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Forum LockedIs Morality an Open and Closed Matter?

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Post Options Post Options   Quote coberst Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter?
    Posted: 22-Apr-2009 at 13:33

Is Morality an Open and Closed Matter?

 

I suspect most of us would agree that principles of morality can and do legitimately vary from one nation to another.

 

Within a nation would we also agree that principles of morality can and do legitimately vary from one political party to another?  Would we also agree that such variation is legitimate from one state to another; or perhaps from one city to another or from one family to another?

 

Is there a universal morality that overrides all community boundaries?

 

In his essay Open and Closed Morality as published in the book of essays The Morality of Politics W. H. Walsh has written about the difficult and elusive concept of an ‘open and closed morality’.

 

“You have a right to remain silent.”  I guess all Americans who have reached the age of seven have heard this expression many times on TV.  I also expect that all adult Americans agree that our nation was founded on the principle that all citizens have rights.  Human rights are written into our constitution.

 

‘Right’ and ‘good’ are important moral concepts.  Those who believe that all humans have certain rights are convinced that these rights supersede any consideration of the good.  In other words, it is believed by some that humans, qua human, have certain inalienable rights that cannot be denied even in the interest of the good.  These rights are considered to be universal and thus applicable to all humans wither they are members of my community or not.

 

Those who hold the existence of such universal moral principles are considered to have an “open morality” while those who believe that such universal rights do not exist and only the good determines the moral are considered to have a “closed morality”.

 

Walsh contends that those with the conviction of a closed morality “For them morality is, first and foremost, an affair internal to a particular community rather than a phenomenon covering the whole of mankind…[this individual] wants to make his own society as good as he can, rather than to construct some finally valuable Utopia.”  The individual with a closed morality insist that the virtues on which they “insist are in the first instance communal virtues, and the vices they seek to avoid are modes of conduct which would disrupt socials life as such”.

 

Those with an open morality hold that moral law “holds without distinction of persons…privilege and preferential treatment have no place in morality, which is a sphere of pure principle…that the moral law commands for its own sake and not for the sake of any good its observance produces or might be expected to produce, whether private or public…man’s only overriding loyalty is to the moral law itself.”

 

Those with a closed morality are convinced that there are no rights, there is only the good.  Any act that is beneficial to the community, i.e. is a common good, can be judged as moral or immoral based upon the consequences of the action.

 

I consider myself to have an open morality; what do you consider yourself to be, are you open or closed?

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Apr-2009 at 14:41
A bit lost here. Could you go into more detail as to the differences between the two moralities?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Apr-2009 at 14:42
It's not as easy as that.
 
First of all you need a clearer delineation of the difference between 'right' and 'good'. Most people who believe in the concept of universal human rights believe that promoting/guaranteeing those rights is fostering the good. (You also need a clearer delineation of the difference between the meaning of 'right' in 'it is right to treat all humans equally' and 'Free movement is a universal human right'.)
 
As a couple of other reactive comments, 'nation' is an inappropriate term here, since there's no reason to treat 'nations' (insofar as they are even definable) any differently from any other groups. Even if you substitute 'group' for 'nation' you still need to establish why the good of the group should be treated any differently from the good of the individual. Does the good of the group mean anything different from the good of the individual(s) belonging to it? Was Rousseau right? Is the general will different from the will of the generality?
 
For the answers to these and many other questions watch for the next episode of the long-running serial 'Can it be right to be bad and good to be wrong?' You'll be disappointed...again.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote coberst Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Apr-2009 at 19:30

 

 

The present question regarding the nature and morality of torture offers us an excellent opportunity to advance the level of sophistication of our understanding of morality.  We learn best when we are questioning a matter that is meaningful to us. 

 

 I was eleven years old when Germany and Japan surrendered and WWII was finally over.  One searing memory of this war were the stories I read and the movies I watched during and after the war regarding the torture and general brutality that the German Gestapo inflicted upon the people they conquered.  I do not know why this left such a strong impression on me but it certainly did.

 

Coincidentally I have been studying “Moral Imagination” by Mark Johnson.  This is the same Johnson who coauthored the book “Philosophy in the Flesh” with George Lakoff.  I have decided to apply the theories Johnson presents in his book as a means to illuminate this matter regarding the morality of water torture used by my country in our struggle with Islamic extremists.

 

Moral understanding is like any other kind of experience; when we examine a domain of experience that relates to human relationships we must focus our attention on human understanding it self.  If we do so we discover that human understanding is fundamentally imaginative in character.

 

“Many of our most basic concepts have considerable internal structure that cannot be accounted for by the classical theory of concepts as defined by necessary and sufficient features…The primary forms of moral imagination are concepts with prototype structure, semantic frames, conceptual metaphors, and narratives.”

 

To become morally insightful we must become knowledgeable of these imaginative structures. First, we must give up our illusions about absolute moral codes and also our radical moral subjectivism.  Second we must refine our “perception of character traits and situations and of developing empathetic imagination to take up the part of others.”

 

Empathy is a character trait that can be cultivated by habit and will.  Sympathy is somewhat of an automatic response. 

 

When we see a mother weeping over the death of her child caused by a suicide bomber we feel immediate sympathy.  Often we will come to tears.  But we do not feel anything like that for the mother who may be weeping over the death of her child who was the bomber.

 

To understand the bomber we must use empathy.  We attempt through imagination and reason to create a situation that will allow us to understand why this was done.  This is a rational means to understand someone who acts different than we would.

 

“Empathy is the idea that the vital properties which we experience in or attribute to any person or object outside ourselves are the projections of our own feelings and thoughts.”

 

The subject viewing an object of art experiences emotional attitudes leading to feelings that are attributes of qualities in the art object thus aesthetic pleasure may be considered as “objectified self-enjoyment in which the subject and object are fused.”

 

The social sciences adopt a similar concept called ‘empathic understanding’, which refers to the deliberate attempt to identify with another person and accounting for that persons actions by “our own immediate experience of our motivations and attitudes in similar circumstances as we remember or imagine them”.  This idea refers to a personal resonance between two people.

 

“What is crucial is that our moral reasoning can be constrained by the metaphoric and other imaginative structures shared within our culture and moral tradition, yet it can also be creative in transforming our moral understanding, our identity, and the course of our lives.  Without this kind of imaginative reasoning we would lead dreadfully impoverished lives.  We would be reduced to repeating habitual actions, driven by forces and contingencies beyond our control.”

 

Can you imagine an individual who is a hard headed realist and very accomplished at empathy sanctioning the use of water torture on anyone, friend or enemy?

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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Apr-2009 at 20:45
Originally posted by coberst

 

 

The present question regarding the nature and morality of torture offers us an excellent opportunity to advance the level of sophistication of our understanding of morality.  We learn best when we are questioning a matter that is meaningful to us. 

 

 I was eleven years old when Germany and Japan surrendered and WWII was finally over. 

Hey, I was eleven when Germany did and twelve when Japan did, being born on July 4.
 
Where were you during the war?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote coberst Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Apr-2009 at 22:19
Originally posted by gcle2003

Originally posted by coberst

 

 

The present question regarding the nature and morality of torture offers us an excellent opportunity to advance the level of sophistication of our understanding of morality.  We learn best when we are questioning a matter that is meaningful to us. 

 

 I was eleven years old when Germany and Japan surrendered and WWII was finally over. 

Hey, I was eleven when Germany did and twelve when Japan did, being born on July 4.
 
Where were you during the war?

 

Living in a small town in Oklahoma.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Cparkinson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-May-2009 at 23:51
hello all,
Some good views expressed here----thanks for making me think.

(To become morally insightful we must become knowledgeable of these imaginative structures. First, we must give up our illusions about absolute moral codes and also our radical moral subjectivism.  Second we must refine our “perception of character traits and situations and of developing empathetic imagination to take up the part of others.”

Empathy is a character trait that can be cultivated by habit and will.  Sympathy is somewhat of an automatic response. ")

Yes, I agree that empathy can be harder to express than sympathy, but what about the idea that we likely have more empathy with someone or some subject we know well? Morals do differ from one culture to the next, where language can also be a barrier.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Zaitsev Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-May-2009 at 01:23
In referencing the first post, I feel that many of those "opposing views" are hardly mutually exclusive and that the concept of morality is far too complex to classify into two opposing trains of thought. I believe that, as gcle said, those that seek to impose the laws of morality generally believe that they are, indeed, seeking to do an overall good.

Personally I feel I cannot classify myself into either category. To a certain extent I believe in upholding a moral code. An example would be torture. While I believe that it is POSSIBLE that torture can result in something positive, I believe the act itself to be a breach of human rights and something reprehensible. That said, it would seem to imply that I hold an "open" morality. However, in enforcing this moral code on torture, I feel that, over the course of time, standing against that action now will help to reduce instances of torture in the future, which is itself a 'good' result. I believe that once people start applying a subjective paradigm to the oppression of human rights, it is inevitable that this will result in further human rights abuses in the future.

So in considering this issue, I feel that I belong to both camps or neither. More accurately, however, I suppose I am rejecting the notion of such simplistic classification of a key human issue.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote malizai_ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-May-2009 at 18:43
A very important factor when discussing morality is the source of moral authority, as u will find through ur research a healthy correlation between the shift in source and the accompanying change in moral code.
 
The second expression, namely open molarity code, although seemingly egalitarian is actually more dictatorial. We also mustn't assume the two expressions to be the only moral viewpoints as Zaitsev has already pointed out.
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