Can Science Determine Moral Values?

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Tom Palven
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Re: Can Science Determine Moral Values?

Postby Tom Palven » Mon Oct 31, 2016 6:20 pm

OlegTheBatty wrote:
Tom Palven wrote:
OlegTheBatty wrote:There are brain structures for empathy which mature at about age 15. Sociopaths don't seem to have the ability. Kids sympathize much more than they empathize. Empathy is a learned skill, which is why it can be brainwashed away. Some kids don't learn, even though they have the ability. This is most common in broken homes and broken cultures.


There are apparently some people born with damaged or missing portions of the brain that would normally create instinctive social-bonding emotions.

These people, who might be labelled autistic or sociopathic, might lead decent, productive, lives or not, probably depending, as you say, on their upbringing.

However, I don't understand your comment that kids sympathize more than they empathize. Isn't sympathy one of the products of empathy? We feel sympathy for a person's loss or misfortune because we empathize with them and know how they feel? People probably do learn how others feel about their ups and downs from their own experiences. Is that what, or part of what, you mean?

My sympathy is how I feel about your situation. I have little sympathy for others because other people's problems do not make me feel bad.
Empathy is understanding how you feel about your situation. I have a lot of empathy for others; I relate to how you feel.

Sympathy is about the self, empathy about the other person.

Empathy does not grow out of sympathy, they are separate skills.


I'm not following you. I'll come back to it later and see if that helps.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

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Scott Mayers
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Re: Can Science Determine Moral Values?

Postby Scott Mayers » Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:00 pm

Tom Palven wrote:
Scott Mayers wrote:
Tom Palven wrote:Just saw this statement on line:

You don't need religion to have morals.

If you can't determine right from wrong you lack empathy, not religion.

See my post above. The second (underlined) is absolutely false. Morals are local assignments that we take in as children from our environment just as a duck 'assigns' what it should default to follow as any initial moving thing it sees and interpret it as "good".


Adam Smith drew A Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759, from many sources. He discusses an emotion described by Greek Stoics and labelled "sympathie" by French philosophers, which he called "sympathy" and which has evolved into the word "empathy."

According to Smith:
"Though our brother is on the rack, as long as we ourselves are at ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did, and never can, carry beyond our own person, and it by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations...By the imagination we place ourselves in his sensation ...enduring all the same torments...His agonies begin to affect us ..and (we) begin at last to shudder at what he feels..."

Smith also said that "Beneficence...to feel much for others and little for ourselves...to restrain our selfish and indulge our benevolent affections constitute the perfection of human nature, and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety."

So, apparently Smith, fwiw, thought that empathy was hard-wired in normal human beings and not learned as children, since we are not taught to shudder at the sight or blood or at other's pain.

But, the reverse seems possible, that religions can teach us not to empathize with other religions, and military indoctrination can harden us to the pain of others, and indeed wish to inflict it.

I don't think religion is necessary and agree that it has any 'natural' force of moral high ground. My contention was to the concern that 'empathy' is just a form of consensus, just as religion is. If you were in a prison atmosphere and 20 of them all 'empathize' that you should be beat up for simply looking funny, does this make the 20 men more validly 'moral' to some nature.

I disagree that we all have some default 'empathy' by pure hardwiring. What IS hardwired in common is a program that either (a) assigns behavior genetically (thus not relevant to what is or is not 'moral' unless all bears love their cubs as much as strange people!) or (b) assign 'variables' of a motivation program that commands favor or disfavor to whatever the environment imposes on those variables in windows of development. (Sometimes called, "Critical Periods". I recommend googling this to see many varied sources on this)
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Tom Palven
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Re: Can Science Determine Moral Values?

Postby Tom Palven » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:05 pm

Scott Mayers wrote:
Tom Palven wrote:
Scott Mayers wrote:
Tom Palven wrote:Just saw this statement on line:

You don't need religion to have morals.

If you can't determine right from wrong you lack empathy, not religion.

See my post above. The second (underlined) is absolutely false. Morals are local assignments that we take in as children from our environment just as a duck 'assigns' what it should default to follow as any initial moving thing it sees and interpret it as "good".


Adam Smith drew A Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759, from many sources. He discusses an emotion described by Greek Stoics and labelled "sympathie" by French philosophers, which he called "sympathy" and which has evolved into the word "empathy."

According to Smith:
"Though our brother is on the rack, as long as we ourselves are at ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did, and never can, carry beyond our own person, and it by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations...By the imagination we place ourselves in his sensation ...enduring all the same torments...His agonies begin to affect us ..and (we) begin at last to shudder at what he feels..."

Smith also said that "Beneficence...to feel much for others and little for ourselves...to restrain our selfish and indulge our benevolent affections constitute the perfection of human nature, and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety."

So, apparently Smith, fwiw, thought that empathy was hard-wired in normal human beings and not learned as children, since we are not taught to shudder at the sight or blood or at other's pain.

But, the reverse seems possible, that religions can teach us not to empathize with other religions, and military indoctrination can harden us to the pain of others, and indeed wish to inflict it.

I don't think religion is necessary and agree that it has any 'natural' force of moral high ground. My contention was to the concern that 'empathy' is just a form of consensus, just as religion is. If you were in a prison atmosphere and 20 of them all 'empathize' that you should be beat up for simply looking funny, does this make the 20 men more validly 'moral' to some nature.

I disagree that we all have some default 'empathy' by pure hardwiring. What IS hardwired in common is a program that either (a) assigns behavior genetically (thus not relevant to what is or is not 'moral' unless all bears love their cubs as much as strange people!) or (b) assign 'variables' of a motivation program that commands favor or disfavor to whatever the environment imposes on those variables in windows of development. (Sometimes called, "Critical Periods". I recommend googling this to see many varied sources on this)



Seems to me that at least most bear and wolf mothers and human mothers love their offspring, and that wolves are less accepting of those outside their packs just as humans have been less accepting of other humans outside their clans or tribes, and that at least part of this love for some and distrust for others is instinctive, as hard-wired as birds' ability to build nests without any experience or plans.

Having said that, it seems that most humans at least transfer this innate liking for human children of their own tribes to all other children, and even to the young of other species such as kittens and puppies.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

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Scott Mayers
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Re: Can Science Determine Moral Values?

Postby Scott Mayers » Fri Nov 04, 2016 2:36 am

Tom Palven wrote:Seems to me that at least most bear and wolf mothers and human mothers love their offspring, and that wolves are less accepting of those outside their packs just as humans have been less accepting of other humans outside their clans or tribes, and that at least part of this love for some and distrust for others is instinctive, as hard-wired as birds' ability to build nests without any experience or plans.

Having said that, it seems that most humans at least transfer this innate liking for human children of their own tribes to all other children, and even to the young of other species such as kittens and puppies.

If 'love' were universal, it would be threatening to the survival of those who held onto such in dire situations. 'Love' is localized and is similarly derived from those critical windows. I WISH this were not the case. But it does speak volumes about HOW we should treat our children early on. The better they are treated, the better they reflect it based on those values they learn from their parents (and all other parts of their environment). For humans, it is this capacity to ADAPT to such varying environments that we owe our own success to the critical windows rather than to some genetic inborn quality.
I eat without fear of certain Death from The Tree of Knowledge because with wisdom, we may one day break free from its mortal curse.

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Re: Can Science Determine Moral Values?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri Nov 04, 2016 2:40 am

Nothing stops universal love from being hierarchical...as most things/emotions are. Where is the subtlety?
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Re: Can Science Determine Moral Values?

Postby OlegTheBatty » Fri Nov 04, 2016 9:30 pm

Scott Mayers wrote:
Tom Palven wrote:Seems to me that at least most bear and wolf mothers and human mothers love their offspring, and that wolves are less accepting of those outside their packs just as humans have been less accepting of other humans outside their clans or tribes, and that at least part of this love for some and distrust for others is instinctive, as hard-wired as birds' ability to build nests without any experience or plans.

Having said that, it seems that most humans at least transfer this innate liking for human children of their own tribes to all other children, and even to the young of other species such as kittens and puppies.

If 'love' were universal, it would be threatening to the survival of those who held onto such in dire situations. 'Love' is localized and is similarly derived from those critical windows. I WISH this were not the case. But it does speak volumes about HOW we should treat our children early on. The better they are treated, the better they reflect it based on those values they learn from their parents (and all other parts of their environment). For humans, it is this capacity to ADAPT to such varying environments that we owe our own success to the critical windows rather than to some genetic inborn quality.


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