Prerequisite to a dialog on morality.

In order to know how to properly start a dialog on morality I’d like help understanding the concept of ‘feeling guilt’ and how prevalent it is.

Does anyone feel guilt over something they’ve done that may have hurt others? I’m not really asking for specifics, just perhaps a description of the way the guilt feels.

Now I realize that that the above is hardly a question people are likely to want to answer, if one doesn’t wish to get personal then I’d like to know what they believe the prevalence of such feelings in others is and ways that such feelings can be determined without one admitting to them.

For example, I believe that there is much to be said about the degree of distaste one has for certain insinuations about one’s behavior. Though I’m hesitant to make too much of this because of the variety of other reasons besides feelings of guilt which could make one very upset upon certain insinuations.

i do feel guilt about past things i’ve done to others

i will not give examples :slight_smile:

in some ways the intent of confession is to absolve one of his guilt

distasteful reactions at insinuations is one response… but may genuinely feel disrespected

withdrawn or quiet at insinuations is another…but may be shame… or ignorance

id expect some who are open about and overcoming their action(s) to loudly advocate its solution… or may be interest

perhaps in some cases its easy to tie a response to the original action, in cases of certainty (knowing the bad action), or from past patterns

in other cases, a guess may be incorrect… or ones may have good control over displayed/portrayed emotions as to obfuscate ones guilt (or another negative emotion)

Have you confessed to someone or plan to and if not is there any other way that you have alleviated your guilt or any other way you plan on doing so? For example if one is sorry for lying, perhaps they will avoid it in the future, even if lying would be somewhat appropriate in later situations.

I’m just trying to understand the dynamic of guilt so that I can have an idea as to how easy it would be to approach areas of morality in discussion. That is if one feels guilty about a subject then maybe they might be disinclined to call it immoral (to themselves or just to others) as a form of self justification.

I’d say guilt comes about if you go against your own feeling of morality and/or ethics–either by actually doing something ‘wrong’ or not doing something ‘right.’ Sometimes, guilt can be ‘deserved’ and sometimes not–it’s your mind creating your guilt, just as your mind creates your moral and/or ethical codes.

Denial and repression are two common, ‘normal’ ways of easing guilt feelings; however, in any discussion of morality, I would think that prefacing the discussion with what you feel is immoral, without generalization and/or judgement, would be a way to start. What’s ‘wrong’ for you may seem silly to others. :wink:

I think religious guilt was a big thing in the passed, and it is still somewhat around in the present.
That is what I think of when I see the word ‘guilt’.
I don’t feel guilty in most ways. I used-to feel it more when I was religious.


Sure, to a catholic priest in the confessional but not for quite some time now. :laughing: Confession, if even to one’s self though, is the first step in letting go of the guilt. First, one must be aware that there is something to be guilty about.

The only true way is to be aware of and take responsibility for the actions you’ve committed or omitted. This might take some honest reflection on one’s part. Sometimes feeling guilty about something is just another way NOT to take responsibility for something, a way to postphone self-awareness. It makes us feel better and more human - “hey, I feel so guilty about this…how bad can I be?”
But guilt only serves a purpose as a first step and continued guilt can drag the one and the other down and doesn’t lead to remorse and the next step which is taking responsibility and then letting go of the false self.

Well, I still feel that there has to be some kind of balance here. If someone has lied to protect their own self, they can see where that lying has caused harm. By the same token, complete honesty can also cause harm at times and may not be on the better part of valor. A virtue can become a vice if not looked at in its entirety. All situations are different.

Wouldn’t you say that the dynamic of guilt moves differently in all people?
Perhaps the only thing that could make it easier would be an unattached discussion where ego doesn’t enter in, even though one’s personal history and experience has to enter in. But I think the morality discussion might be quite interesting. At the same time, in order to have one that is fruitful, insofar as another is concerned, that other person’s history and experience and pscyhology would have to be looked at as much in its entirely as it can be. Does that make any sense to you?

By this, do you mean that they are not yet ready to see their guilt and take responsibility for it?
Many people do this all of the time when it suits their purposes. You can call it escapism or running from your true self.
I think that people are afraid that in admitting something wrongful to their self, they will be giving up a part of their self which will kind of chain them. But they don’t realize that in doing the former, they’ve released the chains and can feel freer. Truth insofar as it involves us ourselves, really can set us free…and others too.

Stuart, There’s a very famous (and replicated throughout the world with consistent, statistical, percentages) social psychology test called the Milgram Experiment. It was designed to see how many people would cause “harm” to another because they were “ordered” to do so by an authority figure, even though harming others went completely against their moral feelings. The majority went ahead and did as they were told, although they suffered a lot of stress doing so.

What conclusions can be drawn from that? Are we innately cruel or are we innately subservient? Or do we think of retaliation–real or imagined-- from the authority figures and decide it’s better to sacrifice our morality now in order to ensure our future existence?

Children seem born with the cognitive ability to distinguish right from wrong, but it’s up to their ‘authority figures’ to pass on their ideas of what’s what. Even when mature, an adult can’t always admit what they did or didn’t do was ‘wrong’ because what they’ve been taught is internalized–and it’s almost impossible for those people to recognize that whatever authority figure taught them, that authority figure was “wrong.” :astonished:

I think humans are a slave race genetically modified version of ancient aliens.
That is why they are so messed up and unlike the natural animals.
They will follow orders even if the orders are insane.
They are brain-washed fairly easily too.

A couple of scientists have very recently been in the news with a version of part of the above. … 130401.htm
Other scientists have suggested this or similar things, but I just read about these guys.

Mankind has been submitted to millennia of conditioned responses fixing the frame of mind. As a consequence, contrary to animals, man got isolated from nature completely. If man had functioned as an animal in nature, in tune with it, his sensory system should have been in tune with nature. The fixations of mind are the malignancy of mankind.

There have been recurrent conjectures that our reality is a computer simulation a la The Matrix. Several scientists are currently doing studies to determine whether or not this can be tested. However, I don’t see the connection to this thread. Is there one? :neutral_face:

I read this thread carefully yesterday and I’d like to give some detailed responces, but I also don’t want to complicate matters by saying too much, so untiI can give your responces more thought let me just go into more detail as to what I had in mind here:

Most people are very sure that certain actions are immoral and I’m hardly inclined to disagree with many of them, but in order to have an open discussion on morality I think one must be willing to admit to at least the possibility that much of what they do can be interpreted by others as very immoral as well. I’m not looking for direct admissions such as one saying, “I admit I do this and that and I’m a bad person.” I’d just like it if people would be willing to admit to the possibility that they do things many that can be percieved as wrong by others.

So to find out whether or not those I discuss morality with are just being closed minded if they will not admit to such possibilities or if they may in fact completely fail to understand that those possibilities exist I want to know how much guilt people feel.

In case anyone reading this does know me very well, personally I regularly admit to wrong doing, and personally I happen to have no present guilt whatsoever. Perhaps I ahd some in the past along the same lines as Dan~.

It feels like I shouldn’t walk as tall. It feels like a knife voice in my head, if I acutely feel it. It feels like a dynamic tension that takes my energy and does not resolve. Unlike, say, anger. I stub my toe, and in a kind of godlike paranoia yell at a table for being there. Then the pain goes away and my anger does too. Maybe I laugh at myself. Guilt has none of this process, no nice bell curve of feeling. It is isometric. A mixture of a bad feeling, generally intermingled with anger and fear, some kind of thought image and the sense of not being able to release it.

And yes, I do have guilt that I may have hurt others, but vastly less than I used to. Guilt is useless nothing. A deadness.

I think guilt is pandemic and often not recognized and further often praised as necessary.

That’s why I’m hesitant to get into another debate on morality right away.

But if you did something deliberately to hurt someone in the past, did you feel guilt at that time?
And even at those times when it wasn’t deliberate and you hurt them, did you feel guilty, Stuart? I’m not speaking of those people who wear their hearts on their sleeves and are overly sensitive - everyone hurts them even when they do not.

As far as present guilt goes, why would we continue to feel guilty for something in the past if we’ve made amends and and see the light and have determined to be careful in the future?

Is guilt the same as regret in your book?

I think it was an interesting angel, really. We need to talk about guilt before we can talk about morality. Nice shift. Also like that you wanted to hit it phenomenologically first. Really get to the base, see what we mean. Then we could perhaps move up to a functional level: what does guilt do? Once we have all that then perhaps start talking about morals. Kudos.

I am not saying one must do it this way, but interesting to suggest an experiential prerequisite and then using guilt. nice.

It’s considered ‘bad’ if you don’t feel guilty and ‘inhuman’ not to worry. I’m not saying you have to buy that, but messages like these get laid on us over the years.

Stuart, how far do you need to take this discussion? Most people have felt guilt at some point and for some specific thing they’ve either done or neglected to do. Guilt can either teach or become obsessive. If it teaches, it’s good; if it’s obsessive, it’s obviously not good.

I don’t think anyone has gone through life without some deviation from religious commandments. If that results in inflicting pain on someone else, and the ‘sinner’ realizes it’s done so, nine times out of ten, s/he won’t do it again–and nine times out of ten, s/he won’t apologize. The atonement comes from admitting that you have, or may have, hurt someone; the guilt for having done so; and the promise to yourself that you won’t do it again. But does that mean you won’t break that commandment again–or does it mean you’ll try your very best never to hurt anyone again?

(Actually, you know, you can’t really emotionally hurt anyone else. If they feel pain, it’s because of their reactions. That may be a different thread.)

But what about those ‘little things’ we do that we feel don’t hurt anyone? I’ve often lied about my age–it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything as far as I know so I don’t feel at all guilty. But I’ve broken the “Thou shalt not lie” commandment, haven’t I?

What’s your basis for morality? :neutral_face:

Not long ago I would have said that it doesn’t exist. But, that road leads nowhere, and after all many people do believe that it exists, who am I to say they’re wrong. I believe every argument, philosophy or system someone can think up can be taken apart or destroyed, that is shown to be nonsense if one tried hard enough. But, there’s no reason to do so with most systems, because there purpose is there despite the above mention ephemerality.

Morality has a purpose for some and it is useful to discuss it from different angles. For me though, whether or not I would wish to build upon or deconstruct all or any given moral system is not what’s important. I can’t help seeing through them all, they are all now by default deconstructed for me.

It’s like that for me now because I spent many years thinking about and trying to live by moral sytems to an extent that few could have possibly put more effort into. Any argument of mine is not going to automatically decontruct morality for someone. Nonetheless it is my goal to help others see this deconstruction. To use an ‘ought’; I think people ought to see this deconstruction of the sytems that involve ‘oughts’. Certainly that goal of mine is paradoxical, I believe it’s natural that it would be.

If someone has no guilt or won’t admit to it, then I would have to frame my argument differently. For those who do have guilt, it seems that I have a convenient starting place. That is I can ask why must people feel guilt for one thing they did and not others. The reason for such questions is that morality can be viewed from so many angles that anyone can find fault in anything.

I don’t have the slightest guilt at all. Axiomatically I’ve done things that have inconvenienced others, though I doubt there is anyone out there who obsesses over such things so it’s hard for me to know how effective this approach would be. But, I think about small things I’ve done that have upset people in the past and I believe that I couldn’t possibly have guilt over them if for no other reason than that I can see the ambiguity of the situation. That is, if I or anyone else should make a system out of what I did to upset them; why I did it; what I could have done to prevent it; how the other person felt and should feel, I would immediately, without even trying, see the reverse or decontruction of that system.

Yes, but it would be unlikely to happen unfortunately.

They may or may not see there guilt, but they definetly feel something negative. I don’t know if they have to take responsibility for it, perhaps they could simply negate the idea that what they did was wrong. It seems to me that would involve them admiting that one could percieve it as wrong, then simply telling themself that they no longer see it as wrong. But,if they can never admit that it could be percieved as wrong then they are stuck in the form of self-justification.

For example. Many peopl are dishonest at work and feel terrible at it and eventually quit. Before they had enough and quit, if one where to ask them if they were doing anything wrong they would likely make excuses. While others are dishonest at work and admit to those uninvolved that they just do what they want because the only justice in the world is for those who get exposed.

I did feel guilty for very minor things long ago, then once I realized that those who give the most shit are usually given the most praise for being virtuous I was no longer bothered.

When has anyone ever made amends for something they did when it wasn’t convenient to do so? To use the work example again, let’s say I have to be very dishonest at work to keep my job and am thinking of quitting. Let’s look at three senarios:

  1. I finally do quit and I swear I’ll never be dishonest again, well that oath will last no longer than the time it takes me to get another job where I must be dishonest.

  2. I quit in order to start a great new career where such a form of dishonesty is unnessesary. I swear never to be bad again and live happily from then on.

3)I’m downsized out of the company. I still think what I was doing was wrong, but being so upset at losing my job for such a bad reason I never really make any signifigant plans towards not ebing dishonest again, after all I’m as much a victim as anyone.

It would seem that I would be trully virtuous in senario 2, though I wonder if you can anticipate what my objection to that would be.

I differentiate the two by saying that regret can include guilt, but it doesn’t have to if it is regret over one’s own well being. Guilt, can include regret, but it also doesn’t have to if the reason is that one hasn’t come to the conclusion that they wish they would have done things differently or even that they will stop doing that for which they feel guilty over.