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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 3 2011: Well, there you go. You got'em. All the "absolute definitions" you could have hoped for.
    And each one different for different reasons, some sound, some border-line ridiculous, some
    sounding like they border on wishful thinking, some maybe hitting it exactly on the head.

    "There is no morality other than the instances." from Mark Meijer

    I think that nails it. We may never figure it out, for the simple reason that we may not even
    be sane, but we have been living according to some moral codes that I personally believe
    were developed by insane people or at the least, extremely mentally ill people, with a lot of
    influence, corrupted power, and too much time on their hands. All this time in fact. Millennium.

    Therein lies the true meaning of the power of life. One can do whatever one wants. There really is
    no morality or immorality involved. That condition however, can and does get modified by many things.
    There isn't necessarily even a feeling or emotion involved in either, though there can be.

    On the other hand, there seems to be so much "immorality" in the world that it seems the only morality
    there is. Because of the sheer numbers, morality almost seems non-existent, uninvolved and uncaring.
    By why does it have to be? It is not existential.

    Is it immoral to kill another human being? Apparently not.

    Our definitions are not correct, accurate or even close.

    Then it comes from these "instances" that Mr. Meijer mentioned.
    Neither good nor bad, but good and bad.
    Why does one robot fight to keep another robot from destroying it?
    Why does one form of artificial intelligence kill another form of
    artificial intelligence?

    We do have both. Real morality and artificial morality, and I don't think most
    can tell the difference. Most people do not know the difference between right
    and wrong. Most will rigorously object to that but if what we have, came from
    insane people, then that is what we have been following, developing, ingraining
    and believing to be true.
    • Nov 3 2011: :)
      "We do have both. Real morality and artificial morality,"
      I would say we have sound conclusions and fallacious conclusions, respectively.

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