Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id MAA21224 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Tue, 21 May 2002 12:31:08 +0100 Message-ID: <570E2BEE7BC5A34684EE5914FCFC368C10FCE1@fillan.stir.ac.uk> From: Vincent Campbell <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: RE: morality and memes Date: Tue, 21 May 2002 12:24:52 +0100 X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2653.19) Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-8859-1" X-Filter-Info: UoS MailScan 0.1 [D 1] X-MailScanner: Found to be clean Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for the comments. Gonna try and address peoples' comments so far
I'll start with my question-
>> More fundamentally are morals innate, or culturally produced?
<Steve: My guess is cultural. Too many different kinds of behaviour
> considered 'moral'>
So, the $64,000 question is where do they come from, and how do
particular morals take hold? Hence my comment about environment-
>> If the latter,
>> how/why do some spread more than others? Are what we perceive of
>> values, actually environmentally specific- which I mean in a way
>> from culturally specific
<Probably a function of both. If we knew how they spread we would
> working theory of memes :-)>
Indeed, that's one of the things I was wondering.
>>(e.g. isolated communities favouring polygamy due
>> to a gender imbalance).
I'm sure I've read of isolated communities where the short supply of
one or other gender relates to the tolerance of polygamy (IIRC some
himalyan/tibetan community where women take many husbands, for example).
Hence, environment with a big E, rather than purely cultural environment.
<Philip: I feel that individual animals living in solitude know no
morals. That is, they will stop at nothing, including killing or
wounding other animals of their species, to get their share of food.
Social animals are a little different. It simply isn't good for the
species to have no stop at getting food if it damages the wellbeing of
fellow social group-members. So here's some set of morals desired
however basic and primitive.>
Yeah, hence you get the idea of reciprocal altruism, and perhaps morality is
born of that.
<Philip: Regarding memetically. Morals can be expressed linguistically. So
> intrinsically memetic or culturally transmittable. If morals lead to
> increase in fitness of the group at hand moralistic memes may flourish. So
> yes, morals can very well be memetic and yes they can also have a
> biological basis.>
Hmm, I think Wade's comment is interesting here, in terms of relating this
to the question of ideas/beliefs/values as what is transmitted, as opposed
<Wade: Problems in morality are dealt with in various ways, and it is the
> persecution and punishment of non-accepted conduct that is transmitted,
> through laws and hierarchies and biases and other notices and
> condemnations of society.>
Which brings me to Grant's point:
<Grant: It sounds like we're back to that old arguement: is it nature or
thought that was resolved a long time ago. It's both. Both genes and memes
act on the mind and body to produce attitudes and ideas that help us live
together in ever larger societies. Without both, I don't think it would
happen. Within the individual, the values created are the result of input
from both the emotional and environmental forces that shape the person from
the day he/she is conceived. Within society, memes fight in the
battleground of the mind pool for survival and dominance. That, at any rate
is my concept of the overview. Other views are welcome to compete. ;-)>
Yeah, I don't mean to suggest an absolute distinction between nature and
nuture, but there are levels of effects in both senses. I suppose this is a
difference between metaethics, questions of the existence (or otherwise) or
moral absolutes, and applied ethics (how should one behave in a given
situation, and indeed how much free will do we have to make choices in
situations). Like religious belief, people (including the non-religious)
often regard moral values as somehow more fixed, more certain, more absolute
than other ideas/values that they may hold. As such they may be resistant
to the idea that their morality is not as innate (or even innate to any
extent) as they "feel" it to be; that it may be a product of their
socialisation to the community in which they live. But, there may also be a
sense in which environment may have had a fundamental impact on the
emergence of that community's consensus of moral values (in the same way
that indigenous people who live in mountain areas often have mountain
oriented gods, and people who live on the coast have sea-oriented gods).
And this in turn relates back to questions of the potential for humans to
behave in different ways in different circumstances, and to what extent
cultural pressure can make people conform to a (potentially) non-adaptive
strategy- like religious celibacy, or suicide bombing. The electric-shock
experiments we've discussed before come to mind again, where people did what
they were told by the man in the white coat, but I think I'm ramlbing now...
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