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Moral relativism

 
 
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 04:36 pm
If this has already been posted I'll delete but I thought it might be fun.



Moral Relativism - What's It All About?
Moral Relativism is the theory that morality, or standards of right and wrong, are culturally based and therefore become a matter of individual choice. You decide what's right for you, and I'll decide what's right for me. Moral relativism says, "It's true for me, if I believe it."

Moral Relativism - Is It Really Neutral?
Moral Relativism has gradually become the prevailing moral philosophy of western society, a culture once governed largely by the Judeo-Christian concept of morality. While those early standards continue to form the basis for civil law, people by and large are embracing the notion that right and wrong are not absolute values, but are to be decided by the individual and can change from one situation or circumstance to the next. Essentially, moral relativism says that anything goes, because life is ultimately without meaning. Words like "ought" and "should" are rendered meaningless. In this way, moral relativism claims to be morally neutral.

In describing her view on morality, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America once stated, "…teaching morality doesn't mean imposing my moral values on others. It means sharing wisdom, giving reasons for believing as I do - and then trusting others to think and judge for themselves." She claims to be morally neutral, yet her message is clearly intended to influence the thinking of others… an intention that is not, in fact, neutral.

Evidence that moral relativism is seen as more "fair" or "neutral" than a "hardline" stance on morality is seen in a 2002 column from Fox News analyst Bill O'Reilly, who asked "Why is it wrong to be right?" In his article, O'Reilly cites recent Zogby poll findings regarding what is being taught in American universities. Studies indicate 75% of American college professors currently teach that there is no such thing as right and wrong. Rather, they treat the questions of good and evil as relative to "individual values and cultural diversity." The problem with this, according to O'Reilly, is that "they see the world not as it is, but as they want it to be. And annoying questions about moral absolutes and unacceptable behavior are usually left unanswered."

Moral Relativism - Where Do You Stand?
Moral Relativism is a worldview. To determine for yourself which position to hold where morality is concerned, you must first determine what you believe about the origin of life. Do you believe life evolved or do you believe life was created? Evolution and moral relativism go hand-in-hand, for evolution teaches that life is accidental, without meaning or purpose. Therefore, anything you do is OK, because it ultimately doesn't matter. If you believe we are created, however, moral relativism cannot work. Creation implies a Creator. All things created are subject to a set of laws, whether natural or divine. Moral relativism says anything goes …but does it? Is it better to torture a child, or to hug that child?

C.S. Lewis points to the nature of most quarrels as a clue to what we truly believe. Inherent in those quarrels is a concept of fairness, as in "how would you like it if someone did that to you?" When we make that statement, we are appealing "to some kind of standard of behavior [we] expect" the other person to know about. Where do you think that standard originates?

In his September 19, 1796 Farewell Address to the nation, George Washington stated: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars." William McGuffey, author of the McGuffey's Readers, which were the mainstay of America's public school system from 1836 till the 1920's, wrote: "Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man." Where do you think the world is heading today?
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 06:27 pm
Does moral relavatism have to do with controlling behavior that would be harmful to others as the ultimate goal? Morals not only differ from culture to culture, from one time period to another. I think laws are necessary to control natural instincts of homo sapiens, or we would have a unsafe environment in which society must live at some level of safety. I think the concept of 'fairness' is a good place to start.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 07:10 pm
Re: Moral relativism
Quote:
To determine for yourself which position to hold where morality is concerned, you must first determine what you believe about the origin of life. Do you believe life evolved or do you believe life was created?

This is idiotic. Morality based on a secular foundation is not inevitably relativistic. Kant's formulation of the "categorical imperative," for example, explicitly rejected any reliance on God or a creator (even though Kant was a deeply religious man). Aristotle's ethics likewise dispensed with any metaphysics, and the same can be said for the systems of Bentham, Mill, Bradley, and Rawls.

Quote:
Evolution and moral relativism go hand-in-hand, for evolution teaches that life is accidental, without meaning or purpose. Therefore, anything you do is OK, because it ultimately doesn't matter.

Evolution teaches no such thing. Opponents of evolution want us to believe this, but they fight a strawman of their own creation.

Quote:
If you believe we are created, however, moral relativism cannot work. Creation implies a Creator. All things created are subject to a set of laws, whether natural or divine. Moral relativism says anything goes …but does it? Is it better to torture a child, or to hug that child?

Moral relativism cannot work because it is based on an insoluble paradox, not because it rejects any belief in a creator.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 07:51 pm
Joe

I like your very sophisticated reply----would you care to dissect this statement?

What is Moral Relativism or Equivalence?

* "...democracy's most numerous and influential educators deny the existence of objective truth concerning good and evil. In other words, they deny the existence of rational standards by which to determine whether the beliefs and goals of one individual, group, or nation are more valid or intrinsically superior to those of another. Reinforcing this relativism is the behavioral doctrine that humanity in general, and their rulers in particular, employ altruistic language like "peace" or "justice" or the "common good" to conceal egotistical motives or dignify self-serving ends. Cynicism is rampant.

"...relativism erodes belief in the truth or justice of their country's cause and thereby undermines their country's ability to persevere in any conflict with regimes whose educators are not relativists".

Karl Marx...adopted Hobbes' reduction of thought to the subrational: "The PHANTOMS formed in the brain are ... bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence." Another perverse mind, exempting itself from its own conclusions.

Amazing how many academic earthlings have made a livelihood teaching this sophisticated madness. I say madness because, if "forms of consciousness" merely correspond to "material premises" or economic modes of production which change from epoch to epoch, or which differ from one country to another, it follows that what humans, hence academics, deem normal or abnormal, sane or insane, has no objective validity. Precisely the relativistic conclusion of anti-psychiatry! And what is most significant, anti-psychiatry was adopted by a neoMarxist movement in the West called the "New Left,"
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 10:11 pm
bm
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 10:36 pm
perception wrote:
I like your very sophisticated reply----would you care to dissect this statement?

Sorry. I can't make any sense of it. Can you provide a link to the entire essay?
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 11:09 pm
Joe

It's a collection here:http://www.yahoodi.com/peace/mrelativism.html
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 11:13 pm
Joe

It's a collection here: http://www.yahoodi.com/peace/mrelativism.html

oops I didn't leave a space afte the semi colon.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 11:15 pm
Dlowan

Come on in-----I need a perspective from OZ.
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twyvel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2003 11:34 pm
Absent a belief in god, morality isn't based on whether life has meaning or not as much it is based on suffering and the avoidance of it.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 Nov, 2003 12:31 am
Specific moral codes are relative - that is, moral codes that talk about what to do in specific social/cultural situations, since each individual's veiw of culture is different. But there are some general laws that are universally applicable - harming another without reason, for instance. There is really nothing to moral relativism.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 Nov, 2003 09:50 am
Thanks for providing the link, perception, but I still can't make any sense of it. I don't know if "democracy's most numerous and influential educators deny the existence of objective truth concerning good and evil," and I doubt if the author knows it either. And I don't presume to know much about "academic earthlings," "anti-psychiatry," or Marx's adoption of Hobbes's "reduction of thought to the subrational" (Marx, being a neo-Hegelian, might have been surprised to hear himself described as a Hobbesian). I suppose I could dissect this essay, but I suspect it would end up looking like an alien autopsy.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 Nov, 2003 08:38 pm
Joe

Thanks for looking at the link which I also found lacking in any real substance. I'm still trying to determine if the term "moral relativism" has any practical application.

How about this perhaps as an example:

In my other thread under politics Craven seems to think there should be caveats when deciding whether we have a moral imperative to act against another soverign state that has demonstrated genocide against it's citizens. My contention is that in the case of genocide it is black and white with no shades of gray. If we have shades of gray and caveats don't we then become involved in moral relativism?
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2003 12:32 am
perception wrote:
In my other thread under politics Craven seems to think there should be caveats when deciding whether we have a moral imperative to act against another soverign state that has demonstrated genocide against it's citizens. My contention is that in the case of genocide it is black and white with no shades of gray. If we have shades of gray and caveats don't we then become involved in moral relativism?

There are a couple of things going on here that complicate the situation:

1. "Genocide" is not an unproblematic concept. Certainly the Nazi regime's systemic murder of millions of Jews constituted an act of genocide, as did the Khmer Rouge's mass murder of Cambodians. We've likewise seen genocidal acts in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo. But what about Chechnya, or Sudan, or Tibet? Does "cultural genocide" qualify? You may argue that there are no "shades of grey" when it comes to genocide, but others would contend that it's rarely a case of black and white.

2. There's a difference between private morality and public morality. Machiavelli may have said it most memorably, but he wasn't the first or the last to observe that a ruler cannot be held to the same standards of morality as a private citizen. We can, as individuals, condemn genocide, but we don't make state policy. My condemnation of genocide does not necessarily entail an obligation to end that genocide, whereas a government's intervention involves consequences that go far beyond stopping the killings.

It's not necessarily a case of moral relativism, then, to say that the U.S. should adopt different policies toward the genocide in one place and the genocide in another, since it's not simply a case of morality. Rather, it's a case of raison d'etat.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2003 07:26 am
Hmmm - I also believe that we can construct a perfectly reasonable system of ethics without any belief in a creator. I am unfamiliar with moral relativism per se - (too long since I studied moral philosophy!) - but it seems - like most things - to have ups and downs.

I would prefer to read about it on its own terms, rather than through the lens of an obvious critic - however, the plus side would appear to me to be the realization that much that we consider - if not in some way informed of it - as moral and cultural absolutes are, in fact, products of our time and place.

Surely this is a plus? To think about and understand something surely we need to be aware of its place in the broader scheme of things?

That said - I make my own moral decisions (where i am strong enough to!) - based on a simple rule that is the kernel of many religions, though I am not religious - which is, more or less, "do as you would be done by". I do so because it makes excellent sense intellectually - given that our essence is to be social beings. I also obey almost all laws because that also makes sense (and because I might get into trouble if I did not) - but I am trammelled by no worries about homosexuals and suchlike, because I feel no need to follow the prejudices of several thousand years ago.

Do you have any non-biased cites - or cites with a pro-bias - about moral relativism, so I can make a more considered comment?
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2003 07:28 am
Could you also cite where you get what you said about what Craven said?
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2003 09:51 am
joefromchicago wrote:
perception wrote:
In my other thread under politics Craven seems to think there should be caveats when deciding whether we have a moral imperative to act against another soverign state that has demonstrated genocide against it's citizens. My contention is that in the case of genocide it is black and white with no shades of gray. If we have shades of gray and caveats don't we then become involved in moral relativism?

There are a couple of things going on here that complicate the situation:

1. "Genocide" is not an unproblematic concept. Certainly the Nazi regime's systemic murder of millions of Jews constituted an act of genocide, as did the Khmer Rouge's mass murder of Cambodians. We've likewise seen genocidal acts in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo. But what about Chechnya, or Sudan, or Tibet? Does "cultural genocide" qualify? You may argue that there are no "shades of grey" when it comes to genocide, but others would contend that it's rarely a case of black and white.

2. There's a difference between private morality and public morality. Machiavelli may have said it most memorably, but he wasn't the first or the last to observe that a ruler cannot be held to the same standards of morality as a private citizen. We can, as individuals, condemn genocide, but we don't make state policy. My condemnation of genocide does not necessarily entail an obligation to end that genocide, whereas a government's intervention involves consequences that go far beyond stopping the killings.

It's not necessarily a case of moral relativism, then, to say that the U.S. should adopt different policies toward the genocide in one place and the genocide in another, since it's not simply a case of morality. Rather, it's a case of raison d'etat.


Joe
Thanks for your intellectual input here with which I generally agree but let me put it in different terms. Suppose we argue that the US, as the leader of the Free world( and to go along with this we assume that theUS is also the advocate of the highest standard of morality which is recognized by the rest of the free world) has the obligation to intervene in cases of genocide and other cases of mass human rights abuses. The US has the greatest obligation, in relation to other states, because of two reasons:
1. Because of it's leadership role
2. Because it has the capability.

Now obviously since the US cannot intervene in every case(I realize this a contradiction of having the capability) it must make a determination of when to implement intervention based not on morality but on the practical considerations such as: how to benefit the most people, and the consequences of such actions for it's own citizens and the citizens of neighboring states. For the sake of argument let's assume the reasons for such action by the US are mostly altruistic (I'm trying to maintain some realism here). Now obviously as in any free country there will be advocates as well as critics of this strategy. Is it here that the moral relativism comes into play? The pro and con argument for or against such action? Or, are my comments here merely the mechanics of your contention this is all a formulation of raison d'etat?

At the moment I am really struggling to understand the relevance of moral relativism and to be able to use it in the proper context. Jean Kirkpatrick gives a comprehensive discussion here:

http://www.libertyhaven.com/theoreticalorphilosophicalissues/libertarianism/mythmoral.shtml

To take this further as an afterthought-----Since the objective is the removal of a dictator who has inflicted the genocide, is it essential to try the thug in abstentia in a world court before any action could or should be taken? How valid is it to try anyone in abstentia?
0 Replies
 
perception
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2003 09:52 am
Dlowan

I'll get back to you later----husbandly duties call.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2003 09:59 am
perception said
Quote:
Suppose we argue that the US, as the leader of the Free world( and to go along with this we assume that theUS is also the advocate of the highest standard of morality which is recognized by the rest of the free world.

really? a rather arrogant statement at best.
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2003 10:02 am
Re: Moral relativism
Joe

I'd like to ask you a question if I may:

joefromchicago wrote:
[
Quote:
If you believe we are created, however, moral relativism cannot work. Creation implies a Creator. All things created are subject to a set of laws, whether natural or divine. Moral relativism says anything goes …but does it? Is it better to torture a child, or to hug that child?

Moral relativism cannot work because it is based on an insoluble paradox, not because it rejects any belief in a creator.



Could you flesh that thought out a bit?
0 Replies
 
 

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