A satisfying view on morality

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thinkingas's picture
A satisfying view on morality

Hi, I'm new to this whole forum thing so I hope I'm doing this right.
I've been an atheist for some time but the topic of morality and a solid foundation for it still trips me up (no a magic man living in the clouds doesn't help no matter how majestic his beard is). I know some people choose to define it as wellbeing and thats fine for the most part. But how does an individual's will tie into It? For instance if it's purely wellbeing then strictly speaking smoking would be immoral. Even if you only harm yourself.
Furthermore if you say and individuals will does tie in then to what extent and how does mental state of the individual tie into it? Obviously it would be moral to stop a mentally ill person aattempting self harm, but could addiction not be considered an altered mental state?
Another issue is that wellbeing is also not as concrete as it at first appears. For instance life being preferable to death. It appears to be a solid fact of wellbeing, but what about suffering? Regardless of your view on dignified death you must at least acknowlade that it is a topic of debate and yet this is a fundamental question on wellbeing.
The point being that the nuances seem to be far greater than having one objective rule that can be applied to any and all situations.
Bringing me to my last point on empathy, could you not use empathy as a basis for mortality? Could empathy as a common evolutionary trait not be objective? I feel like this also has its own host of problems which is why this is a topic I struggle with. Im hoping someone has some enlightening thoughts on this and if you read all this, thanks :)

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william erp's picture
immortality is irrelevant to

immortality is irrelevant to an athiest

chimp3's picture
If you smoke and it helps you

If you smoke and it helps you to relax , this can help! Smoking is in the long run a terrible habit. But chronic stress is also very bad.

algebe's picture
Do no harm. Treat others as

Do no harm. Treat others as you want them to treat you.

That just about covers it for me. These are ideals, and nobody's perfect. But I try.

As far as smoking is concerned, if you can do it without harming others, fine. But that's more difficult than you think. And from what smokers have told me, after you've been smoking for a while, the only benefit is to get your stress level down to what it would have been without the nicotine craving.

Sky Pilot's picture
thinking about stuff,

thinking about stuff,

How can I tell you how to live your life when I have problems living my own? If people are rational they will change their behaviors and outlook as they age and as their lives change. A person might do stupid things when he's young but he should become wiser as he grows older and he should reduce the number of stupid things that he does. But we read about people who remain stupid all of their lives. If you are rational you will try to improve. If you are stupid then there's no hope for you. That applies to everyone who has ever lived, is living, and who will live in the future. Try to avoid stupid people because they are dangerous.

Stk_100's picture
Dear thinking about stuff,

Dear thinking about stuff,

I read your post at least 3 times to completely understand the hidden questions.
Your post is not just a post, its a complete Book. It has many hidden topics which you want to talk about.

Let me try to convey my view point with complete sincerity.

I was once sitting with a White guy in my office's cafeteria. He raised a question about a dress which is very common in India. Its called "Sari". He said Indian women are very immoral because their belly is completely exposed when they wear Sari. Women should cover their belly part properly. In reply to this I said, what about mini-skirt and cleavage then? Shouldn't they cover their Chest and Legs properly.

So, the main point is " Who would define Morality? Basis, Fundamentals and Principals of Morality? "
My definition of Morality will be different from yours. You can completely disagree, from which I am comfortable with. Isn't it ?

You rightly pointed out about "Individual's Will". If we solely depend of individual's will then for a serial killer its completely moral for him to kill anyone he like and its a way achieving satisfaction for him/her.

A new born has a habit of putting everything in his mouth either good or bad, clean or filthy. Why do parents keep a close eye on their baby? Why don't they leave it on the Baby's Will ??

If you take smoking for example, If I am smoking and you are sitting next to me I am harming you according to Medical Science. Because when you inhale the polluted air, it can bring the gift of diseases for you.

So here we will have to agree that we need a concrete definition from Someone Acceptable on which we will have to show respect and acceptance. Otherwise we will keep on searching black pin in a dark room.

Coming to empathy part, I didn't understand your point completely. You said
" Bringing me to my last point on empathy, could you not use empathy as a basis for mortality? ".

Do you mean Morality? or you mean Mortality?

Let me know what is your view on this.

Sheldon's picture
Well being is part of the

Well being is part of the basis for our morals of course. Suffering is also a factor, that's to say our morality should endeavour to reduce if not remove suffering as much as possible. Our morality of course should encompass basic and universal human rights.

I like this http://www.secularism.org.uk/the-secular-charter.html

Secular morals are demonstrably superior to religious diktat.

1. There is no established state religion.
2. Everyone is equal before the law, regardless of religion, belief or non-belief.
3. The judicial process is not hindered or replaced by religious codes or processes.
4. Freedom of expression is not restricted by religious considerations.
5 Religion plays no role in state-funded education, whether through religious affiliation of schools, curriculum setting, organised worship, religious instruction, pupil selection or employment practices.
6. The state does not express religious beliefs or preferences and does not intervene in the setting of religious doctrine.
7. The state does not engage in, fund or promote religious activities or practices.
8. There is freedom of belief, non-belief and to renounce or change religion.
9. Public and publicly-funded service provision does not discriminate on grounds of religion, belief or non-belief.
10.. Individuals and groups are neither accorded privilege nor disadvantaged because of their religion, belief or non-belief.

Then there is Humanism


jonthecatholic's picture
Happy Valentines,

Happy Valentines,

I'd like to pick your brain about basing morality on reducing suffering. Would it then be morally acceptable to kill someone in their sleep? Like cancer patients who may endure a lot of suffering if they keep on living.

I don't want to argue. I just want to know how that kind of moral system works.

Sushisnake's picture
Hi JoC

Hi JoC

There are two possible scenarios and two possible answers:

1. The cancer sufferer has requested euthanasia. All legal and social obligations have been met and tbe individual is of sound mind and made the decision freely. ( I'm assuming rational, accessible, benevolent, civilised laws permitting euthanasia here, which most of us don't enjoy. ) The patient is physically unable to euthanise themself and has requested assisted dying. It is perfectly moral to euthanise the cancer sufferer when they are asleep. It is the humane, decent, responsible, law abiding and compassionate thing to do. However, it might be even better to wait until the cancer sufferer is awake and surrounded by loved ones so they can say their farewells and die in love's arms.

2. The cancer sufferer has not requested euthanasia. Murdering them in their sleep would be morally reprehensible. It would be murder, plain and simple.

See how it works? Secular humanists tend to rate free will very highly indeed, we just approach it a little differently to the theist. We put "first, do no harm" above " do what god says", everytime. We even put it above "do good".

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Sushisnake

@ Sushisnake

Are we long lost twins?

Sushisnake's picture


Tin-Man's picture


Damn, you are razor sharp.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ JoC

@ JoC

If there is written informed consent it would be the way I would be happy to go. My friends and family as witnesses should they so wish. I would consent to administer the drug for a close friend or family if they asked me.

What the religious do not seem to understand that there is no real morality without personal responsibility.

Where I would be very wary if is there were any religious involved as witnesses or administers of the drugs. They have never proved themselves to be trustworthy. They love being deceased estate beneficiaries.

Sushisnake's picture
" What the religious do not

" What the religious do not seem to understand that there is no real morality without personal responsibility."

Beautifully put. "Cause god says" ISN'T personal responsibility. It's obedience.

Sapporo's picture
If someone requested

If someone requested euthanasia, I'd find it difficult to carry that out, and may conclude that it causes more harm than good (The act of euthanazing others in such situations may be damaging to those who carry it out, for example). Ideally, I'd like several independent doctors to make that call.

David Killens's picture
As an atheist, I hold myself

As an atheist, I hold myself accountable for every decision I am involved in. Not only individually, but also on a group basis. For example, if my area had the death penalty, every time someone was executed, I would bear the responsibility for that person's demise.

I also hold to such principles as do no harm, and to place myself in the other person's position.

Practicing morality is not a binary action, nor is it simple. Every decision must be carefully thought through, taking into consideration all the factors. There is no simple rule book, and not all decisions please all parties or requirements.

Sapporo's picture
The basis of ethics (in my

The basis of ethics (in my view of course) should ideally be focussed on maximizing happiness while minimizing suffering. What is meant hy "happiness" and "suffering" is of course subjective. Indeed, there are many ideologies that actually treat suffering as desirable or necessary, and which tell you to shun pleasure.

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