Meaning and Morality

16 posts / 0 new
Last post
strabes's picture
strabes
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 7 2009
Posts: 1032
Meaning and Morality

I'm not sure if this is too theoretical for this site, but I think it's useful to start a thread on this.  This comes from the "Get out of debt" thread which has become very long.  An interesting discussion about ethics was started but it's embedded within a dialogue about banking, mortgages, etc.  Aaron talked about a very important issue...the return to morality and I responded with the below paragraphs.  This is more of a systemic discussion rather than specific to mortgages and debt.  

I think a completely new world view and world system is necessary in order to return to morality.  Our current system is a byproduct of Enlightenment rationalism.  It has so much momentum that any individual's attempt to return to morality will be drowned.  At the end of the day, rationalism reduces to meaninglessness.  At that point, morality becomes meaningless, the strong work their way to the top, and eventually the corrupt work their way up and take control...everybody else becomes a number in a spreadsheet (or a robot with a chip embedded in our skin!) to be managed by those in control.  We see that in our world, in our economy, in our media, politicians, business partners, schools, in ourselves, etc.  Our current debt-based, fractional-reserve lending system is entirely acceptable in the world of Enlightenment rationalism and meaninglessness.  The Fed system is completely logical and efficient.  How can we oppose it as long as rationalism reigns supreme?  In my opinion, we can only return to morality and stand against such a corrupt system if another philosophy, spirituality, theology, ontology replaces Enlightenment rationalism.  But then that's a messy issue, right?  Cool   Global government is the next phase for Enlightenment rationalism.  I hope the opposing dynamics pushing us back toward local community and finding value in interpersonal relation and spirituality will defeat that next scary phase of rationalism.  

 

Damon wrote:

Aaron, I'm all for a return to morality.  That's one of the reasons I hope our current immoral system dies.  It's impossible for us to return to morality as long as we participate in our current corrupt immoral system (anybody who has a dollar bill or a bank account is participating in a fundamentally flawed system...that includes me!).  The constant loss of morality we've all witnessed in our lifetimes, isn't just something that happened accidentally.  It was a symptom of the corrupt debt-based, fractional-reserve, immoral monetary system we adopted long ago.  Once that was in place, we lost ontologically meaningful existence.  We became numbers on Wall St spreadsheets...well, slide-rules back then.  Our purpose became to find productive employment in order to incur debt and payoff the rulers of the world with interest.  Everything we do with kids is to maximize their productivity to serve that system...the key is to train them to get a good SAT score, so they can go to Harvard, so they can work on Wall St, so they can invent new ways to productize debt and invent new revenue streams for the banksters that run the world.  And the people who didn't get to Wall St/London/Tokyo are then subjects of that system...working hard to generate the revenues that Wall St charges a fee on as they transfer it to the banksters.  And Wall St also works hard to globalize the system, i.e. suck even more people into the debt-based system to generate more activity for them to collect their fee on as they pass revenue to the banksters.  This is a sick world...it must end.

But more to your point...equating morality with one particular outcome (pay on time) of a contract we have with a bank that allows for multiple outcomes (pay on time OR get out of the house) is I think going too far.  Default and bankruptcy are essential to the smooth operation of our monetary system.  Without it, people would just be in prison, or actual physical slaves to the creditors as they used to be in medieval days.  So see how the very foundation of our current system has immorality baked into it?  Bankruptcy is good and necessary for our current to operate.  Contracts are by definition non-religious or existentially/philosophically-oriented agreements. They are a product of Enlightenment rationalism.  The Enlightenment is dying...thank God.  We are moving back to local communities where interpersonal relation provides the meaning in our lives.  At least that's my hope.   

pir8don's picture
pir8don
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 30 2008
Posts: 456
Re: Meaning and Morality
strabes wrote:

I hope the opposing dynamics pushing us back toward local community and finding value in interpersonal relation and spirituality will defeat that next scary phase of rationalism.  

Damon wrote:

We are moving back to local communities where interpersonal relation provides the meaning in our lives.  At least that's my hope.   

These too are my hopes. A crisis sufficient to revive community but not destroy it. And by community I am very specific; It is a human scale group working for the welfare of all by consensus.

We had family and community. Both taught morals, self restraint and empathy. The family to children and the community to us all. As our numbers increased the government was increasingly charged with the community role (laws). Then an ideology of balanced self interest (game theory) arose from the US and swamped Western governments and societies. This ideology allows any legal activity without prejudice. Government has abandoned the role it took (got) from community. This has left a moral vacuum which has been filled by unchecked addictions and our present malaise.

We have been faced with two phenomena; a huge rise in our numbers and corresponding rise in systems. We must recognise that we are tribal in nature and have been for millions of years (after Daniel Quinn); deer in herds, sheep in flocks, wales in pods, fish in schools and humans in tribes. Tribes lack hierarchy and employ both consensus and deep individual accountability. 

Daniel Quinn identifies our need as not for new programs of the old vision but a new vision without programs. If we group on preference we miss out on the diversity that is our greatest strength and have to live away from others. Our only sensible path is to form human scale groups with our neighbours and learn again to know each other. We must spend our days in the company of the same few people so that all sham is exposed and constrained for our common good. We must spend our days in physical activity to feed and care for ourselves so that no one has that power over us again. In such communities we can retain our diversity and hold to our local cultures.

Competition has demonstrably failed us. It is time to return to cooperation if we still can. 

 

Don

_______________________________________________________

Anyone can trade for what they want, only fools trade for what they need.

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Meaning and Morality

While I do agree that the current system is corrupt and there is a distinct lack of ethics built into in all parts of the system, I don't think that Rationalism is the opposite of Morality. That's more of an apples and oranges comparison. Now, rationalization is entirely different than Rationalism... and even moral people can rationalize unethical behaviors based on their own moral construct. Morality does not equal fair. Rational does not equal fair. Neither of those equals "just" on its own. Knee-jerk reactions and emotional manipulation is what happens when you ignore the Rational... you are completely ruled by your emotions and your personal belief system (i.e. your morals). But being completely ruled by the Rational is also bad because you end up doing things because you can without thinking about whether you should.  The solution is to bring more people into the middle, exercising both Morality and Rationality, instead of polarized on opposite extremes. One has to be extremely careful with morals because they tend to be very closely linked to a particular culture, religion, and demographic... if other people aren't part of that, their morals may be completely different, but no less right or wrong than yours. Ethics are focused more on the legalities of things, not the belief of things, so perhaps that is a step towards the middle that everyone can agree on.  I don't know the answer, but I don't think greed and unethical/immoral practices are a direct result of Enlightment Rationalism. That would be like saying that disease is a result of the discovery of microscopes and bacteria... related, but orthogonal.

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Meaning and Morality

pir8don - I agree that population size and overreliance on government is the problem. In every Utopian social model, regardless of whether it is secular or spiritual, does indicate that the Ideal can only exist within small populations.... as you said "It is a human scale group working for the welfare of all by consensus." I stressed "by consensus" because I think that is the population limiting factor in a functioning community... it is nearly impossible to have direct consensus (as opposed to indirect representation) when a community's population becomes too large.  When a population is smaller, Jack doesn't feel so bad that he has to work a little harder at something when Bob isn't able to because he realizes that Bob provides something else of value to the community. Those direct interpersonal realizations and relationships get lost when there are too many people to really know and be personally vested in. 

I sincerely hope that any crisis that occurs does return to us to a smaller, community-based system once again and doesn't destroy everything (i.e. complete anarchy). I have never agreed with the a centralized, distributed, "representational" system and I think our current situation (and all historical civilizations) is proof that human societies do not function well en masse, and we're all much better off being loosely federated bands of small, separate, communities.

pir8don's picture
pir8don
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 30 2008
Posts: 456
Re: Meaning and Morality

Hi PlicketyCat. Thanks for your agreement. I hope we might reach a consensus here. Many here seem so powerless in the face of our systemic failure. There remains a model for us that has been well tested and is still available to us. Not all groups or even most might be viable but those that are, and some can be, will be models to us all.

How now to turn the attention of our neighbours away from the distance? What sort of crisis can foster community without destroying its remnants?

I have been fortunate to know people raised tribally and have seen how their attention is totally focused on their immediate environment. How they ignore those that try to drag their attention away to the distant.  Stars are small, on the inside of the ball in which they live, not properties of the boundary-less infinite.

Love your quotes, especially Oscar.

Don

___________________________________________

"And those that create out of the holocaust of their inheritance, anything more than a convenient self-made tomb, shall be known as survivors" from a Keith Jarrett record cover.

strabes's picture
strabes
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 7 2009
Posts: 1032
Re: Meaning and Morality

Plickety, when I refer to rationalism, I'm talking about its meaning in philosophy/theology circles:  the philosophy that reason TRUMPS everything including our felt experience; the gut, the emotional, the holistic experience is not to be trusted; it needs to be subordinated to reason.  Reason becomes the ultimate norm against which to measure EVERYTHING.

I think that's fundamentally flawed.  What do we do with love, music, religion, art, wonder, sitting in grass watching clouds move, etc?  In pure rationalism, all these are a waste...people should be more productive with their time.  The 20th century is a reflection of philosophical rationalism...governments dedicated to various forms of rationalism killed 150,000,000.  It was efficient.  It said there's no meaning except reason.  It said we can't "feel" for the dead because that doesn't make sense...we must evaluate our policies and actions rationally.  For example it allowed Stalin to get away with saying something CRAZY like "look at the per capita benefits of killing off 20,000,000, the people remaining had that much more to consume, resources became that much less constrained."  It allowed people to accept the ABSURD EVIL of what Hitler claimed "look at the benefit of killing 10,000,000 Jews in the holocaust...we pushed the world toward a more perfectly evolved superior race."  Rationalism allows for the acceptance of eugenics and other evils (at least in my book they are evils). Rationalism doesn't really allow for the word evil...there's no such thing.  It even allowed for the acceptance of a global banking cartel, like the one we have today, that treats as many people as it possibly can as a source of potential revenue, eliminating the core beauty in the soul of all humans.  

Foreigners I've known visiting the US find it to be coarse, non-relational, focused on the rational, focused on efficiency, oppressive, emotionally dead and/or neurotic.  That general feel is a result of the dominance of rationalism.  We certainly do love efficiency in the US.  When we ask "how ya doin?" we don't really want an answer.  We want to hear "fine."  Nor do people really want to give an answer beyond "fine"...there's not enough time.  We're supposed to suppress the real answer and move on with productive work.  The first thing americans ask people at parties is "what do you do?"  When business people network at happy hour, it's not about truly knowing the other, it's about finding a way to use the other for monetary purposes.   We say "love ya man" which devalues the word.  Most languages have a separate word for a loved one, an intimately known person, vs. a stranger or an acquaintance. That's too inefficient for us.  That is all a social consequence of adopting the worldview of philosophical rationalism.  

Pure rationalism doesn't allow for you and Don's and my affinity for local community.  It only allows for it if we prove that it's the economically efficient model.  Greater love, depth, connection, joy don't count as justification for desire for community. 

Pure rationalism doesn't even allow for love.  It's considered an untrusted emotion based on some neurological neediness built into the brain.  Rationalists want to overcome it, tame it, control it with the mind.  What a dead life!  Laughing

All this is why the postmodern movement started.  People saw the meaninglessness of modernism, Englightenment rationalism, and wanted to reclaim a higher order, a higher meaning.  They wanted to reclaim their bodies, their emotions, their inner sense that there is a higher purpose.

 

 

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Meaning and Morality

I think that an economic and political crisis, where goods and service shortages occur and the government systems are unable to assist or protect the citizens; may finally jolt most people into recognizing the error of putting their faith in a large, indirect "overseer". This would be the true beginning of a social revolution -- or I guess more accurately "devolution" since we would be returning to our small community ways. I wish I had an answer for how we could prepare others for the inevitable, and how to contain the crisis to sub-critical levels. The first is pretty impossible if the people don't want to believe, and the second is beyond our control on a large-scale... although we may be able to shelter ourselves and our community on a small-scale through preparation and interdependence.

Humans are such funny creatures that I don't think any one model will work for all communities. So much depends on the actual participants and the unique combination of beliefs, ideas, skills, talents and resources.  What might work in Iceland probably wouldn't work in New Mexico and so forth. Strangely, there are many examples of methods (from history, the hippies, other cultures) that could work with a little customization for your unqiue circumstances... but you need to have a visionary type(s) who is good at figuring all that stuff out to apply the different principles and methods into a functional plan for a specific group. And then everyone else has to 1) trust that person's plan, 2) believe that person's logic, 3) agree with the plan, and 4) be willing to do their part of the plan.  That's a pretty tall order considering that most visionary/idealistic "look at the stars" types are usually scoffed at and mistrusted by the "feet firmly planted on the ground" types. A successful community needs both types and they have to respect each other. 

strabes's picture
strabes
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 7 2009
Posts: 1032
Re: Meaning and Morality

I LOVE TO HEAR from both Plickety and Don your desire for local community.  I think that's a deep loss in our society. Therefore, I think it's a deep loss in our individual hearts...our hearts so desire deep community connection.  If we'd only stop for a moment our pursuit of a W2 and listen to them!  This economic collapse will undoubtedly give us more opportunity to listen.  (note I spent too much time in the world of particularly addicted W2 chasers so I'm probably more jaded about this than most people...I'm sure most of you do take the time to listen to your hearts so I don't mean to impugn you).

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Meaning and Morality
strabes wrote:

Plickety, when I refer to rationalism, I'm talking about its meaning in philosophy/theology circles:  the philosophy that reason TRUMPS everything including our felt experience; the gut, the emotional, the holistic experience is not to be trusted; it needs to be subordinated to reason.  Reason becomes the ultimate norm against which to measure EVERYTHING.

I think that's fundamentally flawed.  What do we do with love, music, religion, art, wonder, sitting in grass watching clouds move, etc?  In pure rationalism, all these are a waste...people should be more productive with their time.  The 20th century is a reflection of philosophical rationalism...governments dedicated to various forms of rationalism killed 150,000,000.  It was efficient.  It said there's no meaning except reason.  It said we can't "feel" for the dead because that doesn't make sense...we must evaluate our policies and actions rationally.  For example it allowed Stalin to get away with saying something CRAZY like "look at the per capita benefits of killing off 20,000,000, the people remaining had that much more to consume, resources became that much less constrained."  It allowed people to accept the ABSURD EVIL of what Hitler claimed "look at the benefit of killing 10,000,000 Jews in the holocaust...we pushed the world toward a more perfectly evolved superior race."  Rationalism allows for the acceptance of eugenics and other evils (at least in my book they are evils). Rationalism doesn't really allow for the word evil...there's no such thing.  It even allowed for the acceptance of a global banking cartel, like the one we have today, that treats as many people as it possibly can as a source of potential revenue, eliminating the core beauty in the soul of all humans.  

Foreigners I've known visiting the US find it to be coarse, non-relational, focused on the rational, focused on efficiency, oppressive, emotionally dead and/or neurotic.  That general feel is a result of the dominance of rationalism.  We certainly do love efficiency in the US.  When we ask "how ya doin?" we don't really want an answer.  We want to hear "fine."  Nor do people really want to give an answer beyond "fine"...there's not enough time.  We're supposed to suppress the real answer and move on with productive work.  The first thing americans ask people at parties is "what do you do?"  When business people network at happy hour, it's not about truly knowing the other, it's about finding a way to use the other for monetary purposes.   We say "love ya man" which devalues the word.  Most languages have a separate word for a loved one, an intimately known person, vs. a stranger or an acquaintance. That's too inefficient for us.  That is all a social consequence of adopting the worldview of philosophical rationalism.  

Pure rationalism doesn't allow for you and Don's and my affinity for local community.  It only allows for it if we prove that it's the economically efficient model.  Greater love, depth, connection, joy don't count as justification for desire for community. 

Pure rationalism doesn't even allow for love.  It's considered an untrusted emotion based on some neurological neediness built into the brain.  Rationalists want to overcome it, tame it, control it with the mind.  What a dead life!  Laughing

All this is why the postmodern movement started.  People saw the meaninglessness of modernism, Englightenment rationalism, and wanted to reclaim a higher order, a higher meaning.  They wanted to reclaim their bodies, their emotions, their inner sense that there is a higher purpose.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that Pure Rationalism - polarized rationalism - is bad and does not function, as all too clearly illustrated throughout history. However, I also believe that Pure Spirituality - polarized morality - is bad and does not function, as all to clearly illustrated throughout history also.  BALANCE between the Rational and the Spiritual is necessary for ideal functioning. If we dispense with all Rationalism, then we reduce ourselves to things like the Inquisition and the Salem Witch Hunts. If we dispense with all Spiritualism, then we reduce ourselves to biological machines whose only function is to "correct the ineeficiencies of Nature".

You must use both lenses to see clearly... unfortunately most of Western Civilization and a great number of emerging countries are predominantly looking through the Rational lens, while other Third World countries are predominantly looking through the Spirituality lens.  There are very few countries/regions/communities that seemed to have "evolved" enough to look through both lenses simultaneously.  I hope that whatever crisis is to come, it at least teaches us humans to humbly use both lenses and not to polarize again.

SkylightMT's picture
SkylightMT
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 30 2008
Posts: 125
Re: Meaning and Morality

I don't believe morality has to be limited by group size. Its not an inherent characteristic of morality to only be present in small groups. Its easier to have empathy for people you know, in a small community, and to not wish them ill, and to want to help them. But that is not the only way to have a moral civilization, nor does small community guarantee a moral civilization.

I've been a gamer for years. I played Ultima Online when it was the only MMORPG. Back then, Ultima Online consisted of a gaming world where you (your avatar) could choose to be many different things: a warrior, a merchant, a craftsman, an alchemist, a wizard... You could work mining ore and selling armor until you had enough money to buy a house, if you wanted. In Ultima Online, you could kill other players (their avatars). You could steal from them, and you could pickpocket their house key, thus stealing their house. You could become rich this way. When my female avatar went hiking through the wilderness, away from the safety of the town guards, it would not be uncommon for her to be threatened with rape (even though it was impossible to actually do such a thing in the game), be attacked by bands of roving thugs (other online players ganging up), have her possessions stolen, and be attacked and sometimes killed. It was a vicious world. I quit.

Then Everquest came out, and I played that. The game code did not allow one person to steal from another, nor own property such as a house, or kill another player (unless that other player consented to duel). Players on EQ grouped together to help each other. Players were generally kind to each other. Many players gave my newbie character gear, or a few coins, or buffs to help her fight NPCs.

The way these two games were designed - the way these two virtual worlds were coded - changed how players interacted with one another. One took your average human gamer and turned him into an asshole; the other took your average human gamer and turned him into a saint.

In both games, there were always a few players who were not influenced by the nature of the game. There were avatars in Ultima Online who were helpful, thoughtful, and generous. There were players in EQ who tried to train monsters onto you to kill you. In online gaming, just like real life, there are a few people - a minority - whose morality is characterlogical - people who behaved according to their personal ethics regardless of the situation they find themselves in.  But the morality of the majority of humans seems to not be innate, but instead dependent on their environment and situation. Thus did civilization decide we needed rules and laws.

What contributes to the average person's ethical behavior? Well, psychologists and philosophers have been trying to answer this question for ages. My personal beliefs are that it has to do with two things. The first is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. As each level of need is met, a person's ethical behavior increases. If all needs are met, a person displays consistently thoughtful, empathic, and ethical behavior. The fewer needs that are met, the more unethical behavior is likely to displayed. (Except for that minority group for whom ethical behavior seems to be innate).

1. Physiological: breathing, water, sleep, food, etc.

2. Safety and Security needs: Personal security, financial security, health and well-being, safety net against illness and accidents

3. Social needs: Friendship, intimacy, family

4. Esteem needs: Being respected, having self-respect, etc

5. Self-actualization: morality, creativity, lack of prejudice, etc.

The second thing that I believe ethical behavior has to do with is borrowed from behaviorism - the environment needs to be set up so that it is not more reinforcing to do the wrong thing than it is to do the right thing, and so that hurting others does not result in a higher degree of personal gain than helping others does. The behavioral aspects of our culture and society that work against moral development begin very early in life:

1. In a group of toddlers, the child who is the most aggressive or loudest tends to get the most attention. Daycares and preschools can't help but produce this outcome because there are generally too many children to teachers. If instead of responding to the highly assertive child who has no trouble voicing his needs and desires, attention was shifted to the ones playing cooperatively, sharing their toys, and showing concern for others while at the same time aggressive behavior was mainly ignored, it would change the contingencies to be more likely to elicit behaviors leading to the development of ethical behavior.

2. In school, grades and sports are competitive - children are recognized for being better than other children. This means that a child either has to work really hard to improve his skill and find himself hoping that other children don't do as well as he. This is the antithesis of empathy and ethics. If instead, each child's educational plan was completely individualized for him, with no comparison to other children, there would be no need to hope that the other child failed so you would look better.

3. Anytime behavior change is elicited through the use of punishment rather than reward, it creates self-esteem issues (Maslow again), avoidant behavior rather than problem-solving, and if used too often, a worldview that life is all about suffering and that other people are out to get you. Its hard to find compassion and empathy under those conditions. What if a police officer pulled you over and instead of giving you a ticket for speeding, handed you a $50.00 bill and said, "nice driving! It sure makes my job easier when I see people helping keep the roads safe." I'd be willing to venture that there would be more people thinking about contributing to the safety of the roads rather than wondering if there's a cop behind the next billboard and thinking about what speed they can get away with.

4. What if, instead of being employed in a place where the boss controlled your behavior by handing out written warnings or calling you into the office for a talk, you knew you would always have a job, and your employer worked with you to find your strengths and interests so that you were at maximum productivity and job satisfaction.

As to the ethics involved in our current economic condition, and specifically, whether its ethical or unethical to walk away from your mortgage, I find these quotes relevant:

Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.  ~Albert Einstein

If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.  ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849
 

Human history begins with man's act of disobedience which is at the very same time the beginning of his freedom and development of his reason.  ~Erich Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion

 

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Meaning and Morality
strabes wrote:

I LOVE TO HEAR from both Plickety and Don your desire for local community.  I think that's a deep loss in our society. Therefore, I think it's a deep loss in our individual hearts...our hearts so desire deep community connection.  If we'd only stop for a moment our pursuit of a W2 and listen to them!  This economic collapse will undoubtedly give us more opportunity to listen.  (note I spent too much time in the world of particularly addicted W2 chasers so I'm probably more jaded about this than most people...I'm sure most of you do take the time to listen to your hearts so I don't mean to impugn you).

Oh Strabes, I seem to exist just to throw wrenches in your cogs.  I don't have a deep intrinsic/emotional/spiritual need to feel a community/interpersonal connection. My decision to be part of a small functioning community is purely rational -- it greatly increases our chances of survival if we band together. I don't necessarily feel that my rational motives are any less valid or "good" than someone who is doing it out of a deep need for connection because I do plan to give back to the community what I can if they'll accept it. I feel a deep need to be connected to the Earth and the Natural Cycle but not to Humans or Society. Of course, I am austitic and an extreme introvert... so that might explain my feelings on the situation.

One thing that I found very helpful in my research on and visitation of intentional communities/communes is understanding Basic Temperament (MBTI). It helped me understand the very different motivations and methods of interaction and decision-making that people have. That's one of the reasons I mentioned the difference between the planners and the doers and how they need to respect each other. Both my husband and I are predominantly planners, of different types, who are not motivated by external forces (i.e. not extroverts). That doesn't mean we are incapable of doing or getting along with outhers, we're just better at planning and being on our own. Most communties only need a small amount of planners - roughly 25% of the population, which is conveniently the population distribution of those temperament types - but significantly more doers because it takes body power to do and brain power to plan. But, anyway, I digress... the reason why I felt so uncomfortable in most of the communes I visited was the sooo many people were and expected everyone to be an extrovert. Most of the communes that failed did so because they had too many thinkers and not enough doers... because it was the thinkers that first realized the need for the change from status quo in most cases. A functioning community needs both thinkers and doers, and has to be able to tolerate the quirky introvert who is a "look but don't touch" type of person.

pir8don's picture
pir8don
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 30 2008
Posts: 456
Re: Meaning and Morality

Hi Strabes - whats W2? Is it something local to US? I'm in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Google search didn't help.

Don

pir8don's picture
pir8don
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 30 2008
Posts: 456
Re: Meaning and Morality

Hi Strabes

In my case; I think/feel a strong need of community and coooperation. I expect that good part of that need is spiritual but am perhaps too trained to be able recognise it in myself. 

Hi  PlicketyCat

I don't mean that there might be a single model for all but rather viable groups may become models for others that recognise similar cultural or other characteristics in common.

Hi SkylightMT.

While it is true that morality is not just found in human scale communities it is also true, from a science perspective of the individual, that selfless and empathetic behaviour must be learnt whereas selfish behaviour is inate. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3386

There are many other reasons to favour human scale communities other than just morality.  But if morality is learnt then it must be taught (to children in families and adults). And to be taught there must be an environment conducive to both the teaching and the learning.

While it is possible to conceive of a western society in which moral behaviour is encouraged, we must rely on those with the power in our present society to enact such a system as almost all our connections are heirachical. Important people show no signs of encouraging cooperation. Waiting for them to demonstrate such signs or to try and influence their beliefs both seem to be fruitless endevours. Rather than wait for the big fix that never comes we might be able to apply a variety of little fixes for ourselves. 

I too would love to see the changes in bahavour of which you speek but have lost faith. I think that in large groups we are simply governed and governable. I don't rule out the possibility of a better society but do not think powerful people will implement or even allow one.

The only place in which we can act effectively is our immediate environment and to do that it needs to have almost all our attention. Its resources also need to constrain our numbers. A radically different model for both our behaviour and attention than our present one.

Don

_______________________________________________________

Diversity is our greatest strength, complacency our greatest weakness.

strabes's picture
strabes
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 7 2009
Posts: 1032
Re: Meaning and Morality

Sorry Don, and others outside the US...W2 is the official form at the end of the year which tells the government how much income we made so they know how much to take from us in taxes.  Laughing

I just meant we're too busy chasing paychecks and maximizing income to take much time throughout each day to listen to the rhythm of our hearts.  And I must say I'm not being fair to the millions of americans who don't do that.  I came from an industry that does chase income to an unhealthy degree, so I'm painting with too broad a brush.  But, the dominant force in american society seems to be to do exactly that...the system is designed that way.

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Meaning and Morality

Hi SkylightMT - I do agree that reinforcing positive behaviors more than reinforcing negative behaviors is the key to Ideal Civilization (humans playing fairly, being helpful and not being assholes).  I wasn't implying that moral conduct could only be acheived in small populations, more that consensus could only be acheived in small populations.  I'm sure that the a meeting of "tribes" could occur civily for things that affected a larger area than just a single community... but such a construct would not be effective for governing the smaller communities, and that's often very reliant on the individuals in the community and the particular resources and condition of that community.

I worry just a little bit about "morality" because this conecpt is highly subjective based on culture. A perfect example of this is the researcher who asked a cannibal whether it was wrong to eat people, to which the cannibal replied "Enemy not people."   I'd like to believe that, if left to their own devices, all humans everywhere would come up with the same (or at least similar enough) benevolent code of ethics and sense of morality... I'm just not sure if that is a realistic expectation. If you think about it, if benign morality was something "spontaneous" then why have we evolved with all the negative behaviors that we do have?   But hey, if you find a planet or island that was full of spontaneously benevolent humans, I'd be more than happy to move there and support it!

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Meaning and Morality
pir8don wrote:

The only place in which we can act effectively is our immediate environment and to do that it needs to have almost all our attention. Its resources also need to constrain our numbers. A radically different model for both our behaviour and attention than our present one.

I agree, it's hard to keep track of what you're doing if you're focusing all your attention elsewhere, and we need to constrain our population to the sustainable resources of our location.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments