Hypothetical Situation

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Gazer
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 03:50 pm
Think of this:

An explorer encounters a society completely cut of from the rest of the world. In his opinion, they are primitive. He witnesses a woman being burnt for being raped.

Does he have the right to intervene?

I will wait until someone states an opinion and why he/she thinks this before explaining anything in detail.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 04:09 pm
@Gazer,
Gazer;120552 wrote:
Think of this:

An explorer encounters a society completely cut of from the rest of the world. In his opinion, they are primitive. He witnesses a woman being burnt for being raped.

Does he have the right to intervene?

I will wait until someone states an opinion and why he/she thinks this before explaining anything in detail.


I don't have any idea whether he has the right to intervene. But I am pretty sure he would be right to intervene.
 
Gazer
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 04:39 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;120555 wrote:
I don't have any idea whether he has the right to intervene. But I am pretty sure he would be right to intervene.


Right and wrong are based on social norms. Therefore, from the society being encountered's point of view, burning the woman is the right thing to do, it is their social norm (sorry, perhaps I did not make this clear). It is only from the explorer's view that what they are doing is wrong, and since there is no one else from his society, this view is meaningless. As the opinion only has meaning in the context of his society, his beliefs do not apply to those not from his society.

Does he have the right, or would he be right, to intervene?
 
Joshy phil
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 04:41 pm
@kennethamy,
Well, I suppose this ultimately comes down to cultural relativism, and whether it's a principle that you agree with or not.

If the explorer respected the principle of cultural relativism then, whether or not he wanted to intervene, he shouldn't. If he didn't respect it, then his response should be determined by his own opinion on the matter; his morals and other principles.

Although, saying it like that makes it sound like cultural relativism is solely a bad thing, which only hinders the actions of individuals, whether their intentions are morally just or not.

Of course, the 'primitives' have their own thoughts, beliefs, and principles, which they are choosing to follow. Burning the women for being raped is technically a part of their culture. If you believe in freedom of cultural and spiritual practice, then once again it seems that the explorer should not intervene...
 
Gazer
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 04:47 pm
@Joshy phil,
What are the arguments against cultural relativism?
 
Joshy phil
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 04:57 pm
@Gazer,
I'm not sure if there are necessarily any arguments directly against the principle of cultural relativism. I sadly haven't read that far into it.

The largest problem is that in modern society people, in general, do not respect it. We have a certain degree of tolerance for cultural and spiritual views of others, but as a whole, we don't embrace the equality of different cultures. I think it might come down to ignorance, to a certain degree. We can't exactly respect somebody and their views if we ourselves don't understand their views, and therefore don't understand why they hold those views.

In the given context, it's difficult for the explorer because he isn't knowledgeable of the culture within the society that he has stumbled upon. Therefore he cannot truly understand their beliefs, and therefore cannot respect them. Can you act on such little understanding?
 
Amperage
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 06:17 pm
@Gazer,
Gazer;120552 wrote:
Think of this:

An explorer encounters a society completely cut of from the rest of the world. In his opinion, they are primitive. He witnesses a woman being burnt for being raped.

Does he have the right to intervene?

I will wait until someone states an opinion and why he/she thinks this before explaining anything in detail.
Depends on what you mean by intervene. In that situation I would probably strongly voice my opinion and try to get them to see the issue from my point of view but if they chose to not listen then I would probably leave it at that. Morality is not something that is relative. If it were then why would we have ever progressed from the time of slavery to the time of now? Culturally we had no reason to. Society dictated that it was morally permissible and everyone in that society benefited.
There are certain principles that should never be violated. I think we must always challenge ourselves to look for the next "slavery" if you will.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 06:28 pm
@Amperage,
It's part of our culture to intervene in situations like that.
 
Gazer
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 06:35 pm
@Amperage,
Amperage;120568 wrote:
Depends on what you mean by intervene.


By intervene I mean actively go in there, grab the woman to be burnt from her captors, and take her away.

Quote:
In that situation I would probably strongly voice my opinion and try to get them to see the issue from my point of view but if they chose to not listen then I would probably leave it at that.


This is what I think should be done. Present an argument to the society on why you think burning the said woman is wrong, and leave it up to them on whether to accept it or not.

Quote:
Morality is not something that is relative. If it were then why would we have ever progressed from the time of slavery to the time of now? Culturally we had no reason to. Society dictated that it was morally permissible and everyone in that society benefited.


Morality is very relative. It is relative (on the whole) to social norms. We have progressed (from our point of view 'progressed'), from slavery because of a change in ideas and those ideas causing the social norms to change. As these norms have changed, what is and what is not moral have also changed.

In this case it is what the aim of society should be that has changed. Back then, society was aimed towards the happiness of the elite, so morality was what helped achieve that end. Now it is aimed at the happiness of everyone.

Quote:
There are certain principles that should never be violated. I think we must always challenge ourselves to look for the next "slavery" if you will.
There are certain principles that should never be violated in the context of our society.

---------- Post added 01-16-2010 at 07:39 PM ----------

Jebediah;120569 wrote:
It's part of our culture to intervene in situations like that.


Only if the situation occurs in our culture.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 06:43 pm
@Gazer,
Gazer;120571 wrote:

Only if the situation occurs in our culture.


That's not true. Part of our culture is the belief that we have the right to interfere with other cultures. Do you believe we should change that belief of ours?
 
Amperage
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 06:48 pm
@Gazer,
Gazer;120571 wrote:
Morality is very relative. It is relative (on the whole) to social norms. We have progressed (from our point of view 'progressed'), from slavery because of a change in ideas and those ideas causing the social norms to change. As these norms have changed, what is and what is not moral have also changed.

In this case it is what the aim of society should be that has changed. Back then, society was aimed towards the happiness of the elite, so morality was what helped achieve that end. Now it is aimed at the happiness of everyone.
I would argue that that says social norms are relative not morality. We progressed because we became more enlightened; we moved more towards the truth. social norms change, the truth does not.

If the court says that it's acceptable to have slaves again. I still wont, because it's wrong despite social norms
 
Gazer
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 06:56 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;120573 wrote:
That's not true. Part of our culture is the belief that we have the right to interfere with other cultures. Do you believe we should change that belief of ours?


I thought it was a norm that we should tolerate other cultures. If you are talking about the present, technically the whole world is part of the same society because we are all under the United Nations.

---------- Post added 01-16-2010 at 08:02 PM ----------

Amperage;120574 wrote:
I would argue that that says social norms are relative not morality. We progressed because we became more enlightened; we moved more towards the truth. social norms change, the truth does not.

If the court says that it's acceptable to have slaves again. I still wont, because it's wrong despite social norms


What truth? Enlightened about what?

For the courts to say it's acceptable to have slaves again, the overwhelming majority of people would have to agree. You won't know if you would still think slavery is wrong because in that case you would have been brought up in a totally different society, so your values would be different.
 
Amperage
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 08:46 pm
@Gazer,
Gazer;120575 wrote:
What truth? Enlightened about what?

For the courts to say it's acceptable to have slaves again, the overwhelming majority of people would have to agree. You won't know if you would still think slavery is wrong because in that case you would have been brought up in a totally different society, so your values would be different.
The truth is what is right regardless of circumstance. By enlightened I simply mean that we come to a realization that leads us closer to the truth. In the case of slavery, I figure someone got to know one of their slaves and realized they were people too.

Are you suggesting that we can't hold a different moral view on an issue other than what is the social norm? How do you suppose the first person who owned a slave came to the conclusion that slavery was wrong? Moral progress is impossible if morals are relative. To say morals are relative is to say that no one can be wrong.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 09:26 pm
@Gazer,
Gazer;120562 wrote:
Right and wrong are based on social norms. Therefore, from the society being encountered's point of view, burning the woman is the right thing to do, it is their social norm (sorry, perhaps I did not make this clear). It is only from the explorer's view that what they are doing is wrong, and since there is no one else from his society, this view is meaningless. As the opinion only has meaning in the context of his society, his beliefs do not apply to those not from his society.

Does he have the right, or would he be right, to intervene?


Well, those are two different questions. I don't know where he would get the right to intervene. But, in my view, it would be right for him to intervene, even if, as it is doubtful, the society thought it would be all right to rape a woman.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2010 10:49 pm
@Gazer,
Gazer;120562 wrote:
Right and wrong are based on social norms. Therefore, from the society being encountered's point of view, burning the woman is the right thing to do, it is their social norm (sorry, perhaps I did not make this clear). It is only from the explorer's view that what they are doing is wrong, and since there is no one else from his society, this view is meaningless. As the opinion only has meaning in the context of his society, his beliefs do not apply to those not from his society.


Bolded statement is false--right and wrong are based partly on biology and instincts. Social norms merely mold. We all have a shared humanity, you are suggesting vast and impenetrable differences between other societies and our own.

Gazer;120571 wrote:

In this case it is what the aim of society should be that has changed. Back then, society was aimed towards the happiness of the elite, so morality was what helped achieve that end. Now it is aimed at the happiness of everyone.


But society was aimed at the happiness of the elite because they had all the power. If you accept that a minority view can trump a minority view, then how is that different from saying that the explorer's view can trump the natives view because he has guns and they don't?

Gazer;120575 wrote:
I thought it was a norm that we should tolerate other cultures. If you are talking about the present, technically the whole world is part of the same society because we are all under the United Nations.


:listening: The united nations is weak and has very limited influence.

Anyway, we are not discussing tolerating other cultures, we are discussing intervening in certain circumstances. And you haven't answered to the point: if a culture's values allow them to interfere with another culture, do you respect those values?

Quote:
For the courts to say it's acceptable to have slaves again, the overwhelming majority of people would have to agree. You won't know if you would still think slavery is wrong because in that case you would have been brought up in a totally different society, so your values would be different.
It's not the values that would be different, it's the perception of african american's as subhuman. You are arguing that values are subjective, but you agree that facts aren't, yes?



The weird thing about cultural relativism to me is that most of it's followers are liberal, i.e. they want to change the current culture of the society they live in. In other words, they want to impose their beliefs on the rest of their society that doesn't agree with them. But that contradicts cultural relativism, because you can have multiple cultures in the same country.

I agree that it's hard to judge other cultures because we don't understand them fully, that they can have different ways of doing things that are perfectly valid, different standards of morality if that is what they need for their country to function. But I feel like moral and cultural relativism overgeneralizes from that.
 
JZaller
 
Reply Sun 17 Jan, 2010 12:26 am
@Gazer,
Gazer;120562 wrote:
Right and wrong are based on social norms. Therefore, from the society being encountered's point of view, burning the woman is the right thing to do, it is their social norm.


The most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a delusion as:
"A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everybody else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture."
 
Gazer
 
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2010 10:55 am
@Amperage,
Amperage;120584 wrote:
The truth is what is right regardless of circumstance. By enlightened I simply mean that we come to a realization that leads us closer to the truth. In the case of slavery, I figure someone got to know one of their slaves and realized they were people too.

Are you suggesting that we can't hold a different moral view on an issue other than what is the social norm? How do you suppose the first person who owned a slave came to the conclusion that slavery was wrong? Moral progress is impossible if morals are relative. To say morals are relative is to say that no one can be wrong.


I'm saying that the social norms are that in society which are agreed by the overwhelming majority of people, for example: murder is wrong, everyone has equal rights.

I suppose people came to the realisation that slavery made no sense in their current society because it was contradictory to other aspects of that society, for example: 'Wait, black people don't seem like idiots, I've talked to them. Now that that has been established, surely there is no reason to treat them as sub human?'

I do not see how social progress is impossible if morals are relative to social norms. I never said that social norms can not change-- they do, and when they do, morals do to.

People can be wrong, but only in the context of their society. This is not to belittle the importance of being wrong in that context-- it is the only context in which someone can be right or wrong.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2010 11:10 am
@Gazer,
Gazer;120807 wrote:
I'm saying that the social norms are that in society which are agreed by the overwhelming majority of people, for example: murder is wrong, everyone has equal rights.

I suppose people came to the realisation that slavery made no sense in their current society because it was contradictory to other aspects of that society, for example: 'Wait, black people don't seem like idiots, I've talked to them. Now that that has been established, surely there is no reason to treat them as sub human?'

I do not see how social progress is impossible if morals are relative to social norms. I never said that social norms can not change-- they do, and when they do, morals do to.

People can be wrong, but only in the context of their society. This is not to belittle the importance of being wrong in that context-- it is the only context in which someone can be right or wrong.


So that means, I suppose, that it was all right for the Nazis to murder six million Jews (in the context of German society at that time)?
 
Gazer
 
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2010 11:12 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;120607 wrote:
Bolded statement is false--right and wrong are based partly on biology and instincts. Social norms merely mold. We all have a shared humanity, you are suggesting vast and impenetrable differences between other societies and our own.


I am suggesting the possibility of vast and impenetrable differences between different societies, I still think there can be very similar societies as well (As most societies are).

I think our psychology (if that is what you mean by biology) and instincts do lead to certain social norms being established, but it is only after those norms have been established right and wrong come into play.

Quote:
But society was aimed at the happiness of the elite because they had all the power. If you accept that a minority view can trump a minority view, then how is that different from saying that the explorer's view can trump the natives view because he has guns and they don't?


I do not accept a minority view can trump a majority view. When society was aimed at the happiness of the elite, that changed because soon that view became the view of the minority and the majority challenged that view. Society changed. Also, all that change occured within the context of a single society in the middle of change, which is very different from saying that a single explorer's view can trump those of the majority who are in a different society just because he has guns and they don't.



Quote:
:listening: The united nations is weak and has very limited influence.

Anyway, we are not discussing tolerating other cultures, we are discussing intervening in certain circumstances. And you haven't answered to the point: if a culture's values allow them to interfere with another culture, do you respect those values?


You're right, that was a very weak argument on my behalf.

To answer your question, no, because no matter if a culture's values allows them to interfere with another culture, that value still doesn't mean anything to that other culture, it's still meaningless. The value itself is self contradictory. Notice that I still think one can disagree and argue against certain values, I just do not think you can stomp into another culture and change it forcibly.

Quote:
It's not the values that would be different, it's the perception of african american's as subhuman. You are arguing that values are subjective, but you agree that facts aren't, yes?


True, facts are not subjective, but the ability to see those facts are, and whether people can or can not see those facts depends largely, I think, on the morals one is brought up with.



Quote:
The weird thing about cultural relativism to me is that most of it's followers are liberal, i.e. they want to change the current culture of the society they live in. In other words, they want to impose their beliefs on the rest of their society that doesn't agree with them. But that contradicts cultural relativism, because you can have multiple cultures in the same country.


I don't think it's wrong to want to change values in other cultures, I think it's wrong to go and change those values forcibly, without the other culture having a say. You can argue against values, but you can't force your values upon another culture.

Quote:
I agree that it's hard to judge other cultures because we don't understand them fully, that they can have different ways of doing things that are perfectly valid, different standards of morality if that is what they need for their country to function. But I feel like moral and cultural relativism overgeneralizes from that.


Fair enough.
 
ChaosampComplexity
 
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2010 11:16 am
@Jebediah,
What if the custom says that on the occasion there's a visitor, if there's a woman raped and to be burned, the visitor (or anyone who would intervene) has to be burned too for sacrifice? I think, the first move would be to think of a way to escape.

Then one can plan for intervention afterward, not by himself alone, but by consulting majority of his culture. The point is, if we are new to the culture, we don't want to intervene that fast if we want to preserve our life.
 
 

 
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