moral relativism

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Re: moral relativism

Postby Lausten » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:13 pm

Nottamun wrote:It seems to me, however, that the closer we examine any practical example to test objective morality, the more likely it is that objectivity breaks down and, at some point, I am prepared to develop this further. That is why I keep asking people to develop this point.

What you call “asking people to develop” has come across more like challenging people to defend. Worse, it appears you don’t understand what I or EL have meant in the first place, so what you are asking doesn’t make sense. I’ve tried to explain this, but you keep complaining that my explanations or non-answers don’t make sense. “Any practical example” does “break down” as you say, but there is nothing about that general statement to “develop”. It is a statement on the futility of pursuing objective morality by seeking universally agreed upon rules.

nottamun wrote:As we approach the more familiar western forms of atheism, it is clear from any perusal of Wikipedia that, still, there is no common agreement.

Of course there isn’t, that’s the whole problem.

nottamun wrote:As far as I am concerned, if objective morality cannot be demonstrated to function in specific circumstances, then whatever is left needs to be examined in more detail. It should certainly not be dismissed out-of-hand.


What do you mean by “function in specific circumstances”? Would you say the US criminal justice system is “functional”? And I don’t mean that it doesn’t have problems, it has obvious problems. I mean in general, is it self-correcting, does it have sufficient oversight, does it have a process for addressing problems? If those aren’t criteria for “functional”, then what is?

Your search for some arbiter, or some common set of rules does not interest me. I have long since determined this is a dead end. Isn’t that obvious? You keep listing attempts at moral systems but don’t have much to say about HOW they have all failed. Sam Harris has taken a considerable amount of heat for the claims he’s made as has every philosopher and religion that ever made the attempt to define morality. Without any analysis of what you find good or bad about any of the arbiters, I can’t tell what you consider moral or what you are defending or what you mean by “objective morality”.

To implement a universal moral system would require first implementing universal education and a much higher level of agreement among world governments. But that is putting the cart before the horse. Step 1 is figuring out how to get along with our neighbors and how to work together even though we disagree. That’s what I mean by “objective morality”.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:37 pm

nottamun wrote:For people who believe in an all-powerful supernatural being, or in a ‘maximally great being”, then the reference point seems straightforward; it is in the message which the being passes down. The problem here starts with understanding the message, whether it be in the Bible, Qu’ran, Hadith, Talmud or whatever. But the principle is relatively simple; if it is stated in the holy book, then it can be recognised as a tenet for moral belief.

No. This is a pet peeve of mine. If Stargate SG-1 taught me anything, it is that if there is a powerful creature which calls itself a god, and if it acts immorally, then the correct answer is not to bow to it, but to destroy it. I don't care what the "maximally great being" says I should do. It's entirely irrelevant. And if that "maximally great being" commands people to do evil acts, then we should try to persuade it to do otherwise, and failing that, then we should try to destroy it.

If you're about to say "But it's unreasonable to think you could destroy the 'maximally great being' ", then I have to ask: How do we know it's maximally great? Because it said so? The goa'uld on Stargate SG-1 said the same thing (goa'uld: evil aliens with advanced technology who fancied themselves as gods), and the Ori also said the same thing (Ori: also evil aliens with "sufficiently advanced technology" who also fancied themselves as gods). The heroes of the story destroyed them just fine.

Moreover, even if it is so powerful that we have little choice but to submit or suffer, that doesn't make submitting the moral choice. That doesn't mean its dictates are good. "Might does not make right." This is the textbook definition of duress.

Related, in the news Desmond Tutu echoed my sentiments when he said:
I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.

That is the proper reply to anyone advocating divine command theory.

Thankfully, no such "maximally great being" exists, so all we have to do is deal with the deluded "followers" on Earth. Persuasion, argument, reason, deterrence, and simple punishments should be employed first. However, let me drive this point home. If total annihilation of evil people or greatly misguided is the only plausible option to save innocents, to prevent great amounts of harm to innocents, then I will go for the total annihilation of those evil or misguided people. This is the only moral position.
All it takes for evil for flourish is for good people to do nothing.

Obviously, the usual situation does not call for such drastic actions. At the moment, I think the only acceptable methods are persuasion, argument, and reason. However, in that hypothetical situation where a girl is about to be stoned to death because she was raped, and if my only options are to let the Islamist would-be killers kill her, or to kill the Islamists, then I would kill the Islamists every time, and afterwards I would sleep well at night. (Ok, about as well as anyone who thinks that they killed justly, which often isn't that good.)
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Re: moral relativism

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Thu Aug 08, 2013 12:40 am

Also, I continued this discussion with a friend of mine. He had a rather pedantic point which he corrected me on, and he also surprised me elsewhere.

He noted that science is just a method. The scientific method is just a formally specified - well maybe informally specified - algorithm. A method is not a value. However, using the scientific method is a value. Saying that we should use the scientific method to inform our beliefs is a value. So, science as a free-floating "concept" is not a value, but anyone who practices it has some value which causes them to use science. Usually, that value is simply that they value the scientific method itself. This might have been one of our earlier disagreements.

Second, I was watching a debate with Matt Dillahunty at a Imagine No Religion conference. Like all formal debates, it was rather painful, but it spurred me to think about something, and I realized something important. The asshat Christians made some points about objective morality. I didn't really understand what they were talking about. It forced me to think about what "objective" really means as commonly used, and to see if I can make any sense of "objective" morality.

I thought about the difference between an objectively judged sport, like football - soccer - and a subjectively judged sport, like figure skating. What is the difference? The crucial difference is that with objective judging rules, any reasonable person who honestly agrees to follow the rules, and who understands the rules sufficiently well, will come to the same conclusion of any other honest reasonable person. That is what "objective" means. It is a description of a set of rules, a process, an algorithm. An algorithm produces objective results if all reasonable people can do the algorithm and get consistent results. All reasonable people can agree to the rulings in a football game, but even professional judges often disagree quite wildly while judging figure skating.

Of course, this is all a matter of degree. A person judging football might not perfectly understand the rules. A person judging football might not be honest, ex: might be bribed, and consequently make a decision which other disagree with. A person judging football might have seen something slightly different which made him come to the a different conclusion than another judge. A person judging football might have made a mistake in reasoning or might have understood the rules slightly differently in a case of possible underspecification or ambiguity in language.

None of that changes the simple fact that for the most part, all reasonable people can agree when a football team scores a goal or not, when the ball goes out of bounds, and so on, and you do not see such agreement in judging in figure skating.

What do we mean by an objective material fact? For example, I say that it is an objective material fact that I am sitting on a chair. Let me unpack that. What I am saying is that under the method of science, under the judging rules of the scientific method, all honest reasonable observers will come to the conclusion that I am sitting on a chair, and thus it is objectively true. In other words, "I am sitting on a chair" is a fact which is true according to the objective rules of science. It may not be true in the context of another method. It is objectively true in the axiomatic framework of science. It may not be true if we adopt another axiomatic framework.

Consequently, the Christian proponents of objective morality do not understand what the word "objective" means. They have a colloquial understanding in their head, "that which is true even when no one agrees". As a kind of logical positivist, I cannot accept that. It's word salad. I don't know what that means. In short, they are appealing to truths which exist outside of any particular axiomatic framework, and as soon as they make that move, they lose.

Objective material facts such as the color of this pen are true only in a specified and understood framework, like the framework of science.

Similarly, objective moral facts can only be true if we identify and agree to a particular moral framework which has objective rules for determining true statements and false statements.

What the Christians are asking for is for "true moral statements" without any reference, explicit or implicit, to a moral standard or moral framework. That position is simply inane.

Thus, when I say that objective moral facts exist, I really ought to frame it like this:

Science is merely a method, and it is value-free. However, if you use science, then you have to have a value which implies that you should use science. Furthermore, I assert by naked fiat that we ought to use the methods of science to inform our beliefs and expectations.

Humanism can be thought of as a method, as a set of rules for partitioning things into what it calls "good" and "bad". The system is clear enough that most reasonable observers will come to the same conclusions in the same scenarios for most realistic scenarios that it can be called an objective system, an objective framework. So, under this terminology, humanism is value-free. It's just a method. However, to follow humanism requires that you have a value which implies that you should follow humanism. Furthermore, I assert by naked fiat that we ought to use humanism to inform our actions.

Finally, I argue that these truths are self-evident to nearly all people. Nearly all people recognize that they should use evidence-based reasoning to inform their beliefs, and nearly all people intuitively understand for the most part that they should follow the individual "values" of humanism.

PS: The surprising thing my friend said to me was that he was unwilling to agree to my proposition that people should use evidence-based reasoning to inform there beliefs. Like the earlier example, he had a like of pedantic shit that I tried to muddle through - such as it's impossible to do a detailed study for every decision you can make - but he also had the position that he was unwilling to impose values on other people, even the value that we should use science to inform our beliefs. Once I hit that, I thanked him, and more or less ended the conversation. I can't go anywhere from there.

EDIT: PPS: I continually come back to this video. It's an amazing insight that I'm still coming to understand, and the more I understand his point, the more I I appreciate Feynman.
Feynman: FUN TO IMAGINE 4: F*****' magnets, how do they work?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM
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Re: moral relativism

Postby nottamun » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:19 pm

Reply to Lausten:

“What you call “asking people to develop” has come across more like challenging people to defend”.


Challenging people to explain. If they hold that particular view, why is it unreasonable that I challenge them to explain? I have already explained amply why I have been looking for somebody to explain their version of objective morality to me and I am genuinely surprised that nobody, so far, has been prepared to do so.

“Worse, it appears you don’t understand what I or EL have meant in the first place”.


I have, as a matter of course, tried to respond consistently to all significant points raised, in order to check understanding and to explain myself further. I often go into considerable detail, only to find that, more often than not, the response is completely ignored. I complained to EL about this on many occasions and I cited three examples from you on August 04. I have also stated very clearly to both of you that, if you think I have missed something, you have only to say. Not being a mind reader, however, I would need you to tell me precisely what I have not understood. Which you have not.

“It is a statement on the futility of pursuing objective morality by seeking universally agreed upon rules”.


One reason that I went to the trouble of further developing the argument is that it would give you the opportunity to add something of your own rather that simply adding critical and negative comments whlst ignoring the overall point, which is all you have done so far. Here you have an opportunity. If objective morality is not pursued by seeking universally agreed upon rules (which incidentally, I never suggested but which you have misinterpreted!) then please explain how it can be pursued. In some detail, preferably.

What do you mean by “function in specific circumstances”?


I worded this part badly, though I had said similar things previously. I meant that objective morality needs to be explained through reference to specific case studies or examples to show how actions are guided by principles.

“Without any analysis of what you find good or bad about any of the arbiters, I can’t tell what you consider moral or what you are defending or what you mean by “objective morality”.


In other words you are inviting me to write more which, of course I could do. But the last time I offered, your reply was, “Please don’t”.

Instead, why don’t you write something positive for a change which contributes to the debate and to which I could then respond? Because, thus far, this seems to be a very one-way process.

Here is another example of what you could add:

“Step 1 is figuring out how to get along with our neighbors and how to work together even though we disagree”.


It seems to me to be a brilliant place to start. I welcome your contribution to such an idea.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby Lausten » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:58 pm

That was disappointing nottamun. EL and I gave you a lot to respond to and you just repeated your complaints. I was wondering if I was missing the mark on this conversation, so I googled “objective morality”. Yahoo answers has several versions of the question, and the people there are having an actual discussion. Since you refuse to respond reasonably to me, maybe if you looked at those, you could see what I mean by a reasonable discussion about this topic by glancing at those: Yahoo answers
nottamun wrote:I often go into considerable detail, only to find that, more often than not, the response is completely ignored.

I’m not ignoring you. I’ve told you that I understand what you mean by arbiter and other things you’ve said. Now, what do you think about that? Saying that there have been arbiters is just a statement. It is not an opinion. It does not forward the conversation. It gives me nothing to respond to, so an non-response is what you should expect.

nottamun wrote:I meant that objective morality needs to be explained through reference to specific case studies or examples to show how actions are guided by principles.


I’ve tried to discuss how I think morality should be developed, almost every time I post. But I don’t think there is such a thing as “objective morality”. This seems to be some sort of paradox for you because you keep making nonsensical statements like this one or “Different interpretations of the rules result in different ‘objective moralities’.” I don’t respond to these statements because they would take too much unpacking. And you make them often. Maybe it's that you only see two possibilities, objective or relative. There are other theories such as moral realism or the goal theory of morality that are quite workable and don't depend on "specific case studies or examples".

See what I'm saying about being challenging? You say this "needs to be explained" in a certain way. No, it doesn't. I don't have to discuss this your way or give you everything you ask for. You said something about "functioning", you seemed to have an opinion there. I responded to that, asked for clarification and you come back with another one of your demands. That's why this is not a conversation.

nottamun wrote:
Me wrote:“Without any analysis of what you find good or bad about any of the arbiters, I can’t tell what you consider moral or what you are defending or what you mean by “objective morality”.


In other words you are inviting me to write more which, of course I could do. But the last time I offered, your reply was, “Please don’t”.

Instead, why don’t you write something positive for a change which contributes to the debate and to which I could then respond? Because, thus far, this seems to be a very one-way process.

I’m inviting you to add something that you haven’t already said. It seems one-way because you haven’t moved from the one place you were weeks ago. So, please don’t go over the arbiter AGAIN.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby ArchAtheistDave » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:49 pm

Lausten wrote:I've been trying to figure out what "default position" means in this context. Normally that refers to a position that is pre-selected, so if no other action is taken, that's where you end up. If, what you mean is, most people don't examine their lives or spend much time considering their ethical choices, they just go with what their culture seems to prefer, then I would agree.


Lausten wrote:What I'm not sure I'm understanding in your use of "default position" is what you're implying. Are you implying this position comes from somewhere?


Don't try to over-read it, you should have picked up on it easily enough because it seemed you hinted at it: until a ethical baseline is determined that is reasonably objective, all talk of ethics and morals can only be subjective discussions, making reletivism the only other existing framework to compair ethical systems against one another...therefore the defult position.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby ArchAtheistDave » Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:29 pm

Reply to nottamun:
archatheistdave wrote:“I just wanted to add that there is an absolutely an evolutionary component to our morals”.


nottamun wrote:"with the evolution of life, I don’t see a ‘purpose’ or obvious ‘direction’. With the evolution of life, random changes are given an appearance of purpose by the process of natural selection. I would be reluctant to refer to morality or ethics with regard to non-humans but I am open to argument on that score. I do, however, appreciate that altruism and selfishness, reciprocation and paying back debts, for example, are subject to evolutionary pressure.


Ah, brother...do you see what you wrote there? The morality or ethics of non-human species _is_ the basis of what we need to understand as the baseline of ethics. Dawkins spoke about this in a "Good without god" chapter in The God Delusion. But others have reported the same thing, basically all the clever things we do in the normal course of our society are done by other animals in thiers to at least some degree. All but money really, and if you count food as analogous to money then even that line is very blurry.

It's true that the mechanics of evolution are harsh beyond descriptions. And while the mutations that create change to living things over time are random, their survival is _not_ random nor is it designed. Evolutionary processes would have operated the survival and propogation of behavoral instincts, and these are no different than any other trait that is selected for over the course of deep time.

This is why I say we need to take a _very_ hard and detailed look at some of the deeper implications of evolution as part of this discussion on ethics. A good bit of objective ethics can be found in the expressions of Game Theory that Dawkins and you both mention. The concept of "Altruistic Reciprocatotors", "Free Riders", and I'm sure many more concepts need to be reviewed for the elements of them that can be shown to work well within a social system. We could go on with as much mental masturbation as needed saying that we would need to determine that social systems have objective values as well, but I say this is false.

Once again we go looking to evolution for a grounding point for the idea that social groups are objectively important: As we evolved we gained ever larger brains, upright posture, language, opposable thumbs, etc., we also gave up a number of things that other animals have such as natural predatory weaponry(sharp and strong teeth, long claws, really big muscles, etc.), or natural avoidance & defensive capabilities(sharp cornering, high rates of acceleration or sustained high speed movement, bony plates, fur, long arms for arborial maneuvering, etc.). What we humans are really great at is getting together in groups and making things happen that way. Strength in numbers with objectives benefit the collective.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby Lausten » Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:53 pm

until a ethical baseline is determined that is reasonably objective, all talk of ethics and morals can only be subjective discussions, making reletivism the only other existing framework to compair ethical systems against one another

I didn't just hint that morals are not objective, I've said that plainly a couple times. But I don't like calling "relativism" a "position". It is not a "framework". The fact that there are different cultures in the world with different morals is not in dispute. Nor is the fact that they come into conflict because of that. The question of "moral relativism" is what can be excused based on what your culture taught you.

Examples: I can excuse that a father did not think of sending his daughter to school because that's what his father did, but if his daughter wants to go to school and he beats her, I can't excuse that. I can understand that he needs some educating and also should not be beaten, but I can't just look the other way.

People are going to judge you on how dress. They can exclude you from their social circles or private clubs or limit your career options, but only very limited laws should be made about dress. There should even be a few places where you can be naked.

Places where special religious laws apply should be limited. We need places where people can practice their sacred rituals, but these should not be imposed on everyone else. If an entire country wants to do that, they will have to figure out how to enforce that. Recent attempts at that have not gone so well and this obviously not the trend.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Sat Aug 10, 2013 9:47 pm

Sorry if I'm just repeating myself. I do think this is important, and I'm trying to phrase it with more clarity. I just watched another youtube video which touched on this topic. I'm more convinced now that this is the right way to look at it, and most conversations like this are mere misunderstandings over definition and a complete misunderstanding by one side of the nature of human beliefs and human justifications of beliefs.

IMO, the only coherent meaning of "objective" is a description for a process, a set of rules, an algorithm for a particular decision problem. Equivalently, "objective" is a description of axiomatic frameworks for belief. An objective axiomatic framework for belief is any such framework which can be described in conventional human language so that all reasonable people can agree on most implications of it. In other words, objectiveness is a matter of degree, just like confidence is a matter of degree. Science is an objective framework. The rules for judging football is an objective framework. The rules of humanism for morality is an objective framework. Humanism may not be as objective and clear-cut as science, but it's close for a lot of very interesting and useful cases.

The usual theist means something fundamentally different with the word "objective" in "objective morality". As far as I can tell, their usage of the word "objective" in "objective morality" includes the notion that there are right and wrong answers to conventional moral questions without reference to any axiomatic moral framework, which is just silly for the reasons I've described elsewhere. I'm pretty sure this is what they mean when they commonly say that "objective moral facts" are those moral facts which are true even if no one agreed. It's hard to parse what they're saying because they seem to be rejecting axiomatic frameworks for belief, which is a complete non-starter. I don't know what it means for something to be true absent some framework where we allow something to be true, and Hume's is-ought distinction is in full play and thus you cannot derive new values from mere scientific facts. (Although again Sam Harris is right when he says that you cannot accept scientific facts without having certain values underlying, such as valuing truth, honesty, evidence-based reasoning, etc.)
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Re: moral relativism

Postby nottamun » Sun Aug 11, 2013 9:10 pm

Reply to Lausten:

“EL and I gave you a lot to respond to and you just repeated your complaints”.


If you cannot find ten thousand words of my responses to your posts than I shall be very surprised! This absolutely typifies why I have to repeat complaints. You take great pleasure in making criticisms and assertions which are completely unsupported by evidence. Even so, I take the time and trouble to respond to nearly all of them. More often than not, you ignore what I have said. Each time I remind you about this, you ignore or misinterpret what I say. For example (something you hardly ever say), I need only to refer to your penultimate post;

“When you stated, “What you call “asking people to develop” has come across more like challenging people to defend".


My reply was, “If they hold that particular view, why is it unreasonable that I challenge them to explain?”. If you noticed that this was a question, you gave no indication of doing so because you did not reply. This has become the norm.

When you made a further accusation without justification, I replied, “Not being a mind reader, however, I would need you to tell me precisely what I have not understood. Which you have not”. And the most you can manage in response this time is; “That was disappointing nottamun. EL and I gave you a lot to respond to”.

Is this really all you can manage? I ask you for examples – not being a mind reader – and all you can do is repeat an assertion. Then you wonder why I have to repeat myself. An assertion without justification amounts to nothing. I have told you before that, when I asked EL if there was anything he felt I should have answered but didn’t – three times – he never replied. I have to repeat myself because you cannot bring yourself to acknowledge that I have answered you very fully. I have asked you the same question and you have not managed to provide me with any useful details.

You then manage to significantly misinterpret a major part of my argument;

“It is a statement on the futility of pursuing objective morality by seeking universally agreed upon rules”.

How you deduce that from what I wrote is completely beyond me, particularly when, previously, I had stated; “The ‘objective morality’ which arises is that which is accepted by the group. It cannot be universal because it would not be accepted on the same basis by non-believers. Different interpretations of the rules result in different ‘objective moralities’”. You are putting words into my mouth with no justification whatsoever. Furthermore, you demonstrate that you have not read properly what I have written.

“I’ve tried to discuss how I think morality should be developed, almost every time I post”.


Please tell me where. All I can find is, “To implement a universal moral system would require first implementing universal education and a much higher level of agreement among world governments. But that is putting the cart before the horse. Step 1 is figuring out how to get along with our neighbors and how to work together even though we disagree”. This is hardly a thesis but I thought it might make an interesting start, so I encouraged you to expand on what is, after all, only three sentences. You haven’t managed to do so. In fact, “almost every time I post” means – unless you can show me otherwise – once. Three sentences.

I did follow up on your Yahoo link, which is a discussion forum rather like this one with a range of different views. What, precisely, I am supposed to glean from this you have not made clear. Maybe you hope they can explain when you are clearly unable to do so. Certainly, the most popular answer has a coherence which is entirely absent from your non-explanations. I would agree with a great deal of what it said, though not, necessarily about its explanation for derivations of right and wrong.

I have never – up to this point – refused to respond reasonably to you. That is another assertion which you make with no further explanation or justification. You are extremely unfair and this is becoming very annoying.

“I’m not ignoring you. I’ve told you that I understand what you mean by arbiter and other things you’ve said. Now, what do you think about that? Saying that there have been arbiters is just a statement. It is not an opinion. It does not forward the conversation. It gives me nothing to respond to, so an non-response is what you should expect”.

You have clearly completely ignored, “If you don’t like the term, then I can live with that whilst retaining the principle. I’ll try and find another way of expressing it”. You have also failed to recognise the four paragraphs which followed by way of further explanation. I never suggested that it was a complete explanation. But it gave you plenty to respond to. You have, however, simply chosen not to respond and to try to close the argument at that point. In the same way that I continued to explain why the ‘who’ question in discussion of atheist morality is not ridiculous. Despite my further questions and reminders on this point, you seem to have dropped the issue.

I don’t know whether it is simply a lack of confidence, but you cannot bring yourself to recognise a valid point or to cede a response to criticism. You choose instead to ignore the point. I have already given you several examples of this.

“This seems to be some sort of paradox for you because you keep making nonsensical statements like this one or “Different interpretations of the rules result in different ‘objective moralities’.” I don’t respond to these statements because they would take too much unpacking”.


If that is the case, is it beyond you to ask a question or seek further clarification rather than simply to dismiss the statement out of hand, which you have done on many occasions? I can give you examples if you doubt me.

“There are other theories such as moral realism or the goal theory of morality that are quite workable and don't depend on "specific case studies or examples".


Very interesting. Can we add this to the two previous statements you made which, when I asked you to develop them further, you failed to do so?

Another thousand words wasted defending pointless criticisms. No new ideas developed. No progress made.

I am, thankfully, not around for the following week.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby Lausten » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:02 pm

“If you noticed that this was a question, you gave no indication of doing so because you did not reply.”.

Reply to what? I said you come across as challenging, and you said, “what’s wrong with that?” If you want to challenge, not ask, that’s your problem. I have nothing else to say about it.

I ask you for examples

See above

Different interpretations of the rules result in different ‘objective moralities’

You say I didn’t respond to his, but I did include this as one those statements you make that are difficult to unpack and respond to. I’m not sure how I can explain that “different” and “objective” don’t make sense when used to together like this. I’ve been saying that there is no such thing as “objective morality”, and I think I’ve explained that I mean people CLAIM to have created objectively moral systems, but they really aren’t. Usually, they are systems that serve an elite to help oppress others.

Some then say that all morality is relative, but they don’t examine that in much detail. I think that is what EL was trying to do originally. It’s one thing to simply describe morality as always being relative, it’s another thing to point out the problems of this relativism and attempt to find some common ground. That’s what I have made a couple stabs at. If you want to join in that, feel free, but don’t expect to get much of a response to unparseable statements like the one I quoted here. And don’t bother whining that I don’t respond to it either.
I have never – up to this point – refused to respond reasonably to you.

OMG. So, in your world, being challenging, then saying “what’s wrong with that”, is reasonable. Okay, got it. You ask a lot of questions. An unreasonable number of questions. So if I don’t respond to all of them, that is not unreasonable, but when you complain that I don’t, that IS unreasonable.

BTW, if you googled “objective morality” as I mentioned, you’d see several Yahoo threads. Since we are having such difficulties, I thought it would be useful for you to see an example of what I consider a decent discussion on this topic. I guess different threads could come randomly, so maybe you didn’t see the ones I liked. I’m not sure if it matters.

Try this, in your next post, say whatever you want, but don’t complain about what I didn’t respond to or didn’t explain or what I failed to develop. If I “put words in your mouth” or incorrectly deduced something, just clarify it, correct it or ask a question. Do this without reference to my self-confidence or my ability to recognize a point.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby ArchAtheistDave » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:32 am

EL, I don't know that it would be necessary to go quite to the level of an algorithm bro. You said that before and I thought you were just over-blowing to make a point.

How about this: The objective ethical framework need be very limited in scope, and purposefully vague in detail. It originates from a strict secular position holding zero value for superstition. References to happiness/wellness and such things would need to be understood as representing the physical and mental happiness/wellness of individuals, in no way a reference however veiled, at describing the goal of national and personal morals/ethics.

How about this language as an example?
http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

It's not as limited in scope, and is way longer than I'd have made something like this. Take the time to read it though please. Many of the articles are done to tie up logical and ethical loose ends of former articles, so it sometimes sounds like repetition.
=====================
Lausten, you asked a question to which I respond clearly using the context of your question, and you say you don't like the phrasing of the response. You don't like calling "relativism" a "position" while you asked a question about this very thing. Then you said:
It is not a "framework". The fact that there are different cultures in the world with different morals is not in dispute. Nor is the fact that they come into conflict because of that. The question of "moral relativism" is what can be excused based on what your culture taught you.


You don't seem to understand referencing the abstracted elements of an ethical system in aggregate as a 'framework', and complain about a response using terms that you used in the question. I'm not sure I can communicate adequately with you sir. Let me try just once more; I will attempt to be clear and help nail down the problem at the heart of the debate surrounding "moral relativism'. Moral Relativism(MR) is a term that while accurate, it is necessarily abstracted, and therefore is not as descriptive of the nature of the problem that MR presents as it otherwise could be.

A better term for this is, in my opinion, "Subjective Morality". Because the entire problem that MR represents is that you are always viewing the moral/ethical systems of others through the lenses of your personal world-view. So no matter how enlightened a person is or how base they are(notice even these descriptors are value judgments?) they will always view things through the lenses of their own perception.

MR represents a two headed dragon of a problem:
Problem 1: is a question over whether a system of behavior motivations can even be developed that is powerful enough to inform the cultural systems of ethics/morals that exist currently among the peoples of the planet; then if one _can_ be developed can it be neutral and not favor one culture over another culture?

In other words, the language and goal of an objective moral code would be to inform a person in ways that transcend their learned culture.

One example: Cultures that view some class(es) of people as somehow of less intrinsic value than other people are at odds with an ethical outlook that says everyone is equal, and inherently so. The idea here is: Because everyone is equal, everyone has no more and no less rights than anyone else. As in civil rights, human rights, we are all equal under the law.

Problem 2: if a system of ethics as described above is thought to be possible and agreed upon as a goal, what should that language look like?

I'm not yet saying I'd run with the U.N. wording, but I like how they kept it totally secular in tone and how they tried to come at some concepts from different directions.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby Lausten » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:19 pm

Dave wrote:You don't seem to understand referencing the abstracted elements of an ethical system in aggregate as a 'framework', and complain about a response using terms that you used in the question.

I’m not complaining, I’m expressing a preference. The way you used “position” it sounded like you were referring to moral relativism as a system. I understand that it is a “philosophical position” but that’s different than it being a point of view or an ethical system or default position. It’s not A system, it’s a statement about systems.

The rest of what you have to say, I have no argument.

Part of the problem of getting this conversation off the ground is recognizing some of the distinctions you noted. First, there is just describing it, then there is recognizing the difficulties of being objective, then there is the question of what do we tolerate. I find the last one most interesting and what the OP is about. I don’t think you have to completely solve the objective morality problem first before addressing cultural differences. It’s possible to have some international laws and still allow for national differences.
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Re: moral relativism

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:34 pm

EL, I don't know that it would be necessary to go quite to the level of an algorithm bro.
I'm just using the strict technical general theory of computation definition. Under that definition, the articles can be thought of as describing an algorithm (or algorithms). They are describing a process by which I can solve the decision problem "should I do this?".
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Re: moral relativism

Postby ArchAtheistDave » Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:31 pm

Great! Now that we are all close to reading from the same page here and not parsing each other's language, how about reviewing that list from the U.N. for an example of how to proceed in this direction.

I'm honestly curious about this.
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