Life Driven Purpose, pg 66

“Daniel Dennett, in Freedom Evolves, writes that it makes no difference whether our moral impulses are evolved or learned. “[T]he theory that explains morality … should be neutral with regard to whether our moral attitudes, habits, preferences, and proclivities are a product of genes or cultures.” I think this is true because culture itself is ultimately a product of evolution. Whether you think “instinct” is purely biological or a learned habit, or a combination of the two, it comes down to the same goal: the minimization of harm to biological organisms.”

–Dan Barker, Life Driven Purpose, pg 66

46 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – “Daniel Dennett, in Freedom Evolves, writes that it makes no difference whether our moral impulses are evolved or learned.

    It really does make a difference to the design of education programmes, when considering what can be learned and what can’t!

    Whether you think “instinct” is purely biological or a learned habit, or a combination of the two, it comes down to the same goal: the minimization of harm to biological organisms.”

    I’m not sure of the context of this, but there seems to be a lack of definition of “harm”, and of “biological organisms”.

    The operation of food-chains in nature, is an arms race between predator and prey, with “harm” to the losers in the race.

    Modern medicines in protecting humans (or domestic animals) from infections, causes serious “harm” to bacteria, while agriculture and urban development, does both necessary (to humans) “harm” to displaced wild ecosystems, and wider unintentional harm, by ignorance, thoughtlessness, greed, and carelessness!

  2. Whether you think “instinct” is purely biological or a learned habit,
    or a combination of the two, it comes down to the same goal: the
    minimization of harm to biological organisms.

    One just have to consider that some patterns of culture are harmful for individuals, for instance:

    http://epicureandculture.com/thailand-long-neck-women/

    and many more examples, just name it…

    Or, in antropological terms, we are more a product of culture than producers, so the culture of a group can shape individual minds so that cultural change does not occur at the speed of ligtht (well, concerning technology, yes it does), and there are mechanisms that keep tradition and avoid cultural change.

  3. By defintion culture stands for what is not inherited, but learnt through cultural transmition by mechanisms of socialization, so the sentence formulated

    “instinct” is purely biological or a learned habit

    Instinct is in a sense the opposite: what is innate (not learnt), no need to teach a baby suckling.

    I am capable of saying nonsense easily too.

  4. Just let me add that, at the same time, the paragraph seems very wise to me, How wise is this?

    I think this is true because culture itself is ultimately a product of
    evolution.

    Any way, really liked the paragraph.

  5. I think this is a case of someone banging the drum they own. Mr. Dennett’s is evolution. Whatever the source of morals, our moral culture can be improved through teaching and dialogue and the law. I tend to think that both culture and evolution have contributed to our morality (whatever that is, no one seems to be able to define it; I keep asking Christians what Christian morality is and none of them can answer).

  6. I don’t understand what mr. Dennett means by this

    it makes no difference whether our moral impulses are evolved or
    learned

    There was time when I read a lot on this site that human morality evolved. But now I am discovering that it isn’t so. Actualy, that nobody knows for sure. It is natural to me, that it is learned,… it is a set of learned behaviors like all human behavior. Our cubs are taught about behavior from parents primarly, than schools… . So if some cub lives in deranged family that thinks it is good behavior to steal, lie, bully, rape, or hate arabs, muslims, japanese, catholics, blacks, women, etc., than this is a morality for them. If schools teach them that there is a god and that it is all right to lie, steal, bully, rape, kill … in the name of their god, than that is their morality. So it must be learned, and it DOES make a difference who is teaching “puppies” how to behave, and what are they teaching them. Because if morality evolved with homo sapiens, than wouldn’t be the same in all humans? I do not understand what he thinks by “evolved”. If he thinks that it evolved in accordance with society than it is learned, isn’t it?

  7. And than this:

    Whether you think “instinct” is purely biological or a learned habit,
    or a combination of the two, it comes down to the same goal: the
    minimization of harm to biological organisms.

    I have read and heard from many documentaries (about humans) how we have no instincts any more just some reflexes. Enough time have passed so instincts could be overriden by frontal cortex. If we, as part of animals, have this instinct not to kill our own species (like other animals do) wouldn’t we stop at killings of each other? We have consciousness and with this “apparatus” we could overrid that instinct. And learn some ugly behaviors. 😉 So, this have no sense for me:

    it comes down to the same goal: the minimization of harm to biological organisms.

  8. it makes no difference whether our moral impulses are evolved or
    learned

    Actually I think it does. Not arguing too deep about it I know someone that I think is really cruel, however capable of being gentle afterwards, what made someone argue “even the Devil is gentle sometimes”, I guess we all know the difference between being gentle by nature and being almost forced (in this case by religion which makes me wonder what if this person was not religious, would it be a kind of a “monster”?). Not too much development on the subject, but as common good sense people I think we can figure out there must be a difference, otherwise “the Devil can be gentle sometimes” would fit so well. This is just common sense.

  9. It makes no difference whether our moral impulses are evolved or
    learned.

    That’s very true, because our moral “impulses” are neither – neither learned nor evolved, neither genetic nor a product of culture. (Not sure I’d characterize them as impulses either.)

    I offer no elaboration at this time, as I have already written ad nauseam about this. Just something to think about. (What could he be saying? Is he nuts?)

  10. Okay, let the autodidact (and massively ignorant) Dan elaborate just a bit. This is highly speculative (a euphemism, perhaps); but here’s another way of viewing this:

    “[T]he theory that explains morality … should be neutral with regard to whether our moral attitudes, habits, preferences, and proclivities are a product of genes or cultures.” — Dennett

    I think what the scientific community as a whole says about “genes” explaining our personality in a moral sense is similar to the neuroscientist’s claim that all causes pertaining to our personality traits can be explained by looking at what’s happening in the brain. It can’t, can it?

    No one is doubting that neuroscience can be and is highly instructive or that genetically inherited traits are real; but I am inclined to think that our genetically inherited moral disposition is the product of the actions of our forebearers; actions have created our genetic makeup (the predisposition to be virtuous or to engage in wickedness) and not the other way around. How can genes be a (moral) first cause? Actions are the first cause, guided either by motives or impulses. (Not the same thing.)

    Our ancestors made decisions: kill or don’t kill. Killing was more prevalent; at a certain point another choice presented itself, and that decision left its mark in the form of a (moral) gene (?). (Sounds weird because it is.)

    Killing was an impulse. The emergence of restraint, an extraordinary thing, appeared as the resistance of temptation to act upon that impulse, and was brought into existence by the motive of compassion, not genes. That created or reflected (?) moral character, and was passed on genetically and eventually influenced and shaped culture(s).

    The origin of moral feeling is still shrouded in mystery, and may always remain a mystery. I know all about care for the offspring; I hear about that all the time. That may explain something, but not everything.

  11. was passed on genetically….genetically inherited moral disposition – Me

    Damn it; I screwed up, misrepresented myself. The moral character is inherited, but there is no moral gene, in my opinion. And culture cannot possibly explain true sympathy. That was my contention. Sorry. I messed up that comment. It happens.

  12. Dan

    I think what the scientific community as a whole says about “genes” explaining our personality in a moral sense is similar to the neuroscientist’s claim that all causes pertaining to our personality traits can be explained by looking at what’s happening in the brain. It can’t, can it?

    Our cognitions, our consciousness, are both embodied and situated. Its a weird neuro-scientist, these days that doesn’t accept that. The idea that genes configure brains, define the person and character (as you have it with a priori knowledge) is both depressing and reductive. The truth appears to be that we a far more porous entities at our fundament. Genes are sequenced building instructions, still functional within us, not a terminal plan.

    The following is the link to the story of a neuro-scientist losing sight of this and committing suicide because it seemed to him the motor for altruism, genetically, seemed inadequate. The comment following on is mine and is the meat of my comment here.

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/the_argument_from_results_a_new_atheist_argument/#comment-3232843160

    My concern is that you write

    The origin of moral feeling is still shrouded in mystery, and may always remain a mystery.

    Which is utterly wrong in my view. Many of the parts are known and now being put together. Besides, once we start down the road of mammal mutuality for whatever reason the simple net benefit of co-operation creating secure food-supplies so we survive otherwise terminal catastrophies, and, aided by a capacity to make inferences about the future, we get the cherry on top.

    (comment on illusion thread half written to be posted later)

  13. Dan #10 : What could he be saying? Is he nuts?

    hahaha… exactly my first reaction when I read those passages by Dennett. 😉
    He confused me with this “moral impulses” being learned or genetically inherited (evolved). Than I came to a conclusion that he doesn’t know exactly how we came in possessions of this moral impulses, but for him and for his philosophical statement it is not important. That statment being ” it comes down to the same goal: the minimization of harm to biological organisms”. So, finaly, after questioning myself in my head, if he has gone mad, hahaha… I came up with a explanation that he sees morality as a consequence of our conduct to minimize harm to biological organisms.

    [T]he theory that explains morality … should be neutral (says Dennett)

    I thought it is already so. But only in my head perhaps haha.

    …with regard to whether our moral attitudes, habits, preferences,
    and proclivities are a product of genes or cultures.

    …but with this part of the sentence it looks like he is contradictory to that first part when he says it should be neutral. That is why I thought if he has gone mad. hahaha… 🙂

    Interesting thoughts, Dan. When I was questioning myself about “moral impulses” and if they are inherited or culturally evolved, I came up with conclusions that I do not think it is genetical and that we are not born good or evil (or with predisposition). We can be both… we can become both by education (by learning some behaviors). And I do not see this inheritance of moral character also. But it is an interesting subject.

    Our ancestors made decisions:…

    Somehow I think that our awareness of those decisions has something to do with if “moral gene” can be created in the first place. Decisions about hurting or stoping ourselves of hurting others… there are several different reasons in milions different heads, and that is why I am inclined to think that can not be formed something specific in our body that deals with it. I think that as long as there is ability to make all sorts of decisions one can not make this thing called moral gene or moral character, or similar. Because at the same time one has ability to make contra decision from the same source (called decision centre for example). But if those first decisions (actions) are not from the same source…from where those other decisions (re-actions) came from (asking myself). It is an interesting subject, I agree. But I am inclined towards behaviorism. And a conduct that we have learned give shape to a society, and culture. (and now I have a feeling I couldn’t crystalize my thoughts properly, hahaha)

  14. Phil

    Think you posted this Ted Talks on placticity before and after I watched Rory Bremner on ADHD last night, I think I finally got it and where ‘morality’ lies in the brain. At least part of it as morality is dependent on many parts and many genes. As described last night, ADHD has thousands of responsible genes of which only about thirty have been found. I found the part about the frontal cortex being the filter for our judgement and how plasticity forms those judgements in the first place. Morality is learned but the learning is complicated and the final decision is still reliant on the filters. You can learn something is wrong but if the right filter is not there then mot doing it becomes hard. It shows that not even the all consuming fear of your own ‘god’ can completely stop you from doing wrong and this changes daily because of placticity. So Dan, there is no one gene for morality but thousands if not hundreds of thousands. Early learning of; don’t do that, wash your hands etc, stays with us but ADHD can distract us.

    The genetically modified fruit flies that we’re distracted by a light moving right to left and always turned left as supposed to the unmodified being more even in their choice of tunnel to take.

    My brain is not the same after watching that last night.

    https://youtu.be/LNHBMFCzznE

  15. Can’t help but feel angry for getting dragged in the ancient philosophical arguments, as an intellectual necessity, when practice teaching could have gotten me there much quicker.

  16. I’ve just noticed that my essential point in this comment, that follows on from the account of NuszAbides,

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/the_argument_from_results_a_new_atheist_argument/#comment-3233024234

    does not automatically appear. Sorry. for not noticing.

    THIS (here linked) is the comment that should have formed formed the meat of my earlier post in #13. (Didn’t want to cut and paste. The traffic is earned by the channel it appeared in.)

  17. Incidentally Dennett’s parsimony in not identifying moral processes is entirely reasonable as a philosopher trying to find what are the essential elements of a philosophy of morality.

    He has more than a few ideas about moral processes, but he need give no hostages to fortune in making his simple proposition. Indeed, his point is this lack of specifics.

    Post before this has gone awol for a while….

  18. I see my hastily written comment has generated a few comments. You can disregard much of what I had written above (which I don’t suppose is asking much); I wrote that and then instantly regretted it; it says far too much and too little. But feel free to take what you can – assuming there is anything that warrants even a moment’s thought. Thanks. DR

  19. Can we really talk sensibly about any human characteristic, such as moral feeling, as existing in the brain or in the genes or in the blood? How does such a thing exist, that is, what is the precise mode and manner of such an existence?

  20. Dan, did you follow the links to read about George Price and my comments?

    Who knows how precise a model is needed, but many contributing elements, do, must, contribute to the moral disposition.

    Building from the ground up is safest lest we moot spurious entities, by say, suggesting a moral module (a conscience, say). This may lead us astray and miss the manifold elements that may contribute to the moral disposition. We don’t act on all our desires, impulsive nor abiding, but not all of those acts of self control, self denial, would be reasonably termed moral. We have to accept that much of our “moral” “circuitry” and processes may have much amoral and merely self serving application. The reverse is also very possibly true. Ostensibly self serving processes in given contexts may become selfless.

  21. Thank you, jimmy.

    I remember your post well. Please let us have some more!

    I’ve always thought of biographical memories as little poems or prose pieces. I find treating waking experience as grist for the poetic mill these memories may not end up on paper but they sure stay in the head.

  22. Dan #21

    Can we really talk sensibly about any human characteristic … as
    existing in the brain or in the genes or in the blood? How does such a
    thing exist, that is, what is the precise mode and manner of such an
    existence?

    Good question. I do not think so. I have a friend, a psychiatrist that have developed a theory about it. It started in the beginning of the nineties in Italy but he developed it further. It is based upon laws of thermodynamics (that is why sometimes coment with that in mind haha), as any our actions are, … or any actions for that matter in universe. I am not sure I can be concise, but in this theory, our characteristics are final product of energy flow. As we now from physics, energy is ability to perform an action. Once raised it can not come back, it is irreversible proces. Right? As we know energy preforms an action in three usual states: mechanical work, heat and light, …it changes itself in other forms. It can not be lost as scientist say, just transformed in other forms (there are these laws of energy conservations). I am not trying to teach you (I can’t do that) hahaha… just have to write some assumtions before. All things in universe follow thermodynamics laws, so do we – humans. And our thoughts, because they are transmitted by impulses of energy. But we humans have something different from other animals. We can create mental pictures. And act upon them. The proces of raising energy from our body reservoirs (cells) are the same as in other animals, but we can act upon mental pictures also and not only when we see something in real (real pictures). Other animals do not have this, they react on what they have seen in person, and in a fraction of a second react. They escape or they stay in place (to continue to pasture or whatever, or to fight). But humans have this ability to create mental pictures in our head,… and the brain does not know if this picture is real or fictional. Brain itself can not make difference in this way… only thing it can have is an imput of a picture and in a millisecond start up autonomous nervous system (does not depend on our will) which prepare our body to that situation (fictional one alas). This rasing of energy is done in milliseconds as in all animals, and it can not go back but energy must preform an action.

    So when a frontal cortex stops our action (because it realizes that what we see isn’t real, and it is slower than autonomous system), where does that raised energy goes? Energy has been raised in a milliseconds, and it is over… it can not go back in reservoir. 😉 And the laws of thermodynamics are universal. Energy flows form electromagnetic fields. The theory is that it stays acumulated in a form of a field. And it explains some sensations like “I feel it in my guts” (english expression but not so in other languages), or “butterflies in stomach”, or sensations of deja vu (all of this are vibrations of electrical charge in the field). But problem is that whenewer our frontal cortex stops raised energy to preform an action we acumulate that charge, and react in various different ways when oportunity present itself. As Jack Nicholson said in a film Anger menagment: “…there are two kinds of people – explosive and implosive. Explosive is the kind of individual that you see screaming at a cashier for not takeing their cupons. Implosive is the cashier who remains quiet, day after day, and finally shoots everyone in the store”. Of course it is caricaturated but what I wanted to say is that acumulation of not used energy (charge) is responsible for all kinds of human behavior (bad and good). Mother Teresa was “good” because of her acumulated energy that needed to preform action, Martin Luther King was “good” because of his stopped or residual energy, Trump is “bad” because of his, and so on. Animals react directly, they do not have ability of making pictures in their head (a tv programme) and postponing of energy flow. Just humans have this. So, this “energy theory” explains how someone is bad or good and, I guess, have characteristics. Because I think “human characteristics” are not something constant in the body, but can be manifested in thousands of ways based upon energy flow (blocking of the flow).

  23. Dan

    Where I am at the moment!

    From the first genetically sent message (although I have learned not to accept the concept of the ‘first’ explanation as things need to evolve) to that ‘tentacle’ to ‘not do that again’, the morality question, along with the ‘self’ and every other aspect of us began. The ‘why’ started soon after and the ‘how’, to get around the problem, seems like a good place to go in its evolutionary process. Working out the problem as apposed to simply running away. I stick with the explanation that all these are just projections, of moarality and self etc, and cannot be pinpointed to any one particular gene but is the result of many.

    Wish you could see the images in my head at the moment. Science is beautiful!

  24. Olgun,

    I know it sounds like science-fiction hahaha… but when my friend publish this book I will be glad to send you a copy. Book is finished but he is in process of translation and language corrections. Anyway it is hard to explain briefly. 😉 The thing is that all our manifestations of character (good, bad, psychopat, schizophrenic, compulsive disorders…) are consequences of blocking of raised energy for some actions that one couldn’t preform because of dogmas, behavior rules imputed from parents or state or whatever. 😉 I shall not mention this again, because for some can sound like science-fiction. haha And I am not sure I can explain it correctly. 😉

  25. Modesti

    I meant to say physics version and wrote science version. It all sounds feasible and,as I said, backs up my perceived version anyway. The final action, from the individual being the deed that then goes on to be good or bad depending….the energy goes on. I think it takes free will, choice, morality etc.. all into account with things like ADHD distracting us and OCD bringing us back at different levels.

  26. Phil, Modesti, Olgun, others—

    Phil, I haven’t followed the links to George Price or read those comments of yours yet.

    Speaking of OCD, the phenomenally gifted and imperfect Wilhelm Stekel wrote a great book called Compulsion and Doubt (1922). (“A naturally gifted psychologist with an unusual flair for detecting repressed material.” —Ernest Jones) He was able to trace all of the symptoms (of his patients) of what was then called obsessional neurosis (OCD) back to their roots. And the roots were of a psychoanalytic nature. I am a strong believer in psychiatric medication and I accept the implications of its efficacy; but I also think we’ve gotten awfully lazy.

    (To be honest I am quite sure that a number of his “OCD” patients must have suicided. The symptoms of these patients of his were extreme, dreadful, in most cases almost debilitating: these poor patients of his were tortured. He was able to trace the symptoms back to their psychic roots, as I said; I didn’t say he was able, necessarily, to offer relief.)

    Modesti, a quote for you, from the notorious and brilliant Otto Weininger (who committed suicide in 1903 at the age of twenty-four). This may, by the way, be the kernel of Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason:

    “The deepest, the intelligible, part of the nature of man is that part which does not take refuge in causality, but which chooses in freedom the good or the bad.”

  27. 29 Cont.

    To all my friends—

    Mother Teresa was “good” because of her accumulated energy that needed to preform action…

    Not so good, according to Hitchens – who was good. (Why is good in quotes? If someone is good are they not good at the same time? Does goodness mean anything anymore?)

    Defendant: My brain made me bludgeon the neighbors, Judge. My frontal cortex just….well, it just hasn’t been acting right. It was my brain.

    Judge (Thinks, and then says with a slight smile): Okay, Mr. Phelps. You can go. Get some sleep. Court dismissed!

    Morality is metaphysical. It is the identification of one’s own suffering – as if it were one’s own – with that of another, based on the obliteration of the principium individuationis (principle of individuation in space and time). That’s my opinion. So there! Bad man: You are not I. Good man: I once again. The brain is not moral and is not a person. Pythagoras, one of the wisest man who ever lived, said that when we kill an animal we are diminishing ourselves in the process. Someone once said: Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

    Dennett! Read great philosophers and great poets and writers – and I will read Dennett.

  28. Morality is metaphysical.

    It sure is!

    Like Justice and Beauty, too. These are all judged formally and informally.

    Good is in quotes because it is a metaphysical concept, judged differently by different folks. Many judged her good. After Hitchens (particularly) many changed their minds.

    Faulty PFCs get you put away indefinitely in some cases. Not owning your actions, yet not claiming and proving a faulty PFC may well worsen your sentence. There is nothing so dangerous as an individual not owning his or her actions.

    The investigation of what makes us have the need for a term like Beauty makes us ask questions about evolution and and inquire what are its roots before it was named? What might mere reproduction have in common with a verdant valley with water and shade and high hills enclosing, or the sea or islands, or a friendship or a child or any mammal youngling?

    Metaphysics needs metaphysicians, otherwise known as humans. If we want to judge something, as in justice, say, we do not simply accept the view of one person we take the view of many. Testimony needs to supply grounding facts. These human artifacts of metaphysics are wrangled practically in some way if we are to build a firm consensus and establish a sufficient human truth about the case. In the end, for all that, we are left with personal judgments. But achieving a better consensus, through understanding our own understanding of these cultural, personal constructs, may bring them greater use and effect.

  29. Not so good, according to Hitchens – who was good. (Why is good in
    quotes? If someone is good are they not good at the same time? Does
    goodness mean anything anymore?)

    I know what Hitchens said about Mother Teresa. I also do not think she was good person :). But I have putted in quotes that word because she is perceived by majority as good in her character. She perhaps thought she was a good person. But what led her to do all those things which she thought were good? What impulses or what forces? 😉 I was trying (in short which is imposible I am afraid haha) to explain that behind motivations there are forces that lead us to do things.

    My brain made me bludgeon the neighbors, Judge. My frontal cortex
    just….well, it just hasn’t been acting right. It was my brain.

    Knowing the cause of bludgeon does not release him from guilt. Bludgeon is a result of accumulated negative charge. Defendant perhaps didn’t even hate his neighbour so much, but buldgeon is probably a projection of all situations when defendant felt hate and didn’t respond at the time in apropriate manner. Like casheir in my example above. Violence is an extreme act. By that I mean, that it is more than usual normal behavior. Something led person to act in that manner right? (all our actions have causes). So what was those cuses (steps)? As I was saying other animals react apropriately in every situation (they can not postpone actions like humans). When they raise energy for action in some situation where they find themselves, they use it for that situation. After that they continue doing what were doing. They do not think in their head like humans do (“oh, why did he say so”, “perhaps she thinks I am liar”,… or whatever). They do not contemplate on situations and imagine things in their head. Only humans can create images in their head,… and unfortunately act upon them. Humans do not get their impulses and stimulus just from environment or our body (hunger, pain,…), but we get it also from our mental pictures and ideas. But we act as if they are real, because our autonomous nervous system act in the same principle as in all other animals. It is lounched without our will, and it can not recognize difference of fictional impulse or a real one. Autonomous system only get impulse (fictional or not). Frontal cortex which was formed later (responsible for inhibition), can react in mikroseconds later and “realize” that impulse if false for example, but energy is irreversible process and have to preform action (transform in other form).

    The problem is that we do not act imediatelly in situations when energy is raised (like other animals do). We have ability to postpone or not react (thanks to frontal cortex) to impulses that we get from outside or from imagination. We can plan revenges (getting angrier, and angrier by stimulating images in our head but forbiding us to act imediately). Bludgeon of the neighbour is obviously final act of keeping energy from its natural flow. If this neighbour has been doing something that bothered this defendant, defendant should of said imediately to his neighbour that he is bothering him. Raised energy for reacting toward bother would be channeled into mechanical work of the vocal cords, hands movements, temperature raising etc. Reaction (in that moment when he got the info of bothering) would be calm and apropriate. But if defendant did not say anything because of some internalized prohibitions that was put into him from childhood, like “it is not nice to blame someone” or “must be good to neighbours”, or something similar, than this raised energy would stay in us and would manifest itself (because it must preform an action) in first possible ocasion like screeming on casheir because he/she did not take his cupons 😉 , or getting drunk, or drawing graffiti on walls (haha). Or beating of that neighbour finaly. Neighbour totally unconscious of the reasons for this would see defendant as an aggresive imbecile.

    Defendant should react in the first place when he got an info and raised energy to say something. Perhaps this neighbour did not do anything to defendant but it was a victim of unused and acumulated energy in defendant from some situations before when he didn’t react because of social norms or internalized ones or some strange film in his head.

    Morality is metaphysical. It is the identification of one’s own
    suffering – as if it were one’s own – with that of another…
    The brain is not moral and is not a person.
    … when we kill an animal we are diminishing ourselves in the
    process. Someone once said: Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

    Agree, agree! There are all sorts of individuals, and therefore moralities. As I wrote in previous comments as I see it, morality is product of behavior imputs when growing up. For some people moral is to prevent someone to go to school, to own a small daughter and sell her to neighbour as a wife, or similar. They have probably learned this morality. With this “energy theory” of my friend I was trying to explain how imputs of “correct behavior” inserted in us in childhood plus ability to create imaginary imputs can prevent us from acting normaly and naturaly.

    The brain is not moral and is not a person.

    I agree. There is this disorder of multiple personality that show this nicely, right? 😉 Two totally different personalities have the same brain. It shows that personality has nothing to do with a brain (hardwer), but with norms of behavior (software) that are built.

  30. Dan

    So we are back to a bad person is bad, and will remain bad?

    What about half bad? What differences make that distinction?

  31. Olgun

    Oh yes, there are innumerable gradations between the two, according to my theory. No one is all good or all bad, I don’t think.

    Sympathy versus antipathy: final and irreducible qualities. You cannot teach the former and “god’ help the poor parents who have to live with that realization. You can teach behavior only, and you can certainly teach hate (antipathy), literally teach someone to hate (happens all the time, as we know); and you can try, through education and enculturation, to remove the various elements (e.g., pretense or prejudice, self absorption, general immaturity, etc.) that may conceal or block the feeling of real sympathy.

  32. Dan

    Sympathy versus antipathy: final and irreducible qualities.

    Top down thinking can deal us considerable horrors. Parents look away now.

    If however we are simply talking of the lower slopes of psychopathy, then we are indeed stuffed at the moment. But understanding the mechanisms and with much earlier detection we may find some mitigations.

    As a low empathy aspie, I was trainable into sympathy in its manifold modes, I contend. Pretending to be a real boy may have you wake up one morning being one.

  33. Dan

    If I had listened to my parents, I would be the most selfish self serving individual on the planet. They had my best interests at heart but communicated them badly. If it hadn’t been for John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Dave Alan and the Enid Blyton Famous Five books etc.. I might well have become the stuff of their nightmares. After watching and loving many a war film, not remembering that my family had escaped war (I was too young) had I not been introduced to the horrors by films that had that very intention, how would I know what to be sympathetic about? I have sympathy for the person on death row who killed his entire family is that misplaced or did I just imagine what condition I would have to be in in order to do that deplorable deed. Empathy bordering sympathy bordering selfishness bringing it all round to feeling sorry for myself.

    At least give us a definitive version of your sympathy even if you are having difficulty telling us where it comes from.

  34. Phil, Olgun

    I am reluctant to talk about psychopathy when I am discussing anything having to do with philosophy or morality; I usually talk about psychopathy (or sociopathy) when discussing politics and politicians and the immorality associated with it and them.

    The apparent lack of empathy of someone in the spectrum is a fascinating subject, I am sure, but has nothing to do with what I am attempting to address.

    Sympathy. Olgun, you would know. If, after many years of complete isolation, having been brought up all alone in a jungle, you saw another human, who, like you, had lived in isolation too, and saw you, another human, for the first time, you would know.—You would know fear, indifference, sympathy, antipathy, or a mixture of all those things. And you would find out pretty soon if your new neighbor had any sympathy too.

    If you had gotten your sense of sympathy from watching war movies (and you didn’t) that wouldn’t say much for your morals, would it?

    Definition has been given on previous threads. No wall between yourself and another. That wall is the absolute mark of the immoral man, and yes, the psychopath. But let’s not conflate the two. He is separate, contained within the illusory wall of his paltry egotistical self. The man of sympathy is able to identify with another’s inner self, feel his pain, his sorrow, his joy; for it is I once again.

    Where does it come from? The question is, I believe, unanswerable. It cannot possibly be from such a dark (Wittgenstein) place as the brain.

  35. Chaps

    Though not my favourite source this is pretty reasonable for how researchers use the terms.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201505/empathy-vs-sympathy

    Its not unreasonable to have personal usages and personal beliefs….whatever makes you happy. But don’t expect any possible engagement with what comes out of the lab or from current theorists if you cannot mentally translate.

    Dan, I know, I know. You care not a jot for what comes out of the lab or current theorists…..

  36. Phil

    I don’t claim to have definitive answers, just ideas. Some of these ideas indeed border on powerful convictions. Some are speculative and may not hold up to scrutiny. A very mixed bag, if you will. I am not omniscient. I hardly have anything you can call a science background. But when I hear about robots in the brain, even if it is merely a metaphor, or how consciousness “may not exist” – nonsense such as that – I react and I rebel. I care about these things.

  37. And I know the difference between empathy and sympathy: my own understanding is that empathy is something one exhibits through speech, verbal expression mostly, but it may be accompanied by action as well. It suggests a concern and, above all, an understanding of someone else’s (usually) painful experience. There is usually the element of a personal relationship (with a friend, patient, or neighbor, for example) when one speaks of empathy. Sympathy is closely related but need not manifest itself in any way, is a feeling first and foremost; it is the older of the two words, I am sure, is a deeper, more esoteric phenomenon – with more universal or philosophical overtones – and describes a condition of identification with the suffering of any or all creatures (or even things) that one feels a part of – at certain moments, or all the time.

    I will compare that to your definitions provided above.

  38. I read what you had there, Phil, on empathy versus sympathy. Nice.

    Here’s something:

    “But unlike the egoist, who tends to make a great distinction between himself and all other humans – and indeed all other living things – and who lives by the maxim pereat mundus, dum ego salvus sim (“may the world perish, provided I am safe”), a person of compassionate character makes no such sharp distinction. Instead, he sees himself as fundamentally a part of and involved with the suffering world”.

    Nicely put, huh? (by some bloke named Madigan)

  39. Dan

    You are flying too close to the sungods for me Dan. You have already identified the problem of not being scientifically minded but seem not be interested in fixing it. I have tried to accommodate the philosophical side you present but have found it wanting. It wants scientific knowledge/understanding and adjustment thereafter.

    Where would you find a egotistical buffalo. In the middle of the herd where he is safer or at the edge where he can show off for the girls? The simplicity of your last quote cannot be true.

  40. Dan

    Thanks for posting your definitions before reading that. It explains and awful lot of our talking at cross purposes. I propose to remain with the herd on these matters, though I do love some of the non-standard terms that get used rather than the conventional. It is often obvious that characteristic X or Y, or object A or B is needed, but what are the right terms for them?

    My three year old son cut his finger on a scalpel that I had momentarily left unattended. He knew the characteristic of this thing. “It’s shark!” he observed. My best friend during school and university who went on to be a millions selling author of many fantasy novels, went at 23 and with a first in English to buy several “realms” of paper to write upon.

    Perfect.

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