Neuroskeptic wrote the following comment in response to a recent post, The Purpose of Morality.
Do we invent morality? I'm not sure who invented it and when - I always thought it was a natural expression of human nature. If someone says "X is wrong", it's not because they think saying it will bring about a desired outcome, it's generally because they feel that X is wrong.
We invent morality. Morality is a tool that we use to fulfill the most and strongest of our desires. Like all tools, it can be poorly designed, or well designed. And the quality of the design is determined for morality as it is for any other tool, by how efficiently it does the job for which it was invented.
It is true that people often appeal to their own feelings to determine if something is right or wrong. However, when they do so, they often come up with the wrong answer. It is probably the case that every hijacker on 9-11 felt that he was doing the right thing.
We have little reason to doubt that the vast majority of all slave owners, jihadists, crusaders, child abusers of all types, are comfortable with their actions. They use their feelings to judge right and wrong, and their feelings are mistaken.
It is very tempting to use one’s feelings to judge right and wrong. Your feelings will tell you what you want to hear. "Feelings" make the great atrocities of history that much easier, because "feelings" means that whatever one wants to do – whatever one is comfortable with – is right.
The very fact that a person can appeal to their feelings and come up with a wrong answer suggests that morality must be something other than what one feels is right or wrong. If feelings were the actual measure of what is right or wrong – if "what feels right" were identical to "what is right", then it would not make sense to ever say, "X feels right, but it is still wrong."
The very possibility of one's feelings giving a wrong answer means that morality must be "something else" – something that feelings have at least a possibility of not matching exactly.
Also, the idea that morality is some "natural expression of human nature" means that these greatest atrocities in human history might actually be permissible – even obligatory. Racism, for example, can well be a natural expression of human nature. We might have an innate disposition to favor those who look like us and to treat those who do not look like us with hostility. In which case, it would be morally permissible – even morally obligatory – to be racist.
It might be a natural part of a man's nature to engage in rape. It might be quite unnatural to encourage men to refrain from rape.
Morality is not an expression of our nature. Morality is a tool we use to keep our nature under control - to promote those parts of our nature that we have reason to promote, and to inhibit those parts of our nature we have reason to inhibit.
Morality is a tool that we use to take our nature, and to make it better.