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

 
 
north
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Jan, 2011 01:02 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:

cheloo03 wrote:

I believe that moral relativism is true, however, and because of that, it is in MY best interest to have a social system based on seemingly "objective" moral codes, where everyone is accountable. I have no problem being punished if I break the moral codes of the society...that doesn't mean it is right or wrong what I did, it just means that for society to be fair, we must leave aside some of our own instincts, OR take responsibility for it.


How do you determine whether something is actually right or wrong?



by whether Humanity survives in the end
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Jan, 2011 11:14 am
@north,
north wrote:

Finn dAbuzz wrote:
How do you determine whether something is actually right or wrong?

by whether Humanity survives in the end

That doesn't give much guidance for people who can't wait until "the end" to determine whether their actions are moral or immoral. Under that standard, how could I judge whether an action I plan to take in the future would be moral or immoral?
buffalobill90
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Feb, 2011 10:15 am
@joefromchicago,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
Actually, moral relativism cannot be reconciled with its own inherent contradictions, let alone with "social imperatives."



If you are referring to the contradictory nature of a system which prescribes anti-prescriptivism, I agree. But moral relativity is a putative fact, and it is difficult to account for it in a prescriptive moral system without arguing that either:

1. most or all people are incorrect in their moral beliefs;
2. many beliefs which are putatively morally evaluative are in fact morally indifferent;
3. or, moral truth is context-sensitive (which I would argue amounts to saying that moral description is moral prescription).

Are there other ways of accounting for the putative fact of moral relativity without being a moral skeptic?
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Feb, 2011 10:52 am
The "morality" of an action can be asserted by contextual feedback from those set members who operate in a given moral system. Either any X has a functional operative positive feedback or it does n´t, in which case it will be purged from the system (Law). Of course I am not negating that we can find many commonly shared property´s between different moral systems, which in turn does n´t make them all alike...the point being "moral" (software) systems operate like any other system, that is, by means of defending the cohesion and operational capability of their inner core of set rules until they encounter a greater opposite force (another system) able to de-construct and more efficiently replace the systemic algorithm who supports the membership of its units and the cohesion of the group...
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Feb, 2011 12:57 pm
@buffalobill90,
buffalobill90 wrote:
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
Actually, moral relativism cannot be reconciled with its own inherent contradictions, let alone with "social imperatives."

To be clear, I said that, not Finn. He only wishes he had said that.

buffalobill90 wrote:
If you are referring to the contradictory nature of a system which prescribes anti-prescriptivism, I agree. But moral relativity is a putative fact, and it is difficult to account for it in a prescriptive moral system without arguing that either:

1. most or all people are incorrect in their moral beliefs;

First of all, I don't agree that moral relativity is a putative fact. I'm not even sure what a "putative fact" is. Second, even if rejecting moral relativity means that many (I wouldn't say "most") people are incorrect in their moral beliefs, so what? That just means there are a lot of mistaken individuals out there. That's not much of a revelation.

buffalobill90 wrote:
2. many beliefs which are putatively morally evaluative are in fact morally indifferent;

Again, so what? I don't see that as a relevant objection to rejecting moral relativism.

buffalobill90 wrote:
3. or, moral truth is context-sensitive (which I would argue amounts to saying that moral description is moral prescription).

You'll have to explain that one. What do you mean by "moral truth?"
buffalobill90
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 04:10 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:
To be clear, I said that, not Finn. He only wishes he had said that.


Sorry, I'm still working out the kinks.

joefromchicago wrote:

First of all, I don't agree that moral relativity is a putative fact. I'm not even sure what a "putative fact" is.


By moral relativity I mean descriptive relativism: that what is considered to be a moral fact, for example whether it's acceptable for a parent to beat their children, is relative to location and time. If moral relativism (or contextualism, which is similar but I'll explain the difference below) is wrong, then moral facts do not vary; but all I'm saying is that moral norms and standards do. Moral anti-relativism has to account for this.

Moral contextualism is the idea that there are objective moral facts, but that they are context-sensitive. It takes statements like "it's acceptable for a parent to beat their children" as incomplete; you need to specify a context in which such behaviour is acceptable for the statement to be truth-apt. But context-specific moral statements are genuinely true or false in moral contextualism. Moral, or normative, relativism is the contradictory idea that we ought to be anti-prescriptive. (At least, these are the provisional definitions I am using).


joefromchicago wrote:
Second, even if rejecting moral relativity means that many (I wouldn't say "most") people are incorrect in their moral beliefs, so what? That just means there are a lot of mistaken individuals out there. That's not much of a revelation.


Well, it leaves us with the unfortunate task of deciding which, if any, moral theory is correct. This is a problem because it isn't a question which can be empirically investigated, or it doesn't seem to be. Empirical investigation yields moral relativity (in the descriptive sense), but no normative theory. So how do we work which moral theory is true?

joefromchicago wrote:

Again, so what? I don't see that as a relevant objection to rejecting moral relativism.


It just makes anti-relativism counter-intuitive. What I specifically mean is that, if most people are not incorrect in their moral beliefs, and moral truth is not context-sensitive, then only those beliefs which are universal are morally evaluative and there is no moral disagreement (I'm also assuming descriptive moral relativity here, and hypothetically assuming that there is a moral truth which is universal). In which case, a lot of things which we take to be genuine moral convictions are not actually morally evaluative. If an ethical vegetarian says, "it's morally wrong to eat meat", it turns out they are not making a moral statement. This is very counter-intuitive; moral disagreement is meant to be possible. Only possibilities 1 and 2 account for moral disagreement.

joefromchicago wrote:

You'll have to explain that one. What do you mean by "moral truth?"


Well, I mean the conditions against which moral statements are measured to determine their truth-value. So it's a somewhat logical definition of truth (I'm not great at logic, so correct me if I stray from the conventional terminology). I explained contextualism briefly above, so to formulate a bit more logically: it says that moral truth varies between different contexts, so that the truth of a moral statement depends on where and when it's truth-value is measured (perhaps this is determined by where and when it is uttered). This is not to deny that morals are objective; no more than one must deny non-moral truth to be objective just because the truth of non-moral beliefs depends on the domain of discourse their truth-value is measured in.

So perhaps saying "witch-burning was acceptable in medieval Europe" is a true statement, in the same way that "the soil is red on Mars" is true; but the statement "which-burning is acceptable" is not true (if it is read as a universal statement), just as "soil is red" is not universally true, because there exist some communities for which it is not acceptable to burn witches. This is still counter-intuitive, because most people take their moral statements to be universally true, but I think it's the most plausible choice.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 09:59 am
@buffalobill90,
buffalobill90 wrote:
By moral relativity I mean descriptive relativism: that what is considered to be a moral fact, for example whether it's acceptable for a parent to beat their children, is relative to location and time.

If you're saying that different people at different times act according to different standards of morality, then that's unquestionably true. It's also nothing that we haven't known for thousands of years, but I suppose people still have to re-invent the wheel every so often.

buffalobill90 wrote:
If moral relativism (or contextualism, which is similar but I'll explain the difference below) is wrong, then moral facts do not vary; but all I'm saying is that moral norms and standards do. Moral anti-relativism has to account for this.

I agree.

buffalobill90 wrote:
Well, it leaves us with the unfortunate task of deciding which, if any, moral theory is correct.

We're always left with that task.

buffalobill90 wrote:
This is a problem because it isn't a question which can be empirically investigated, or it doesn't seem to be. Empirical investigation yields moral relativity (in the descriptive sense), but no normative theory. So how do we work which moral theory is true?

Through reason.

buffalobill90 wrote:
It just makes anti-relativism counter-intuitive. What I specifically mean is that, if most people are not incorrect in their moral beliefs, and moral truth is not context-sensitive, then only those beliefs which are universal are morally evaluative and there is no moral disagreement (I'm also assuming descriptive moral relativity here, and hypothetically assuming that there is a moral truth which is universal).

How do you figure? If there are only universal moral truths, why would that preclude disagreement? Or does the existence of universal moral truths also preclude error?

buffalobill90 wrote:
In which case, a lot of things which we take to be genuine moral convictions are not actually morally evaluative. If an ethical vegetarian says, "it's morally wrong to eat meat", it turns out they are not making a moral statement.

Of course they are. How is that not a moral statement?

buffalobill90 wrote:
This is very counter-intuitive; moral disagreement is meant to be possible. Only possibilities 1 and 2 account for moral disagreement.

Is it possible to disagree about a mathematical proposition?

buffalobill90 wrote:
So perhaps saying "witch-burning was acceptable in medieval Europe" is a true statement, in the same way that "the soil is red on Mars" is true; but the statement "which-burning is acceptable" is not true (if it is read as a universal statement), just as "soil is red" is not universally true, because there exist some communities for which it is not acceptable to burn witches. This is still counter-intuitive, because most people take their moral statements to be universally true, but I think it's the most plausible choice.

Absolute morality may, indeed, be counter-intuitive. But then that says nothing about whether it's correct. And if, as you contend, most people take their moral statements to be universally true, then it is just as counter-intuitive to posit that morality is relative. I don't see how the issue of intuitiveness weighs against absolute morality.
buffalobill90
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 11:35 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

If you're saying that different people at different times act according to different standards of morality, then that's unquestionably true. It's also nothing that we haven't known for thousands of years, but I suppose people still have to re-invent the wheel every so often.


Good, I didn't expect to have to argue for that point. That's what I meant when I called it a putative fact.

joefromchicago wrote:

buffalobill90 wrote:
Well, it leaves us with the unfortunate task of deciding which, if any, moral theory is correct.

We're always left with that task.


Sorry, I wasn't specific enough here. I meant existing moral theories.

joefromchicago wrote:

buffalobill90 wrote:
This is a problem because it isn't a question which can be empirically investigated, or it doesn't seem to be. Empirical investigation yields moral relativity (in the descriptive sense), but no normative theory. So how do we work which moral theory is true?

Through reason.


Reason is nothing without facts; I am skeptical about whether any fact is supportable via pure reason. Perhaps you aren't, and are a Kantian, or something similar. In any case, I'd be interested in hearing a support for a purely rational moral theory which makes no use of empirical fact (or non-moral theory, for that matter).

joefromchicago wrote:

How do you figure? If there are only universal moral truths, why would that preclude disagreement? Or does the existence of universal moral truths also preclude error?


If you read what you quoted again, you'll see this is on the assumption that most people are not incorrect in their moral beliefs.

Most people disagree about moral facts; so assuming that there is a universal moral truth, which is not context-sensitive, then it is not something which people disagree about, assuming that most people are not incorrect in their moral beliefs. This is option 2 among the three options I set out earlier for anti-relativists to account for moral relativity. It assumes that people do not, and cannot, disagree on moral matters. I think this is implausible, and I'm sure you agree.

joefromchicago wrote:

buffalobill90 wrote:
In which case, a lot of things which we take to be genuine moral convictions are not actually morally evaluative. If an ethical vegetarian says, "it's morally wrong to eat meat", it turns out they are not making a moral statement.

Of course they are. How is that not a moral statement?


It is not, assuming option 2, and assuming that some people disagree with it (they in fact do). At least, it's not a statement of moral fact. So it seems option 2 is implausible without some serious reinterpretation of the semantics of moral statements (non-cognitivism might be something of a way out here).

joefromchicago wrote:

buffalobill90 wrote:
This is very counter-intuitive; moral disagreement is meant to be possible. Only possibilities 1 and 2 account for moral disagreement.

Is it possible to disagree about a mathematical proposition?


Superficially, yes. But this kind of disagreement is supposed to arise because of ignorance or irrationality. It seems option 1 assumes that moral truths are like mathematical truths in this respect: to disagree with them implies ignorance or irrationality. If you make an incorrect moral statement, it's because you are either ignorant of the facts or simply being irrational, according to option 1.

joefromchicago wrote:

Absolute morality may, indeed, be counter-intuitive. But then that says nothing about whether it's correct. And if, as you contend, most people take their moral statements to be universally true, then it is just as counter-intuitive to posit that morality is relative. I don't see how the issue of intuitiveness weighs against absolute morality.


I'm just setting out the alternative theses which you are committed to if you reject moral relativism but want to retain moral realism of some kind; they are mutually incompatible but if moral realism is true, one of them is. Personally, I'm an error theorist; I agree that option 3 is counter-intuitive, but I think this is because most people incorrectly understand their moral beliefs as universally true. In fact, their moral statements are almost always false if they are read as universal statements, but not if they are read as context-sensitive statements. But I'm not sure that I'm a realist, so I'd have to think about it more before expressing what it is about 3 I find agreeable.

This is my problem with realism: moral truth seems to be socially constructed, which is why it varies, just like non-moral cultural differences. I find this a neater understanding of morality than moral realism, descriptively. As a description, moral realism is unhelpful because it provides no satisfying explanation of the universality of the moral justification procedure (I will explain and support this below), unless it says that everyone in all cultures, up to this point, has been attempting to morally justifying their conduct in the wrong way; and perhaps Kantian ethics can help us here by providing a fundamentally different way of justifying conduct morally. But Kantian ethics are controversial.

By "the moral justification procedure", I mean the way that a person justifies their actions, morally, to other people, upon demand. I act in a certain way, someone asks me to justify it morally, so I justify it morally. In all cultures, it seems to be that actions are so-justified by appeal to common moral beliefs. To morally justify my action upon demand, I appeal to a moral belief which the person who makes the demand has, a belief which allows or prescribes my action. It works this way in all cultures, so it seems that the moral justification procedure is universal (even if moral beliefs themselves are not).

This justification procedure is familiar, because it is the same used to justify non-moral beliefs. It's what I'm doing now to argue with you; you have demanded justification for my assumptions, so I am trying to justify them by appeal to assumptions which you have. As I see it, moral justification happens in more or less the same way. Challenge this if you wish, I'd welcome a critique.

If a moral realist accepts that the moral justification procedure I have set out is a valid way of justifying beliefs, then they must accept that some particular set of beliefs are true and so a particular set of actions are justified. But if this could be determined objectively and empirically, then there would be widespread agreement on moral issues, or at least their would be a 'moral' scientific community with a scientific moral consensus. There is not, so either the truth of moral beliefs is determined objectively but non-empirically (Kantianism, for example) or the truth of moral beliefs is determined subjectively and empirically (my view, constructivism).

To explain the above, objective empirical truth is determined by appeal to truths which are independent of subjectivity (they are not truths about people's minds) and which can be ascertained through observation. Objective non-empirical truth is determined by appeal to truths which are independent of subjectivity, but which can be ascertained by reason alone. Subjective empirical truth is determined by appeal to truths which are dependent on subjectivity, and which are ascertained by observation.
buffalobill90
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 11:53 am
@buffalobill90,
buffalobill90 wrote:

To explain the above, objective empirical truth is determined by appeal to truths which are independent of subjectivity (they are not truths about people's minds) and which can be ascertained through observation. Objective non-empirical truth is determined by appeal to truths which are independent of subjectivity, but which can be ascertained by reason alone. Subjective empirical truth is determined by appeal to truths which are dependent on subjectivity, and which are ascertained by observation.


In the paragraph immediately above where I say, in each case, 'x truth is determined by appeal to truths which are y and which can be ascertained by z', it would be better understood if, in each case, it is read 'the truth of an x statement is dependent on truths which are y and is verified by z'. So my view takes moral statements as subjective empirical statements.

Sorry for this lack of clarity.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Feb, 2011 01:48 pm
@buffalobill90,
buffalobill90 wrote:
Reason is nothing without facts; I am skeptical about whether any fact is supportable via pure reason. Perhaps you aren't, and are a Kantian, or something similar. In any case, I'd be interested in hearing a support for a purely rational moral theory which makes no use of empirical fact (or non-moral theory, for that matter).

I doubt that there are any. Even Kant didn't operate in a realm of pure speculation. But that doesn't mean that the only alternative to a purely rational moral theory is a purely empirical moral theory.

buffalobill90 wrote:
If you read what you quoted again, you'll see this is on the assumption that most people are not incorrect in their moral beliefs.

I have no idea why you would make that assumption.

buffalobill90 wrote:
It is not, assuming option 2, and assuming that some people disagree with it (they in fact do). At least, it's not a statement of moral fact. So it seems option 2 is implausible without some serious reinterpretation of the semantics of moral statements (non-cognitivism might be something of a way out here).

You're obviously taking your "options" far more seriously than I am. I can't see why your option 2 isn't simply subsumed under your option 1.

buffalobill90 wrote:
Superficially, yes. But this kind of disagreement is supposed to arise because of ignorance or irrationality. It seems option 1 assumes that moral truths are like mathematical truths in this respect: to disagree with them implies ignorance or irrationality. If you make an incorrect moral statement, it's because you are either ignorant of the facts or simply being irrational, according to option 1.

I'll agree with that.

buffalobill90 wrote:
I'm just setting out the alternative theses which you are committed to if you reject moral relativism but want to retain moral realism of some kind; they are mutually incompatible but if moral realism is true, one of them is.

Well, I'm not convinced. For my own part, however, I believe that, if such a thing as morality exists, then it must be an absolute morality. Moral relativism is inherently contradictory.

buffalobill90 wrote:
This is my problem with realism: moral truth seems to be socially constructed, which is why it varies, just like non-moral cultural differences.

I'm not sure why you think that. Moral realism simply means that, when someone makes a moral claim, that claim purports to be a statement of fact. Certainly such claims can look like they're socially constructed, but that doesn't affect whether the claim is accurate or not. A jungle native's claim that a camera captures people's souls is a socially constructed claim. That doesn't mean it's true.

buffalobill90 wrote:
As a description, moral realism is unhelpful because it provides no satisfying explanation of the universality of the moral justification procedure (I will explain and support this below), unless it says that everyone in all cultures, up to this point, has been attempting to morally justifying their conduct in the wrong way; and perhaps Kantian ethics can help us here by providing a fundamentally different way of justifying conduct morally.

Why does it matter whether people have been attempting to justify their moral choices in the right way or the wrong way? That's not an issue of morality, that's an issue of logic or rhetoric. Or are you suggesting that the manner in which people justify their moral choices is, itself, a moral choice?

buffalobill90 wrote:
If a moral realist accepts that the moral justification procedure I have set out is a valid way of justifying beliefs, then they must accept that some particular set of beliefs are true and so a particular set of actions are justified. But if this could be determined objectively and empirically, then there would be widespread agreement on moral issues, or at least their would be a 'moral' scientific community with a scientific moral consensus.

That doesn't follow -- not by a long shot. Just because people use the same procedure to justify their moral choices doesn't somehow imply that there should be widespread agreement on moral issues.
buffalobill90
 
  2  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 03:22 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

You're obviously taking your "options" far more seriously than I am. I can't see why your option 2 isn't simply subsumed under your option 1.


Because option 1 assumes that there is a moral truth which is not self-evident. 2 assumes moral truth is self-evident, such that there is no moral disagreement. This is an epistemological distinction.

joefromchicago wrote:

buffalobill90 wrote:
I'm just setting out the alternative theses which you are committed to if you reject moral relativism but want to retain moral realism of some kind; they are mutually incompatible but if moral realism is true, one of them is.

Well, I'm not convinced. For my own part, however, I believe that, if such a thing as morality exists, then it must be an absolute morality. Moral relativism is inherently contradictory.


If, by absolute, you mean universal, then you are committed to either option 1 or option 2. Unless you can think of another position. But option 3 allows for a moral realist approach which is not absolute; by rejecting anti-prescriptivism (which I agree is contradictory) you are not committed to moral absolutism. Moral contextualism is also a theory of moral relativity, it only says that the truth of moral statements is context-sensitive. It still allows for moral prescription which can be true or false, so it is broadly realist, but it does not allow for absolute moral prescriptions.

joefromchicago wrote:

buffalobill90 wrote:
This is my problem with realism: moral truth seems to be socially constructed, which is why it varies, just like non-moral cultural differences.

I'm not sure why you think that. Moral realism simply means that, when someone makes a moral claim, that claim purports to be a statement of fact.


According to the literature, moral realism means that when someone makes a moral claim, that claim can be true or false. It is hence a form of cognitivism; moral statements are statements of belief or judgement which are truth-apt. But there can be anti-realist cognitivism, namely error theory, which says that moral claims are truth-apt but necessarily false.

joefromchicago wrote:

buffalobill90 wrote:
As a description, moral realism is unhelpful because it provides no satisfying explanation of the universality of the moral justification procedure (I will explain and support this below), unless it says that everyone in all cultures, up to this point, has been attempting to morally justifying their conduct in the wrong way; and perhaps Kantian ethics can help us here by providing a fundamentally different way of justifying conduct morally.

Why does it matter whether people have been attempting to justify their moral choices in the right way or the wrong way? That's not an issue of morality, that's an issue of logic or rhetoric. Or are you suggesting that the manner in which people justify their moral choices is, itself, a moral choice?


It matters for the moral realist because of what I've written below.

joefromchicago wrote:

buffalobill90 wrote:
If a moral realist accepts that the moral justification procedure I have set out is a valid way of justifying beliefs, then they must accept that some particular set of beliefs are true and so a particular set of actions are justified. But if this could be determined objectively and empirically, then there would be widespread agreement on moral issues, or at least their would be a 'moral' scientific community with a scientific moral consensus.

That doesn't follow -- not by a long shot. Just because people use the same procedure to justify their moral choices doesn't somehow imply that there should be widespread agreement on moral issues.


My point is that the scientific community uses the same method of justification for supporting scientific theories as we use for justifying moral claims. But their theories are supported by objective empirical evidence. This means that all they need to do to justify their beliefs is to show that they are consistent with what is objectively and empirically evident to those who challenge them. And because for many scientific fields the same objective facts are evident to most researchers, there is theoretical consensus in these fields.

If moral facts were objective and empirical there would be a similar consensus among ethical researchers, who could simply appeal to observable evidence in the physical world to support their theories. Instead, moral consensus is found only regionally, in the same way that language customs vary. This encourages me to think that moral facts are just facts about your moral community's beliefs, so they are subjective. For example, the moral fact 'eating pork is immoral' is true of the Islamic moral community but not the Catholic community. Analogously, the linguistic fact 'the letter u always has to follow the letter q' is true of the English-speaking linguistic community, but not the Mandarin-speaking community.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 25 Feb, 2011 09:50 am
@buffalobill90,
buffalobill90 wrote:
Because option 1 assumes that there is a moral truth which is not self-evident.

I can't see how you make that leap.

buffalobill90 wrote:
2 assumes moral truth is self-evident, such that there is no moral disagreement.

You're assuming too much.

buffalobill90 wrote:
If, by absolute, you mean universal, then you are committed to either option 1 or option 2.

On the contrary, I'm not committed to either because you haven't made your case for either.

buffalobill90 wrote:
But option 3 allows for a moral realist approach which is not absolute; by rejecting anti-prescriptivism (which I agree is contradictory) you are not committed to moral absolutism. Moral contextualism is also a theory of moral relativity, it only says that the truth of moral statements is context-sensitive. It still allows for moral prescription which can be true or false, so it is broadly realist, but it does not allow for absolute moral prescriptions.

How does that position avoid relativism?

buffalobill90 wrote:
According to the literature, moral realism means that when someone makes a moral claim, that claim can be true or false. It is hence a form of cognitivism; moral statements are statements of belief or judgement which are truth-apt. But there can be anti-realist cognitivism, namely error theory, which says that moral claims are truth-apt but necessarily false.

If error theory posits that all moral claims are false, then it necessarily follows that, for the error theorist, there is no such thing as morality. Wouldn't you agree?

buffalobill90 wrote:
It matters for the moral realist because of what I've written below.

No, it doesn't follow at all. You wrote: "moral realism is unhelpful because it provides no satisfying explanation of the universality of the moral justification procedure." That's not a question of morality, so I'm not sure how it can affect the validity of a moral theory. Furthermore, you haven't explained why an explanation is even necessary.

buffalobill90 wrote:
My point is that the scientific community uses the same method of justification for supporting scientific theories as we use for justifying moral claims.

Says who?

buffalobill90 wrote:
If moral facts were objective and empirical there would be a similar consensus among ethical researchers, who could simply appeal to observable evidence in the physical world to support their theories.

If.

buffalobill90 wrote:
Instead, moral consensus is found only regionally, in the same way that language customs vary. This encourages me to think that moral facts are just facts about your moral community's beliefs, so they are subjective. For example, the moral fact 'eating pork is immoral' is true of the Islamic moral community but not the Catholic community.

As I see it, your argument boils down to this: realism can't be justified by the same standards as relativism (or "contextualism" -- I fail to discern the difference), so relativism must be correct. That's just begging the question.
0 Replies
 
Istancow
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Nov, 2011 07:19 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
To understand Moral Relativism (as with any other form of relativism), you must first understand Solipsism. The only defined truths I have are "I think, therefore I am," and "My perspective is informed by physical sensations perceived through my senses."

So far, these are the only truths philosophy has produced. A definition of existence, and a definition of physical perspective. Anything else is based on assumption, though it may easily be true.

The first assumption I would like to make from this, is "I have the ability of personal choice." There are many other possibilities, but this is the one I like, so this is the one I am going to call correct.

And here's my definition of "free-will".

Free will is the ability to make personal choices without outside influence.
Outside influence includes the following: you, your friend Joe, my physical limitations, my inevitable and constantly imminent death, my physical composition, my physical existence, the physical existence of anything else that physically exists, and my physical perceptions.

I'm going to go ahead and say it. I am not truly a moral relativist. I have one ideal, which I have just defined. Everything I do or think revolves around the singular value of free will.
There are some problems with my definition of free will, the first being that it is impossible to obtain, the second being that it requires omnipotence, and the third being that, in order to have free-will, one must first cease to exist.
But my mind is already devoted to the pursuit of (my own) free-will as my singular absolute value, and no argument, no matter how logical, can refute that.

(this is why religion exists today, this is why morals exist today, this is why people act upon their morals, and this is why people act at all)

But, having cleared up that I am a closed minded absolutist devoted to the pursuit of free-will, (and happiness, however I choose to define it at any given moment) I cannot deny that moral relativism has already accounted for my perspective, and made the only possible logical inference in relation to that perspective: that my perspective is held by me, but is not necessarily universally applicable.

And this is why I believe that moral absolutism is correct; I've accepted that my perspective might not be universally applicable; I have not ceased to believe in my one moral, but I have not attempted to enforce that moral on my reality.

For this reason, if you are unsure that your moral is true for everyone in the world, or if you do not know if you are right or wrong, you are, by default, a moral relativist.

But how do we account for the people who say that they are moral relativists, but cannot defend their perspective?

Simple. They do not entirely believe in the concept of moral relativism. Many of these "faux" Moral Relativists value tolerance, and are, by definition, in possession of morals. Those who argue moral relativism are trying to influence others into an altered perspective, something that defies their own definitions of moral relativity.

But (and this is my problem with most arguments against moral relativism) we cannot simply refute the concept as an unarguable, and thus self-defeating concept. We have to redefine the concept.

Moral relativity is not a perspective. It is not a value that can be applied, it is not a theory, it answers no questions, it refutes nothing.
It's simply the lack of an answer, truth, or absolute. Moral relativity is the gaping void of "I don't know".

It's paradoxical because it cannot be accepted without refuting itself, but that doesn't rob it of significance to me.

Because in the end, I really don't know what's right or wrong, and (so far) I have not chosen to try to enforce or apply my perspective on my surroundings in any particularly drastic manner, and so continue on drifting through my perceived reality with my lack of decision making principles aside from heavily informed and influenced personal choice.

Conclusion: I have no argument for moral relativism, and no argument against moral relativism. I have refuted arguments against moral relativism by asserting my own perspective as correct. In short, I have accomplished nothing (philosophy never has other than the two truths stated at the beginning), and drawn no conclusion.

But I might have influenced some perspectives, and that's why I bothered to post this.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Nov, 2011 08:52 am
@Istancow,
Istancow wrote:

To understand Moral Relativism (as with any other form of relativism), you must first understand Solipsism. The only defined truths I have are "I think, therefore I am," and "My perspective is informed by physical sensations perceived through my senses."

Well, a solipsist would say: "I am, therefore everything is."

Istancow wrote:
Conclusion: I have no argument for moral relativism, and no argument against moral relativism. I have refuted arguments against moral relativism by asserting my own perspective as correct. In short, I have accomplished nothing (philosophy never has other than the two truths stated at the beginning), and drawn no conclusion.

Then why bother?

Istancow wrote:
But I might have influenced some perspectives, and that's why I bothered to post this.

Oh.
Istancow
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Nov, 2011 09:28 am
@joefromchicago,
Perhaps I wasn't specific enough when I said Solipsism. I mean basic Solipsism, true Solipsism, Socratic Solipsism, which is the basis for all the assumptions that have led to immersed schools of thought, such as Moral Absolutism, Moral Relativism, and (this come as a shocker to some) Science. I think you misunderstood me as referring to Metaphysical Solipsism.
But if I were referring to Metaphysical Solipsism, then that too starts as "I think therefore I am." External reality's lack of independent existence is an assumption that can only be made if the Metaphysical Solipsist first acknowledges the fundamental principles of basic Solipsism. Aside from Metaphysical Solipsism, there are an infinite number of possible explanations for reality, none of which are any more or less probable than Metaphysical Solipsism.

In short, basic Solipsism is the only ascertainable truth; beyond basic Solipsism, all conclusions are based on assumption.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Nov, 2011 09:29 am
@Istancow,
Maybe so, but do you have anything worthwhile to say about moral relativism?
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Nov, 2011 09:31 am
It seems obvious to me that cultural relativism is a fact of life (no cultural conditioning=no culturally constituted behavior), and moral relativism is simply an expression of this fact.
Epistemic relativism is not so obvious, but I think it is also the case.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Nov, 2011 09:52 am
@joefromchicago,
North answered Finn dAbuzz' question,"How do you determine whether something is actually right or wrong?" with the utilitarian, "By whether Humanity survives in the end [as a result]." That's a very complex response: The "cause" of Humanity's survival is virtually impossible to determine; our ultimate survival must be overdetermined (actually by everything that does not destroy Humanity). And certainly we cannot determine--as Joe suggests--anything in the final analysis.
Moreover, as Nietzsche argued--I guess in one of his non-pragmatist moods--a falsehood may have survival value and a truth may be destructive. I can see the former in the case of the eufunctionality of myths. They can serve various societal functions yet have little or no truth value, by any standard I can imagine.
0 Replies
 
Istancow
 
  1  
Reply Thu 3 Nov, 2011 12:03 pm
@joefromchicago,
Only that it is not, as so many people say, self-refuting.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 3 Nov, 2011 01:13 pm
@Istancow,
I disagree.
0 Replies
 
 

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