The Evolution of Morality

The morality of today is certainly much different from the morality of the past. Imagine the absurdity of a time in which the average person thought slavery was an acceptable economic strategy, a reality of the past (and the present in some parts of the world). This is an unsettling thought, but it shows how our morality is progressive and not absolute. It changes over time, and we can make it change for the better.

I prefer this type of morality. I want to ask the right questions, and learn the best answers. There was a time when people could be considered property. Aren’t we glad someone questioned that? Morality itself—the morality of this time period—may one day become the school of thought that it is only moral to overcome.

 

-AD

Advertisements

  49 comments for “The Evolution of Morality

  1. August 6, 2014 at 1:57 am

    My problem with saying that morality is progressive is that this implies that there is a theoretical end point – progressing towards a utopia that can be achieved, as if achieving a Utopian state is an tenable goal. And even if this were the case, how does one go about defining this Utopian state? What does it look like?

    • Ignostic Atheist
      August 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      It could be viewed as progressive relative to us, now, and in the future, morality will have progressed to be suitable for future us, but that doesn’t mean that future morality must be considered better for present us.

      I’d like to think it should though.

    • August 6, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      I have a more pragmatic view.

      “I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.”

      It is certainly immoral to not wish for a better world. I wish for a better world, and I think we are morally obligated to get rid of things like human trafficking and war. I do not know what the endpoint is (it is near certain Utopia won’t be achieved), but you cannot rationally object to humanitarian goals while valuing morality.

  2. August 6, 2014 at 2:33 am

    I agree, Oscar. Even this “progressing” and “evolving” morality being put forth — if it is getting “better” — must be headed to some objective ideal. Otherwise, the morality of today is just as arbitrary as that of the slave holder.

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      I think I would prefer “evolving”, actually, as an evolving morality does not imply “better”, but rather that it would be more suited for us at the time, it implies adaption.

    • August 6, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      I believe morality to be arbitrary, and I would prefer for the morality I am currently looking at to get better.

      • August 6, 2014 at 6:54 pm

        LOL.

      • August 6, 2014 at 6:54 pm

        …but seriously, casuistry aside, that statement doesn’t make sense.

      • August 6, 2014 at 6:59 pm

        …unless you accept that your preference in this area is impossible.

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:02 pm

        Morality is most certainly arbitrary. We all have own own ideas on what is just and what is not.

        And I do not think it is silly to say I want the world to get better, along with people’s values. It may be arbitrary but we all agree on some important things; murder is wrong.

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm

        Do you prefer that morality get better at being arbitrary?

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:04 pm

        Oh I see what your laughing at now. Lol.

        I believe morality to be arbitrary. I would prefer people value a better world

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:13 pm

        But when you say “better,” you’re just speaking about your own opinion (which, again, you view as arbitrary). Stalin and Mao were going for “better” too.

        So why is your “better” better than their “better?” It seems like you’re still reaching for a metaphysic that evolution can’t account for.

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:16 pm

        My better is concerned with human happiness. My morality isn’t willing to kill.

        I am near certain you value these things too. So you would claim your better is better than their better (lol!).

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm

        That’s true; I do. However, my view of morality doesn’t rely on a false ontology as yours does. Your epistemology seems mostly right — that’s great — but how does it interact with reality? That’s the tough part for naturalism to deal with.

        You see, it’s not enough to claim the knowledge of morality (epistemology), you have to show how that knowledge is real and not merely an illusion or preference or something (ontology).

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:23 pm

        I do not think anything can be objectified in the sense you are speaking of. I am an atheist, materialist/physicalist/naturalist, I’m sure we disagree on many fundamental points haha.

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:04 pm

        I don’t mean to sound rude here. I apologize if my comments came across that way, but my point is that if morality is arbitrary, there is no “better.”

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:07 pm

        There is better for the person in question. And I would take Sam Harris’s argument here. Morality is not objective (in the metaphysical sense I mean), but we can find the best answers for morality. We know that a certain chemical balance in a person’s brain means sadness and another means happiness. We arbitrarily choose to value the latter as good and the former as bad. But we can then make objective claims as to what propagates the good

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm

        I see. And when a person’s brain chemicals are genuinely happy when they’re hurting an animal and sad when they aren’t?

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        Taking pleasure in inflicting plain is actually a chemical imbalance in the brain. These people are often called psychopaths

  3. August 6, 2014 at 2:51 am

    You know, I just got done typing up a post for tomorrow on objective moral values. Morality can be quite the quagmire of thought, but I’m happy to see this post out here. I agree with the majority of your post, and I think morality is changing because of increased secular thought on these topics. There’s a link I don’t have right now, but in the future I’ll try to share it if able.

    I don’t know if today’s morality is better. I do know that it’s different, and it is the product of people trying to be better people. In that sense, morality might not be changing. Instead, it might just be us learning more about what it means to be decent people.

    • August 6, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      I cannot speak for the whole morality (because everyone’s is different. After all it is arbitrary), but in some cases it has most certainly gotten better.

      The average person objects to slavery, burning accused witches, circumcising 12 year old girls, and genocide. There was a time when we had no concept of human rights. Now we do. Every single one of us values this, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be exercising our right to free speech on this blog.

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:54 pm

        Thanks for your reply! The gist of what I’m getting at here is that new challenges will always pop up as new ways of seeing the world occur. If I take your evidence as the only evidence of how morality has changed, then certainly it would seem that it is better than before. But while portions of the world have espoused these notions (thankfully), these same portions also support engaging in torture (Guantanamo Bay), support the sacrifice of personal liberty for perceived safety (Patriot Act), and support invading other countries without a declaration of war (Korean War onwards). Of course, these are chiefly governmental acts, but people in the U.S. have expressed support for these actions in one form or another. I am not arguing that a government’s actions denote its people’s morality, but rather what some of those people are willing to be okay with.

        Taken in this light, people might not think that we’re better off in this regard. But please note that I agree with you in the abstract (because I do think in many areas we have improved our knowledge of morality, especially through secular reasoning), in application I think saying we’re better off might allow some people to turn a blind eye to the new challenges we face.

      • August 6, 2014 at 7:57 pm

        Totally agreed! I’m saying we are better off in certain instances, that is all. We can progress, so we should! There is much to be done

  4. August 6, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Morality is evolving, (thank goodness) but I don’t see how this implies that there is an end point, just as I don’t believe that evolution has ended with us. As we evolve and as technology evolves, there will be new and different standards of morality and ethics which will constantly demand revision.

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Agreed. Reagent Post, however, did not state that morality is evolving, but rather that it is “progressing”, which does imply objectivity.

      • August 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm

        Oscar,

        Take a look at the title of this post:

        “The Evolution of Morality”

      • August 6, 2014 at 2:11 pm

        Haha fair enough.

        I think, in this case then, one must take care to be more purposeful with words and their usage, as “progress” and “evolution” are not interchangeable.

      • August 6, 2014 at 6:36 pm

        Morality is evolving, meaning it is changing. And in certain instances from our view point it is progressing, getting better. From our view point abolishing slavery in the West is a good thing, an instance of progression.

        In this post I am pointing out that morality changes over time, and it can be for the better considering your view point.

      • August 8, 2014 at 2:38 am

        Reagent,

        The utter hostility that atheists have toward the Bible puts the lie to the claim that “morality is evolving.”

        Atheists apply their present day misunderstanding of everything to everything, including morality.

        In fact, “evolving” is an atheist weasel word that means whatever atheists need it to mean at any given time for any given reason.

    • August 6, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      A wonderful comment, thank you!

  5. August 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    The argument against slavery was given by none other than Abraham Lincoln.

    He used Natural Law as the basis for his argument.

    Natural Law is absolute.

    So the claim that morality is progressive is false and the claim that human nature evolves into something better over time is also false.

    Man has an evil side to his nature that only religion can deal with on a large enough scale to allow civil society to take form.

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      I was with you until your final sentence, silenceofthemind. I think mankind has been adequately exposed to religion’s version of morality and its treatment as such, and I must say that I’m underwhelmed.

      • August 6, 2014 at 2:12 pm

        Sorry…

        silenceofmind*

      • August 6, 2014 at 2:20 pm

        Oscar,

        All civilizations in human history have grown up around religion.

        Christian Western Civilization is the only civilization in human history that progressed past the slave and the horse-drawn cart.

        That is because only in the Christian West was modern science allowed to develop.

    • August 6, 2014 at 7:59 pm

      Babble. Gibberish.

      • August 8, 2014 at 2:42 am

        Reagent,

        That atheists think the facts are gibberish and babble put the lie to morality “evolving.”

        If atheists are not anchored in facts then “evolving” simply means that personal opinion and bias are the order of the day.

        That means “evolving” is a trip back to the future of violence, rape, mass murder and morality meaning absolutely nothing.

  6. August 6, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    silenceofmind,

    I appreciate your willingness to discuss this topic with me, but I’m wary of commandeering this post on a tangential topic.

    Maybe some other time 🙂

    • August 6, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Oscar,

      I don’t think we are off topic.

      Religion offers absolute, objective morality that never evolves.

      It is therefore no coincidence that religion is absolutely essential for the development of civil society.

      In fact, societies always break down when religious morality evolves into secular amorality.

      • August 6, 2014 at 2:58 pm

        I believe our stances on objective morality are on opposite sides of the spectrum. To my thinking, people believing that there is an objective morality and that said morality is divinely determined, has been perhaps the greatest hindrance to an evolving morality. People thinking that morality is divinely determined impedes the development of society as there is no discussion that can take place that allows society to adjust and correct itself without having to confront the obstinate who claim that we are going against divine command.

      • August 6, 2014 at 3:14 pm

        Oscar,

        Objective morality must come from a source higher than man.

        That is because all men are created equal and thus, whatever one man thinks is good or evil is no better than what any other man thinks is good or evil.

        Without objective morals, whatever is good or evil is always determined by who is stronger.

  7. August 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    silenceofmind,

    I disagree with the premise that there exists an objective morality. I would like to defend my position, and then challenge your position – I think that is a proper way to go about these things:

    Morality is not objective – morality is created by humans for humans in order to flourish. It is no coincidence that those ‘moral laws’ that seem so intuitive (i.e. thou shalt not kill) are means by which humans can flourish. Now what exactly is the best way to live life amongst others is up for interpretation, as it should be. This ability to question and challenge what we hold to be right or wrong – the ability to challenge the descriptive with the normative – is exactly why we have such a thing called morality in the first place. You said, “without objective morals, whatever is good or evil is always determined by who is stronger”. Not necessarily. Determination of what is good or evil comes with common consensus. In fact, I would contend that those who wish to impose on others what is good or evil come from a position that morality is indeed objective.

    I will assume, given your talk of the Christian West, that you are Christian. According to Christian theology with respect to morality, at least that which I believe to be more the tenable position to be held by a Christian, morality is reflective of God’s nature. If this is the case, then, while morality may be objective it is also random as God’s nature is not something that was adopted by him, but is inherent. Therefore, the free-will of being able to choose for ourselves what we do, a fundamental aspect of Christianity and the nature of man, is an illusion. How does one reconcile a morality that is dependent on the random nature of God with free-will, the basis of morality?

    What I’m trying to get at is this: morality is dependent on choice – we can choose how we act, and in this ability to choose we are either acting in such a way that is moral or immoral. As a Christian, I would hope you agree as this is precisely the reasoning used by Christians to state that it is dependent on us to choose to be saved. Morality without choice is a nonsensical proposition, yet Christians would have us believe that despite God’s inability to choose His own nature, that we have choice in this inherent objective morality. This does not make sense to me.

  8. August 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Secular morality beats the hell out of religious morality.

    • August 6, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      “Women are people”

      We know which morality might disagree with that

  9. August 6, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Hey there – “slavery is an economic strategy of the past”? I wish you were right. But I think you might need to reconsider that thought mate. The evidence certainly doesn’t point that way – it’s a tragedy – and it’s also a sad reality.

    Have a peek at thea21campaign.org

    Seems that the immoral capacity of mankind – that we instinctively recognise as such – sadly endures. We desperately need a solution….

    • August 6, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      I was speaking about the community I live in. I’m aware slavery is still a fact about the world we live in today. It certainly is a sad reality

  10. August 6, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    If we link morality with the prosperity and well being of human beings, the progressive mystery is solved.

    • August 7, 2014 at 12:02 am

      Agreed!

      • August 8, 2014 at 2:44 am

        That’s exactly the way the Robber Barons viewed morality.

        Anything that makes them rich is moral.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: