ebrown p wrote:
I have no idea what the term "moral realist" means. I am arguing against moral absolutism-- a black or white, right or wrong view of morality where one view is right and all others are wrong. Is "realism" a euphemism for "absolutism"?
Probably we have been arguing past each other then! I'm very pleased if that's the case. The problem here is that relativism has a variety of forms. So, first:
1. Ethical sentences express propositions.
2. Some such propositions are true.
3. Those propositions are made true by objective features of the world, independent of subjective opinion.
Contrast with Moral Absolutism
Moral absolutism is the ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other contexts such as their consequences or the intentions behind them.
And Moral Universalism
Moral absolutism is not the same as moral universalism (also called moral objectivism). Universalism holds merely that what is right or wrong is independent of custom or opinion (as opposed to relativism), but not necessarily that what is right or wrong is independent of context or consequences (as in absolutism).
Now, the somewhat confusing thing is that Moral Relativism
has different forms.
, further still, is the prescriptive or normative position that as there is no universal moral standard by which to judge others, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards.
Which I'm pleased to notice you don't believe. Although some people do.
And this one:
, on the other hand, is the meta-ethical position that the truth or falsity of moral judgments, or their justification, is not objective or universal but instead relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of people.
Which as I said earlier, is true for some moral positions, but not others. Because people don't vary enough for all rules to be true or false relative to their positions, and because many rules are in the if->then justification format and traditions often are based on false information.
So basically, I would say that some rules are objectively factual, and that these are the most basic rules. The smaller rules can be relative at least temporarily. This is, I think, the common sense position that most people take.
Ebrown, I consider myself a liberal and in fact know many liberal people who are moral realists. It is not a conservative, prejudiced position. Very religious people tend to be morally absolutist* it's true, but a great many (certainly the majority) of liberals are moral realists, it tends to be the fringe who are far into relativist territory. I really do think it's something you can go too far with.
*Although I've noticed that some steadfast christians take a very relativist view of islamic practices, even the misogynist ones, because they feel that their own religious traditions are being threatened and they have decided to support all religious traditions.
I have strong opinions about the world want to live in, and stronger opinions about the society I want to live in. I have no problem arguing and working to move society according to what I think is best according to my own values.
This is certainly appropriate in a democratic society (such as the one we have in the US). This society belongs to the individuals that make it up. I have as much a say in the values and direction of society as anyone else-- and I have the right to use my voice.
I feel the same way in my citizenship of the world. I have a voice and in some cases I can help make the world more like the world in which I want to live. The key point is how we consider people with different view and different goals. Do we consider them equals... or do we consider people who disagree with us "barbarians".
I certainly consider my adversaries (be they Iranians, or Republicans) as human beings with the same right to a voice as I have. I also understand that they have the same sincerity that I have... and I even admit that my disagreements with them are based on values and beliefs that that are untestable. The fact that I don't truly consider anyone who disagrees with me as "barbarian" allows me some liberty to evolve in my own understanding, and to work together with adversaries when we have complementary goals.
I don't have to claim to have access to any absolute truth or morality... and I am suspicious of anyone who does-- be the tea party members, or anarchist rioters.
I do claim to have as much of a role, voice and desire to make the world more fair and humane as I understand fair and humane as anyone.
You don't have to have a absolute lock on "right" and "wrong" to work to make the world a better place on a global scale, or to make life better for the people around you.
I think that this really is the common sense "some moral facts are true, some are relative" approach that I have. But two things.
1) Some people are really really bad. Sentencing women to be stoned to death for adultery is barbaric. You can't not say that. The wrongness of that has to be acknowledged.
2) What do you mean by "I admit that my values and beliefs aren't testable"? They are based on observed facts and reasoning aren't they? You can't put people on a petri dish or a spectrometer, by they do scientific studies all the time that are based on observation and reasoning. Most of psychology.