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Unread 18 Jun 2006, 10:52   #34
Dante Hicks
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Re: Remember the South African guy in Lethal Weapon II?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boogster
Isn't morality bound up in (free) choice? Now, I just know we're going to start quoting Hume soon, but doesn't a biologically controlled response rather contradict any meaningful conception of morality? Does the author mean to argue against moral choice all together?
From what I remember most evo-psych types go along with an idea of free-will being an illusion that conscious beings have developed along with our intellect. So basically the decision process is taking place at the biological level (this is a truism I guess) but this is abstracted away from our consciousness. In a similar sort of way Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) makes the point that when you put your hand on a hot stove you move it back instantly (the nerve impulse simply travels to your spine, not your brain) but if asked to recount the experience some individuals might say they felt it being hot and therefore moved their hand back - their memory is effectively their minds interpretation of events, not the actual events (this is a much weaker point since I doubt many people would say that, but you can get the general point he's making). In general, the evo-psychs take a dim view of free will (although not all of them).

More generally though, I'd say morality underpins all structures of human behaviour. So a law is developed over years, possibly from earlier customs or rituals or whatever. But at it's essence rules generally seem to reflect some idea of fairness or reasonableness - not just raw utility. We punish people who have done wrong not just to stop future wrong action but because justice, in some sense, demands it.

In that sense, I don't really see what difference (to an outside observer) it would make whether our responses were "pre-programmed" (albeit in a staggeringly complicated way) or not to this conception of fairness. If the evo-psyches are right that (say) this "punishment reflex" is biologically common to all humans in some sense would that make any difference?

On the earlier argument, I don't really see what the issue is. If we didn't have laws or diplomats (or society more generally) it's very possible that instability would reign to the point where pontification about morality would be meaningless. At the same time, our laws (and societal structure generally) reflects our morality in the first place.
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