Moral Relativity

EggBeast

- deska`
Retired
As I walk into my first lecture for my business ethics course, my professor (a particularly passionate PhD in philosophy) dedicated the first half-hour of the lecture to tearing down the concept of moral relativity, ensuring it wouldn't be made an important issue in further class discussions.

I, being somewhat a proponent of moral relativity, was a bit affronted by this, though I'll try to dissect his argument...

QUOTE First off, morals are different from culture to culture. If there is no basis (moral laws) to make one culture's morals superior to another's, then what authority would we have to stop any other culture from acting as they please? For example, should morals be completely relativistic, then on what grounds did we interfere with the Holocaust? What moral basis could we have in stopping any genocide if each culture is just as moral as the other?

The question I had in response was, "On what grounds shouldn't we interfere with genocide? By what authority can't we interfere with such crimes against humanity, even if the enemy has an entirely different moral compass?" Just because having such moral laws pervading the universe would be nice, and would further our sense of righteousness, it does NOT make it so! To me, that line of argument boils down to "I think there are absolute moral laws in the universe, because I want there to be moral laws in the universe." I definitely understand this sentiment, and lived by it for most of my life, but I've long since ceased to give weight to arguments simply because they raise me and/or mankind on a pedestal.

What do you think? Are there any absolute moral laws governing this universe? Would any moral laws necessitate the existence of a God? Do such laws need to exist in order for society to be morally upright?
 

mamori

-sama
Sempai
First I'd like to state that the difference between Morals and Ethics is that while Ethics are based on reasoning (I know I don;t like that, it's in my best interest if...), Morals exist purely in a cultural sense with no real backing (per se), (ie we believe we act this way because it's the "right thing" to do, and you'd burn in hell otherwise).

Moving on, of course Morals are relative and subjective. There is no single truth to the way in which we should behave. It is purely a social construct. I can see why your professor would want to get it out of the way though, as a class talking about morals and ethics can't get very far when someone says "moral/ethics don't really exist/are subjective" every 5 seconds. get's annoying, VERY annoying.
 

EggBeast

- deska`
Retired
QUOTE (mamori @ Jan 27 2010, 11:52 PM) First I'd like to state that the difference between Morals and Ethics is that while Ethics are based on reasoning (I know I don;t like that, it's in my best interest if...), Morals exist purely in a cultural sense with no real backing (per se), (ie we believe we act this way because it's the "right thing" to do, and you'd burn in hell otherwise).
I was going more off of the dictionary definitions,


QUOTE moral: of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical

ethics: a system of moral principles
A moral doesn't have to be strictly cultural. The rule a moral is based off of could come from anywhere, whether from reason or a culture. So I'm not sure I completely understand your response, going off your idea of ethics, is there some sort of universal nature to them?


QUOTE I can see why your professor would want to get it out of the way though, as a class talking about morals and ethics can't get very far when someone says "moral/ethics don't really exist/are subjective" every 5 seconds. get's annoying, VERY annoying.
Well, I think his motivations were a bit different. I first met him at my SHAFT (Secular Humanist, Atheist, and Free Thinker) club meeting. He was raised secular, but has since converted to Catholicism. The challenge he continually made to the group was to come up with a set of moral constructs based off of secular ideals. He genuinely just doesn't believe in a universe without universal laws like that. Besides, this is an upper-division philosophy course, we're learning about other philosopher's ideas and discussing their merit, not trying to find the "philosophical truth".
 

franzoir

-the smooth, the suave, and the shrewd
Sempai
For moral laws to exist there need to be an absolution such as God. Something irrevocably unquestionable and not human. This is the only way i can see to overcome the relativity of morality.

However, for the time being death is irreversible. So it would be best orientate your morality around preventing an irreversible process. This alone is enough for humanitarian intervention in cases of genocide. It is still a subjective viewpoint but the most ideal moral law if you ask me.

Each internal society unless anarchic has a social contract. This contract does not need your explicit consent. By choosing to remain in that society you have given your tacit consent. Therefore you must adhere to the moral values and the collective will of that society or face punishment. Whether those values are inherently wrong or right does not matter, since they only need to be judge by the collective will.

Morality on a global scene is different. It revolves around winners and losers. The west are the winners and therefore win the rights to spread their moral values across the world. During the Nurembourg trials it was referred to as the "victor's justice." Japanese literature often criticise how America judged the Japanese, whilst also being guilty of the same crimes. For good or bad, as long as there is a self interested nation-state system there is no morality on an international scene.
 

warita200

Tai Youkai
Sempai
QUOTE (franzoir @ Jan 29 2010, 05:30 AM) For moral laws to exist there need to be an absolution such as God. Something irrevocably unquestionable and not human. This is the only way i can see to overcome the relativity of morality.

However, for the time being death is irreversible. So it would be best orientate your morality around preventing an irreversible process. This alone is enough for humanitarian intervention in cases of genocide. It is still a subjective viewpoint but the most ideal moral law if you ask me.

Each internal society unless anarchic has a social contract. This contract does not need your explicit consent. By choosing to remain in that society you have given your tacit consent. Therefore you must adhere to the moral values and the collective will of that society or face punishment. Whether those values are inherently wrong or right does not matter, since they only need to be judge by the collective will.

Morality on a global scene is different. It revolves around winners and losers. The west are the winners and therefore win the rights to spread their moral values across the world. During the Nurembourg trials it was referred to as the "victor's justice." Japanese literature often criticise how America judged the Japanese, whilst also being guilty of the same crimes. For good or bad, as long as there is a self interested nation-state system there is no morality on an international scene.
@Franzoir-dono, I am impressed by the depth of your thinking process. Have you come up with these ideas on your own or have you read them somewhere? Oh and I totally agree with what you said, it is so true. There is nothing for me to add, you said it all.
 

franzoir

-the smooth, the suave, and the shrewd
Sempai
QUOTE (warita200 @ Jan 29 2010, 05:44 AM)@Franzoir-dono, I am impressed by the depth of your thinking process. Have you come up with these ideas on your own or have you read them somewhere? Oh and I totally agree with what you said, it is so true. There is nothing for me to add, you said it all.
Thanks.These are largely my ideas that has come as a result of questioning just about everything. Then i supplement my ideas by reading to deepen my knowledge. Sometimes its eery reading a text written in 19th century that coincides with so much of what you believe.
 

Gustav1976

-sama
Retired
Umm..wow I was thinking of contributing but I feel outclassed now lol
Truly franzoir, I echo the previous sentiments, you've managed to perfectly encapsulate the realities of the socio-poliltical-religious concepts of ethics and morality.
I'd find it hard to debate a counter part to what you've said even if I wanted to. I agree that for morals to exist there has to be belief that if "good" things are done there are nice consequences compared to "bad" things leading to punishments. Without the concepts of punishment and reward all acts and thoughts would just be that with no differentiation.eg. Me stabbing my ex-wife would be no different to you sticking a fork into a piece of meat (grants that's an extreme example but that point stands). If you look at how we learn even as animals the concept of "if I do this, I get something nice" is a major driving force in our psyche, after all we wouldn't want to smash open that fruit to get to the juicy and yummy insides if we didn't like it would we?
On your note regarding history it is also often said that good and bad are subjective and relative as history was most often written by the victor.
As far as I understand things ethics and morality are 2 different but similar things with each having a contribution to reinforcing the other.
Anyway i can;t really add anything to the conversation, I'm outclassed by both you and Eggy now so I shall contemplate the ethical and moral implications of being told that my gf finds talking to me stressful
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EggBeast

- deska`
Retired
QUOTE (Gustav1976 @ Jan 29 2010, 01:44 PM)I'm outclassed by both you and Eggy now so I shall contemplate the ethical and moral implications of being told that my gf finds talking to me stressful
lol, whatever Gustav, you know you're a genius! We all just seem to agree on everything (mostly...
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), that's all. Good luck with the GF situation............ though I'm not sure there's any way to philosophize your way around the wiles of a woman. (Am I right, fellas?
laugh.gif
...lol, I'm such an idiot
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)


QUOTE (franzoir @ Jan 29 2010, 05:30 AM)However, for the time being death is irreversible. So it would be best orientate your morality around preventing an irreversible process. This alone is enough for humanitarian intervention in cases of genocide. It is still a subjective viewpoint but the most ideal moral law if you ask me.
I think that's a good way of looking at things, though I'm not sure "preventing irreversible processes" encompasses everything. For a social behavior, it works; "don't kill, act in a way to prevent the least number of people from dying" (it might even extend to the idea that you should try to make yourself and others around you happier, since happier people tend to live longer). I suppose it even works from an environmentalist standard, "don't consume resources at an unsustainable rate, lest the resource permanently expires. Don't cause extinction. etc... etc...".

Though I personally, provincially, and subjectively (
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) think that its focus is a bit off. To live by the ideal that irreversible things (like death) should be prevented relies (to some extent) upon a fear of the unknown, upon a fear of change.

The way I look at it... the reason people want moral laws (or a social contract, or even just basic moral guidelines) in the first place is that they themselves don't want to be screwed out of a happy life for no real reason. So in the end, perhaps all that "morals" are meant to accomplish is to maximize happiness throughout mankind. People just don't want to be miserable. So perhaps "helping people live happy lives" would serve as a good means to that end. It's a selfish basis for morality, but hey, mankind is a pretty selfish specie.

...although the one thing I'd add to my "moral idea" is that many people, through sheer ignorance or misinformation, can cause extreme harm and sorrow while acting in a way they think is to the betterment of society. Therefore, while acting in accordance with the idea that one should "maximize human happiness", they're doing quite the opposite. So central to an idea like this is careful, deliberate thought, and a low tolerance for ignorance. (though I'd like to emphasize that this is ultimately just my own selfish wish for mankind.)

Oh, and as one last thought, I think that there is a basis for morality at the global level brought about by the evolution of the species. Humans are a social species by nature, so for such a specie to be successful, there must be some mechanisms by which one person wants to ensure the existence of their community, therefore increasing the odds of their own survival. A vast majority of people believe that killing and stealing are bad. Some people call this trend the "light of god", though there is a solid scientific explanation for it as well.
 

A Red 1961 Gibson EB-0

New Member
Kouhai
i feel that we can only have discrete morals, which are relative. there may exist an ultimate moral standard, but like you guys said, it depends on there being a divine.

the christian parable of eve and the apple is often misinterpreted. the culture of the early jewish tribes had a unique way of looking at truth, they believed that ultimate truth was in the realm of the divine, and unknowable to us mundane humans.

the story of eve being tempted by satan into eating the fruit takes on a whole new meaning with this in mind. the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil represents divine knowledge. eating the fruit would not instill a mundane being like us with divine knowledge, it would merely convince us that we knew.

strikingly accurate, we weed our lawns saying 'these are good and these are evil'

saving the orphan, we raise a new hitler
killing the flies, we destroy the eagles
medicine to make me suffer in oldness
new roads to cover up paradise
 

mamori

-sama
Sempai
truth is people have many different interpretations about the difference (or non-difference) of the terms ethics and morals. In the books I have had the pleasure of reading however, they most consistent definition between the two was that morality were rules about how to behave, while ethics systematically studied the merits of such rules. You could very well call ethics scientific morality.

a couple of other points, that while death may be an "an irreversible process," it is still a wholly natural process. Western society in particular seems to have set out to destroy this notion, that death is some evil force to be fought. That is of course not to say I think we should just let people die when we can offer our help, only that even death does not have some absolute universal "must stop" status. After all, just look at what you're eating during your next meal.

Finally, anarchy actual can ONLY exist where a social contract is in place. This of course is not "officially" enforced (thus making it anarchy), but without social rules that everyone chooses to live by (more or less), anarchy can not function. Despite what popular media had make anarchists out to be (out of control mobs), true anarchists simply believe that there should be no NEED for some official authority, if they all follow the proper social contract.
 

NeoScott

-san
Kouhai
QUOTE Me stabbing my ex-wife would be no different to you sticking a fork into a piece of meat

Thats my Daily thought pattern. Well something along thous lines.


when I think about it, franzoir is right.

Ethics is a code book to me, It's another set of laws that I'm forced to fallow, I do not believe in right or wrong. I believe in results. everything in this world can be taken logically, Brought into some kind of formula, calculated, checked, and the best decision can be made.
 

pjcountach

-chi
Kouhai
The greatest commandment is this. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.

The second is the same. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Your neighbor, from your closest friend to your worst enemy ought to be treated as you would treat yourself.

All other laws established by man flow out of these.

Do not steal, do not lie, do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not covet (Get your own...Wal-Mart has it:) All of these can be taken back to the second. If we love someone, we wouldn't do these things. And we shouldn't do these things to those we hate because out of such war, hate, malice, and death occur. We open up the possibility of harm to ourselves when we cause harm to others.

Yes there is moral relativity, but it is made up of all the ideas that different cultures have come up with to ensure the happy and peaceful coexistence of their members.

World War II existed because of the way alliances worked out. If we had been allies of Germany we would have fought with them, or left them to their business. But we have always been tied to England, and it was when England was the last free bastion against Germany that we began to fight.

Japan is another matter. It merely played copycat to the European powers when it initiated its own expansionist goals. China and the philipines were natural choices for expansion. Japan felt culturally superior and needed resources. Europe Believed it was superior to other peoples and heartlessly, bloodily took over continents in its quest for resources.

Darwin was raised in a culture that looked down on other cultures. This mindset bled into his science such that he conceived of Europeans as the height of humanity. With science backing them up the Germans declared themselves the master race and took it upon themselves to slaughter their lessers so as to prevent dilution of the master race (Germans)

So back to my point, If you love your neighbor, from the closest friend to the worst enemy, as yourself...The groanings of the world would cease, but we all know that will never happen, because there is someone somewhere whom each of us hates and can't imagine loving like ourselves.
 

warita200

Tai Youkai
Sempai
QUOTE (pjcountach @ Feb 07 2010, 10:21 AM) Your neighbor, from your closest friend to your worst enemy ought to be treated as you would treat yourself.


And then reality nocks on the door and if you fail to adapt, it will be a short and sad life.
 

pjcountach

-chi
Kouhai
QUOTE (warita200 @ Feb 07 2010, 10:38 AM) And then reality nocks on the door and if you fail to adapt, it will be a short and sad life.
Hence my last sentence
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Reality is a disguise behind which we hide to take from others with impunity and call it okay.

I am merely asking for Utopia, is that so hard?
 

EggBeast

- deska`
Retired
QUOTE (pjcountach @ Feb 07 2010, 10:21 AM) Darwin was raised in a culture that looked down on other cultures. This mindset bled into his science such that he conceived of Europeans as the height of humanity. With science backing them up the Germans declared themselves the master race and took it upon themselves to slaughter their lessers so as to prevent dilution of the master race (Germans)
What on earth does that have to do with this topic? And how on earth do you make those kinds of claims? Science wasn't backing up the Nazi's motives! Hitler thought the Aryan race was superior, yes. He wanted a world solely of Aryans, yes. The only thing being "backed up by science" here is that fact that Aryans beget Aryans. Hitler was an anti-Semitic, power-hungry maniac. That has nothing to do with the theory of evolution.

If you're trying to slander evolution (or science in general) as some kind of moral evil, you're starting off at the wrong place. Science has nothing to do with what's right or what's wrong. What it DOES provide is a good, solid grounding of the nature of the world we live in, which can help make us make better decisions. If you get some genocidal nutcase like Hitler out there, it doesn't matter what science or religious teachings are out there, they'll always find some crazy explanation to justify their horrific actions. It's downright wrong to slander science in that kind of way though. It's completely unfounded and misses the point of the matter altogether.
 

samthebear

-sama
Sempai
lol Utopia. it is actually derived from the greek οὐ, "not", and τόπος, "place" so in effect it means "a place of nonexistance" but the english homophone 'Eutopia' is derived from the greek εὖ, "good" or "well", and τόπος, "place". its a double meaning there but what you have to take from that is that while a place of perfectness and idealism is wished for it will never be realised.

Sorry. that was like totally off topic - just had to point that out.

i shall now ninja myself out of this thread before a moderator comes and chops my head off for being off topic
ph34r.gif
 

khael

/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\ being M
Sempai
QUOTE
However, for the time being death is irreversible. So it would be best orientate your morality around preventing an irreversible process. This alone is enough for humanitarian intervention in cases of genocide. It is still a subjective viewpoint but the most ideal moral law if you ask me.

Alternatively you could go for the preservation of equilibrium/status quo/balance and all that jazz. I don't remember what this is called but I vaguely remember discussing something along the lines in our philo class.
 

warita200

Tai Youkai
Sempai
QUOTE (EggBeast @ Feb 14 2010, 07:36 PM) What on earth does that have to do with this topic? And how on earth do you make those kinds of claims? Science wasn't backing up the Nazi's motives! Hitler thought the Aryan race was superior, yes. He wanted a world solely of Aryans, yes. The only thing being "backed up by science" here is that fact that Aryans beget Aryans. Hitler was an anti-Semitic, power-hungry maniac. That has nothing to do with the theory of evolution.

If you're trying to slander evolution (or science in general) as some kind of moral evil, you're starting off at the wrong place. Science has nothing to do with what's right or what's wrong. What it DOES provide is a good, solid grounding of the nature of the world we live in, which can help make us make better decisions. If you get some genocidal nutcase like Hitler out there, it doesn't matter what science or religious teachings are out there, they'll always find some crazy explanation to justify their horrific actions. It's downright wrong to slander science in that kind of way though. It's completely unfounded and misses the point of the matter altogether.
I agree with that 100%. Eggie-san, I admire the ease with which you fraze your ideas.
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Dalriada

-dono
Sempai
QUOTE What on earth does that have to do with this topic? And how on earth do you make those kinds of claims? Science wasn't backing up the Nazi's motives! Hitler thought the Aryan race was superior, yes. He wanted a world solely of Aryans, yes. The only thing being "backed up by science" here is that fact that Aryans beget Aryans. Hitler was an anti-Semitic, power-hungry maniac. That has nothing to do with the theory of evolution.

By the way, the existence of honorary aryans is always laughable.

Politics were more important than biology, even for the nazy Germany.
 

mosque

-chi
Kouhai
Without being omniscient, you can't really know the full consequences of your actions. You could like the guitar guy said think you are saving a kids life but they grow up to be a Hitler.
I think morals have to be relative and subjective because we can only act on what we know and experience. Its kind of like how even though we have laws (like morals) we still have to have a Judge to decide how law applies to that particular situation.
For example you might say "Stealing is bad."
But you might also someday have to steal medicine to save somebody's life.
 
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