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

 
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 02:43 pm
Let me ask again the question that no one is answering. If morality does not come from a specific culture-- where does it come from?

What is the source of moral absolutes?

Nothing in the Universe, outside of human society, cares about suffering. Nothing in science abhors rape. Nothing in nature opposes killing. You could go on, polygamy, eating meat, child abandonment-- the only objections to these things are in the human mind.

Our propensity for clinging to a subjective idea of morality (much like or propensity for language or music or any other human trait) developed through random mutations selected for survival benefit.

These are quirks of human nature that vary widely from society to society.

No one who believes in an Absolute Morality can answer this simple question... what makes your view of morality superior to that held by any other group of humans?
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 02:52 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas, your counterexample is interesting-- let me expand and correct my thesis.

It is clear that individuals can push on the moral views of their society. Whether they are deviant or innovative perhaps depends on how they are viewed by history.

I will point out that Jeremy Bentham was a product of his society who wasn't completely changing moral thought-- rather he was making a small change, extending ideas that already existed in British society.

The moral values at the core of his argument-- compassion, caring about the happiness of others, were well established. He was taking an incremental step pushing on the edge of the mores of his society.

This process is quite common.

0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 02:54 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
What is the source of moral absolutes?

Characteristics that practically all humans share across cultures. Practically all humans care about suffering, abhor rape, oppose killing, etc ....

ebrown p wrote:
No one who believes in an Absolute Morality can answer this simple question... what makes your view of morality superior to that held by any other group of humans?

I don't know that my view of morality is superior to those held by others. But you could convince me that your moral norms lead to greater happiness among a greater number of individuals, I would be willing to revise my moral norms.

May I add that you're not practicing what you preach on this point? For example, when you start threads about anti-immigration people ganging up on Mexicans, the morally relativist reaction would be something like: "How interesting! Value diversity in America is even greater than I thought! These minutemen adhere to a moral codex that's totally different than mine." But no -- your actual reactions are much better summed up as "That's just outragous! Those racist bastards". In practice, then, you have no qualms about asserting that your moral values are better than the minutemen's.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:05 pm
@Thomas,
My view of morality is appropriate for my cultural context (of which the Minutemen are a part). I would make any moral argument on this topic using assumptions that are common to modern American (and more generally Western) morality.

Of course, this is a political issue. Politics is quite a bit different than morality.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:10 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
My view of morality is appropriate for my cultural context (of which the Minutemen are a part).

How do you decide that? You belong to one subculture, the minutemen belong to another. You belong to one national culture, and someone in Zaire belongs to another. Chances are you won't be knowing either in persons. On what principle do you decide that your moral code applies to one group of strangers but not to another?
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:10 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:

Characteristics that practically all humans share across cultures. Practically all humans care about suffering, abhor rape, oppose killing, etc ....


There are few meaningful moral values that are shared across cultures. Very few human cultures oppose killing-- we just argue over whom it is OK to kill or which suffering we care about.

Western culture certainly allows for a good deal of killing, and tolerates a great amount of suffering (particularly outside of its borders). Western is willing to trade suffering in other parts of the world in order to keep its economic system working.






Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:18 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
Very few human cultures oppose killing-- we just argue over whom it is OK to kill or which suffering we care about.

I submit that you are skewing statistical reality here. Take two phone books. Randmly pick human A from one, human B from the other. Then ask human A if human B should be killed and vice versa. The answer will almost always be "no". And although A and B will disagree what the very few exceptions should be, they might disagree whether they belong to the same culture or to different ones.

Likewise for the other items on your list.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:19 pm
@Thomas,
There is no absolute truth that makes my system of morality objectively superior to the Minutemen's morality. I don't think there is a problem here.

There is an underlying shared culture (since we are all Americans) I can appeal to... but even if there weren't, the fact I accept that my moral values are subjective doesn't mean I can't be just as passionate in fighting for them.

In a political battle, where both sides are part of the same system and both sides feel they are rights-- I think it is useful for me to consider the feelings and arguments of my adversaries, but the fact that neither of us have any absolute moral truth behind us in the end is irrelevant.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:26 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown wrote:
There is an underlying shared culture (since we are all Americans) I can appeal to...

... a time-honored part of which is the lynching of people who don't look like you. If your contest in appealing to American traditions and culture is honest, they may very well win it.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:28 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
I submit that you are skewing statistical reality here.


I don't think so. Most societies accept war, many accept capital punishment. Some societies killed aboriginals, homosexuals or religious minorities. The culture that wrote "thou shalt not kill" allowed the killing of girls who had sex before marriage.

Different human cultures have wildly different systems of morality. There is no objective way to judge between them.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:30 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:

... a time-honored part of which is the lynching of people who don't look like you. If your contest in appealing to American traditions and culture is honest, they may very well win it.


This is a political battle. I am motivated by my system of morality (and perhaps they are motiviated by theirs). But our differing beliefs about morality are irrelevant as to who who will win the politics.

0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:36 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
I submit that you are skewing statistical reality here. Take two phone books. Randmly pick human A from one, human B from the other. Then ask human A if human B should be killed and vice versa. The answer will almost always be "no". And although A and B will disagree what the very few exceptions should be, they might disagree whether they belong to the same culture or to different ones.

By pre-selecting victims, you are the one skewing statistical reality.

Ask A and B who they are allowed to kill and you will get a very different answer. Most(all?) cultures recognize that self defense is a reasonable reason to kill. Killing enemies during wartime. Killing convicted murderers. These are categories of people it is OK to kill. (Generally; there are certainly cultural exceptions.)
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:36 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
I don't think so. Most societies accept war, many accept capital punishment. Some societies killed aboriginals, homosexuals or religious minorities. The culture that wrote "thou shalt not kill" allowed the killing of girls who had sex before marriage.

That's true in the abstract, but collapses as soon as you break it down the concrete question: "Does human A think that human B should be killed/tortured/abandoned in the ocean without food and water?" The answer will be "no" for almost all conceivable pairs of human beings. And the reason is that almost all human beings oppose killing, except if there is a very good reason to make an exception.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:39 pm
@DrewDad,
DrewDad wrote:
By pre-selecting victims, you are the one skewing statistical reality.

Who's pre-selecting? I'm the one who's treating everyone as a potential killer, and everyone as a potential killee. I'm the only one here who declines to pre-select, deliberately and explicitly. If there is no universal rule against killing, everyone should be fair game for everyone to kill whenever they like. But that's not how human beings act or think, wherever they live. The rule against killing is shared by all humans, even if it allows for a few exceptions, and even if people disagree about what the exceptions are.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:54 pm
@Thomas,
I concede this point; All societies have acceptable killing and unacceptable killing.

But, there are some societies where I would be on the acceptable to kill list (interracial marriage, sexually active before marriage, big mouth on political matters, rejection of religion). I bet everyone is acceptable to kill in some cultural context.

Tribalism is the evolutionary trait behind our unwillingness to kill some people. There is survival value, particularly in social animals such as us, to form groups of people similar to us. We have an instinctual empathy and desire to protect people in our tribe.

If you want to call this a form of primitive moral value, Ok (I am not going to argue over terminology). But other primates, Gorillas and Chimpanzees for example, have the same moral value.


dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:57 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
We have an instinctual empathy and desire to protect people in our tribe.
I doubt that.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 04:01 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
If you want to call this a form of primitive moral value, Ok (I am not going to argue over terminology). But other primates, Gorillas and Chimpanzees for example, have the same moral value.

Fine with me. I'm not a specieist. I'm perfectly comfortable attributing moral values to non-human animals.
0 Replies
 
Jebediah
 
  2  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2010 12:45 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Let me ask again the question that no one is answering. If morality does not come from a specific culture-- where does it come from?


We evolved moral instincts for a reason, and we share them with all normal people. They keep society functioning well. We all want to live and we all want wellbeing, and over the years we've developed principles and ideas and systems that give us just that. Saying that the America's system of constitutional rights and equality is better than Saudi Arabia's religious police is no different from saying that our medicine is better than faith healing. Medicine is supposed to heal people and can be objectively judged based on how well it does that.

ebrown p wrote:
Nothing in the Universe, outside of human society, cares about suffering...the only objections to these things are in the human mind.


I don't see why we'd be concerned about finding moral rules that apply to the whole universe. Anthropocentric principles are fine.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2010 09:17 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
To explain need not be to excuse, much less, justify. Some explanations can also serve as excuses, but they need not be, and if they are, they may serve only as part excuses (and, even sometimes, actually make what you did worse than it originally seemed to be).
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2010 10:31 am
@ebrown p,
Absolutely. To explain is not to excuse, and neither is to understand to excuse. In fact, excuses for what is done may may what is done even worse, and when I understand why you did what you did, I may very well think that you are a worse person than I thought you were before I understood why you did what you did.
0 Replies
 
 

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