Morality in a Perfect World

Author: bsh1 ,

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  • bsh1
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    Morality is an objective system of action-guiding precepts which distinguish right from wrong and assign praiseworthiness and blameworthiness to actors. I think this is a generally acceptable definition. It must be objective, lest it be capricious. It must be systematic, lest it be internally contradictory. And it must be action-guiding, lest it be purposeless. It also must assign praiseworthiness and blameworthiness because morality, as we conceive it, not only judges actions but also persons. While I anticipate that most objections to this definition of morality will focus on its classification as "objective," I wish to focus more on its classification as "action-guiding" for the purposes of this thread.

    It strikes me as obvious, on some fundamental level, that morality must seek to direct our actions and not simply categorize them. This is true, I think, because mere categorization would run afoul of morality itself. If morality merely categorized--leaving us utterly blind as to how to behave--there could never be ascriptions of praise or blame, since we would lack the requisite foreknowledge to be genuinely responsible for the rightness or wrongness of our actions.

    I would also venture that, in order for morality to genuinely direct our actions, we must have free will. If I cannot choose to behave wrongly, then I cannot be guided into choosing rightly. Instead, I simply choose rightly by default. A guide points to the right path when you come to a fork in the road. But if their are no forks, you cannot be guided.

    Now I come to the question I am interested in posing. Given all of the above, in a perfect world, would morality exist, and could a perfect world exist without morality? A perfect world is one in which everyone would always and automatically make the right decision even if they did not know why it was the right decision and even if they had no guidance as to how to act. If agents did not always choose rightly, the world would not be perfect.

    It seems, counterintuitively, that a perfect world does not need morality. Given the guaranteed nature of right action in a perfect world, there is no need for an action-guiding system delineating right from wrong. In other words, morality might not exist in a perfect world. Indeed, it is possible that morality could not exist, because no agent could ever be assigned praise or blame. Yet, this challenges a basic assumption I have always held, namely that a perfect world is perfectly moral (implying, of course, that morality must exist in a perfect world). 

    Perhaps one could reply by objecting to the notion that morality requires free will. If it doesn't require free will, then it need not always be action-guiding. But then again no agent could ever be assigned praise or blame. So maybe ascriptions of praise and blame are not integral to morality, but merely a non-integral or ancillary function of it. But that suggestion seems problematic as well, largely because it restricts morality to merely judging actions and not persons. We do not typically say "the murder was wrong, but the murderer cannot be blamed/condemned" or "Hitler's actions were wrong, but Hitler cannot be blamed/condemned." It does seem to me that praise and blame are a core part of what we conceive morality as being. 

    So, I put my question to you now. Can morality and perfection coexist? If yes, must they always coexist? What implications might this have for discussions of heaven and hell, for example? Please discuss. Also, this is not the right post to debate morality's subjectivity or objectivity. That is not really the question I am concerned with in this post.
  • secularmerlin
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    --> @bsh1
    Morality is a subjective system which, if agreed upon, can be used to make objective assessments to distinguish right from wrong and assign praiseworthiness and blameworthiness to actors.
  • secularmerlin
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    I know this isn't what you wanted to focus on but there is no standard of morality that is not subjective and I really want to be talking about the same thing since I've been gone so long.
  • TheRealNihilist
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    --> @secularmerlin
    Don't you think any standard is subjective?


  • secularmerlin
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    --> @TheRealNihilist
    I think that most if not all standards are subjective and also that without them we could not evaluate things objectively. We decided how hot 0°C is subjectively in order that we could make coherent objective statements about temperature when measured in Celsius.
  • TheRealNihilist
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    --> @secularmerlin
    I think that most if not all standards are subjective and also that without them we could not evaluate things objectively. We decided how hot 0°C is subjectively in order that we could make coherent objective statements about temperature when measured in Celsius.
    So yes? 

  • secularmerlin
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    --> @TheRealNihilist
    Simplistically yes.
  • TheRealNihilist
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    --> @secularmerlin
    I think bsh1 is using morality being objective as an axiom not saying we can't specifically talk about morality being subjective. Do you agree? 

  • TheRealNihilist
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    --> @secularmerlin
    With every standard being subjective (if not do demonstrate which one isn't) how can you justify what specific standard over another? 
  • secularmerlin
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    --> @TheRealNihilist
    In most cases I do not justify any standard over any other but I do accept many commonly held standards as a convenience since it allows me to impart information on others who presumably also accept said standards. 

    Bsh1 may do as Bsh1likes but axiom =/= objectivity.
  • TheRealNihilist
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    --> @secularmerlin
    In most cases I do not justify any standard over any other but I do accept many commonly held standards as a convenience since it allows me to impart information on others who presumably also accept said standards. 
    Why do you accept one over another?

    Bsh1 may do as Bsh1likes but axiom =/= objectivity.
    What do you mean with "=/="?
  • bsh1
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    --> @secularmerlin
    Ideally, people replying to my thread would assume (for the sake of this thread) that morality is objective, and then respond.
  • secularmerlin
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    --> @bsh1
    I do not assume that. Can you demonstrate it?
  • secularmerlin
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    Why do you accept one over another?
    For convenience. I believe I already said that.
    What do you mean with "=/="?
    That is short hand for does not equal. 
  • bsh1
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    What do you mean with "=/="?
    "Does not equal."

    I wish it to be regarded as axiomatically the case that morality is objective, at least for the purposes of this thread. The risk otherwise is that this thread devolves into a debate on whether morality is objective or subjective, instead of answering the questions that I really want to talk about, namely: "Can morality and perfection coexist? If yes, must they always coexist?"
  • bsh1
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    --> @secularmerlin
    I am asking you to assume it for the sake of argument. In other words, if morality were objective, then how would you address the OP? I am not asking you to actually believe it, I am asking you to enter into a hypothetical situation in which we all jointly assume it to be the case that morality is objective.
  • secularmerlin
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    --> @bsh1
    Not only is morality subjective but perfection is too. This question can only ever be answered with opinions not facts.
  • bsh1
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    --> @secularmerlin
    Then you're not really engaging with the OP. What you're doing is addressing a series of prior questions which retrograde the discussion to an earlier stasis level. Debating the subjectivity-vs-objectivity question is fascinating, but it is more appropriately confined to its own thread. We cannot rehash the exact same issues every time subjectivity-vs-objectivity is implicated, or we never progress out of that quagmire. 

    I would much prefer it if, as I requested, we assume for the sake of argument the objectivity of morality and perfection. That way we can actually address the questions I created this OP to talk about, namely: "Can morality and perfection coexist? If yes, must they always coexist?"

    So, let me ask you: "if morality and perfection were objective, then how would you address the OP?"
  • bsh1
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    --> @TheRealNihilist
    What are your thoughts on the OP?
  • secularmerlin
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    Please present the standard of morality you intend we use in that case and also your standard for oerfection
  • bsh1
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    --> @secularmerlin
    I don't think that is strictly necessary, to the extent that we are talking in the abstract. The OP should, I think, provide a sufficient basis for the discussion. However, if you think that your answer might change on the basis of the moral system in use, I would be interested in your thoughts as to why that might be the case.
  • secularmerlin
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    If we are pretending morality is objective we should really both be using the same standard. The same goes for pefect.

    If I can simply choose whatever I like then I shall choose the absence of unhappiness as my moral standard and flat as my standard of perfection. 

    In that case a perfectly flat world would likely contain no people and so no unhappiness so there perfection and morality. 
  • Mopac
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    Not only would I say that perfection and morality can exist, I would say that without perfection, there is no morality at all.


    Without Ultimate Reality, that is, perfection, the very concept of morality becomes arbitrary.
  • bsh1
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    --> @Mopac
    Then how would you go about refuting the analysis in the OP?
  • Mopac
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    If The Truth is the greatest good, it should  be evident that the world is exactly as it should be. It is perfect.

    If you understand morality as abiding in The Truth, well then what is truly moral is a very personal walk of keeping it real. 

    I would say that it is preferable to concentrate on what you can do in your own life, because really that  is what you have control over. Often times the moral issues we have with the world are projections of our own moral inadequacy