Morality: A human construct?

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Senior Member
Morality: A human construct?

Phoenix has my handle as this: Grayson: The Gray Knight: Wisdom of Socrates

So, in order to earn my title, I offer this up for debate.


What is morality? Most people pay only cursory attention to the somewhat intimidating philosophical concept called Morality. They erroneously presume that a precise examination of morality is the domain of philosophers.

Most people acquire a somewhat vague sense of morality, a sense of how we should or should not behave, from their parents, their social group, their political environment or their religious affiliation. They believe that they have a sufficiently clear understanding of morality to meet their needs and they do not try to analyze a subject that is seemingly fraught with contradictions.

Why should we analyze the concept of morality if every human being knows that it is immoral to kill other people or to steal the property of other people, except under special circumstances. As adults, we act intuitively with regard to morality. We absorbed fundamental aspects of morality during the early days of our youth. Do we really need to know more about morality?

Most persons have acquired the basic tenets of their morality from others and have accepted them as true and valid, without further questioning. However, how will we know if an unexamined idea, imposed on us by others, is actually true and beneficial to our well-being? Can we improve our lifestyle, including our interactions with others, if we enhance our understanding of the nature of morality?

Knowledge is power and the extent of our knowledge of Objective Reality directly determines our standard of living and our happiness. Our happiness is determined by our degree of alignment with Objective Reality, with truth, The more facts we have at our disposition, the more closely we can align ourselves with reality, the fewer conflicts we will have in dealing with reality and thus, the more happiness we will reap. How does morality really work?

The term Morality covers the vast arena of human conduct that examines our interaction with other human beings. Morality touches every aspect of our life, every moment of our life. Our morality governs all of our contacts with members of our family, with our co-workers, with our church, and with all aspects of our government. Morality determines our attitude to politics, to war and peace, to our children, to our parents and to spiritual questions such as life after death.

When we discuss morality we do not talk about an obtuse philosophical concept, we talk about the totality of our everyday existence. If we want to be effective in our interaction with other human beings, it behooves us to understand the concept of morality with all its nuances and implications. A clear understanding of morality is of extreme importance to all of our interactions with our environment and thus, to our attainment of happiness.

The more precisely our thought processes and our emotions are aligned with our environment, the more advanced will be our ability to avoid painful conflicts with reality and the more enhanced will be our ability to achieve happiness. We will not find much happiness if we do not understand the basic nature of man and the ebb and flow of human interactions as governed by human morality. If we do not fully understand what morality is and how morality affects human beings, we will encounter many conflicts in life

Human beings are constantly interacting with two principal spheres of their environment. The inanimate world, such as trees, houses, cars, is distinctly separate from the domain of human interactions. Morality does not concern itself with our inanimate environment.

Neither does morality refer to the interaction between man and other animals. Human beings have no social contracts with other animals. Other animals, aside from fellow human beings, exist solely at our pleasure. We kill animals for sport, or we eat them at our pleasure and convenience. If other animals, such as mosquitoes, bother us in any way, we poison them in vast numbers.

Morality concerns itself exclusively with interactions among human beings. The human concept of morality has been the subject of controversy and has provided fuel for many heated philosophical discourses during the entire range of human history. Morality provides the rules by which people love each other, fight with each other and interact with each other in every conceivable way.

Many people have killed each other, fighting over the alleged superiority of their respective morality, without a clear understanding of what they were fighting for. What is morality? In order to address this question, we have to go back in time about 4 billion years.

All living organisms, including bacteria, fish and human beings have developed from inanimate matter through the process of evolution. Evolution, and life itself, is due to the ability of a complex chemical compound to sense a threat to its continued existence and to react upon such impulse with an attempt to negate any incipient threat. We know this instinctive, automatic interaction with the environment as the survival instinct.

This instinct must be present in all living things and is the basic emotion from which all other emotions evolved. Over eons of time, man has enhanced the survival instinct imbedded in his genes, by developing complex emotions, such as love, hatred, hunger, despair, fear, joy and many other powerful feelings. The nerve centers dealing with these ancient emotions are physically located in the deepest layers of the human brain, particularly in our brain stem, our so-called reptilian brain.

Deeply imbedded instincts and emotions govern all animal behavior, including human behavior. However, during the past two million years of hominoid development, man has developed a new mental faculty that sets him aside from other animals. This ability superimposes rational, logical thought processes on our primitive emotions.

Our rational mind applies a thin veneer of logical thought processes over the raw emotions that govern our interaction with our environment. Emotions control the preponderance of basic human needs and behavior patterns. Emotions determine when we are hungry, when we feel sexually aroused, when we are afraid, when we feel a sense of well-being.

The evolution of our newly developed rational mind greatly facilitated interaction among human beings. Our instincts and our emotions still initiate the human sex drive but our rational mind imposes beneficial restrictions as to the circumstances under which the sex drive can be satisfied.

Unlike dogs, humans do not meet their emotional sex drive by copulating at street corners. Instead, humans go through a rational mating process that enhances the survival of the offspring that often results from sexual activity. Thus, rationality greatly enhances the survival and perpetuation of rational, intellectual beings.

Our rational mind has similarly enhanced many other human interactions, such as our ability to influence or to manipulate other human beings: We have learned how to cause other people to do what we would like them to do. All of human existence is a constant process of manipulating or influencing other persons with different degrees of subtlety. The degree of subtleness usually depends on the respective intelligence of the manipulator and the manipulated person.

The arena of morality is one of the primary spheres where human beings utilize their rational mind to manipulate other human beings. We may refer to another person as evil in order to prod him to mend his ways and to modify his behavior to our liking. We may also refer to another person as evil if we wish to prevent other persons from emulating him or associating with him.

We may even go further and refer to another person as evil in order to justify depriving him of his property, or to kill him. This manipulative strategy is an integral part of propaganda during periods of war or during religious conflicts.

We frequently obfuscate the term morality by the clever use of words. Morality becomes somewhat more transparent if we replace the emotion-laden word morality with the emotionally neutral synonym Code of Conduct.

In this context, it becomes clear that our discussion of Morality revolves around the manner in which persons conduct themselves in relation to other people. Morality pertains to concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. Our morality tells us how to act under specific circumstances.

It is important to differentiate between morality and related terms such as ethics and legality. We may apply the term ethics synonymously with morality but this word may also refer to laws or to quasi-laws, such as the ethics of a particular profession. Some varieties of ethics may convey merely an informative context, such as the lack of ethics of a politician. Other designations of ethics have the force of laws. The ethics of the legal profession, if flaunted, can result in disbarment.

The term ethics can be ambiguous and it is best to avoid it in the context of moral issues. We should also avoid any potential confusion of morality with actual laws, either common laws or codified laws.

Morality and laws are definitely not synonymous: A specific act may be moral, valued and lawful in one country, while the identical act may be punishable by death in another country. This disparity in moral values is evident in many conflicts arising from divergent religions. Salman Rushdie discovered this truth when he published the "Satanic Verses".

A society of persons, in the sociological context, is the conglomeration of individual human beings who have come together for their mutual protection, welfare or communality of interests. All such individuals search for individual happiness in their own way, as is the nature of all individuals.

One person may wish to pursue a tranquil lifestyle; another person may be intent on accumulating wealth. In order to function smoothly, society must apply common denominators, common values that large numbers of people share, in order to achieve order, safety and predictability for all of its members. The emotional and physical well being of a society and its members depends on a common code of conduct, a common morality among all of its members.

It is not necessary for all members of a society to subscribe to the identical morality. However, it is important for all individuals to be aware of any differences in conduct that may exist among various groups. This consensus enables individuals to cope with, not only other individual members of their own society, but also with groups of non-conforming persons beyond their own society.

In the interest of the internal cohesion of a society, it is imperative that all individuals and groups within the society adhere to fundamental rules of moral conduct, which we will call the Three Natural Laws of Morality. We call these laws natural, not because they are immutable Laws of Nature, but to indicate that these laws have evolved from the innate nature of man.

The most fundamental law of the Three Natural Laws of Morality is the dictum: All persons within a society must refrain from killing or injure other members of the society, except in self-defense. This law is so simple and self-explanatory that all societies throughout human history have adopted it and vigorously enforce it. The other two natural laws of morality are to be set forth in detail in subsequent posts. These laws are concerned with the right of all members of society to be free from enslavement and to hold property.

In an attempt to consider all relevant issues associated with the all-pervasive impact of morality on human affairs, it is helpful to view this subject from several different perspectives. The basic issue that divides all discussions of morality revolves around the question, is morality an evolutionary human concept? Is Morality a relative and subjective concept, or is morality imposed on humans as an absolute, universal and objective imperative?

---Work in progress---


Senior Member
Morality: A human construct?

*Bump* :D'oh:


Active Member
Morality: A human construct?

There was a great reprinted article from Robert Heinlein on morals and patriotism yesterday in our local paper. I have looked all over the internet for a test reprint but can not find it. My OCR thing in not working very smartly on it (I tried to OCR it myself but it failed). The lecture was given in 1972 at the Naval Accademy and it has been dubbed "the Progranism of Patriotism". It is really about how morals tie in to patriotism. I will scan it and then post the pictures, but if anyone else wants a shot at OCR ing it go for it. It basically says, if you have no patriotism, you have no morals.


Senior Member
Morality: A human construct?

Okay, Grayson. You're way out of my brain pan, but it was a thought provoking post. I'm waiting for more. Philosophy is one of my weaker areas. Don't be surprised if you don't get much response. It's a little over the average American's thought process, and I think most of the members here are Americans. No insults to anyone here, but this is not dinner table conversation here in the U.S. Keep it comin' bro'. I'll try like hell to keep up. No promises though.



Active Member
Morality: A human construct?

Here is the article. I will clean up the OCR errors as soon as I possible.

? Editor's Note: The late Robert Heinlein was one of the nation's foremost writers of science fiction (Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Methuselah's Children, etc.). The following adapted from a 1973 speech Heinlein delivered at his alma mater, the U.S.? Naval Academy first appeared in The Richmond News .Leader by permission of his widow. We reprint it today because of its persisting relevance regarding patriotism, manned space flight, the war on terror, courage, sacrifice and the men and women of the armed forces.

As one drives through the bush veldt of East Africa it is easy to spot herds of baboons grazing on the ground. But not by looking at the ground. Instead you look up and spot the lookout, an adult male posted on a limb on a tree where he has a clear view all around him -- which is why you can spot him; he has to be where he can see a leopard in time to give the alarm. On the ground a leopard can catch a baboon, but if a baboon is warned in time to reach and climb a tree he will survive.?

? The lookout is a young male assigned that duty and there he will stay until the bull of the herd sends up another male to relieve it.

?? Keep your eye on that baboon; we?ll be back to him.

Today, in the United States, it is popular among self-styled \"Intellectuals\" to sneer at patriotism. They seem to think that it is axiomatic that any civilized man is a pacifist and they treat the military profession with contempt. \"Warmongers,\" \"Imperialists,\" \"hired killers in uniform\" -- you have all heard such sneers and you will hear them again. One of their favorite quotes is ?Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrill.\"

? What they never mention is that the man who made that sneering wisecrack was a fat, gluttonous slob who was pursued all his life by a pathological fear of death.

I propose to prove that that baboon on watch is more ways superior to that fat poltroon who made that wisecrack. Patriotism is the most practical of all human characteristics.
But in the present decadent atmosphere patriots are often too shy to talk about it -- as if it were something shameful or an irrational weakness.

But patriotism is not sentimental nonsense.? Nor something dreamed up by demagogues.? Patriotism is as necessary a part of man?s evolutionary equipment as are his eyes, as useful to the race as eyes are to the individual.

A man who is not patriotic is an evolutionary dead end. This is not sentiment but the hardest sort of logic.

? To prove that patriotism is a necessity we must go back to fundamentals. Take any breed of animal.? For example, tyrannosaurus rex. What is the most basic thing about him? The answer is that tyrannosaurus rex is dead, gone, and extinct.

? Now take Homo sapiens. The first fact about him is that he is not extinct, he is alive. Which brings us to the second fundamental question: Will homo sapines stay alive? Will he survive?? ?? ~

? We can answer part of that at once: Individually, Homo sapiens will not survive. It is unlikely that anyone here tonight will be alive 80 years from now; it approaches mathematical certainty that we will all be dead a hundred years from now.

? Some men do live that long, but the percentage is so microscopic as not to matter. Recent advances in biology suggest that human life may be extended to a century and a quarter, even a century and a half- but this will create more problems than it solves. When a man reaches my age or thereabouts, the last great service he can perform is to die and get out of the way of younger people.

? Very well, as individuals we all die. This brings us to the second half of the question: Do sapiens as a breed have to die? The answer is: No.

? We have two situations, mutually exclusive: mankind surviving, and mankind extinct. With respect to morality, the second situation is a null class. An extinct breed has no behavior, moral or thee.

? Since survival is the sine qua non, I now define \"moral behavior\" as \"behavior that tends toward survival.\" I won't argue with philosophers or theologians who choose to use the word \"moral',' to mean something else, but I do not think anyone a define \"behavior that tends toward extinction\" as being \"moral\" without stretching the word \"morals\" all out of shape.

? We are now ready to observe the hereby of moral behavior from its lowest level to its highest

? The simplest form of moral behavior occurs when a man or other animal fights for his own survival. Do not belittle such behavior as being merely selfish. Of course it is selfish, but selfishness is the bedrock on which all moral behavior starts and it can be immoral only whirl it conflicts with a higher moral imperative.

? An animal so poor in spirit that he won't even fight on his own? behalf is already an evolutionary dead end; the best he can do for his breed is .to crawl off and die, and not pass on his defective genes.

? The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for your own immediate family. This is the level at which six pounds of mother cat can be so fierce that she'll drive off a police dog. It is the level at which a father takes a moonlighting job to keep his kids in college and the level at which a mother or father dives into a flood to save a drowning child, and it is still moral behavior even when it fails.

? The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for a group larger than the unit family-- An extended family, a herd, a tribe -- and take another look at that baboon on watch; he?s at that Moral level. I don?t think baboon language is complicated enough to permit them to discuss such absstrict notions as ?morality? or ?duty? or ?loyalty\".? But it is evident that baboons do operate morally and do exhibit the traits of duty and loyalty; we see them in action. Call it \"instinct? if you like -- but remember that assigning a name to a phenomenon does not explain it.?

But that baboon behavior can be explained in Evolutionary terms. Evolution is a process that never stops. Baboons who fail to exhibit moral be- Savior do not survive; they wind up as meat for Leopards. Every baboon generation has to pass this Examination in moral behavior; those who bilge it don?t have progeny. Perhaps the old bull of the Tribe gives lessons, but the leopard decides who Graduates ~ and there is no appeal from his decision. We don't have to understand the details to observe the outcome:? Baboons behave morally--for baboons.?

The next level in moral behavior higher than that Exhibited by the baboon is that in which duty and Loyalty are shown toward a group of your own kind too large for an individual to know all of them. We have a name for that. It is called \"patriotism.\"

Behaving on a still higher moral level were the astronauts who went to the moon, for their actions Tend toward the survival of the entire race of man- Kind. The door they opened leads to the hope that Homo sapiens will survive indefinitely long, even longer than this solid planet on which we stand tonight. As a direct result of what they did, it is now possible that the human race will ever die.?

Many short-sighted fools think that going to the Moon was just a stunt. But the astronauts knew the Meaning of what they were doing, as is shown by Neff Armstrong?s first words in stepping down onto the soil of Luna: \"One small step for a man, one gigant leaps for mankind.\"

? I must pause to brush off those parlor pacifists I Mentioned earlier, for they contend that their actions are on this highest moral level. They want to put a stop to war; they say so. Their purpose is to save the human race from killing itself off; they say that, too. Anyone who disagrees with them must be a bloodthirsty scoundrel and they'll tell you that to your face.

? ? ? I won't waste time trying to judge their motives; my criticism is of their mental processes:? Their Heads aren't screwed on tight. They live in a world of fantasy.?

Let me stipulate that, if the human race managed its affairs sensibly, we could do without war.

Yes -- and if pigs had wings, they could fly.?

I don?t know what planet those pious pacifists are talking about, but it can't be the third one from the sun. Anyone who has seen the Far East--or Africa. -- Or the Middle East--- knows or certainly should know that there is no chance of abolishing War in the foreseeable future.?

In the past few years I have been around the World three times; I saw nothing that cheered me as to the prospects for peace. The seeds of war are everywhere; the conflicts of interests are real and deep, and will not be abolished by pious aptitudes.

The best we can hope for is a precarious balance Of power among the nations capable of waging total War --- while endless lesser wars break out here And there.

Patriotism --- moral behavior at the national Level. Non sib seed Patria.? Nathan Hale?s last Words: '~I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.\"? Torpedo Squadron Eight making its suicidal attack. Four chaplains standing fast while the water rises around them. Thomas Jeffery- Son saying, ?The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed From time to time with the blood of patriots.\" A Submarine skipper giving the order, ?Take her down!\" while he himself is still topside.?

Patriotism-- an abstract word used to describe a type of behavior as harshly practical as good Brakes and good tires. It means that you puce the Welfare of your nation ahead of your own, even if it Costs you your life.

? Men who go down to the sea in ships have long Had another way of expressing the same moral be- Savior tagged by the abstract expression ?patriot- Tams.\" Spelled out in simple Anglo-Saxon words, \"Patriotism\" reads '%Omen and children first.

And that is the moral result of realizing a self-evil- Dent biological fact:? Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a High percentage of its men and still pick up the Pieces and go on, as long as the women and chill- Den is saved. But ff you fail to save the women and children, you've had it, you?re done, and you?re through.? You join tyrannosaurus rex, one more Breed that bilged its final test.

I must amplify that I know that women can fight and often have. I have known many a tough old Grandmother I would rather have at my side in aright spot than any number of pseudo-males who disdain military service. My wife put in three years [Of] active duty in World War II, plus 10 years re-Serve and I am proud -- very proud -- of her naval Service. I am proud of every one of our women in Uniform; they are a shining example men.

? Nevertheless, as a mathematic proposition in the facts of biology, children and Women of child- Bearing age is the ultimate treasure that we must save. Every human culture is based Oil \"women and Children firs -- and any attempt to d~\"it any other Way leads quickly to extinction.? Possibly extinction is the way we are~ headed. Great nations have died in the past; it ~ happens to us.

? Nor am I certain how good our chances are. To me it seems self-evident that any ration that loses its patriotic fervor is on the skids. Without that in- Disenable survival factor the end is. Only a matter of time. I don't know how deeply the rot has penne- Traded -- but it seems to me that there has been a Change for the worse in the past 50 years. Possibly I am misled by the offensive behavior of a noisy but unimportant minority. But it does seem to me that Patriotism has lost its grip on a large percentage of our people.?

The time has come for me to stop. I said that \"Patriotism\" is a way of saying, women and children first. And that no one can force a man to feel this way. Instead, he must embrace it freely. I want to tell about one such man. He wore no uniform and no one knows his name, nor where he came from; all we know is what he did.?

In my hometown 60 years ago when I was a Child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sun- Day afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a rail. Road line cut straight through it.?

One Sunday afternoon a young married couple was crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her fo4t in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not p~ it free. Her husband stopped to help her.?

But try as they might they could not get her foot Loose. While they were working at it, a train showed up, walking the ties. He helped the husband in trying to pull the young woman's foot loose. No Luck.?

Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free --and the train hit them.

The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed-- and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself.?

The husband's behavior was heroic, but what we expected of him. A husband toward his wife: his right, his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last secoond he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the Train killed him. And that's all we'll ever knave about him.
This is how a man dies.
This is how a man lives!


Senior Member
Morality: A human construct?

Good grief, will read and reply.

Cary: You're not as green as you're cabbage looking. :huh:


Active Member
Morality: A human construct?

There are four specific rules that I would define ethics to stem out from.

1.Don't lie
2.Don't cheat
3.Don't steal
4.Don't commit violence

The correspond to four values


These are indeed simplistic and there is complexity and gray in all of this. There is also an underlying unification of them that is very profound and deep. That unification is free will.

The reason it is wrong to lie is because the lie would effect the free will of the one who is lied to. It would cause them to do something that they otherwise would not have done.

The reason why it is wrong to cheat is because cheating represents breaking of agreements. It is what happens when you do not keep your word to others or to yourself. One's word to oneself represent personal principles. Agreements are aspects of the strength of one's will against circumstances.

The reason it is wrong to steal has both to do with will, time and effort. Ownership holds it's true foundation in time and effort and consequential value for the person. It is the basis of work and is more fundamental than ideas of property and later ideas of money. Work is done towards ends, this work is frustrated if it is stolen by another who did not put in the work.

The reason why violence is wrong is because ending a life removes the possibilities that life had for the one who was living it. It also deeply effects all people who had relations to that persons life.

This foundation of morality does not require any given religion, nor does it even need the material incarnation of biology. Abstract spirits, so long at they posses will, fall under the logic and framework of ethics. Without will there is no ethics or morality. A hammer is not guilty of killing a person, nor does it have credit for building a safe home. Only a being who posses will may have honor or shame.

I shall be finding morality as proposed by Confuscius and posting it here as well.

Edited by Phoenix after he saw that he spelled Confuscius wrong because Grayson spelled it right underneath. :)


Active Member
Morality: A human construct?
Li (social propriety) is the greatest principle of living. When society lives by li it moves smoothly. Confucius saw the embodiment of this society in the idealized form of feudalistic government, illustrated by the Five Relationships: kindness in the father, filial piety in the son; gentility in the eldest brother, humility and respect in the younger; righteousness behavior in the husband, obedience in the wife; humane consideration in elders, deference in juniors; benevolence in rulers, loyalty in ministers and subjects. Li may also refer to the \"middle way\" in all things.

Just as li is the outward expression of the superior man, jen (goodness, humaneness, love) is the inner ideal. Confucius taught that men should love one another and practice respect and courtesy. If li and jen were operative in a person, the end product would be the Confucian goal: the superior man. Confucius believed in the natural goodness or at least the natural perfectibility of man. He stressed government by virtue (Te) and the arts of peace (Wen). Since filial piety is the root of all virtue this concern for parental respect is seen in the veneration of age and ancestor worship. Confucius was a pragmatic man who thought one should respect the spirits but keep them at a distance.


Senior Member
Morality: A human construct?

*Aarrgghhhhhh!* Runs before the onslaught of Oriental wisdoms. :D

Need to fully read this Chief.

Will get back to you.