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2007-01-12 01:37:56
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Why Cultural/Moral Relativism is Bullshit


[under construction***] - a [Dil*] production.

Intro:


First of all, I'll deal with the definitions. I find, half of all the arguments I have with people end up being merely disputes about semantics (differing definitions of a word).

"Moral Relativism - viewpoint that what is morally right or wrong depends on what someone thinks. Moral Relativism usually comes in two categories:

A)Subjectivism: What is morally right or wrong for you depends on what you think is morally right or wrong, i.e., right or wrong is relative to the individual. The 'moral facts' may alter from person to person.

B)Conventionalism/Cultural Relativism: What is morally right or wrong depends on what the society we are dealing with thinks, i.e., morality depends on the conventions of the society we are concerned with. The 'moral facts' may alter from society to society."

Definitions taken from:
http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~alatus/phil1200/RelativismObjectivism.html

Mine:
C)Moral Subjectivist - Viewpoint that what is right or wrong depends on individual value systems, which are essentially preferences, but not the same as opinion (aka what one thinks is correct). 

(for more info on my morality: morality: my take)

MR - Moral Relativism
CR - Cultural Relativism (or society's morals)
MS - Moral Subjectivist

Okay, this page is mostly about CR being bullshit, but I'll deal with why MR is no good either (which is slightly more complex). I'm a moral subjectivist, some people may think that's the same as a MR or CR, but they are different, the difference between MS and CR are very obvious, but the difference between MS and MR are much more subtle. Many people do no justice to MS by putting that into the same group as CR or MR. A)Subjectivism is actually really, really close to MS, but not quite the same. I prefer to wash my hands clean of this MR business (terminology) because MR is tainted with CR.

Morality of Causality

I'm both a moral realist and a moral subjectivist, some people think that's contradictory, but it's not. It depends on how one approaches the problem of morality.

YES I believe there is such thing as absolute RIGHT and WRONG. (But *only* in a certain context)

But it's all about context. I won't pretend this is a simple issue. From the viewpoint of morality built on values, morality is subjective. Values (individual preferences) are personal and obviously arbitrary. 

From the viewpoint of morality as measured in effectiveness of fulfilling value systems, there can be objectivity, it can be judged as 'right' (effective at fulfilling a given value) or 'wrong' if it does not fulfill the given value system. From this viewpoint, morality would be simply a set of rules to fulfill a certain value system.

People are quite often wrong about their own morality. Someone may do something that they think will make them happy, but it doesn't, therefore, that action is wrong from the ineffectiveness of fulfilling their value (which was to make themselves feel happy). A fundamentalist Christian may think that imposing God's law upon America will make it a utopia, because he/she values the general happiness of the populace, but he/she is flat out WRONG. Having a fundamentalist attempt to impose insane rules on everyone will NOT increase the general happiness of the populace because fundamentalists are insane. And this is how a moral subjectivist can make absolute claims about morality.

If that same fundamentalist had the value of making everyone suffer by attempting to impose God's law upon everyone, then I can't say they're wrong. Of course, that is also insane and nobody sane wants that.

[ to be continued]




Debunking Cultural Relativism


"The Cultural Differences Argument
1. Different societies have different moral codes.
2. If different societies have different moral codes, then CR is an acceptable normative theory.
3. Therefore, CR is an acceptable normative theory. [1,2 MP]

The Reformer's Dilemma:
1. If CR is an acceptable normative theory, then every moral reformer is mistaken.
2. It's not the case that every moral reformer is mistaken.
3. Therefore, it's not the case that CR is an acceptable normative theory. [1,2 MT]"

CR states that if one lives in a certain culture/society (with it's own set of rules) what is right is simply what the 'general consensus among the people at that particular time/area is'. But if one were to just 'accept' CR as a normative moral theory, we would deny the evolution of morality itself. Every convention today is a result of a controversy yesterday, the majority maybe very well wrong about their own morality (made from the viewpoint of effectiveness of fulfilling individual values), and 'moral reformers' make an appeal to the public about 'what is wrong/right', and if the 'public/society/culture's people' see that their own morality is wrong, by making an appeal to their values, then morality changes. One should not accept CR for the sake of CR, but only accept it if it happens to have the same values as that person. At a time when the 'moral reformer' is forming their own 'individualistic' ideas about what is right vs. wrong, the culture in which they live in can be wrong. Judging morality from causality, people can just be flat-out wrong about their own values.

So the majority in an area do not necessarily determine what is right/wrong. Moral relativism only tells us the sum of 'ideas about morality' in a certain area, it tells us 'what is' as opposed to 'what ought to be', we can't accept moral relativism as 'what ought to be'. To accept CR would be to deny the evolution of morality itself, which is absurd.

Moral relativism is collectivist. To accept it would be like saying: since all these people here think this is okay, it must be okay. In contrast to MR, MS is fiercely individualistic and does not suffer from this fallacy.




Debunking Moral Relativism (Broad Defn)


Morality isn't based on merely opinion or what we think is right vs. wrong. Morality is based on preference, not necessarily opinion.

One may hold the opinion that they prefer something, but when they actually go to try something, they don't. If opinion was the same as preference, every time we'd go out to a movie expecting to like it we would, this is not the case, therefore actual preference and perceived preference (opinion) would differ. Then again, opinion could create preference, but opinion can be wrong, while preference cannot be wrong.




On Values


What are values? Essentially preferences, we think killing is wrong, as a preference, we value the lives of others. Some people think killing others is perfectly fine, they do not value the lives of others. This differing standard of morality is not good enough to concede that there is no objective morality, as people can have differing ideas about something, but there could still be a right answer, but I argue that there is no set standard of morality. There is no one 'set of values' to hold universally, so therefore I think values are subjective. If values are subjective, and morals are based on values, then morality must be subjective. I'm a moral subjectivist, not to be confused with moral relativist (which is flawed and too collectivist in my eyes). Morality does not exist independent of thought, nor is it above personal influence. To say an objective morality exists would be akin to saying that one had found the meaning of life. Morality is a prescriptive statement telling us how to behave in reality as opposed to what is in reality. The meaning of life deals with how one should live their own life, and nobody has the answer because there is no answer. How one should behave in reality is a very similar question.



2007 January dilandau's philosophy


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2007-01-08 [sophomoric]: Then again, the MR assumes that their conception of morality is more right than the other morality that exists. That itself is a matter unprovable, and since there will always exist those with opposing moral inclinations, absolutism is a fallacious stance to take up. Just because morality can be reformed, does not suggest the reformation is inherently more "right" or "moral."

For instance, where animal rights activists stand today, a number of people stood in terms of the race and slavery issue. A number of people will argue that animal rights is not moral simply because it doesn't coincide with their own conception of morality. The MR in this scenario is not inherently more right or wrong though. Just because a branch of morality can, at the cultural level, be reformed does not mean the reformation is more inherently "right." It just means it's an alteration to the prevalent morality. So in effect, if in order for the MR to not be wrong they need to be more morally-right, then the "reformer's dilemma" is flawed at its second point. You can't prove the MR is more morally-right, and therefore the MR is never right. Subjectivism/relativism wins.

But the rebuttal would be that the reformer is inherently right, else the morality wouldn't win out in the end, or that they simply are more right, but you cannot really prove the matter of why. Unfortunately, in this argument, the why is the crux of the very argument.

It's just like the argument for and against God's existence (although there's more substance to the God argument).

2007-01-08 [sophomoric]: "From the viewpoint of morality as measured in effectiveness of fulfilling value systems, there can be objectivity, it can be judged as 'right' (effective at fulfilling a given value) or 'wrong' if it does not fulfill the given value system. From this viewpoint, morality would be simply a set of rules to fulfill a certain value system."

These terms are rather vague. Would you be up to clarifying an example?

2007-01-08 [Dil*]: What you don't seem to get is that CR is a type of absolutism. CR is making a statement about what is acceptable, it is in essence making a type of standard for morality.

"But the rebuttal would be that the reformer is inherently right, else the morality wouldn't win out in the end, or that they simply are more right"

The only way a moral reformer could win is to appeal to core value systems, that's the only way he'd win, by an arguement about causality in morality as opposed to actual values. What a moral reformer does is show the culture that their 'rules' for 'achieving values' are wrong, not the actual values. It is possible to say someone's morality is wrong in the perspective of effectiveness of fulfilling value systems.

"These terms are rather vague. Would you be up to clarifying an example?"

Errr, this is what I had for clarification:

People are quite often wrong about their own morality. Someone may do something that they think will make them happy, but it doesn't, therefore, that action is wrong from the ineffectiveness of fulfilling their value (which was to make themselves feel happy). A fundamentalist Christian may think that imposing God's law upon America will make it a utopia, because he/she values the general happiness of the populace, but he/she is flat out WRONG. Having a fundamentalist attempt to impose insane rules on everyone will NOT increase the general happiness of the populace because fundamentalists are insane. And this is how a moral subjectivist can make absolute claims about morality.

If that same fundamentalist had the value of making everyone suffer by attempting to impose God's law upon everyone, then I can't say they're wrong. Of course, that is also insane and nobody sane wants that.

Tell me if it's off, or what parts of that you don't get...

2007-01-08 [Dil*]: Okay, my two watchers...I just realized I basically have all my ideas up there, and I just realized that they probably make no sense to anyone except myself, so ask for clarification at whim! Please

2007-01-08 [sophomoric]: There's a difference between absolutes existing, and absolute morality existing. I get entirely that CR is a type of absolutism, just as suggesting that all morality is subjective/relative is a form of absolutism. We aren't debating the existence of absolutes, however. We're debating the existence of absolute morals.

The MR can only win if they can convince people that their morality is better. Convincing people that a moral system is better and a moral system (in light of fact/truth) being better are very different things. The efficacy of morality is highly questionable, as not all individuals have the same outcomes as a matter of want. A fundamentalist Christian, as in the example above, is not acting with the happiness of others at heart. Rather, they do as they do for sake of the salvation of man, which may well come at the expense of the happiness of others.

People's actions are not always reflective of what they feel is right, but what they feel is right is often merely a manifestation of what has been taught to them and what they have experienced. To suggest that another cultural morality is wrong is to deny the experience of living within that cultural system.

An example of historical moral reform: The European settlers and their imposition of Christian morality upon the Natives of the Americas. This morality won out in the end, and I wager it had very little to do with a superior moral/ethical code. Different cultures, cultures the have developed independently, will have different morality. The imposition of one culture's morality upon another is fallacious if it assumes an inclination towards being superior.

2007-01-09 [Dil*]: Not only is CR a type of absolutism, it is also implies an acceptable moral standard which I disagree with because I'm a subjectivist. I have already stated it also suffers from a few fallacies (appeal to popularity).

That Christian example, you criticize a flaw in the example unrelated to what it was attempting to demonstrate. A better example would be my why pro-choice is better page with the organ donation example, which is how a moral subjectivist argues morality. If you can demonstrate that a certain action does not fulfill a value, then that action is absolutely wrong.

Differing ideas about morality isn't enough to declare it subjective, for example, people may have differing ideas about the shape of the earth, it doesn't mean there is not just one right answer. Although I do agree that there is no 'set/universal' method in which humans should behave, (is ought distinction). If your value system is in conflict with another's of course you're going to see the other person as wrong, you are bound by your values, you have no choice but to prefer certain items in your existence. A value is something you want to persue by definition, if you didn't want to persue/fulfill that value, it wouldn't be a value period.

There is a difference between impose and convince. Reformer's dilemma isn't an appeal to changing systems of morality in general and it isn't saying the one which somehow gets on top must be correct, it's an argument against CR being an acceptable normative moral theory. Because if it was, morality would simply not change at all, therefore it can't be.

2007-01-09 [The Scarlet Pumpernickle]: I have a question. Where does morality come from? Did it "evolve" with Mankind? Did some chimp randomly say "Hey. He stole my banana! The jerk! It was mine! That is so wrong!"? and other chimps supported him? Or what?

2007-01-09 [Dil*]: I'll let ayn rand answer that one (the randian POV):

Man is the only animal which has a volitional consciousness. Man does not have automatic values and the basic means of survival for conscious being is reason. "Man cannot survive, as animals do, by guidance of mere percepts. A sensation of hunger will tell him that he needs food (if he has learned to identify it as 'hunger'), but it will not tell him how to obtain his food and it will not tell him what food is good for him or poisonous. He cannot provide for his simplest physical needs without a process of thought... his life depends on such knowledge and only a volitional act of his consciousness, a process of thought, can provide it...Man is not exempt from the laws of reality, he is a specific organism of a specific nature that requires specific actions to sustain his life. He cannot achieve his survival by arbitrary means nor by random motions nor by blind urges nor by chance or by whim...knowledge for any conscious organism is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every 'is' implies an 'ought'. Ethics is not a mystic fantasy, nor a social convention nor a dispensable, subjective luxury, to be switched or discarded in any emergency. Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man's survival.... The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics-the standard by which one judges what is good and evil-is man's life or: that which is needed for man's survival qua man. Since reason is man's basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil. Since everything man needs has to be discovered by his own mind and produced by his own effort, the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being are: thinking and productive work." - pg 22-25 Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness

Rand says value arose from the need for survival of conscious beings and morality arises from value.

I highly suggest you go do some reading and come up with your own ideas. That's what I'm all about, that's why I enjoy being challenged.

2007-01-09 [The Scarlet Pumpernickle]: "do some reading, and come up with your own ideas... " Sounds like contradiction there. .. and that was my own idea... not very original perhaps... but I still thought of it myself. :)P

Alright.. I understand that. Where then, does personal consciousness come from? How did we switch from being irrational to have volitional consciousness?

2007-01-09 [Dil*]: You're not making ideas, you're simply posing questions. By make your own ideas, I mean, make your own hypothesis and do some research. Man is the only organism that has volitional consciousness, so he has a choice as to how to act, but man must act rationally to survive, so there is a set way to act, that's what she's saying. She also implies morality arose from the basic need to survive.

2007-01-09 [sophomoric]: "Not only is CR a type of absolutism, it is also implies an acceptable moral standard which I disagree with because I'm a subjectivist. I have already stated it also suffers from a few fallacies (appeal to popularity)."

CR as absolutism is not CR as absolute morality. CR simply suggests that morality alters with cultural variations. How is that the least bit fallacious?

"Differing ideas about morality isn't enough to declare it subjective, for example, people may have differing ideas about the shape of the earth, it doesn't mean there is not just one right answer."

That's certainly a valid claim, but so far you've done nothing to prove absolute morality. All you've managed to do is argue that CR necessitates that the morality of the culture is better for the culture, which is not necessary in order for morality to be completely subjective and for CR to be valid. The argument would be that the objective/absolute morality is superior to the cultural standard, not the other way around. As there is no methodology by which to prove the supposed "absolute" morality as superior, the argument falters. The basis of subjective morality is that no one state of morality is superior to any other.

If the absolute morality were truly absolute, it would not be a matter of question.

2007-01-09 [sophomoric]: To accept CR would be to deny the evolution of morality itself, which is absurd.

To accept CR is to accept that morality changes with different cultural influences. It makes no argument that morality does not/cannot/must not change.

2007-01-09 [Dil*]: CR also suggests that people living within that culture are justified in acting according to the sum of people's ideas about morality in that particular area. For example, do you view your morality as being 'wrong' since your socialist ideas conflict with 'societies' ideas? Or is it possible that you're right and everyone else (majority) is wrong? CR is about 'majority morality in a certain area being correct', it definately implies a standard. CR implies 'acceptable' which leads to 'ought'.

I said absolute morality exists only in some contexts. I approach morality both objectively and subjectively. Err, was I not clear in morality of causality?

"The basis of subjective morality is that no one state of morality is superior to any other."

Which I disagree with in the context of value achievement being morality (a set of rules to fulfill said values), tell me if we have conflicting definitions.

Cultural influence does not justify any moral standard. The only moral standard that one should accept is one that fulfill's one's own values, because a value is what we truly desire by definition. MS = individualistic.

2007-01-10 [sophomoric]: The beauty of moral relativism is that no one's morality is either right or wrong, therefore your question is a non sequitur. How can my idea be the "right" one or everyone else's the "right" one if the very concept I behold is that no morality is inherently more right or wrong. It holds to situational and subjective variables that determine appropriateness more so than rightness/wrongness. Altering a moral superstructure within a culture unlike your own to contain a morality that is your own can be socially damaging, therefore there is validity to the CR argument. It is not, however, to suggest that the cultural morality is always the best morality (not to confuse with "right" morality which holds no meaning for me) for certain outcomes.

As for the Absolute Morality issue: If there is debate over whether or not something is universally agreed to/understood, then it is not absolute. I still have yet to see an argument using an example of absolute morality that supports the objective moral issue.

2007-01-10 [sophomoric]: The problem with individual moral standards is that if one is a member of a community it neglects this communal relationship. Morality is a negotiation between the individual and the community, not the individual alone, nor community alone. This is why CR has some validity, just as arguments against it do, culminating into a need for balance.

2007-01-10 [Dil*]: I don't know what you're attacking here, because I made no such claims about altering a moral superstructure to conform to my particular values. You still don't seem to get that CR implies standard.

Just because there is debate over something, doesn't mean that neither side is correct.

That last paragraph about individual moral standards...I have no idea what you're trying to convey. How does individual moral standards mean that you can't deal with a community? It really depends on what type of values you have.

2007-01-15 [The Scarlet Pumpernickle]: How do you decide which issues have absolutes anyway?


(oh and I deal well in questions.. that's how I learn. I ask and ask and ask.. and finally come up with, what I think, is a foolproof theory. I like that better than coming up with a zillion crappy ones and getting them disproved all the time. I'd rather have people see the holes in their own arguments...)

2007-01-15 [Dil*]: It's good to ask questions, but in debate, the questioner is the aggressor and after a while, the person being asked a million questions can get annoyed. Also, my 'morality of causality' should've answered your question.

2007-01-16 [The Scarlet Pumpernickle]: well not really... I understand your premise but not your execution of it. ..and it says "to be continued"...so I was wondering if you would give me another example

2007-01-16 [sophomoric]: Just because there is debate over something doesn't mean anyone is right. I find that asking questions about existence is like asking why blue is blue.

And morality issues are ever a question of existence.

2007-01-16 [Dil*]: err, okay I can give another example.

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