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Is Morality Relative?
Posted: 11 November 2011 05:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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john76 - 11 November 2011 01:10 PM

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”.

Morality always comes down to what you like, and what you don’t like, if enough powereful people feel the same about a particular value, then it becomes morality. That’s all there is to it.

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Posted: 28 March 2016 01:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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If we don’t take a “holier than thou judgmental attitude” but simply allow the phenomena of behavior to appear, it would seem that “Moral Relativism” is a useful descriptor for the foundation of ethics, because it best describes why things like (a) cultural-based cannibalism, and (b) The Romans feeding the Christians to the lions in the arena for the exciting sport of the crowd, and (c) child sacrifice, etc., could occur. From the point of view of our time and culture, these practices are “judged wrong.” But who are we to judge? From the point of view of the people who were committing these acts, they were acting in a perfectly socially acceptable manner. So they are “wrong” from our point of view, but not from theirs. Relativism.

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Posted: 28 March 2016 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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Who are we to judge?  We are the only ones who can judge, in the context of our times and our level of knowledge. If you prefer no judgment, then be prepared to be a meal for someone.

But I agree, if your point is that we are on shaky ground if we presume to judge a dead and gone people, in another time, who behaved in accordance with their own context and knowledge.

[ Edited: 28 March 2016 06:07 PM by TimB ]
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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 02 April 2016 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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Of course it is. Everything is relative.

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Posted: 02 April 2016 09:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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AMH - 02 April 2016 10:33 AM

Of course it is. Everything is relative.

Not only that, we are related.

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Posted: 03 April 2016 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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Yes we are, and proud of it!!

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Posted: 10 April 2016 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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Use semantics with both some truth and some lies and you will have an answer to that question. But is answering that question relative?  We all need to believe in something so while everyone is trying to figure the answer, I believe I will have another beer. Cheers.

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Posted: 26 June 2016 07:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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Wrong questions cannot beget right answers and this reasoning applies equally to the question: ‘Is morality relative?’.

Does the question imply that morality is relative to everything else? I presume that the implied reference is to the different situations and conditions influencing moral decisions of individuals. I believe that the question under consideration as well as some of the responses is rooted in the convenient philosophy of ‘situational rationality’.

Unless we are able to specify the factors to which morality is considered to be relative, we will have logical problems in discussing the question. Different people may believe morality to be related to different things and this can lead to situations in which diametrically opposite views are espoused as morally correct by different individuals or groups.

Added to this untenable conundrum is the way people relate morality to inter related concepts about what is good or bad, right or wrong,  or legal or illegal. There have been problems of incongruence among these all the time. Incongruence among these is the result of the differences in the sources from which these are derived and the absence of a common yardstick that helps determine what is good, right or legal.

What we consider as good are often subject to personal understanding and beliefs. What we feel as good is the result of a compounded positive feelings. Good food might mean tasty food to some people but might be understood as healthy food by others. Subjective considerations often influence our decisions about what is good. This is true even in the case of intelligent people. In the absence of universally valid principles about what is good or right, we often rely on situational rationality in the area of personal decisions.

What we consider as morally right is mostly derived from religious precepts and the concept of sin. Morality also comes with different shades of culture.
What is considered legal is determined by the systems of governance. Within democracies, the majority decides what is legal. What is perfectly moral in one society or community might be considered to be highly immoral in another. Similarly, what is legal in one country might not be legal in another. In countries, which practice federalism what is legal in one state or province might be illegal in another

Over and above the absence of a common yardstick is the lack of deterministic clarity as to what is legal, right or good. It is funny, that even judiciary applies the principle of majority to determine what is right. The fundamental problem is the unwillingness of people to work towards universally valid norms of what should be considered as good, right and legal.

Of course, even more important would be the need to remain open towards continuous updating of our understanding of what is good, etc. since newer truths are always identified by individuals who would always constitute a minuscule minority initially.

[ Edited: 26 June 2016 07:38 AM by Quescence ]
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Posted: 26 June 2016 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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even more important would be the need to remain open towards continuous updating of our understanding of what is good,

You said a lot there Quesence, so I’m not going to respond to all of it. This was your last, and apparently most important statement. And I agree with it. The superiority of secular morality is that it can be examined independently of traditions and norms. The argument that “we’ve always done it that way” can be a consideration, but not final answer or even given special priority.

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