Sunday, July 27, 2014

my theorem of moral codes, or, DD's assertion

I had a very intense debate with my brilliant father, aunt and mother this evening over my pet theory about the moral codes of humans. I like to think I'm a smart guy but I'm also the dumbest person in my extended family.

My thesis is this. Your moral code is based entirely on two factors: your time horizon and your in-group. I was met with a staggering amount of intelligent resistance.

So,  since all 8 of my readers are brilliant people (hello GL!) I want to put my theorem or there in the hopes that it can be ripped to shreds.

I propose a classification system for moral codes.  I make no judgement on the underlying morality (being a 100% perceiver on the Myers Briggs).

I suggest that all moral codes, or beliefs in what is moral behavior,  are based entirely on two factors: time horizon and in-group identification.

My father,  a trained chemist and humanist scholar, demanded that I provide a proof.  Being a person who graduated high school with a 2.2 GPA due to getting F's on all my homework and A's on all my tests,  I'm ill equipped to do this for temperamental and scholarly reasons.

I suggest that morals,  and moral codes vary throughout a person's lifetime. Therefore,  I propose that there are only two variables (which can change or not depending on the individual .)

These variables are in-group and time horizon.

I would suggest that these are the only variables that affect the moral decisions of any individual in society. We make 100% of our positive (meaning we approve of them on immediate reflection) decisions based on this moral code and that our morality as we see it is only influenced by how far into the future we project our in-group.

Remember that the inputs are variables and I contends they are the only variables which are relevant.

Discuss? I hope.


  1. Disagree.

    There are objective "feelings/aesthetics" essential to our hominid variant that comprise and inform the ground of our subsequent culturally derived morality.

    Those feelings/aesthetics form the basis of what we refer to as conscience. After the age of reason and almost always by adolescence, conscience is almost always sound asleep in 99.99999 of these humans.

    One of the main reasons telepathy has become vanishingly rare is the relative "death" of conscience in these humans. Once that essential emotional/aesthetic core is anesthetized, then your characterization is mostly accurate with regard to the cultural/social determination of conduct.

    It's really a very sad and degenerate state of affairs....,

    1. I'll unpack that one, you put a few doozies in there for me to consider.

  2. I think you may be correct but only when a member is present in their 'in-group'.

  3. So I need to make a clarification as terminology is important.

    I'm defining moral code here as the actual behaviors taken at any moment in time. So John, in your example I'd say that when with family, a person may have a longer time horizon and a larger in group. Some people maintain consistency, others will become more impulsive and self-focused.

    I guess the hypothesis is that you can accurately predict someone's moral decisions at any point if you know the two factors I present; their in group and their time horizon at that moment.

  4. What drives behavior when a member is outside their accustomed in-group?

    1. Morality can change minute to minute. Some people maintain a consistent moral code regardless of their surroundings. Some people have a different code depending on whether or not they are with their buddies or their grandma. Or if they are planning their estate or trying to get laid.

      I'm trying to identify the factors that affect this change. I'd say what drives behavior when outside the in-group depends on the individual (some stay consistent, some change depending on whom they are with). BUT-it can be determined by knowing their in-group and time horizon at any given point in time.

  5. lol, the grandma reference pinpointed your meaning for me. Personalities (personae) ((masks)) change minute to minute, and with each comes its own distinctive, learned in-group/in-situ moral code.

    Only someone who has found and developed something unitary and permanent in himself, i.e., what we have prior to the age of reason, as small children, our "essence" that is capable of "conscience" - can be otherwise.

    Vanishingly few people possess essential individuality and can be depended upon to be morally consistent. The dead giveaway for the multipolar condition is the change in tone of voice and body language, You know, when you're talking that big shit with your boys about how you would "tax that ass" and have all kinds of bass and bravado in your voice when you're unsupervised with your crew, then your cell phone rings, and it's your wife and unbeknownst to you, but plainly evident to all your boys, your voice rises two octaves and all that shit talking and rapacious immorality has abruptly drained from your system instantaneously and a high-pitched "Hi Honey!" comes out of the same mouth that was yapp-yapping about "Ooo papi" and blah, blah, blah....,

    1. Bingo. So you're jumping to the next step, which is: which of the moral codes (or masks) are "more moral?"

      If my baseline hypothesis is accepted (not sure we are there yet,) I'd suggest consistent in-groups, and consistent time horizons are "better" than ones that vary. More constant variables if you will.

      Finally, I'd suggest that larger in-groups and longer time horizons are "better," although this poses some interesting dilemmas as you get to the extremes of time and inclusiveness.

    2. L fucking OL! Oh HI Honey! Ain't THAT the fucking truth.

  6. Will critique later. My parametric explanation? Motive, means, opportunity.

    1. I regret I've not further time to devote to this. Suffice to say, I don't disagree with your formulation so much as I disagree with your reductive choice of variables. Time is certainly a variable, but in group needs more explication (thus my suggestion). What I'm saying is, you are trying to fit a general linear solution to what is clearly a nonlinear dynamic situation. That's natural to want to do that. Example: in Nowak's book Supercooperators, he discusses strategies in an iterative Prisoner's Dilemma which involves reciprocity, reputation, and nepotism. This is all fine, but to me it is missing the nodes for the links. There is (for lack of a better term) a gestalt not captured (which in art is called "the ground"), the global summary of links that, over time, ratchet the sum or a group's relationships into a self-reinforcing suzamenbindenkugelblitz. Sorry if this has become a mess, but that's my just-so story of what's happenin'.

  7. "which of the moral codes or masks is most moral"

    The one closest to your in-group nature as a young child behaving so as to please his beloved grandmother. Also, that pared down version of yourself when you are extremely sick or just in receipt of a thorough public ass-whooping.