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"Morality" is an abused term/concept. Can you suggest a solid definition?

We use the term "morality" so liberally across different conversations. Usually metaphorically without getting specific. It bothers me to no end when excellent speakers use the term "morality" loosely as if it necessarily implies specific behaviors like "sharing = moral" and "murder = immoral." To me, morality always seems best defined as sound reasoning and conclusion forming. Of course, as opposed to unsound reasoning.

It seems really clear that morality represents only that basic intention in any living creature to do something right as opposed to doing it erroneously. That is, it seems morality comes down to the intent of doing what seems to make the most sense to the best of the abilities of the individual or group of individuals.

As a simple anecdotal example, consider indulging a vice and stealing a purse from a store and then getting caught. While it may have seemed like a rational thing to do under the circumstances of expecting to get away with it, upon getting caught it would become apparent that the decision was not well calculated and certainly most harmful to the one person you were intending to take care of most, yourself. Your failure to achieve your own aim of self-enhancement is what dictates your actions as immoral, even from your own perspective.

Of course, there are a number of vices one might indulge that have negative consequences not only for the self but perhaps for society at large. Any action a ruler might take which brings about the unrest and revolt of her people, would be highly suspicious as being immoral since a ruler's decisions ought to be made to enhance their rule rather than degrade it.

Moral actions in all cases, seem to be those which the individual (and perhaps other individuals) can observe as clearly having the intended effect both in foresight as well as in hindsight. All other actions seem to neatly fit the description of immoral.

I'm interested in hearing other holistic, absolute definitions of the term "morality"


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    • Nov 2 2011: Mark Meijer, not sure what you're saying. It's not as though altruism is an achievable standard, technically speaking. I wouldn't ever neglect the role the ego plays in decision making. Without my ego being involved to at least a small extent, I don't think the behavior could be attributed to "me."
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        • Nov 3 2011: "Altruism is to stop believing you are those thoughts called ego." - Which is impossible. For example, I think chairs could be said to be appropriately altruistic but people who make chairs can't be.

          "How would you know if that's not an achievable "standard", technically speaking?" - It's impossible to be selfless unless you have no self. Everyone has a self, so selflessness is clearly impossible. That's the way I've seen things for years. Altruism is, it seems to me, an unattainable ideal.

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