do you expend the effort and take the risk of personal injury?

3. A terrorist wants to kill you. He takes one of your loved ones hostage and asks for your life in exchange for his/hers. Do you accept?

4. Same as above, but the hostage is not someone you love. It is an important scientific genius or world leader who you greatly admire. That person's death would be a greater loss to humanity than your death. Do you sacrifice yourself?

5. Would you give your life to save a million people? Why or why not?

(this is fun! :) )

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This is a hard one Edric O but i'll try and brave it.

I try to live life without causing harm to others, obey the law and believe in loyalty, reliability and fedelity.

I believe in trust and respect but also in punishment befitting a crime.

Hard to explain deeper than that without a specific point but in general i would say that covers it.

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I'm quite selfish. As long as the people around me are happy all is right with my world. Its not right to cause unnecessary torment to others in my book but if the only way for you to live is to fight against something I think you should.

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This is a hard one Edric O but i'll try and brave it.

Thank you! :)

I try to live life without causing harm to others, obey the law and believe in loyalty, reliability and fedelity.

I believe in trust and respect but also in punishment befitting a crime.

Ok, let's see... harm. You do not wish to cause harm to others. But there are different degrees of harm. Here are two starting questions:

1. Would you kill an innocent person to save your own life? Suppose, for example, that you are dying and desperately need a transplant of a vital organ. There is only one compatible donor, but he's still alive. A friend of yours comes up with a plan to kill the man in order to save your own life (assume that you are absolutely sure you could never get caught for murder). Would you do it?

2. Same scenario as above, except this time you are not the person who needs the organ transplant. Instead, the president of India needs it, and if he dies, you are absolutely sure that his successor will start a nuclear war with Pakistan. Would you kill the innocent organ donor in order to save the president and spare the lives of millions?

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I'm quite selfish. As long as the people around me are happy all is right with my world. Its not right to cause unnecessary torment to others in my book but if the only way for you to live is to fight against something I think you should.

Hmmm... I think a good place to start would be the same questions I asked alchemi2 above.

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May I join in here, as this seems interesting.

1: Id like to think not, I wouldnt kill a living person (or a dead one ;)) for the same reason I dont steal from those that have what I want. Of course, people act in strange ways, and if you, being a doctor, told me I would die...blah blah...I might turn out to be a complete nutter and kill everyone just to be shure I get the right orgon, who can say ? :-

2: Id like to not have to make such decisions, I am a bit limp when it comes to thinking about killing people, but Id also like to think I would do it.

Nasty questions to ask though :)

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Ooo, interesting. I'm a bit pressed for time right now (Oblivion. 'nuff said), but I'll set out a bit now and hopefully be back later to ask some questions of others myself.

It's well known, I imagine, that I'm not the most morally strict of individuals. I like to think that I don't have a moral code at all. The great thing about that is that there is no absolute rule that cannot be broken. Rules are just another word for restrictions in this context, and I like to leave my options as open as possible. In other words, don't prohibit yourself from murdering people just in case it becomes advantageous to kill someone one day.

I have a few principles that I hold myself to, sort of. But none of them are what you would call moral rules; and if the circumstances make them inconvenient, I will abandon them.

Avoid direct conflict. There are any number of advantages to be gained by more subtle means, and conflict is generally harmful to the interests of all concerned. Best it be avoided, in order to preserve peace of some kind. This is why I don't steal, murder, maim, maul, burn, dissolve, assault, or do anything else fun but illegal. It only leads to conflict with the law (or 'everyone else's rules'), which is to be avoided.

Be polite. You treat people well, they are more likely to treat you well. Self interest.

Loyalty to the family. You look out for your own. This is probably the closest thing to a rule that I have, and it makes me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, family is important.

Question everything. I do. Not to say that I'll share all of my answers.

Other people don't matter nearly as much as people that I know. Yeah, I'm nice like that.

Oblivion calls, and I must away. Back maybe soon, maybe... not. Hee hee.

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I am in a haze of personal over-analysis right now, and in a state of questioning thoughts and ideas that I have held. Just letting you know this because all of the variables need to be expressed. Anyways here I go, thanks by the way if you do this, it will be quite interesting. :-)

I believe that since there are absolutes (God specifically), there must be some sort of hierarchy of things in this universe. There has to be some sort of rhyme or reason behind the existence of matter and the mind. Because of this I believe that people in general must treat other people with common decency and respect. I believe that nationalized governments should exist to stave of cultural and political stagnation, as well as to keep order. I also believe that people must look beyond the pleasures of self, and to help others in order to build a greater happiness that extends beyond the individual desires, and creates a communal happiness that blankets all.

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1. No. It wouldn't make me happy to think that someone else was dying just so that I could go on living. (hey hey maybe I'm not that selfish after all ;))

2. Hmm trickier. I'd take the nukes off both of them and say "If you cant play nice you don't get any tea"... Ok serious now.  I suppose it wouldn't be an option to try some sort of disarmament or stop guy number 2 getting in power? I would have to say yes, but I'd like to think he would die painlessly, and tell him first. I just think that it would be irresponsible to doom the lives of millions (we're assuming we know war will break out right?), and generations to come I suppose. So yup the guys gotta die.

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1)No, i wouldn't think anyone i call a friend would come up which such a plan and if they did they certainly wouldn't suggest it to me.

2)Again no despite the consequences. i would however make the donor aware of the situation and he/she would then have too choose what his/her action would be.

and preempting the next obvious question on this point. If i was the donor then no i wouldn't sacrifice myself to avert the situation. Due to the logical conclusion (IMO) that one man will not avert or start a war. They need like minded individuals and supporters around them.

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I believe in coherence. I believe that this coherence is not imposed but just is. I believe that this coherence is in essence of minimal losses within empirical environment and thus of rational understanding.

Thus, morally: I believe that there are consequences on beings, units of this world, and that these beings are to be respected as much as possible in, by and for their nature. I believe that I might take an eternity to answer because I feel drowned in to-do tasks.

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Wow, I have a lot of posts to answer now. Please keep track of which reply is addressed to you. :)

This is for Re-erjin999:

May I join in here, as this seems interesting.

1: Id like to think not, I wouldnt kill a living person (or a dead one ;)) for the same reason I dont steal from those that have what I want. Of course, people act in strange ways, and if you, being a doctor, told me I would die...blah blah...I might turn out to be a complete nutter and kill everyone just to be sure I get the right orgon, who can say ? :-

2: Id like to not have to make such decisions, I am a bit limp when it comes to thinking about killing people, but Id also like to think I would do it.

Nasty questions to ask though :)

1. Now that you mention it, why don't you steal from those that have what you want?

2. Remember, we're just using hypothetical situations to help determine your conception of what is "good". Whether you'd have the strength to do the good thing doesn't really matter. I'm just asking you what you think you should do in such a situation.

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Dante:

Ooo, interesting. I'm a bit pressed for time right now (Oblivion. 'nuff said), but I'll set out a bit now and hopefully be back later to ask some questions of others myself.

It's well known, I imagine, that I'm not the most morally strict of individuals. I like to think that I don't have a moral code at all. The great thing about that is that there is no absolute rule that cannot be broken. Rules are just another word for restrictions in this context, and I like to leave my options as open as possible. In other words, don't prohibit yourself from murdering people just in case it becomes advantageous to kill someone one day.

I have a few principles that I hold myself to, sort of. But none of them are what you would call moral rules; and if the circumstances make them inconvenient, I will abandon them.

Avoid direct conflict. There are any number of advantages to be gained by more subtle means, and conflict is generally harmful to the interests of all concerned. Best it be avoided, in order to preserve peace of some kind. This is why I don't steal, murder, maim, maul, burn, dissolve, assault, or do anything else fun but illegal. It only leads to conflict with the law (or 'everyone else's rules'), which is to be avoided.

Be polite. You treat people well, they are more likely to treat you well. Self interest.

Loyalty to the family. You look out for your own. This is probably the closest thing to a rule that I have, and it makes me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, family is important.

Question everything. I do. Not to say that I'll share all of my answers.

Other people don't matter nearly as much as people that I know. Yeah, I'm nice like that.

Oblivion calls, and I must away. Back maybe soon, maybe... not. Hee hee.

You have no moral code? I think you do. You mentioned "advantageous" things. I assume you mean things that would bring you some personal physical benefit. Why do you wish to benefit yourself at all?

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TMA-1:

I am in a haze of personal over-analysis right now, and in a state of questioning thoughts and ideas that I have held. Just letting you know this because all of the variables need to be expressed. Anyways here I go, thanks by the way if you do this, it will be quite interesting. :-)

I believe that since there are absolutes (God specifically), there must be some sort of hierarchy of things in this universe. There has to be some sort of rhyme or reason behind the existence of matter and the mind. Because of this I believe that people in general must treat other people with common decency and respect. I believe that nationalized governments should exist to stave of cultural and political stagnation, as well as to keep order. I also believe that people must look beyond the pleasures of self, and to help others in order to build a greater happiness that extends beyond the individual desires, and creates a communal happiness that blankets all.

Well, that appears to be quite consistent and well thought out. Where do I begin testing it? Let's see...

Please define your conception of "good" as briefly as possible. What is good?

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Khan:

1. No. It wouldn't make me happy to think that someone else was dying just so that I could go on living. (hey hey maybe I'm not that selfish after all ;))

2. Hmm trickier. I'd take the nukes off both of them and say "If you cant play nice you don't get any tea"... Ok serious now.  I suppose it wouldn't be an option to try some sort of disarmament or stop guy number 2 getting in power? I would have to say yes, but I'd like to think he would die painlessly, and tell him first. I just think that it would be irresponsible to doom the lives of millions (we're assuming we know war will break out right?), and generations to come I suppose. So yup the guys gotta die.

The point of the second question was to create a plausible scenario in which you'd have a choice between killing an innocent person or letting millions of other people die.

So now we've established that:

1. You wouldn't kill an innocent person just to save your own life.

2. But you would kill an innocent person if it is necessary to save the lives of millions.

That seems to indicate that the lives of millions are more important to you than your own life. You were right - you're not that selfish after all. :) Ok, now let's put those two scenarios together: What if the person you had to sacrifice in order to save the lives of millions was yourself? Would you still do it? (remember, I'm not asking if you'd have the courage to do it - I'm only asking if you think you should do it)

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alchemi2:

1)No, i wouldn't think anyone i call a friend would come up which such a plan and if they did they certainly wouldn't suggest it to me.

2)Again no despite the consequences. i would however make the donor aware of the situation and he/she would then have too choose what his/her action would be.

and preempting the next obvious question on this point. If i was the donor then no i wouldn't sacrifice myself to avert the situation. Due to the logical conclusion (IMO) that one man will not avert or start a war. They need like minded individuals and supporters around them.

My scenarios might not be very realistic (because I make them up on the spot), but please don't try to "cheat" by saying, for example, that your decision wouldn't make any difference anyway. I want to know what you would decide if you knew that the lives of millions of people do depend on you.

Ok, so I have two new questions:

1. Do you believe that killing is always wrong, no matter the consequences?

2. If you knew that a great number of lives (for example a million) depended on your sacrifice, would you give your life to save them?

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Egeides:

I believe in coherence. I believe that this coherence is not imposed but just is. I believe that this coherence is in essence of minimal losses within empirical environment and thus of rational understanding.

Thus, morally: I believe that there are consequences on beings, units of this world, and that these beings are to be respected as much as possible in, by and for their nature. I believe that I might take an eternity to answer because I feel drowned in to-do tasks.

Take your time. Assuming it takes somewhat less than an eternity, I'll be here to answer you. :)

As it stands now, all I can ask you is what exactly do you mean by "respect" for beings.

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alchemi2:

My scenarios might not be very realistic (because I make them up on the spot), but please don't try to "cheat" by saying, for example, that your decision wouldn't make any difference anyway. I want to know what you would decide if you knew that the lives of millions of people do depend on you.

Ok, so I have two new questions:

1. Do you believe that killing is always wrong, no matter the consequences?

2. If you knew that a great number of lives (for example a million) depended on your sacrifice, would you give your life to save them?

Wasn't trying to cheat but explain, how i would think in that situation.

1) No i think killing for personal gain is wrong but i actually advocate the death penalty for certain crimes.

2) Possibly If i truly believed that my sacrifice would definitely make a per menant difference and the million contained people i cared about or thought were worth the sacrifice.

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