Being Human. Chapter 12: Morality: Competition, Justice And Cooperation

As we watch the news each day, and interact with others in society, our sense of right and wrong may often be aroused. There is a great deal of evidence in social psychology pointing to the negative effects of selfish and unbridled competition. People at times express extreme egoism in their behavior to the detriment of others, and the remedy may require legal sanctions. Fortunately, as we saw in the last chapter there are also people who seek to act in cooperative ways, and try to reconcile people in conflict. Conflict situations often call for moral judgment. What is right and wrong in the dispute and where is the common ground? Do you approve of murder as long as it is your enemy? How about killing in a just war as you have defined it? What about infanticide where illness or lack of resources makes the future seem impossible for the child? How about assisted suicide for the hopelessly ill? These issues and many other challenges all require moral judgment.

Perhaps you have taken note of how people live in other countries and cultures. Some behaviors like polygamy or polyandry may strike you as odd, but do they also require moral judgment? In that case we can see that moral judgment is not universally similar as social conventions vary on marriage and other social practices in different cultures. How about a situation where parents deliberatively starve their children to death? Is that universally rejected, do you think people find that acceptable in any culture? Deliberate killing of children is probably not acceptable in modern societies, so there is also evidence for some universality of moral judgment.

1. Moral judgment and culture
How we define morality is of primary concern in moral judgment. What do we use to guide our thinking as we make judgment about right or wrong, good or bad? People rely on guides to live a life that is ethically acceptable. Some people use religious or humanistic scripture to make moral choices. Others believe they hear a little internal voice that warns them of moral compromise. Ethical principles determine a great deal of social behavior, from the paying of money owed to the election of government leaders and political parties. Moral judgment is central in the so-called war on terrorism. It has influenced both sides in the war on their attitudes toward killing and who might be considered innocent parties to the conflict. One side thinks that there are no innocent “infidels”; the other side defines all military opposition as terrorism. Nevertheless both positions are moral judgments based on ethics, which are derived from custom, religion, and social categorization.

1.1 Defining moral behavior
Morality is defined as the principles that guides our lives and which we use in making judgments about the behavior of others (Haidt, 2001). In a broader sense morality is what we consider ideal the utopian society that we hope for in the future. Moral principles incur obligations on us, and to a large extent determine our behavior toward self and others. Moral principles in society generally apply to all people. We would consider it hypocritical to tell our children to behave in a certain moral way, if we ourselves do not practice the same ethical principle. Likewise for a country if the morality of a society calls for peaceful relations with others it is hypocritical to carry unprovoked war to the shore of other nations. Moral principles are inclusive applying to everyone within the group, be it religious, nation, or other society. Human behavior is far from perfect, and we all violate moral obligations at times. Society, for instance, imposes a requirement not to steal from others in the community. If a member of the community violates this obligation society imposes sanctions. Sanctions vary widely in various cultures from a figuratively slap on the wrist to actually cutting off the offending hand in some Middle Eastern societies. Like in China, many states in the U.S. still have capital punishment for some crimes. Read more

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Being Human. References

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Noureddine El Moussati ~ Declenimo

What is Declenimo? 

In May 2016, during our last evening spent in New York a strange, confused man in Times Square inspired me and my friends to ask him a question which we believe is the most interesting one to ask. After he got kicked out of the Starbucks because of his loud and wild conspiracy rants, we decided to approach him and have a conversation with him. He annoyed people and wasn’t taken seriously, but he did have a story to tell. This individual had thoughts that made perfect sense in his head, but sounded like nonsense to others. He was probably considered mentally incapacitated, but to himself he was a sophisticated man. This individual was a book, constantly judged by its cover. So we decided to ask him the question: “What do you seek in life?” 

After quite some stubbornness (and repeated questioning on whether we worked for the cops or not) he revealed his ambitions and thoughts in life. He wanted liberation. He wanted a free system and did not want to be imprisoned by the rules set by those who controlled the system. He explained his answer using mice, science and New York as examples. His answer was a bit odd to be honest, but truly interesting. He showed me a different book than what I’d expect from the cover. Having learned from this situation, on Times Square I continued to ask people what they sought in life, together with my friends.

We got the most interesting answers that night from one of the most diverse cities in the world and I decided to keep on going with it. I brought the question home and wanted to explore the thoughts and ideas of one of the most open-minded, culturally diverse and crazy cities in the world: Amsterdam. I set a goal and started a personal project to ask 101 people in Amsterdam what they sought in life: Project Declenimo. The name Declenimo derives from the old-fashioned Gaelic word ‘Declan’, which means ‘Full of Goodness’. 101 strangers to interview. 101 different perspectives and views on life. 101 different people to get inspired by. There is so much to learn from the people that pass by you everyday. Never judge a book by its cover. So see here what Amsterdam has to answer on: “What do you seek in life?”

“Ask a man a question, and he’ll think for the moment. Make a man ask you a question and he’ll think for a lifetime”

Go to: https://declenimo.nl/

Book: Noureddine El Moussati ~ Declenimo. ISBN 978940217976 7. Brave New Books, 2018

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Noam Chomsky: Moral Depravity Defines US Politics

The US midterm elections of November 6, 2018, produced a divided Congress and essentially reaffirmed the existence of two nations in one country. But they also revealed, once again, the deep state of moral and political depravity that prevails in the country’s political culture — at least insofar as political campaigns go. In the exclusive interview below, world-renowned scholar and public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses how the major issues confronting the United States and the world at large were barely addressed by the majority of candidates of both parties.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, with people still arguing about winners and losers from the 2018 midterm elections (and there is clearly a lot to say about what those elections mean), what do you consider to be the most striking features of the latest manifestation of American democracy in action?

Noam Chomsky: The most striking features are brutally clear.

Humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war. These were virtually ignored in the campaign rhetoric and general coverage. There was plenty of criticism of the Trump administration, but scarcely a word about by far the most ominous positions the administration has taken: increasing the already dire threat of nuclear war, and racing to destroy the physical environment that organized human society needs in order to survive.

These are the most critical and urgent questions that have arisen in all of human history. The fact that they scarcely arose in the campaign is truly stunning — and carries some important, if unpleasant, lessons about our moral and intellectual culture.

To be sure, not everyone was ignoring these matters. They were front and center for those who are constantly vigilant in their bitter class war to preserve their immense power and privilege. Several states had important ballot initiatives addressing the impending environmental catastrophe. The fossil fuel industry spent huge, sometimes record-breaking, sums to defeat the initiatives — including a carbon tax in the mostly Democratic state of Washington — and mostly succeeded.

We should recognize that these are extraordinary crimes against humanity. They proceed with little notice. Read more

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Spinoza ~ Ethica, work without obstacle

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)

Ethica, work without obstacle, is funded by Conseil régional des Hauts de France, and FEDER, a thematic and structuring project 2015-2018 of the University of Picardy Jules Verne.

Go to: http://app.ethica-spinoza.net/fr/connections

Patrick Fontana received in 2013, the grant Brouillon d’un Rêve Pierre Schaeffer from Société Civile des Auteurs Multimédia (French multimedia publishing rights society) (SCAM), and the grant aide à l’écriture et au développement aux nouveaux médias from Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée, France, (CNC), with the unanimous decision of the jury.

Patrick Fontana and TYGRYZ Compagny, received in 2016, the grant aide à la production DICREAM from Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée, France, (CNC).

Ethica has been hosted and supported (2015-2016) by the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’homme, Paris, scientific director, Jean-Pierre Dozon.

The Social and Political Thought Research Group, Brunel University of London participated in the financing of Ethica’s teaser in 2015.

Production : Emmanuel Ryz, Patrick Fontana
Designers : Bachir Soussi Chiadmi, Kevin Tessier

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Library Of Congress ~ The National Screening Room

The National Screening Room showcases the riches of the Library’s vast moving image collection, designed to make otherwise unavailable movies, both copyrighted and in the public domain, freely accessible to the viewers worldwide.

The majority of movies in the National Screening Room are freely available as both 5 mb MP4 and ProRes 422 MOV downloads.

The National Screening Room is a project of the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. The goal of this digital collection is to present to the widest audience possible movies from the Library’s extensive holdings, offering a broad range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning.

These selections are presented as part of the record of the past. They are historical documents which reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these movies, which may contain content offensive to users.

Go to: https://www.loc.gov/national-screening-room/

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