Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sociopathic morality?

This is an interesting summary of the dominant views in the scientific community regarding morality. Many have been discussed here before, including Jonathan Haidt's views on intra-culture morality and Paul Bloom's findings on the moral world of children. I liked this insight into the role that empathy/emotions play in morality vs. logic:

People who behave morally don’t generally do it because they have greater knowledge; they do it because they have a greater sensitivity to other people’s points of view. Hauser reported on research showing that bullies are surprisingly sophisticated at reading other people’s intentions, but they’re not good at anticipating and feeling other people’s pain.

The moral naturalists differ over what role reason plays in moral judgments. Some, like Haidt, believe that we make moral judgments intuitively and then construct justifications after the fact. Others, like Joshua Greene of Harvard, liken moral thinking to a camera. Most of the time we rely on the automatic point-and-shoot process, but occasionally we use deliberation to override the quick and easy method. We certainly tell stories and have conversations to spread and refine moral beliefs.
When you put it that way, it seems obvious why sociopaths would struggle with having an internal sense of morality.

My favorite part of the article, though, was this critique:
For people wary of abstract theorizing, it’s nice to see people investigating morality in ways that are concrete and empirical. But their approach does have certain implicit tendencies.

They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority. At this conference, they barely mentioned the yearning for transcendence and the sacred, which plays such a major role in every human society.

Their implied description of the moral life is gentle, fair and grounded. But it is all lower case. So far, at least, it might not satisfy those who want their morality to be awesome, formidable, transcendent or great.
It's an interesting argument. I see this skewed focus frequently with religious people. They often tend to want to focus on the nice, nondescript aspects of their religion where God is behaving well, not killing children or drowning the world or enacting all sorts of vengeance. But most versions of God have some sort of edge to them. All versions of God are powerful beings, after all. They wouldn't remain powerful without doing certain things to cultivate that power, including being awesome, formidable, transcendent, and great. If we think that godliness is a virtue, then it would also be a virtue for us to cultivate power and try to become more awesome, formidable, transcendent, and great. And you don't necessarily get to be that powerful by rolling over and being "nice" in every situation.

I find it really disingenuous for people to focus on the "nice" side of morality without giving any consideration to the obvious ying to the yang (unless it really is true that all conservative people are godless and going to hell). As a religious person myself, I sometimes have people get on my case about some of the more aggressive, competitive, and antisocial things that I do, claiming that they are not consistent with my religion. I am not necessarily humble the way they expect the religious to be humble (but which is better, to lie to yourself in order to be humble, or to honestly acknowledge both your strengths and your weaknesses?). I can be ruthless and I don't often doubt myself. There are things about me that seem a little too dark and edgy to be the Mormon/Christian I profess to be. But the Christian God can be ruthless too. The Christian God can be all the things that I am, given the right context. I just feel like I am coming at godliness from the opposite end that most people do -- that the cultivating power side of things happens to be my area of expertise and that I need to practice and work at the love side of things. And for other people maybe it is vice versa, but that we'll all eventually meet at our goal in the middle.  

57 comments:

  1. Ah, yes, more come indeed.

    They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority.

    As I have said elsewhere, this is the whole Id versus Super Ego conundrum (to use Freudian terms here for convenience's sake only). For various mostly forgotten reasons, modern mankind has been groomed into assuming that the Id (selfish desires and goals) is lower, primitive, and bad and must be repressed, while the Super Ego (the need for social cohesion) is superior, higher and more worthy of development. Obviously, this doesn't stop a lot of people from expressing their Id, but there is a pressure to cloak it in the guise of "for the good of all of us" or to cover it up with lies.

    This probably has more than a little to do with Jesus. One has to wonder if this Jesus figure was made up in order to avoid responsibility, out of man's fear of himself. Perhaps at one time man knew that there is no preexisting good or bad, but this was too much to deal with. Too much responsibility, too many choices, too much freedom. Much easier to let some dude in the sky live our lives for us, than to assume total control ourselves.

    Of course, it could easily be said that this is what happened when we came up with the concept of God in the first place. Jesus just takes it a step further, and is easier to swallow than a boundless, bodiless, unfathomable know-it-all. Jesus as the representation of God for the unimaginative masses.

    We are only allowed to view God as that to which we sacrifice ourselves, or at least part of ourselves, while it is called arrogant to say that we are God unto ourselves (setting aside the whole We-Are-All-One-And-All-Aspects-Of-God thing, which is something slightly different). It's apparently sinful to presume that God not only encompasses the "higher" drives, but the "lower" as well. It is said that the Id is the source of the need to create, i.e. to be God; and thus it is bad, lower, inferior, etc. And people bought it, and are still buying it, even while Christianity and organized religion as a whole is dying a slow death.

    Also, I'm not sure that "competitive" has to necessarily be the flip side of the "cooperative" coin. "Competitive" still implies a social goal, but other people need not always factor in.

    Their implied description of the moral life is gentle, fair and grounded. But it is all lower case. So far, at least, it might not satisfy those who want their morality to be awesome, formidable, transcendent or great.

    Neither satisfies those who prefer to be amoral.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah, yes, more come indeed.

    They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority.

    As I have said elsewhere, this is the whole Id versus SuperEgo conundrum (to use Freudian terms here for convenience's sake only). For various mostly forgotten reasons, modern mankind has been groomed into assuming that the Id (selfish desires and goals) is lower, primitive, and bad and must be repressed, while the SuperEgo (the need for social cohesion) is superior, higher and more worthy of development. Obviously, this doesn't stop a lot of people from expressing their Id, but there is a pressure to cloak it in the guise of "for the good of all of us" or to cover it up with lies.

    This probably has more than a little to do with Jesus. One has to wonder if this Jesus figure was made up in order to avoid responsibility, out of man's fear of himself. Perhaps at one time man knew that there is no pre-existing good or bad, but this was too much to deal with. Too much responsibility, too many choices, too much freedom. Much easier to let some dude in the sky live our lives for us, than to assume total control ourselves.

    Of course, it could easily be said that this is what happened when we came up with the concept of God in the first place. Jesus just takes it a step further, and is easier to swallow than a boundless, bodyless, unfathomable know-it-all. Jesus as the representation of God for the unimaginative masses.

    We are only allowed to view God as that to which we sacrifice ourselves, or at least part of ourselves, while it is called arrogant to say that we are God unto ourselves (setting aside the whole We-Are-All-One-And-All-Aspects-Of-God thing, which is something slightly different). It's apparently sinful to presume that God not only encompasses the "higher" drives, but the "lower" as well. It is said that the Id is the source of the need to create, i.e. to be God; and thus it is bad, lower, inferior, etc. And people bought it, and are still buying it, even while Christianity and organized religion as a whole is dying a slow death.

    Also, I'm not sure that "competitive" has to necessarily be the flip side of the "cooperative" coin. "Competitive" still implies a social goal, but other people need not always factor in.

    Their implied description of the moral life is gentle, fair and grounded. But it is all lower case. So far, at least, it might not satisfy those who want their morality to be awesome, formidable, transcendent or great.

    Neither satisfies those who prefer to be amoral.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, yes, more come indeed.

    They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority.

    As I have said elsewhere, this is the whole Id versus SuperEgo conundrum (to use Freudian terms here for convenience's sake only). For various mostly forgotten reasons, modern mankind has been groomed into assuming that the Id (selfish desires and goals) is lower, primitive, and bad and must be repressed, while the SuperEgo (the need for social cohesion) is superior, higher and more worthy of development. Obviously, this doesn't stop a lot of people from expressing their Id, but there is a pressure to cloak it in the guise of "for the good of all of us" or to cover it up with lies.

    This probably has more than a little to do with Jesus. One has to wonder if this Jesus figure was made up in order to avoid responsibility, out of man's fear of himself. Perhaps at one time man knew that there is no pre-existing good or bad, but this was too much to deal with. Too much responsibility, too many choices, too much freedom. Much easier to let some dude in the sky live our lives for us, than to assume total control ourselves.

    Of course, it could easily be said that this is what happened when we came up with the concept of God in the first place. Jesus just takes it a step further, and is easier to swallow than a boundless, bodyless, unfathomable know-it-all. Jesus as the representation of God for the unimaginative masses.

    We are only allowed to view God as that to which we sacrifice ourselves, or at least part of ourselves, while it is called arrogant to say that we are God unto ourselves (setting aside the whole We-Are-All-One-And-All-Aspects-Of-God thing, which is something slightly different). It's apparently sinful to presume that God not only encompasses the "higher" drives, but the "lower" as well. It is said that the Id is the source of the need to create, i.e. to be God; and thus it is bad, lower, inferior, etc. And people bought it, and are still buying it, even while Christianity and organized religion as a whole is dying a slow death.

    Also, I'm not sure that "competitive" has to necessarily be the flip side of the "cooperative" coin. "Competitive" still implies a social goal, but other people need not always factor in.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ah, yes, more come indeed.

    They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority.

    As I have said elsewhere, this is the whole Id versus Super Ego conundrum (to use Freudian terms here for convenience's sake only). For various mostly forgotten reasons, modern mankind has been groomed into assuming that the Id (selfish desires and goals) is lower, primitive, and bad and must be repressed, while the Super Ego (the need for social cohesion) is superior, higher and more worthy of development. Obviously, this doesn't stop a lot of people from expressing their Id, but there is a pressure to cloak it in the guise of "for the good of all of us" or to cover it up with lies.

    This probably has more than a little to do with Jesus. One has to wonder if this Jesus figure was made up in order to avoid responsibility, out of man's fear of himself. Perhaps at one time man knew that there is no preexisting good or bad, but this was too much to deal with. Too much responsibility, too many choices, too much freedom. Much easier to let some dude in the sky live our lives for us, than to assume total control ourselves.

    Of course, it could easily be said that this is what happened when we came up with the concept of God in the first place. Jesus just takes it a step further, and is easier to swallow than a boundless, bodiless, unfathomable know-it-all. Jesus as the representation of God for the unimaginative masses.

    We are only allowed to view God as that to which we sacrifice ourselves, or at least part of ourselves, while it is called arrogant to say that we are God unto ourselves (setting aside the whole We-Are-All-One-And-All-Aspects-Of-God thing, which is something slightly different). It's apparently sinful to presume that God not only encompasses the "higher" drives, but the "lower" as well. It is said that the Id is the source of the need to create, i.e. to be God; and thus it is bad, lower, inferior, etc. And people bought it, and are still buying it, even while Christianity and organized religion as a whole is dying a slow death.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oops, totally shot my wad. I was getting "content too big" errors.

    Pay attention only to the first post, please.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I liked your comments in general Medusa, although I would quibble about this:

    Christianity and organized religion as a whole is dying a slow death.

    I don’t actually think organized religion is on the way out. Or if it is, I suspect it will take centuries before it finally dies. If anything, I see religious belief, especially Xtianity, on the rise. After all, it is growing in Africa and Latin America. Long term, Islam, already the 2nd largest religion in terms of adherents, will likely overtake Xtianity before the end of this century. This opinion stems from what I have been able to piece together from various online sources. The religious mindset is notoriously hard to eradicate.

    And this:

    Neither satisfies those who prefer to be amoral.

    I didn’t have any choice in the matter. My morality dial was turned down from the get go. I figured I might as well prefer it since it is my reality, like it or not.

    ReplyDelete
  7. As for Mr. Brooks post… It was interesting. Two things though. First, I wonder why Brooks would expect any kind of “transcendent” interpretation of morality to come out of a conference by and for scientific naturalists. When a public intellectual trots out the word “transcendent”, especially when he is a conservative American, 9 times out of 10 he is really referring to god and his holy book of horrors. There is, by definition, no place for the supernatural (god, holy books, angels and demons and the like) in the entirely naturalistic enterprise that is science. It isn’t necessarily prejudice. It’s methodological. Why is this so difficult for them to see?

    Second, society at large has a funny relationship to those they laud as moral icons. Modern saints like Gandhi, MLK, Mother Teresa and so on are celebrated, put forward to the world as examples for how we all should live. Yet who holds the real power in this same society? Who makes the decisions that make or break a saints’ ideals? And who, by their silent assent, makes it possible for those at the top to remain at the top? I’m not saying that the majority of the elite are sociopaths (we’ve already had that discussion, multiple times here). I am saying that the majority of those who had to climb to the top were probably not saints, meaning they probably weren’t exemplars of moral rectitude. It kind of makes you wonder if there is any truth to the old Marxist idea that religion and morality are, in part, a kind of control mechanism designed to bedazzle the masses while the more realistic get on with running the world and reaping the rewards. “Dazzle ‘em with brilliancy, baffle ‘em with bullshit”.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don’t actually think organized religion is on the way out.

    I suppose I was thinking from the rather small-minded Western view of Generation X/Y/Z. I suppose even in that case there is a different sort of organized religion emerging, though it's not called "religion"... but that's another topic.

    Neither satisfies those who prefer to be amoral.

    "Prefer" was a poor word choice on my part; I did notice this. This is my frustration with this blog, as I am a chronic re-editor!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Modern saints like Gandhi, MLK, Mother Teresa and so on are celebrated, put forward to the world as examples for how we all should live. Yet who holds the real power in this same society? Who makes the decisions that make or break a saints’ ideals? And who, by their silent assent, makes it possible for those at the top to remain at the top?

    This may not your intent, and perhaps I am misreading, but you seem to want to equate being on top with moral (or anti-moral) superiority. Both can exist within the same entity, and are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    If this is a game of winning, or majority rule, then yes, the amoral/anti-moral may hold the trophy in a material sense, but moral righteousness in its purest sense is not interested gaming. Think of Thoreau's Walden, or some monk living alone on some mountain top.

    I suppose you are referring more to a dirtier moral righteousness, that brings with it intent to convert, convince and "educate".

    ReplyDelete
  10. that's another topic

    It is another topic. But meh, who cares?

    The face of religion in the West is changing, to be sure. Islam is on the rise in Europe and the New Age movement is pretty popular in both England and the US. New Age is a catchall term for everything from astrology to paganism to homeopathic medicine to self help to mysticism to Eastern religions that have been raped of their original depth and made palatable for intellectually lazy Westerners… Belief systems like these are a veritable smorgasbord for those who don’t like the religion of their parents but who aren’t ready to go cold turkey and face the world as it is (or appears to be). They all want to believe in something magical. Anything will do.

    I got a handful of decent ideas out of my own study of that stuff (like meditation, consciously working with your thoughts and so on), but you have to wade thru all the metaphysical clap trap to get to them. Most people never get there. They stay with their magical beliefs, like a belief in a “Self” for instance that is wholly and only good, positive, sweet and fluffy. ;-)

    This is my frustration with this blog, as I am a chronic re-editor!

    Right? I hate going back and reading a comment I left only to discover I made some kind of spelling error or could have said it differently or better, but can’t go back to edit it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I am not sure that I understand what you are saying in your last comment Medusa. I’ll respond to what I think you are saying.

    I don’t bring morality into it, anti or pro, when I think of the elites. It’s all about what does and does not work in relation to achieving your goals, given one’s personality traits, talents and skills, social status and so on. So I guess for me, “superiority”, in the context of this discussion, would be decided by who you are and what you wish to accomplish.

    Having said that, within the context of what is and is not possible in any given society, the powerful have more say than the powerless. That is obvious. Saints are not likely not to be among the socially powerful. If a saint wishes to effect some kind of immediate social change, he/she will have to play ball with the powerful.

    For those interested in spending their days in a cave or in an isolated house out in the wilderness, this discussion is meaningless until the day their cave or their house stands in the way of a powerful person’s building project. Of course, the saint/sage can always claim imperturbability in all circumstances, which is fine. To each his own. The rest of us however have to live in this world, where life and death issues are sometimes settled by who has the most guns or the most cash or the most boots on the ground or friends in the right places, etc.

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  12. It is another topic. But meh, who cares?

    The face of religion in the West is changing, to be sure....


    You are right about trading one's parents' religion for another (I've been known to dabble in what some might call mental "magic", but to me it's the same thing as intent, and no more esoteric or metaphysical than mediation, for instance), but I was referring to a more secular style of religion, i.e. celebrity, renown, hipper-than-thou, cult-of-personality and the like. Our gods of today.

    Saints are not likely not to be among the socially powerful. If a saint wishes to effect some kind of immediate social change, he/she will have to play ball with the powerful.

    This is the point of my previous comment. Sort of. I was questioning whether it is an inherent or imperative quality of morality to effect social change. I guess this is kind of moot though, because the answer to that question depends on what your specific code of morality is. Is morality purely a personal thing? Or universal and alienable?

    MLK, Ghandi and Mother Theresa, for instance, were all seeking to effect social change. A monk on a hilltop is not.

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  13. For those interested in spending their days in a cave or in an isolated house out in the wilderness, this discussion is meaningless until the day their cave or their house stands in the way of a powerful person’s building project. Of course, the saint/sage can always claim imperturbability in all circumstances, which is fine. To each his own. The rest of us however have to live in this world, where life and death issues are sometimes settled by who has the most guns or the most cash or the most boots on the ground or friends in the right places, etc.

    Good point. Though I would still argue that a monk's morality is not effected by what happens to him, and the same might be said for anyone else. Unless your specific moral righteousness requires social change, which infers a belief in single universal moral code.

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  14. the answer to that question depends on what your specific code of morality is.

    Ok. I get you. I think. You are saying, to bring it back to the subject of the post, that everything depends on what we mean by morality. Right? I say that a lot. People move blithely on in their conversations, thinking they are proving something, when they haven’t even bothered to define their terms.

    What is a good, working definition of morality? We can start with the obvious. Morality concerns distinguishing between good and evil, right and wrong. And it gets kittywompus from there. Because then we have to determine what comprises good and evil, right and wrong. Then we have to determine how we know our definitions of good and evil are accurate and what their ontological status is. Then we have to determine if this understanding should be applied only to our group (family unit, tribe, nation state, religious affiliation, species and so on) or to others. And voila, you have created the complex philosophy of ethics. We haven’t even begun to bring the latest findings in neuroscience or evolutionary biology. Egad!

    I will say this. The moral sense (distinguishing between some kind of right or wrong) does appear to be “universal” to the degree that it shows up everywhere, in all cultures, throughout recorded history.

    Though I would still argue that a monk's morality is not effected by what happens to him, and the same might be said for anyone else

    Fair enough. What I am saying is that in one sense, morality is irrelevant. What is relevant is what works in relation to what you want/need from society around you. I can go right ahead and judge a taker for being wrong and I can even get a lot of people to agree with me. My moralizing is not going to stop the the takers from taking what they want from me however. Not necessarily, at any rate. My personal philosophy tends toward the pragmatic. I guess what I am saying is that if given a choice between being good and being powerful, all things being equal and having to live in this world as it is, I would choose power. Power seems more useful to me than morality.

    The saint can live in squalor and call himself happy if he likes. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just not my preference.

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  15. Having said that, within the context of what is and is not possible in any given society, the powerful have more say than the powerless. That is obvious. Saints are not likely not to be among the socially powerful. If a saint wishes to effect some kind of immediate social change, he/she will have to play ball with the powerful.

    This is fairly true, which leaves me skeptical of the existence of Saints to begin with, in the strictist sense.
    It would be apt to note that religious leaders themselves did not achieve the influence they have/had merely by the influence of their own purported moral doctrines. Man was ruled by the political and military power of theocracy far before any other form of government (circa Ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Asia, and onward).

    Even now, above every U.S. courtroom hangs the official motto "In God We Trust." Countries ruled by eastern religion, such as Burma and Sri Lanka (and ancient China) did not achieve their power without compromising their morality with politics.

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  16. I guess what I am saying is that if given a choice between being good and being powerful, all things being equal and having to live in this world as it is, I would choose power. Power seems more useful to me than morality.

    I used to live a world where "good" (meaning "integrity" more so than "virtue" in my world) was my guiding principal. But looking back I'm not sure I ever really believed in the concept of "good"... it's more like someone somewhere told me I was supposed to at some point. Hell, there must have been some reason I picked up a copy of The 48 Laws of Power not too long ago... at the time I wasn't sure where I was heading.

    ....which leaves me skeptical of the existence of Saints to begin with, in the strictist sense.
    It would be apt to note that religious leaders themselves did not achieve the influence they have/had merely by the influence of their own purported moral doctrines.


    Yep yep. So it seems it is impossible to have morality without pragmatism (unless you are said monk), yet you can have pragmatism without morality.

    If I had stuck with the guiding principal of "good" (which was never very pure anyway, I'm too grandiose for that), I am very sure I would have ended up a hermit in a cave (or dead). But then how would I have been able to continue writing pointless nonsense on this blog without internet access, and have jalapeno poppers for dinner?

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  17. You all make an excellent point about the authenticity of saintliness. Gandhi was known to be neurotic when it came to sex (then again, who isn't?), MLK was likely a plagiarist in college and a philanderer later on, and Mother Teresa may very well have been a closet atheist. Sainthood is a lot harder to pull off in modern times.

    One could turn this around and make the same point about the epitome of human "evil", sociopaths. Are there really any humans who are purely, 100% "evil", 100% of the time?

    Maybe all of us, sinner and saint alike, are more complicated than our moralistic labels envision.

    you can have pragmatism without morality

    Precisely. Makes you wonder about the so called power of morality, doesn't it. The power of cheese on the other hand is beyond doubt.

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  18. Yep yep. So it seems it is impossible to have morality without pragmatism (unless you are said monk), yet you can have pragmatism without morality.

    Before any confusion is made, perhaps a more accurate term would be "hermit" rather than "monk," since Asian monks have been known to torture and sexually abuse commoners (no killing of course... killing is bad) and leave them to die in the hands of their God.

    Now I'm hungry thanks to you Medusa.

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  19. Hah hah!

    The cheese stands alone.

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  20. There is moral intuition and moral reasoning. The individuals who have moral reasoning have a more sophisticated system of morality, and it's generally more fair and accurate, based around concepts such as justice. Moral intuition is more about what a person has been taught growing up, like the 10 commandments, with no real need to have high level concepts such as justice. Right and wrong is written in stone and based upon how it feels to commit the act rather than the results of the act.

    Most empaths have very limited moral reasoning and do certain things because it feels better than doing other things with no real method from which to determine the value of each thing or the consequences of each thing, Moral reasoning is more important than moral intuition, but moral intuition helps when one is a child and does not have the ability to use reasoning.

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  21. Medusa give this book a read and report back to me what you think.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/15494081/Might-Makes-Right-By-Ragnar-Redbeard

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  22. Mmmm.

    I equate morality to religion.

    Religion, as far as I know, cannot be proven to be true. None of the current religions or past religions have any scientific ground to stand on.

    Morality is similar. It has absolutely no ground to stand on outside of notions that we've been given from our emotions. To have morality, there must be a right and a wrong. These two things simply can't be proven to exist, nor can they be quantified. (see Peter Pan's comment about the nastiness scale, it subtly illustrates this.)

    Like God, morality is just like looking for a pink unicorn.

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    Replies
    1. You can't escape morality. Morality does exist for evolutionary purposes and group cohesion. Thank God it does exist. Morality denyers are living in a wishfull thinking universe. We all have a framework of morality from which we view the world. It is a much needed concept. Some of the most moral people I know are environmentalists and anti-war activists. Moralty is what keeps us from abusing powerless little children, encourages us to feed the poor and to quote Jesus Christ himself "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you". You can't escape the concept of morality. To think otherwise is just ridiculous.

      Delete
  23. http://www.scribd.com/doc/12070379/Might-is-Right-by-Ragnar-Redbeard

    Medusa try this link instead.

    Lets see if HTML works here

    Might Is Right

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  24. OPPORTUNITIES
    "A man’s opportunities are never exhausted so long as other men (who are not his friends) possess millions of acres and thousands of tons of gold."[Might Is Right]

    ReplyDelete
  25. ALL ELSE IS ERROR
    "The natural world is a world of war; the natural man is a warrior; the natural law is tooth and claw. All else is error. A condition of combat everywhere exists. We are born into a perpetual conflict. It is our inheritance even as it was the heritage of previous generations. This “condition of combat” may be disguised with the holy phrases of St. Francis, or the soft deceitful doctrines of a Kropotkin or Tolstoi, but it cannot be eventually evaded by any human being or any tribe of human beings. It is there and it stays there, and each man (whether he will or not) has to reckon with it. It rules all things; it governs all things; it reigns over all things and it decides all who imagine policemanized populations, internationally regulated tranquility, and State organized industrialism so joyful, blessed and divine."
    [Might Is Right]

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  26. THE VICTOR GETS THE GOLD
    "Virtue is rewarded in this world, remember. Natural law makes no false judgments. Its decisions are true and just, even when dreadful. The victor gets the gold and the land every time. He also gets the fairest maidens, the glory tributes. And — why should it be otherwise? Why should the delights of life go to failures and cowards? Why should the spoils of battle belong to the unwarlike? That would be insanity, utterly unnatural and immoral."[Might is Right]

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  27. Savagelight, heard of this book, and it looks like an interesting read, though it seems a bit angry, violent, vindictive, contradictory, materialistic, judgmental, reactionary, righteous, proselytizing and yes, dogmatic.

    Even moralistic:

    Virtue is rewarded in this world, remember. Natural law makes no false judgments. Its decisions are true and just, even when dreadful. The victor gets the gold and the land every time. He also gets the fairest maidens, the glory tributes. And — why should it be otherwise? Why should the delights of life go to failures and cowards? Why should the spoils of battle belong to the unwarlike? That would be insanity, utterly unnatural and immoral.

    Standard “moral principles” are arbitrarily assumed by their orthodox apologist to be a fixed and unalterable quantity, and that to doubt the divine-rightness of these “principles” is treason and sacrilege.


    This is just at first glance, though.

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  28. Medusa it's the book on social darwinism. In fact it was this book along with others that influenced individuals such as Hitler. The reason I show this book is not because I think it's correct, but it's to show that morality can be logical and incorrect at the same time. Logic in itself isn't a good enough basis to find morality, you need fundamental moral reasoning which is not found in Might is Right.

    What Might is Right can help empaths understand is that logic rules the natural world. Reason rules the natural world. And most of the statements made in this book on natural law, and the natural world, are true. What we might not agree about is whether or not as humans we are supposed to live by social darwinism, or if we should have a higher more dignified existence. That is a political and moral question which cannot be answered by logic, but can only be answered based around answers to questions like whether you'd want your children or your parents to live under these conditions.

    I recommend that every empath on this website who would like to understand alternative moral systems to read this book. There are other books to read as well that I could recommend but I wont go as far as to do that right now.

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  29. I recommend that every empath on this website who would like to understand alternative moral systems to read this book.

    Why is that?

    I personally see no reason to adhere to any one system of law/morality so long as it's appropriate for a given time period or situation.

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  30. I'm sorry, Mr. Savage, but your use of terminology offends me.

    What makes something other than the natural order higher? What makes it more dignified? Why is looking out for someone other than yourself more worthy of respect and admiration than being selfish? Personally, I don't think restraint commands respect unless you genuinely know what you're passing up by sacrificing your own well being for another human being. If you truly understand it, and you do it anyway, then it's a choice, and you're exhibiting the ability to restrain yourself and subdue your impulses for the sake of what you, personally, want. That's respectable to me, whether you're an empath or a sociopath, whether your goals are selfish or benevolent. If you leave the decision up to such vacuous notions as right or wrong, God or the devil, higher or lower, dignified or undignified, then I don't think you deserve one lick of respect, because you haven't actually done anything. You haven't made any real choices.

    Of course, the whole argument falls to pieces if you try to analyze the meaning of respect, and what it means to be worthy of it, but let's save that for another post.

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  31. @PeterPan I was playing devils advocate, trying to be fair and balanced. I had to give both sides as there is a large segment of the population who believes in something called human dignity, and who believe in the idea that humans are "better" than animals. And who believe the humans have much more responsibility than animals.

    This is a political debate and I present both sides of the debate to be fair. Social darwinism is all about living according to the old rules, the laws of nature, the survival of the strongest. In todays society strength or might is based on economic strength or economic might so that the strongest (most fit) families in America have the most money. The social darwinists of today are politically okay with this because they are on the top of the food chain no matter how they got to the top, no matter if it were luck, or timing, they are there and they rule so they are the fittest.

    The other end of the political debate, basically everybody who has to work for a living, they live in a world which more closely resembles social darwinism of the traditional sense where intellectual fitness and reasoning ability determines ones might.

    To make the statement "might is right" is absolutely logical. This is just a fact of natural law which cannot be disputed just like gravity cannot be disputed. What can be disputed are which form of might, how to determine fitness, and whether or not the law of the jungle should rule, the Christian laws which make up our legal system, or the utilitarian laws which make up the US Constitution and which (at least on paper) make up the US Governments system.

    I don't want to make it into a political debate, if you don't like the terminology and I can understand that, then the burden is on you to choose better terminology and redefine the structure of the debate.

    For the record, I do believe in right and wrong for any given situation. Just as in chess where there is one move which is most right, most precise, most accurate, and the best players are good at finding these moves using their superior intellect. I do not determine my moves on the basis of God and Devil, Heaven and Hell or any of that, I look only at the consequences of each move/choice to find the best choice. On restraint, it's necessary to embrace restraint on a cultural level because a culture of restraint has benefits to oneself and those you wish to protect. An example of this is if I decide I don't want to be a drug addict, so I don't get myself addicted to drugs, and I encourage others not to get themselves addicted to drugs because I don't want to have to deal with the consequences of an environment flooded with drug addicts. Replace "drug" with anything else and it's the same thing, I do not promote addiction of any kind. Restraint is necessary because if you don't think before you act, and if you act on impulse or addiction, you risk losing control of yourself and of your environment. There are no selfless acts at least on the level of reasoning. I suppose a selfless act would be a person who goes on a hunger strike for some cause, or a person who restrains themselves to the point where they weaken themselves, I don't know where you got the idea that I was endorsing that.

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  32. @no one

    Ethics are what I adhere to. Morality and I use Might as Right to make this point, is based upon value judgments. These value judgments are almost always influenced by religious scriptures which tell people what they should value.

    An example, copyright infringement is "immoral", but it's not unethical because it does not damage you or anyone else to download the file and consume it. This is one example of the difference between "morality" which aren't usually going to be based on your values, and ethics which are based entirely around your self interest and which may be based upon your enlightened self interest if you are an empath capable of that level fo reasoning.

    Morality is mostly just traditional thinking. Traditional thinking is inflexible, and often anachronistic so it's often illogical, unscientific, and wrong. A perfect example is sex before marriage is "immoral", or an example smoking pot is "immoral" or an example lying is "immoral", etc. I don't think morality is always in an individuals self interest but ethics if calculated properly are always in an individuals self interest, or enlightened self interest, even if the individual cannot fully understand how a certain behavior indirectly benefits them.

    Example of ethics would be to believe in private property rights. To believe in protecting or securing natural resources that sustain life. To believe in human rights, civil rights, the US Constitution or a number of other high level ethical concepts which indirectly benefit everyone who chooses to believe in the concept.

    So we choose to believe in laws, so we use force to protect these laws, and if these laws are ethical they will lead to desirable or good consequences which can be objectively measured. Or on a person level maybe you've learned some rules, such as how to handle certain situations involving women, so as to avoid potential negative consequences and based upon this your behavior is ethical, even if you lie to the woman (immoral), the ends justify the means. Ethics cannot be taught in school, or from a book, it's the rules you learn over the years if you are smart enough to come up with rules.

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  33. This is a political debate....

    +

    I don't want to make it into a political debate....

    =

    FAIL

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  34. Wow.

    Did he really just contradict himself that blatantly?

    Mr. Light, please give us some clarification.

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  35. I'm going to pretend for a second that you didn't just negate your whole argument with said contradiction.

    I present both sides of the debate to be fair.

    I think, though, what we are talking about is not so black and white. By presenting "Might is Right", you are just presenting another form of morality and/or ethics, which yes, is relevant to the OP, but I haven't yet seen you consider amorality.

    To make the statement "might is right" is absolutely logical. This is just a fact of natural law which cannot be disputed just like gravity cannot be disputed.

    Hmmm. I personally wouldn't go further than to say "might is... er, might."

    Anytime you use the word "right" you are making a moral judgment.

    You do make a good point, however, of distinguishing morality from ethics, though I'm not so sure it's relevant in this context.

    I'll have to think on it.

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  36. Hmm on second thought...

    For the record, I do believe in right and wrong for any given situation.... I look only at the consequences of each move/choice to find the best choice.

    ...this is amorality. I see you are talking about a purely personal and always malleable right and wrong. And you are mean you are making the "best choice" for you, depending on each particular circumstance. Yes?

    So I rescind most of my last comment.

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  37. Ethics cannot be taught in school, or from a book, it's the rules you learn over the years if you are smart enough to come up with rules.

    Technically it can, although I'll assume you mean the internalization and rationalization of ethics within a particular individual rather than the pantomime of a set of morals.

    You've made several arguments in your comments in an effort to play devil's advocate. Yet, I'm still unclear about what your personal opinion on the subject is. Would you mind clarifying?

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  38. @Medusa
    I do not consider myself moral. I suppose you could call me amoral most of the time but it's unrealistic and virtually impossible to be amoral all of the time because so many of our laws are based on other peoples personal moral values. It does not change the fact that if I break those laws I still get punishment, so there are times where I act moral but at all times my mind is considering the consequences to justify my actions. So you are correct in reading into my writing and describing it as amoral, but the description I prefer is ethically amoral. I'm amoral because I know how wrong or incorrect it is to be moral.



    @no one

    The only thing that can be taught in school is ethical systems of thinking such as utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham and the harm principle, the hippocratic oath, consequentialism, critical thinking can be introduced. Basically the only thing you can do is introduce different systems and patterns of thinking, but you cannot teach a person to actually become ethical because that takes years of practicing these patterns of thinking, contemplation,meditative type thinking is what is required.

    In my personal opinion I cannot support any value judgment without determining and measuring the consequences because I believe to merely accept someone elses value judgment as truth is putting too much trust in another person to determine my truth which may be slightly different than theirs due to the fact we might be in different situations.

    My personal opinion is that it's better to be right than feel right. To be right at all times, to make the most correct decisions in any given situation, that is the pattern of thinking I follow and I don't believe anybody else can decide whats best for me because they aren't me, they don't have to live as me, they don't have to face the consequences in the first person, so only I can determine what is most right for me at any given time. Moral laws like "don't lie" does not help me when I'm in situations where the only way to achieve the best consequences is to lie. When I'm in situations such as these I disregard every moral rule I've been taught and I do what I can to achieve the best consequences for myself. I cannot say I consider myself a particularly moral individual.

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  39. @everyone

    This is the type of morality that I was playing devils advocate for.

    MoralAbsolutism

    The belief that an action is always right or always wrong no matter the context, consequences, or situation. Under this system it would be wrong to lie to Hitler. Unfortunately a rather large segment of society follows moral absolutism and if you want to know why that is, It's because the typical man and woman decides on an act being right or wrong by the nature/feelings associated with the act. It's wrong to lie because lying doesn't feel right. It's wrong to kill because killing feels wrong and it's gross. It's wrong to steal because stealing feels wrong. They don't like how it feels to do immoral things so they decide to never do them no matter what happens.

    The only time this becomes a problem is when these sorts of individuals make laws and restrict everybody else from doing anything. Now we cannot do it either. Think of decency laws, or obscenity laws and you'll be on the right track. Their ultimate goal is Pacifism which is based around the "Turn the other cheek" passage from scripture and the "Love your enemy", their morality is based upon religion. The way I counter their morality in debate is I tell them to look at what happened to everybody who turned the other cheek (including Jesus himself).

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  40. Your initial post was a bit vague and leading, but I think I understand what you're trying to get at. I generally follow a similar approach, but rather than categorizing my decisions as either feeling right or wrong at the time, I decide based on whatever is "appropriate" instead.

    On the other hand, everyone makes exceptions to their own code of ethics which, as you've mentioned, leads to hypocrisy. This is evident in those who believe that abortion is "wrong" but the death penalty is acceptable. Or, animal rights activists who eat meat and wear leather. The list goes on.

    Some exceptions are in our own best interest, like your example of lying. Lying to a murderer about where you live would generally be preferable to lying to your doctor about symptoms of a terminal illness (unless of course you'd like to die). Neither are necessarily "moral" decisions if they don't affect the welfare of others, but certainly affect those who are making them.

    I think most of us can agree by now that morality/ethics is mainly for the benefit of society at large. Being moral/ethical, however, can have pragmatic benefits, so it would be foolish to choose either amorality or morality. Neither is patently better or worse than the other, and in fact implementing both may be more advantageous.

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  41. Your initial post was a bit vague and leading, but I think I understand what you're trying to get at. I generally follow a similar approach, but rather than categorizing my decisions as either feeling right or wrong at the time, I decide based on whatever is "appropriate" instead.

    Yeah, this was my confusion as well. Semantic ambiguity... but I guess that's just the way it is when talking about this stuff.

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  42. @No one a correction for your slight confusion, ethics are about self interest, and if something is not in your self interest there is no rational basis from which to declare it ethical. Morals are based on value judgments which need not be in your self interest. So it's possible to be moral and unethical. such as is the case with abortion being wrong. It's morally wrong, but it may be ethical for a teenage mother to have an abortion. Birth control may be ethical globally if it meets utilitarian priorities, but the bible and Christian religion might say abortion is always wrong.

    I hope this clears it up. Ethics rely on science and rationality, morality does not have to rely on scientific rigor.

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  43. Your distinction was noted. I wasn't sure what case you were trying to make exactly; the distinctions between morality and ethics, or the necessity for either.

    As for whether "morality" is grounded in religion, I'd say that yes it is where it has originated, but at present, one can be a moral objectivist without being religious. Moral objectivism is related, but not identical to moral absolutism.

    My point was that comparing two extremes (Social Darwinism vs. Moral Absolutism) is unnecessary when there are more than two options to consider in determining one's moral/ethical compass. I personally prefer neither.

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  44. This is an older post but...


    "For people wary of abstract theorizing, it’s nice to see people investigating morality in ways that are concrete and empirical. But their approach does have certain implicit tendencies.

    They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority. At this conference, they barely mentioned the yearning for transcendence and the sacred, which plays such a major role in every human society.

    Their implied description of the moral life is gentle, fair and grounded. But it is all lower case. So far, at least, it might not satisfy those who want their morality to be awesome, formidable, transcendent or great."


    Exactly, this reminds me of Nietzsche's views on master and slave moral systems.

    This research does carry a bias related to the fact that most researchers into this kind of thing are leftists and biased towards slave morality.

    Sociopaths are better off under master morality than we are under slave morality.

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  45. I had never read this post. I love it.

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  46. Sociopaths are no different then any other people. They operate in
    percieved self interest. If they believe it is to their benifit to
    fit in and cooperate with the majority they will do so, especially
    if thier survival is at stake.
    Have you ever seen films where a small group of people are in danger
    for their lives? Usually, among the cross section of characters is a
    sociopath. Many times, the others are dependant on the sociopath's
    survival skills because they are too urbane to know how to survive.
    In the film "Lifeboat" by Alfred Hitchcock, an ocean cruiser is
    torpedoed. Among the survivor's is a sociopath U-boat commander.
    Because the empaths don't have the survival skills, they are forced to
    trust him. He actually leads them into a trap and they kill him.
    In the film "Assult on Precint 13", sociopaths in jail cooperate with
    their jailors to keep from being killed, so a sociopath/empath mixture
    does work IF the sociopath finds it to his/her benifit to cooperate.
    Just don't expect it to work very long once the threat vanishes.
    Actually, in the U.S., the greatest period of Empath/Sociopath
    cooperation was during the pioneer days. There was plenty of "elbow room"
    in those days, and the rugged individualism of the sociopath was actually
    an asset to taming the west. It's only when people become "civalized"
    that the glaring differeces between the sociopath and Empath emerge.
    Under the proper circumstances, sociopaths make the perfect "anti-heros."
    Their action oriented, risk taking nature could be helpful depending
    on who's "side" they were on. The United States had arraingements with
    many "authoritan dictators" who were anti-communist. J.F.K. had many
    leaders assissinated, so it came as no surprise that the evil he unleased
    turned around to bite him.
    Sociopaths are ESTP on Myers/Briggs. Extraverted,Sensory,Thinking
    Percieving. They have very low boredom thresholds. But they CAN
    cooperate tempararily if it's in thier intrests to do so.

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    Replies
    1. I love the comparison to the ESTP. It's just a different way of being. As an INFP, I am not inclined to think as the ESTP, but I still see the gift there.

      Delete
    2. I am not a sociopath. However, I don't understand moral allusions in the slightest. Morality is a very human invention. The true nature of the world is chaos and civilisation's is merely humanity's OCD. Everything is action and consequence. I wonder how you ascribe to this notion of a god existing? The very idea of a 'god' is absurd. If anything, I consider myself as being a 'god' among men.

      Delete
  47. What must Cunanan have been thinking, how must he have felt the last months and weeks of his life?

    What if a sociopath's anger due to a failed life is taking over his sanity, and the disgust and bloodlust towards the people he's been dealing with is overflowing into his days?

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  48. I am amazed at how people believe they know the mind of God............It puts people into perspective of intelligence.

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  49. Medusa is fat and ugly in real life.

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    Replies
    1. Now, now.
      No need for juvenile insults, they achieve nothing except make you look bad :)
      If you have proof, then show it.

      Delete
  50. "I just feel like I am coming at godliness from the opposite end that most people do -- that the cultivating power side of things happens to be my area of expertise and that I need to practice and work at the love side of things. "

    Seems like a very insightful comment, but the last part about needing to work at the love side... why? I thought sociopaths are happy with who they are. Or does this refer to the sociopathic version of love, where they devour the other?

    ReplyDelete

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