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Moral Relativism ?? Good, Bad, or ...... ?

 
 
BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 06:57 am
rufio wrote:
........And theft is about how one defines property. There's generally less dispute there, because laws define it, not individuals. But still, look at the intellectual property dispute.JL - Smile


must disagree here; one of the bases of personal morality is to realize that 'things' have 'no value', and 'property' in spite of the rantings of various dictionaries, is 'meaningless.

You can't "own" anything"
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BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 07:04 am
and the 'finest' example of 'moral relativism' is 'terrorism'; the code of 'right' that terrorists use to justify the killing of one or a very large number of innocent people, in order to 'punish' an ideology with which they do not agree.

is this 'insanity' defensable in these terms?

[and has it not been shown to breed a similar response from its opponents?]
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kitchenpete
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 08:10 am
Bookmarking for now. I have not fully developed my arguments on this subject and will come back when I do. Finding myself most in agreement with Greyfan, so far.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 10:38 am
I agree with Greyfan's perspective, and much of Neoquixote's commentary. Moral relativism is inconvient for absolutists who see the realilty of the social construction of morals as a form of nihilism. But I'm quite convinced that despite the "stabililty" it might afford some people, moral absolutism is the far greater menace. It is the basis for terrorism, whether non-state or state-sponsored. To make an objective analysis, we must take a RELATIVISTIC look at the perspectives of warring groups: we must realize that each side is equally convinced that it is ABSOLUTELY in the right.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 11:34 am
Absolutism is the intellectual foundation for terrorism, crusades, inquisitions, ideologically driven police states, take your choice.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 01:28 pm
Greyfan, that's all very well - but where is the natural selection proccess that roots out bad morality? How is it rooted out? If a culture comes up with a less-than-perfect morality, how does it evolve, exactly? Sure, they change, but it is not neccessarily an "evolution".

Joe, if I called what I mean by "superficial semantics" by a different name, it would be the same thing to me. You might not understand what I was talking about, but that just shows how (words) the superficial can change dramatically while (meaning) the underlying point does not.

Bo, I don't think we're disagreeing at all. The point is that property is NOT defined, at least not universally.
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Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 05:22 pm
Joefromchicago wrote:

Quote:
If we are attempting to describe a real moral system, and moral relativism is not a system of morality, then how can it be an accurate description of reality?


Reality does not include a system of morality. All attempts to describe a real moral system are departures from reality.

Quote:
And what if I say you're wrong?


You can convince me by presenting a basis for morality that is not arbitrary.

Quote:
How can moral relativism promote tolerance if tolerance is not an objective standard of morality?


I see increased levels of tolerance as a possible, even likely, result, but I will concede this is not inevitable. Moral relativity in my estimation is descriptive rather than prescriptive, and its utilitarian value (if any) is a separate issue from whether or not it is true.

Quote:
But this sets up an objective standard. For the moral relativist, not only does "everything go," but everything must go.


You have excerpted the first sentence of my argument; what followed was my perhaps poor attempt to justify that conclusion. No one is raised in a vacuum (or perhaps almost no one); we have moral codes ingrained. All moral relativists are saying is that these codes are culturally based, rather than derived logically or handed down by deities. It seems to me it is at least as plausible to say everything must stay.
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Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 05:39 pm
Rufio wrote:

Quote:
where is the natural selection proccess that roots out bad morality? How is it rooted out? If a culture comes up with a less-than-perfect morality, how does it evolve, exactly? Sure, they change, but it is not neccessarily an "evolution".


Without an objective standard, there can be no perfect morality; only moral standards that are acceptable (or not) to the culture that supports them. Moral standards with broad support are "good"; moral standards without support are "bad". As in the physical evolution of species, success is measured by results, which is to say, survival -rather than by approaches to "perfection", which is illusory and subject to redefinition as conditions (climate, food supply, population) change.

In other words, the internal measure of a moral standard in a society is whether or not people believe in it; the external measure is whether or not that society thrives.
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Greyfan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 05:44 pm
BoWeGo wrote:

Quote:
and the 'finest' example of 'moral relativism' is 'terrorism'


To which Acquiunk replied:

Quote:
Absolutism is the intellectual foundation for terrorism, crusades, inquisitions, ideologically driven police states, take your choice.


I couldn't agree more. I think you will find very few advocates of moral relativism among terrorists. Or in the Bush Cabinet, for that matter.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 05:54 pm
But do morals or whether they are widely held have anything to do with their survival? Even if most of the population is killed, many who still hold the same morals will continue. Or, all of the population may be killed, and their books may be found later. Morality is neither dependant on nor does it effect the survival of the group who hold it. Therefore it does not evolve, even in a misguided sense.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 06:18 pm
Rufio, a moral code is not functionally essential for survival. Many institutions persist simply because they serve some need short of survival. And any institution may be one of a number of functional alternatives. I agree that every social system must have SOME kind of moral code or codes, but they need not have any PARTICULAR code.

Moral relativism may promote tolerance, not because of some normative rule (moral principle); it may merely do so because of some pragmatic rule. Moral relativism may prescribe tolerance as a practical way for peoples to get along, and because it is not absolute it permits them to do so. Absolutism obliges them to be intolerant.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 08:27 pm
rufio wrote:
Joe, if I called what I mean by "superficial semantics" by a different name, it would be the same thing to me.

No doubt. The point, however, is making it mean something to someone else.

rufio wrote:
You might not understand what I was talking about, but that just shows how (words) the superficial can change dramatically while (meaning) the underlying point does not.

No, it shows that you can't come up with a plausible defense for what is, in the end, a logically indefensible position.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 08:36 pm
Greyfan wrote:
Reality does not include a system of morality. All attempts to describe a real moral system are departures from reality.

Upon what evidence do you base this assertion?

Greyfan wrote:
Quote:
And what if I say you're wrong?

You can convince me by presenting a basis for morality that is not arbitrary.

Since you already deny the existence of systems of morality, I would imagine that you have already decided that any basis is arbitrary.

Greyfan wrote:
I see increased levels of tolerance as a possible, even likely, result, but I will concede this is not inevitable. Moral relativity in my estimation is descriptive rather than prescriptive, and its utilitarian value (if any) is a separate issue from whether or not it is true.

I think you're far too optimistic. As long as tolerance is not accepted as an objective moral standard, people are free to practice intolerance with moral impunity.

Greyfan wrote:
You have excerpted the first sentence of my argument; what followed was my perhaps poor attempt to justify that conclusion. No one is raised in a vacuum (or perhaps almost no one); we have moral codes ingrained. All moral relativists are saying is that these codes are culturally based, rather than derived logically or handed down by deities. It seems to me it is at least as plausible to say everything must stay.

If morality is culturally based, then there is an obligation on the part of the culture's members to adhere to that morality. That's not descriptive, it's prescriptive (at least for members of that society). And that, in turn, is an objective standard of morality.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 08:58 pm
Neoquixote wrote:
In essence, morals are set up to regulate people's behavior so there would be some advantage either to the person who follows this moral or to the group the follower belongs to.

Nietzsche would have said the same thing.

Neoquixote wrote:
I suppose moral relativism didn't rise until last century...

Moral relativism is as old as Thrasymachus's argument, in Plato's Republic, that "right is ... the interest of the stronger party."
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Mon 17 May, 2004 09:58 pm
Joe, I could use other words for you, or draw you a picture, or speak to you about it in another language, or even we could invent our own jibberish language and I could talk about it in that. It doesn't matter what words you use - the meaning is the same. The words are only to communicate the meaning to others - but once you understand it the words are again superficial.
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Neoquixote
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 02:05 am
[quote="joefromchicagoMoral relativism is as old as Thrasymachus's argument, in Plato's Republic, that "right is ... the interest of the stronger party."[/quote]

thank Joe, i didn't know this point. but i wonder if relativism boomed quickly in 1980's or so, i.g. in school, some teachers were asked to keep neutral as to moral issues
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 08:29 am
rufio wrote:
Joe, I could use other words for you, or draw you a picture, or speak to you about it in another language, or even we could invent our own jibberish language and I could talk about it in that. It doesn't matter what words you use - the meaning is the same. The words are only to communicate the meaning to others - but once you understand it the words are again superficial.

The sheer lunacy of this argument is only increased by your apparent earnestness in advancing it.

If it doesn't matter what words you use, then why are you writing anything at all? Why not simply grunt and point?
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BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 09:01 am
Greyfan wrote:
.......No one is raised in a vacuum (or perhaps almost no one); we have moral codes ingrained. All moral relativists are saying is that these codes are culturally based, rather than derived logically or handed down by deities. It seems to me it is at least as plausible to say everything must stay.


one, i think obvious, thing missing here is the willingness of an adult human being to admit that at that point where s/he becomes an adult member of society, s/he has had a chance to examine both the codified, and default moral beliefs of this society, and, more important, through a long educational process, both institionalized and personal, s/he has been able to arrive at a personal moral code, culled from general, exotic, and experiential sources.

At this point we all become 'responsible' for the moral code by which we decide to live, and can no longer 'shrug' it off as the 'norm.'

It becomes his/her 'responsibility' to offer this 'wisdom' for consideration, whenever s/he feels that the accepted code of society differs in such a manner as to do harm to any or all the members of that society.

This is not moral relativism, but 'directed idealism'; the individual desire for 'better' for one's fellow passengers on this planet.

Admittedly this 'fervour' is sometimes misdirected, but i would rather be annoyed by the misguided concepts of a well meaning zealot, than impeded by the plottings of a greedy self interested 'capitalist'.
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Relative
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 09:08 am
Relative is as moral, as moral is relative.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 May, 2004 10:08 am
Hear, hear, BoGoWo.
I wonder to what extent we are confusing moral relativism as something that is either inter-individual or inter-societal. Inter-societal moral relativism--where we compare the moral systems of different societies-- is a subset of "cultural relativism". Inter-individual moral relativism--the difference between individuals of the same society--is a reflection of the complexity within societies. Our society, for example, provides its members with a large inventory of norms to pick from in making ethical decisions. We are not "robots" within a highly traditional and homogenous culture. Nevertheless, the cultural bases for these decisions are simultaneously psychological (ideosyncratic) and social (normative).

(edited)
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