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Is Morality Relative?
Posted: 03 August 2011 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Is Morality Relative?  Are Good and Evil just points of view?

Just because morality is a certain way right now and has certain causes, it doesn’t follow that the value system of future societies will be anything like ours.  Any future dystopia is possible.  500 years from now, the value system could be akin to what happens in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”  Had Hitler taken over the world, 300 years after the fact, everyone probably would have been indoctrinated into that belief system.  A new Hitler could always arise.  The value system of the future could always be the reverse of ours.  They could even believe in Gods we would consider Evil who would demand that they do things we consider Evil. 

And ethical standards weren’t absolute throughout history.  In ancient Roman times, prisoners were executed for the entertainment for the crowd, and it was socially acceptable for one member of a noble family to murder another during infighting.  Their society wasn’t better or worse than ours, they just had a different value system.

To use an analogy, in elementary school teaching, teachers use criteria to judge what mark a child gets on a story.  For example, if a child’s story has a strong plot, good character development, and uses vivid language, then they have met the criteria to get a ‘B.’  What absolute or objective criteria do humans use to judge when a behaviour is wrong?  Some say the criteria is a variant of the Golden Rule: If you do to others something you wouldn’t want done to you, you realize that you have done something wrong (e.g., If you don’t want to be stolen from, don’t be a thief because you know it’s wrong).  But this criteria has not been applied universally throughout history (e.g., the Roman example I gave), and it doesn’t follow from the fact that it has been applied in the past that it will be applied in the future.  It varies.  To the Aztecs, killing in sacrifice to their deity wasn’t wrong.

“Good is just a point of view,” Emperor Palpatine, Star Wars Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith.

[ Edited: 03 August 2011 07:49 AM by john76 ]
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Posted: 03 August 2011 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I believe that in general the arc of history is progressing us towards higher and better morality. Yes, there have been setbacks, but if you take the long view it’s fairly easy to see that there has been a progression towards a greater amount of freedom to a greater number of people as the centuries have advanced. Could we make a significant regression? Sure. But my belief and hope is that the same natural forces that drive our physical evolution also lead us to greater cooperation and mutual benefit as a species. As we become ever more interconnected on greater scales (from clans to tribes, then to villages, chiefdoms, kingdoms, states, nations, and finally globally) we find that it is in our best interest to see everyone thrive and prosper.

So yes, morality is relative in the sense that it is constantly changing. But I don’t believe it is random. I believe there is a “purpose” to it. Not a conscious purpose intended by one or more divine beings, but an evolutionary purpose, so to speak.

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Posted: 03 August 2011 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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FreeInKy - 03 August 2011 12:09 PM

I believe that in general the arc of history is progressing us towards higher and better morality. Yes, there have been setbacks, but if you take the long view it’s fairly easy to see that there has been a progression towards a greater amount of freedom to a greater number of people as the centuries have advanced. Could we make a significant regression? Sure. But my belief and hope is that the same natural forces that drive our physical evolution also lead us to greater cooperation and mutual benefit as a species. As we become ever more interconnected on greater scales (from clans to tribes, then to villages, chiefdoms, kingdoms, states, nations, and finally globally) we find that it is in our best interest to see everyone thrive and prosper.

So yes, morality is relative in the sense that it is constantly changing. But I don’t believe it is random. I believe there is a “purpose” to it. Not a conscious purpose intended by one or more divine beings, but an evolutionary purpose, so to speak.

lmao

Let’s all hope some evil Genius doesn’t build a doomsday device that wipes out most of humanity, and that he doesn’t then indoctrinate the children that remain in that post-apocalyptic world into having an Evil value system.

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Posted: 03 August 2011 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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john76 - 03 August 2011 12:43 PM
FreeInKy - 03 August 2011 12:09 PM

I believe that in general the arc of history is progressing us towards higher and better morality. Yes, there have been setbacks, but if you take the long view it’s fairly easy to see that there has been a progression towards a greater amount of freedom to a greater number of people as the centuries have advanced. Could we make a significant regression? Sure. But my belief and hope is that the same natural forces that drive our physical evolution also lead us to greater cooperation and mutual benefit as a species. As we become ever more interconnected on greater scales (from clans to tribes, then to villages, chiefdoms, kingdoms, states, nations, and finally globally) we find that it is in our best interest to see everyone thrive and prosper.

So yes, morality is relative in the sense that it is constantly changing. But I don’t believe it is random. I believe there is a “purpose” to it. Not a conscious purpose intended by one or more divine beings, but an evolutionary purpose, so to speak.

lmao

Let’s all hope some evil Genius doesn’t build a doomsday device that wipes out most of humanity, and that he doesn’t then indoctrinate the children that remain in that post-apocalyptic world into having an Evil value system.

But what does an evil genius have to do with morality. An evil genius who wipes out most of humanity is an immoral person.  How does that equate with your question?
Now, someone wiping out most of humanity on a set of supposedly moral beliefs is the true danger. The supposedly “moral” person has found a justification for his immoral act. Thus personal morality is a relative standard.

[ Edited: 03 August 2011 01:46 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 03 August 2011 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I strongly feel that morality is relative; right and wrong can’t be seperated from what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable, and even if you could seperate them, most would probably think you were inhuman.  Another fun fact is that people often say one thing, and do another, so which one defines the moral stance? What you say or what you do. I don’t agree that people have “progressed morally”, it’s just that we have more personal distractions/comforts. If those are taken away, we will become barbaric like our not so long ago relatives.

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Posted: 03 August 2011 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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John76;  I had a discussion on moral relativism and how people define and use the term moral relativism HERE you might find interesting.

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Posted: 03 August 2011 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I don’t suppose there are any absolute moral standards. Morality varies with time and place, hence the need for laws or there wouldn’t be any thing as civilization. As for the hopes of a more peaceful (good, in my opinion) future, there is no certainty whatever. Change can be progressive as well as retrogressive, and I think history bears that out.

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Posted: 03 August 2011 06:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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As I’ve said before on prior threads discussing this same topic, I believe morality is absolute, but in a relative manner.

Occam

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Posted: 03 August 2011 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Occam. - 03 August 2011 06:10 PM

As I’ve said before on prior threads discussing this same topic, I believe morality is absolute, but in a relative manner.

Occam

That brings a question. If morality is absolute, can it be defined or is it knowable only in a relative way?

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Posted: 04 August 2011 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Write4U - 03 August 2011 07:00 PM
Occam. - 03 August 2011 06:10 PM

As I’ve said before on prior threads discussing this same topic, I believe morality is absolute, but in a relative manner.

Occam

That brings a question. If morality is absolute, can it be defined or is it knowable only in a relative way?

I bet it could be defined eventually.  It would take tons of analyses(lot’s of which is already done….)collation, etc.
For example many of the defined morals(behaviors) seem to have variables.  But that is in the context of societal stresses to name one “variable”.
So I think first we could define the simple “root behaviors”(morals) and analyse and collate how they become subjective when they go through the ringer of a society or other interactive dynamic.
Yes it would be a monumental task!  But I think the basic root behaviors are defined already, and that they apply universally.  It was argued here awhile ago in another thread that they are not universal.  I disagree…and would point to my comments above(which are not easy in themselves to explain) concerning putting these root behaviors through “the ringer”.
The ringer being everything from how we contradict our own morals to punish other moral breakers…to behavioral disorders, to “perceived customs” and the confusion this generates by labeling this as relative compared with universal.

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Posted: 04 August 2011 05:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I agree, in human terms there may well be some fundamental natural moral thruths, but much like physics, almost all functional applications are relative to external circumstances.
At least that is how I read Occam’s posit.

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Posted: 04 August 2011 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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What are some universal moral truths?

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Posted: 04 August 2011 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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mid atlantic - 04 August 2011 05:37 PM

What are some universal moral truths?

Not a clue… red face  I would guess they may be related to humans group interactions. i.e. nomadic or territorial herd instincts.

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Posted: 05 August 2011 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Write4U - 04 August 2011 05:45 PM
mid atlantic - 04 August 2011 05:37 PM

What are some universal moral truths?

Not a clue… red face  I would guess they may be related to humans group interactions. i.e. nomadic or territorial herd instincts.

It seems like semantics, but couching it in terms like “moral” and “truths” opens the topic into a broader, distracting type area.
I like “observable human behavior patterns”.

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Posted: 05 August 2011 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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john76 - 03 August 2011 07:42 AM

Is Morality Relative?  Are Good and Evil just points of view?

Just because morality is a certain way right now and has certain causes, it doesn’t follow that the value system of future societies will be anything like ours.  Any future dystopia is possible.  500 years from now, the value system could be akin to what happens in George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.”  Had Hitler taken over the world, 300 years after the fact, everyone probably would have been indoctrinated into that belief system.  A new Hitler could always arise.  The value system of the future could always be the reverse of ours.  They could even believe in Gods we would consider Evil who would demand that they do things we consider Evil. 

And ethical standards weren’t absolute throughout history.  In ancient Roman times, prisoners were executed for the entertainment for the crowd, and it was socially acceptable for one member of a noble family to murder another during infighting.  Their society wasn’t better or worse than ours, they just had a different value system.

To use an analogy, in elementary school teaching, teachers use criteria to judge what mark a child gets on a story.  For example, if a child’s story has a strong plot, good character development, and uses vivid language, then they have met the criteria to get a ‘B.’  What absolute or objective criteria do humans use to judge when a behaviour is wrong?  Some say the criteria is a variant of the Golden Rule: If you do to others something you wouldn’t want done to you, you realize that you have done something wrong (e.g., If you don’t want to be stolen from, don’t be a thief because you know it’s wrong).  But this criteria has not been applied universally throughout history (e.g., the Roman example I gave), and it doesn’t follow from the fact that it has been applied in the past that it will be applied in the future.  It varies.  To the Aztecs, killing in sacrifice to their deity wasn’t wrong.

“Good is just a point of view,” Emperor Palpatine, Star Wars Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith.

It’s all been debated… Basics

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Posted: 05 August 2011 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Write4U - 03 August 2011 01:42 PM
john76 - 03 August 2011 12:43 PM
FreeInKy - 03 August 2011 12:09 PM

I believe that in general the arc of history is progressing us towards higher and better morality. Yes, there have been setbacks, but if you take the long view it’s fairly easy to see that there has been a progression towards a greater amount of freedom to a greater number of people as the centuries have advanced. Could we make a significant regression? Sure. But my belief and hope is that the same natural forces that drive our physical evolution also lead us to greater cooperation and mutual benefit as a species. As we become ever more interconnected on greater scales (from clans to tribes, then to villages, chiefdoms, kingdoms, states, nations, and finally globally) we find that it is in our best interest to see everyone thrive and prosper.

So yes, morality is relative in the sense that it is constantly changing. But I don’t believe it is random. I believe there is a “purpose” to it. Not a conscious purpose intended by one or more divine beings, but an evolutionary purpose, so to speak.

lmao

Let’s all hope some evil Genius doesn’t build a doomsday device that wipes out most of humanity, and that he doesn’t then indoctrinate the children that remain in that post-apocalyptic world into having an Evil value system.

But what does an evil genius have to do with morality. An evil genius who wipes out most of humanity is an immoral person.  How does that equate with your question?
Now, someone wiping out most of humanity on a set of supposedly moral beliefs is the true danger. The supposedly “moral” person has found a justification for his immoral act. Thus personal morality is a relative standard.

This “evil genius” isn’t “evil” or “immoral” from his point of view, only from our point of view.

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