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To what extent is moral behavior situational? 
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seeker wrote:
I believe that leaves us first of all with the distinction between judging their behavior and judging their culpability.


If we can't judge their behavior, then I'm not sure there's any issue about judging their culpability. Their culpability for what? We don't judge people's culpability when they eat lunch. Why? Because culpability is only an issue when it's associated with our judgments about a person's behavior.


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Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:07 pm
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MadArchitect wrote:
misterpessimistic wrote:
One thing we did was develop (consciously and not) a system of morals by which to judge behaviors.


Logically, though, the question of whether or not we're competent to judge behavior must precede the question of whether or not morality is valid. We can't simply assume that morality actually does function to give us some competency. If we're not capable of competently judging behavior, then any morals we may have devised are dubious at best, right?



I am not sure why. How would we go about judging ourselves cometent to judge if we have no system by which to judge? As I see it, the two would go hand in hand. Now, we may very well have devised a dubious (I prefer 'imperfect') system of morality, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As with everything, you start from the imperfect and build toward something more perfect...while most likely never attaining true perfection.


Mad wrote:
Mr.P. wrote:
Just because a system of morality/ethics/law is not inviolate does not make it ok for us to just assume we have no competency in judging situations by using it.


The concern is that the two are logically inconsistent. Can you simultaneously justify two claims to the effect that, a) the morality of any given act is contingent on the situation in which that act is taken, and b) we are competant to make moral judgments about behavior that occurred in a situation we took no part in? That's what's at stake with an issue like that of how we can judge the behavior of guards at Abu Ghraib -- if they can justifiably claim that no one who was not there can be competant to judge their behavior, then where does that leave us?


Are you saying that human behavior and our understanding of it is subject to cold logic?

I am not fully on the side of situational morality. I think that people are prone to not follow moral codes to begin with. It takes work to follow a strict moral code. If it was easy, we would not be talking about how 'good people turn bad' (which, like the scapegoat of the 'bad apple' that Zimbardo mentions, is intended to hide something about the 'situation' of the human species, IMO). Situations may help facilitate immorality, but does not produce the tendency to immorality.

So I guess I do not accept you two claims from above and thus do not see any logical inconsistency. We all know what it means to be human...we all share similar feelings inside. So we must come up with a judgement and system of morality based on a concensus of all people (which we have been doing for tens of thousands of years). We have a way to go, yes and I do not expect absolute perfection of this system anytime soon.

Mr. P.


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Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:55 am
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Post Except....
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We all know what it means to be human...we all share similar feelings inside.


...in the case of the developmentally delayed person, for example. How do you judge a person who commits a crime which they know is wrong but they are not capeable of controlling the urge to commit. Afterall, isn't our system of judgment and justice based on knowing right from wrong? So, the person who is developmentally delayed but can function independently in society, does know the difference between right and wrong, but chooses wrong out of a compulsion.

Take a rape committed by a developmentally delayed 20 year old that becomes violent and leads to the victim's death. How do you judge that person? He has the mental age of a young child, the hormones of a young man. Do you judge him as a child? Do you judge him as a man? Do you not judge him at all?

I do know that I have no idea what it means to be that particular human (the developmentally delayed one, that is), so how would I judge him?



Thu Nov 15, 2007 11:37 am
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Post Re: Except....
Why wrote:
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We all know what it means to be human...we all share similar feelings inside.


Take a rape committed by a developmentally delayed 20 year old that becomes violent and leads to the victim's death. How do you judge that person? He has the mental age of a young child, the hormones of a young man. Do you judge him as a child? Do you judge him as a man? Do you not judge him at all?

I do know that I have no idea what it means to be that particular human (the developmentally delayed one, that is), so how would I judge him?


Well, if the person is developmentally delayed, we WOULD know what it means to be that person...for we went through the development, but just proceeded normally, no?

These are extreme cases though. To facilitate this discussion, I went with the majority, not with a defective segment. The thing is, whether someone can control themselves or not, if someone is going around raping and killing, they need to be accounted for in some sort of situation that keeps them from doing that.

Another question is, why would we let a person who cannot control thier urges, especially in the case where they 'know' the difference between 'right & wrong', to live among people who may fall victim to them? Is there a way to fix these people? If not, then an answer may be to remove them from society. I will not offer a means of doing that at this time.


Mr. P.


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Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:22 pm
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Well, if the person is developmentally delayed, we WOULD know what it means to be that person...for we went through the development, but just proceeded normally, no?


No.

To be mentally/emotionally a 10-year-old boy, capeable of conducting yourself independently in society, with the hormones and urges of a grown man? Did you have a grown man's urges when you were 10?

I understand that this is an extreme case. But it is a case of not being able to know what it means to be that person, so I brought it up as an example. And it involves a segment of our society that I am not sure we have ever known how to interact with. Which leads to the "letting them live among us as a threat" issue.



Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:59 pm
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Why wrote:
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Well, if the person is developmentally delayed, we WOULD know what it means to be that person...for we went through the development, but just proceeded normally, no?


No.

To be mentally/emotionally a 10-year-old boy, capeable of conducting yourself independently in society, with the hormones and urges of a grown man? Did you have a grown man's urges when you were 10?


Well, since you asked...yes I did. But I will not elaborate. The main point here is that there person can understand the distinction between what society says is right and wrong. If they can understand it, why then can they not control themselves? This is a thin line, IMO. Are the defective? If so, I still say the solution is removal from society.

Mr. P.


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Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:06 pm
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Well, since you asked...yes I did. :lol:


I saw that coming! ;-)

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If they can understand it, why then can they not control themselves?


Testosterone is a powerful thing. We can recognize the hormone imbalance of a postpartum woman as a defence (she needs counseling), but somehow when a man acts on his hormonal impulses it is a different story and he is a monster (who should be thrown in prison).



Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:32 pm
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Why wrote:
I saw that coming! ;-)


I was a bad boy. I went to Catholic School, what can one expect!?

Quote:
If they can understand it, why then can they not control themselves?


Quote:
Testosterone is a powerful thing. We can recognize the hormone imbalance of a postpartum woman as a defence (she needs counseling), but somehow when a man acts on his hormonal impulses it is a different story and he is a monster (who should be thrown in prison).


So, this seems more like a psychological or medical concern and not a moral concern. For what it is worth, I know about post-partem and still do not give these mothers that kill their babies a pass. Although we should have more available regarding HELP for these people...man and woman.

Mr. P.


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Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:44 pm
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misterpessimistic wrote:
How would we go about judging ourselves cometent to judge if we have no system by which to judge?


Arendt offers an answer to this in her essay "Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship". I'd rather move this portion of the discussion into that forum, since it's really more germaine to what Arendt talks about, and since that discussion looks more dead than it really is because we're talking about Arendt in here instead of over there! I will suggest for the moment that judging by a system is not at all what Arendt means by judgment.

Quote:
Are you saying that human behavior and our understanding of it is subject to cold logic?


No, but it does seem as though our application of judgment should work in logically consistent ways. Otherwise, I'm not sure how we can avoid being injust as a matter of course.

Quote:
We all know what it means to be human...we all share similar feelings inside. So we must come up with a judgement and system of morality based on a concensus of all people (which we have been doing for tens of thousands of years).


I'm suspicious of both notions. We all know what it means to be ourselves, but we can't be 100% certain that everything we take to be "human" is something shared by someone else, much less everyone else, even apart from the obvious exceptions. And because of that, I see some shared sense of humanity as an undemonstrated and dubious basis on which to build a morality. Nor do I think a consensus approach is likely to yield a very worthwhile morality. It might be more liveable for having vetoed the moral strictures that most people can't live up to, but the result will amost certainly be a least common denominator morality.


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Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:36 pm
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One of the descriptions of investigations into the dynamics of conformity and independence that caught my attention was this one:

[quote] On the other hand, if you make independent judgements that go against the group, your brain would light up in the areas that are associated with emotional salience (the right amygdala and the right caudate nucleus regions). This means that resistance creates an emotional burden for those who maintain their independence



Thu Nov 15, 2007 7:08 pm
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I am only in Chapter 9 at this point, but I think what is so interesting is what everyone had to say about themselves (both prisoners and guards) and their own morality following the experiment.

Clearly, at the beginning, none of these people thought they were morally weak human beings. However, it is obvious that many of them were easily swayed by the situation of the prison.

Upon finishing the experiment, some said their roles were completely separate from themselves as individuals - that they separated their minds from their actions. Some recall being discouraged and upset by seeing themselves behave in certain ways as it was happening, some report really letting the roles they were playing become a part of them, and then some report trying to avoid having to play the role they were assigned.

I find this very interesting, because we can only surmise how we would react in the same situation and while it is clear that a situation does much to alter the way a person reacts, there is a lot of variance in to what extent people are effected.

Rather than simply wonder if we would react with evil actions or not, I wonder to what extent we would be a part of those evil actions. I'm hoping Zimbardo goes on to discuss this!



Thu Jan 03, 2008 5:41 pm
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Post Ego and a job well done
The issue I have had in mind that I think compounds this idea of our moral compass is our intrinsic desire to be qualified - to do a good job. I think one of the things that helps a person to take on a new role is the expectation that people have of them being able to do a good job. The guards started out by trying to be the best they could at the role. Many of the prisoners started out by being obedient because that is what they were being paid to do - so they did a good job. From there, the situation took hold. But, had they not had that desire to do a good job, I'm not sure it would have worked as well.



Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:52 am
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