Thursday, April 04, 2013

Morality, beauty, talent and goodness--Part 1

A couple years ago, I decided I was going to make a series of videos concerning morality. I never got beyond the first video (which I never posted), in which I basically described that a moral person is someone who loves beauty, and that beauty has a concrete component, not involving love or unselfishness, and another part that involves love and unselfishness. Most of the the following post (except something I today added at the end) was something I wrote as preparation for the next never produced video.

Let me take as a jumping off point the golden rule, that one should "do unto others as one would have others do unto you". There are a couple moral problems with this. One is that people have different needs. For instance, I'd be quite pleased if girls were lustfully scrambling for my backside—I'd think they were generously into sharing or some such loving thing. But that's no reason to think there would be something benevolent about my lustfully scrambling for girls' backsides. They'd rightfully think I was trying to sodomize them or some such unloving thing.. Girls can't sodomize, which makes the situation not at all analogous. True, a male could ask what would he would want if her were a girl, but that's a philosophically much more complicated question that suggests a more complex definition. Two is that it is just wrong to love bad or evil people as much as good people. The way around that would be to define loving people broadly. For instance, I suppose a strain of Christian could say that ideally loving Hitler would be a good thing, but practically love of homocidal maniacs such as him is impossible because loving him rather than (say) imprisoning, killing or assassinating him when one has the chance is unloving toward others more than it is loving toward him, and what is important is to love people in general the most one can. But practically speaking, making such qualifications basically amounts to saying that one in fact should love good people more than bad people, which can best be expressed clearly and non-circularly by admitting it in the first place, or so it seems to me.

That good people love good people more than bad people explains why people can evolve to be good. Good people love each other unselfishly, bad people don't. Accordingly, good people may get more than bad people, which can cause them to prosper more. Of course, if it worked, a more rewarding strategy would be to pretend to be good, so one is loved unselfishly without having to be unselfish. It's important to see why such a deceitful strategy tends to fail enough that morality is possible and relevant. So-called evolutionary biologists have written a great deal of ridiculous nonsense using game theory and suggestions that morality if not selfishness is some sort of straightforward outgrowth of feelings toward family or the tribe I think the situation is much simpler than represented. The reason moral goodness is fairly easy to judge has to do with the most important love being that toward mates. For instance, a good male loves and cares for his wife more unselfishly than a bad male would be expected to. Similarly, a good female less bases her reproductive decisions on money than a bad female would be expected to. The most important and appropriate love that people possess is toward their mates, and is involved in rewarding the mate with more mutual children than would be expected if the love were not there. Since love tends to be most important in a reproductive context, what a person pretending to unselfishness could obtain is more children with a mate tricked into love. Those children will tend to inherit the insensitivity toward moral goodness that the tricked parent would be expected to have possessed. Naturally deceptive people tending to have inherited their deceit from at least one deceptive parent, it follows that the tendency toward moral deceit would naturally tend to occur together with the tendency toward insensitivity in judging moral character. Because love tends mainly to be in a mating context, one would expect, accordingly, that people who deceive about their moral character would tend to be insensitive. And sensitivity, unlike unselfishness, is fairly easy to judge directly, since one can evaluate sensitivity toward oneself. All one has to do is know oneself, and any one with basic faculties of understanding who bothers is comparatively well positioned to know oneself. As Locke points out, reflection is but perception of what is occurring in one's own brain, a perception not fundamentally different from or less certain than sensation arising from the so-called five senses proper. If the most important love in society were not tied up with mating, it would be much harder to distinguish between the good unselfish people and the bad selfish people pretending to be good unselfish people; and this distinguishing is essential for people to evolve good, unselfish traits.

It shouldn't be surprising really that the most important love is tied up with mating. It doesn't take much observation of Valentine cards to see that people tend to think this is the case, and it makes sense it should be so inasmuch as otherwise goodness would be much harder to judge. Sure, one can and should love people in non-romantic contexts, but it's always somewhat extra dangerous and less than ideal to try to love seemingly good people unselfishly in non-romantic contexts, since if done too generally, it would tend to cause much effective deceit to evolve. Moral judgments that lead to love or punishments are much more dangerous and less appropriate when in non-romantic contexts. It's not that it is wrong to judge others. In fact, it is very important to mate from love, which of course should rely on judgment of whether the other person is worthy of such. It's just that outside the mating sphere, the sort of moral judgements necessary for love or punishment should be made very carefully and rarely.

It's interesting to note that there is a sort of under-appreciated difference involved in the loving associated with mating. Sure, love in males is more tied up with caring for a wife, and thus with marriage (though why and to what extent marriage should be relevant is complicated). But females behave more unselfishly when they choose less caring from the mate. Good males tend to be good because they are willing to be good, caring husbands, but good females tend to be good to the extent they are willing to have sex outside marriage that does not require responsibility of the male. Bad males argue that love is sex. Bad female argue that love is caring. What they agree on is that how males love is the same as how females love (because they all want to encourage real sacrifices toward themselves in their mates), and so that is where the lies of evil are united, and why the difference is under-appreciated. (Actually, there is another complication regarding sexual love. Selfish nasty males tend to argue that screwed-up depravity is a kind of sexual love, whereas unloving females tend to argue that sexual love is a kind of screwed-up depravity, so evil is also united in another conflation, that involving conflating unselfish sexual love with depravity, i.e., sodomy, i.e., semen in the digestive system.) Anyway, because in aggregate most important love is wrapped up with sex directly or with caring consequent to sex, sex is very important to considerations of morality. But before much considering sexual matters, I should define beauty and goodness more carefully.

Of course, any attempt to try to precisely define morality, goodness, beauty, etc., is likely to fall short of what the ideal definitions should be. Ultimately, I shall attempt to define things rather mathematically. This may seem cold and not particularly warm-and-fuzzy. Nevertheless, simplifications are useful ways of gaining understandings of ourselves. Life is too complicated to have a natural moral sentiment suitable to every situation, and at other times one is too tired, crazy, or polluted to have much access to natural moral sentiment.. In practice, it behooves one to try well to understand one's natural moral tendencies to see whether they might fit into a pattern. Why? Because I claim that one of the natural tendencies of people is the indirect tendency to adopt as tendencies those behaviors that would seem to fit into the pattern of one's own direct natural tendencies as best understood; this way one has more tendencies likely to be favored by evolution than merely the numerically insufficient direct natural tendencies. If for instance the golden rule is the best understanding one can have of one's natural moral tendencies, one will tend to adopt the golden rule when one's own natural tendencies don't conflict with it, which to the extent the golden rule describes one's natural tendencies is likely to be adaptive. But one's own natural tendencies may well conflict with the golden rule, because, for instance, as mentioned earlier, bad people just aren't naturally as loveable as good people. It is appropriate to find a better more useful definition of morality that makes the natural tendencies that moral people have more understandable, both in describing the moral tendencies that empirically would seem to exist in oneself and others and also in describing why the most understandable world views, e.g., evolution, would suggest that oneself or a significant number of people, the moral people, might well more or less have the moral tendencies as understood by the definitions.

My best definitions are presumably capable of improvement and worthy of being ignored when direct natural moral tendencies conflict, but realistically, such is likely to be the case of any understanding of morality, and when no direct warm-and-fuzzy feelings are there, my best understanding if a preferable understanding to other understandings may well lead to behaviors that in their consequences indeed are more warm-and-fuzzy than an even simpler understanding. Of course, some hesitance for doing morality more mathematically may be that many people are bitter about math, I suppose from it being a field pedants perhaps don't dislike as much as your typical other field. But hey, math underpins the physical laws of the universe—it's important. And as for feelings, take music. The frequencies of the notes corresponding to the keys on a standardly tuned piano form a geometric sequence with ratio the twelfth-root of 2. I will claim that the components of beauty also form a geometric sequence; indeed, that's where the math mostly lies. Anyway, the same sort of math, the math of geometric sequences, that underlies my approach to morality also underlies music, so if my moral viewpoint seems cold for being mathematical, one might as well view music coldly for the same reason. (For instance, the reason, presumably, that white keys and black keys are arranged on a piano as they are and so that there are twelve keys in an octave is that if one holds one 's thumb and pinky on white keys, with three white keys between, and if one doesn't start on the left on B, one always goes up in frequency seven keys—seven terms in the geometric sequence—leading to a ratio of frequencies equal to 2 to the 7/12 power, which is about 1.4983, a harmonious ratio since it is very nearly 1.5.) A more mathematical understanding of morality, love, beauty, etc., need not lead to inappropriate coldness provided one chooses (mostly warm-and-fuzzy) natural moral sentiments over derived moral sentiment when they conflict; mathematical understanding as a guide to moral behavior is properly mostly for when there is an absence of moral sentiments as to what to do but a presence of sentiment that something should be done. Also, there is the important exception that rational understanding is a better moral guide than moral sentiment when chemical addiction likely has corrupted natural moral sentiment into something unnatural.

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