The Stupid Search for Morality

Did you ever see a blind man cross the road, trying to make it to the other side?

I’m sorry, I mean, did you ever see a vast herd of creatures living their lives in relative peace, in fear of the lions but not of their own? Have you ever seen mothers and fathers loving and protecting their children, and one another’s children? Can you imagine rolling back the clock and seeing them throughout the history of life, long before we came along to argue about it?

Then I ask you: how does anyone’s aggression get a pass, how is any sort of violence “just the way it is?”

Moral things like the protection of children and peaceful coexistence, of driving around the blind man, have existed in the world, among creatures for a very long time, before us, before mammals.

Humanity did not invent them. We should stop looking for the proof that we did.

“Donated aggression,” that’s the state of their search so far, right?

Short version, they look at costs and benefits (which won’t find actual altruism, so we’re in a technical world, looking for ‘elements’ of morality) and creatures paying costs for their kids, for folks other than themselves, this is the start of altruism and the next step is altruism beyond our genetic interest that they try to explain and a famous example is of chimpanzees risking themselves in conflict and so solidifying a position in a group. This is altruism, if we risk life and limb to help each other take life and limb. I’m not certain – that may be new behaviour – but raiding parties are not the morality we were looking for, come on.

I believe that they are finding the “morality” we have, the one that makes the world what it is today, and that’s sort of fine, we need to find the human difference – but “altruism” and “morality,” these words don’t make it across into life with their technical meanings. You call that “morality,” folks think killing is morality. That example is a tale of conflict and pressure, and not a moral choice but a capitulation to conflict.

But the point again, the one we are looking for is not a new invention. Choosing peace, respect, and security, some animals have done this before and surely some will again when we’re part of that deep past.

There are new things we have brought into the world but being nice is not likely to be one of them. I suspect the chimpanzee research touches on it, I’m sure my thesis could use their data. Donated aggression, aggression as a commodity, it is part of my view also – I just don’t call that “moral.” For the record, again, I know this definition, moral, slips in and out of it scientific meaning when I use it, that in a technical sense it doesn’t mean “good,” or “right,” that these are the social connotations – but this conflation isn’t only mine, it’s everyone’s and it’s the point of this rant. The idea that it can be parsed out and discussed technically, well, I think that has created the upside-down nature of their answer, altruism is a gang murder in a border skirmish. You separate that, you’ve lost reality.

Trading violence for the security of the group, again, this is the morality we’ve found, but not the one we want. The function there is an evil threat, kill for me or I send you to the wolves – placing people between a rock and a hard place here is the big picture, the laboratory, while the altruism shown is  barely visible, it’s like building the giant collider to show us what tiny little electrons do. Think of the ongoing story of the Rat Park, if you know it – there were parameters in the experiment’s setup that were not accounted for in the description, and the further we step back from it, the bigger the context becomes and the smaller the meaning of the result. Long story short, it was an experiment that “proved that rats choose addiction at such a rate,” and time let us all see that it only proved that rats alone in a concrete and steel prison choose addiction at that rate.

The “with us or against us” aspect of the gang murder altruism matches the bare solitary confinement of the rat in my analogy – I don’t think, as I’ve said, the altruism arranged in this scenario is the stuff we are looking for, not if it’s in service of the ultimate inconsideration of murder. The one we’re looking for would be when one of these chimpanzees becomes aware of a lone stranger and lets it pass, wouldn’t it?

I imagine it happens. In fact, if that recruitment scenario ever played out at all, it must have started that way, one would think. I don’t imagine you can show up during the fight and expect anyone to know whose side you’re on, the chimp in question must have already been known and tolerated. It’s not because it isn’t there that we’re not talking about this and going with the violence instead.

I’m feeling like a male, EP swine for using the example, but I’ll remind myself and you, I’m calling it out, I use it as an example of what’s wrong, not what’s right. Still, I’m a fool if this scenario was made up nonsense in the first place, which I am starting to suspect.

The human difference is not that we are more moral than our bestial cousins, rather the other way about; we made a difference, and we can’t have invented living and letting live – so the difference we made was in the other direction. We are different, we are like this because we invented immorality. We invented abuse.

Find me the roots of that, please.

Those will be somewhere both before and after this, on the one hand, those chimps are plainly already living in full blown group conflict, c/w intrigues and prices to pay and so there is a history to glean, but they haven’t taken some step or steps that we have just yet, they haven’t turned into us, or not yet. I think we may not see it the other way about with them, like we do with us. This example, is kill for us and you can join, we do this too, but have we observed chimpanzees pushing, rather than pulling for that, I mean threatening rather than offering? Do they have the concept, kill for me, or I hurt you?

Do I have to stop if I don’t know this?

It’s sort of my whole deal, punishment is our unique madness, but it doesn’t have to be perfectly black and white. Maybe there are roots for that to be found in primatology, but basically, this is my thesis, that punishment/abuse is our invention, the human . . . wrinkle – ha: kink. Our weirdness. And that this is not meaningful because it makes us “moral,” but the reverse, that this is not indicative of morality as such, but of our workaround for it, our way out of it.

When we are abused, we feel we have an excuse.

Of course, you’d have to agree abuse even exists first. I only see it this way anymore: you’d have to lose the human nature myth. You’d have to want a reason why we go wrong, you’d have to not think we are simply born wrong. You’d have to have some small measure of faith that this world is real and that what we do matters, that what we do is what makes it this way.

It is also difficult to feel that way when you’ve suffered abuse. Oh, it never ends. Screw it, send.

Jeff

Feb. 15th., 2021

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