In a blog post about intellectual property (which is its own can of worms), the author stated:


... moral questions come up when there is a choice over who gets harmed. If you're in a situation where no one gets harmed, then there should be no moral question.


This seems like it is related to the mirror image maxims: That which is not prohibited is allowed and Only what is permitted is allowed.


Over at AlterNet, Greta Christina discusses the difference between liberal and conservative (both in the old senses of the words): Get a Brain, Morons: Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being ....


So, is harm (or not) to others a good basis for founding morality? How far does the concept of "others" extend -- does it include "things"? Is morality a means of conservation or is it a means of liberation? 


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On an odd side note regarding the switch and the track scenario, this usually has another component that includes would you (for example) push someone off of a bridge to stop the train from hitting others. It is meant to study the changes in response when one has to directly harm one person to help others or personal vs impersonal dilemmas.
My responses were odd because that was not part of the calculation, harming someone is harming no matter if they are a step removed or not. To be fair, I usually felt unsure if it was right or not.
My cat says "trrrrrrrrrr5hhhyyyyyyy"
Many of these sound like the furtherance of the outline of Epicurean Hedonism. While this philosophy has been greatly separated from its origins, the basic concept is that pleasure = good and pain = bad (usually). He then complicates it by adding the caveat that some things that are pleasurable at first can create pain and should be avoided (like drinking too much leading to a hangover that ruins the whole next day) while some things cause pain at first but lead to long term pleasure (like exercise). This can be extended to guilt (pain) vs getting ahead (pleasure) by cheating someone else and pretty much anything else I can personally imagine.
He did not have the science and understanding of what promotes health and causes pain that we do today, but the basics seem to have lasted pretty well.
It's a question of the sophistication of your accounting tools. Are you looking at your bank balance today, or are you considering the net present value of an income (or expense) stream stretching into the future? Sometimes you have to pay up front for a big payoff later. Sometimes you pay a big price later for taking a shortcut today. Less moral people take a more myopic view. More moral people consider the long term and the big picture.
Hi Glenn,

I'm not sure if morality can exist in a vacuum. It's a product of human interaction. Evolution appears to have accentuated and strengthened cooperation (altruism) as a survival strategy in social animals. For these reasons I'm beginning to think of cooperation as an objective basis for morality that is grounded in nature's prime directive: SURVIVE.

With cooperation as an objective standard for morality, I'd have to agree that "If you're in a situation where no one gets harmed, then there should be no moral question." Masturbation leaps to mind. There is no harm done and nobody else is involved. Therefor, masturbation is not a moral issue unless it somehow involves others. Masturbating in public would completely change the entire moral question.

"Harm (or not) to others" falls under the purview of cooperation. I think you're essentially asserting, or wondering about, the same thing I am: cooperation as the basis of morality. I would also note that, when evaluating moral questions, it should be remembered that survival is the prime directive upon which cooperation is based.

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