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Moral relativism

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BritBB
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2005/07/27 07:47:00 (permalink)

Moral relativism

Moral relativism seems to be ever present in society nowdays, without going political (no we dont need to draw current day political comparisons, we can simply discuss the theory so this isnt breaking any rules). Do you believe in a morally relative way?

Eg. The moral relative person will try to say that the british and the nazis were both as bad as each other...

The brits killed nazis and the nazis killed brits...so according to the moral relativist we (brits) are just as bad as the nazis because we still killed people regardless of cause or regardless of objective.

That was a historical (not political) example of the concept of moral relativism. The fact that both sides killed people during ww2 means that both sides are 'just as bad as each other'. Do you buy into this theory? It seems a lot of people do nowdays.

Here is another example:

You walk down the street on your own at night, a man in a hoodie walks toward you on the same side of the pavement, as he walks past you he pulls out a big knife and lunges at you (his intention is to stab you and steal your possesions). However you dodge the knife and bang him out with a combo of 3 punches all connecting to the jaw.

Does this make you equal to him, better than him or worse than him.

Are you a moral relativist?
#1

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    tokar
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 08:37:03 (permalink)
    To clarify further, a moral relativist would say in general that there are no independent standards by which one can judge different moral beliefs or practices- that it is simply not possible to criticise any moral practice. Another good modern example would be the widespread attitude that other cultures (for example those which practise forced female circumcision) are not susceptible to moral criticism.

    By and large, this attitude in the public field has been born out of political motivations. Since it is widely accepted, for example, that the British Empire was in many ways a fairly awful thing, a lot of people now tend to believe that "the West" is inherently morally bad, while other cultures are therefore morally superior- or at least beyond criticism from a culture which spawned British (and French and Portuguese and Spanish etc.) imperial rule. There is something of the "nobel savage" myth about it.

    It is interesting that in moral philosophy, rather than in politics and "cultural studies", there are practically no moral relativists, and it is a position which is discussed very little. I myself am by no means a moral relativist, but I would definitely say that I am a moral subjectivist, in the sense that although we can construct genuine independent standards by which to judge all moral practices, these standards are independent of any particular moral code, but not independent of people generally; that is, they are not something that is inherent in the world outside ourselves. This position would not be one of a Christian, say, who would say that morality is dependent on and received through God.

    Moral subjectivism and moral relativism are often confused unfortunately, but I would say yes to the former and a definite no to the latter.
    #2
    drab4
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 09:11:36 (permalink)
    I have my own morals, and I judge others by my standards.

    I kind of think that 99.9% of people in the world feel exactly the same as myself. Almost everyone has their own set of morals. There are very few moral relativists imo, but even they have their own set of morals. And they judge people by their own standards, based on that.

    For instance, personally I think that female circumcision is horrific. If you disagree, then f'ck you. That's an example of my thinking.
    #3
    vascular1
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 09:35:02 (permalink)
    drab.... agree with your example tho... it is truly horrific...


    this is a very interesting and thought provoking thread... and summat i'll have to think hard about before i can come up with my opinion...

    v1.
    #4
    Scourge_of_God
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 10:42:04 (permalink)
    BritBB seems to have a significant misunderstanding of what moral relativism is. To say that a moral relativist believes that the Allies and the Nazis did equally evil things during WWII is nonsense, or an example of a very confused moral relativist.

    Moral relativism rejects the idea of an objective standard of good and evil. Without this, a moral relativist can hardly say that the actions of the Allies and the Nazis were both evil. What they might say is that the actions of neither party were objectively evil and neither party was more objectively good than the other. That said, this course of action doesn't preclude them from preferring one party's action to the other.

    Likewise with the example of the mugger. If the 'muggee' were a moral relativist, they would believe that mugger is not committing an inherently evil act, but that is not to say that they don't mind being mugged.

    There will always be somebody with a different moral code to your own. Without recourse to a higher authority, how can you argue that your own code is superior to another?
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    Scourge_of_God
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 10:45:12 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: tokar
    I myself am by no means a moral relativist, but I would definitely say that I am a moral subjectivist, in the sense that although we can construct genuine independent standards by which to judge all moral practices, these standards are independent of any particular moral code, but not independent of people generally; that is, they are not something that is inherent in the world outside ourselves.

    I'm intrigued by this. Would you care to elaborate on the way in which these standards can be constructed.
    #6
    GTM
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 11:16:44 (permalink)
    Individual morality is defined by that individuals upbringing, i.e. the culture and environment that they are subjected to during their formative years. So in this sense there is no objective morality in the world, bar that which exists due to an overlap in the way that all human beings formulate ideas and concepts. By and large this overlap is quite significant across many cultures but there still exists more than enough deviation to cause significant moral conflict.

    So in that sense yes I believe in moral relativism. That's not to say I am a moral relativist myself. Personally I hold to my own code of conduct, much as I expect 99.9% of the worlds population does.


    GTM

    Just because one can't understand a concept, doesn't mean that it is wrong.
    #7
    BritBB
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 13:46:48 (permalink)
    There will always be somebody with a different moral code to your own. Without recourse to a higher authority, how can you argue that your own code is superior to another?


    My moral code is superior because it will keep me alive.

    Surely as with all life, the goal is survival and reproduction. What the moral relativist fails to realise is that regardless of what he does or has done, there will be people who are inherently evil.

    This is where moral relitivism breaks down you see, it would be great if everyone in the world was equal, however this is not the case in reality. Some are wealthy, some are poor, some are mentally ill, some are genius etc etc. We are not all equal, so it can be seen that nature has provided us with variation...with variation there will come (inevitably with humans) feelings, negative or positive feelings...these feelings eg greed or hate or content and happiness be what they may will cause divide.

    So back to the example of the mugger. The mugger is going to attack the person, this is a given. HE IS GOING TO DO THIS BECAUSE HE HAS AN EVIL STREAK INSIDE HIM THAT CAUSES HIM TO DO IT. This evil is generated out of wanting more money (maybe he is v poor or maybe he has a drug problem).

    So...the only way moral relativism can work is if there are no feelings, if everyone is equal, equal ability, equal wealth, equal shape, equal size, equal genetics, equal FEELINGS.

    This is impossible as it does not exist, so you see that moral relativism is flawed from the start.

    With regards to my belief being superior and how can i judge my belief to be superior to another belief...EASY...ILL JUST SAY IT OUT OF MY MOUTH. I have the ability to say it and say whatever i like so if i want to say that moral relativist views are a joke then i will, v simple.

    With regards to if my beliefs are actually superior or not??? WHO CARES? No belief is superior in the world HOWEVER my belief is for MY SURVIVAL. If i want to survive then i adopt my belief, if i want to be trampled on then i adopt a moral relativist view. I care for MYSELF AND MY FRIENDS N FAMILY AND COUNTRY and dont care for every individual 'citizen of the world', meaning i want myself, friends n family to do well and live long...so whilst a moral relativist might say 'why is your belief superior to any other belief'...I dont care about what is superior or not, i care for myself and my family etc and that we do well. It is not important to me have a 'superior belief'.

    Does that make my belief any more or less valued than someone elses? HOWEVER I DONT CARE.

    For someone that doesnt believe in good or evil, i cant see how a moral relativist could therefore say 'that makes you as bad as them'? No one is good or bad according to moral relativists, no one can commit right or wrong...so they answer their own questions in a way and neither side are good or bad. BUT EACH SIDE FIGHTS FOR THEIR OWN PEOPLE.
    I want to be on the winning side, whether it is in a game of rugby or a fight.

    I dont care for having superior intellectual morals, thatll get me hurt

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    symzie
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 14:05:43 (permalink)
    I’m a subjectivist if there is such a thing. I can’t see the link you’re making between getting mugged and relativism; maybe you could say that because the mugger lives in rough area and comes from a long line of criminals who have traditionally mugged people to get by in life, that what he’s doing isn’t wrong but that would be horse$hit. Or maybe he’s just too stupid to know the difference between wrong and right, he’s still a mugger and he’s still wrong.

    I think if something’s wrong for me it’s wrong for everyone else. Example: It would be wrong for me to torture an animal to death for the entertainment of other people. Just because bullfighting is a tradition in Spain that goes back years doesn’t mean it isn’t morally wrong. Or just because certain cultures can’t see what’s wrong with female circumcision doesn’t mean it’s ok. I think morals are universal
    post edited by symzie - 2005/07/27 14:16:31
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    GTM
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 14:10:22 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: BritBB



    Surely as with all life, the goal is survival and reproduction. What the moral relativist fails to realise is that regardless of what he does or has done, there will be people who are inherently evil.



    Define evil.



    This is where moral relitivism breaks down you see, it would be great if everyone in the world was equal, however this is not the case in reality. Some are wealthy, some are poor, some are mentally ill, some are genius etc etc. We are not all equal, so it can be seen that nature has provided us with variation...with variation there will come (inevitably with humans) feelings, negative or positive feelings...these feelings eg greed or hate or content and happiness be what they may will cause divide.



    What has morality got to do with equality?


    No belief is superior in the world ......



    That is the fundamental principle behind moral relativism. That no set of morals is inherently good or bad. That none are superiour to others. So you seem to be contradicting your position of absolute morality with this statement.


    I dont care for having superior intellectual morals, thatll get me hurt


    But morality is more about intellectuality than it is about feelings. morality is what guides and puts boundries on our instinctive emotional responses. Essentially morality IS intellectual.

    GTM

    Just because one can't understand a concept, doesn't mean that it is wrong.
    #10
    BritBB
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 14:23:15 (permalink)
    Define evil.


    Ok forget i said evil...lets call it 'hatred'.

    It is a fact that he wants to hurt you because he hates you...there you go.

    What has morality got to do with equality?


    A lot, certain moral values fail to take into account the basis that everyone is not equal.

    HUMANS HAVE FEELINGS, the feelings trigger off HATE, hate will divide people, so the division has already started...te fundamental flaw of moral relativism is it does not understand 'hate' properly.

    That is the fundamental principle behind moral relativism. That no set of morals is inherently good or bad. That none are superiour to others. So you seem to be contradicting your position of absolute morality with this statement.


    No, i was using the moral relatvists idea themselves, you have not read what i wrote correctly my friend. I was looking at things from amoral relativist point of view, perhaps i should have wrote 'let us say that all beliefs are equal', perhaos it was an error in my wording and it was therefore unclear.

    But morality is more about intellectuality than it is about feelings. morality is what guides and puts boundries on our instinctive emotional responses. Essentially morality IS intellectual.


    That none are superiour to others. So you seem to be contradicting your position of absolute morality with this statement.


    I never wrote i believed in 'absolute morality', who said that? I just said moral relativism was flawed.

    But morality is more about intellectuality than it is about feelings. morality is what guides and puts boundries on our instinctive emotional responses. Essentially morality IS intellectual.


    And what has this got to do with my family and i or my friends and i or my country etc etc living a better quality of life?

    In the end we can sit and say 'ah yes, we are morally more intellectual than them' if we adopt a moral relativist stance. However this will get us trampled over


    #11
    S_T_E_F
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 15:40:33 (permalink)
    This sounds like a conversation had in a foggy room

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    CheekyChappie
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 15:51:10 (permalink)
    I myself am by no means a moral relativist, but I would definitely say that I am a moral subjectivist, in the sense that although we can construct genuine independent standards by which to judge all moral practices, these standards are independent of any particular moral code, but not independent of people generally; that is, they are not something that is inherent in the world outside ourselves


    I agree with this. To me there really are no morals in the sense of rules which we will be judged on when we die. Moral rules are man-made rules to live by that lead to more stable societies e.g.if we allowed killing to be 'moral' then we would all be living like savages killing anyone and everyone with no repercussions. Therefore it makes sense to impose the rule 'Killing is wrong' It's not actually 'wrong', it's just a behaviour that is undesirable to any peace-loving society. Ditto stealing etc.

    Also I take a very deterministic view of life i.e. a person is the sum total of their genes and environment, both of which are imposed upon the individual when growing up. We might berate the vicious murderer for his actions but we have to realise he probably doesn't have the same brain chemistry or past life experience that we have. Given his brain, we would act in the same way. Therefore I don't truly think anyone can be judged by their actions as they could never behave any other way. But again, this is not a workable policy so society has to impose repercussions on bad behaviour.
    post edited by CheekyChappie - 2005/07/27 15:53:24
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    Scourge_of_God
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 15:55:06 (permalink)
    BritBB - I think your disagreement with moral relativism is not so much a product of conflicting ideologies as it is a result of your lack of understanding of its fundamental tenets.

    I think you would find it less objectionable if you did a little more reading around the subject.
    #14
    CheekyChappie
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 15:59:17 (permalink)
    Right everyone read htis, then we can all be reading off the same page!

    Moral relativism
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    BritBB
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 16:10:10 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: Scourge_of_God

    BritBB - I think your disagreement with moral relativism is not so much a product of conflicting ideologies as it is a result of your lack of understanding of its fundamental tenets.

    I think you would find it less objectionable if you did a little more reading around the subject.


    Quality mate

    You told me yourself 'Likewise with the example of the mugger. If the 'muggee' were a moral relativist, they would believe that mugger is not committing an inherently evil act, but that is not to say that they don't mind being mugged. '

    What is that supposed to mean exactly? If the person getting mugged doesnt mind getting mugged?

    After all this theory about people not mind getting mugged, how PRACTICAL is this in the real world? Realistically who 'doesnt mind' if they get their face smashed in and money taken from them and in pain for a week or two?

    #16
    CheekyChappie
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 16:27:27 (permalink)
    After all this theory about people not mind getting mugged, how PRACTICAL is this in the real world? Realistically who 'doesnt mind' if they get their face smashed in and money taken from them and in pain for a week or two?


    Err....that is what he's saying. Even if you were a moral relativist, in practice you would be pretty pissed off at getting mugged, even though your core belief is that there is nothing wrong with mugging per se.

    I understand that chav criminals are the way they are due to the environment they were brought up in and, often, less than optimal genetics and I am grateful that I have been given opportunities that they weren't. But it still doesn't stop me wanting to twat them!
    #17
    Scourge_of_God
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 16:30:17 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: BritBB
    You told me yourself 'Likewise with the example of the mugger. If the 'muggee' were a moral relativist, they would believe that mugger is not committing an inherently evil act, but that is not to say that they don't mind being mugged. '

    What is that supposed to mean exactly? If the person getting mugged doesnt mind getting mugged?

    You appear to have misread my post. I was stating that the person being mugged could simultaneously be:

    1) A moral relativist.
    2) Pissed off about being mugged.

    It is possible to believe, were you being mugged, that the mugger is not committing an inherently evil act. It is also possible for you to then procede, assuming you are capable, to beat the mugger to within an inch of his life without contravening any of the tenets of moral relativism.

    It is possible to believe that your own moral code isn't objectively good, yet to continue to follow it.
    #18
    BritBB
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 16:34:13 (permalink)
    Err....that is what he's saying. Even if you were a moral relativist, in practice you would be pretty pissed off at getting mugged, even though your core belief is that there is nothing wrong with mugging per se.


    Is this practical in the real world? How will this benifit the person?

    He/ she therefore does not mind getting trampled on? getting mugged? getting stabbed? being dumped?

    So a moral relativist tries to ignore his her feelings which are inherent. This seems to me like they are trying to exercise the use of impossible and impractical boundaries on their morals. They are essentially trying to ignore their true feelings.

    Questions, questions, questions, when has moral relativism EVER produced ANSWERS?

    We need answers to questions, not to simply go round and round asking more and more questions.

    In the real world we have problems, problems need to be addressed and answers need to be found, how can a moral relativist ever find answers if they are constantly acting neutral and posing more and more questions.

    Complete neutrality doesnt exist unless one is completely void of all feelings.
    #19
    CheekyChappie
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    RE: Moral relativism 2005/07/27 16:47:32 (permalink)
    Is this practical in the real world?


    No, to allow people to do what they like and pay no price for it is not a policy that will lead to a society with a high standard of living like ours.

    At the same time though, how did humans come to rise to the top of the food chain and dominate the world? Through thousands of years of killing other animals. Killing other tribes. Invading and killing other nations. This is the law of the wild, strongest wins. But in the last few thousand years we have figured out that we can have a better standard of living if we cooperate and live in (relative) peace. All this is helped by a natural desire in most people not to cause suffering to others. But these are all relatively recent developments. 99% of human life was like we see in the animal world today; nasty, brutish and short.
    #20
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