Morality Explained(?)

Author: keithprosser ,

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I propose that our brains contain a neuronal circuit that - when faced with alternatives - makes an estimate of
1 - benefit to self
2 - cost to self
3- benefit to others
4- costs to others.

That circuit does a 'weighted sum' of those estimates the result of which we perceive as how good (or 'moral') the alternatives are. I suggest that is all there is to 'morality'.


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I would add to the list "what one deserves".

If someone does not deserve the benefit or the cost of an action, that will alter the moral choice.
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In the mechanistic terms I am thinking in it wouldn't be 'what one deserves' but 'what one thinks one deserves' that affects behaviour.


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In the mechanistic terms I am thinking in it wouldn't be 'what one deserves' but 'what one thinks one deserves' that affects behaviour.
That's what I meant. A value judgement by the one contemplating a moral choice.
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The morality I believe in has to do with abiding in The Truth.

Utility has very little to do with it.


In fact, trying to game karma, or cause and effect will always lead to failure because by that way of looking at things no good action can avoid evil, and no evil action can avoid good.

There is no such thing as a purely good action or a purely evil action. It is all very relative.


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Any reason ij particukar to think that that is how it works? Also a lot of ambiguity as to what "benefit" and "cost" means in a real sense.
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I propose that our brains contain a neuronal circuit that - when faced with alternatives - makes an estimate of
1 - benefit to self
2 - cost to self
3- benefit to others
4- costs to others.

That circuit does a 'weighted sum' of those estimates the result of which we perceive as how good (or 'moral') the alternatives are. I suggest that is all there is to 'morality'.
Well stated.

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Also a lot of ambiguity as to what "benefit" and "cost" means in a real sense.
In this context benefit and cost are related primarily to Darwinian fitness.   The circuit arose and is maintained by natural selection so it will approximate to promoting whatever optimises reproductive success 'in the long term' and 'on average'.
 
Of course being just a lump of neurones it will often get things wrong - it only has to be better than 'random' to be helpful for enhancing fitness.


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I dont see any reason to subscribe to this theory. Unnecessarily reductive and generalized.
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Reductive is good and it is very specific!

It is of course intended as a theory of moral judgement, not of morality per se.
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Cost benifit analysis of energy resources i.e. we know some amount of people are going to die as a result of coal, nukes etc.

We do not know of people dying from thinking/conceptualizing this or that.

Will thinking lead to demise { death } of humanity? The proof is in the pudding.

Even if humanity is not wiped out, the amount of sufferring humanity may be in for is also a large unknown.

Whats coming could make sum-total of all past wars a puny amount.

Morality stems from thinking. What we think can make a differrence to experiences on Earth.
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Is ethic the same as morality in your view?  

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i don't think there is anythin to be gained by making a pedatic distinction between 'morality' and 'ethics'.    As is common in English 'Morality' is from Latin and 'Ethics' from Greek - there is no consensus about how the differ, or  if they do.

15 days later

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"Benefits" and "costs" are always relative to some goal. Some people place more importance on themselves and some people place more importance on others. The OP doesn't make a distinction between which one is "more moral." If people had opposite goals, what you said in your OP would still ring true. It' a bit like making a declaration that "morality is about wellbeing" and summing it up with "that's all there is to morality."


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Some people place more importance on themselves and some people place more importance on others.
Morality is based on truth and being considerate of all humans and the ecological environment that sustains them.

All-for-one and one-for-all is all inclusive and the evoluting way forward for least amount of sufferring and longest term existence of humans on Earth.

Self{ 1 } comes first, then family{ 2 }, then community{ 3 } then humanity.

Once 1, 2 and 3 are covered then the natural conclusion is the whole. In some scenario the whole comes first, i.e. if we do not consider the ecological environement whole that sustains human life then only considering self is very short-sighted aka narrow minded.

We have Earth full of narrow-minded people evovlving into global community.  How much longer can we go forward with old ways of thinking that pit individual against individual and nation aganist nation?


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i see I could have been clearer.
The neronal circuit I refer to will have arisen by Darwian evolution so 'cost' and 'benefit' relate to Darwinian fitness.    I am not suggsting the ciruot can accurately calculate fitness, but a billion years of nutural selection means it makes very good esttimates of what will increase or decrease fitness in most circumstances, although it is perfectly possible it it makes mistakes occasionally!

As it is a 'neural net' rather than an algorithm we can expect variaion between individuals.   I hope that helps!  The take away is that 'morality' based on a brain process, not on metaphysical fictions such as 'good' and 'evil'.  

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i see I could have been clearer.
The neronal circuit I refer to will have arisen by Darwian evolution so 'cost' and 'benefit' relate to Darwinian fitness.    I am not suggsting the ciruot can accurately calculate fitness, but a billion years of nutural selection means it makes very good esttimates of what will increase or decrease fitness in most circumstances, although it is perfectly possible it it makes mistakes occasionally!

As it is a 'neural net' rather than an algorithm we can expect variaion between individuals.   I hope that helps!  The take away is that 'morality' based on a brain process, not on metaphysical fictions such as 'good' and 'evil'.  

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I see some problems with this theory. Naturally selective processes are mindless. Mindless forces can't have aims or goals. Since morality is ultimately the result of evolution, and evolution is a mindless process, any aims or goals are solely the product of imagination. We both acknowledge that 'costs' and 'benefits' are always relative to some goal, yes?

The second problem, even assuming that morality is based on Darwinian evolution, would be explaining how our perceptions of "good' moral behavior contradicts eugenics. We should only treat those who can pass on desirable traits with love and respect, like those who aren't disabled, diseased, disfigured, etc.
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The human "neural net" has most access to metaphysical-1, mind/intellect/concepts ergo morals/ethics etc.

Humans are synergetistic resultant, just as bioloigic/soul life is synergistic whole.

Humans consider all that exists and goes outside of that via and as metaphysical-1, mind/intellect/concepts.

"Neural net" { occupied space } precedes access to metaphysical-1, mind/intellect/concepts of morals and ethics.




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I suggest that is all there is to 'morality'.
We can test this with actual historical examples.

Does your theory explain Adolph Hitler?

Does your theory explain Richard Nixon?

Does your theory explain Rosa Parks?

I don't think it does. Real life shows you are incorrect.
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I am proposing that all those people have within their brains a neural circuit that makes cost/benefit estimates of alternative options.  That same circuit is responsible for our judgement of the 'morality' of the options.

Because brains are not identical our moral judgements (aka cost/benefit estimates) are not identical.
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I understand. But those people responded in a way that your proposal cannot explain.

For example, what benefit to others did Nixon see in his behavior? Or what benefit to self did Rosa Parks calculate?
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Accoring to the theory, the relevant neural circuit operates below the level of consciousness.   That is to say the circuit 'does its thing' and works out its recommendation and passes that recommendation to conciousness without also passing on how it reached its conclusion.  

To experience that happening, consider your reaction to rape.  You don't have to think about rape to know it is bad - that response to rape comes straight from the neural circuit.   You can subsequently rationalise that response, but generally we don't bother and sometimes it is actually quite difficult to rationalise and we have to fall back on saying things like 'its obvious rape is bad'.

you don't believe in evolution, but if you did you would appreciate that after billions of years brains would all tend to be wired up in a way that the is close to optimal for the benefit species, but exceptions and outliers will always be present.   Slight differences in the balance between selfishness and group advantage will produce individuals with different modes of behaviour and different moral judgements of the behavious of others