Personally, I think that there's no such thing as good or bad; the human mind is a human mind, the human body is a human body, emotions are emotions, the universe is a universe, philosophy is philosophy, and all these things just do what they do, and if they can't do what they do, then it doesn't matter in the long run because there is no long run because there is no afterlife or God (or perhaps there is, but even then, I seriously doubt that He or it is actually magical in any way); we're all just machines.

So what do you think, anyone?

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I reject the notion that culture needs to be morally good to prosper. The vast,hugely successful Roman empire is a classic example. My perception is that its success came from conquest followed by cunningly introduced compliance and assimilation,backed up by savage,merciless force.

Success of a society comes from the effective use of power,which is always based on force,implicit or explicit,not morality,which is a means to an end.

The basis of my view is the conflict theory of power,which seems to me the basis of realpolitik.
And where's the Roman Empire now? ;-)

There's a bit of confusion here. The Roman Empire is not humankind. Your example emphasizes the thriving of a specific culture at the expense of outsider cultures through conquest, where moral rules that dictate the behaviour of individuals, or groups, within that culture, obviously don't apply.

Anyway there are many societies (groups, cultures, whatever) where reciprocal altruism is the key to survival. One often cited example (because it's simple enough to study) is vampire bats. Quoted from Wikipedia entry on Reciprocal altruism:

A well known example of reciprocal altruism is blood-sharing by female vampire bats. Bats feed regurgitated blood to those who have not collected blood themselves, and in return, they themselves may someday benefit from a similar donation. Cheaters (bats that refuse to share) are remembered by the colony and ousted from this collaboration. Vampire bats are much more likely to regurgitate for bats who have regurgitated before - since the bats live in fairly stable sororities of 8-12 individuals, they are capable of recognizing each other, and regurgitating is often based on past experiences.

(end quote)

Of course vampire bats prey on other animals, but it is another debate entirely.
Wow - that is very cool about peer-pressure among vampire bats. The animal kingdom never ceases to intrigue me!
(For the moment ignoring the fact that any given society has an impact on others around it, I will speak of 'culture' or 'society' as if it existed in isolation.)

I would be hesitant to accept your view of what it is for a culture to prosper. Let us consider the example you provided, that of the Roman Empire. I would be inclined to agree with you on how it came to dominate the known world (mainly by brute force) but not that the state achieved ought to be called 'prosperous' or 'successful'. At the very least both terms ought to be qualified: e. g. successful (in dominating neighbouring nations), prosperous (in dominating the natural resources of a vast area).

To me it seems that for a society to be good in an unqualified way it must have several attributes; not being under the power of another society, having access to sufficient natural resources etc. are some of those, but (I would argue) so is moral integrity.

Admittedly it is not a straightforward matter to argue for the inclusion of morality in the list of necessary attributes but it seems obvious to me that a morally bankrupt society will, out of necessity, collapse (as pointed out by Jaume) as a result of that degeneracy.

Now to consider the fact that any society is part of humanity. If a good society is merely a successful and prosperous one, there can ever be only one good society in the world. This follows logically from the fact that greatest success would obviously be controlling all other societies in the world and monopolising all of the world's resources. And if there is no need for morality or humanity (which I understand you also to reject? Please correct me if I'm wrong) there is no reason for this one society not to let the rest of humankind become extinct. This, I believe, no one considers to be a desirable result.

Sorry to be long-winded, hope I managed to get across what I wanted. I only just now really thought about the stuff in the penultimate paragraph, so do let me know what you think!
"good" and "bad" are crude approximations like "hot" and "cold" that developed evolutionarily and were a benefit to creatures that had these perceptions. Of course, "good" and "bad" are social sensations, useful for social animals and the cohesion of groups.

When Might and Right don't coincide, Might always gets its way. Why? Because it's friggin' Might! Voldemort perhaps put it best: "There is no 'good' and 'evil'. Only power. And those to weak to seek it."

I'm so certain 'cause I can't measure goodness or evilness, and how bad something is seems to vary from moment to moment and person to person, and yet I still feel them.
Voldemort: "There is no good and evil. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it."

Such an awesome quote and sometimes, sadly true. Even more cynical, but also sadly true sometimes comes from Sweeny Todd: "In all of the whole human race ... there are two kinds of men and only two. There's the one staying put in his proper place and the one with his foot in the other one's face."

- Mary; feeling particularly cynical lately about good vs. evil. :-/
I don't think those are any more clever (or stupid) than the famous Eastwood quote in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

"In this world there's two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig."

It's just so easy to churn out tousands more along the lines "Might makes Right".
Might gets its way, at least, though it hardly "makes Right". As evolution has shown us in the various evil-but-successful habits in many species, Might wins. It's evil for a tiger to eat me, but the tiger lives and I don't. It's definitely not right, but it wins. Right just simply doesn't play into winning.

Enron's probably a better example. What was done was evil, but they won. At least for the moment, and, as the people working for the company cannot honestly be assessed to not have lost, this is a good approximation. Might makes Success; Right sits on the bench.
If the tiger kills and eats you, it is right. Why would it not be right for the tiger to eat you? It's the sole basis of its existence. In fact, I can hardly think of anything more right than events similar to a tiger eating someone.

Right is imaginary. The tiger is mighty and gets its way. Sounds like you're trying to troll me. The tiger has no "basis" for its existence. Didn't I have this conversation in 2001? The tiger exists and has traits that cause it to eat other things. It happens to only be able to survive by eating other fleshy creatures. The idea of creatures having a purpose is an absurd fallacy, based on imaginary things.

Did I not say that I "find" it evil for the tiger to kill me? I totally meant that.
Do you have values? (People or things you love) Are those things good? If someone harms something you value, is that bad for you? If your community allows people to destroy things that other individuals value, do you not have reason to judge those actions, or those evaluations? ]

Is that not called "morality?"
I think I put Good and Bad into these categories.

Good - That which enhances an individuals or a groups growth and quality of life
Bad - That which detracts from an individual or groups growth or quality of life.

The problem isn't wether or not that we can have "good" as a goal(however you define it), it is that we cannot ever claim to know exactly what IS good.

It may be "good" for the planet that human life ends, but it's bad for us.

Life, is a matter of trial and error. There are no absolutes in terms of Good or Bad. But, since we have a choice to make regardless of what we know, we still are required to make that choice(no fence sitting exists in this equation).

So, yes I think Good as a concept exists and we should strive for it, alway's change our definitions and our understandings of what it means for us.

No need to be "absolutely" certain of anything. We are still presented with a choice, so denying that good or bad exists even in an abstract sense, is to live under an illusion that we simply do not have a choice.

Ie we are just machines. I don't think we are :)




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