Why do we transgress?

This was posed to me as a prime philosphical question: Why do we do what we know to be forbidden, undesireable, forbidden or unnatural, wrong?

Obviously this question introduces loaded concepts that may need be unraveled; yet simply stated, they drive to the core of the question of life, lived.

I here welcome questions, comments and theories rearding this seemingly irresitable fate.

Why do we do wrong?

Because we are weak, flawed, wobbly bits of flesh driven by a reptilian holdover of a brainstem

Forbidden fruit tastes sweeter; mere perversion; catch me if you can…
Gotta be more specific.

We must ask ourselves, why are these things “undesireable, forbidden or unnatural, wrong”? There should be a reason.

What is wrong?

If wrong is meant something that causes someone else ill feeling, then perhaps by doing something wrong is a way of re-substantiating the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable. Children do it all the time, so I don’t see why adults shouldn’t. Besides I’m a firm believer that many of the choices we make through life are simply filler, to make up for what would otherwise be a dull life. I truly believe when it comes to myself, I’d be best suited to a short life, probably ending fairly soon. I know I have a child and I’d love to see him grow up, I also have no suicidal urges and shudder the thought. I want to be here for a while yet, but I’m talking about fulfillment and experience, and regarding those too, I think I’ve had my fair share of all really. I might say that I see the next forty years or so as probably being quite humdrum, even if I strive to make great changes. I guess little excites me to the core any more. I envy my child and the looks of excitement on his face and the sense of wonder that he shows.

So again, why do we do wrong? Perhaps because we’re bored. I think I’m mature enough though that I see the fruitlessness in buggering about simply out of boredom, but I have friends who haven’t realized that yet, and it seems often they cause themselves pain simply so they can feel more alive.

Perhaps I’m talking out my arse though.

This presumes that the categories of “right” and “wrong” make sense.

Are you speaking of behavior forbidden by your religion, or by some society you have in mind? In Pakistan it might be considered wrong NOT to kill your sister for marrying someone without permission.

From the perspective of evolutionary biology, it is easy to see how both “good” and “evil” attitudes could be useful. In times of plenty, or within an “in” group, we have to at least pretend to respect / take care of one another (though some cheating might be advantageous). On the other hand, in extreme situations such as war or famine, the ones who survive are those who do whatever they have to do. It’s probably also to the genetic advantage of most of us to prefer the first type of situation to the second, if we have a choice. “Morality” and “ethics” are names we give to these biological urges.

That is so wrong on so many levels.

Forbidden fruit tastes sweeter; mere perversion; catch me if you can…
Gotta be more specific.[/quote]

Exactly. What acts are you referring to and what is the authority that proclaims them “wrong”?

Lots of things feel good that may not necessarily be in our best interests, especially if performed over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over, because it just feels so damned good. All things in moderation, right?

And many things feel good that are deemed to be wrong by self-righteous, misguided busybody authorities who enjoy setting impossible standards everyone else is supposed to conform to, when it usually turns out they enjoy engaging in sundry, tawdry perverted acts with prostitutes, inanimate objects and small children, but their flock continue to feel guilty about their own “wrongs”.

Because we cannot see the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen. So when we have to make a decision to satisfy our urges or to suppress them, we can justify doing the first by telling ourselves that we can get away with it, we won’t get caught, hurt, killed, or otherwise negatively impacted when doing what we are not allowed to do.

Don’t eat the forbidden fruit. God created us with all our shortcomings. Then, when we are tempted and cannot resist the temptation we are blamed for being weak. If God created us strong, wouldn’t we find it easy to resist temptation? I’ll probably never understand what this is all about.

Maybe we don’t believe in God. Maybe it’s got nothing to do with God. Depends what the OP was trying to ask.

Maybe the wrong is smoking dope or cigarrettes or drinking too much booze and it’s only “wrong” because we know it’s not good for our health (in excess anyway), but we do it because we enjoy it. Or because we’re addicted.

Maybe the wrong is jaywalking and we do it because it’s convenient and we know the chance of being punished for it is nil.

Maybe the wrong is jabbering away on forumosa when we should be working and we do it because we’re bored and don’t give a shit about our crappy jobs anymore anyway (not me of course, but hypothetically speaking).

Back when I was “under age”, getting hold of alcohol was seen as a sign of maturity, connections and “knowing how to beat the system”. It was illegal, and it felt good; I was breaking the law–being “bad”–and not harming anyone in the process. Now that I’m older, getting alcohol is no longer the thrill it was; it’s just mundane and blah. Obtaining beer when under age and when of age is the same act, but it was more thrilling when it was “wrong”.

Do you think underage drinking is wrong?

Do you think underage drinking is wrong?[/quote]

Because, if so, you should recognize that serious debate is ongoing in the US about possibly lowering the legal drinking age, because lawmakers feel they may have erred in raising it to 21 and lives may be saved by lowering it. So, if you felt it was wrong, and you felt guilty about it, you wasted all that negative energy for nothing, because you were right all along.

Anyway, Chris, you reminded me of one of my favorite anthems from back then: Judas Priest’s BREAKING THE LAW, BREAKING THE LAW. . . BREAKING THE LAW, BREAKING THE LAW. . . BREAKING THE LAW, BREAKING THE LAW. . .

Many people have problems with the age limit, but most agree that there should be some limit.
Remember in Little Nicky? The new devils lowered the drinking age to 10. That’s so evil.

Mother Theresa is confusing illegality with immorality. Can there never be unjust laws, then? Or legal sins?

[color=#0000BF]“You don’t know what it’s like.
You don’t have a clue.
‘Cause if you did
You’d find yourself
Doin’ the same thing too!”

I did some underage drinking back then, but it wasn’t for the thrill of breaking the law. It was to get wasted.

Not confusing them at all. As was pointed out, the OP was too vague. It asked:

True, this is in the religion forum, but it was unclear from the OP whether the question referred to only those things that are forbidden or wrong according to religion, spirituality or morality, or whether it also included illegal acts.

Can there be unjust laws? Of course so. There are many. Example: jailing a terminally ill person for using medicinal marijuana.

Can there be legal sins? Sure. Example: premarital sex, depending on ones religious views.

I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but if we restrict the question to “why do people do what they feel is morally wrong?” that’s easy. Because no one is perfect. We are all weak. We all have certain standards of what we believe is right and wrong, but sometimes we’re unable to live up to those standards. No different from a dieter giving in and eating junk food.

And, if you’re a Christian, you may feel that we commit wrongs because we’re allowed to, because our sins were prepaid for in advance, because Jesus got himself strung up on the cross to pay for our sins, so we can now adulterate freely, so long as we confess in the end. Amen.

Fair enough. All right then, would it be correct to say that with respect to the variety of acts which are commonly thought to be “wrong,” we commit them for a variety of reasons? Self-interested opportunism, pleasure-seeking, habit, stupidity…possibly even good intentions.

The OP is a person not an ‘it,’ thank you, Mother T…! :wink:

It is not enough to explain our actions by referring to ‘a variety of reasons.’ Though it must certainly be possible to try to do something right and end up doing it wrong. My ‘A’ level must testify to that fact. I, furthermore, certainly seek pleasure; the feeling of a job well done, or a mate well screwed; but who is to say which is right or wrong?

This fact seems to be most pertinent: we don’t know what is right or wrong. It’s like we are aware that that there might be right and/or wrong, we may even have experienced the effects of right and wrong actions, for example. But we still, ultimately, don’t know if they were right or wrong. How can we know since we can’t really tell the results of our actions? Can we really understand the results of our actions? Can we separate intention from act and would that mitigate any guilt or virtue resulting from said intention or action?

How can we say anything positive about which we can’t know anything?

How can we trust the scriptures or the teachings handed down from our parents, absorbed through society, touted by idealists, thinkers, teachers or spiritual authorities, when we don’t seem to know for ourselves?

The only thing we seem to be able to say positively, is that it seems rational that if we do not know what right or wrong are, we can not understand them. If we can’t understand them, we can not act on them. Therefore, lacking understanding of them we will transgress, or fall into error. If we don’t know the rules of the game we will inevitably break them.

How then can we find out what is right or wrong? Or are they just some cultural baggage we inherit to help keep society organised? Can we know the results of our actions? Do we need to know the results of our actions to be able to say what is right and wrong?

There’s (maybe) that which is morally right or wrong (is it permissible to make love to a sheep?), and then there’s that which is factually correct or incorrect (if I quit school to devote my life to Guitar Hero, will I become a professional?). Most of our real-life quandries seem to resemble the second category more than the first: what should I become? how should I live? who should I marry? how much ice cream should I eat at one time? The fact that no clear answers are usually available in advance, we accept as part of the game (unless you’re one of those people who patronize fortune-tellers).

Some religions try to help us out and throw their weight behind particular sets of choices, which they may detail for us. Hellfire may be involved, but more commonly the motivation is described in terms of a certain model of human fulfillment (“happiness” in the higher sense), or perhaps, as the price of keeping the religious identity. Law attempts to motivate certain behavior somewhat more directly, through punishment (though talk of “rehabilitation” became fashionable a century ago, hence the concept of prisons as “penitentiaries”).

Again, if we think of life-choices in terms of genetics, then it is easy to see why populations which encourage certain modes of behavior will tend to displace competitors. Unfortunately, what behavior is selected for will vary a lot depending on conditions, and may not always resemble what we (mostly, nowadays, here) think of as moral. Daniel Quinn reminds us that there’s not just one right way to life, although there are plenty of wrong ways, and this applies to individuals as well as species. There’s not just one right choice of job, or spouse, or (perhaps) religion and…ethical attitude? Hmm, something to think about.