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Old 05-31-2003, 10:12 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Questions about relativism

Hello. This is my first post here. Hope i'm not messing things up.

Does anyone here know the arguments for and against moral relativism? I've read a few things on the subject in the past, but i've mostly forgotten them.

As far as I know it, moral relativism states there is no absolute truth, rather truth is defined by the culture, so one is allowed to say something like "its true if i believe in it." But how does this account for justice?

If anyone has an idea, help would greatly be appreciated.
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Old 05-31-2003, 10:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Well my personal feelings on moral relativism is like this, 99% of life is relative but there is a few absolutes.

1 Murder is ALWAYS wrong .

2 Restricting anyone from following their own belief system as long as it dosn't interfere with rule number one

Thats about all I can come up that ALWAYS wrong in ALL societys from now back to caveman days till long past we evolve past the need for asses (Thats right, No more donkeys for us)
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Old 05-31-2003, 11:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Murder is not *always* wrong, BBtB. That's just your culture speaking. If I could murder one guy to save millions of others (or the entire planet), is that murder wrong? Not to me anyway.

There were even societies where murder wasn't/isn't always wrong. The murders weren't *called* murders, of course...

1) The Aztecs had loads of human sacrifices: institutionalized murder to please the gods.
2) The Spanish invaders of south-America slaughtered the natives without any moral problems, because they were not Christians. Hell, even after conversion, they were slaughtered in the thousands. This was murder to spread the word of god.
3) in medieval Japan, samurai could murder any normal citizen without any moral/legal problems. It was acceptable.
4) in some Muslim countries it is acceptable to murder someone if they insulted your honor. In some cases, one has to pay bloodmoney, in others that isn't even required.

The restriction on anyone following a belief system also isn't always wrong in all societies. One only has to look at fascism/nazism/communism to see that.
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Old 06-01-2003, 12:28 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Just because people do it dosn't make it RIGHT. First off we must define murder. Murder is not simply killing but (by dictionary.com definition) The unlawful killing of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice. Now I will scratch that first one off the list considering the fact that it was often closer to suicide then murder in that most (but of course not all) of the "victims" were willing participants. As for number 2. It dosn't matter what YOU call it. Your socitey might not see it as wrong but it is still wrong. Which is my point. As for 3 same concept but I would really like to see some references to them being able to murder ANY normal citizen at any given time with no recourse. 4 goes back to number 2. That is my point. It dosn't matter what society says. It is still wrong. The world rose against Nazism because they saw it to be wrong. Communism dosn't premote murder. Stalinism maybe. Lets not confuse the two. And lastly... I am just not familar enough with fascism to really come up with a reply suffice to say just because soicty accepts it dosn't make it "right"
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Old 06-01-2003, 12:56 AM   #5 (permalink)
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BBtB, you said that your two things (murder and restrictions) were *always* wrong in *all* societies.

I showed you that murder isn't always wrong, which you dismissed by saying that even though society may accept it, it is still wrong. That doesn't matter: the society accepts it, thus you have been proven wrong in saying that murder is always (seen as) wrong. If you didn't mean that, please explain what you mean.

I showed you that the restrictions on religion and stuff is not always (seen as) wrong by societies, particularly extreme ones with extreme political systems. Again, this goes against your statement that it's always wrong.

Now, I might agree with you that (to me) murder and restrictions on religion are wrong, but not every society agrees. That is precisely where moral relativism comes in: they don't see something as wrong, and in their society/culture it *isn't* wrong.

I have the following suggestions:

1) Humans need to have certain (moral) rules to live together.
2) Without rules, one would have anarchy, precluding growth of a culture/society.
3) Thus, In order to have a viable society, one needs fixed moral rules.
4) Morality, like culture, is a human invention. It is a system of rules that slowly grows and evolves.
5) Some moral systems result in successful societies, others do not. Our western system seems successful, whereas others (Aztecs) were not.

Now, perhaps it would be possible to proof that our system of morality is the "best" system for creating our culture and society; if so, it is reasonable to assume that we're on the right track. That does *not* mean, however, that this moral system is anything but an invention. It is there to facilitate human interaction,
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Old 06-01-2003, 03:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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One wonders why murder is such a popular topic for novels, tv and movies?
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Old 06-21-2003, 02:18 AM   #7 (permalink)
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BBtB, you say that only murder, not all killing is wrong, then define murder as only unlawful killing, then go on to say that killing is wrong in societies where it is lawful. No disrespect, but you could have this argument all on your own.

Is it immoral to restrict someone from practising a belief system in which they beat people until they are on the verge of death then leave them crippled and maimed for the rest of their lives? Or is morality a little more complex than you like to think.

Dragonlich, Aztec society was incredibly successful. They had every other society aroud working for them and paying them tribute, while they sat around taking drugs and killing people. Their downfall was nothing to do with their moral outlook, but just because we were better at killing than they were at staying alive. Also 3 contradicts 4. Do you want fixed moral rules or ones that grow and evolve?
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Old 06-21-2003, 06:36 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The multi-cultural argument for relativism is a powerful one. I like to think of morality in terms of rights. Each person has a right not to be killed, a right to have property, a right to live in reasonable comfort. Of course, a person may violate his own rights, or forfeit them.
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Old 06-21-2003, 11:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Here's my perspective on all this (as if it matters).

Moral relativism is VERY valid, but as with almost all ethical systems, it's VERY flawed. Now, I know what rules I live my life by, but I can tell you why I live my life by them.

Kant came up with something called the Categorical Imperative. This says that all things right or wrong are either right or wrong because they can be universally proven right or wrong.

Taking the example of murder. Murder is wrong because if everyone commited murder, eventually there would be no one left to ponder the ethical nature of murder, and therefore the argument defeats itself. Kant's law is easily defeated if one denies the importance of man, though.

Murder is very black and white, though, and makes for a bad example. Torture is much better. According to Kant, anything that brings pain to someone is wrong because if we all did this to everyone, we'd live such a miserable existence that all contemplation of evil would skewed (a flawed slippery slope argument, if you ask me, but whatever). This is where the utilitarians come in. With moral dilemas, they assigned a point system and weighed and measured ethical thought. Also complete crap, because it fails on dead-even issues. An example of this kind of moral dilema is the idea of Joe and the volcano. Joe is a priest of his tribe in Mubunda, and their volcano is getting angry. Joe knows that the only way to quiet the gods is to throw one of his parents into the volcano. He weighs them both out, and Joe finds neither decision to be better than the other, rationally. How does he decide without emotions?

This is where anthropocentrism and moral reletivism comes in. You do what's right for you, because you are a human, and do the best you can. This means there's no common understanding between beings and that people should do what they think is right for them.

Bollocks. A complete over reaction. I label myself a mono-ethical anthropocentrist. I believe that there is only one sin in this world, and everything else is merely an extrapolation of a basic rule that only appears to be complex.

This is evedent in real life. If you look at a T.V., you can't be certain you're seeing the same thing the person next to you is, and you can't be certain they're laughing at the same time you are for the same reason, hell, you can't even be certain they exist outside of you. However, you can be certain that you're reacting to the same things. Even if they don't exist, they must exist to you, and therefore, they must follow the same basic rules and guidelines you do.

What does this mean? It means, there is an essense to man that allows him to know right and wrong. There is an essense to life that allows life to know right and wrong.

What is wrong? I said there is one sin to me, and I call it contradiction. Reason is the only thing that is consitent no matter where you go in the known universe, and we have no reason to think there would be an irrational section to existence. It follows then, that reason must be the rule set that all of nature follows. Or is it...

What if reason, itself, is what nature is made of? Then that would mean that the only rule is..don't fight reason! Contradictions are bad!

How does this apply to man? I feel that the only sin a man can commit is that of hypocricy. It may be ok to murder for love on the one hand, but don't condemn the man next to you for the same crime. If may be ok to torture Arabs, but don't get pissed when they torture Americans. I mean, think about it...if people applied the same moral standards to the entire world as they do themselves, we would have no war, no poverty, no hate.

In other words, I think this argument for moral reletivism is too simplistic, as it ignores one thing: The Golden Rule. And to me, The Golden Rule is the only rule.
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Old 06-22-2003, 07:14 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Bit of a long read Rafa, but definitely agree. If you look to wild animals, it's simplified to a perfect example. You eat something, and there's a good chance something else will eat you. You don't whine about it like human's do, you just try to eat and procreate fast enough that you can continue your gene pool before you get eaten and that's the way things are.
We give ourselves these delusions of "justice" that are actually anarchy anyways-- somebody bigger than me is ruling things. And unless I get to a stage of chaos where there ISN'T anyone bigger than me, I except that and call it whatever I can to feel best about it. But my perspective changes based on where on the ladder I am, and there is no absolute "right" across the board.
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Old 06-22-2003, 08:19 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Hmm... relativism in my mind is the fact that all of your reactions, and all of the consequences imposed upon you by others, will be based up a previous experience that one of you have experienced. For instance, if I were to have something stolen from me, my assumption that it was wrong would be based upon the anger of my mom when I stole 20 dollars from her purse. However, it could also be based upon knowledge of the thiefs living conditons and excused in the manner that he's poor, or that he is one of my friends, who is not stealing but may have asked me for the object, my knowledge of this based on the experience of me hearing his question.

Last edited by Fade; 06-22-2003 at 08:21 AM..
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Old 06-23-2003, 12:41 PM   #12 (permalink)
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BBtb WHY is it wrong? Why is it that "murder is wrong" is considered a fundamanetal fact? It may be wrong in your opinion (and mine and pretty much everyone elses) but how is it that you can state absolutely that it is wrong, fullstop, end of argument.

Ultimately it comes down to this: What is right, and what is wrong?

I don't believe that such a thing as a universal right and wrong exist. These concepts are purely social constucts, which are engrained so deep that we don't even notice them anymore, we just see them as obvious.

I will stick by this until someobody can come up with me, a definition that:

a)Is hard and fast, and absolutely unambiguos
b) Universal, holds for all situations
c) That can justify WHY this is right and wrong.

Until someone achives this (in my opinion impossible) task, all "study" of ethics is a pointless endeveaur.

-C.S. Flim
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