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Part I: Morally Evolved (Pages 1 - 58) 
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Interbane wrote:
Kry: "However, isn’t morality supposed to be universal?"

Morality isn't universal. Cultures have a different sense of what constitutes a moral act. Neither is it absolute. Even killing can be considered a moral act in some(extreme) circumstances.


Let me rephrase myself a bit... According to de Waal, isn't the leaning toward a cultural morality a genetic universal? And if the leaning toward a cultural morality is a genetic universal, wouldn't that support the in-group protection philosophy?


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Thu Jul 02, 2009 8:43 pm
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I think the way in which culture affects morality is different than how in-group vs out-group thinking affects morality. There is a large part of morality that must be learned. We have the mechanisms that influence us to behave in what we know to be moral ways, but much of that knowledge is taught to us. Different cultures have variations in what they consider moral behavior.

What do you mean by in-group protection philosophy?


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Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:06 pm
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Interbane wrote:
What do you mean by in-group protection philosophy?
In Plato's Republic, Thrasymachus defines justice as helping friends and harming enemies. Socrates critiques Thrasymachus by arguing that justice should be fair. Here you have a debate about in-group protection philosophy.



Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:37 pm
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Interbane wrote:
Morality isn't universal. Cultures have a different sense of what constitutes a moral act. Neither is it absolute. Even killing can be considered a moral act in some(extreme) circumstances.

Possibly, we're getting into the area of customs here, rather than of morality as de Waal defines it. He does say that every culture has evolved a sense of morality equivalent to the Golden Rule (is this a fact?), and it appears to be this sense of morality that he uses in the book.


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Fri Jul 03, 2009 7:06 am
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Morality is how we draw the lines and maintain the borders of acceptable behavior: it is the matrix of values, beliefs and practices that foster the kinds of deeds that produce the kind of culture and individuals we most value....these people behaving this way produces the kind of world we want to live in: this is morality.

This includes any number of behaviors- actually, anything is possible: depending upon the kind of people required to produce the kind of world sought after. And it may be that a kind of morality is utilized to produce nothing more than one kind of person- actually one single person...the whole of a culture's beliefs and practices geared and patterned to give birth to a single human being...all manner of weeding, thinning, pruning and chopping off of unneccessary, unhealthy, undesirable portions of the population is practiced, and even celebrated: these expulsions, eliminations, eradications become moral deeds- each one a sacrifice, a sacred deed to uphold and further a holy objective.

To avoid these terrible tasks would be immoral: a shirking of one's moral duties, unacceptable acts of selfish disregard for the great and mighty goal of giving birth to the one...



Fri Jul 03, 2009 9:18 am
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Interbane wrote:
What do you mean by in-group protection philosophy?


By in-group protection philosophy, I mean the tendency to protect those inside one's group (friends, family, self) over those outside one's group. It's as if a completely different moral code arises.

I think part of that is culturally motivated - at least in some cultures. For example, I was raised in a family first environment. So, for me, protecting my family can put me in a moral dilema rather quickly. In-group and culture are combined for me.


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Fri Jul 03, 2009 11:44 am
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Ahh, the use of the word protection threw me off. Conduct towards people who share your genes includes more than protection. I also think it's more of a science than a philosophy, although the ground-breaking has only just begun. People have a vested interest in relatives, since it increases the likelihood their genes(or relative genes) will be passed on.

If your culture influences you to pay attention to family first, that coincides with in-group predispositions, doesn't it? In the military, service before self was stressed, yet so was family first. Even the military gave equal weight to both family ties and discipline.


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DH: "the whole of a culture's beliefs and practices geared and patterned to give birth to a single human being...all manner of weeding, thinning, pruning and chopping off of unneccessary, unhealthy, undesirable portions of the population is practiced..."

So it would be immoral of me to say you're bonkers for wanting to kill a lot of people to weed their behavior from the gene pool so that a fictional baby superman can be born? Lay off the drugs DH.


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I don't take a side in a debate about whether emotion or reason is primary in us, but one thought that came to me from de Waal's essay is that, when it comes to morality, knowing is not enough. There must also be some emotional attachment, some wanting to do the right thing. We say that we don't need religion to tell us what is moral or ethical, that religion just underlines what humans have a natural sense of, and this is probably true, but is wanting to do the moral thing entirely natural, needing no intensive boost from the culture? I would say no, that some strenuous effort needs to exist on a continuing basis. Religion could serve this function, and probably does for many, but its tactics have often been not appropriate at all (fear of punishment, lure of reward). To command people to have this emotional attachment to the good might sound odd, as in the bible's Great Commandment, but perhaps it works.


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Sat Jul 11, 2009 10:22 pm
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Interesting, but supposing that Vaneer Theory (VT) was really just a metaphor...like naturalistic morality...just another perspective that cannot be observed tightly wrapped up in image. It would seem then that it is actually the notion refering to the ability for some type of relevant observation that is the problem. The tight grip of an "image redefinition across time" rather than the meaning that is the focus. Behaviorism is unfavored after all...too...inaccurate...too...open for...redefinition, in a word a sloppy method of analysis. Isn't it? Or does that not matter? The philosopher...he has yet to define the difference between the moral and the psychological - maybe because there really isn't one - splits the difference when it suits, yet everywhere else loves to pander about abstract relationship.

For me the beast in man is the feral cat, the stray who no longer returns for supper but rummages through the trash for scraps of meat and rotted milk.

:book:



Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:04 am
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DWill wrote:
I don't take a side in a debate about whether emotion or reason is primary in us, but one thought that came to me from de Waal's essay is that, when it comes to morality, knowing is not enough. There must also be some emotional attachment, some wanting to do the right thing. We say that we don't need religion to tell us what is moral or ethical, that religion just underlines what humans have a natural sense of, and this is probably true, but is wanting to do the moral thing entirely natural, needing no intensive boost from the culture? I would say no, that some strenuous effort needs to exist on a continuing basis. Religion could serve this function, and probably does for many, but its tactics have often been not appropriate at all (fear of punishment, lure of reward). To command people to have this emotional attachment to the good might sound odd, as in the bible's Great Commandment, but perhaps it works.


I’ve been meaning to comment on this post from DWill, and now Grim has reminded me with his post just now, so thank you Grim. My feeling is that emotion is primarily genetic while reason is a mix between genetic, memetic and logical sources. Of course, emotion can be manipulated by reason, but raw emotions such as anger or sympathy seem to arise from instinctive reactions rather than from thought-out responses. This emotion/reason divide could well match the 98%/2% ratio of how many of our genes are common with the apes to how many are uniquely human. If our emotions are largely in common with the primates, and if emotion is a primary source of morality, then we can see how much of our morals are from monkeys. However, I do think it is possible to see reason as a veneer, a surface code that seeks to control irrational emotional instincts. The memetic and logical content of reason is seen most clearly in law codes, which evolve by precedent as a form of social control. As DWill noted, adhering to rational morality requires strenuous effort. This observation seems to me to contradict the “Russian Doll” model of human identity that de Waal proposes. Our ethics are not at the core of our genetic identity, but are a learned adaptive response to our environment.



Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:51 am
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DWill wrote:
when it comes to morality, knowing is not enough.

I not sure what this is supposed to mean, when it comes to psychology I would agree that knowing is not enough. But morality...ethics, these are both very knowledge filled forms of value. At an extremely basic level morality is no longer morality, it is something much less "knowing" it becomes the effect. Neitzsche wrote that there is no such thing as causes only effects, suggesting that you would do wrong to separate thunder and lightning as they are the same thing.

Robert Tulip wrote:
My feeling is that emotion is primarily genetic while reason is a mix between genetic, memetic and logical sources.

Genetic fallacy.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Of course, emotion can be manipulated by reason

And reason can be manipulated by emotion. Which dynamic is more important to the monkey? or man for that matter?

Robert Tulip wrote:
but raw emotions such as anger or sympathy seem to arise from instinctive reactions rather than from thought-out responses.

Would you care to start on the notion instinct? Or is it supposed to be self-evident?

Robert Tulip wrote:
This observation seems to me to contradict the “Russian Doll” model of human identity that de Waal proposes. Our ethics are not at the core of our genetic identity, but are a learned adaptive response to our environment.

More metaphor, little observation.

:book:



Last edited by Grim on Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:29 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:28 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
"My feeling is that emotion is primarily genetic while reason is a mix between genetic, memetic and logical sources."

Grim: 'Genetic fallacy."

Actually, what Robert said does not commit a genetic fallacy.

Grim: "But morality...ethics, these are both very knowledge filled forms of value."

Even still, knowing is not enough.



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Grim wrote:
Interesting, but supposing that Vaneer Theory (VT) was really just a metaphor...like naturalistic morality...just another perspective that cannot be observed tightly wrapped up in image. It would seem then that it is actually the notion refering to the ability for some type of relevant observation that is the problem.

I'm afaid that in your post you're talking around me, above me, everywhere but to me, but I will agree that Veneer Theory is really just a metaphor. It's too strong a metaphor, in fact, a prejudicial statement on de Waal's part. Veneer equals the surface appearance of something fine or expensive covering inferior material. I'm therefore not surprised that nobody has declared herself a veneer theorist and would see it as an accusation to deny.


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Robert Tulip wrote:
I’ve been meaning to comment on this post from DWill, and now Grim has reminded me with his post just now, so thank you Grim. My feeling is that emotion is primarily genetic while reason is a mix between genetic, memetic and logical sources. Of course, emotion can be manipulated by reason, but raw emotions such as anger or sympathy seem to arise from instinctive reactions rather than from thought-out responses. This emotion/reason divide could well match the 98%/2% ratio of how many of our genes are common with the apes to how many are uniquely human. If our emotions are largely in common with the primates, and if emotion is a primary source of morality, then we can see how much of our morals are from monkeys. However, I do think it is possible to see reason as a veneer, a surface code that seeks to control irrational emotional instincts. The memetic and logical content of reason is seen most clearly in law codes, which evolve by precedent as a form of social control. As DWill noted, adhering to rational morality requires strenuous effort. This observation seems to me to contradict the “Russian Doll” model of human identity that de Waal proposes. Our ethics are not at the core of our genetic identity, but are a learned adaptive response to our environment.

This interesting perspective is an example of the many this topic can generate. I haven't seen any disputes about facts in de Waal's book or in the discussions we've had, I think. We are firmly in the terrirory of perspective, which is also firmly the territory of philosophy. I would hope we could agree that there isn't a correct perspective to be sought, just more conversation to be engaged in. This may smack of relativism to you, Robert, but it is a proper relativism. When you think about it, how self-explanatory that de Waal, observing primates most of his life, would so value the emotional similarities between us and them, and ground our morality in these similarities. His debate partners, all philosophers, unsurprisingly see rational thought as a far more crucial element of our morality.

In my own perspective, the element of conflict has the highest profile. We can know that situations present conflicts between what we want and what we should do. Other animals have only momentary conflicts between two desires--the chimp who holds out his food to share without even looking at the receiver, or the dog who comes to his master though she would really like to sample that delicious smell. Our, more significant, moral conflict is what often goes on on our surface, contrary to what Veneer Theory supposedly says. The surface in VT is morality, actually moral hypocrisy, since we just use morality to give a good name to our selfish goals. But that is rubbish. We obviously do resolve our conflict sometimes in favor of what we think we should do rather than what would feel best. The surface in my view is the interplay between morality and our desire to get advantage for ourselves. This is not always a conflict, though, since getting advantage for ourselves is also demonstrably a good thing. In other words, sometimes I should be selfish instead of thinking about others.

The other problem I have with moral reasoning as a veneer over our irrational emotional instincts is that I feel, as de Waal does, that it must be "down there" in some way as well as on top. I could agree with the metaphor of a flowering plant with extensive roots, or maybe a spring with its origin deep underground, to express this.


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Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness


Wed Jul 22, 2009 9:24 pm
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