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Moral Relativism is starting to look better and better

Hoplite

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I have arrived at this somewhat against my own desires, but I am finding it difficult to navigate around this particular philosophical stumbling block.

I want to know there is an absolute black/white good/bad standard for things like morality...but as far as I can see, there is none.

The classic desert island scenario where two men are shipwrecked on an island helps highlight this. One man takes a knife and kills the other, what about this was wrong?

Everything about the sequence, if examined, is considered perfectly morally acceptable in certain circumstances. We have surgeons that cut into flesh, many people dont want to die, and many people harbor the intent or thought of killing others.

So what about a higher arbiter, a deity? If a deity is the source of absolute morality, then where did he/she receive the authority to create and enforce morality? In the end, they have the power to create and enforce morality only because they have power, so might makes right?
 

rathi

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Morality is simply a human construct, primarily based on human social conditioning and probably genetic influences. That said, those genetic and social influences result in some extremely common baseline values present in most people. Loyalty to ones family has obvious evolutionary advantages, explaining why nearly every culture in the world integrates it to some degree. Most human arguments on morality stem from a baseline of shared values, and most moral arguments are often about the practical ways to accomplish meta-moral concepts.

I don't really understand why people think morals need to be some sort of universal truth in order for them matter. I fully comprehend that my moral values are derived for my personal experiences, my culture and the my species. I know that my definition of right or wrong has no bearing on the universe at large. That doesn't mean I won't do my best to uphold them.
 

lizzie

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I want to know there is an absolute black/white good/bad standard for things like morality...but as far as I can see, there is none.
There is not an absolute black/white, and it is generally determined by one's culture, hence the acceptace of practicing human sacrifice or cannibalism in various cultures throughout history.

Imo, the best moral code to live by is to cause no harm and be responsible for your own happiness.
 

Korimyr the Rat

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So what about a higher arbiter, a deity? If a deity is the source of absolute morality, then where did he/she receive the authority to create and enforce morality? In the end, they have the power to create and enforce morality only because they have power, so might makes right?
I am the arbiter of absolute morality. My authority to create moral law flows from my power to enforce it. If someone opposes my will, I have the privilege and the duty to use all of the powers at my disposal to bring them into line or destroy them. I rely upon my powers of persuasion to convince people not only to embrace my laws, but to help me in the task of enforcing them. I build upon the laws of others to make my arguments and lend them authority.
 
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I have arrived at this somewhat against my own desires, but I am finding it difficult to navigate around this particular philosophical stumbling block.

I want to know there is an absolute black/white good/bad standard for things like morality...but as far as I can see, there is none.
What about an absolute moral standard that all morality is relative . . . ? :2razz:
 

rathi

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What about an absolute moral standard that all morality is relative . . . ?
Relative morality is a statement of fact, not a moral standard. Morality describes what the universe should be, while relative morality is describes what the universe actually is.
 

agaglio

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Morality is not relativistic. It's objective. And the final arbiter is reality. Why do you need morality? Because without it you'd die. Life is your ultimate value. What's good for your life is good. What's bad for your life is bad.
 

rathi

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Morality is not relativistic. It's objective.
Morality so un-objective that you can never find two people who agree 100% on what it is.

Why do you need morality? Because without it you'd die.
Statistically speaking, morality increases the survival rate of society. However, it is not needed for survival at the individual level.
 

digsbe

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I do believe in Absolute morals and I believe God has passed them to man through the Bible. If all morals are relative, then isn't that a self defeating statement? What happens when relative morals clash? Which morals are more superior? Say one tribe believes that another tribe is a disgust to their god, so their morals tell them to kill the other tribe. Say they other tribe being targeted believes that they have a right to live, and they tell the tribe that wants to kill them that it is wrong to murder. Who's morals are right? And if one side is morally superior, why are they morally superior? If man is the measure and creator of all morals, than by what standard do we judge morals aside from personal beliefs?
 

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To call morals objective is to turn a blind eye to reality. Thus only a theist could make this claim. A simple cross section of the world today clearly shows that morality is subjective and deeply influenced by the culture you were brought up in.

For instance in Japan it is completely moral to have sexual relations with 13 year old children. Yet for the majority of the audience here, such an act would be an atrocity. In many middle east countries the treatment of women is abdominal, but make not mistake, the people doing these acts think themselves moral and just. Here in America, the manner that we deny gays equal marriage rights is petty, mean spirited, and hateful. But once again, the people doing these acts claim moral superiority.

The fact that we can not judge morals as absolute is more proof that there is not an ultimate answer. The lack of a standard does nothing to prove an existence of a god. We will be arguing about proper morals long after the bible myths fade from our collective memories.
 

the makeout hobo

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Morality is not relativistic. It's objective. And the final arbiter is reality. Why do you need morality? Because without it you'd die. Life is your ultimate value. What's good for your life is good. What's bad for your life is bad.
By that logic, if I could steal something and not get caught, it'd be good because my life would be enriched by what I stole.
 

the makeout hobo

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I do believe in Absolute morals and I believe God has passed them to man through the Bible. If all morals are relative, then isn't that a self defeating statement? What happens when relative morals clash? Which morals are more superior? Say one tribe believes that another tribe is a disgust to their god, so their morals tell them to kill the other tribe. Say they other tribe being targeted believes that they have a right to live, and they tell the tribe that wants to kill them that it is wrong to murder. Who's morals are right? And if one side is morally superior, why are they morally superior? If man is the measure and creator of all morals, than by what standard do we judge morals aside from personal beliefs?
What right does God have to tell me what is and isn't moral? I never agreed to follow his moral code. Yes, he made me, but so did my parents and I don't do everything they tell me to. yes, he's all powerful- but might doesn't make right. I see no reason God's moral code should be considered any higher than anyone else's.
 

Apocalypse

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A significant part of the development of a society is the establishing of one single, uniting and conclusive moral code.
There were many examples of such moral codes in mankind's history, and all are very similar, since the days of Hammurabi, and later on with the takeover by religion.

I've always held the opinion that religion's most positive influence on the history of mankind - even more than the development of the art and the creativity of man - was the establishing of a moral code for the believers.
By believing in a supreme, omnipotent entity that would punish them if they'll violate one of its commandments, the believers have began abiding by a global morality code that has forbidden them from taking actions that were, according to the supreme being they've believed in, considered to be wrong and immoral.

These moral codes have later on united into becoming mankind's morality, and today after several thousands of years we have a uniting global morality code for the entire of mankind society.
It is not a written code however, and it can be referred to each nation's set of laws, to the international agreements such as the Geneva conventions or to papers such as the universal declaration of human rights, or it can simply be referred to the way we are educated by our parents, our teachers and society itself as we grow up on certain values that describe rights and wrongs.

It could be said however that there are nations in the world where the "global morality code" is not being followed or preached on, but those are considered by the global human society to be immoral nations - hence strengthening the power of this global morality code.
 

agaglio

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Morality so un-objective that you can never find two people who agree 100% on what it is.
You and another poster made the same point so I'll only address it once. First of all, you can find a lot of people that agree on what morality is. But- that's meaningless. The fact that people disagree on something doesn't mean it's objective or subjective. Objective means that it is in accordance with reality. People's thoughts on the subject do not have anything to do with that.

By that logic, if I could steal something and not get caught, it'd be good because my life would be enriched by what I stole.
No, not at all. How could you logically assert your own right to property but not the right of others? By stealing, you're admitting that people don't have a right to their property-you included. Clearly a society without property rights is not in your self-interest. But, I'm going to stay in the realm of meta-ethics to prove to this poor lady that there is indeed an objective morality.
 

tacomancer

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It starts with goals. What does one want in life? What does one want to see? What would make one happy? From there, we derive principals (stealing is wrong because someone might steal from me and I would not like that or I should worship God because I like God and I want God to be happy). From principals applied to a situation, we come up with morals. (I shouldn't steal that money because I believe stealing is wrong).

I do believe in Absolute morals and I believe God has passed them to man through the Bible. If all morals are relative, then isn't that a self defeating statement? What happens when relative morals clash? Which morals are more superior? Say one tribe believes that another tribe is a disgust to their god, so their morals tell them to kill the other tribe. Say they other tribe being targeted believes that they have a right to live, and they tell the tribe that wants to kill them that it is wrong to murder. Who's morals are right? And if one side is morally superior, why are they morally superior? If man is the measure and creator of all morals, than by what standard do we judge morals aside from personal beliefs?
Ultimately, I think all morals are relative, even those of divinity, however, God is a special case since he is infinite and therefore he has the ability to figure out what is the best thing for all situations (in other words, way smarter than I am) and since he designed humanity, he has complete insight into what works (knows the specs inside and out, plus the purpose for the design, love of Him)
 
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agaglio

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I'll have to point you to Ayn Rand's, 'The Objectivist Ethics' for an explanation of an objective code of morality.
 

rathi

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The fact that people disagree on something doesn't mean it's objective or subjective. Objective means that it is in accordance with reality. People's thoughts on the subject do not have anything to do with that.
Morality is the concept of human being judging human actions. It only exists in people's thoughts. The only way to test if an action is moral is to ask people for their opinion on it.

No, not at all. How could you logically assert your own right to property but not the right of others? By stealing, you're admitting that people don't have a right to their property-you included.
Morals are not inherently logical or consistent. The founding fathers of the U.S. spoke a lot about liberty, while simultaneously owning slaves. Nearly every person is quite willing to kill some random other guy during a war without wanting to be killed themselves.

Clearly a society without property rights is not in your self-interest.
On the contrary, a strong violent person without much property living near to weak rich pacifists would probably enjoy a society without property rights.

But, I'm going to stay in the realm of meta-ethics to prove to this poor lady that there is indeed an objective morality.
Please detail what exactly this "objective morality" is and why is any different than Hammurabi's code or any other system.
 

majora$$hole

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the theme common to most religions and to law is the "golden rule" and a good one to live by. imo.
 

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I am a firm believer in karma. Therefore, while one can justify certain behaviors, every behavior has ramifications that need to be dealt with, whether immediately or later on in life.
 

agaglio

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Morality is the concept of human being judging human actions. It only exists in people's thoughts. The only way to test if an action is moral is to ask people for their opinion on it.
No, morality is a code of values to guide man's actions. It's not solely for judging actions, but also telling you what you should or should not do.

Morals are not inherently logical or consistent. The founding fathers of the U.S. spoke a lot about liberty, while simultaneously owning slaves. Nearly every person is quite willing to kill some random other guy during a war without wanting to be killed themselves.
What do you not get about this? The basis of morality is REALITY. It doesn't matter if some people act in a contradictory way. That doesn't mean morality is contradictory, it means that person is!

On the contrary, a strong violent person without much property living near to weak rich pacifists would probably enjoy a society without property rights.
This is not true. Like I said, I'm going to stay in the meta-ethics realm. I'll give you a clue to why you're wrong: Man's means of survival is reason, not force.

Please detail what exactly this "objective morality" is and why is any different than Hammurabi's code or any other system.
You should read Ayn Rand's 'The Objectivist Ethics.' I'll give a brief proof.

Morality is a code of value to guide man's actions. That is, value is at the root of morality. I'm not going to give you a proof for that unless you really don't understand. Morality is about choosing which values are proper.

So what is the concept of 'value' built on? Something can be of value only if you face an alternative. It just doesn't make sense to claim that, I value food, but it makes no difference to me whether I get some. Or I value my wife, but I don't care if she dies.

There is an alternative faced that gives rise to the ability to value. In these two instances it's, being hungry or not and having love or not. But what is the fundamental alternative in the universe? The alternative that gives rise to all other alternatives: Existence vs. non-existence. And only life faces this alternative. That is, life is the fundamental concept that gives rise to 'value' and the ability/need to value.

The question, "why should 'life' be my ultimate value" is nonsensical. The concept of 'value' is already built on life or death as the fundamental alternative.

As I said, reading Rand's The Objectivist Ethics will give you a much clearer picture of the argument.
 
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digsbe

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To call morals objective is to turn a blind eye to reality. Thus only a theist could make this claim. A simple cross section of the world today clearly shows that morality is subjective and deeply influenced by the culture you were brought up in.
To state all morals are relative is a self defeating illogical statement. My belief is that God has set the absolute moral standard but gives us the option to chose how we want to live. Ultimately when we die we will be judges, and sometimes in life we are judged. Morality may be "defined" by cultures, I am not ignoring that. However, I am saying one cultures morality is not equal to another, and that what some claim as moral is ultimately immoral.
For instance in Japan it is completely moral to have sexual relations with 13 year old children. Yet for the majority of the audience here, such an act would be an atrocity. In many middle east countries the treatment of women is abdominal, but make not mistake, the people doing these acts think themselves moral and just. Here in America, the manner that we deny gays equal marriage rights is petty, mean spirited, and hateful. But once again, the people doing these acts claim moral superiority.
It may be accepting in Japan to do that, but is it morally right ultimately? A whole group of people could believe that survival of the fittest is the highest priority. And that murder is justified in all cases because if you don't want to be murdered, be stronger than everyone else. Is that belief and action moral? Let's not turn this into a gay marriage thread. And as someone who opposes gay marriage there is also mean spirited and hateful people who attack me and my beliefs. People claim moral superiority all the time.
The fact that we can not judge morals as absolute is more proof that there is not an ultimate answer. The lack of a standard does nothing to prove an existence of a god. We will be arguing about proper morals long after the bible myths fade from our collective memories.
[/quote]
But we can judge morals as absolute, if we can't then there really is no such thing as immorality to begin with. I stated this in my past post and you haven't addressed it. What if a tribe of people believed that another tribe was a scourge to the earth and that their moral duty is to kill that tribe. What if the other tribe respects life and believes that all have the right to live? Who is morally correct? What happens when two morals come in conflict? So as long as one tribe has a culture that believes they must murder others, that behavior and action is completely moral?

If all morals are relative, than the very statement is self defeating. It's like saying truth cannot be known. By definition they are logically false and defeat themselves.
 

rathi

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No, morality is a code of values to guide man's actions. It's not solely for judging actions, but also telling you what you should or should not do.
Telling someone what they should inherently requires judging that action. Its a nit-picky difference, and we are pretty much on the same page. Morality is assigning actions good or bad values and than acting based on those values.

What do you not get about this? The basis of morality is REALITY.
Reality doesn't have any concept of right or wrong. A dying sun that wipes out an entire civilization does not feel remorse. The basis of morality is human thought.

It doesn't matter if some people act in a contradictory way. That doesn't mean morality is contradictory, it means that person is!
Since people create morality, morality is only as consistent as its creator.

I'll give you a clue to why you're wrong: Man's means of survival is reason, not force.
In general I would agree, but there are many instances where force is the key to survival and reason is not very helpful. For example, fighting on a wolf sitting on your chest.

But what is the fundamental alternative in the universe? The alternative that gives rise to all other alternatives: Existence vs. non-existence. And only life faces this alternative. That is, life is the fundamental concept that gives rise to 'value' and the ability/need to value. The question, "why should 'life' be my ultimate value" is nonsensical. The concept of 'value' is already built on life or death as the fundamental alternative.The question, "why should 'life' be my ultimate value" is nonsensical. The concept of 'value' is already built on life or death as the fundamental alternative.
That is not true. All life is evolutionarily programmed into reproducing, not simply surviving. For example, many animals sacrifice themselves are part of their mating process in order to keep the species going. Survival is a common trait in all life, but only as a byproduct of the need to be around to reproduce and sometimes to raise young.

As I said, reading Rand's The Objectivist Ethics will give you a much clearer picture of the argument.
Despite the name, Rand is no more objective that any other moral philosopher. It is simply her opinions on what right or wrong is.
 

rathi

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To state all morals are relative is a self defeating illogical statement. My belief is that God has set the absolute moral standard but gives us the option to chose how we want to live. Ultimately when we die we will be judges, and sometimes in life we are judged. Morality may be "defined" by cultures, I am not ignoring that. However, I am saying one cultures morality is not equal to another, and that what some claim as moral is ultimately immoral.
For the sake of argument, let us assume that bible is in fact 100% correct. Even if you are a biblical literalist, your cannot claim to have absolute morals. Every time your interpret a passage, you are applying your own personal viewpoint to the situation. The fact that there are many different branches of Christianity shows that even with the same book, people reach different conclusions about right and wrong. So even assuming that god created absolute morality, there is no way to actually figure out what that absolute morality is here on earth. Ultimately, all you can do is try and do what you think is best, just like everyone else. That is why morality is relative.


But we can judge morals as absolute, if we can't then there really is no such thing as immorality to begin with. I stated this in my past post and you haven't addressed it. What if a tribe of people believed that another tribe was a scourge to the earth and that their moral duty is to kill that tribe. What if the other tribe respects life and believes that all have the right to live? Who is morally correct? What happens when two morals come in conflict? So as long as one tribe has a culture that believes they must murder others, that behavior and action is completely moral?
I would consider the killer tribe to be immoral, but I recognize that is my personal opinion, not a fact of the universe. Morality is lot like beauty. While you can often get a lot of people to agree something is beautiful, there is no ultimate standard for it. All you can do is look at piece of art and make your own choice.
 

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Reality doesn't have any concept of right or wrong. A dying sun that wipes out an entire civilization does not feel remorse. The basis of morality is human thought.
Of course non-living entities don't have a morality. Morality is contingent upon volition-or a choice. However, morality is not a concept that was just made up by humans. Man NEEDS morality to survive. You said that you agree with me on the definition of morality. A morality is a code of values to guide man's actions. What would man do without a guide to his action? There would be no way to choose among choices. Should you go eat food, or should you starve? You would simply die without choosing values. However, even for people like you who believe morality is relativistic- you have accepted on some level that you want to live.

Since people create morality, morality is only as consistent as its creator.
People may choose contradictory values- but that doesn't mean their values are right or wrong.

That is not true. All life is evolutionarily programmed into reproducing, not simply surviving. For example, many animals sacrifice themselves are part of their mating process in order to keep the species going. Survival is a common trait in all life, but only as a byproduct of the need to be around to reproduce and sometimes to raise young.
You're not understanding the argument here. The argument is not, "animals are programmed to survive, therefore morality for humans is about survival."

The argument for morality being necessary for humans to survive is the following: If a morality is about guiding man's choices, what would a man do who had no way to guide his choices? How could you choose to do ANYTHING? Man requires specific action to survive. If you have no way to guide yourself towards this action, you're not going to take the required action, and you will die.

The argument for life as the ultimate value is what I stated in the last post about the concept of value. Values can only exist in reference to an alternative- the most fundamental of which is existence vs. non-existence.

Despite the name, Rand is no more objective that any other moral philosopher. It is simply her opinions on what right or wrong is.
Well, I would disagree with you that Rand is not more objective than other philosophers. But to come to that conclusion yourself, you'd have to actually read her works. That's all I was recommending that you do. Not to take the whole of the ethical system from the title of the article! That's just silly. :joke:
 
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