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Is Morality Relative?
Posted: 02 October 2011 02:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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Southerners in the old US South did not think blacks were “people.”  They were property.  They thought that blacks were inferior to whites.  No evidence has been found that this is true, so they were simply “wrong.”

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Posted: 02 October 2011 03:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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brightfut - 02 October 2011 02:52 PM

Southerners in the old US South did not think blacks were “people.”  They were property.  They thought that blacks were inferior to whites.  No evidence has been found that this is true, so they were simply “wrong.”

Somewhat , but at the risk of sounding racist, Africans were easier to take as slaves then Europeans were . It’s doubtful the slaveholders cared one way or the other about “moral worth” of different humans; they wanted the money, so in that sense they weren’t wrong in the way your’re describing.

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Posted: 02 October 2011 07:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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I always find it funny listening to Christians going on about this absolute objective morality that is out there. Christians themselves disagree about divorce, war, homosexuality, capitalism, birth control, and on and on. So even if there is this absolute standard out there somewhere, it’s of absolutely no use to us whatsoever. It doesn’t matter what our religious beliefs are. We all basically just have to have to think these things through and decide for ourselves. I wonder why people don’t push Christians on this more often. Even if there is an absolute moral law, we have no way of knowing what it is anyway, so who cares?!

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Posted: 02 October 2011 08:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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Dom1978 - 02 October 2011 07:34 PM

I always find it funny listening to Christians going on about this absolute objective morality that is out there. Christians themselves disagree about divorce, war, homosexuality, capitalism, birth control, and on and on. So even if there is this absolute standard out there somewhere, it’s of absolutely no use to us whatsoever. It doesn’t matter what our religious beliefs are. We all basically just have to have to think these things through and decide for ourselves. I wonder why people don’t push Christians on this more often. Even if there is an absolute moral law, we have no way of knowing what it is anyway, so who cares?!

Every religion believes in absolute objective morality.

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Posted: 02 October 2011 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Yeah, but my point is that even if I become a Christian tomorrow, this won’t help me with any of the big ethical problems. What is THE biblical position on sweatshop labor? What would Jesus have thought about the Iraq war? etc etc. The views that people take on these and other big issues have nothing to do with Jesus or the Bible.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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these and other big issues have nothing to do with Jesus or the Bible.

That’s why God created John Hagee and Pat Robertson - as guides.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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It’s just that a lot of people claim to have turned to Christianity because they want a strong and clear foundation for values and they need the certainty of a black-and-white morality. This is really weird, though, because neither Jesus nor the bible has a clear and unambiguous view on any important issue in politics or ethics. Indeed Bob Price, Bart Ehrman and others have shown time and time again that there doesn’t seem to be a single clear biblical position on anything, moral or otherwise. So wherever people are getting their dogmatic black-and-white morality from, it’s not from Jesus or the bible.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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mid atlantic - 02 October 2011 03:46 PM
brightfut - 02 October 2011 02:52 PM

It’s doubtful the slaveholders cared one way or the other about “moral worth” of different humans; they wanted the money, so in that sense they weren’t wrong in the way your’re describing.

Do you think slaveholders thought about moral issues, had morals, and a conscience or were they just looking out for themselves?  They could have morally rationalized their way of life, but maybe they didn’t even do that.  While morals and legal philosophy are two different things, they at least had to come up with legal reasons why the North should return escaped slaves back to the South.  This is where they claimed that slaves were property and not citizens with rights.

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Posted: 03 October 2011 07:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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brightfut - 03 October 2011 01:05 PM
mid atlantic - 02 October 2011 03:46 PM
brightfut - 02 October 2011 02:52 PM

It’s doubtful the slaveholders cared one way or the other about “moral worth” of different humans; they wanted the money, so in that sense they weren’t wrong in the way your’re describing.

Do you think slaveholders thought about moral issues, had morals, and a conscience or were they just looking out for themselves?  They could have morally rationalized their way of life, but maybe they didn’t even do that.  While morals and legal philosophy are two different things, they at least had to come up with legal reasons why the North should return escaped slaves back to the South.  This is where they claimed that slaves were property and not citizens with rights.

Good point about the legal side.

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Posted: 29 October 2011 05:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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Here is a good article that links cannibalism to Moral Relativism: http://www.philosophynow.org/issue82/Morality_is_a_Culturally_Conditioned_Response  It’s by Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

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Posted: 29 October 2011 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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Dom1978 - 03 October 2011 06:41 AM

It’s just that a lot of people claim to have turned to Christianity because they want a strong and clear foundation for values and they need the certainty of a black-and-white morality. This is really weird, though, because neither Jesus nor the bible has a clear and unambiguous view on any important issue in politics or ethics. Indeed Bob Price, Bart Ehrman and others have shown time and time again that there doesn’t seem to be a single clear biblical position on anything, moral or otherwise. So wherever people are getting their dogmatic black-and-white morality from, it’s not from Jesus or the bible.

True, similar to the Bill of Rights granting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now the Tea Party right-wingers insist on their freedoms, especially freedom from government, without a clue what that really means… cheese

[ Edited: 29 October 2011 05:42 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 31 October 2011 05:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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john76 - 29 October 2011 05:09 PM

Here is a good article that links cannibalism to Moral Relativism: http://www.philosophynow.org/issue82/Morality_is_a_Culturally_Conditioned_Response  It’s by Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

Interesting article, thanks for posting it.

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Posted: 31 October 2011 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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Although I posted my views much earlier in this thread, something just occurred to me.  I realized morality is not relative - all I have to do is recall a few of my relatives.  smile

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edited to change \ to /.

[ Edited: 31 October 2011 09:54 PM by Occam. ]
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Posted: 31 October 2011 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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mid atlantic - 31 October 2011 05:29 PM
john76 - 29 October 2011 05:09 PM

Here is a good article that links cannibalism to Moral Relativism: http://www.philosophynow.org/issue82/Morality_is_a_Culturally_Conditioned_Response  It’s by Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

Interesting article, thanks for posting it.

        It made particularly good sense to me because I am a teacher.  If I judge a student’s piece of work to be at an ‘A’ grade level, I have a rubric and criteria I use to make that judgement.  The criteria is the basis for the judgement that the student receives an “A” .  I think Ethical Objectivists have failed to demonstrate that there is an objective criteria humans uses for judging an action to be morally wrong.  The problem is that there is no such criteria.  Different cultures at different times use different criteria.  Ours is currently something like “you know something (like murder) is wrong because you wouldn’t want that done to you.”  Judgements of right and wrong are determined relative to your culture, your biases and prejudices, your evolutionary history, etc.  To use an example from the article, the Romans didn’t find anything wrong with bloodsports or feeding Christians to the lions.  I don’t think we have the logical grounds for declaring that the Romans were “evil.”  They just had a fundamentally different way of looking at the world compared to us. 
          And just because we have a certain set of values now, that doesn’t mean they will last.  A dystopian future is always possible where their future value system will be very different from ours.  In the future, they might even praise things we find terrible. 
          And groups sometimes simply disagree.  We find what the 9’11 terrorists did to be horrible, but the terrorists thought what they were doing was something moral and holy.  And there were many places in the middle east where there was cheering when the twin towers fell.  You and I could stridently disagree on how a certain wildflower metabolizes sugar. We can both have facts to support our contention. We can be absolutely certain about mutually exclusive explanations for the same event. But there is a mediating principle that will exclude at least one of our ideas and possibly both of them. And that is the actual objective reality of the flowers existence.  Morality simply isn’t this way. There are all sorts of polarized conflicts that simply rely on differing interests and preferences.
          Also, the fact that we find something horrific doesn’t make it ethically wrong.  Vegans find the slaughter of animals horrific, but that doesn’t make the slaughter of animals ethically wrong.  And even if everyone agreed on a certain moral principle, that wouldn’t make it objective.  If one day in the future, the entire planet was Vegan, that wouldn’t mean Veganism was objectively true, it would just mean group consensus.

          We like to take a holier than thou attitude and pass judgement on others, but I agree with the author that for the most part morality is relative.  The slaughter of animals is wrong relative to the point of view of Vegans.  Those are my thoughts anyway.

[ Edited: 31 October 2011 07:05 PM by john76 ]
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Posted: 11 November 2011 01:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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Moral relativism is really very simple.  Basing morality on “values” is another way of saying moral claims are justified according to their context.  In the context of American society, what the terrorists did on 9’11 was evil and wrong.  But in the context of the fundamentalist Islam of the terrorists, the terrorist attack on the twin towers was moral and holy.  It’s not that one point of view is “correct” and the other is “incorrect,” they are just conflicting worldviews.  Recall these images as part of the response to 9’11:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vOJCQr1Now .  The truth of a moral claim is derived from its context.  The context is not absolute, and if you take away the context the “truth” of the moral claim is gone.  The “whole” (context) gives meaning to the part (makes the moral claim “true).  Nietzsche pointed this out with his argument about “slave morality” (eg., a slave has to be meek and has no money, so being meek is interpreted as being morally good - “the meek shall inherit the earth, Matthew 5:5” - and the quest for money and its accumulation is morally bad - “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven, Mark 10:25”)  Nietzsche’s point wasn’t that you had to accept his interpretation of history on this point, but rather that people determine what is moral and immoral relative to their point of view, which means their understanding of right and wrong depends on the context (i.e., depends on a person’s biases, prejudices, culture, evolutionary history, etc.).  In Philosophy this is known as “Relativism: morality and the hermeneutic circle.”  It is like interpreting a text.  In order to understand what a part of a story means, you have to consider it in relation to the entire story.  You can’t explain the “part” without the “whole.”  But this is what moral realism tries to do.  Moral realism doesn’t make sense because you can have two equally valid contradictory moral interpretations of the same event.  Take the example of rape.  We consider rape to be wrong under any circumstance.  But the ancient Greeks considered war rape of women “socially acceptable behaviour well within the rules of warfare”, and warriors considered the conquered women “legitimate booty, useful as wives, concubines, slave labour or battle-camp trophy”.

[ Edited: 11 November 2011 02:19 PM by john76 ]
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