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Morals are relative, fact or just more bias?

 
 
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 12:25 pm
On another thread joefromchicago wrote:
Einherjar wrote:
No, morals are human constructs, and not ontologically real.

That's begging the question.

Einherjar wrote:
Thats moral relativism for you, no bias what so ever.

Moral relativism is nothing but bias.


How so?

How can any moral system be set up without a minimum of one axiom, or on what objective basis can axioms be evaluated? Seems to me the only way to evaluate an axiom is by checking for compliance with another axom, which amounts to begging the question.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 12:32 pm
Re: Morals are relative, fact or just more bias?
Einherjar wrote:
On another thread joefromchicago wrote:
Einherjar wrote:
No, morals are human constructs, and not ontologically real.

That's begging the question.

Einherjar wrote:
Thats moral relativism for you, no bias what so ever.

Moral relativism is nothing but bias.


How so?

How can any moral system be set up without a minimum of one axiom, or on what objective basis can axioms be evaluated? Seems to me the only way to evaluate an axiom is by checking for compliance with another axom, which amounts to begging the question.

Is that your response to the points that I raised? It's a non sequitur.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 12:44 pm
Einherjar,

Interesting topic. Moral relativism has been debated since Socrates.

Modern anthropologists and sociologists talk a lot about "cultural relativism". In your opinion is cultural relativism another argument for moral relativism?
0 Replies
 
Einherjar
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 12:51 pm
Re: Morals are relative, fact or just more bias?
joefromchicago wrote:
Einherjar wrote:
On another thread joefromchicago wrote:
Einherjar wrote:
No, morals are human constructs, and not ontologically real.

That's begging the question.

Einherjar wrote:
Thats moral relativism for you, no bias what so ever.

Moral relativism is nothing but bias.


How so?

How can any moral system be set up without a minimum of one axiom, or on what objective basis can axioms be evaluated? Seems to me the only way to evaluate an axiom is by checking for compliance with another axom, which amounts to begging the question.


Is that your response to the points that I raised? It's a non sequitur.


My response starts with "How so", a request for you to expand on your "points" as I didn't quite grasp them. How did I beg the question, and how is moral relitavism bias.

I then went on to set up an argument that moral relativism is fact for you to try to poke holes in. This as an aside to the original request that you explain your objections.
0 Replies
 
Einherjar
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 12:55 pm
wandeljw wrote:
Einherjar,

Interesting topic. Moral relativism has been debated since Socrates.

Modern anthropologists and sociologists talk a lot about "cultural relativism". In your opinion is cultural relativism another argument for moral relativism?


Actually I think cultural relitavism is just a manifestation of moral relitavism, a realisation that there are no objecdtive grounds on which to base moral judgements about various cultures.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 01:23 pm
Re: Morals are relative, fact or just more bias?
Einherjar wrote:
My response starts with "How so", a request for you to expand on your "points" as I didn't quite grasp them. How did I beg the question, and how is moral relitavism bias.

1. You stated: "morals are human constructs, and not ontologically real." In order to make that statement mean anything, you have to assume that only ontologically real things are free from bias (or are relevant to questions of morality -- I'm not quite clear what your point was). That assumption, however, is unproven. Thus, you've begged the question.

2. If, by "moral relativism" you mean that one should be guided only by one's subjective moral beliefs, then one is free to be as biased as possible, since there is nothing but one's own moral sense to act as a constraint. Indeed, given that everyone fashions their own morality for themselves, I would be surprised if there were such a thing as an unbiased (i.e. non-subjective) morality. If, on the other hand, one is a moral relativist yet constrained to be unbiased, then where does that restraint come from?

Einherjar wrote:
I then went on to set up an argument that moral relativism is fact for you to try to poke holes in. This as an aside to the original request that you explain your objections.

For my position on moral relativism, click here.
0 Replies
 
Ray
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 04:26 pm
I believe morality to be a universal law that is present when a conscious living thing exists.

Moral relativism, to me, is not a moral philosophy.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 04:26 pm
That certainly was a wonderful thread, Joe.
0 Replies
 
val
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 06:36 pm
Re: Morals are relative, fact or just more bias?
Einherjar

Morals are human constructs. Everything is an human construct.
You are right about the need of axioms, but we must understand the nature of those axioms.
If you believe in an absolute moral - not as human construct - it is obvious you need an external basis to justify that moral. Axiom becomes dogma: God, Vaterland, are examples.
If you believe, like I do, in moral relativism, the axioms are only social and historical values, as result of general agreement. There is not any need for "external" justification.

In any case, I don't see how a moral could be ontologically real. Even absolute moral has it's ontological reality in God, or another entity, not in itself.
0 Replies
 
Einherjar
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 03:49 am
joefromchicago wrote:
Einherjar wrote:
My response starts with "How so", a request for you to expand on your "points" as I didn't quite grasp them. How did I beg the question, and how is moral relitavism bias.

1. You stated: "morals are human constructs, and not ontologically real." In order to make that statement mean anything, you have to assume that only ontologically real things are free from bias (or are relevant to questions of morality -- I'm not quite clear what your point was). That assumption, however, is unproven. Thus, you've begged the question.


Only ontologically real things are free from bias, that's the one.

Anything not solely based on the ontologically real is based at least in part on axioms. There can not be such a thing as an "unbiased" axiom pertaining to the matters of right and wrong, as any such axiom would be biased in favor of itself and in disfavor of anything inconsistent with it. Nothing that follows from a biased axiom can be considered unbiased. (unless it can be established without using the axiom) Thus only that which is based solely on the ontologically real can be unbiased.

joefromchicago wrote:
2. If, by "moral relativism" you mean that one should be guided only by one's subjective moral beliefs, then one is free to be as biased as possible, since there is nothing but one's own moral sense to act as a constraint. Indeed, given that everyone fashions their own morality for themselves, I would be surprised if there were such a thing as an unbiased (i.e. non-subjective) morality.


This is my position also.

joefromchicago wrote:
If, on the other hand, one is a moral relativist yet constrained to be unbiased, then where does that restraint come from?


It is self imposed, perhaps as a moral imperative in the moral relativists personal moral code, perhaps for some other reason.

joefromchicago wrote:

For my position on moral relativism, click here.


(Having read and replied to this next bit I have come to the conclusion that we essentially agree, and that your objections to moral relativism stems from moral imperatives that you are attemting to ascribe to it, thus causing inconsistency. Moral imperatives such as be tolerant, be objective and be internally consistent is not included in moral relativism as i would define it.)

From the other thread:

joefromchicago wrote:
JLN: First of all, let's put aside the notion of cultural relativism for the moment. In Husker's initial post, after all, the quotation suggested that morality is an "individual choice."

Secondly, we need at least a working definition of "morality." Morality is susceptible to a variety of different definitions, and I don't intend to get into the finer points of the debate. For our purposes, then, I'll simply define "morality" as a system of beliefs regarding right and wrong conduct.

1. To the extent that moral relativism is moral, it is not relative.
If morality is, at its core, a system of beliefs regarding right and wrong conduct, then moral relativism posits that each person can operate under different sets of beliefs.


I'm guessing this is where we part ways, I posit only that there can be no objective grounds on which to evaluate a set of morals.

joefromchicago wrote:
More importantly, moral relativism posits that no one set of beliefs is entitled to precedence over another: in other words, there is no "correct" morality, just individual sets of beliefs.


I agree with the second statement, not the first one, determining wether one moral code is entitled to precedence is a moral judgement outside of the scope of moral relativism as I would define it.

joefromchicago wrote:
Thus if person X believes that lying is wrong, whereas person Y believes that lying is right, the doctrinaire moral relativist would assert that X is moral insofar as he does not lie, and Y is moral insofar as he does lie.


Or rather that the actions of X are moral according to X's moral code, and immoral according to the moral code of Y, and vica versa.

joefromchicago wrote:
Furthermore, there is no standard by which X could condemn Y's actions or his set of beliefs as "immoral," since Y is moral to the extent that Y's actions conform to Y's moral beliefs.


X might condemn Y on the basis of his own moral code, or for that matter on the basis of the moral code of Z. I've only posited that there can be no objective criteria by which to settle the dispute, not that it could never occur.

joefromchicago wrote:
This argument, however, rests on an insoluble paradox (as I have pointed out elsewhere). For if all moralities are equal, what do we do with the personal moral belief that holds that no one else's moral beliefs are to be respected? For instance, X, in the above hypothetical, might say: "not only does my personal set of beliefs hold that lying is immoral, but it also holds that I am not obliged to respect anyone else's beliefs that conflict with my moral code." If X is correct (as the moral relativists would have to agree), then Y's morality is immoral. If, on the other hand, X is not correct, then there must be some objective moral belief that can resolve the dispute.


Or one could determine that X is not correct on the basis that there can be no such thing as a correct moral code in the first place. An observer could never make judgements about the morals of others without applying morals of his own.

I'm positing that there is no such thing as a correct moral, not that every moral is correct.

joefromchicago wrote:
In fact, moral relativism rests on an objective set of beliefs: most importantly is the belief in some level of respect for others. Under moral relativism, X cannot impose his beliefs on Y because it would be immoral to do so, yet that presupposes that there is at least one moral precept (i.e. respect for others) that is not relative.


This is not my position. I would agree with everything you've said up until this point using your definition of moral relativism.

joefromchicago wrote:
Consequently, if moral relativism is, in fact, a type of morality, it rests upon an objective standard. To the extent, therefore, that it is moral, it is not relative.


Again, moral relativism according to me is but the realization that morals are relative, and does not impose morals of its own.

joefromchicago wrote:
2. To the extent that moral relativism is relative, it is not moral.
If morality is a set of beliefs regarding right and wrong conduct, then there must be some standard by which we can distinguish this set of beliefs from purely arbitrary choices. If, for instance, X believes that lying is wrong, then we can only call this a moral belief if we can distinguish it from a belief that is either "immoral" or "amoral." Otherwise, there would be no reason to label the belief "moral" as opposed to something else, like "personal preference" or "arbitrary whim."


How about labeling it moral, in so far as it defines the concepts "right" and "wrong"?

joefromchicago wrote:
Yet if X's morality is truly personal, then X is under no objective obligation to maintain a consistent set of moral beliefs. If he were under such an obligation, it would either be because he set up such an obligation for himself -- and then he could always discard that moral precept whenever he saw fit to do so -- or else he was under an objective obligation -- and that possibility is removed under moral relativism. As a result, X is free to maintain both that lying is wrong and that lying is right, since the only thing that would prevent him from taking these inconsistent positions would be another moral precept that prohibited inconsistency, and, as we have seen, X is either under no such obligation or else is under an obligation that he imposed upon himself and which would be no more binding than any other self-imposed moral precept.


Sure.

joefromchicago wrote:
What is "moral," therefore, is whatever a person chooses to do, since a person can always declare that any particular act conforms to that person's set of beliefs. If X says "lying is wrong," X is also free to say "but in this case, I am right to make an exception," and there would be no standard by which we could say that he was incorrect in either instance. Thus, moral relativism cannot distinguish between "moral" acts and "immoral" acts.


I'm confused, wasn't you just arguing that "moral relativism" did just that? In not distinguishing between moral and immoral other than by reference to specified moral codes you are suddenly in line with my definition of the word.

I'm getting the impression that you are using dual definitions, defining moral relativism much like I would, but attemting to ascribe moral judgements to it, which would violate said definition.

joefromchicago wrote:
There is no independent standard by which the distinction can be made, which makes a definition impossible. A "moral act," then, is the same as a "capricious act" or an "arbitrary act," and "morality" has no independent meaning. Thus, to the extent that moral relativism is relative, it is not moral.


I think "moral relativism" means relativism applied to morals, not relativistic set of morals. Moral relativism is not a moral code.

This all boils down to the definition of moral relativism I think.
0 Replies
 
Einherjar
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 03:52 am
Re: Morals are relative, fact or just more bias?
val wrote:
Einherjar

Morals are human constructs. Everything is an human construct.
You are right about the need of axioms, but we must understand the nature of those axioms.
If you believe in an absolute moral - not as human construct - it is obvious you need an external basis to justify that moral. Axiom becomes dogma: God, Vaterland, are examples.
If you believe, like I do, in moral relativism, the axioms are only social and historical values, as result of general agreement. There is not any need for "external" justification.

In any case, I don't see how a moral could be ontologically real. Even absolute moral has it's ontological reality in God, or another entity, not in itself.


That's what I've been saying.

Appart from "everything is a human construct" that is, though I'm not quite sure what yu meant by that statement.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 08:51 am
Einherjar wrote:
I think "moral relativism" means relativism applied to morals, not relativistic set of morals. Moral relativism is not a moral code.

This all boils down to the definition of moral relativism I think.


I think this is an important distinction. Can moral relativism itself be considered a moral code? Moral relativism holds that standards of right or wrong are merely relative to a specific individual or to a specific group. (There are no absolute moral principles.)

Is moral relativism only a philosophical perspective or can it be used to prescribe moral behavior?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 09:43 am
Einherjar wrote:
Only ontologically real things are free from bias, that's the one.

I'm not exactly sure what "ontologically real" means. Ontology, after all, is the study of existence. "Ontologically real," then, would mean something that is real according to the rules that determine what is real. I can't see any meaningful difference between something that's "real" and something that's "ontologically real," but I don't suppose it matters much to this discussion.

Einherjar wrote:
Anything not solely based on the ontologically real is based at least in part on axioms. There can not be such a thing as an "unbiased" axiom pertaining to the matters of right and wrong, as any such axiom would be biased in favor of itself and in disfavor of anything inconsistent with it. Nothing that follows from a biased axiom can be considered unbiased. (unless it can be established without using the axiom) Thus only that which is based solely on the ontologically real can be unbiased.

And you think that the concept of "ontological reality" is not based on an axiom?

Einherjar wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
2. If, by "moral relativism" you mean that one should be guided only by one's subjective moral beliefs, then one is free to be as biased as possible, since there is nothing but one's own moral sense to act as a constraint. Indeed, given that everyone fashions their own morality for themselves, I would be surprised if there were such a thing as an unbiased (i.e. non-subjective) morality.


This is my position also.

You said "thats moral relativism for you, no bias what so ever." Now you say that moral relativism, because it is based on axioms, is inevitably biased. Either moral relativism is biased or it isn't. Make up your mind.

Einherjar wrote:
It is self imposed, perhaps as a moral imperative in the moral relativists personal moral code, perhaps for some other reason.

There is no such thing as a self-imposed moral imperative.

Einherjar wrote:
(Having read and replied to this next bit I have come to the conclusion that we essentially agree, and that your objections to moral relativism stems from moral imperatives that you are attemting to ascribe to it, thus causing inconsistency. Moral imperatives such as be tolerant, be objective and be internally consistent is not included in moral relativism as i would define it.)

Then your definition is flawed.

Einherjar wrote:
I'm guessing this is where we part ways, I posit only that there can be no objective grounds on which to evaluate a set of morals.

I doubt that.

Einherjar wrote:
I agree with the second statement, not the first one, determining wether one moral code is entitled to precedence is a moral judgement outside of the scope of moral relativism as I would define it.

That's nonsensical. If one set of morals is entitled to precedence over another, on what basis would we prefer the former to the latter if not morality? Esthetics? Chronological precedence?

Einherjar wrote:
Or rather that the actions of X are moral according to X's moral code, and immoral according to the moral code of Y, and vica versa.

No. According to moral relativism, X's actions can only be judged by X's morality, not by Y's. If Y could say that X's actions were immoral according to Y's system of morality, then Y would, in fact, be erecting an objective standard, which is impermissible under the tenets of moral relativism.

Einherjar wrote:
X might condemn Y on the basis of his own moral code, or for that matter on the basis of the moral code of Z. I've only posited that there can be no objective criteria by which to settle the dispute, not that it could never occur.

There can be no such dispute among rational moral relativists.

Einherjar wrote:
Or one could determine that X is not correct on the basis that there can be no such thing as a correct moral code in the first place. An observer could never make judgements about the morals of others without applying morals of his own.

I'm positing that there is no such thing as a correct moral, not that every moral is correct.

On what basis can you assert that there is no such thing as a correct moral code in the first place?

Einherjar wrote:
Again, moral relativism according to me is but the realization that morals are relative, and does not impose morals of its own.

If I were to seek to impose my morals upon you, without your consent and contrary to your own set of morals, would my action be immoral?

Einherjar wrote:
How about labeling it moral, in so far as it defines the concepts "right" and "wrong"?

As I explained, moral relativism cannot define anything as either "right" or "wrong" and still remain relative.

Einherjar wrote:
I'm confused, wasn't you just arguing that "moral relativism" did just that?

Where? Point it out.

Einherjar wrote:
In not distinguishing between moral and immoral other than by reference to specified moral codes you are suddenly in line with my definition of the word.

I'm getting the impression that you are using dual definitions, defining moral relativism much like I would, but attemting to ascribe moral judgements to it, which would violate said definition.

I'm saying that moral relativism cannot be a system of morality unless it includes some sort of objective element, which means that moral relativism is fatally contradictory.

Einherjar wrote:
I think "moral relativism" means relativism applied to morals, not relativistic set of morals. Moral relativism is not a moral code.

Moral relativism is not merely a descriptive framework for understanding competing systems of morality. If moral relativism were no more than that, it would not be very interesting. Indeed, it wouldn't even be philosophy (it would be sociology or psychology). Rather, moral relativists believe that they are asserting a prescriptive system, one that determines what is right and what is wrong. In particular, moral relativists believe not only that all moralities are personal, but that it is wrong to impose one's morality on someone else. And that determination of right and wrong makes moral relativism a system of morality.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 10:00 am
Joe states that moral relativism is not just a descriptive framework but also a prescriptive system that determines what is right and what is wrong.

Einherjar, were you arguing that moral relativism is only a descriptive framework?

(I am asking this because I am trying to find a clear definition of moral relativism.)
0 Replies
 
Einherjar
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 10:48 am
wandeljw wrote:
Joe states that moral relativism is not just a descriptive framework but also a prescriptive system that determines what is right and what is wrong.

Einherjar, were you arguing that moral relativism is only a descriptive framework?

(I am asking this because I am trying to find a clear definition of moral relativism.)


I was. I'm thinking of ceding the label to joe, seing as how I am more concerned with the actual principle than with the label. While I am sure joe is arguing against moral relativism as he understands it, his understanding of the term amounts to an impressive strawman of my initial statement as I meant it. Rather than bothering with the exess baggage the label seems to carry with it I'm going to restate my position without the label.


JOE

I am of the opinion that no moral code can be set up without at least one axiom, and that no moral axiom with implications that would allow one to make even a single right/wrong determination could ever be unbiased. Nothing following from a biased axiom can possibly be unbiased, unless it can be established without said axiom. Thus it is impossible to assign "right" and "wrong" to certain actions without exerting bias, and a preference for one moral system above another can only be arrived at by checking for compliance with another moral axiom, thus begging the question.

There can be no objective moral code.

I will no longer refer to this as "moral relativism, but will instead call it ""my opinion"". (for lack of a better imagination)

So joe, substituting "my opinion" for "moral relativism" in my initial statement, do you still object to it's contents?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 11:54 am
Einherjar wrote:
While I am sure joe is arguing against moral relativism as he understands it, his understanding of the term amounts to an impressive strawman of my initial statement as I meant it.

My understanding of the term is in line with pretty much everyone else's understanding of the term. If you choose to construct an idiosyncratic definition of "moral relativism," then you should be prepared for people to misunderstand you.

Einherjar wrote:
I am of the opinion that no moral code can be set up without at least one axiom, and that no moral axiom with implications that would allow one to make even a single right/wrong determination could ever be unbiased.

Given your strange definition of "moral relativism," I now must insist that you explain your definition of "bias." What do you mean when you state that no moral code can be "unbiased?"

Einherjar wrote:
I will no longer refer to this as "moral relativism, but will instead call it ""my opinion"". (for lack of a better imagination)

You are right to do so.

Einherjar wrote:
So joe, substituting "my opinion" for "moral relativism" in my initial statement, do you still object to it's contents?

I will defer judgment until I have a better idea of what exactly you mean.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 01:39 pm
Can we not consider moral relativism a pragmatic strategy rather than a moral principle? I agree that morals are our constructions, not things we find in the world of objects. I consider morals to be the morals OF particular individuals and societies, never objective phenonmena outside of Plato's cave. The world consists of multiple moral systems (speaking here of the moral codes of societies). These form the motivational basis and felt justification for actions. Morals as such often underlie intergroup conflicts. A problem is that such conflicts are virtually impossible to resolve if antagonists consider their own justificatory morals (and values) to be absolute. It becomes pragmatically necessary, therefore, to acknowledge the relativity of morals if one is to make constructive efforts at resolution. This does not mean that we do not consider--at some level--our own morals to be absolute, in the sense of being non-negotiable. But this refers to psychological needs and feelings, not to an abstract absolutism. I believe that the Nazi morality used to justify the slaughter of millions of people is THEIR morality, not mine. But that does not mean that I should therefore behave AS IF their morality is just as good as mine. My moralilty, perhaps I should say my psycho-social sensibilities, justify for me the killing and jailing of Nazis. Social scientitists have long realized that they cannot understand the behavior of others while they are interpreting their behavior through the filter of their own morals and values (and other cultural presuppositions). In this sense I consider morals and values to be relative and the perspective of moral relativism to be pragmatically beneficial--without having to justify it philosophically.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 01:56 pm
JL,

In my opinion the Nazi crimes are universally condemned. If this is true, then there are at least some absolute moral values.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 05:56 pm
Wandel, are you saying that the absoluteness of a moral value is determined by how many people endorse it? By the way, there are still people--in Austria and in America--who do not condemn the Nazi crimes as you and I do.
0 Replies
 
Ray
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Feb, 2005 06:00 pm
Standard morality is universal; the only difference between cultures is the presence of exceptions.
0 Replies
 
 

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