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.
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.
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.
(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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"?
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.
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.
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.