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From whence do you derive your moral code?
November 8, 2005 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Atheists and agnostics: From whence do you derive your moral code?

I get the sense that most of us who reject traditional Christian morality get by on an innate sense of what is right and wrong, or simple rules such as the golden rule, or "Do as you will, and harm no one" (Wiccan, I think).

Is there any secular writing, speech, poem, tradition, etc, from which you derive your code of ethics? Failing that, I'm also interested in non-Christian writings/traditions.
posted by agropyron to Religion & Philosophy (90 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I get mine from the military:

Loyalty
Duty
Respect
Selfless Service
Honor
Integrity
Personal Courage
posted by C17H19NO3 at 9:44 AM on November 8, 2005


For me. It's an ongoing thing. My sense of "right and wrong" is never actually complete for final. It's always changing as I go through life and experience different things.

With that said I would have to say that an innate sense of right and wrong is a big factor as you say.

I'm an atheist by the way
posted by icespide at 9:45 AM on November 8, 2005


I'm agnostic. But I was raised Jewish, and I learned a lot of my morals and ethics from that religion. Also, I have some pretty awesome parents who taught me well.
posted by amro at 9:53 AM on November 8, 2005


"Do unto others" always works for me. And try not to hurt anyone.

I think knowing what the honorable thing to do is is a little like obscenity: "I know it when I see it."
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:54 AM on November 8, 2005


"You don't have to fuck people over to survive"

Not the book by that name, just the phrase.
posted by cmonkey at 9:56 AM on November 8, 2005


While I can't speak for the other person who uses this account, I subscribe to "Do unto others" with a large helping of Peter Singer's views on utilitarianism.
posted by cloeburner at 9:56 AM on November 8, 2005


I was brought up pretty strict Catholic. From there I learned honesty, integrity, humility, duty, and respect. I picked up honor in HS/College and have added cheerfulness in the intervening years.

Now an atheist, I still look fondly on my parochial school years.
posted by unixrat at 9:57 AM on November 8, 2005


Didn't Abraham Lincoln say,"When I do the right thing, I feel good, when I do the wrong thing, I feel badly...and that is my religion." If not Abe, somebody said it.
posted by punkfloyd at 10:01 AM on November 8, 2005


You are asking the wrong question. The first question you need to ask is, "what is a moral code?"

A moral code implies rules which a person will live by. But that gets confused with legal absolutes, ethical rules, guidelines of principle, etc. If you are religious you may have a somewhat "set in stone" moral code. But for atheists it's debatable whether a moral code is even necessary.

For example - I'm an atheist, and I have no moral code. I live by principles and ethics. It's a fine line, but I prefer make choices based on the idea that ethics and principles can be logically debated, and context matters. But morals are based on assumptions about what an imaginary creator wants, and that seems to be more absolute and much too succinct.

Another example - A moral code might say, "Life is sacred." Why is it sacred? Who decided that? And is it a problem that if we look around it obviously isn't sacred? But from a moral standpoint those questions seem rude and pointless. If we come at the issue from an ethical direction we can have a more complete discussion which takes context and ramifications into consideration.

So I start with a rejection of morals, and a quest to find solutions based on logical ethics, and proven principles. And the source for those can be anything and everything. One can easily find fertile ground for ethical musings here in MetaFilter.

Said another way - Moral codes are typically lists of out of context jingoism. Ethics and principles are a stimulating debate.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:05 AM on November 8, 2005


well, i'd argue that although we, the royal we, are atheists we are informed and reared in societies that rely on some western, if not judeo-christian, mores for the laws and structures that we exist within. like some have said (was christain/jewish, etc).

Or, to make it broader, a japanese atheist, for example, would still be raised within the society that honors and values the mores that come with the heritage of that society/culture/country.

your values, while in opposition, would not come from nothing, they would still be grounded in, for those of us in the US, our western/judeo-christian heritage, and its whole line of Augustian, Aquinas, Kantian morals.

I wouldn't say we are innately anything. If we, as i think chomsky argues, are born with a grammar structure & brain wired towards freedom then these are evolutionary structures in which we have been evolving within. if that is what we have now i don' t know that i would say that is "innate."

But, to answer your question, with the death of god, i think you just have to look and see, there is nothing left but violence and morality. then you make your choice.

i guess to put it another way, you can take your Hobbes, Neitzche, Hume, etc and just take what they say without needing to have it relate to a dead idea. we still have to make a choice without a dad watching over us, so we can apply what has been taught to a situation minus the great overseer.

Also, Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" is a good book for why we don't need god, and i think he has somehting in there about why it needn't spell the end of morality.
posted by 8 Bit at 10:05 AM on November 8, 2005


My basic imperative is "try to leave things better than you found them"
posted by Capn at 10:06 AM on November 8, 2005


Umm, the question was posed sincerely. My innate sense of morality tells me that I did no wrong in posing this question, and that those of you who are upset about it are somehow in the wrong.

history bears out quite well that the majority of cruelty, violence, and horrors have been enacted by those claiming to have supreme morality from their religion.

That would seem to have no bearing whatsoever on the question I asked. I asked the atheists of MeFi where they find their personal moral grounding.

If you're upset that "the burden is on you to be moral", then the question is not directed at you. The question is directed at people who feel a need to act morally.
posted by agropyron at 10:07 AM on November 8, 2005


To turn the question around: Is a person who only does the Right Thing when a gun is pointed at his head truly a "moral" person? What if that gun is infinite (hell), and an infinitely good reward (heaven) is offered as well? How would you compare that person to the guy who does the Right Thing simply to make somebody else happy?
posted by LordSludge at 10:09 AM on November 8, 2005


One of my old philosophy professors, Dr. James Edwards, has written a fairly influential book on the topic. The Plain Sense of Things: The Fate of Religion in an Age of Normal Nihilism is quite readable and enlightening.

I'm atheist, by the way. And I spent a year with an infantry battalion in Iraq. No, I was never in a foxhole, but I endured several hairy situations. Never once did I look to a higher power for guidance or support. For what it's worth, I kept two books with me at all times over there: Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters and Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy.
posted by viewofdelft at 10:09 AM on November 8, 2005


Didn't Abraham Lincoln say,"When I do the right thing, I feel good, when I do the wrong thing, I feel badly..."

I hope Mr. Lincoln would've had a better grasp of grammar.

With regard to the question; a combination of some utilitarian ideas and my own sense of empathy. It's always evolving, though.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:11 AM on November 8, 2005


From the dictionary?

Grammar snarkiness aside, I think the answer will vary with each individual. My wife gets much of her moral code from an highly refined internal system of logic. She's a rational, scientific person, and she subjects her life and behavior to the same rigorous analysis that she does her work.

For me, it's more complex. I was raised Mormon, spent my teenage years as a Mennonite, and lost religion when I got to college and actually realized there was a larger world than that which Christianity would lead me to believe. I couldn't simply write off all the non-Christian traditions in the world, ascribing them to hell or to purgatory or whatever.

For several years, I clung to my Christian values despite having lost my faith. Gradually I absorbed ideas from other sources, from thinkers as diverse as Aristotle, Robert Pirsig, Ayn Rand, Ernest Hemingway, Ursula LeGuin, Daniel Quinn, Wendell Berry, and many more. Over the past fifteen years, my personal moral code has evolved into its current form. It continues to evolve.

Essentially, I'm no longer able to believe in absolutes. As I adopt certain principles into my moral code, I do so without the rigidity with which I once held my religious beliefs. For example, one of my current fundamental guiding principles is "one ought to be allowed to pursue his bliss in any way that he desires so long as this pursuit does not infringe upon the happiness of others". Though I firmly believe this, my mind is willing to accept arguments against it. (In fact, it actively seeks arguments against it.)

My process has become: from experience or reading, derive a principle for living. Scrutinize this principle. Does it withstand logical analysis and is it practical for life application? If so, I merge it with my existing world view. If it is not, I either modify it or discard it.

Occasionally, a long-held principle will either need to be modified or discarded. For example, when I lost my faith, I retained many of the beliefs I'd held as a Mennonite, such as "pacifism is best — one ought never engage in violence for any reason". I no longer believe this. I still consider myself pacifist, but I now consider violence an option in certain limited situations.

I admit that it is something of a struggle not having a central, codified authority from which to derive a personal moral code. It's easy when somebody else has done the thinking for you. Sometimes I feel as if I'm re-inventing the wheel, attempting to perceive universal truths that others have long ago discerned and acknowledged and codified. But by doing this on my own, these principles take on added personal value. The biggest problem is that I so often feel lost, unsure of myself, too willing to concede that yes, your stance may be correct and mine may be wrong. Because I don't have a central authority from which I argue my positions, I don't have firm footing, and any sufficiently persuasive argument against my positions forces me to re-evaluate my beliefs.

I'm always re-evaluating my beliefs.

But, as I say, I suspect the answer is different for each and every atheist/agnostic.

(Note: several years ago on my personal weblog, I've shared my personal spirtual path in a series of three entries: Genesis, Exodus, and Revelations. The latter entry is especially applicable to this question.)
posted by jdroth at 10:12 AM on November 8, 2005


A combination of The Golden Rule and the general principle of trying to do something that'll help somebody else before I do the thing that will help me. Sometimes laziness is an obstacle there, but in general I'm the guy who'll stand on the subway when seats are available, will take the shitty project at work, etc. I was loosely raised Catholic, but it was never a powerful influence and was pretty much dropped from my life completely around age 11 or 12, and there's no sucking void as a result.

I believe *very* strongly in the idea of a world where morality revolves entirely around people realizing that it is, indeed, a good idea to be helpful and kind to each other, even if there are other, more "efficient" ways of doing things at the expense of others' comfort / feelings / success / etc. And no, I'm not a Communist. I don't know a damn thing about it, actually.
posted by logovisual at 10:12 AM on November 8, 2005


jdroth
posted by agropyron at 10:13 AM on November 8, 2005


It's also worth noting that I've often gotten in trouble with friends (and in one notable case, my ex-partner) for being ethically inflexible, i.e. I look down very harshly on people who I see as insufficiently selfless in their dealings with the world. I'm trying very hard to revise that.
posted by logovisual at 10:13 AM on November 8, 2005


Be careful: There is a small but increasing number of Christians who are "atheists" in that they don't consider God do be "someone". When "our father" becomes a metaphor for the divine, rather than a reference to a guy on a throne, we've moved into "non-theism" or atheism.

The key to any system is consistency. Once you begin an inquiry into morality, as Kant discovered, consistency matters more than what you desire.

One reading of John Stuart Mill might suggest that morality is merely a cost-benefit analysis with some untidy theologically based values thrown into a personal-desire based value system. If this is the case, there is no moral difference between theists and atheists: They all do some math and decide what they want given what they value.

This raises a further interesting point: It is questionable that there is any real homogeneity in moral codes among theists, even sub-groups of theists, like Baptists.
posted by ewkpates at 10:17 AM on November 8, 2005


logovisual: I advise against it. Evil, stupidity, greed, hate... none of these is improved for tolerance, and you don't help yourself by become more tolerant of them.
posted by ewkpates at 10:18 AM on November 8, 2005


i'd love to see some vignettes where people acted morally, because the whole story is loaded with treachery, cruelty, torture, and total disrespect for minorities, women, etc.

You might note, however, that these are typically what happened, not tips on how to behave. The fact that David slept with a militaryman's wife, and had the hubby killed by sending him into intense battle just to cover it up, is a lesson to us not to even attempt such endeavors for fear of a widespread coverup and related/unpleasant consequences -- not a recommendation to commit adultery with some hottie you see bathing and deceptively kill the husband to get out of the repercussions. OT passages often are descriptions of choice men made, not opportunities to rationalize doing the same.

Neither, you might also find, is obedience to the law or possesion of any form of morality a factor for our ability to enter heaven. It's not based on our obedience, but Christ's.
posted by vanoakenfold at 10:22 AM on November 8, 2005


Does a code have to come from somewhere? How about:

1. Don't be cruel to other people.
2. Do things that will make yourself happy.
3. Do things that will make other people happy.

Make sure you do 1 before 2, and 2 before 3.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:25 AM on November 8, 2005


I yield to your whence, agropyron!

(See, that sort of thing is how my personal moral code is derived, also. I've always considered "from whence" to be redundantly "from from whence", and adhered to that grammar 'rule'. You have introduced enough doubt that I (begrudginly) yield the point. This is how my moral code evolves, too.)
posted by jdroth at 10:26 AM on November 8, 2005


To contradict Ewkpates, though I respect his catagorical imperative, I don't think that morality necessarily is consistent.
I get a lot of my sense of what is good and just from studying political science, and trying to look at how those questions have been concieved and dealt with over time. I like John Stuart Mill a lot, who argues that it is an inherent good that everyone have the freedom to do as they like so long as it brings no harm. I've also been colored by Bertrand Russell, and would like to consider myself a humanist. I don't really believe in an afterlife, but I do believe in a human commonality and an obligation to act in a way that elevates all of humanity. And, while I often fail, that's what I'd like to think that I do. I also feel that the priveledges that I am afforded because of my birth (nationality, race, gender, etc.), I have an obligation to help those who might be less able to exercize their rights due to accidents of birth. I believe that by studying history and current societies, we can get a fair view of what conditions tend to leave the broadest swath of people the happiest, and I believe in an obligation to reach toward those goals. Utopia is no place, but I believe there's an honor in strving.
posted by klangklangston at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2005


Am I missing something? How about good old common sense? Our own individual 'moral code' is derived by knowing the difference between right and wrong. This is taught to us by parents, grandparents, freinds, siblings, etc. Consequenses of not doing the 'right thing' might be defined by society in terms of incarceration. The consequences of getting caught stealing a Matchbox car in 2nd grade taught me more about my 'moral code' than anything my Mom had to say about god.
posted by repoman at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2005


I think "act in good faith" is as close to an absolute human moral good as we have. It's sort of like the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) but more specifically addresses the actual desires of others. Basically, like 23skidoo said, don't be cruel to other people. When acting, consider whether the act will please others (and depending on the situation, "others" could either be a specific person, or the greatest number of people).
posted by rxrfrx at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2005


repoman: As I noted, I think most of us do rely on our common sense. I was wondering if there were any atheists and agnostics who relied on something in addition to their common sense.
posted by agropyron at 10:31 AM on November 8, 2005


If you're upset that "the burden is on you to be moral", then the question is not directed at you. The question is directed at people who feel a need to act morally.

thank you for a nonanswer. you in fact very much posed a question that put a burden on "us" (agnostics/athiests) to "prove" that we can be moral because its just soooooo obvious that others already have a moral code.

also, i "feel" a need to act morally even though i don't believe in god, and while i wasn't upset before, that last sentence makes me really annoyed -- i can't tell whether its a big "fuck you" or something genuine.
posted by yonation at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2005


From the unproven assumption that the rest of you are conscious, thinking beings.
I know it's a bit of a stretch, but it's all I've got for now.
posted by signal at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2005


repoman: Am I missing something? How about good old common sense? Our own individual 'moral code' is derived by knowing the difference between right and wrong. This is taught to us by parents, grandparents, freinds, siblings, etc.

Yes, I think you're missing something. What your parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, etc. taught you is different from what my parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, etc. taught me. Even if we're raised in the same culture, there will be important differences in family codes of conduct. (In some families, it's important to say grace before eating. In some families, this is considered rude.)

Your common sense is different than my common sense. And saying that moral codes are derived from 'knowing the difference between right and wrong' is putting the cart before the horse. One knows the difference between right and wrong because of one's moral code.

And what is right (or wrong) under one moral code, might not be right under another. Morality is subjective. Absolute truths, if they exist, are rare.

Thus this question, which, as an atheist, I find intriguing, not offensive.
posted by jdroth at 10:36 AM on November 8, 2005 [1 favorite]


i resent these kind of questions because they're so loaded

I disagree. It's a deeply important question. I think about it all the time.

I'm an atheist. I have very strong FEELINGS about right and wrong actions. But I believe these are generated completely within my brain (caused partly by genes and partly by upbringing). They don't come from any external force at all. I am -- in a way -- just making them up. But I can't control them, change them, or choose not to feel them.

If I give in to these feelings, I must not only choose certain actions (and not choose other actions) for myself, I must judge other people according to them.

The problem is that I have an equally strong feeling that it's not fair for me to judge others based on stuff that comes from my own head (as opposed to some impartial 3rd party's head).

Perhaps the solution is to apply these feelings to myself alone. Sometimes this works. For instance, I believe in honoring my marriage commitment. But I don't feel the need to go around preaching the evil of anyone who gets a divorce. But eventually this breaks down. If I see someone stealing or causing great pain, I feel I must intervene. I must judge that other person, and I'm judging him based on my own standards. The ego of this appalls me. What makes MY standards better than anyone elses?

Sometimes I think I'm being too hard on myself. Most people think stealing and hurting are wrong. Though these standards aren't writ in cosmic stone, they're pretty universal. This makes me feel a bit better about expecting everyone to follow them, but only if I don't think about it too much.

The problem is that ANOTHER part of my ethic is that natural != right. Just because we have a strong feeling, that doesn't mean we should necessarily act on that feeling. Just because something is generally felt to be good or bad, that doesn't mean we have the right to impose that feeling on other people. (Just because I have a really strong desire for your money -- even if this desire is "natural" -- that doesn't give me the right to steal it).

Any argument that suggests we should adopt the ethics of a particular culture if we are a member of that culture is based around the concept of majority. There's no such thing as a culture in which everyone agrees. Every culture contains a minority of "oddballs," and by using "culture-based" ethics we are, in affect, saying "might makes right." The majority has the right to dictate to the minority. This may be a practical solution (that makes the majority happy), but I can think of all sorts of historical incidents where this has lead to scary results (i.e. Nazis).

What I want is what most people -- religious or otherwise -- want: a perfected moral system. I don't think one exists. We will always come up with paradoxes and conflicts. Which, translated into practical behavior, means injustice and hypocrisy. Often, the best we can do is to trust our gut and try not to think too deeply. That's pretty much impossible for me. I'm one of those people who stays awake at 3am with uncontrollable, racing thoughts.

I will only feel comfortable when I can completely divorce "what's right" from "what I like" and "what's wrong" from "what I dislike." There IS a difference in feeling -- what I like feels tame compared with what's right (which feels profound and imposed on me). But intellectually I know than they are disturbingly similar.

I envy people of faith. I would be religious if I could be. And I envy those atheists who somehow can skirt these issues. They sleep better at night than I do.
posted by grumblebee at 10:38 AM on November 8, 2005


My moral code is mostly innate, and probably comes from my parents and what they taught me as they raised me. That may have been rooted in their religious beliefs, but was more likely rooted in what they learned from their own parents, and the culture at large.

As my thinking on this matured, I derive most of my justification for my innate sense of what is right and what is wrong from two primary sources, Kant's Categorical Imperative, and the concept of a Social Contract (that is, since it is easier for me if I don't have to have to worry about you stealing my sandwich, we'll agree that we won't steal from each other, and we'll agree to help protect each other (by proxy via the government) against anybody who doesn't accept that contract).
posted by willnot at 10:38 AM on November 8, 2005


Einstein was my thought leader on the topic of religion and moral aesthetics. One of many great quotes: "True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness." - A. Einstein
posted by Sagres at 10:39 AM on November 8, 2005


Don't confuse morality with simply choosing how to live one's day to day life. Many of us do not have a morality nor do we believe that one exists.
posted by pwb503 at 10:42 AM on November 8, 2005


Rational ethics trumps "morality" for me.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:44 AM on November 8, 2005


[a few comments removed, please keep answers on-topic or take it to metatalk ]
posted by jessamyn at 10:44 AM on November 8, 2005


I gave my answer to this question on the blue a bit back. Enjoy. Or not.
posted by Ryvar at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2005


I envy people of faith. I would be religious if I could be. And I envy those atheists who somehow can skirt these issues. They sleep better at night than I do.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

The key point I wish I could convey to my (religious) friends and family is this: the more I read — and I read extensively — the less I know, the less sure I am about what is right and wrong.

The following is a gross generalization, and I acknowledge that, but from my experience my religions friends and family are substantially less well-read than my few atheist friends. (All of my family is religious.) Far less well-read. And by well-read, I mean breadth of reading, not depth. The converse is also true. My few atheist friends are, in general, far more well-read than my religious friends and family.

I am not saying that religious people are ill read. I am saying that being widely read may be a contributing factor to atheism, or agnosticism, and almost certainly leads to less certainty in one's moral code.

Ironically, it is the few well-read Christians I know whom I most respect as Christians. These inividuals have explored other thoughts and ideas and still retain their core beliefs. I couldn't do it, but I respect them for their ability to have done so. (Curiously, every one of these well-read Christians is what I consider a 'liberal Christian', a thinker, a pacifist, the opposite of the fundamentalist Bible-thumping Christian who is vocal and admant in his beliefs.)

Again: the above were brief observations filled with gross generalizations.
posted by jdroth at 10:50 AM on November 8, 2005


jdroth: First of all, saying grace has nothing to do with morality or common sense. Also, explain to me how you can have a moral code before knowing right from wrong. Are we not taught the difference between right and wrong? That would mean our moral codes evolve. Morality is not innate. Please give me one significant example of a moral (right or wrong) that is different between cultures. Thanks.
posted by repoman at 10:51 AM on November 8, 2005


Please give me one significant example of a moral (right or wrong) that is different between cultures.

I'm not sure how you're defining "culture" (or "significant"), but I would consider Mormon Fundamentalists a culture. They believe polygamy is a duty. Many other Americans believe it's a sin.
posted by grumblebee at 10:58 AM on November 8, 2005


Common Sense is more or less useless. Common Sense tells you to believe what your parents believed, do what your peers do, that air is a liquid and that mass is solid.
posted by ewkpates at 11:00 AM on November 8, 2005


Transcendentalism. Although I reject categorical imperatives, I strive to improve and become a better person every day, to behave like a better version of myself. Logical ethics, i.e. common sense, constitutes the "god within" to whom I listen.
posted by junkbox at 11:10 AM on November 8, 2005


Frankly, my moral compass still guides me on my parents' path. Having now seen child rearing up close, I think that the social codes instilled by parents matter more than anything. I don't think about right and wrong most of the time, I just follow my conditioning. Ring the bell, I drool.

Now, when I got to university, I discovered utilitarianism, epicureanism and secular humanism, which all inform my ethical package. The isms are all nice statements of why it's a good idea to behave in society, but they describe rather than define what I belive.

Also, Kohlberg's ladder is a great way to feel superior to your fellow creatures ("Look at me! I'm a level 5!"), but it too is a categorization, and doesn't speak to the pre-rational, visceral "warm fuzzies" obtained from true altruism.

Changing where compasses point is very hard post-adolescence. It takes will and courage. Philosophy helps to clarify and refine, but doesn't, ultimately define directly: parents do.
posted by bonehead at 11:15 AM on November 8, 2005


Please give me one significant example of a moral (right or wrong) that is different between cultures.

Mormons also believe it's a sin to drink coffee. Seattleites believe it's a sin NOT to drink coffee.
posted by agropyron at 11:21 AM on November 8, 2005


Stage 6, baby. At least, that's what I've been shooting for since well before I heard of Kohlberg's stages. If nothing else, it's a good target.
posted by Eamon at 11:30 AM on November 8, 2005


Please give me one significant example of a moral (right or wrong) that is different between cultures.

Well, in India apparently it's moral to steal in order to keep an important promise, whereas in America it's moral to not steal and by doing so break your word.

Discussed in this thread.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:33 AM on November 8, 2005


agropyron & grumblebee: Having Mormon faith is not all that common, therefore I would not think they would have a lot of common sense. I kind of thought I would get hammered on fringy, lunatic, religous examples of what right or wrong is. As we all know, humanity as a whole loves coffee :)
posted by repoman at 11:41 AM on November 8, 2005


repoman: First of all, saying grace has nothing to do with morality or common sense.

It has nothing to do with morality or common sense for you (or for me). I have some cousins that would disagree strongly, though, and would argue that it's a moral imperative to say grace before every meal. Seriously. This is an example of different cultures imparting different values. I agree that this is not an example of a Big Issue, but it is these little issues that amalgamate into larger issues.

Also, explain to me how you can have a moral code before knowing right from wrong. Are we not taught the difference between right and wrong? That would mean our moral codes evolve.

Did you read any of my other comments? I'm saying that for me, my moral code does evolve. It is not rigid. It adapts as I read more, learn more, experience more. Also: what makes you think that what we are taught as right and wrong is correct? What makes you think that everyone is taught the same rights and wrongs?

I suspect that you and I may be arguing chicken and egg with regard to morality and the sense of right and wrong. To me, a moral code is like a set of rules. Without it, nothing can be wrong (against the rules) or right (within the rules). To you, it seems, this set of rules is derived by observing which actions are right and which are wrong (though how you make this determination without a guiding moral code is beyond me).

Please give me one significant example of a moral (right or wrong) that is different between cultures. Thanks.

I don't mean to start a political argument, but these occur to me off the top of my head, and seem appropriate: some cultures believe it is acceptable to maintain military bases in other culture's holy lands despite the ire of the populace. Some cultures believe it is acceptable to fly jetplanes into other cultures financial centers in retaliation for said bases. Some cultures believe it is acceptable to invade a sovereign nation without provocation and justification simply because the other nation's leader is a pain in the ass. Some cultures believe that it is an acceptable act of war to strap explosives to one's body and then detonate said explosives among a crowd of civilians.

For example.

Western culture labels suicide as evil. Eastern culture sometimes views it as noble and necessary. In some cultures, cannibalism is a moral act.

Even within specific societies, values can vary widely. Richard Wright's Native Son is a fantastic exploration of individual morals, and their relevance in the face of systemized oppression. When Bigger Thomas kills Mary Dalton, are his actions immoral? That's the crux of the book.

I could go on and on. Morality does differ between cultures, in manners both large and small.

(23skidoo: thanks for citing that link. I spent several minutes googling for that exact article to use as an example, but couldn't come up with it.)
posted by jdroth at 11:48 AM on November 8, 2005


Having Mormon faith is not all that common, therefore I would not think they would have a lot of common sense.

The Mormon culture has as much internal self-consistent "common sense" as any other. Dismissing another culture as not having common sense is ... well, how wars get started.
posted by vacapinta at 11:53 AM on November 8, 2005


I've thought a lot about this, but I don't really have time to go into great detail now, so I'll be brief. I think much of what we consider morality is actually a consequence of biology: specifically, a consequence of our evolution as social animals capable of rational thought. Specific parts of the brain have evolved to perform what is called a "mirror" or "model of the mind" function; basically, they allow us to imagine what other people are thinking and feeling. This is the biological basis of empathy. The brain also contains a "model of the world", which allows us to rationally predict the consequences of our actions. This provides a biological basis for our understanding of causality, which underpins the moral ideas of justice and fairness. Taken together, these brain functions provide the root of all moral sensibilities (and you can see a great deal of the history of the human psyche flowing from the conflict between these and our "baser" biological imperatives).

People are writing about this stuff; I'm not as familiar with the work as I should be, though. This is pretty much my own (neurological naive) take on it.

Also, no one has mentioned Existentialism yet. I think The Plague would give you a good sense of the Existentialist morality.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:54 AM on November 8, 2005


Empathy.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:13 PM on November 8, 2005


"There is right, and there is wrong, and the distinction is not hard to make."

Please give me one significant example of a moral (right or wrong) that is different between cultures.

The Sambia people of New Guinea believe that it is vital that preadolescent boys fellate the adult males of the tribe.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:31 PM on November 8, 2005


I agree with what y6 wrote at the top of the thread. I think about my ethics and principles by reading literature and philosophy, and I think about them all the time.
posted by josh at 12:43 PM on November 8, 2005


Putting aside the discussion about nature of moral codes, here is mine:

Treat people the way you'd like them to treat you regardless of how they actually treat you.

That pretty much sums it up for me.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 12:54 PM on November 8, 2005


I agree with what mr_roboto wrote. We are all social animals subject to the hazards and benefits of the world and the evolutionary process. Communities of great apes have no concept of morality yet they have been succsefull as a species. If they had no sense of the consequences of their actions they would have killed each other off millions of years ago. Our society and how we operate are after all just an extension of theirs.
posted by Justin Case at 1:02 PM on November 8, 2005


I should clarify that I do not believe that great apes actually think about the consequences of their actions but they are hardwired to behave in certain ways. For instance when a female ape and male ape meet up they do not automatically start fighting, sometimes they have sex and propogate the species. Such is nature going back billions of years
posted by Justin Case at 1:07 PM on November 8, 2005


empathy.
posted by delmoi at 1:11 PM on November 8, 2005


Please give me one significant example of a moral (right or wrong) that is different between cultures.

Saudi Arabia, Burqas, hello?
posted by delmoi at 1:22 PM on November 8, 2005


My "moral system" is essentially a stack of values; a contemplated action is passed through that stack from most-valued to least-valued and if it doesn't conflict with any of them then it's an OK thing to do. The values are derived from personal affections and certain beliefs that I *think* are rational (although they may not be).

This is further modified by a sort of concentric valuation; the people closest to me are valued more highly than myself, and things acquire less value the further out they are (I place myself in the fourth or fifth ring).

...and I'll spare you all the finer details of the system, except to say that it seems to work for me, and the analyses are very very fast (I don't have to sit and ponder things for hours when confronted with a decision).
posted by aramaic at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2005


Anyway, basically I have two or three 'moral principles' which are

1) human suffering is bad
2) human liberty is good.

When analyzing decisions (say, of a government) you can rationally look at evidence and see how to optimize those two things. In some cases they may be in conflict (like, should you start a war, which would cause suffering, in order to free some oppressed people? That's a difficult question. The two principles must be balanced.)

Actions should be judged on there results, not their intentions. So, an action would be 'immoral' if it increased suffering whether or not that was your plan.

Where do one and two come from? Well, I don't know, I just feel that way. But like I said, mostly from an innate sense of empathy.
posted by delmoi at 1:29 PM on November 8, 2005


What about monkey suffering? Why/why not more important than the suffering of fetus and the clinically retarded?

It's all about consistency...
posted by ewkpates at 1:33 PM on November 8, 2005


Atheists and agnostics: From whence do you derive your moral code?

From the same place theists derive theirs: it's how you are brought up, how you are trained and treated for the first handful of years, plus probably a few innate tendencies, that determines how you will behave for the rest of your life. The codes just put in writing what we believe anyway and would write on our own if we had the smarts: don't kill, don't steal, don't cheat, be kind to others, etc. (or you will be punished one way or another). These are ideas that have been around for longer than Jesus or whoever your religious hero happens to be.
posted by pracowity at 2:11 PM on November 8, 2005 [1 favorite]


Communities of great apes have no concept of morality yet they have been successful as a species.

The subjective part here is "successfully as a species." What does this mean? Does the fact that they have so far survived (i.e. haven't killed each other off) mean that they are successful? If we humans simply survive, are we successful? Or, to be successful, do we also need to be happy or safe or loved or stimulated?

Apes can't talk, so we don't know how they feel. Unless our concept of success is really simple, we can't know if they are successful.
posted by grumblebee at 2:16 PM on November 8, 2005


It's all about consistency...

One need not equally value fetuses, monkeys and the retarded in order to be consistent.

I value legal persons more than creatures that are not legal persons. I also think that it is best to cause the least harm, but I don't weight that ethic higher than the first one mentioned. I also think it is best to promote the most benefit, but I don't weight that ethic higher than the previous two ethics.

Fetuses are not legal persons. Grown women are. Therefore, I value a grown woman more than a fetus. Aborting a fetus harms the fetus. Bearing an unwanted child harms the mother. To minimize harm, either the child should be wanted or aborted. I don't distinguish any difference in the degree of harm mitigated. Therefore, I support a woman's right to abort.

Monkeys are not legal persons. But harm should be minimized. As such, unless a person is benefitted by the suffering of a monkey, one should not harm monkeys. Monkeys may suffer from medical research, but the benefit to humans outweighs the harm to monkeys (since monkeys are not legal persons). Therefore, I support animal research.

The clinically retarded are legal persons. They should not be harmed. Activities which benefit the retarded should be promoted; I do not distinguish between developmentally disabled legal persons and other legal persons.

There you go. I do not equally value monkeys, fetuses and the retarded, but my moral code is consistent.

My moral code also supports feeding mice to pet snakes, eating factory-raised meat, and refusing to participate in expeditionary military forces.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:17 PM on November 8, 2005


solid-one-love, can you explain the importance of "legal person"? Why does is legality important as a deciding factor?

Are laws innately good? If your government decides to declare woman non-persons, is it then less bad to harm them than it is to harm men? (In some countries, at various point-in-time, black people haven't been legal persons).
posted by grumblebee at 2:35 PM on November 8, 2005


cultural environment. i don't believe it's much different whether you're religious or not - you inherit the prejudices and behaviours of your parents and peers.

the alternative would be that christians learnt morality from the bible or at church, and my limited experience suggests that's hopelessly naive.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:00 PM on November 8, 2005


Kant's "Grounding," "Metaphysics of Morals," and the three Critiques.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:21 PM on November 8, 2005


solid-one-love, can you explain the importance of "legal person"? Why does is legality important as a deciding factor?

Because it is a secular standard throughout much of the Western world. It is a common moral that I happen to agree with. We legally differentiate between humans who have been born and humans have not been born. This is more true in my country than in the US, but if we're going to have an arbitrary standard, I am comfortable with that one.

I am particularly comfortable with it because before I had learned about the distinction between legal persons and beings which were not legal persons (through the Morgentaler and Daigle cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada), I had independently come to the logical conclusion that an adult had more rights and privileges than minors, who had more rights and privileges than fetuses.

"Are laws innately good" is a question for another thread. I think that it is good that the society in which I live legally considers adults to have more rights than fetuses.

I consider it a strawman to bring up the idea of women and non-whites not being legal persons. I don't live in a time where that is the case. I understand the arguments for suffrage and against racial slavery. I have never heard a compelling argument for the "rights" of the unborn, as ascribing rights to the unborn would necessarily eliminate rights from some women. This is not true when speaking of women's suffrage or racial slavery. (Suggesting that there was some "right for men to be the only gender to vote" or a "right to own slaves" is circular and not compelling.)

Hence, a strawman.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:23 PM on November 8, 2005


I consider it a strawman to bring up the idea of women and non-whites not being legal persons. I don't live in a time where that is the case.

Yes, you live in your own time with its own prejudices. The people "back then" were going by the standards of their time.

You sanction legality because "it is a common moral that I happen to agree with." Maybe I'm missing something, but it sounds like you're saying "I like laws that I agree with"? That's fine. Me too. But the law seems pretty unimportant to what you're saying. Why not just say "I like what I like." If a law happens to coincide with your gut instinct (or your reasoning or however you derive your ethics), surely that's a coincidence -- based on the fact that the lawmakers, being similar to you (humans), have the same gut feelings and use the same reasoning.

How does the "common moral" part of it work? Why is that important? Why does it matter if many people share your morality? You may think this is another strawman (why?), but many Nazi's shared common ethics; same with KKK members; etc.

I'm not trying to paint you as a Nazi. I'm just suggesting that laws are simply rules made by humans; common morals can turn out, in hindsight, to be dreadful; history can show you (or anyone) to be less enlightened than you think you are; and, naturally, you like what you like.
posted by grumblebee at 3:46 PM on November 8, 2005 [1 favorite]


There's a line in "La Dolce Vita" that goes "The challege of life is to get what you want without hurting anyone."

That's a good start.
posted by zardoz at 3:52 PM on November 8, 2005


One thing to consider re: this discussion. I'm somewhat obsessed with this topic. I worry about it all the time. So naturally, I try to talk to people about it. I've never encountered any subject that upsets people as-much-as this one. Now, many of my conversations wind up upsetting people. I don't mean to upset them, but it's important to me to get to first principals. Otherwise, I don't know where I stand. So I'm one of those socratic types, who keeps saying "yes, but why?" over and over (Why are you a vegetarian? Okay, but why don't you like to kill animals? Okay, but why is it wrong?...). Some people like these kinds of conversations; the people who don't usually roll their eyes and just shrug me off -- except when it comes to this topic! In my experience, people don't like it when someone questions their moral and ethical grounding. And I've noticed this MORE with atheists than theists.

Maybe this is because theists feel comfortable saying, simply "I get my moral code from God." For atheists, it's a little more complicated.

Why do people get so upset about this issue? I don't know. My guess is it's because so much of who we are is wrapped up in it. How do I treat other people? How do I treat myself? Am I a good person? Should I have kids? Etc. What would happen if you got in a conversation and someone convinced you that your basis for all these things was wrong? I'm not claiming that I have the power to do this (or that I would if I could). I'm not claiming that people think I do. But I'm wondering if this possibility -- however slight -- makes people nervous about discussing this.

My life is considerably worse since, in my teens (I'll be 40 next week), I started thinking deeply about this stuff. I wish I hadn't. Outwardly, I act like a very ethical person. I follow strick rules for my life and my treatment of others. But internally I continually feel like these rules sit atop a shaky, perhaps fraudulent mountain. I can only feel secure when I turn off my thinking. Which I can rarely do.

Having said that, I would be interested to know (is this a piggyback question -- I don't think so, as I think it gets to the heart of agropyron's original post) how many of you regularly question whether your whole moral system is a crock of shit? Is this something you never do? Rarely? Sometimes? Every day? How does this affect your life?
posted by grumblebee at 3:58 PM on November 8, 2005


Maybe I'm missing something, but it sounds like you're saying "I like laws that I agree with"?

I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that I agree with that law in particular and have explained that I came to a similar moral conclusion on my own. You should not infer any preference for any other law based on what I have written. You asked "why distinguish legal persons?" and I answered.

I am an enlighted, forward-thinking, highly liberal 21st century man. My thought processes differ from men a hundred years ago, not merely my culture. I see no compelling arguments that a fetus should be protected by law to any greater degree than it already is, and I see many compelling arguments that it should be protected less.

That the common morals of one century often appear repugnant to a later century is certain. I predict that a hunred years from now, people will do everything they can to expunge any hint of pro-life ancestors from the family record, in much the same way that we try to hide our slavers and bigots.

Lik eyou, I am in my late 30s. Like you, I am an atheist. Unlike you, there is no shakiness in my mountain.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:25 PM on November 8, 2005


"Be excellent to each other."
-- Bill S. Preston, Esq.
posted by Opposite George at 5:15 PM on November 8, 2005


Sorry to keep hammering at this, solid-one-love, but you said "I'm saying that I agree with that law in particular..." and I said you like the laws you AGREE with. Aren't we saying the same thing? (Unless your claim is you DON'T like the laws you agree with.) I never claimed you agreed with other laws. I did wonder if laws were important to you, because in your earlier post you kept repeating "legal person" as opposed to "what I consider a person."

If I understand you correctly, you have figured out a definition of "person" that you're comfortable with. This definition HAPPENS to coincide with the law. Therefor you like that law. Right? You like laws you agree with. The fact that you happen to agree with this law (and not others?) is a coincidence. My original question was, if it's a mere coincidence, why bring it up? What is it important? Why not just say "what I consider a person"?

Since many people DO think there's a connection between law and morality, it's confusing to bring the two concepts up in a discussion like this -- unless you're claiming a (more than coincidental) connection? Are you making a claim that I'm missing?

What does this mean: "I am an unlighted, forward-thinking, highly liberal 21st century man. My thought processes differ from men a hundred years ago"? Does that mean you're smarter than people a hundred years ago? Why? Because you're enlightened, liberal and forward thinking? You think you're forward thinking. Many people one hundred years ago thought they were too. What puts you on a higher moral plane than them?

We're in complete agreement that posterity will scoff at our morality (or maybe scratch their heads at it). I don't get what makes you so sure they'll scoff at other people's morality but not yours. But I guess that's why my mountain is shaky and yours is not. I'm trying to figure out if your confidence comes from anything special/unusual -- or whether you just (for no rational reason) feel that your morality is correct (and that it will be the one that wins out in the end).
posted by grumblebee at 5:57 PM on November 8, 2005 [1 favorite]


I have a (probably dumb) question for those of you who follow The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you'd have done unto you) or some variant of it: is this rule a default that you follow when you don't have much specific information, or is it more absolute than that? For instance, if someone expresses a preference to be treated DIFFERENTLY than you, do you respect their wishes? Or do you still do to them what you would like done to you?

Example: say that you feel like if you ever become vegetative, you would like people to cut your life support. If a friend says that, in the same state, he would like CONTINUED life support -- and it's up to you -- do you unplug the machines or not?
posted by grumblebee at 6:03 PM on November 8, 2005 [1 favorite]


Sorry to keep hammering at this, solid-one-love, but you said "I'm saying that I agree with that law in particular..." and I said you like the laws you AGREE with. Aren't we saying the same thing?

No, we're not. I'm saying that there is one law that I agree with. You are conflating this to infer that I like the laws that I agree with. My point is specific and supported. Yours is general and unsupported. You cannot draw a conclusion from one data point, and you only have one data point. I have given no indication of other laws that agree or disagree with.

But, really, you're just briging in a red herring: you are the one who has brought up points of law. If anyone is confusing the issue, it is you. I made mention only of how I value legal persons over beings that are not legal persons. And I did so in order to draw a specific distinction. If what I consider a person is what the law considers a person, it is useful to say so. If I had said "I value those whom I consider persons more than those whom I do not consider persons" the natural question would be "well, what do you consider to be a person?" So I said so, pre-emptively.

Ewkpates suggested that we should be consistent and implied that if we do not value fetuses, monkeys and retarded adults equally that we are not consistent. I proved him wrong. That is the only issue. My argument was self-cconsistent, even if you disagree with my axioms. But that's the last of it: I'm not interested in discussing those axioms further.

What puts you on a higher moral plane than them?

My own judgment.

or whether you just (for no rational reason) feel that your morality is correct (and that it will be the one that wins out in the end).

Actually, I never said that my morality would be the one that wins out in the end. I made a prediction based on a narrow aspect of my morality.

As for your Golden Rule question: I would not unplug the machine. The solution for me is not "I would want my plug pulled; therefore I should treat him as I would have him trreat me and pull the plug", but rather "I would want my decision to die or not to be respected; therefore I should treat him as I would have him treat me and leave him on life support."
posted by solid-one-love at 7:12 PM on November 8, 2005


I derived my ethical code from a priori reasoning about the world. Starting with zero assumptions, I built up a coherent, consistent framework that has no flaws and is impossible to contradict. In every situation I have applied it to so far, it has resulted in the fairest outcomes for everyone involved, and even those who disagree with me in principle always, in the end, admit the inescapable justice of my position.
posted by Hildago at 7:59 PM on November 8, 2005


Golden Rule: what s-o-l said.
posted by Opposite George at 8:08 PM on November 8, 2005


I built up a coherent, consistent framework that has no flaws and is impossible to contradict.

What is it?
posted by 23skidoo at 8:09 PM on November 8, 2005


The Golden Rule or the ethic of reciprocity is found in the scriptures of nearly every religion. It is often regarded as the most concise and general principle of ethics. It is a condensation in one principle of all longer lists of ordinances such as the Decalogue.

Or as per the famous story about Hillel:

A certain heathen came to Shammai and said to him, "Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Thereupon he repulsed him with the rod which was in his hand. When he went to Hillel, he said to him, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; all the rest of it is commentary; go and learn."

The question posed pre-supposes that it is obvious where theists get their moral code from. Because they believe in a religion, they are founded.

Atheist & agnostics on the other hand cannot have any moral compass because they do not have a religion to tell them what to do.

We atheists do not need some grade 4 reader to tell us what is right or what is wrong.

And regradless, the concepts of the Golden Rule and all that emenates from it are "man" made creations, as are the religions that they are housed in, as well as the gods that are worshipped.

Every moral code (as well as all the evil that men do), comes from the individual & collective conciousness of all of us, created over millenia.
posted by notcostello at 9:04 PM on November 8, 2005


Hildago: . . . even those who disagree with me in principle always, in the end, admit the inescapable justice of my position.

I'm tempted to argue the veracity of your statement in order to submit to this inevitability.
posted by quadog at 11:36 PM on November 8, 2005


I was brought up Episcopalian but I'm agnostic now. I'm sure there's quite a bit of Christian "morality" left over in the background: Do unto others and all that. Now it's more Wiccan-ish: Do what thou wilt, harm none. And if I can help someone along the way, all the better. Also - if you can make something better than it was, do it (I don't do that enough).

And as others have mentioned, it's fluid/ever changing. I'm more moral/ethical now than I ever was, although I'm sure there are plenty of religious people out there who would strongly disagree.

It's not innate. As said upthread, morals/ethics change from society to society. Morals/ethics are a human construct. We have to be taught the basics of right and wrong and then we take it from there (or not).

And as for the "moral" or "ethical" debate: aren't they basically the same thing with similar rules?

From Webster.com:
Moral - 1 a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ETHICAL b : expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior c : conforming to a standard of right behavior d : sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment e : capable of right and wrong action
Ethic - (it referred me there from ethical) 1 : the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation. 2 a : a set of moral principles or values b : a theory or system of moral values c plural but singular or plural in construction : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group d : a guiding philosophy
(Maybe I'm reading it wrong.)

Atheist & agnostics on the other hand cannot have any moral compass because they do not have a religion to tell them what to do.

Again, I think that's where I differ from some people. I don't see having morals as a religious thing. You have morals (or ethics if you prefer) or you do not. And your morals/ethics may be different than mine. That's not wrong or right, it just is.

Forgive me if this doesn't make sense. It's late, I'm tired.

posted by deborah at 11:37 PM on November 8, 2005


I get mine from Winnetou. Before he turned Christian.
posted by Skyanth at 1:37 AM on November 9, 2005


1. Atheist since age 12, which indicates that I alone am responsible for me and I am not accountable to any god, jesus, satan, etc.
2. Objecivist since age 16, which is based on some very basic principles: individuals are supreme, capitalism is moral and best, representative government, etc
3. My daughter's 1st-grade school had only two rules: Be Kind and Work Hard.
posted by davidmsc at 4:56 AM on November 9, 2005


It's strange to me that some people claim that one can't be an atheist and have morals. Perhaps they mean morality is inconsistent with atheism. I somewhat agree with that (I know others here don't, and that's fine), but that's a different matter altogether.

Even if atheism IS inconsistent with morality, that doesn't mean atheists can't be moral. It just means they can't be consistent. Most of us aren't consistent.

I guess you could even claim that someone who has morals can't be a true atheist. That's arguable, but if you agree then you're using "atheist" in a really specific way. There are plenty of people who self-identify as atheists (because they don't believe in God) and yet have morals (for whatever reason -- even an inconsistent one). Similarly, there are many Catholics who don't have a problem with birth control. You can say, "well, then they're not Catholics," but so what? They still consider themselves Catholics -- Catholics who aren't completely consistent, Catholics who have found a loophole, Catholics who follow their own variant of Catholicism, etc.

(To me, someone who believes in a soul, magic, universal morality, "the goodness of man", The Spirit, etc. is NOT an atheist. To me, anyone who says, "I'm an atheist, but I'm still a spiritual person" is not a "true" atheist. Such people might not believe in God, but to me their beliefs are so similar to theistic belief that I don't care about the difference. Yet I realize this is my quirky definition of atheist and so I don't use it in general conversation.)
posted by grumblebee at 10:57 AM on November 9, 2005


I value legal persons more than creatures that are not legal persons. I also think that it is best to cause the least harm, but I don't weight that ethic higher than the first one mentioned.

So if someone irritates you, you can simply change the law and strip them of their legal personhood?

That's pretty convenient.
posted by delmoi at 9:50 PM on November 9, 2005


Also, you must be pretty (pro-corporation)
posted by delmoi at 9:50 PM on November 9, 2005


No, we're not. I'm saying that there is one law that I agree with. You are conflating this to infer that I like the laws that I agree with

Wait, so you are saying that you don't like laws that you do agree with? Which is it?

Anyway, under your rubric corporations are more important then the fetuses. Interesting choice.
posted by delmoi at 9:57 PM on November 9, 2005


So if someone irritates you, you can simply change the law and strip them of their legal personhood?

I neither said nor implied that. You are interpreting what I wrote to infer that my statement is a general truth based on the definition of a legal person, whatever the current definition of a legal person is, and that it is mutable if the definition changes.

Also, you must be pretty (pro-corporation)

I neither said nor implied that. You are splitting hairs. In fact, corporations are not legal persons in Canada in the same sense that they are in the US.

Wait, so you are saying that you don't like laws that you do agree with? Which is it?

No, I didn't say that. You are misinterpreting what I wrote in order to form a strawman. I'm not biting.

Anyway, under your rubric corporations are more important then the fetuses. Interesting choice.

Actually, no, it doesn't.

Do you have any other bullshit trolls to make?
posted by solid-one-love at 2:46 PM on November 12, 2005


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