Moral Relativism

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boagie
 
Reply Thu 13 Nov, 2008 04:05 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss wrote:
We enjoy living in a society that is governed by certain laws and boundaries; this is a result of "looking for the absolute". While we all might be in relative positions, it is the concept of the absolute that takes us in the right direction. To adopt your philosophy on a grand scale would mean chaos. I will pack the lunch and take law and order over anarchy.


Pangloss,Smile

You then believe these laws and boundaries are absolutes, your easily satisfied, no doubt you will find the absolute, why it is just everywhere!
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Thu 13 Nov, 2008 04:21 pm
@boagie,
boagie;33232 wrote:
Pangloss,Smile
You then believe these laws and boundaries are absolutes, your easily satisfied, no doubt you will find the absolute, why it is just everywhere!


No, I don't. Did you not read my earlier post? My point in this recent post was that the "absolute" is something that people strive to attain, and it seems to me that in this attempt to attain absolute truth, good things happen. I don't say that they have found absolute truth.

I also do not consider morality to be something readily apparent to everyone, or even realistically attainable. Just because all people do not agree on a set of absolute morals does not mean that all actions are essentially both "right" and "wrong", according to the perspective. Two people can disagree on something, but then science can be used to reasonably prove one of the people to be wrong. Is it impossible to determine good and bad actions with the same certainty that we have when drawing conclusions in science?

Is it not possible to use the power of logical reasoning to determine absolute morality? Can we not look at some human action and determine for a certainty that that action was "wrong"? So then we cannot say that the holocaust, or genocide in general, is wrong, because to the people committing it, it was right?
 
boagie
 
Reply Thu 13 Nov, 2008 04:52 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss,Smile

Excellent! I understand where you are coming from pangloss!!
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 13 Nov, 2008 04:54 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;32221 wrote:
Kant sees morality a function of maxims turned into moral laws independent of action, thus, relative and even socially constructed.
That's not how I'd interpret Kant's position. His moral imperatives were expressly meant to be generalizable to all humanity and independent of consideration for consequences. Thus, I see no room for moral relativism in his ethics.

You also leave out Plato and Socrates as two of the great moral philosophers in the west (though their positions are hard to distinguish). They were NOT relativists by any argument. Plato's strong moralism is evident all over the place in his writings, in the Gorgias and the Republic and the Phaedo, etc. The whole downstream tradition Plato started, with Plotinus and Augustine, etc, was similarly pure deontology.

Neither was Confucius, the best known ethical philosopher from an eastern tradition.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Thu 13 Nov, 2008 06:04 pm
@Aedes,
Hi all.

Am I right that morality at its core has to do with judgement of an action/thought/etc. as right or wrong? If so, absolute morality can only exist if there is an absolute judge. (And who knows, maybe there is an absolute judge out there?)

Other than that I think it is indeed relative, simply because any given culture or person will have their own judgements and moral codes, and every person and situation is different. So I agree to some extent with the orginal post, that, for subjective beings, morality is relative. This belief causes me to want to take a cautious and humble perspective on morality, and to choose my sources of input on the subject wisely. But... It does not, indeed could not, stop me from behaving as a moral and judging creature. It's who I am, and who we are- we simply can't not make moral judgements. (sorry for the double negative)

Also, I think it's important to distinguish between a persons understanding of what is right and wrong vs. whether they are acting in accordance with it. For instance, for a person that believes (knows for themselves) that something is wrong yet still does it, would be acting more "immoral" than someone else doing the same thing but who did not believe (or know) that it was wrong. (I added the word "know" rather than just believe, because I think that most of us hold certain moral codes so strongly that "know" them.)
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 13 Nov, 2008 08:01 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
NeitherExtreme;33251 wrote:
absolute morality can only exist if there is an absolute judge.
Yes, but you if you want to play semantics, you can easily argue that because moral judgements are individually made, then each individual is an absolute judge.

Quote:
for a person that believes (knows for themselves) that something is wrong yet still does it, would be acting more "immoral" than someone else doing the same thing but who did not believe (or know) that it was wrong
Fortunately most legal codes don't accept ignorance or disbelief as a justification for illegal acts. And we have this whole notion of human rights that doesn't come out of nowhere. When morals come into conflict, the most basic moral position of humanity (let people live in peace) is generally held above the moral needs of an oligarchy or individual that seeks to violate it.
 
NeitherExtreme
 
Reply Tue 18 Nov, 2008 03:18 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Yes, but you if you want to play semantics, you can easily argue that because moral judgements are individually made, then each individual is an absolute judge.

In my mind, for someone to be called an "absolute" judge, it would be necessary for them to have all the facts, and know all the motives, etc., which is not really possible in our experience.

Aedes wrote:

Fortunately most legal codes don't accept ignorance or disbelief as a justification for illegal acts.

I should hope not, especially at a systematic level. But I do think it's important to take into account how much someone knows/understands, or how they've been trained, etc. before making many personal judgements on their character.

Aedes wrote:

And we have this whole notion of human rights that doesn't come out of nowhere.

I agree, but where do you think it comes from? And what gives it any transending authority beyond personal (or societal) preference?

Aedes wrote:

When morals come into conflict, the most basic moral position of humanity (let people live in peace) is generally held above the moral needs of an oligarchy or individual that seeks to violate it.

I don't think that you could adequately say that's the "basic moral position of humanity". It may be the prevailing ideology in the west, or maybe(??) even in the world at the moment, but there are many cultures (and people) who've prided themselves in inflicting pain, triumphing over others, and securing their own self-interests. And secondly, this moral doesn't begin to address what happens when people's (or societies) needs are legitametly at odds with another's. Who gives up their needs for the other's? I think it would just be naive to say that it's been the "basic" human moral position that those cases to just work together in a self-sacrificial way.
 
nicodemus
 
Reply Tue 18 Nov, 2008 10:36 pm
@NeitherExtreme,
the only true standard moral code is that of rational logic. many questions of moral relativity could have been answered by simple, cold, unemotional logic. for example, when it comes to the death penalty, many claim that innocents are sent to death row. true though this may be, in the grand scheme of things, they are insignifigant. the idea that the risk of killing one innocent man will deter the state from delivering capital punishment to ten scumbags is laughable on a good day and deplorable on most occasions. if one can prove that ones actions have caused more general benefit than waste, than one is morrally right.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Wed 19 Nov, 2008 11:33 am
@nicodemus,
Hey Nicodemus,

Concur that rational logic could conceivable develop a standard moral code. But with regards to your example, I couldn't disagree more.

Perhaps another thread (or existing one on Death Penalty ethics) would be appropriate.

Thanks
 
nicodemus
 
Reply Wed 19 Nov, 2008 09:19 pm
@Khethil,
sorry, first one that came to my head,
if you want a better one, try the factory that lays off 10000 loyal wage earning workers, although theyre now unemployed, it keeps the company intact and preserves the livelyhood of thousands more, it may seem cold hearted, but thats what logic is,

another good example is the dropping of the atomic bomb
 
hue-man
 
Reply Sat 27 Dec, 2008 06:20 pm
@OctoberMist,
OctoberMist wrote:
Greetings to all...

I maintain that absolute constucts of morality do not exist, or, if they should somehow exist, they are unknowable and uncommunicable.

I think it's obvious that morality is relative. =)

I maintain that any conception of morality is relative to one's:

- intelligence
- education
- societal mores
- life experiences
- personality

Even if there was a system of absolute morality, each person who is capable of comprehending such a system is still subject to their individual interpretation and comprehension of that system. Therefore, in a pragmatic sense, absolute morality could exist, but would be impossible to communicate. Equally, if it did exist, it would be impossible for anyone to be certain of it.

I submit that it is impossible for two people to have the exact same comprehension of morality even if they both generally agree to the same principles. Their interpretation will still be unique.

I challenge anyone to disprove this claim. Very Happy


Well, I for one agree with what you're saying in terms of personal morality being relative to intelligence (intra-personal and inter-personal intelligence), personality, and society. I believe that moral positions become objective when you begin to speak of its inter-personal aspects; such as how one person's actions effect another person. For example, I can objectively say that torturing someone is wrong, because you are causing a personal being mental and physical pain, and it is wrong to cause pain to another person, because it is against their personal will, and as a person you would not want someone to put you through the same. So, unless you believe that pain is a good thing then we can say that it is a bad thing, in the sense that it is universally undesirable, and therefore, it is wrong to intend to cause another person pain. This is only contradicted in cases of self-defense. This isn't really a direct rebuttal of your argument though. The claim that a person's sense of morality is relative to their genes and environment is pretty much a fact.

When it comes to morality the most important factor is the society/environment, and so the state should and does create a standard of ethics that citizens are expected to uphold. All societies that wish to call themselves civil should have ethical standards that grant its citizens freedoms, as long as those freedoms don't directly interfere with the will of another person. That is why we have laws against murder, theft, rape, racism, and laws for entrepreneurship, freedom of information, speech, sight, sound, etc. The modern ethical standards implemented by the state are extropian in principle, but the state doesn't always live up to that principle; even in republican societies, because of the majorities influence on the policy makers.
 
 

 
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