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Old 09-21-2011, 05:02 PM   #46
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Again, the article's not talking about behaviorism, but rather about contextualization -- the ability to think critically from an integrated worldview. As an old proverb puts it, "a way seems right to a man, until another man rises to challenge him." The ability to engage moral issues from an informed perspective, as opposed to a strictly instinctual one, is one of the hallmarks of an enlightened society, is it not?

i think the ability to understand the subjectivity of morality, and moving away from morality as a matter of doctrine, is more the hallmark of an enlightened society.

what i find i disagree with is the notion that we all are "fallen," somehow. that there's one way to be, and that we all fall from that, and need to be steadied and righted and put back on course, whether by our own will or through the help of others. that there is one objective standard out there, and it's our job to try to live up to that.

i don't share that worldview. and that's why i find Brooks' entire article totally besides the point. i'm really not concerned why someone chooses not to drive drunk. whether it's because, "it's not moral for me to drive drunk" or it's because, "i won't drive drunk because my reaction skills are impaired thus upping the likelihood of my harming myself or, worse, someone else, in an accident," why does it matter? in fact, i kind of like that rational, subjective, what-do-i-feel often puts us in the same place as whatever someone else might seek to be moral.

however, it's the awareness that doctrine is not in and of itself a justification for anything that's lead us to a more accepting, inclusive world.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:23 PM   #47
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?
But what evidence do they have that it's true? From my reading, the study seems to indicate that we're doing it better, and then they summarize that we're doing it worse. I'm not sure I understand the point.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:33 PM   #48
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But what evidence do they have that it's true?
From the article:

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When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:38 PM   #49
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But read the next couple of paragraphs. The fact that people are non-committal is considered a knock against them. Is that what they're defining as "not answering the question?" That's what I'm saying.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:39 PM   #50
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i think the ability to understand the subjectivity of morality, and moving away from morality as a matter of doctrine, is more the hallmark of an enlightened society.
I'm fascinated by the fact that laws across various cultures and people groups, no matter how diverse, have often adhered to a few common points -- do not murder, do not steal, do not lie. This seems to belie that morality is entirely subjective. While morality may be interpreted differently according to different cultural contexts, the underlying principles have remarkable consistency.

You and I are going to disagree about the notion of whether or not we are broken, but I guess I look at the presence of laws, moral codes, rules and regulations as a sign that human behavior requires direction, since there is a constant tension between our higher and lower angels.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:41 PM   #51
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Does it require direction or does it require boundaries?
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:41 PM   #52
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But read the next couple of paragraphs. The fact that people are non-committal is considered a knock against them.
The article actually knocks a lack of moral direction from a previous generation -- it's less a criticism of the "kids" than it is of their parents.

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Is that what they're defining as "not answering the question?" That's what I'm saying.
The authors seem to think that not having a clue about how to answer the question is the real problem.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:43 PM   #53
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But they're the ones defining "how one should answer the question." How should you answer the question? I have no idea what these researchers would define as a proper answer.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:43 PM   #54
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Does it require direction or does it require boundaries?
I tend to think that "thou shalt not murder" is both a boundary and a direction.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:47 PM   #55
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But they're the ones defining "how one should answer the question." How should you answer the question? I have no idea what these researchers would define as a proper answer.
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“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.
The rejection of a moral framework is part of the issue here. Reminds me of the old phrase, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Moral confusion doesn't ever happen in a vacuum, but has real ramifications for the world in which we live.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:52 PM   #56
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I tend to think that "thou shalt not murder" is both a boundary and a direction.
But is this one even black and white?

Some translations say 'kill' some say 'murder'.

Seems like even some of the most obvious ones have had gray areas since the dawn of time.

Does war, execution, self defense ever fall into this category?
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Old 09-21-2011, 06:01 PM   #57
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I'm fascinated by the fact that laws across various cultures and people groups, no matter how diverse, have often adhered to a few common points -- do not murder, do not steal, do not lie. This seems to belie that morality is entirely subjective. While morality may be interpreted differently according to different cultural contexts, the underlying principles have remarkable consistency.

oh, i agree. i just don't need an invisible sky friend to tell me these things. because people with no invisible sky friend or many invisible sky friends or are indifferent to the existence of said invisible sky friend also have pretty much the same conclusions. so it's less that morality is objective, and not so much that it's entirely subjective where black can be white and up is sometime down, but that it is defined and shaped by cultural context, and constantly evolving and always complex.

for whatever reason, i am reminded of the 2 months i spend loafing around Scotland about 8 years ago. i remember reading and hearing stories about how, say, thousands of people with the Plague were walled into the city alive and left to die. i remember taking a ghost tour and hearing stories of public torture. i remember hearing about the finer points of highland warfare and how some weapons were designed to aim up and under the kilt so they could catch a man in his abdomen and better disembowel him. i remember the story of the "real" William Wallace who captured the man who killed his first wife, tied him to a chair for a week, and slowly stripped off his scalp so he could rub a lye mixture into the raw, bleeding flesh.

and that's just Scotland and what i can remember off the top of my head.

while we can find any number of stories today of equal brutality, but i would guess that our understanding of both the self and of the selves of others as being of equal weight of our own, has evolved over the centuries. commonplace brutality back then is, i think, greeted with much more revulsion now, and we live today (at least in the west) with a remarkable absence of violence unthinkable just a few centuries ago.

are we more moral? yes. i'd say so. i'm not terribly concerned about whatever lack of "moral language" we might have. if anything, i'm glad we're dispensing with language that divides up the world into easy categories, for it's categories that dehumanize ourselves to one another and allow us to bury people alive, torture them, or rub lye into their raw, bleeding scalp as a method of revenge.

it's this stark right vs. wrong that supports the death penalty, for bloodshed deserves more bloodshed, justice is an eye for an eye.


Quote:
You and I are going to disagree about the notion of whether or not we are broken, but I guess I look at the presence of laws, moral codes, rules and regulations as a sign that human behavior requires direction, since there is a constant tension between our higher and lower angels.

i don't feel this battle between myself and my bad self. i don't think Jesus and Satan are waging a war for my soul. i think the world is messy and imperfect and defective and cruel, but i don't think that there's a perfect version of it, or of myself, out there somewhere and i have to find it.

i use my intellect and my heart to live the best life that i can. when i do something wrong, i try to understand it. when i do something right, i try to understand it.

it's a process, a dialogue, and i don't feel the need of an external force telling me that i'm good or bad, right or wrong. i did when i was 8. i'm not a child anymore.
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Old 09-21-2011, 06:02 PM   #58
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Reminds me of the old phrase, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."


this seems like apathy or fear rather than an absence of moral language.
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Old 09-21-2011, 06:28 PM   #59
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I think the biggest issue the article raises isn't so much about how young people think about morality, but about how they think, period:

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When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.
The bolded lines indicate, to me at least, that a lot of young people - absolutely not all young people, just a lot - don't have the reading comprehension they should have, and they don't have the critical thinking skills - whether it's critically thinking about morality or critically thinking about history or psychology or philosophy or one's own faults or what love truly is or about anything else - that they should have. It's an indictment of how kids are educated as they grow up. They're not taught to think, they're taught to memorize, imo. Although the two subjects might not appear at first to be related, I think they're directly related.
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Old 09-21-2011, 06:42 PM   #60
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this seems like apathy or fear rather than an absence of moral language.
I'd say an outright majority of liberals of 'baby boomer' age I know are quite strongly of the opinion that the generations born after theirs ('X' just as much as 'Y') are on the whole much more politically apathetic than they were and are. It would definitely take a hefty tome to lay out empirical evidence for that view (and to justify why such-and-such measure should even qualify as evidence, how the historical contexts are and aren't comparable, etc.), but that in itself doesn't convince me it's wrong. You have not had this experience?
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How does efficacy play a part in the gay marriage debate? They don't want government in healthcare but they do want it in marriage?
I'm not sure efficacy in that sense is even applicable to gay marriage; no one on either side of the debate wants to abolish civil marriage altogether, do they? Which is what 'getting the government out of marriage' would actually mean. But with regard to the thread topic, I think that, for one, Catholic theologians' arguments generally provide an example of an internally coherent case against gay marriage (no divorce, no contraception, no nonmarital sex gay or straight). Most other social conservative arguments I've seen fall well short on that measure, though; like I said earlier they mostly seem to be lazy, nostalgic appeals to an aesthetic (Marriage is, like, Really Sacred and Really Important, and everyone I knew growing up had a mother and father, that's how it's always been so it must be right) with no coherent system of beliefs about marriage, families and sexuality underlying it.
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In political terms, if anything, I would see this as a bigger problem for the Right than the Left, given the Right's tendency for focusing on efficacy, particularly when it comes to economical and social issues. Conservatives need to be reminded of the values they espouse, since it seems to be the only way to hold them accountable.
For Brooks at least, this could be the main issue. He frequently expresses concerns about the decline of conservative intellectualism (e.g. his 2008 characterization of Palin as "a fatal cancer on the Republican Party," the triumph of a reactionary populism that prizes eagerness to stick your finger in the opponent's eye over the ability to argue a case against him). However, it's not clear to me how much of a connection he sees between increasingly impoverished political discourse and the kind of hyperindividualism he's alleging in this particular column (which social conservatives tend to see as strictly a liberal pathology, e.g. the Prager piece upthread).
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