28
   

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

 
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 09:30 am
@Thomas,
Every society that has built airplanes has used the same mathematical principles. There has never been an successful airplane designer in any society in the history of flight that didn't accept the validity of the Bernoulli principle.

The same can not be said about moral principles.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 09:33 am
@Thomas,
I totally messed up the above post with inconsistent edits. Here's the cleaned-up version.

maxdancona wrote:
Unlike mathematics, there are multiple sets of moral values that are all equal in any objectively testable way (none of them are being used to build airplanes).

As I said earlier, the very definition of an ethical value suggests objective tests. An ethical value is something that its proponents want everybody to live by. Consequently, we can rule out every putatively-ethical value if we can show that it's impossible for everybody to live by it. For example, if someone interprets the putative cardinal virtue of parsinomy to mean that you should spend less money than you earn, we can rule that out. Every dollar earned is a dollar spent. It's logically impossible that we all spend fewer dollars than we earn. Therefore, we know objectively that parsinomy is invalid as an ethical value, at least by this definition of "parsinomy". (This is a nontrivial insight. If you follow current debates about fiscal policy, you know that lots of respected pundits who moralize about deficits miss this point.)

Moreover, the definition of ethics allows us to eliminate values that are logically possible for every human to live by, if no reasonable person would want every human to live by them. For example, here's a scenario you asked me for yesterday: Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World plausibly describes a society in which practically everyone is happy. Consequent Utilitarians should feel compelled to endorse it. But Huxley's society clearly is repulsive to reasonable people, because universal happiness is achieved by practices repulsive to reasonable people. They include: genetic engineering and oxygen-deprivation of fetuses to prevent the birth of too many smart people who might make trouble; brainwashing children from birth into being happy with their pre-assigned future place in society; drugging the grownups into happiness; and the list goes on. If societies like that were actually realistic, I would consider the core value of Utilitarianism at least threatened, if not refuted, depending on my amount of rigor about what's "reasonable".

To be sure, "reasonable", is a slippery concept, making the second paragraph of this more vulnerable than the first. But as joefromchicago pointed out, reason is also the basis of your moral relativism, so I consider it fair to use the concept here. And even if we discarded my second paragraph, the first would be sufficient to make my point. While the test "can everyone logically live by it?" still permits a good deal of ethical diversity, it's also a far cry from "anything goes". It rules out a significant amount of behaviors and values, and it does so by nothing but objective testing and the definition of the word "ethics". Which meets your challenge in my opinion.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 09:42 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
Every society that has built airplanes has used the same mathematical principles.

Likewise, every society that has built airplanes has valued education. Every society that has built airplanes has valued human cooperation, especially the mutual making of, keeping of, and reliance on promises. Every society that has built airplanes has valued the existence of rule-makers and rule-enforcers, efficient-enough to coordinate activities such as airplane-building. Even the United States and the Soviet Union, different as they were in so many ways, did have that in common when the Yanomami, the Tuareg, and the Saudi-Arabians did not.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 09:57 am
@Thomas,
No disagreement there Thomas. Education and cooperation are valuable traits to have in societies that want to build airplanes.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 10:02 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
The claim that we can "eliminate values that are logically [im]possible for every human to live by" falls in the category of an axiom that is not objectively testable.

It's not an axiom, it's a syllogism with the definition of morality as a standard that people ought to live by. If we permit the word "morality" to have substantially different meanings, such as "a piece of furniture that people sit around while having breakfast", then I'm a moral relativist, too.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 10:05 am
@Thomas,
Quote:
An ethical value is something that its proponents want everybody to live by. Consequently, we can rule out every putatively-ethical value if we can show that it's impossible for everybody to live by it.


I don't agree with this. I don't think I have used the word "ethical" in this conversation (I didn't check), but I certainly don't accept this as a core principle. It certainly isn't a necessary principle for societies that build airplanes.

Quote:
Moreover, the definition of ethics allows us to eliminate values that are logically possible for every human to live by, if no reasonable person would want every human to live by them.


I don't accept this either as a core principle.

Maybe this is the main core of our disagreement. You are putting forward core axioms that I don't accept. There are certainly societies that prospered (and even built airplanes) without holding to these principles.

I would also ask that you apply my "objective testability" test to your principles. Is there any conceivable event that could happen (from scientific discovery to technological innovation to act of God) that would change your adherence to these principles?


Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 10:21 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
Maybe this is the main core of our disagreement. You are putting forward core axioms that I don't accept.

Fair enough. If you were a consultant for Merriam-Webster, and if your assignment was to suggest concise definitions for the adjectives "ethical" and "moral", what would you write?

maxdancona wrote:
I would also ask that you apply my "objective testability" test to your principles. Is there any conceivable event that could happen (from scientific discovery to technological innovation to act of God) that would change your adherence to these principles?

(1) Looking up the word "ethical" in reputable English dictionaries, only to find out that it refers to "the practice of raping a newborn for fun every day before breakfast." That would cause me to use a different name than "ethical" for the principles by which I try to live my life, and by which I wish others would live theirs. I am only semi-facetious in giving this example. I'm beginning to suspect that semantics is a big part of our disagreement.

(2) Looking around me, seeing that Huxley's Brave-New-World dystopia has materialized, and observing that it does indeed bring about great happiness for a great number.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 10:50 am
@Thomas,
Word definitions don't interest me. What interests me is the idea that there is some objective absolute set of rules by which each individual is obligated to abide. Let's discuss the ideas.

I have a set of core values that I believe in profoundly and live by. They inform how I treat the people around me, how I act in relationships and what I consider to be good conduct in myself and others. These values work very well for me to have meaningful relationships, a good career and a decent life in the societal context in which I find myself. It often drives me to act to achieve something according to these values, or to prevent something that contradicts these values.

There should be a term for the set of core values that inform who I am and are the yardstick by which I judge rightness and wrongness. This concept is very important to me (and to any individual).

If the term for this isn't "morality" (and I am not here to argue the definition of words), then what term would you use?

The interesting debate we are having is, whether we call it "morality" or call it something else, whether there is a universal set of core values that all people are obligated to follow.

Whether or not there are universal core values doesn't change the fact that I have a set of values that works very well for me.

aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 11:10 am
@maxdancona,
Max, you never answered these questions. I'm really interested to know your answers. It's multiple choice. So just a few minutes to complete. I added a Hypo 5 and 6.

Facts: Dr. Robotnic creates the most realistic VR machinery of all time. When you enter it, the experience feels 100% real. It is in fact an illusion. And the VR location is Mario Land. But you can't tell it's an illusion. You can play it at the mall.


Hypo 1:
You go to the mall and watch TV for 1 hour. On the TV show is Mario Land.
Which of the following is true:
(A) The mall is reality and Mario Land is not.
(B) Mario Land is reality and the mall is not.
(C) Both the mall and Mario Land are reality.

Hypo 2:
You go to the mall and play the VR game for 1 hour.
Which of the following is true:
(A) The mall is reality and Mario Land is not
(B) Mario Land is reality and the mall is not
(C) Both the mall and Mario Land are reality

Hypo 3:
You go to the mall and play the VR game for 5 years.
Which of the following is true:
(A) The mall is reality and Mario Land is not
(B) Mario Land is reality and the mall is not
(C) Both the mall and Mario Land are reality

Hypo 4:
The second you are born, your mom places you in the VR machine and you spend your whole life there.
Which of the following is true:
(A) The mall is reality and Mario Land is not
(B) Mario Land is reality and the mall is not
(C) Both the mall and Mario Land are reality

Hypo 5:
You have been living without the VR machine your whole life. One night, Dr. Robotnic places you in the VR machine - and you were not aware of it. In his VR machine, he has created a replica of the world you've always known. You wake up believing nothing has changed, believing that you are still in the world you've always known.
Which of the following is true:
(A) The replica world is the same world as the world you've been living in.
(B) The replica world is a different world from the world you've been living in.

Hypo 6:
What you perceive everyday - who creates this world?
(A) Matrix 2.0
(B) Dr. Robotnic's VR machine
(C) Doc Brown's Robot of Wonders
(D) Something else
(E) I don't know - because it's not objectively testable.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 11:35 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
No disagreement there Thomas. Education and cooperation are valuable traits to have in societies that want to build airplanes.

Societies don't want to build airplanes, people do. I appreciate your point that maybe not everyone wants to build airplanes, and that this is their choice. But conversely, I think you would agree that everybody wants something. With few-enough exceptions to ignore them, all humans have preferences. They want them satisfied to the largest possible extent. To maximize overall preference satisfaction, some acts, some rules, some character traits are valuable to have. Others are destructive of this end. So why not take the set of things that are valuable for maximizing the overall degree of preference-satisfaction, and call them "good" as a shorthand? What's wrong with that?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 11:38 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
What interests me is the idea that there is some objective absolute set of rules by which each individual is obligated to abide. Let's discuss the ideas.

I said nothing about "absolute set of rules". I may be a moral objectivist, but I am not a deontologist.

maxdancona wrote:
If the term for this isn't "morality" (and I am not here to argue the definition of words), then what term would you use?

How about "personal taste"?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 11:46 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
everybody wants something. With few-enough exceptions to ignore them, all humans have preferences. They want them satisfied to the largest possible extent.

Speaking of which, here's another scenario that would make me abandon utilitarianism: There is a psychological condition called "anhedonia". The people afflicted by it cannot feel pleasure anymore. Let's say that a global virus infection spreads anhedonia to every human in the world, and that the virus also remove people's sensitivity to pain. That would undermine the premise of my Utilitarianism. I would either have to find some other basis of morality or become a moral nihilist.
0 Replies
 
aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 11:50 am
@maxdancona,
Fil brought up a good point. Perhaps I was using the word "reality" a bit haphazardly. Point taken. But I think, Max, you should've understood the general idea I was trying to convey. I'm not taking those other hypos off the table, but for now, I'll set them aside. Let's just focus on Hypo 5 and 6. Like I said - multiple choice. Should just take a minute.

Hypo 5:
You have been living without the VR machine your whole life. One night, Dr. Robotnic places you in the VR machine - and you were not aware of it. In his VR machine, he has created a replica of the world you've always known. You wake up believing nothing has changed, believing that you are still in the world you've always known.
Which of the following is true:
(A) The replica world is the same world as the world you've been living in.
(B) The replica world is a different world from the world you've been living in.

Hypo 6:
Who creates the world you perceive everyday?
(A) Matrix 2.0
(B) Dr. Robotnic's VR machine
(C) Doc Brown's Robot of Wonders
(D) The Easter Bunny
(E) Ryan Gosling
(F) Something else
(G) I don't know - because it's not objectively testable.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 02:48 pm
@aristotelian,
Hypo 5) B
Hypo 6) A

These hypotheticals are getting less and less fun. I am enjoying my interaction with Thomas though.
aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 03:58 pm
@maxdancona,
Ok - so you recognize that the replica world in the hypo is different from the original world.

So then, do you know if the world you currently perceive is the replica world or the original world? Do you know if there is another world in which the world you currently perceive is created?
---------------------------------------
Regarding the second question, how do you know that Dr. Robotnic or Ryan Gosling aren't creating the world you perceive?
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jun, 2013 05:42 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
How about "personal taste"?


I see what you are doing there, Thomas.... but no.

There is a qualitative difference, not just in degree, but in spirit between morality and aesthetics. They are related (in that both are social constructs) but they are different in the role they play in my feelings, actions and emotions.

I need different terms for morality and taste for the same reason that you do.
0 Replies
 
aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jun, 2013 08:22 am
@maxdancona,
Max,

Is there a universe completely independent of ours - and in that universe is a planet called "Grolodine" and a life form called "Wurliqueue" with a leader who has 500 eyes?

(A) Yes
(B) No
(C) I don't know
0 Replies
 
aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jun, 2013 05:26 pm
@maxdancona,
Max? You there?
0 Replies
 
aristotelian
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Jun, 2013 12:05 pm
@maxdancona,
Alright Max. I assume that you've decided to ignore my posts because they are "getting less and less fun." I've noticed that you've been habitually ignoring some of my other posts also. Therefore, I'll just go ahead and continue with the analysis.

The correct answer to the hypo is "I don't know". We do not know if there is another independent universe outside of this one that contains a planet called "Grolodine" and a life form called "Wurliqueue" with a leader who has 500 eyes.

The next question is: Is there a way to objectively test for such a universe?
The answer again is "no".
-------------------------------
Now, Max, you proposed the following principle:
If something is not objectively testable then that thing is relative.

So then applying that principle to this particular example, if a person believes there is an independent universe with containing the planet Grolodine then that universe exists for that person. And if another person does not believe in such a place, then it does not exist for that other person.

So then, Max, under your view, the existence of an entire universe would depend on someone's opinion. And yet, two people could believe the exact opposite. Therefore, such a universe would simultaneously exist and not exist.
---------------------------------
Now certainly, Max, you concede that this is absurd, yes?
Obviously.

So once again, here is your principle:
If something is not objectively testable then that thing is relative.

We have shown through reductio ad absurdum that your principle is false.
--------------------------------
Now returning back to morality.

You said that morality must be relative because it is not objectively testable.
However, we've now shown that your principle (If something is not objectively testable then that thing is relative) is false.
Therefore, your demonstration fails.
---------------------------------
So now that we've taken care of the "objective testability" principle, we can now return to the original question: whether morality is relative or objective.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Jun, 2013 05:07 pm
@aristotelian,
...I donĀ“t know why you care...just get a better opponent you are begging answers to a downgrade, seriously !
 

Related Topics

is there a fundamental value that we all share? - Discussion by existential potential
The ethics of killing the dead - Discussion by joefromchicago
Theoretical Question About Extra Terrestrials - Discussion by failures art
The Watchmen Dilemma - Discussion by Sentience
What is your fundamental moral compass? - Discussion by Robert Gentel
morals and ethics, how are they different? - Question by existential potential
The Trolley Problem - Discussion by joefromchicago
Keep a $900 Computer I Didn't Buy? - Question by NathanCooperJones
Killing through a dungeon - Question by satyesu
 
Copyright © 2021 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 07/25/2021 at 01:50:45