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Can Your Moral Values be Changed None
Old 03-05-2010, 01:16 PM   #1
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I just posted in the moral relativity thread that I think moral values are inherently irrational. I don't think almost anyone holds certain moral values because they deemed them to be logically consistent. Values are things we feel, and I think usually they do not change. But, can they be changed?

Say someone believes, for example, that women should not be allowed to vote, that animal cruelty is not immoral, that some ethnic group (e.g. jews, kurds, sunnis, etc) is outside the protection of moral rules. Can people be convinced, by logical argument or otherwise, to change their values? How? For example, can having a pet create a emotional bond to an animal which is then extrapolated as empathy towards other animals when there previously was none? Are there some values, like empathy, which are fundamental enough to be inalterable and can those be used to shape other less-primitive moral rules? How does this all work?
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Old 03-05-2010, 01:43 PM   #2
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Well, of course most moral values are subject to change based on experience. But is that indicative of relativism holding merit? i don't personally think so. Most people hold their values to be fairly universal, because the point of values (a moral framework) is to make sense of what is right, in order to judge things more easily, and more accurately. As for "Can your moral values be changed?", i would say that my foundation of values is already there, solidly, and changes that occur as i become more developed and experienced will be to less important questions that i haven't yet put much thought or effort into.
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Old 03-05-2010, 01:46 PM   #3
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Some morals are universal. Some are not. The universal morals are necessary to keep a human society functioning. Everything else is window dressing and situational.
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Old 03-05-2010, 01:47 PM   #4
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  Originally Posted by nanotube
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I just posted in the moral relativity thread that I think moral values are inherently irrational. I don't think almost anyone holds certain moral values because they deemed them to be logically consistent. Values are things we feel, and I think usually they do not change. But, can they be changed?

Say someone believes, for example, that women should not be allowed to vote, that animal cruelty is not immoral, that some ethnic group (e.g. jews, kurds, sunnis, etc) is outside the protection of moral rules. Can people be convinced, by logical argument or otherwise, to change their values? How? For example, can having a pet create a emotional bond to an animal which is then extrapolated as empathy towards other animals when there previously was none? Are there some values, like empathy, which are fundamental enough to be inalterable and can those be used to shape other less-primitive moral rules? How does this all work?

1) Moral values are derived mainly from two sources: religion and cultural experience. Both generally have rational thought behind them, albeit from a particular world view.


2) Yes, morals can change. Most often, morals change because individuals are shown sufficient evidence or sufficient counterexamples to a moral held to change one's mind.

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Old 03-05-2010, 02:02 PM   #5
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  Originally Posted by nanotube
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I just posted in the moral relativity thread that I think moral values are inherently irrational. I don't think almost anyone holds certain moral values because they deemed them to be logically consistent. Values are things we feel, and I think usually they do not change. But, can they be changed?

Say someone believes, for example, that women should not be allowed to vote, that animal cruelty is not immoral, that some ethnic group (e.g. jews, kurds, sunnis, etc) is outside the protection of moral rules. Can people be convinced, by logical argument or otherwise, to change their values? How? For example, can having a pet create a emotional bond to an animal which is then extrapolated as empathy towards other animals when there previously was none? Are there some values, like empathy, which are fundamental enough to be inalterable and can those be used to shape other less-primitive moral rules? How does this all work?

I think there's a difference between moral values and the ideas you hold based on those values. Personally, I can say that my ideas change, and they have changed, and I'm sure they'll continue to change, but the values upon which they are based are solid. What you're talking about is ideas, I think most rational people are willing to change their ideas. So long as you present the alternative in a way that is consistent with their values.

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Old 03-05-2010, 05:28 PM   #6
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  Originally Posted by freeeekyyy
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I think there's a difference between moral values and the ideas you hold based on those values. Personally, I can say that my ideas change, and they have changed, and I'm sure they'll continue to change, but the values upon which they are based are solid. What you're talking about is ideas, I think most rational people are willing to change their ideas. So long as you present the alternative in a way that is consistent with their values.

But not all people are rational to that affect. Sometimes they hold ideas based on fear or dishonesty.

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Old 03-05-2010, 06:45 PM   #7
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If someone sees nothing wrong with torturing animals for fun, how do you convince them otherwise? I think most of our objections to animal cruelty are based on empathy. If someone is capable of empathy but it not applying it to animals, perhaps they can be made to change their moral views by getting them a pet or other animal they become emotionally attached to and begin to empathize with. But that's not a rational argument, that's manipulating their attitudes through emotion, attachment, experience, not logic. And if people are incapable of empathy towards animals altogether, what then?
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Old 03-12-2010, 02:16 AM   #8
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Well, I donno if this answers the question, and it may rationally require some more thought. Nonetheless, initially, I would say that there are, hypothetically, one kind of moral value, that is based on reason. (I tend to be a Kantian about this) These are objective moral values that cannot be changed. Anything besides this, such as a relativity theory of morals, or otherwise morals based on feels, or such, I argue, CAN be changed.

For example. Suppose that at one time I believed that abuse to animals is wrong. At another time, I can believe that abuse to animals is actually morally permissible. Changing moral value in this way, is certainly possible.

What is not possible, is to argue that 2+2 is not 4, whether or not at some point one has argued that 2 + 2 is 4. Reason cannot be changed in this way, unless of course it is disproved. But in the case of an objective moral value based on reason in this way, it does not mean that the value changed. We can change our feelings about an objective moral value based on reason if we figure out that what we believed before was inaccurate, based on reason - all the while the actual, correct moral value itself having not changed. THAT IS TO SAY: that we CAN change our attitude, belief, thought, feeling, etc., about moral values, YET that we CANNOT change the objective set of moral values that are based on our ability to reason THEMSELVES. (Kant has a alot to say about this too ...)

Our ability to constantly shift moral values turns out to be a tool that wise people have, who are willing to change old false beliefs, to new, and hopefully that much more truthful, beliefs.
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Old 03-12-2010, 06:42 AM   #9
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I had a friend who was brought up to be monagymous and loyalty was highly valued in his family. He went out with a guy who regardless of the love between them could not stop his promiscuity due to a lot of issues in his early life. This resulted initially in arguments and conflict reaching very intense levels and a lot of misery between them. After a period of time my friend came to the decision his position on the requirement for sexual loyalty was the problem. So he started to do the same and was more at peace in the relationship. Yet did not find deep satisfaction in the relationship, something always irked him in it and inevitably they split after many years although even to date the ex says he loved him deeply yet my friend could never quite put his finger on why it would not work between them yet resigned himself to it being over. My friend also trialled a lot of other things that were experimental and not in accordance with the values he was brought up with, but were valued by the community he was in, in a sensation seeking sense, or political sense within that community.

He changed his values and holds them changed to this day. He ascertains that the choices he is making, make his life more valuable than the choices based on values he was brought up with. However on the outside I watch and see the ruin of his life that has occurred and unhappiness he experiences due to a range of addictions and self recrimination that has occurred during these years and wonder, at what cost change, and have these changes been initially instigated as a way of reconciling tensions that he could not resolve any other way than changing himself to match another's / group values but actually pits him against himself at a deeper level?
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Old 03-12-2010, 07:05 AM   #10
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Probably but not by a argument. Morality isn't so much irrational as it is outside the scope of rationality, someone without some sort of values, goals or instincts is just like a computer without input.
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Old 03-12-2010, 09:53 AM   #11
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Absolutely. Morality should be totally based on rationality and I am not a big enough egoist to believe that all of my morality is based on rational sound principles. Being shown that I have an moral link based on an irrational fear or justification I would jump at the chance of changing it.
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Old 03-12-2010, 12:32 PM   #12
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Moral values can be changed relatively easily. It's actually what sect are doing and also the army. The process is basic and works. It's not weak people or unstable people. It will work with everyone:

- Exhaust someone physicly with physical task that do not require much thinking
- Repeat the same message frequently using a person/group as leader. This message will contain the new moral values.
- keep the person only in contact with people that share the same new values.

Follow these 3 easy steps and you will be able to change someone's moral value.
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Old 03-12-2010, 01:19 PM   #13
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  Originally Posted by plotthickens
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Some morals are universal. Some are not. The universal morals are necessary to keep a human society functioning. Everything else is window dressing and situational.

which morals would be universal?

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Old 03-12-2010, 09:23 PM   #14
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  Originally Posted by daydreamer
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which morals would be universal?

The "Golden Rule" has been cited as a universal moral.

I guess we will find those morals that all cultures and societies contain will be 'universalised' by this commonality, however they are still bound within humanity, so not really universal according to the true meaning of that word. When, in the future, we have a universe of civilisations to explore we could talk about any commonalities that exist universally. Yet even in this world, I guess we could explore which behaviours animals, insects, and humans share that appear to reinforce certain values / morals being upheld, but it would still be a human interpretation of these?

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Old 03-13-2010, 04:29 AM   #15
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  Originally Posted by Bluesea
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The "Golden Rule" has been cited as a universal moral.

I guess we will find those morals that all cultures and societies contain will be 'universalised' by this commonality, however they are still bound within humanity, so not really universal according to the true meaning of that word. When, in the future, we have a universe of civilisations to explore we could talk about any commonalities that exist universally. Yet even in this world, I guess we could explore which behaviours animals, insects, and humans share that appear to reinforce certain values / morals being upheld, but it would still be a human interpretation of these?

The golden rule isn't very good as a universal rule. It allows masochists to hurt others and me to sterilize unwilling people.

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Old 03-13-2010, 04:35 AM   #16
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Morals are primarily a evolutionary throwback to the days of our hunter gather descendents. Humanity was so small that it made sense to be good and altruistic,even to strangers, as you'd likely met that person again or a relative. So it's a positive evolutionary throwback. Our sense of empathy is based on the principle of "I'll scrath your back if you'll scratch mine." I think this may be weakened if a person has many negative experiences of the opposiate being the case over a long period of time.
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Old 03-13-2010, 05:56 AM   #17
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I think it depends on the individual. Some people seem to have more hard-wiring than others.
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Old 03-13-2010, 06:38 AM   #18
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  Originally Posted by nanotube
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If someone sees nothing wrong with torturing animals for fun, how do you convince them otherwise? I think most of our objections to animal cruelty are based on empathy. If someone is capable of empathy but it not applying it to animals, perhaps they can be made to change their moral views by getting them a pet or other animal they become emotionally attached to and begin to empathize with. But that's not a rational argument, that's manipulating their attitudes through emotion, attachment, experience, not logic. And if people are incapable of empathy towards animals altogether, what then?

Does deductive logic (such as syllogisms) really apply to moral reasoning, though? Take this syllogism:

Major Premise: It is wrong to inflict pain (without justification) on any agent capable of feeling it.
Minor Premise: Animals are 'feeling agents'.
Conclusion: It is wrong to inflict pain on animals without justification.

Deductive logic is concerned solely about the connections between these propositions. But that's not usually where the nerve of the disagreement is... if it was, it'd be so easy to show people that they were wrong, simply because of unsound logic.

Instead, people who are cruel to animals usually doubt the content of the moral proposition you are advancing, more specifically, the 'Minor Premise'. A utilitarian who thinks we should maximize pleasure and minimize pain, and yet endorses animal cruelty, probably doubts the 'Minor Premise' stated above. But if so, how else do we convince them that they're wrong, except through empirical evidence (which one may get from owning a pet, working in an animal shelter, etc.), rather than formal logic?

But this doesn't mean that our objection to animal cruelty is based on empathy alone... the empathy, qua emotion, comes after one accepts the truth of a certain proposition by verifying it against our experiences, e.g., that certain animals can feel pain and suffer like human beings, too. We empathize because we believe that many animals do feel pain.

Returning to the question posed by the thread title ('Can your moral values be changed?'), I think the answer is "Yes". Regardless of people's views on morality, there is one thing which they all want, and that is to be internally consistent. To put it another way: every one wishes to live with integrity. So a lot of moral reasoning has to do with showing a person how one value or belief she holds conflicts with another, and to force her to choose which one to discard. In the case of the animal abuser, we might convince him that "I'm a kind person" and "I like skinning cats -- alive" don't go together. And indeed, people who are mean to animals are likely to be mean to other people too (especially the young, the disabled, and other vulnerable groups).

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Old 03-13-2010, 08:36 AM   #19
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  Originally Posted by etrepoursoi
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Regardless of people's views on morality, there is one thing which they all want, and that is to be internally consistent. To put it another way: every one wishes to live with integrity.

I don't think that applies to everybody. I, for one, am notoriously inconsistent and I rather enjoy being that way, because the ever-shifting nature of my morality and ethics leads me to conclusions and places I never would have reached otherwise. Once you let go of the integral core and drift, adventures await.
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Old 03-13-2010, 09:15 AM   #20
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  Originally Posted by Night Runner
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I don't think that applies to everybody. I, for one, am notoriously inconsistent and I rather enjoy being that way, because the ever-shifting nature of my morality and ethics leads me to conclusions and places I never would have reached otherwise. Once you let go of the integral core and drift, adventures await.
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Well, wouldn't you then be striving to live by the ideals of open-mindedness and adventurism? You might reject, for example, religious dogma, or conventional political views, or the 9-to-5 office desk-job, as being inconsistent with your need for inconsistency, i.e. with your basic ideals...
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And so there's still a basic search for integrity I think, of trying to piece together to jigsaw-pieces of one's life, albeit some people's finished product might be predictable whereas others' might be a crazy psychedelic swirl.

Of course, I might be completely wrong, being relatively more of a fuddy-duddy myself.

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Old 03-13-2010, 08:39 PM   #21
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  Originally Posted by etrepoursoi
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with your need for inconsistency, i.e. with your basic ideals...
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And so there's still a basic search for integrity I think, of trying to piece together to jigsaw-pieces of one's life, albeit some people's finished product might be predictable whereas others' might be a crazy psychedelic swirl.

Interesting hypothesis.
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Actually, as so often happens, I'm smack in the middle of the two extremes: I neither seek consistency, nor do I seek inconsistency - I simply don't care one way or the other. My personal philosophy is highly unstable (to say the least). Anchored to nothing much in particular, it drifts from place to place, picking up bits and pieces it likes, dropping the ones that fell out of favor. I'm slightly different every day...

My point, though, was that any blanket statement is inaccurate by default: it might make sense to assume that everybody seeks integrity in their lives, but chances are, there's a significant minority (plurality?) who don't.

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Old 03-13-2010, 10:11 PM   #22
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If "moral values" are merely intellectual preferences (e.g., the belief that apartheid is "right"), then we can certainly adjust them (e.g., by education/acculturation, propaganda, peer-pressure).

More significantly, I believe a person's moral nature can be changed, but this requires a fundamental reorientation that cannot be carried out by the person themselves.
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Old 03-15-2010, 08:14 PM   #23
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As far as convincing someone to change their moral framework goes. You could either reason with them in a way that makes sense to them, or train them to behave differently.

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Old 03-16-2010, 01:32 AM   #24
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Logically, a person can change their values. But even if they believe different logically, sometimes the emotionally mind is still in the past. Say a boy grows up with a father who's prejudice. The child may never agree with his father, but he's been exposed to the prejudice for so long that he picks it up. Usually it takes a countervailing exposure to correct that.

As for how you can change someone else's values, it also matters what your relationship to the person is. They might take a friend more seriously than, say, a daughter or a coworker. There's lots of other stuff, too.
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Old 03-18-2010, 03:27 AM   #25
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Yes,they can,if there is proof than those that are in prevalence now,are inconsistent and new options and ideas have become available
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