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Comment stuck in the first stage of moral development? (Score 1) 825

If the only way you know how to treat someone or something with respect is out of fear of the consequences of not doing so, I pity you. Yes, punishment and reward are the basis of the earliest form of moral reasoning. However, some of us grow out -- or are permitted to grow out -- of that phase. Is fear still a component of moral reasoning? Certainly, but it's not the only component, nor do I think it's particularly desireable.

The one thing I agree with you about is that respect isn't an emotion. However, if fear can be a motivation for respect, so can admiration.

To use a concrete example, when I'm on vacation somewhere where I'm not likely to return, I still act fairly and politely, despite the fact that I am not afraid of any consequences for doing otherwise. I do this because I would not desire to live in a society where everyone is rude and cheats you, and I think the golden rule is a good philisophical basis for moral reasoning. On the other hand, people willingly do things they are afraid of with the expectation of punishment all the time, it's called civil disobedience. I guess fear isn't the only motivating factor, huh?

Now I suppose you could argue that fear is still involved despite being covered in layers of abstract reasoning. Yes, and all human behaviour is just animal behaviour with additional layers, too. This is just reductio ad absurdum, the same sort of college stoner philosophy that has us believe that all actions are selfish. Not that I have anything against college stoner philosophy, but it's possible to lose all relevant detail in "simplification".

Besides, both game theory and animal observations strongly suggest that cooperation naturally emerges as a strategy because it maximizes long-term benefit (well, that and the "play your opponent's last move" to discourage cheating). It's hard-wired. Again, so much for fear as the sole motivation for respect.

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