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

 
 
hue-man
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 04:46 pm
I agree that moral relativism isn't always good on a prescriptive level, but it is nevertheless true on a descriptive level.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 10:14 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

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).


Of course not, but the application of post-modernist thought in the US is centered on excusing not explaining.

0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 10:16 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man wrote:

I agree that moral relativism isn't always good on a prescriptive level, but it is nevertheless true on a descriptive level.


That may or may not be true.

Not sure how you can prove it outside a framework of human thought.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2010 08:02 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Quote:
There must be hard and fast rules.



I agree that moral relativism is illusory, and that there are real ethical standards. On the other hand, if you insist that there are standards that are right for others, then you end up with something very much like the reilgious right, who seem overly concerned with how other people behave. Your statement about 'hard and fast rules' reminds me of that. America is a very fearful society at this time: scared of each other, scared of the world, and scared of the rate of change. I think this fear is driving a lot of the conservatism we are seeing. We desperately want to return to the good 'ol days when right was right, God was in his heaven, and John Wayne was sherriff.

I think the only resolution to the dilemma is that the individual needs to recognise ethical standards voluntarily, rather than having them imposed. A person needs to be intelligent enough to understand what is right and follow it, without having it imposed upon them. So I agree with your post in that sense: citizens must be recognised as responsible for their own actions. Only a small percentage of people may actually be able to voluntarily seek and practise that, but hopefully their influence will be disproportionate to their numbers. So, presumably, education should be aimed at instilling this sense of moral autonomy in individuals. I don't know if I see much of that in the cultural war between 'religious' and 'secular' views.

Incidentally, as regards the way in which quantum theory undermines the idea of absolute objectivity, I hope you don't regard this as a liberal conspiracy to destroy the American Way. Because it is a fact that QM does undermine the idea of absolute objectivity and naive realism. This does represent a crisis in Western philosophy, no question about that, and I don't think there is enough discussion of it, or awareness of what it means. My hope is that resolution of these very difficult issues will actually bring about a radically new understanding of the world and will have positive consequences, but that is far from certain at this time. The planet is in a pretty dire situation at this point.

failures art
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Jul, 2010 09:43 pm
Morals require a social interaction. If a man was alone on a barren planet devoid of life, how could he act in a way which was at all immoral? How could a moral dilemma even arise?

As our social interactions change, our moral boundaries are redefined. As our social structure is a part of our biology, some sort of morality was inevitable to form. What we have in terms of morality for the most part is what works in my opinion. The remainder is up for grabs.

Just thinkin'

A
R
T
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 09:08 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:
Incidentally, as regards the way in which quantum theory undermines the idea of absolute objectivity, I hope you don't regard this as a liberal conspiracy to destroy the American Way. Because it is a fact that QM does undermine the idea of absolute objectivity and naive realism.

How?
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 09:31 am
@joefromchicago,
Smile
Standing by !
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 11:22 am
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
There can be competing views of morality, based on the society they are a part of, each of which is perfectly internally consistent. There is no contradiction here unless there is an individual trying to live in both societies.

Many societies (including the one that followed laws written by God himself on stone tablets) thought polygamy, with child brides, was a perfectly good thing. Most of us now find this practice immoral.

This observation doesn't support your case for moral relativism. It only appears to do so becaue you're starting from a questionable---and in my opinion, wrong---assumption. You're assuming that morality is a set of rules---in other words, you are what philosphers call a deontologist. Then you observe that different societies follow different sets of ethical rules, and conlude that morality is relative. But that's not a compelling conclusion about ethics, just an artifact of your deontologism. If instead, you started by stating that morality is about optimizing something, recognize that the optimization happens under different constraints in different societies, and allow for very different rules of conduct---all while remaining a moral absolutist.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 01:27 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas, the question then is: What are you optimizing?

Your system of morality optimizes the lack of suffering. This is a perfectly reasonable axiom... but it an axiom none-the-less. You provide no reason why minimizing suffering is more important then any other objective.

There are plenty of other goals that people have proposed. People have proposed Order as a primary goal (i.e. causing suffering is acceptable if it creates order). People have proposed efficiency, or national glory. The problem is the same... these are axioms. Once you select your core axioms, you can make judgements-- but different axioms will lead to different conclusions and there is no objective way to judge between one set of axioms and another.

You are incorrect about the Deontology-- my arguments are that any system of moral, whether they are Deontologism, or Consequentism or any other type of ethical arguments is necessarily based on a set of culturally-specific, unproven axioms.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 01:45 pm
Quote:

Your system of morality optimizes the lack of suffering. This is a perfectly reasonable axiom... but it an axiom none-the-less. You provide no reason why minimizing suffering is more important then any other objective.


That's irrelevant.

If I say that a good vaccine is one that prevents disease, you don't ask me to provide a reason for disease prevention being more important than pitching a no-hitter, and claim that it's relative to someones culture whether a good vaccine is one that prevents disease or gives someone the ability to pitch a no hitter. "Vaccine" has a definition, and so does morality. Thus there are objective moral facts.

The fact that there is widespread disagreement is no refutation of this. Some paleontologists think the T-Rex was a hunter, some think he was a scavenger, that doesn't mean that whether he is a hunter or a scavenger is relative to which paleontologist you believe.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 02:08 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
Thomas, the question then is: What are you optimizing?

Sure.

ebrown p wrote:
Your system of morality optimizes the lack of suffering. This is a perfectly reasonable axiom... but it an axiom none-the-less. You provide no reason why minimizing suffering is more important then any other objective.

Because, empirically, it's what people generally want to minimize. Once you state morality as a maximization problem, there is much less disagreement between societies about the proper maximand, and hence a much-reduced role for moral relativism. You can take it even farther: when you start with no theory at all---just with spceific scenarios, specific choices, and a poll which is the best choice in which scenario---international differences between the outcomes chosen all but vanish. (The best-known research into this is Marc Hauser and his international polls about runaway-train dilemmas.)

My point is, most of your moral relativism is an artifact of your conceiving morality in the way most likely to exhibit cultural differences.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 02:21 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
Because, empirically, it's what people generally want to minimize.


I am very skeptical about this argument. The first problem is that using what people want as a basis of morality is just another axiom. Why is what people want more important then order, or honor, or national glory?

But let me challenge the specific idea that people universally want to eliminate suffering.

It is clear that people want to lessen their own suffering (although many people have willingly suffered for such things as national glory), and it is clear that people want to alleviate suffering in their own kind. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint-- it helps us pass on our genes when we defend or care for people in our "tribe".

It is also clear that people are quite willing to cause suffering in people outside of our tribe. Humans have often been quite willing to morally justify (and inflict) incredible cruelty on other humans... once these humans have been defined as "others".

Again, I am not advocating cruelty or any specific moral system.... I am just pointing out that the problem with basing a moral system on what people want.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 03:00 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah wrote:

Quote:

Your system of morality optimizes the lack of suffering. This is a perfectly reasonable axiom... but it an axiom none-the-less. You provide no reason why minimizing suffering is more important then any other objective.


That's irrelevant.

Actually, it is relevant. I think what ebrown p is trying to do here is raise the "open question" or "naturalistic fallacy" argument. That's a valid point. His main argument is that every system of morality is based on one or more unprovable axioms. He may very well be right. He concludes, however, that, because all moral systems are based on at least one unprovable axiom, there can be no such thing as objective morality. In that he is quite mistaken.
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 03:07 pm
@joefromchicago,
Quote:
He concludes, however, that, because all moral systems are based on at least one unprovable axiom, there can be no such thing as objective morality


... or maybe it means that every system of morality is an objective morality.

((now there is an interesting proposition))

joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 03:13 pm
@ebrown p,
Every system of morality must be objective.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 03:24 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

Jebediah wrote:

Quote:

Your system of morality optimizes the lack of suffering. This is a perfectly reasonable axiom... but it an axiom none-the-less. You provide no reason why minimizing suffering is more important then any other objective.


That's irrelevant.

Actually, it is relevant. I think what ebrown p is trying to do here is raise the "open question" or "naturalistic fallacy" argument. That's a valid point. His main argument is that every system of morality is based on one or more unprovable axioms.


That is only relevant to Universal Morality, which is itself irrelevant in the general sense. I think he is taking the fact that there's a lot of wiggle room as far as some things go (people's nature is affected by their culture in many ways) and rashly overgeneralizing.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 03:25 pm
@joefromchicago,
Does this mean that every system of morality is valid?

The idea that there can be more then one objective system of morality doesn't fit with my definition of "objective".
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 03:45 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Does this mean that every system of morality is valid?

Certainly not. What on earth gave you that idea?
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 03:49 pm
@joefromchicago,
Quote:
Re: jeeprs (Post 4275129)
jeeprs wrote:
Incidentally, as regards the way in which quantum theory undermines the idea of absolute objectivity, I hope you don't regard this as a liberal conspiracy to destroy the American Way. Because it is a fact that QM does undermine the idea of absolute objectivity and naive realism.

How?


There are no short answers to that question. If you're prepared to read up on it there are some good books. Quauntum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, Kutner & Rosenblaum, would be a good place to start.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Fri 9 Jul, 2010 03:57 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Does this mean that every system of morality is valid?

The idea that there can be more then one objective system of morality doesn't fit with my definition of "objective".



You are saying, I guess, that for a moral statement to be true it must be true in the same way that the sentence "the sun is larger than the earth" is true? That's a particularly useless definition of objective when it comes to morality, and is at odds with how we use the word. Moral statements can be true in the same way that the statement "Some things are blue" is true. It requires human consciousness to function as it does, but, given human consciousness, it is objectively true. Objective when it comes to morality just means that it is free of personal bias and based on observed phenomena.
 

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