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Moral Relativity: Where moral values come from?

 
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 04:59 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
My moral values are just as sincere, important and just as much a part of how I see the world as yours are. The only difference is that I accept that my values don't depend on, or represent any universal truth.

Fine. I agree that our personal tastes about people's behavior are sincere, important, and subjective. That's the equivalent of value in economics. I also think that the general fabric of laws, ideologies, and customs --- which corresponds to economic prices --- is much more nearly objective and universal. Enough so as to call myself a universalist, or absolutist, or whatever the word may be.

maxdancona wrote:
I think I disagree with the importance you are giving to the difference between cultural values and personal values.

I agree we disagree on that.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 05:15 pm
@Thomas,
Quote:
I also think that the general fabric of laws, ideologies, and customs --- which corresponds to economic prices --- is much more nearly objective and universal.


This is the crux of the matter. I have two issues with that.

1. When two cultures have different views about what is right or wrong, how do you objectively judge between them?

I have a good answer for this (which corresponds to the way economic prices are set). With cultural relativity each society responds to unique circumstances and factors to come up with a value system that works for them. Diamonds have no universal value (most things in the Universe have no use for diamonds) but we as modern western human beings have decided they are valuable in a way that works for us (and clearly human beings in different circumstances would assign a different value to diamonds and some may assign no more value to them then any other rock).

I don't know how to find a "general fabric of laws..." that explains the extreme differences in moral laws that has existed between human cultures throughout history. This really is the biggest problem with moral absolutism.

2. You still haven't suggested what gives this proposed "general fabric of laws, ideologies and customs" any intrinsic value, especially given the fact that there have been successful (in the evolutionary sense) cultures with wildly different ideas of laws, ideologies and customs.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 05:44 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
1. When two cultures have different views about what is right or wrong, how do you objectively judge between them?

I don't accept the factual premise of your question, because I don't believe that cultures have views. Individual persons have views. When two persons have different views about what's right and wrong, I compare the consequences of the action in question, and ask whether they do more harm than good. "Harm" is measured by the propensity of people to avoid something, "good" is measured by the propensity of people to seek it. Because the avoidance and the seeking are both observable, I can decide which of both people is wrong. (Possibly both are.)

maxdancona wrote:
2. You still haven't suggested what gives this proposed "general fabric of laws, ideologies and customs" any intrinsic value,

I'm not saying these laws have intrinsic value. I'm saying they are valuable to the extent that the people living under them find them useful to have and easy to maintain.

maxdancona wrote:
especially given the fact that there have been successful (in the evolutionary sense) cultures with wildly different ideas of laws, ideologies and customs.

The same is true in epistemology, not just in ethics. Bohmian quantum mechanics is nothing like the Copenhagen interpretation. Heisenberg's operator-based formalism is nothing like Schroedinger's differential-equation-based formalism. But however many ways there may be of getting physical (or ethical) theories right, there's a myriad times more ways of getting them wrong. And when ethic #1 causes a lot more pain and suffering than ethics #2, you know that ethic #1 gets something wrong.
Germlat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 05:45 pm
@maxdancona,
Please explain how you know your rights from wrongs and how they fit into your concept of moral relativity.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 06:42 pm
@Germlat,
Sure.

I know my rights from wrongs the same way that you do. I make judgements based on my understanding of core moral values (I assume that is how you do it).

There is no practical difference between the moral code of a moral absolutist and the moral code of a moral relativist. The only difference is a theoretical one. We disagree about where moral values come from, but the actual moral values we live by are almost certainly very similar (I am making the assumption that like me you were raised in the US).

I am curious Germlat. Where do you think true moral values come from?
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 06:48 pm
@Thomas,
Science has an advantage over philosophy in that every assertion of science is well-defined to the point of being testable. When you make an assertion that isn't testable, it stops being science.

I remember you proposing Utilitarianism as a testable system of ethics. And I have to admit the system is appealing in its logic. The problem I have with it is that it is based on untestable axioms (that happiness is good and that human life has value).

Of course if enough people in a given society accept these axioms, it will gain currency just like our diamonds or dollars. Of course there are plenty of sets of axioms that contradict yours that have the same property.


Germlat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 07:03 pm
@ossobuco,
Diamonds are not even rare but.. On that subject the main distributors like DeBeers hoard them and advertise them as if they are some mineral rarity to be treasured . The marketing of these objects is truly phenomenal and has convinced world audiences of a lie...that these are rare objects that are only available in minuscule quantities. Still there is an enormous difference between values and morals. I think the author of this forum isn't able to differentiate the two.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 07:07 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
I remember you proposing Utilitarianism as a testable system of ethics. And I have to admit the system is appealing in its logic. The problem I have with it is that it is based on untestable axioms (that happiness is good and that human life has value).

Every science has to fall back on axioms at some point, even hard sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology. "Sure, the sun has risen every morning on all the 15,000 days of my life, but why should that make me believe it will rise again tomorrow?" Logically, objections like this are perfectly valid, and you can't really address them with more tests and more evidence. The least bad thing you can do about the objections is to shut them up with an axiom.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 07:14 pm
@Germlat,
You stated before that you don't believe morals are relative. But you didn't give any reason for this or any explanation on why they aren't relative.

Please differentiate between a moral and a value. Maybe you could give an example of each (remembering that I am going to follow up by asking why your example moral is absolute).

You still didn't answer my question.... Where do absolute morals come from? What makes them absolutely right or wrong?
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 07:17 pm
@Thomas,
Ha Ha.

To support your argument that morality is absolute you are going to argue that scientific knowledge is relative?

I see what you are doing here, and it is very clever. You are, of course, correct. However there is only one set of scientific axioms that I am willing to trust with my life when I step onto an airplane.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 07:25 pm
@Thomas,
Let me answer this way.

There is one set of scientific axioms that is measurably superior in ways that most of us desire. We want to win wars, create technology, cure diseases, grow more crops, travel quickly, take pictures, and send robots to Mars. All of these things were created with the large body of knowledge that is modern science, but at the core it has has the same small set of scientific axioms. For humans that want to accomplish any of these things, the one set of scientific axioms is what they get.

There is no set of moral axioms that has this property.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 07:52 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
To support your argument that morality is absolute you are going to argue that scientific knowledge is relative?

By the extreme and unreasonable standards you're using, scientific knowledge is indeed relative rather than absolute. If that's a problem for you, I suggest you consider different standards.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 07:59 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
There is one set of scientific axioms that is measurably superior in ways that most of us desire.

OK, so now your benchmark is "what most of us desire". Fine. But in this case, why not evaluate moral principles by the desirability of living by them, in exchange for our fellow humans living by them too? It's the same standard in both morals and science.
Germlat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 08:28 pm
@joefromchicago,
So according to moral relativity there is no good or evil. There is simply a group of invented social rules to which we adhere for the preservation of the species. So for instance child rape is not evil but it affects the child in the future so it is considered non-acceptable. Hmmm..there are things humans do that are absent in the animal kingdom..things that are ego maniacal and narcissistic . So argue with me there is no possible thing as an individual soul. You can no more prove your reply than I can mine.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 08:32 pm
@Thomas,
There are people who reject modern science. You are correct that according to my principles, I don't have any absolute basis to say that they are wrong. I have no problem with this.

Modern science has a way to determine what is right or wrong. But there is no way to determine whether modern science itself is right or wrong. That clearly depends on how you define right or wrong.

I am conceding the point. The value, or even correctness, of modern science is relative. I think most scientists would accept this.... and I believe most mathematicians say something similar.

The axioms underlying science are clearly impossible prove.





Germlat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 08:40 pm
@maxdancona,
I personally don't know anyone who rejects modern science after studying it. Having said that the "x" factor is real.. We don't understand how or why it works but we know it's real..maybe this could be true of the individual soul.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 08:45 pm
@Thomas,
A big part of the reason that I am a moral relativist is because even moral absolutists can't agree on what the moral absolutes are.

If there were one set of moral values that were clearly superior to every other set of moral values in their perceived benefit to human culture, then I would accept them as as "universally beneficial" in the same way that I accept science as "universally beneficial".

I suspect you and Germlat... the two people arguing on the same side of this debate, don't have the same moral axioms. I am curious about that, but Germlat hasn't said what the basis of his moral code is yet.


maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 08:52 pm
@Germlat,
Thanks for agreeing with with me about science. I don't believe in the individual soul, and I suspect Thomas doesn't either (although I will let him speak for himself).
coldjoint
 
  0  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 09:05 pm
@maxdancona,
Quote:
I don't believe in the individual soul,

Absolutely, not surprised.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2013 10:05 pm
@Germlat,
Germlat wrote:
So argue with me there is no possible thing as an individual soul.

Why would I want to do that?
0 Replies
 
 

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