Are people more or less moral today than in the past?

Are people more or less moral today than in the past?
Cadmus
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Posted Feb 5, 2009 - 1:10 PM:
Subject: Are people more or less moral today than in the past?
I can respect that this question is often asked, and has often been touched upon in many quarters. However, do you believe that we are more moral than, less moral than , or equally as moral as past generations? I am not asking whether or not we have more societal freedoms (women's right to vote, manumission of slaves, etc.) than the past. Rather, are people, as individuals, less moral today? That is to say, abiding by admirable human virtues (chastity, honesty, loyalty, etc). Or to be more explicit, are we better off in the sectors of crime, sexual habits, familial solidarity, helping the poor and oppressed classes, etc.

I hope that this doesn't read as a rant.

Cheers.
radiohead269
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Posted Feb 5, 2009 - 1:12 PM:

Without scientific data, I'd guess about the same.
Cadmus
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Posted Feb 5, 2009 - 1:20 PM:

radiohead269 wrote:
Without scientific data, I'd guess about the same.


I'm afraid that this lies outside of science. Science has its purpose, but you cannot look to science for everything. I'm terribly sorry.
radiohead269
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Posted Feb 5, 2009 - 1:21 PM:

Cadmus wrote:


I'm afraid that this lies outside of science. Science has its purpose, but you cannot look to science for everything. I'm terribly sorry.


In that case, I still say it's probably about the same.I don't think human-being-moral has changed at all.
uBeR
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Posted Feb 5, 2009 - 7:07 PM:

If you're speaking from a descriptive ethics perspective, it's very hard to measure this. How do you propose we measure this? Simply by asking if people have become more chaste, honest, and loyal? That's quite hard to determine. Murder, poverty, injustice, hunger, disease, strife, genocide, war: these things have not escaped mankind. They are very much our reality today. Whether or not we are better off thus far, it is abundantly clear that we, as a species, have a long way to go.
ducttape
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Posted Feb 6, 2009 - 5:30 PM:

as uBeR said, its very hard to measure. Crime rates? beyond more than a century or two ago the figures fade to oblivion. Besides, I think that we'll agree that ethics has not much to do with criminal activity per se. I would hazard a guess to say that people are at least as law-abiding as they ever have been since we have honed our ability to catch the perpetrators.

So all we have to go on is complete and utter hearsay. And I do not think that a letter describing a friend as "loyal" can be quantified. This kind of evidence is the closest we have. As radiohead269 said, we have no data.

I would guess - guess - that humans are humans, that we are subject to the same pushes and pulls of negative and positive emotions such as greed, love, etc that we were 500 years ago. So I think that on a personal moral level, I would guess as radiohead269 did, that we are about as ethical as always. If anything, I would imagine we are more ethical, in that we determine where are morals lie more carefully, since today we hotly debate and become opinionated about borderline issues such as abortion, euthenasia, vegetarianism... being that today the average person is relatively freed from our past chains of religion and religious morality which only really serves to dull and pervert our own innate sense of morality.


I must dispute the things you consider to be ethical. On what grounds do you claim being chaste is more *ethical* than being promiscuous? Is crime a good indicator of *ethical* behaviour - do our laws correctly reflect human ethics, and do you agree that there are cases where laws (such as the high incidence of witches in the middle ages) should be broken to maintain an ethical behaviour? And familial solidarity is very dependent on the family you are talking about.



Finally,

Cadmus wrote:
I'm afraid that this lies outside of science. Science has its purpose, but you cannot look to science for everything. I'm terribly sorry.


I disagree completely. Logical, reasonable thought - *the scientific method* - is the only way humans can ever discover truth. Any truth. Not only must one look to science for everything, any other method of discovering truth merely distorts and perverts it. If we all just say "I think we are more moral than before" - we are no closer to the truth than we were at the beginning of this thread. That is all.
Y3K
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Posted Feb 6, 2009 - 8:03 PM:
Subject: The Moralimiter Scale
What you must trust in in order to take a side in this debate is that humans have, over the entire course of history, kept their morality at a level that, on a scale of bad one to good ten, would be between 5 and 8...or something. During the Holocaust, an evil and demented man, whom some have called the second antichrist (the first being Napoleon Bonaparte) tortured and murdered his fellow men for reasons only known to his twisted little head. On the other hand, a majority of countries in Europe, with the inclusion of America, fought bravely to bring down this man. Other countries without the resources to fight cheered on the Allies. Hitler represented a black hole in the time-space continuum of morality, whereas the Allied forces represented a bunch of little white holes, balancing out or completely decimating the destructive force that was Hitler.

...On the other hand, with at least one country involved in some insurgency at any point in time (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Republic of the Congo, U.S.A., British Empire, Japan, Germany, Italy, Mongolia, Germany, U.S.A., Germany, just to name a few offenders) it could be said that humans are immoral, and have had a rating of about 2-5, or, dare I say it, 1 on the moralimiter scale.
swstephe
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Posted Feb 6, 2009 - 9:04 PM:

First, you have to define *which* morality you are talking about. There are many schools, different degrees of absolutism and relativism. In modern times, we look back on the Rennaisance as a high point in morality, but the church thought just the opposite. You might as well talk about morality in the context of its culture and times, which is the same as asking, "to what degree does a culture reflect its own values". That is why it might seem like "the same". Modern times have emphasized the value of hedonism and materialism, and our actions reflect those values. So, if you are a hedonist and materialist, this is the golden age, like no time before it. For religious fundamentalists, this is the worst time in history. Even the so-called negative aspects: modern cultures tend to glorify and romanticize violence, so our times reflect those violent attitudes quite well. We might say peace is more moral than war, but since "getting our way" is more important than "being seen as weak", we are really just contradicting our values by making an appeal to others.
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Posted Feb 10, 2009 - 12:47 PM:

I would say no and that as a species we have little knowledge of the self. It's very important to know what the consequences are for your actions to really know if youre doing yourself a favor or other people a favor. I think this recession is teaching people that what is good for even yourself might end up being detrimental to yourself and other people in the long run. For the last 80 years we've been too busy worrying about what other people think of us and where we are in relation to our neighbour, and we dont understand our feelings that are to do with self worth. We as a species take action to change whats on the outside to fit our emotional needs, we don't do enough evaluation on if those beliefs are justified in the first place to be worthy to base action from.

We aren't very good at diagnosing things yet either as this recession has proven. It's been a heads down, eyes on the prize last 80 years. I bring these points up to answer your question because I don't think you can have morality without understanding. And we lack the means and capacity to understand currently.

I think the level of morality and happiness can be brought up once we clear up the problem of ignorance.

Edited by klashi on Feb 10, 2009 - 12:52 PM
Cadmus
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Posted Feb 10, 2009 - 11:43 PM:

I am grateful for everyone's response, and regret that I have been unable to respond until the present hour.

First, I would like to respond to ducttape's claim that,

ducttape wrote:
Logical, reasonable thought - *the scientific method* - is the only way humans can ever discover truth. Any truth. Not only must one look to science for everything, any other method of discovering truth merely distorts and perverts it. If we all just say "I think we are more moral than before" - we are no closer to the truth than we were at the beginning of this thread. That is all.


If one were to assess the behaviours of a populace, as related by a loyal historian (bearing some natural bias, as it is difficult for us to wholly denude ourselves of all bias), and reflect on the behaviours of the people at present -- thus contrasting the two --, how is this scientific? Is this not rather something that one intuits from what is naturally thought good or evil?

I understand that no hard evidence exists for bygone eras, granted the records (if they existed) have been destroyed. Therefore, it is necessary for us to jettison science and utilise our faculties to the best of our ability by evaluating the history, and positing. This is not scientific.

In regard to swstephe's comment, I did not clarify which ethical school I was referring to, insofar as I thought it evident that I was speaking of norms (standard, Occidental values that have existed for the past 200 years). And I believe it was evident that I was not isolating a Cyrenaic school as an ethical paradigm. However, you are in the right: perhaps I should have classified. Then again, I find that a forum is a fairly informal place, and did not take the time to do so.

This was simply something which I had decided to ask 'out of the blue' and the answer I received was much as I had suspected.

In response to uBeR :
How do you propose we measure this?


If something is incommensurable, does that mean that it must be abandoned? We can never even condescend to speculate?

We can assess that the Romans were more or less immoral than another era by evaluating the history (also stressing that we are speculating and it is but a crude evaluation).

Cheers.

[EDIT] : In brief, I was seeking for speculation, not definitive proof. I should also make it plain that I do not claim to know which era is best, though it was merely something that I was curious to see speculated.

Edited by Cadmus on Feb 10, 2009 - 11:58 PM
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