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Moral Relativism. It may be right but it must be wrong.

 
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 06:52 am
@Fil Albuquerque,
No

In any practical way, there is little difference between moral views of a moral absolutist and a moral relativist. My values are a part of who I am, they have a profound effect on how I act and interact with others. And, they rarely change.

The main difference between absolutism and relativism is that relativists don't judge people with different views as inferior.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 06:56 am
@maxdancona,
Well I am questioning just that in case you didn't notice...Why would you old on to a view if you didn't believe it is more powerful ? There is a distinction to be made between a believed ideal in abstract and a concrete behaviour...
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 07:29 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
If was both accept that morality is a social phenomenon, then the answers to the other two questions seem simple enough. An action is moral if it is considered moral according to the standards of the social context in which it takes place. And people "should" behave morally by definition.

Not necessarily. One respected theory of ethics holds that an action is moral if it makes everyone better off on average. Another respected theory of ethics holds that an action is moral if it comports with the Golden Rule. And yet another respected theory of ethics holds that an action is moral if it's grounded in principle, and if it's possible for every other human in the world to follow that principle, too. None of these theories denies that the morality of the action depends on the society around the agent. Yet all of these theories leave room for the possibility that the society in question consider an action moral --- and be wrong.

Hence, the admission that the morality of an action can depend on society doesn't make everything else the slam dunk you think it does.

maxdancona wrote:
If one person believes that homosexuality is a barbaric, socially destructive act that should not be permitted and another person believes that a just society accepts homosexuality, how do you decide who is right in any objective way?

According to Utilitarians, you gradually legalize homosexuality and observe if society does, in fact, get destroyed. Observation tells us that it doesn't, and that the would-be criminalizers of gay sex are therefore objectively wrong.

According to the Golden Rule, heterosexuals ask: "If I was a homosexual, would heterosexuals be harming me by hanging me for what me and my partner are consenting to do?". Homosexuals, in turn, ask: "If I was heterosexual, would homosexuals be harming me by sleeping with one another?" The answer, objective again, is that criminalizing homosexuality is immoral.

Finally, according to Kantians, you ask: "Why are these two men sleeping with each other?" (The answer, let's say, is "because they love each other".) "Is it conceivable, then, that every human sleep with a person they love, regardless of sex?" This question, again, has an objective answer, and it is "yes".

Again, observe that the answer to your question always hinges on how the action (gay sex in this case) relates to the society it occurs in. And yet, the answer to your question is always objective. Objectively false, perhaps, but nevertheless objective.

Max Dancona wrote:
I find it funny that moral absolutists have taken both extremes on this issue (and many others).

What's so funny about that? Why wouldn't people be right about moral absolutism and wrong about specific moral absolutes? That's not funny, that's predictable and boring. Humans do this kind of thing all the time.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 08:03 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
Again, observe that the answer to your question always hinges on how the action (gay sex in this case) relates to the society it occurs in. And yet, the answer to your question is always objective. Objectively false, perhaps, but nevertheless objective.

To further clarify this point, consider the Gedankenexperiment where you send me 500 years back in a time machine, and I become a legislator of 16th-century England. Now I would reach a different conclusion on homosexuality. All sex is unhygienic in the medical conditions of the 16th century. The consequences, in unwanted babies and sexually-transmitted diseases, place serious burdens on my 16th-century society. Therefore it's good public-health policy that I prohibit all sex by default, with the narrowest possible exceptions to permit the procreation of people who can afford to raise children. Now, in my (possibly-incorrect) judgement, homosexuality is objectively immoral, and criminalizing it is objectively moral.

How so, given that I'm a moral objectivist? Because the facts of the case are different. Homosexuality has an objectively different impact on 16th-century societies than on 21st-century societies. Hence, you can reach different moral conclusions about either while adhering to the same moral framework.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 08:47 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

There are several types social constructs- morality, beauty, language. They are related in that they are all part of a functioning society. But they are different in sense and function which is why we have different names for them. I don't think arguing over words is very helpful. We use words to express things we experience in the way we experience them.

I appreciate that you prefer semantic laxity in this case. You can't come up with a definition of "morality" that doesn't already encompass something else, like social mores or etiquette or custom, so you prefer a definition of "morality" that doesn't really describe anything at all. You'll excuse me, however, if I insist on a more rigorous application of the language to the question at hand.

maxdancona wrote:
We have done this in science, and we have the benefit in science that the axioms are mathematically precise and objectively testable. As you can tell, I find the "objectively testable" part is important. And science clearly has value in creating things we like to use (like computers and the internet).

You're begging the question. Just because something isn't scientifically testable doesn't mean that it can't be objectively true.

maxdancona wrote:
The big question is -- where do the axioms you are basing your morality come from? The axioms don't come from reason. They come from who you are and how you are brought up.

Sez you.

maxdancona wrote:
One of the axioms my morality is based on is equality. I don't believe that someone is inferior to me just because they have different ideas.

With this axiom, an absolutist view of morality is impossible.

Well, that's just an example of the fallacy of equivocation. You use "equality" in two ways: as "equality of status" and "equally correct." I have no problem in admitting the first sense of "equality" without admitting the second. I'm not sure why you'd think that someone who is equal to you in status is also equal to you in reasoning, but maybe you have a lower opinion of your powers of reasoning than I have of mine.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 09:03 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:
You're begging the question. Just because something isn't scientifically testable doesn't mean that it can't be objectively true.

Just to back up your point with an example: The multiverse hypothesis in cosmology is almost certainly untestable. Nevertheless, there's no doubt it can be objectively true or objectively false.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 09:47 am
@Thomas,
Did you read the "Criticisms" section of that Wikipedia article you posted?

I think you are wrong in your claim. Something that is impossible to objectively test can not be objectively true or objectively false.
aristotelian
 
  2  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 10:01 am
@maxdancona,
Hey Max,

Are you sure that's what those criticisms said? Can you find a quote? I thought they were saying that if something is not objectively testable then it is not scientific. I don't know that they went so far as to say it's neither true nor false.

-------------------------
But putting that aside - Far more importantly. So then you think multiverse theory is relative?

Because you're central premise is this:
If something is not objectively testable then that thing is relative.

1) The Matrix is not objectively testable.
2) Multiverses are not objectively testable.

Therefore:
The Matrix is relative?
The Multiverse is relative?

Right? If I believe in multiverses, then that's true for me? If I believe in the Matrix that's true for me? But if Franky doesn't believe in multiverses, then that's true for Franky? If Franky doesn't believe in the Matrix, than that's true for Franky?

Right? That's proper application of your principle isn't it?
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 10:07 am
@aristotelian,
Great ! Laughing
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 10:10 am
I don't need to know Lisbon is the Capital of Portugal for Lisbon to be the capital of Portugal. I don't need to test it for it to be true.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 11:12 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
Did you read the "Criticisms" section of that Wikipedia article you posted?

Yes.

maxdancona wrote:
I think you are wrong in your claim. Something that is impossible to objectively test can not be objectively true or objectively false.

Maybe you do. If so, you're wrong. The claim that the sun is a fixed star and that the Earth is a planet was as objectively true in Ptolemy's time as it is today. But Ptolemy couldn't have objectively tested it because Ancient Greece lacked precise-enough optical instruments. Many objective truths about the world are not-yet-figured out, but they are true all the same.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 12:16 pm
@Thomas,
By objectively testable, I don't mean objectively testable now. I mean objectively testable, period. When the claim was made that the earth orbited the Sun, there weren't ways to test it yet, but it was a defined question and if you asked the scientists of the day ways to test them given any instrument they could imagine (including a different vantage point) they all could have come up with a test.When you ask a question, you need to be able to propose a way to test it-- otherwise the question is meaningless.

As an aside that is perhaps an interesting example of what we are talking about, what do you mean by the term "fixed star"? The term "fixed" isn't right or wrong if you can't explain the distinction between fixed and not fixed.

The claim that the earth is a planet was objectively testable from the moment the concept of "planet" was invented. At that time the question was defined enough even though the instruments didn't exist yet.

The question of an absolute morality is not objectively testable. It can't be answered and it will never be answered for the simple reason that the question hasn't been defined by people who aren't part of one of the hundreds of cultures who all believe they have something special and universal.

Your idea of the greatest good is a fine example. It is an axiom that you can follow, and it is a perfectly good basis for a logically consistent set of moral values. In fact it is just as good as numbers of other (at times contradictory) bases for different logically consistent sets of moral values.

But the idea that the "greatest good" has any intrinsic value is not objectively testable because no one can imagine any way in any possible future way to show that it has value. The problem is not a lack of technology, it is that the question of value is undefined outside of a cultural context.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 12:23 pm
@maxdancona,
To clarify, I am making this simple challenge.

Take one of the axioms for your system of morality (I don't mean a consequence, but one of the core values).

Then tell me one thing, that if it happens, would prove your core value is wrong.

If you can't come up with something that, should it happen, would change your value system then the basis for your value system isn't objectively testable.
aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 12:54 pm
@maxdancona,
Max, I've raised this point twice and you haven't yet responded. I understand you're getting a little bombarded by several people. So I understand. I am still interested in your response.

You're central premise is this:
If something is not objectively testable then that thing is relative.

1) The Matrix is not objectively testable.
2) Multiverses are not objectively testable.

Therefore:
The Matrix is relative?
The Multiverse is relative?

Right? If I believe in multiverses, then that's true for me? If I believe in the Matrix that's true for me? But if Franky doesn't believe in multiverses, then that's true for Franky? If Franky doesn't believe in the Matrix, than that's true for Franky?

Right? That's proper application of your principle isn't it?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 01:43 pm
@aristotelian,
Let's apply the objective testability principle, to the Matrix (since I don't believe the Matrix exists).

If, after eating a red pill from a big bald guy, I wake up in a slime pod from which I am flushed out and picked up by a levitating rebel ship, then I will change my mind.

So, by my own standard, my belief that the Matrix is fiction is objectively testable and so, I would answer that the existence of the Matrix is an absolute truth.

In contrast, the core of my moral code, that human life is sacred and that people are born with basic rights, is not objectively testable. There is no possible imaginable event that would change these fundamental beliefs. I hold them on faith.


Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 01:51 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
The question of an absolute morality is not objectively testable.

How about the more specific question you raised, whether gay sex destroys society or not? Not objectively testable?
aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 02:09 pm
@maxdancona,
lol - ok. Let's change the hypothetical a little bit then.

Let's create our own hypothetical Matrix that is a bit more stringent. We'll call it Matrix 2.0. In this Matrix, there is no red pill. In fact, there is absolutely no escape at all.

Matrix 2.0 is not objectively testable, correct? I'm saying to you right now: "Max you are in Matrix 2.0." Can you prove I'm wrong?

Therefore under your principle, Matrix 2.0 is relative. Correct?
aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 02:11 pm
@aristotelian,
And the same applies to multiverses?
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 02:12 pm
@Thomas,
I don't think it matters Thomas, although I suspect that if we agreed upon what constitutes "destruction" of society it would be.

There are lots of objectively testable statements that are part a logically consistent moral system. The issue is whether the core values that make the basis of a moral system are objectively testable.

What are the core values involved? One of the cores of my value system is human rights and my support for the right to "gay sex" is based on that. Some people already say that society has been destroyed, and even if this could be proven, I would still support the right to have sex.

In the extreme hypothetical where "destruction of society" meant the death of everyone (which would certainly be objectively testable), then I guess I would have to balance my core values against each other.

The point is that a belief in human rights is not objectively testable. A belief in the value of human life is not objectively testable. The moral code built on top of these core beliefs can be logically consistant (and thus objectively testable given the basic untestable axioms). Of course people with different core values will likely have different moral, although equally logically consistent, moral codes.


0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Jun, 2013 02:16 pm
@aristotelian,
Could I use future technology to transport myself out of Matrix 2.0?
 

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