Can a moral nihilist also be a moral person?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by skippymac, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. macrumors 6502a

    skippymac

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    #1
    Hi guys,

    I was reading the wikipedia page on nihilism, and a moral nihilist is described as one who believes
    or
    As far as I can tell, society thinks of people with this point of view as dangerous, or psychotic.

    I was thinking about it, and I think of morality as a pretty arbitrary human construct. I also think that I am quite a moral person, and in everyday situations I tend to lean toward to "moral" choice, and morality in general is hugely beneficial to human society.

    So what do you think? Am I a moral nihilist, or is there another name for someone who thinks morality is arbitrary but essential?
     
  2. macrumors 6502a

    floyde

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    #2
    Yes a moral nihilist can be a moral person, or rather, they can be able to adhere to a particular and arbitrary moral framework. Since our species depends so much on social skills and cooperation, it was only natural that we would develop traits that would allow us to coexist somewhat peacefully for the most part, at least with our immediate group.

    So it doesn't matter that much if the more modern areas of your brain realize that it's all arbitrary and relative, hard-wired traits such as empathy and guilt will ensure that you're compelled to behave in a manner that doesn't alter the harmony between you and other members of your species, at least not that much. This increases your chances of survival and reproduction, since people who deviate too much from the norm are likely to be shunned by society.

    I don't think that people who are usually considered immoral by their society are often nihilists, but rather, people whose less common biological traits make them behave in a way that differs too much from the behavior of their peers. For example, murderers and serial killers are often found to display much less empathy than average people, which also makes them more likely to behave in ways that most people wouldn't behave. But they're only immoral in the sense that they act in a way that the majority of society agrees is not a proper way to act.

    From Nietzsche:

     
  3. macrumors 65816

    aerok

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    #3
    I hate Nietzshe, people like him make me feel my knowledge of things is stupid and baseless. :p
     
  4. macrumors 6502a

    floyde

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    #4
    I know, I've only read one of his books and it made me feel dumb :p. Although it probably was because I chose to start with Thus spake Zarathustra, which I later heard you should avoid if you've never read him before, since it uses a lot of metaphors and allegories.
     
  5. macrumors 68020

    niuniu

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    #5
    Depends how you see it I guess. Do you think morality is a subjective and changing thing, or do you think that ultimately there is no right or wrong in your actions or anyone else's actions.

    The former is moral relativism.

    If you believe the latter, you can still have an understanding of morality as existing as a concept people use in society, and consider yourself a nihilist.

    I think all people are moral relativists judging by their behavior, regardless of what they say they believe. Personally I find moral nihilism attractive as an overarching understanding of our existence.
     
  6. macrumors G4

    Mord

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    #6
    By those two definitions I'd be classed as a moral nihilist, though I have to question why it matters that morality is artificial? It's relevance is relative to a local and non-universal phenomena, our own experience of conscious life.

    It also depends what you mean by morals and whether you make any distinction between them and ethics. People often label acts which do no tangibly harm anyone as immoral for spurious reasons, they do not often label them unethical. Myself, I don't believe in any moral view that cannot be justified in pragmatic ethical terms.

    I've meandered somewhat, but those are my thoughts on the matter.
     
  7. macrumors 65816

    citizenzen

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    #7
    I'm a moral relativist then.

    As a practicing Buddhist, I believe in and have experienced the right and wrong behind action. Doing good feels good, and leaves me with a sense of calmness, and equanimity. Doing wrong leaves me with a sense of unease and regret which can linger as long as I can remember my transgression.

    These are tangible results that effect my peace of mind and well-being. Even without taking into consideration how my actions effect the beings and world around me, there is ample reason to behave wisely and compassionately.
     
  8. macrumors G3

    Huntn

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    #8
    First off you link does not work for me. I ended up going to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism. If I understand the question and the subject, I'd say yes you can acknowledge that morals are arbitrary and still have and abide by them.

    As far as morals being arbitrary, while I agree that society as a group determines a moral standard, individuals can have their own moral standard not accepted by society. Those who lean to God might say that God sets the moral standard.

    I don't understand what this is trying to say. So what if they are contrived? You could have a society where cannibalism is ok. Obviously they would think it is ok. But it still exists and would this be a reason to discount a good set of morals?

    If someone says they have no morals, it means they have no guiding principals that their heart (or whatever) tells them is right or wrong? Even if they think that it's ok to steal and murder, that is a set of morals as abhorrent as they are to others.

    So my impression is that it is basically impossible not to have some moral standard. And it's good for society to have a good set of morals (my view of what is good. ;))

    Where it gets scarey imo is when you bring sociopaths into the picture. Sociopaths are all about themselves, what is good for them. That is their moral standard and in some cases they have no empathy for others, basically if what I do hurts you, tough ****, because it is good for me.
     
  9. macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #9
    Historically speaking, the biggest bone of contention re:the rules seems to have been "Who gets to do the contriving?"

    Re: "good", do you mean "absolutely good" or "practically good"?
     
  10. macrumors 65816

    citizenzen

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    #10
    I hope it's "practically good", as "absolutely good" would seem to me well beyond the ability of any human being to ascertain.
     
  11. macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #11
    Well sure, it is, but isn't that the point where the notion of the divine origin of a set of absolute truths regarding morality comes into play?

    E.g, "That voice in my head telling me the "right" thing to do isn't actually me, it's god taking to me."
     
  12. macrumors 68000

    Sydde

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    #12
    Very few people claim to literally converse with god, as in hearing voices. I am not even convinced that the propheteers make such claims. Lucky for the believers, god wrote s(tuff) down, so they can consult the book.

    And, of course, the book sometimes seems to tell them the thing they are not wanting to hear. But wait, look at this part over here, it offers a way to skirt the edge of immoral behavior without actually getting on god's bad side. They can always find loopholes to get what they want.

    But, you know, the divine law is absolute, and those people who practice relativism or situational ethics are just wrong. And that part where it says "the love of money is the root of all evil", that is just poetry, not, like, important doctrine.
     
  13. localoid, Jun 16, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2013

    macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #13
    Well, folks who claim that (1) they literally hear the voice of god talking to them or (2) god literally talks through them) are very common here.

    But of course "here", in my case, is Central Appalachia. Here, religion is the socially accepted opium of the masses, and it's not difficult to find it in a very pure and uncut form...

    Of the 13 or so churches within a 2-mile radius of me, more than half have been very blessed with the "gifts" of prophecy, speaking and interpretation of tongues, and "wisdom and knowledge". Admittedly, you do have to go a few more miles to reach the nearest church where both speaking in tongues and handling snakes is practiced in each and every church service. In short: If you need a moral dilemma solved, this is the place to visit.

    Even the mainline brands of Christianity here tend to be a bit more evangelical than their big city counterparts. For example, I know a Presbyterian that believes she (literally) heard the voice of God talking to her while she waiting in the checkout line of Walmart. She not your typical country bumpkin -- she holds a masters degree and is in the "upper 1%" of the town's wage earners.

    But even more commonplace is the belief that that there is a tiny voice in one's "heart", e.g., one's conscience, that functions a mystical connection a sort of divine hotline that dispenses advice about "the right thing to do" 24/7. E.G., obtaining a (literal) answer to a given moral question -- any moral question -- is simply a matter of listening to one's "voice within".
     
  14. macrumors 601

    GermanyChris

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    #14
    Zarathustra requires you to "understand" Nietzsche going in and why he wrote the book in the first place Zarathustra should be the last book.

    "Twilight of the Idols" is the place to start then "On the Genealogy of Morality" then "Beyond good and Evil" then pick and choose from there. Ecce Homo should be read toward the end and Zarathustra last.
     
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    skunk

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  16. macrumors 6502a

    floyde

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    #16
    Yes, ironically, there's a warning about this in the afterword of the Project Gutenberg edition. It should have been in the foreword if you ask me :rolleyes::p.

    I think that a lot of people start with this book because it has the catchiest title. I had read about Zoroaster before, so that's why it caught my attention.
     
  17. macrumors G3

    Huntn

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    #17
    Good one! If God wrote this, he gets an F in coherence. ;) Another real problem you highlite is people don't claim to hear voices, but that God still communicates to them personally as in "I feel it". While it can't be disproven, this is the perfect setup for a scam foisted upon others to control them.

    Hypocrisy seems to be a common human trait.

    A friend and I when in college visited a Pentecostal Church in upstate New York (graduated from Syracuse) for a lark and witnessed this first hand. If you want to see group delusion and/or deception, speaking in tongues is it. They also had "miracle time" where members were invited to speak of the miracles that happened to them in the previous week. The one I recall is "I broke my leg, prayed, and halleluiah, was healed, and look, I'm walking!" This really happened. ;)
     
  18. macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #18
    Everyone should experience glossolalia first hand, at least once in their lifetime. ;)

    Amazingly enough, Pentecostal/Charismatic/Renewalists Christians account for about 25% of world's Christians (source).
     

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