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Is anything actually bad or wrong?

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Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/22/15 6:23 PM
Is morality justified?  There are a number of times in my own life, especially recently, where my moral feelings conflicted with what was logical, practical, or what I truely wanted.  Is there any reason I should listen to these feelings?  Lately, my answer has been "no" so I'd like to hear some arguments for why I might be wrong.

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/22/15 9:21 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
If it's one life -- effectively, yours -- (and you have no empathy or less developed empathy), then no. 


If you think energy is neither created nor destroyed, but rather recycling energy (form, consciousness) with rational causality (e.g., like a) closely developed, unfolding happenings like cream mixing with coffee and, b) distantly, suddenly mixing happenings like asteroids to Earth), then morality is an informed, sane decision (if not a direct insight/materialist hallucination of direct insight into such limitless recycling) because one anticipates that "I" will experience conditions it creates (consciousness as arising and passing phenomena experiences what it creates).

If you don't know for yourself with conviction you could wager like Pascal per God and just err on the side of moral cultivation, such as the Golden Rule. 


___________
edits because this space is starting to absorb fonts with English syntax and grammar. How!

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/22/15 11:55 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
I don't understand what you're saying. Maybe rephrase for me?

What I'm asking is: are moral feelings justified somehow, especially considering how easy they are to manipulate - like a coworker getting you to do their work for them by projecting a false sense of authority, or the guilt a family member might try to use to get you to help them move.  These are places where the same feelings come up in spite of the fact that logic tells you they aren't appropriate for the situation.  I've been working to become more self-confident in these kinds of situations and I've noticed I'm able to change my feelings.  The change in feeling is, essentially, a change in the moral stance, or a change in the actual opinion I have about a situation - a change in what feels right and wrong.

Anyway, I've been a moral relativist for a long time, but I've never put it into practice quite like this before.  It's interesting to see myself on both sides of an opinion in such close proximity.  It's made me question why I think of anything as wrong, and mostly I just come up with conditioning.  Obviously there are certain ways of behaving that are useful for society to function - but that isn't why I usually do these behaviors.  I do them because, if I don't, there's a bad feeling.  It's like something darwinian, where society has certian sets of moral traits that are passed on from parents to children through conditioning.  The people who express the most society-friendly traits have a greater chance of staying within the society and mating, thus passing on their cultural conditioning to the next generation.

Knowing this, there's a great deal of these feelings that can be dropped completely - maybe even all of them.  Morality can become a choice rather than a compulsion.

So, the title question was whether anything is actually wrong or bad, or are we just mindlessly acting out scripts?  For example, why is it wrong to steal or kill, rather than just "anti-social" to do these things.  Is it that a child's mind isn't capable of comprehending logic well enough for this kind if moral instruction, or are we all just carrying around ancient cultural baggage that is no longer needed.

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/23/15 1:58 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Let me begin with the statement that morality is different for everybody. Even in a family everybody has a different morality.

So do I always have to follow the feelings of morality or do I never follow the feelings of morality???

Why so black or white? If you always follow your feelings of morality then you are bound by this rule and can never be free. If you never follow your feelings of morality then you are bound by this rule and can never be free. It depends on the situation, here comes wisdom into play, when to use these feelings of morality and when to use your logic mind.
The question should arise what is wholesome?

So is it wholesome to steal of kill somebody? You can argue that it is just ant-social and that there is no good and bad, so I can do anything, right? Well here comes the morality into play, when you kill someone, it is not wholesome, because your consciousness will hunt you.
When a psychopath kills somebody, this is no big deal, because he has a different morality.
So what is wholesome? Well, when everybody has a different morality then which is wholesome differs per person. (This was an example when you use your ´logic´ to judge, but morality doesn´t agree)

So is it wholesome to feel quilty? Let´s say you scolded at your friend and you feel guilty, is this wholesome? This feeling of guilt comes from your morality. You can now use your logical mind. Yes, you scolded at your friend, but feeling guilty doesn´t make him feel beter, so you can better take action and apologize to him. So is there no meaning to feel guilty? Well, maybe a little bit, it makes you reflect on the thing you did so that you will not likely do that again in the future. So the purpose of guilt is knowing that you did something not really wholesome so that you can reflect on the situation, so you can do better next time and take action. In this case it is important that you validate the guilt because sometimes you feel  guilty but there really is no reason to feel guilty. Personally, if I did something without a bad intention and it turns out unwholesome then I don´t blame myself. Knowing that you did something unwholesome is important. But feeling guilty and drowning in it, is just foolish.

So train your morality and wisdom, but also your logic. Meditation is important but it is also important that you can think logical. To use your logic better, I really recommend this course: https://www.edx.org/course/science-everyday-thinking-uqx-think101x-1

I end with what I began with, morality is different for everybody. So really there is no good and bad, there is just wholesome and unwholesome. Wholesome and unwholesome for who? For yourself.

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/23/15 3:18 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
Is morality justified?

"Morality" is about what is moral. "Justified" is about what is just. "Moral" and "just" are synonyms. So morality is justified by definition.

http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/moral

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/23/15 6:06 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Well, for me it boils down to the fact that conscious creatures have to the ability to either experience more or less agreeable mindstates. Given this, and if you have any concern for other people's mindstates it makes sense to act in a way to maximizes the amount of agreeable mindstates that you yourself and others experience.

The tricky thing is that these mindstates are conditional, they depend on causes and conditions. 

Some of those causes and conditions are pretty direct: if you torture and beat people someone they will suffer and experience bad mindstates. Hence you should not torture.

However, other mindstates are mediated by beliefs (morality): in your example your family member believes that you have a moral obligation to help her move, and if you don't she feels violated in some way, and she suffers.

So in the first case she would suffer conditional on the beatings of her torturer affecting her nerve endings, and in the second case she would suffer conditional on the beliefs she holds about the moral obligations of others and you not fulfilling them. 

I think your question is: should I take the second type of conditionality into account? Or does the arbitrariness of the cause and condition (other people's morality) mean that you don't have to take into account how your actions in conjunction with those beliefs cause others to suffer. 

One answer is to act as if everybody has the same arbitrary standards that you have, ignoring other's own beliefs and morality. Another answer could be to always defer to the beliefs and morality of others.

Personally I don't fundamentally see the difference between the fist and morality as a cause and condition for suffering, so I would tend to lean towards the latter: I will take the likely suffering that you will endure conditional on your morality and beliefs into account when deciding on my actions, even when I don't share those beliefs. 

So even when you do not agree with other people's morality, you can still (partially) defer to them. For example when I'm in a culture where men and women are not supposed to touch each other, I will not insist on shaking a women's hands, even though I think this is a silly rule and ultimately not conducive to maximum human flourishing. 

Make sense?

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/23/15 6:11 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Don't know dude. Maybe. Maybe not. But a related question is - is it useful? Answer to that - dunno. Maybe. Maybe not. :-)

When I use right/wrong, good/bad, when I have a strong sense that "it's only right that things should be some particular way", life kind of sucks a little more.

I get caught up in "being right". Justice - everything that is good - the universe itself - is on my side! And something needs to change. And somebody's got to pay. We deserve better! I have a right to a better world, goddammit!

Since I don't invoke the right/wrong lens as often, I laugh more, I feel more compassion, more love, more forgiveness, gratitude, understanding, flexibility - all sorts of warm fuzzy shit. I feel less righteousness, fear, and anger.

Oddly enough, instead of becoming more passive by dropping good/bad right/wrong lens, I am more active than ever in affecting the kind of change I'd like to see in my life and the world at large.

So what guides behavior? Pleasantness/unpleasantness. I find the highest benefit/cost ratio for pleasantness is compassion. There is an immediate payoff in that moment of giving where I'm not asking/demanding/begging life for anything. There is a greatly reduced "subtle ask" - "Please like me." "Please respect me." "Please let me be right." "Please think I am the shit." "Please give me satisfaction."

With compassion, there is just - "Be well." Mostly anyway. And it's really preferable to the neediness of other states.

Not sure when I seem to have made the switch. Kind of just happened. Suspect it's related to something about dukkha being in everything. Like consciousness itself requires some agitation to be conscious of. Right/wrong, for me, seemed to be rooted in "there should be no agitation, satisfaction should be here". When this tidbit about all experience was seen clearly enough, right/wrong kind of just lost steam.

Keep in mind I am no philosopher, and only been sitting for a short time. I am quite possibly full of shit. Be well. :-)

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/23/15 7:19 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
Oochdd:
Some of those causes and conditions are pretty direct: if you torture and beat people someone they will suffer and experience bad mindstates. Hence you should not torture.

However, other mindstates are mediated by beliefs (morality): in your example your family member believes that you have a moral obligation to help her move, and if you don't she feels violated in some way, and she suffers.

So in the first case she would suffer conditional on the beatings of her torturer affecting her nerve endings, and in the second case she would suffer conditional on the beliefs she holds about the moral obligations of others and you not fulfilling them. 

I think your question is: should I take the second type of conditionality into account?


Actually, my question is for both. Why is is bad to cause other people suffering - for any reason? There are implications and causality, sure - but this isn't explaining why it's bad - it's just explainaing why it's a bad idea for me if I care about my future self.

As a thought experiement, ket's assume you're the last person alive on eath. As a hobby, you take up mutilating animals. If you feel bad about this, then obviously it's not a good idea. But what if you just stopped caring completely. You dropped your bad feelings and mutilated the animals. Are you a bad person? The only thing that seems to make something bad is the fact that it feels wrong - and it's actually possible to change what feels wrong, and even eliminate the feeling of wrongness completely.

Or, as a more contemporary example that people might be more willing to embrace: Let's say a gay boy grows up in an ultra conservative religious family. His moral feelings, are that it's wrong to be gay - it feels wrong. Then, in his 20s, he moves to San Francisco, meets a group of gay people, and learns to change his feelings. Maybe it takes some time, but he learns to accept himself and be comfortable with who he is. The moral feelings have done an about face - a think that used to feel wrong no longer does - which means it was arbitrary to begin with.

I'm proposing that all moral feelings are arbitrary like this - all feelings of wrongness can be changed and eliminated. A person like this could still follow societal rules, but they would not have a sense of right and wrong, only a sense if social and anti-social.

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/24/15 3:49 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I don't understand what you're saying. Maybe rephrase for me?



Sure.

To do what you described (the abuse of others you can overpower) and to face ethical conduct as a cultural compulsion means that you have urges and you want to know if/how you can act on them freely without the Other (as abusee or as regulator) weighing on you as willful actor (one who has urges and takes actions).


I'd ask why act on urges?


What urges need to be acted on if you just sit down and wait.


What happens when you do or don't act on urges?
(You can rupture your bladder and die if you do not fulfill the urge to urinate, so no one is saying to hold your bowel movements, just to note what urges you actually must act on and why.)



Sensations have been raised so far: taking action to obtain pleasent sensations, and taking actions to avoid unpleasant sensations.

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/24/15 4:08 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
Oochdd:
Some of those causes and conditions are pretty direct: if you torture and beat people someone they will suffer and experience bad mindstates. Hence you should not torture.

However, other mindstates are mediated by beliefs (morality): in your example your family member believes that you have a moral obligation to help her move, and if you don't she feels violated in some way, and she suffers.

So in the first case she would suffer conditional on the beatings of her torturer affecting her nerve endings, and in the second case she would suffer conditional on the beliefs she holds about the moral obligations of others and you not fulfilling them. 

I think your question is: should I take the second type of conditionality into account?


Actually, my question is for both. Why is is bad to cause other people suffering - for any reason? There are implications and causality, sure - but this isn't explaining why it's bad - it's just explainaing why it's a bad idea for me if I care about my future self.

As a thought experiement, ket's assume you're the last person alive on eath. As a hobby, you take up mutilating animals. If you feel bad about this, then obviously it's not a good idea. But what if you just stopped caring completely. You dropped your bad feelings and mutilated the animals. Are you a bad person? The only thing that seems to make something bad is the fact that it feels wrong - and it's actually possible to change what feels wrong, and even eliminate the feeling of wrongness completely.

Or, as a more contemporary example that people might be more willing to embrace: Let's say a gay boy grows up in an ultra conservative religious family. His moral feelings, are that it's wrong to be gay - it feels wrong. Then, in his 20s, he moves to San Francisco, meets a group of gay people, and learns to change his feelings. Maybe it takes some time, but he learns to accept himself and be comfortable with who he is. The moral feelings have done an about face - a think that used to feel wrong no longer does - which means it was arbitrary to begin with.

I'm proposing that all moral feelings are arbitrary like this - all feelings of wrongness can be changed and eliminated. A person like this could still follow societal rules, but they would not have a sense of right and wrong, only a sense if social and anti-social.

This is a great topic and I myself came across this not too long ago (June 11th). Here are some messages I wrote to the Yahoo! group on this topic:

Claudiu:
I have been pondering this question for a while. What's the motivation for being harmless if morality isn't a concern?

Certain types, when in a good mood, I noticed that I simply didn't want to be harmful. So then it was easy to be harmless.

But other times I literally could not think of a reason to choose to feel and be harmless, outside of morality. I just didn't see a point. I would feel bad for being harmful, but that's because of societal conditioning and morality. But otherwise, those 'bad' emotions and passions of harmfulness can feel very good. And in practical terms I couldn't think of a reason to avoid harming people in particular. There are practical concerns like going to jail for extreme expressions of harmfulness, or perhaps just people disliking you for lesser ones, but outside of those, why avoid it, outside of it feeling bad because of morality?

In terms of actualism, there is the reason of "because it reinforces the identity and will thus prevent actual freedom", but that didn't seem to quite do it.

But just now, I've figured it out! The goal of actualism is to enjoy and appreciate, not to not reinforce the identity. So the reason to be harmless would be because it maximizes enjoyment and appreciation. Thus if my goal is to enjoy, then my goal is also to be harmless.

This finally connected. I noticed before that expressing (as in feeling and fueling them, not physically) harmful emotions could feel good in the moment, but it would leave me uncomfortable, and certainly not calm or cool or enjoying, after. Truly they do take away from ongoing enjoyment and appreciation.

Now I truly don't need morality to avoid harming people! And that is quite freeing.

Claudiu:
Right but why should I care about other people?

In a good mood I don't want to hurt others and I just naturally want people to enjoy. But in a not good mood that isn't here.

Why care about others then?

The enjoyment of life is where it's at. Life's more enjoyable without feeling harmful feelings. When I'm just enjoying there's nothing pulling me to do one thing or another. But when I'm not there's all these urges to do this or that. It's very tiring!

I find it funny that the answer to "why not be harmful" is "because it's more fun to be harmless". So is that what humanity has been missing all along? emoticon

Now I found it ties back also in the other way - I find that being happy makes it easier to be harmless - so they reinforce each other.

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/24/15 7:37 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
It's hard to understand what harmless means in actualist terms.  Richard eats meat and publicly argues with people, so it doesn't mean avoiding harming other people's emotions or killing thing.  The way you explain it here, Beoman, conflicts with a few of the recent events I was referring to.  For example, I have an aggressive co-worker who doesn't respond to kindness and wouldn't leave me alone when I tried to ignore her.  I gave her a solid, "fuck you," one day, and after that she left me alone.  Happiness, in this case, was brought about by being harmful - I certainly am happier she stopped trying to foist work on me.  An actualist might respond to this with, "without conditioning telling you her actions were annoying or aggresive, you wouldn't have to resort to harmfulness to bring about a resolution," but this is a kind of after-the-fact result of actualism, not a solid practice.

I think "happy and harmless," as a kind of practice, ends up being a dual mandate.  It's better to describe happiness as leading to harmlessness.  Actually, I said this in Noah's thread, but the thing I've notice maximizes hapiness is self-confidence.  Harmlessness isn't necessarily in conflict with self-confidence, but, the times it is, it's much easier to enjoy and appreciate the world when you don't feel there's anything to worry about.  "Be harmless" tends to add to the worries - especially considering how ambiguous it really is.  As a nihilist, the word harm is meaningless to me - what is harmful when nothing is supposed to be any specific way?

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/24/15 7:47 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Katy,

How do you distinguish between worthwhile urges, and ones to sit out?  I know this is kind of a dumb, overy abstracting question, but I think it's only that way because we're living in a cultural framework where things are made fairly simple for us.

I mean, do you think the urge to paint or draw is noble or worthwhile?  What about the urge to help feed starving children?  How can we judge the difference between those urges and an urge to mutilate, or an urge to kill?  It's the obviousness that I'm questioning here - I think it's only obvious due to conditioning.

I've actually hit this dilemma a bit myself.  There are meditative states without urges, and they're nice, but I realize that fully embracing them meant I'd never do much besides basic survival into the future.  One of the major flaws in the modern, western understanding of buddhism is this conflict between "desire causes dukkha" and the insistence that we don't have to be renunciate monks to become enlightened.  The buddha didn't advocate painting or drawing, or even helping starving children.  He advocated sitting under a tree and meditating as much as possible - and when not meditating, to teach other people how to meditate.

I know I'm opening a big can of worms here.  Might be worth making another thread.

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/24/15 8:20 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
It's hard to understand what harmless means in actualist terms.  Richard eats meat and publicly argues with people, so it doesn't mean avoiding harming other people's emotions or killing thing.

It's actually pretty straightforward - it just means not having any malice/not feeling malicious. For example:
RESPONDENT: [...] is it possible for someone who is actually free, happy and harmless, to freely, happily and harmlessly punch someone in the face?

RICHARD: [...] Second, to be actually free from the human condition is to be sans the affective faculty/identity in toto.

Third, the happiness and harmlessness referred to on The Actual Freedom Trust web site is the total absence of malice and sorrow.

Fourth, to freely punch a fellow human being in the face is to utilise physical force non-prejudiciously.

Fifth, to happily punch a fellow human being in the face is to utilise physical force without sorrow.

Sixth, to harmlessly punch a fellow human being in the face is to utilise physical force without malice.

Thus your query can look something like this when spelled-out in full:

• [example only]: ‘With no ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ to have any linkage, is it possible for somebody sans the affective faculty/identity in toto, with no malice and sorrow extant whatsoever, to non-prejudiciously, non-maliciously and non-sorrowfully, use physical force on a fellow human being? [end example].

In a word ... yes.

RESPONDENT: I mean I’m talking ‘in context’ here – not just through malice, but to protect someone, or something like that.

RICHARD: Perhaps if I were to put it this way? One does not become actually free from the human condition in order to be beaten to a pulp by someone – anyone – who chooses to let themselves continue being run by blind nature’s instinctual survival passions. [link]

For another example, water causes a lot of physical damage, but the water is not malicious. Thus water is harmless in the sense of "harmless" used in the phrase "happy and harmless".
Not Tao:
The way you explain it here, Beoman, conflicts with a few of the recent events I was referring to.  For example, I have an aggressive co-worker who doesn't respond to kindness and wouldn't leave me alone when I tried to ignore her.  I gave her a solid, "fuck you," one day, and after that she left me alone.  Happiness, in this case, was brought about by being harmful - I certainly am happier she stopped trying to foist work on me.  An actualist might respond to this with, "without conditioning telling you her actions were annoying or aggresive, you wouldn't have to resort to harmfulness to bring about a resolution," but this is a kind of after-the-fact result of actualism, not a solid practice.

Or an actualist might say, "you can happily and harmlessly give an aggressive a solid 'fuck you' to get them to desist from their actions". It's not the result of an action that determines whether it's harmful or harmless, but the intent with which it was taken. For another example, Daniel-san said he was not being insulting/mean in the "The Story vs. Reality" thread, just cheeky - thus it is entirely possible he was participating in that thread harmlessly. Of course only he knows ultimately what went through his head but I don't see a reason to disbelieve him in this case.
Not Tao:
I think "happy and harmless," as a kind of practice, ends up being a dual mandate.  It's better to describe happiness as leading to harmlessness.  Actually, I said this in Noah's thread, but the thing I've notice maximizes hapiness is self-confidence.  Harmlessness isn't necessarily in conflict with self-confidence, but, the times it is, it's much easier to enjoy and appreciate the world when you don't feel there's anything to worry about.  "Be harmless" tends to add to the worries - especially considering how ambiguous it really is.  As a nihilist, the word harm is meaningless to me - what is harmful when nothing is supposed to be any specific way?

Yeah, that's exactly the question I was pondering when I made that post. Why have an extra worry of being harmless, especially if morality doesn't matter/if nothing ultimately matters? It seemed pointless. But the conclusion I reached is that being harmless actually does make it easier to be happy.

Again this doesn't mean "not doing thing that others may get offended at", it just means not being malicious. It's actually really freeing if you think of it in terms of "I can do anything I want whatsoever as long as I'm not doing it out of sorrow and/or malice". If I do or say something non-sorrowfully and non-maliciously, then any negative emotional reaction the other has is entirely on them - I've got nothing to do with it.

The only "danger" here (in real-world terms) is if I am not honest with myself - then I can fool myself into believing I am non-malicious even when I am being malicious. So I just have to not do that =P.

Cheers,
Claudiu

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/24/15 8:55 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I mean, do you think the urge to paint or draw is noble or worthwhile?  What about the urge to help feed starving children?  How can we judge the difference between those urges and an urge to mutilate, or an urge to kill?  It's the obviousness that I'm questioning here - I think it's only obvious due to conditioning.

Here you could go to your own disposition. There are early childhood videos showing children having innate empathy, but one certainly could find stories of the opposite. 

When are you not within conditions interdependently? 
So being in conditioning all the time, interdependent, you also co-cause conditions to be shaped, to arise and pass. 
It takes consideration and experience to think about what is worth shaping.

I've actually hit this dilemma a bit myself.  There are meditative states without urges, and they're nice, but I realize that fully embracing them meant I'd never do much besides basic survival into the future.

For me, the simplicity is useful, to me.
Nekkhamma, the 'parami' in Pāli also called 'renunciation', may also come from "inactivity" (Rhys Davids: naiṣkramya).  
I think that's useful.
This is not tucking away in a particular habitat, but that some traits become inactive and it's fine, not a deprivation but an easing.

RE: Is anything actually bad or wrong?
Answer
9/24/15 9:08 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
@ Beoman: It would be much simpler to say, "be happy," then.  Harmless is equal to happiness how you describe it here. If I'm angry, I'm not happy, so I already have something to think about. Realizing there's no harm I can really cause has made being happy much easier - and this has led to more hamlessness. I don't think it matters if I am agressive or not - so I no longer think of anything as bad, there is only good. This is what has given me a lot of freedom. Happy AND harmless maintains good AND bad - which means it ends up being a dual mandate, even if it isn't logical to feel that way.

Of couse, a lot of this is self-manipulation - what way of understanding it makes the practice easiest for you. We're saying the same thing essentially.

P.s. Isn't cheekiness just malicious humor? ;)