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Can actions which cause no harm be immoral?
in General

By SkepticalOneSkepticalOne 54 Pts edited December 2017
I saw another poster suggest that actions can be immoral even if they cause no harm and I thought this to be an incorrect statement. Can anyone convince me other wise with sound arguments?
  1. Can actions which cause no harm be immoral?

    14 votes
    1. Yes
      71.43%
    2. No
      28.57%
    3. I'm not sure.
        0.00%
«1



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Arguments

  • In general, a social group having its own moral code of conduct may find it “immoral” when one of its members leave and join a different group having a conflicting code of conduct. If the transition is civil, no harm done.
    SkepticalOne
  • I think it depends on what you think is moral or not. You may not directly harm anyone but you are still doing something that is considered wrong. For example if you are drunk driving, even if it's only for a block or two, and you get home safely without harming anyone, you still did something that is considered immoral. 
    SkepticalOne
  • @Mike

    Without knowing why social group A's disapproves of social group B's code of conduct we can't say if the act of joining social group B causes no harm. Plus, if the code of conduct is benign and group A disapproves for purely subjective reasons, then I'm not sure their objection has anything to do with morality.
  • @MajoMILSdlGMGV

    I think your argument raises other questions.  Is driving drunk immoral or potentially immoral? If we modify your hypothetical so that no innocents could possibly be harmed I think we illustrate drunk driving is not inherently immoral on it's own.
  • @Mike

    Without knowing why social group A's disapproves of social group B's code of conduct we can't say if the act of joining social group B causes no harm. Plus, if the code of conduct is benign and group A disapproves for purely subjective reasons, then I'm not sure their objection has anything to do with morality.
    Thank you for your feedback. I did mentioned, or implied, that “we know” there are moral codes within a group “A” that are known to be in conflict with group “B”; hence an “immoral” event when one leaves said group “A” to reform, or convert to group “B” in a civil manner, and therefore, “harms” no other. 
  • Mike said:
    Thank you for your feedback. I did mentioned, or implied, that “we know” there are moral codes within a group “A” that are known to be in conflict with group “B”; hence an “immoral” event when one leaves said group “A” to reform, or convert to group “B” in a civil manner, and therefore, “harms” no other. 

    You're not seeing the point I'm trying to make (poor communication on my part no doubt!).  It seems you're basically defining morality as codes of conducts which are culturally approved, but isn't morality more than consensus?  For instance, if Group A views leaving group A as immoral...or (say) eating strawberries as immoral  - that doesn't make these actions immoral. 
  • Define immoral and harm and you will find the answer.
    Be tomorrow's hero, not today's idol.
  • Mike said:
    Thank you for your feedback. I did mentioned, or implied, that “we know” there are moral codes within a group “A” that are known to be in conflict with group “B”; hence an “immoral” event when one leaves said group “A” to reform, or convert to group “B” in a civil manner, and therefore, “harms” no other. 

    You're not seeing the point I'm trying to make (poor communication on my part no doubt!).  It seems you're basically defining morality as codes of conducts which are culturally approved, but isn't morality more than consensus?  For instance, if Group A views leaving group A as immoral...or (say) eating strawberries as immoral  - that doesn't make these actions immoral. 
    For example, say I’m a member of an orthodox religious group and decided to convert to another religion. Depending on their moral code, which is a function of their belief system, the group may define this as a sinful “immoral” event, and generally, no “harm” is done to anyone during one’s conversion.
  • @Mike you harm yourself by ensuring punishment for sinning by betraying their god.
    Be tomorrow's hero, not today's idol.
  • @someone234

    Only God will make that decision on judgement day. Therefore, no “harm” done today in our physical domain. 

  • @Mike sentencing yourself to eternal damnation is harm. Long term harm that comes later due to what you do now is still based on the concept of harm.
    Be tomorrow's hero, not today's idol.
  • Mike said:
    You're not seeing the point I'm trying to make (poor communication on my part no doubt!).  It seems you're basically defining morality as codes of conducts which are culturally approved, but isn't morality more than consensus?  For instance, if Group A views leaving group A as immoral...or (say) eating strawberries as immoral  - that doesn't make these actions immoral. 
    For example, say I’m a member of an orthodox religious group and decided to convert to another religion. Depending on their moral code, which is a function of their belief system, the group may define this as a sinful “immoral” event, and generally, no “harm” is done to anyone during one’s conversion.
    If we allow different groups can have different moralities, then we must also allow moving from one group to another is an amoral action since no group (even if religious) is a moral authority over any other group. 


  • @Mike sentencing yourself to eternal damnation is harm. Long term harm that comes later due to what you do now is still based on the concept of harm.
    Again, God is the judge. Not you!
  • Mike said:
    You're not seeing the point I'm trying to make (poor communication on my part no doubt!).  It seems you're basically defining morality as codes of conducts which are culturally approved, but isn't morality more than consensus?  For instance, if Group A views leaving group A as immoral...or (say) eating strawberries as immoral  - that doesn't make these actions immoral. 
    For example, say I’m a member of an orthodox religious group and decided to convert to another religion. Depending on their moral code, which is a function of their belief system, the group may define this as a sinful “immoral” event, and generally, no “harm” is done to anyone during one’s conversion.
    If we allow different groups can have different moralities, then we must also allow moving from one group to another is an amoral action since no group (even if religious) is a moral authority over any other group. 


    Who are “we” to dictate to any social group what their moral code of conduct to be? Besides, tyrannical codes of conduct is not a subject of this debate.    

  • @Mike which god?
    Be tomorrow's hero, not today's idol.
  • @Mike which god?

    Good question! However, God is not the subject of this debate. I only used religion as an example of an “immoral” action causes no “harm.”

    From that example, you went off on some tangent describing the actions of your God, will somehow, harm the one who converted to another religion. 

  • SkepticalOneSkepticalOne 54 Pts
    edited December 2017
    Mike said:
    Mike said:
    You're not seeing the point I'm trying to make (poor communication on my part no doubt!).  It seems you're basically defining morality as codes of conducts which are culturally approved, but isn't morality more than consensus?  For instance, if Group A views leaving group A as immoral...or (say) eating strawberries as immoral  - that doesn't make these actions immoral. 
    For example, say I’m a member of an orthodox religious group and decided to convert to another religion. Depending on their moral code, which is a function of their belief system, the group may define this as a sinful “immoral” event, and generally, no “harm” is done to anyone during one’s conversion.
    If we allow different groups can have different moralities, then we must also allow moving from one group to another is an amoral action since no group (even if religious) is a moral authority over any other group. 


    Who are “we” to dictate to any social group what their moral code of conduct to be? Besides, tyrannical codes of conduct is not a subject of this debate.    

    I think you're looking at it in the wrong way.  If moral relativism is true, then moving between groups cannot be immoral from any context in which more than one group is objectively considered. So, I agree with your statement just not your conclusion.
  • @SkepticalOne
    How about this example, the classic “generation gap.” A parent may find their child’s rap music “immoral,” relative to the child no “harm” is done.
  • Mike said:
    @SkepticalOne
    How about this example, the classic “generation gap.” A parent may find their child’s rap music “immoral,” relative to the child no “harm” is done.
    I think the only reason for a parent to find rap music immoral is because of the lyrics, which could cause harm by desensitizing the child over time.  They may find the music itself to be of inferior quality, but not immoral.
  • Mike said:
    @SkepticalOne
    How about this example, the classic “generation gap.” A parent may find their child’s rap music “immoral,” relative to the child no “harm” is done.

    Let's explore it.  Other than opinion (which I do not consider to be morality), why would the parent consider the music immoral?  
  • @SkepticalOne ;@CYDdharta
    What I may find “immoral” may be pleasure to you. Therefore, no “harm” is done to either. 
  • @Mike

    Mike, do you consider morality to be arbitrary? Is it a matter of personal preference? I don't think either is true and an argument with such assumptions built-in are not compelling.
  • @Mike

    Mike, do you consider morality to be arbitrary? Is it a matter of personal preference? I don't think either is true and an argument with such assumptions built-in are not compelling.

    Good question. I find “morality” and a moral “code of conduct” are two different manifestations of a “universal morality.” That is, in forming a group, the objective of morality is the genesis as well as the evolution of a subjective code of conduct, while following a code of conduct becomes a moral event preserving the life of the group. The evolution of a human moral code of conduct is a function of the “Golden Rule” which is an outgrowth from a “universal morality”, which is an outgrowth of life’s “unalienable Rights”, which is an outgrowth of the physical constructal law.

     For other forms of life, according to research of Jonathan Haidt, Marc Hauser, Frans de Waal, considers a universal morality, or a variant thereof, responsible for group formation (schools of fish, flocks of birds, packs of wolfs or other primates) that seems to be more genetic than social or a combination thereof.   

    Take for example, the historic lamenting over the “changing moral values” relative to Elvis Presley’s activities in the 1950’s.  

    So in conclusion, relative to my subjective code of conduct, which evolved from the subjective norms of the culture in which I live; what I may find “immoral” may be pleasure to you. Therefore, no “harm” done to either.

  • @Mike

    You acknowledge a function of morality is preservation. You suggest this is limited to a group, but this is demonstrably false.

    Most charities help individuals regardless of their religion, race, sex, etc. This would be counter-intuitive if morality were nothing more than preservation of social groups.

    We can observe this same impulse to protect life even across species boundaries. For instance, the label "endangered species" arises from the realization that we can affect other animals in positive and negative ways - we might be causing extinction and/or we can fix the problem. Morality across species is not limited to humans either. Dolphins have been seen protecting seals and even humans from predators. Why would they do such a thing if the group were the heigth of morality?

    Suffice to say, without preservation of life as a basis, there is no morality. Ill agree how we go about doing this is subjective (there are many ways to achieve this), but the thought that morality is nothing more than a whim which has no connection to prevention of harm and preservation of life is misguided.

    In short, if you find something 'immoral' in which no one is harmed, then your definition of morality is meaningless.
  • @SkepticalOne Hate to break it to you but you thinking my morality is meaningless, is itself meaningless to me. Bye b**** xoxo
    BaconToes
    Be tomorrow's hero, not today's idol.
  • @Mike

    You acknowledge a function of morality is preservation. You suggest this is limited to a group, but this is demonstrably false.

    Most charities help individuals regardless of their religion, race, sex, etc. This would be counter-intuitive if morality were nothing more than preservation of social groups.

    We can observe this same impulse to protect life even across species boundaries. For instance, the label "endangered species" arises from the realization that we can affect other animals in positive and negative ways - we might be causing extinction and/or we can fix the problem. Morality across species is not limited to humans either. Dolphins have been seen protecting seals and even humans from predators. Why would they do such a thing if the group were the heigth of morality?

    Suffice to say, without preservation of life as a basis, there is no morality. Ill agree how we go about doing this is subjective (there are many ways to achieve this), but the thought that morality is nothing more than a whim which has no connection to prevention of harm and preservation of life is misguided.

    In short, if you find something 'immoral' in which no one is harmed, then your definition of morality is meaningless.

    A group who embraces charities is a group that intersects many other groups. I see no conflict here. Also, interspecies morality presents no conflict to my position. I’m not sure where you are going. As for my definition of morality is based on Stanford University’s position on a “universal morality.”  

    I feel I spent enough time and supplied enough examples in attempt to answer your question, “Can actions which cause no harm be immoral?” I regret I have not made myself clear enough to satisfy your objective. And on that note, I must move on, good luck in finding what you are looking for. 

  • @someone234

    I will take your eloquent and thoughtful argument into consideration.
  • @Mike
    Thank you for your input, Mike. Maybe next time we'll find better ways to communicate our views to each other.
    Mike
  • I know that I am late to this discussion, but hopefully I can try to leave some open input. When I was reading through your discussion with Mike, I noticed you were discussing whether leaving groups was immoral. Before I answer this question, I would like to set apart a distinction. I think that there is a universal morality and a belief system that is specific to a specific person. When I say this, this means that a person might have different ideas about what groups or ideas are right or wrong. Different people might have different opinions on whether Eminem's "Rap God" is blasphemous toward Christian culture or not, but there is some overarching universal morality that we all abide by. For instance, murder is wrong in all cases and that we have an obligation to care for family members; that is universal morality. Now to the question above. This case falls under the example where it depends on your beliefs. In terms of leaving say the Orthodoxy in order to become a Methodist, that would depend on what your belief about God is. Do you think that God is present in the Eucharist? If not, you might become a Methodist, but if so, you should stay in the Orthodoxy. This requires research and spiritual guidance, and while all calls are your own, God is the judge of you at the end of time. 

    Onto the debate question itself. I do think that some actions can be immoral while still not harming people. If we were to draw a circle and list all immoral things under harm, would that make harm the only judge for if an action is immoral? I think that there could be another category, say relationships. I hate to bring this up but say if cheating on your girlfriend and gay marriage are not harmful. That would still make them immoral because they deal with improper relationships. Another example that might not be controversial like gay marriage. Say you betray your family when they need you the most, leaving them to harm but not causing it to them. That is immoral because a universal morality states that you always care and stand by family members. Therefore, morality is the second judge of immorality besides physical or mental harm caused to a person. While our beliefs to some issues might differ, a universal morality judges us all and that makes that the second category to immoral behavior. We might disagree about what makes up a universal morality, but that is besides the point for now and to hopefully be discussed later. 

    If you have any questions or flaws in my argument, let me know, I will try to respond ASAP. 
    A good debate is not judged by bias, but in the context of the debate, where objectivity is key and rationale prevalent. 


  • If you are interested, based on your quote,  As for my definition of morality is based on Stanford University’s position on a “universal morality.”  I think you might enjoy C. S. Lewis's book called Mere Christianity where he describes what universal morality is. You don't have to be a Christian to read it, hope this might help!
    Mike
    A good debate is not judged by bias, but in the context of the debate, where objectivity is key and rationale prevalent. 


  • If you are interested, based on your quote,  As for my definition of morality is based on Stanford University’s position on a “universal morality.”  I think you might enjoy C. S. Lewis's book called Mere Christianity where he describes what universal morality is. You don't have to be a Christian to read it, hope this might help!

    Thanks for the lead on C.S. Lewis’ book. I like Wikipedia’s take on Lewis’ view on morality, “Lewis argues that the moral law is like the law of nature in that it was not contrived by humans. However, it is unlike natural laws in that it can be broken or ignored, and it is known intuitively, rather than through observation.”  

    Today we have empirical observations of a “universal morality”, which is an outgrowth of “unalienable Rights,” which is an outgrowth of the physical constructal law.

    WilliamSchulz
  • Nobody should take pain personally!  o:)
  • Mike said:
    If you are interested, based on your quote,  As for my definition of morality is based on Stanford University’s position on a “universal morality.”  I think you might enjoy C. S. Lewis's book called Mere Christianity where he describes what universal morality is. You don't have to be a Christian to read it, hope this might help!

    Thanks for the lead on C.S. Lewis’ book. I like Wikipedia’s take on Lewis’ view on morality, “Lewis argues that the moral law is like the law of nature in that it was not contrived by humans. However, it is unlike natural laws in that it can be broken or ignored, and it is known intuitively, rather than through observation.”  

    Today we have empirical observations of a “universal morality”, which is an outgrowth of “unalienable Rights,” which is an outgrowth of the physical constructal law.

    Looks great! One of Lewis's main points is that although we have a sense of morality and universal morality, we are very prone to break or stretch our sense of morality to fit our needs. 
    Mike
    A good debate is not judged by bias, but in the context of the debate, where objectivity is key and rationale prevalent. 



  • I believe some of the examples you cite actually do involve harm or, at the very least, the potential for harm. Harm is not merely physical damage, but psychological and/or emotional injury. Cheating on your partner is considered immoral because it introduces harm, or the potential for harm, into the equation. Betraying your family and leaving them to harm does the same. These are immoral acts.

    Gay marriage is something altogether different. I agree there is no harm caused by it, and as suggested in the OP, something which does not cause harm cannot be immoral. More work will need to be done to show gay marriage as immoral. 

    Also, it should be noted, "morality is the second judge of immorality" is circular and, I'm sorry to say, nonsensical.  You can't legitimately judge something red because it is non-red.  You need to know what "red" means before you can understand non-red. It is the same with morality or any coherent concept.
  • If you are interested, based on your quote,  As for my definition of morality is based on Stanford University’s position on a “universal morality.”  I think you might enjoy C. S. Lewis's book called Mere Christianity where he describes what universal morality is. You don't have to be a Christian to read it, hope this might help!

    I would appreciate linking a definition of 'universal morality'.  I don't believe Stanford has an absolute position on it. ;) I might need to re-read Lewis' Mere Christianity.  It has been a few years since I read it!
  • If you are interested, based on your quote,  As for my definition of morality is based on Stanford University’s position on a “universal morality.”  I think you might enjoy C. S. Lewis's book called Mere Christianity where he describes what universal morality is. You don't have to be a Christian to read it, hope this might help!

    I would appreciate linking a definition of 'universal morality'.  I don't believe Stanford has an absolute position on it. ;) I might need to re-read Lewis' Mere Christianity.  It has been a few years since I read it!
    Here is a source which draws conclusions on universal morality and ethics, I'll respond to your argument above tomorrow sometime.
    http://merechristianitystudyguide.blogspot.com/2008/12/c-s-lewiss-three-arguments-for-moral.html ;
    A good debate is not judged by bias, but in the context of the debate, where objectivity is key and rationale prevalent. 


  • @WilliamSchulz

    The link lead me to "Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist." :-/
  • @SkepticalOne

    If a person pleasures themselves to donkey porn, maybe no one gets hurt but....
    SkepticalOne
  • Although I try to be a good person I really don't care about absolutists and their campaigns against perceived immoralities.  But, with that said, the fact is all it really takes for something to be immoral is for more than half the people in a group to agree that it's immoral.  That doesn't make them right.  That doesn't mean the perceived harm is real or not real.  It just means the preponderance of people (in that group) have declared it wrong to do whatever said items is and that you're a bad person if you do it.

    If you have 10 pirates on a ship and zero of them think pillaging wealth is immoral then on that particular ship you can pillage wealth all you want, and if the outsider wants to bring God into the discussion they'll just laugh it off.  But also, if 6 out of 10 of those pirates say sleeping with another man's wench is immoral then that behavior becomes immoral (on that ship, at least).  This is a simple example but it's just to drive home the fact that opinion of majority heavily influences what is moral and what isn't.
  • A more accurate statement should be "actions which can cause no harm"

    Picture this scenario. You trap somebody innocent in a room. There is a 99% probability that the room will fill with a toxic gas, and a 1% probability that it will not. Let's suppose that, somehow, against the odds, the room does not fill with the toxic gas, and the person is free. The person does not mind being kidnapped because the person was unconscious (not caused by you) or the person was having fun inside the room, not aware of the danger. Did you do any immoral action in this scenario?
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