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+5 votes
or is there a difference?
and what is the difference between morals and ethics?

(coming later, a question about how jargon serves to make insiders feel better than other people! ;) )
by (53.1k points)
"... for some body or person to know what is best for all, or perhaps a way to talk about what one thinks is best ..."

dot, since you probably won't be reading my comments on the other thread, i think this segues nicely into what was going on there as well. there are a some presuppositions underlying the moralism i've encountered:  this 'for all' speech denotes a mass of people,  a mass 'society,' of people who have little face to face interaction and need guidance from enunciated, but abstract rules . it presumes civilization, at least to my ears and eyes.

also, the power of the story and the interpretive 'lessons' we might draw from them are traded for the distancing of bland logic and the alienation of arbitrary laws.
Theoretical jabs? I guess.

I'm just trying to point out that you guys are still relying on universal moral judgments despite claiming that you don't believe in morality. There's a clear contradiction in the way you're talking that you need to come to terms with.

It's no surprise to me at all because I believe that moral reason is one humanity's primary ways of knowing the world. Right up there with logic or aesthetic judgment. It's built into us and we can't excise it no matter how hard some might try. Nor should they. It would just be foolish to turn your back on one of your innate skills.

So does that answer your question? Who would do an acceptable job of answering what's right and wrong for everyone? We all would. It's part of who we are to know that answer.
sf:"I'm just trying to point out that you guys are still relying on universal moral judgments"


"Who would do an acceptable job of answering what's right and wrong for everyone? We all would."

via the internet?

"There's a clear contradiction in the way you're talking that you need to come to terms with."

According to...?
You are on to them, SF, they want to tell us that we are wrong and this is why while claiming to do so without relying on any judgments.

There has been no question of one's absolute right to assume any position on a matter but you are disingenuous at best when you claim that taking this position is not a matter of judgment.

You two choose to rebut what I have laid out, you do so based on your own rejection of any judgments but your own on the matter, then you say that you are not making a judgment??  You have judged any parameter not set by you as not acceptable.  Clearly a judgmental position.

I mean disagree if you like, that is your absolute prerogative, but don't deny that it is your judgment that leads you to reject what I proposed.

I agree with SF, we have certain aspects of being alive in this reality that cannot be denied, we like certain flavors, we like certain people, but the denial of liking some things more than others based on our own interpretation/judgments of reality is not realistic.
"the denial of liking some things more than others based on our own interpretation/judgments of reality is not realistic"

of course. individuals make "judgement calls" all the time. that is a very different beast than judgements that are rooted in some dogma (coming from some authority) that professes to be objective and absolute and applicable to all. every individual has their own opinions, desires, preferences, etc. to equate that with a universal morality is disingenuous.

3 Answers

+3 votes
well, here goes my first pass at an answer. kind of stream of consciousness, so bear with me.

first, my definition of morality. as usual, i express a somewhat simplified perspective. i like simple. i leave the more philosophical, abstract perspectives to those who prefer that approach.

morality is, at its most basic, a belief in a particular set of values that determine what is right and what is wrong; a doctrine for correct and incorrect behavior (and thought?). the specific values may be different depending on the authority that defines them; what remains the same is the fact that those values are intended to apply to all. while it may be possible to argue that this can be applied at the individual level, in practice that seems to be an idealistic anachronism. in my 54 years of experience in this world, morality is invariably a belief in a particular set of values determining what is right and wrong *for everyone*.

moralism, as best i can define it, is just the tendency to use morality for one's own purposes, be they political, strategic, propogandistic, patronizing, etc.

so, what are my arguments against morality?

first and foremost, morality as i see it has absolutely *no* allowance for, or acknowledgement of, context. it defines itself in completely black and white, binary terms. the doctrine is defined by some authority, and it is supposed to apply to everyone at all times. (i guess there is an argument that when morality is applied to those in power, by those in power, context does in fact play a role.)

at the highest level, now that i think of it, that may be my *only* argument against morality. everything else may simply stem from that primal objection.

i guess there is also the fact that any morality (that i see as such) is defined by some authority, typically an institutional authority at that. so epic fail on that count, as an anarchist.

the very words "right" and "wrong" have moralistic overtones for me. it is difficult to avoid them completely, just given their ubiquitous usage in every aspect of life. but conceptually, i think more in terms of what works for me and what doesn't; what is desirable and what is not. i cannot possibly know what is right or wrong (or desirable/undesirable) for others, much less for *everyone*. in certain situations i may be able to make an educated guess what works or not for someone that i know well, but even that is constantly challenged.

of course, my conscious behavior is (typically) viscerally informed by some set of constantly evolving (*major* point there) guidelines, in pursuit of fulfilling my needs and desires.

take, for example, stealing (leaving aside the whole "property is theft" and "reappropriation" discussion for now). i do it, and not infrequently. yet, i do not steal from people i care about. some would say "it is ok to steal from walmart, but not from joe's local hardware store." i don't see it quite that cut and dried. joe's may be a small, family business. but joe may be an asshole that abuses his employees, or otherwise does shit i hate. my general guideline there is: anyone that tries to profit from selling me something i need is a potential victim of my skills. if it is someone i care about, i am unlikely to steal it from them, especially if i know they need the money they take in by selling that item. if i can afford it, i will pay them for it; otherwise i will try to steal it elsewhere. ultimately, if i can do neither, i will try to work something out with them (barter, gift, etc). none of that is rooted in any morality; it is rooted in my desires for freedom and control of my own life, which includes those relationships that are meaningful to me. by the same token, the only reason i don't focus on stealing from banks is the likelihood of my being incarcerated as a result, since i do not have the skills i deem necessary to get away with it. it is surely not some moral aversion to that behavior.

i may have more to add, but that's all that flowed out for now...

[edited to add a point]
by (13.4k points)
edited by
I think you're doing some complicated gymnastics here to avoid describing your impulses in terms that are moral and in the process you're making yourself sound much more selfish and uncaring than you probably are.

Let's say you're at a market where artisans sell their work at booths. You see an item you'd like to have, but don't have any money. You don't know the person who made it and is now selling it and so have no relationship to be concerned about maintaining, but you also have no reason to think they're exploitative or do shit that you hate (this is a moral judgment, by the way). So would you feel fine walking away with the item when they have their back turned?
sf, it will always be the case that you can find morality in my words, because you clearly define it differently than i do. and i can only know what i can know about what is going on in the deepest recesses of my subconscious; maybe i am actually a devout believer in some god somewhere in there. i can only know what feels like the truth to me, based on my experience, understandings, observations, feelings, communications, etc.

i don't claim to be free of moralism, either. i do claim to want to be. and to try to be.

the term "good" feels like an abstraction to me, especially when compared with a term like "desirable". desire is something i actuallly feel; good is something i .... actually....  well fuck, i dont know. when i say "i feel good",  what does that actually mean to me? i feel euphoric, or relaxed, or satiated, or .... happy? those are feelings i relate to. "good" ... not so much. too vague.   but sometimes it is just too easy to use that word as shorthand, and i have no moral judgement against that :-)

as to your art market example, i'll bite for a sec. it seems a pointless question because everything would depend on the context of the situation. the bottom line is i don't see that situation as a moral one, but a practical one. someone that holds to a morality would see anything i did in a moralistic way, and that would be totally valid given their worldview. it just isn't mine. calling what i do moral/moralistic is to see it a certain way; that is not the only way to see behavior, but it is the most common. it is kind of like insisting that i am a jew because my mother is of jewish background. sure, to folks that accept that particular dogma, i am jewish. but that has no meaning to me, none whatsoever.

am i making any sense?
–6 votes
The problem with morality is that too often it's turned outward rather than inward. Morality is first and foremost a way to judge your own actions and attitudes. This doesn't mean you can't judge others. You can and should, but it should be done sparingly and with compassion.

I start from three universal moral rules. There may be others, but these are three that seem critical and inescapable.

1) Do no harm. This means: don't fucking hurt people. Don't hurt them emotionally, don't hurt them physically, don't hurt them existentially. Of course you will hurt people, there's just no way around it, but do it as little as possible. And you should feel bad when you hurt someone, even if it was unavoidable. "Some people are helped by being hurt" is a true fact, but even in a case like that you should feel bad because you couldn't think of better way.

2) You don't gotta be right, but you've gotta be righteous. This means that intentions matter more than actions. Actions still matter (see #1), but this applies in those cases of unavoidable harm. So long as you're doing the best you can, you shouldn't beat yourself up about it too much. It's also a way through in situations that might otherwise lead to some kind of moral paralysis when there doesn't seem to be any way to continue without hurting people.

3) Know thyself. Know who you are and how you got to where you are, know why you do the things you do and know the consequences for others of your actions and decisions.

I judge myself by these standards. Sometimes I come up short and I feel bad for it. This makes me strive to do better the next time I'm faced with a decision. I feel guilt for the harm I do to others, both people I know and the millions I don't know whose suffering props up my way of life. The guilt doesn't paralyze me, it pushes me forward to something better.

If you don't feel this guilt, you're a bad person. If you think it's okay to harm people, you're a bad person. If you don't even know what the hell you're doing, you're a bad person. I have no problem judging people for these things. I can still show compassion and friendship, but the moral side of our beliefs and actions is absolutely real.
by (560 points)
edited by
by what metrics will we do no harm? I'm vegan and I mostly try not to harm others (except people I want to harm), but I still act in ways that inadvertently harm others (we all do). I don't like it, but I don't feel guilt about it, it is just reality. Why would not experiencing that guilt make me bad? Why would it be bad of me if I had no exposure to the sprts pf analysis you assume for one to be good?

You say that morality is too often turned outward, but then you say "I have no problem judging people for these things..." How do these reconcile?
sf, any other ambiguous, emotionally laden, appeals you care to make?

"You don't gotta be right, but you've gotta be righteous."

like i said in another thread, the moralists simply want to expand their comfort zone no matter how others feel about it. thanks for being forthright about it, tho.

edited to add: and it won't surprise or bother me that my hostility and impatience with this kind of circular 'reasoning(?)' and seeming desire to dominate the discussion will more than likely be neatly, and swiftly, categorized as 'immoral.'
AmorFati, the world is ambiguous and our responses are emotional, so I guess I don't understand your criticism. Any idea that is unambiguous and unemotional cannot be about the world and so what use is it?

I have no desire to dominate this conversation. I wasn't even going to respond with an answer since mine is not a direct answer to the question that was asked, but it occurred to me that if I didn't you guys would just set up morality straw men in your answers and I'd prefer to see what your issues are with real morality.

ingrate, can you describe a little more what you mean when you say that you don't like it when you inadvertently harm others? What form does you "not liking" take? I wonder if maybe you just don't really know what guilt is. Guilt is feeling bad when you harm others, and wishing you hadn't, and hoping you won't again. The reason why it's bad not to feel that is because guilt is what makes you less likely to harm people in the future. It's sometimes referred to as a conscience. A conscience is not something that requires exposure to analysis, it is part of what makes us human and all are capable of reaching the same conclusions.

I think I answered your second question at the beginning of my answer. I said that morality is first and foremost to be turned inward but that that doesn't mean it shouldn't also be turned outward.
guilt goes hand in hand with right and wrong in my mind, and since i don't think of things in terms of right/wrong, i really don't feel guilt at all these days. i can remember as a kid having some sense of guilt due to shaming by various authority figures in my life, but over the years i consciously chose to leave those feelings behind me.

i suppose that makes me a bad person in some peoples' eyes, but i don't care much about that.
sf, morality may be seen simply a set of arbitrary rules and permissible behaviors believed to be applicable on a mass, if not 'universal', scale.

the questions which arise; permissible by who, according to what, why, and how? where and when are left out of the equation since everywhere and all times are implied if not explicit in 'universal.' this simply erases, conceptually of course, the uniqueness which is every self and the desires ('likes' and 'dislikes') every moralist i've encountered hates and fears, except when those desires come to match those of the moralist. every moralist i've encountered, i've come to regard a closet narcissist (stirner's 'unconscious egoist'); every morality a form of narcissism. a reified image of 'self' in love with his own representations, images, values. agreement with others, even if it's with most others, only signifies popularity, not any 'Truth' of the claims, rules, and passion fueling morality...including your 'real morality,' whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean.

like pretty much all civilizing/domesticating concepts (reification), morality inverts the relations between activity and concept/idea: learning and knowing are turned into Schooling/Education and Knowledge; communicating and socializing into Community and Society; reciprocation and participation become Politics and Economics; and so on. for all its gloss and post-christian/democratic emotional appeal, morality may be considered nothing but, yet, another form of control in order to keep playing by the rules of 'mass society' by way of an inner cop, that is, the internalization of rules and regulations of others. could this be why moralists, be they 'religious' or 'secular' seek to git them young'uns so early on? probably yes, eh?

i have less and less desire for interacting by the rules of 'mass society.' *my own* desires are always the bane of the moralist who cloaks their own desires (their 'comfort zone') in phoney, always dead, 'objectivity,' and 'universality.' morality seems very bit the dead end as the civilization for which it serves as apologia, justification and 'logic.'

how 'bout that?

edit for clarity and additional thoughts.
AmorFati, I'm having trouble seeing the concrete connections of your very abstract criticisms. Could you explain more directly how the specific morality I laid out in my answer erases the uniqueness of people or situations, our desires, or the importance of activity over concept?

I suppose I would be classified as a moralist, but I have absolutely no desire to inculcate morality in the youth. I came to my morality slowly and entirely on my own. I was largely ignored by teachers and my parents as a child and I think this freedom to figure it out for myself is why I developed a strong and internally consistent conscience unlike many people who describe being battered with shame and arbitrary rules and so either developed shallow moral systems or have tried reject morality.

"I suppose I would be classified as a moralist"

well now, let's see:

"I start from three universal moral rules."

"And you should feel bad when you hurt someone, even if it was unavoidable."

"If you don't feel this guilt, you're a bad person."

" the moral side of our beliefs and actions is absolutely real."

yeah, i'd say you are a moralist. next question...?

to be clear, that doesn't mean i disagree with everything you say. you sound like a kind, thoughtful person. nothing wrong with that. it's the extrapolation of your personal "morals" into something universal that i take issue with.
f@, succinct and very well said.
SF i'm confused. you don't want to "inculcate morality in the youth"? but you associate treating people well with morality? so you don't want the youth to treat people well? you came to your morality on your own but the morality of other people (that they could have come to on *their* own) isn't as good as yours?

also it's fascinating to me that so few people (only ingrate tangentially) have brought up the point about ethics; i wonder how much it would clarify/muddy the waters for people here to consider a different word as a label for how we want to behave in the world...

"I came to my morality slowly and entirely on my own. I was largely ignored by teachers and my parents as a child and I think this freedom to figure it out for myself" sounds more like an ethical system than a moral one... but maybe not. maybe the only significant issue with morality is that it is universalizing, and the question of whether it is handed to us by someone else is irrelevant (or even, somewhat absurd to consider, as if we can come up with indicators for our behavior separate from the cultural imperatives of the dominant society).

fwiw, i get the sense that the real, important differences between the participants in this conversation are not entirely being got at, based somewhat on differences in language use. (maybe it doesn't matter.)
but for example--
feeling bad can be a useful indicator for me to change something i'm doing, as opposed to feeling Bad, unworthy, worthless, shameful, etc. maybe the difference isn't actually about the feeling, but about how much we feel/are capable of changing what we're doing.

eh, scattered thoughts.

that said, SF, you (differently from FBA but maybe not that differently) do sound quite christian in premise. defense of guilt? ew. not going to argue it out with you, just noting that the Xian resonances are strong...
dot:"also it's fascinating to me that so few people (only ingrate tangentially) have brought up the point about ethics; "

when you asked about the difference between morals and ethics, i recalled that somewhere on this site i'd written a bit about it during my exchanges with good ol' lantz. i found it if you're interested.
The distinction people try to make between morality and ethics is totally false. Semantics aside, they both refer to the same thing in English: what's the best way to behave? "Morality" carries cultural baggage in a post-Christian, post-Freudian world, just as "guilt" does, but it's my opinion that critical thinkers don't get caught up in bullshit like that. They see the meaning, not the vessel. If I said regret instead of guilt and ethics instead of morality, maybe you'd all agree with me. That's just ridiculous, though, since the thoughts would still be the same.

What's fascinating to me, though, is that nobody has actually addressed the moral rules I suggested. I'm honestly curious if you all disagree with them or what. Do you think people should hurt each other and act without consideration? Or is it really just my use of the term morality that gets your hackles up?

To me there's a lot more to anarchy than just bunch of atomic individuals who don't tell each other what to do. I love being with people. All kinds of people. But we too quickly descend into mistreating each other when there gets to be a lot of chaos mixed into the system. We'll have to learn to get along with widely disparate types of people and relish those differences before anarchy ever means anything to me. I don't see that happening until we all understand that some ways of interacting are right and some are wrong.
"until we all understand that some ways of interacting are right and some are wrong"

that statement carries with it the implicit assumption that different individuals cannot be unique enough - have sufficiently varied personalities, desires, etc - to hold values that differ from whichever ones you use to declare what are "right" and "wrong" interactions. if you think you can get to anarchy from there, have at it.
The question is and has been, do *YOU* disagree with the values that I use to declare what are right and wrong interactions? I have described them above. If you think they are not good ways to think about how we interact with one another, let's start from there. Otherwise, you're not brining anything to the table but baseless hypotheticals. We could conjecture about imaginary people for the rest of our lives, but you and I, we are real people so why the fuck don't we get down to it?
SF -- they have totally (and multiple times) addressed your issue, just not in a way you seem prepared to recognize.
those who are arguing against morality here are arguing that there are people and circumstances that make ANY global rule insufficient. (much less universal, goodness. do you have any idea how big the universe is!?)
so for example, i could find a situation in which your rule would work fine, and i could find one in which it would not work (for me) at all.
just a petty and mundane example off the top of my head -- abortion clinic blockers getting in my way to helping someone get an abortion. i kick some of the blockers. i hurt them. i am not sorry. i don't feel guilty. so i am a bad person to you. and happy to be so, apparently.

also, apparently i'm not a critical thinker. always good to learn things about myself.
WHY don't you feel bad about it, dot? Isn't it because you feel righteous in doing it? You see that those abortion clinic blockers are violating moral rules and so you feel justified in punishing them. You're applying universal morality here. You think that it's the right thing to do.

I agree with you. The protesters are doing great amounts of emotional and existential harm, you did a very small amount of physical harm and your intentions were good. I do think you would still feel bad, though, because you were forced into a situation where you responded violently and because you know that your action was not sufficient to change the larger problem of this protester's ignorance of themselves and their actions and in fact that you probably only made it worse.

Edited to add: The abortion clinic protester would probably be a better example, though. Here's someone who is doing great amounts of harm, they may have good intentions but are terribly mixed up about them, and are certainly not exploring the implications of their own actions. Yet they probably don't feel much if any guilt about. It's easy to for us to judge that they are doing wrong, but that's pretty useless.
SF, you make the assertion that "some ways of interacting are right and some are wrong". i disagree with that idea, regardless of what values you use to describe those "ways".
sf: "we are real people"

you're finally learning. yes, real people who live in varying conditions and have desires of their own of which  the 'baseless hypotheticals' called morality have and will forever be insufficient for a joyful life with others. why, you ask? you kinda already answered your own question:

sf:"there's a lot more to anarchy than just bunch of atomic individuals"

exactly! mass society exacerbates this very fragmentation. mass society may be seen as nothing but a 'society' of strangers with a top-down, feeble, attempt toward cohesiveness by way of bland, universal, abstractions labeled as *morality.*

i'm going to be very unambiguous so you may understand:

i have no desire to arbitrarily hurt others.
i have no desire to live among strangers.
i desire to live more face to face among people i can care about, who i know, who cannot be categorized by stupid universals (ex: good or evil), abstract identities (ex: black, catholic, leftist), may simply be named.
i desire to live around others who act and desire to live in a related way for as long as it may last, fully realizing others do shit i'm not always into myself, may even 'harm' me occasionally, and that i'm a quick learner if such 'harm' becomes repetitious.
i have no desire to appeal to a priori rules, regulations, let alone any enforcement or even requirement to cajole or manipulate others to follow such rules.

that 'we descend all too quickly into mistreating each other' isn't 'caused' by an absence of morality, but can be said of those 'real people' who've been habituated to the state, universal/abstract morality, and normalized as atomic strangers ever increasingly mediated through institutions and technology. more abstraction, more categorization, more identity, more reification, more alienation ain't gonna help us, in my not so humble opinion.

am i fucking clear enough now?

edit for clarity
SF -- your response to my example--which is just you repeating what you already said about your beliefs--makes me not want to try to talk to you any more, so i probably won't. you don't seem able to (or interested in) understanding my framework, but instead insist on me fitting into your framework. that's fine, but boring for me. but then i'm bad, so probably you're ok with that! :D

edit: for other people...
does anyone have ideas about how to talk clearly about what i see as an above-it-all, "they know not what they do," paternalism inherent in the "i feel bad to hurt other people even when i do it intentionally" scenario?
something in here that judges anger/acting out of anger that seems particularly protestant-y to me...
dot, the reason I asked and then answered my own question is that I've tried to ask you this question a bunch of times now and you haven't even tried to answer it. e.g. on what basis are you making these frequent comparisons to Christianity (which is obviously carries a negative connotation for you) if you don't believe in right and wrong? Is it wrong for someone to answer what is right and wrong for everyone and specifically is it wrong for everyone? Why don't you feel bad hurting someone who is doing something you don't like?

I would love to understand your framework, but the way you've presented doesn't seem consistent and I think these questions get at the inconsistency. Can you clarify any of them?
SF, i compare it like this...

religion states what is right and wrong behavior.

you have stated you believe in right and wrong behavior.

i don't share that belief.

i don't need to believe in right and wrong to see that other people believe in it, and to see that hierarchical institutions also promote that belief - thus, the comparison between what i've heard from you and what i've heard from many people who believe in hierarchy (such as religion).

i don't see the inconsistency you speak of, so i have no way to clarify it.
dot: not sure if you are specifically looking for the religious connection, but i totally agree that moralists tend to have a very patronizing attitude. judging anger (and the responses it evokes) sounds like some combo of pacifism and new-agey bullshit (anger is bad, people should always just have love for one another...), with maybe some nvc (non-violent communication) thrown in.

i was recently having a fairly decent discussion about cops with a typical liberal/progressive in my extended family. then they dropped the bomb: "if only everyone was like us [meaning progressives] then we wouldn't need cops". i responded with "wow, that sounds incredibly patronizing to me."  he was flabbergasted at my response, but it sure as hell made him think. i could just as easily have used "moralistic" instead of "patronizing", but that would not have had the same impact. calling him on being "moral" would likely not be perceived as a challenge the way calling him on being "patronizing" was.

moralists gonna moralize.
sf, if you seriously cannot understand why folks are comparing moralism with religion, i suggest you step back, take a deep breath, and consider this:  religionists are all moralists, but all moralists may not be religionists (depending on definitions, of course). does that provide a clue as to why folks might compare the two?
"You see that those abortion clinic blockers are violating moral rules and so you feel justified in punishing them. You're applying universal morality here. "

even for someone that believes in morality, why would you frame that example as "universal morality"? wouldn't that be her own individual "morality"? btw,  those clinic blockers are also acting on their morality, which demonstrates quite clearly how subjective morality is. universal? objective? ha!
SF, if you think you're addressing me, and i think i'm addressing you, but we're not getting each other, then maybe this is not a good forum for us to try to understand each other.

the internet does not work for all things.

good for you FA for continuing in your efforts. :)
No, I mean on what do you even base the decision that comparing something to Christianity is a negative thing if you don't believe in right and wrong?

And I mean: how can you say that it's not okay to answer what's right and wrong for everyone since that in itself is an answer to what's right and wrong for everyone.

That's the inconsistency I'm talking about.

Let me try this another way. You guys are all very clearly concerned that no one should step on the free exercise of what you call your desires, but how will you make sure that you don't step on the desires of others? Especially when our desires so often conflict and when it's not always possible or even helpful to spend the time talking things through.
"how will you make sure that you don't step on the desires of others?"

nobody can make sure they don't step on the desires of others. in a world of different people, there will be conflicting desires. how each conflict is resolved is up to those involved. i don't care to predetermine how those conflicts will be dealt with.

"on what do you even base the decision that comparing something to Christianity is a negative thing if you don't believe in right and wrong?"

you are not paying attention. i have desires, and i know what works for me in any given moment. i have no problem saying "that is right for me, at this time". my usage of right and wrong are completely subjective and contextual, yours is (or wants to be) objective and universal, do you see the difference there?  

"how can you say that it's not okay to answer what's right and wrong for everyone since that in itself is an answer to what's right and wrong for everyone."

you are talking in circles now, and not making any sense at all to me. maybe dot is right; this discussion is not working in this medium.
"And I mean: how can you say that it's not okay to answer what's right and wrong for everyone since that in itself is an answer to what's right and wrong for everyone."

i don't recall anyone saying that "it's not okay...".

you've actually created the inconsistency you said you see by re-framing what many of us have said in your language. if i say i don't see behavior as universally right or wrong, that doesn't mean i said "it's not okay" for you to see it that way. you said that.

dot, and funky...i might have agreed with you about the internet medium causing more problems had i not experienced a very similar discussion just last night with my father. we went around and around in the same type of circles. i've had many such conversations before, and i've yet to find a way to explain my point of view in person when morality comes up. i really don't know how to explain things any better, and when i read many of the other responses here i realize how much different each person's voice sounds and yet i still resonate with the i don't think we're short of ways to describe things.

i've had this particular discussion enough times to feel ready to leave it behind me because i usually feel exasperated at the end of it, and i can't find any new ways to express it.

so my only other suggestion for SF or FBA is to maybe smoke a nice bud of sativa and perhaps it will seem clearer.
"nobody can make sure they don't step on the desires of others. in a world of different people, there will be conflicting desires. how each conflict is resolved is up to those involved. i don't care to predetermine how those conflicts will be dealt with."

The potential for conflict can be reduced if you predetermine to treat people right. Isn't that a good idea? Better than just acting blindly and then hoping to resolve the problems you create after they develop? No, you can't erase the conflicts completely and no you can't know in advance what will always be the best way to act, but you sure a shit can have a better idea than none at all.

It's just not enough to say that the people involved will solve the conflicts. That's a dodge. Many times we don't even know who is affected by our actions or who is affecting us. There is no opportunity for resolving conflicts like that without personal responsibility. As an extreme example, how do you deal with the implications of your American lifestyle? You hurt millions of people just by existing in this society. Do you think that doesn't exist just because you're an anarchist? How will those people resolve their conflicts with you? This is a situation in which you need to know your place first and hold yourself to a standard without those millions needing to take flights to your home town and come knocking on your door.

I think you've all seen the way some people or groups twist the concept of morality, naturally recoiled from that, but then gone too far in the other direction. There is a sensible middle ground here that allows us to recognize that hurting people is wrong and that we need to be self-aware.

Yes, this conversation is exasperating, but I don't see how we can avoid it as anarchists. Maybe you all feel differently. I'm more than happy to step out of this topic and you can delete the discussion if it hasn't been helpful to you. I would also hope that some other people might try to provide new answers to dot's original question since that doesn't seem to be happening.
aha, this seems helpful (not in the sense of agreeing with each other, lol -- *that* seems further away than ever).

nope, nope, nope. a: the potential for conflict is not at all reduced by "determining to treat people right" partly because "right" IN PRACTICE is different for everyone, and also because being determined can have fuck all to do with anything. your own example is kind of sterling. if i were determined not to hurt any of the millions of people affected by the american paradigm, would it make any difference? i think it's pretty clear that it would not. individuals don't have the kind of power that you are claiming for us (which, btw, is another christian grandiosity thing - oh, be a good example, oh sacrifice yourself for others, [etc] as if either of those things have ever caused the kind of change that I FOR ONE would find relevant).
b. no one said "act blindly", those are your words/assumptions for what i would do in rejecting your universalisms.
c. if we don't know who's being affected by our actions, than how do we know that we're hurting them? but here i suppose you're talking about the system as if it's yours. you're being a good ally by acknowledging your participation in the problem. it's fine to understand how people are at different places in the system, and some have it easier than others, but to take responsibility for that seems again, grandiose and hugely misguided. a white person benefiting from racism doesn't mean that that white person is responsible for racism. racism would exist without that white person ever having existed. doesn't mean that that white person can't do something about racism IN THEIR CIRCLES, with PEOPLE THEY KNOW, but again - that is situational, not global.
so -- yea, you're operating on abstractions in the name of The People (and of course, in the name of the Good). classic leftist.
if i had a little more hope i would suggest you read Stirner, but i don't. so, never mind.
anyway, i feel more resolved. thanks for that!

ps: your attempt to psychoanalyze people you've never met is amusing. also patronizing. just, you know, fyi.

edit for spelling. sigh.
damn this has elicited a lot of comments. I am responding only to what you specifically asked me: "can you describe a little more what you mean when you say that you don't like it when you inadvertently harm others? What form does you "not liking" take?"

I have a job and for that job I drive a car, and I use a cell phone, and I use computers. I also use those things for other things I do. The continued reliance on these things involves exploitation, murder, ecological degradation, and more, much more bad.

I don't feel guilty about my use of these things. I might hate them, but they are compromises. They certainly implicate me to some extent, as your posting here implicates you.

Your definition of guilt seems to be that if you know your actions cause harm, you should feel bad about it. I wold say that I don't feel bad so much as I am aware, and understanding my complicity makes me angrier. If I experienced guilt I think I would instead feel frozen and unable to do more than react to those guilty feelings. Always repenting.
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If you read Max Stirner's the 'Ego and his own' he gives a philosophical argument on how all altruistic acts are selfish in their origin. According to Stirner's amoralist (psychological egoism) view, there are two types of people those who recognise their actions are egotistical and those who do not. If you want to read books that attack Kant's deontology or Mill's Utilitarianism I recommend reading Nietzsche's ''Beyond good and evil' and 'On the geneology of morality' which is moral nihilist attack on how morality is result of religion. Nietzsche believed Christian morality arose out of the result of the weak trying to pull down the strong by demanding them with new values which painted the as good victims and the oppresses as evil tyrants. The superman is a theoretical amoral man who will surpass morality.
by (180 points)