2 of 3
2
relativism, realism, and pragmatism
Posted: 24 March 2007 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  775
Joined  2006-12-04

I make the following distinction:

1: Moral Absolutism places the morality with the act.
2: Moral Relativism places the morality with the actor.

Moral Absolutism addresses what you did. Moral Relativism addresses why you did it.

Christianity likes Moral Absolutism. It has a built-in why:  We are Sinners.

However, such a view removes consideration of our actions and reduces morality to nothing more than a mangement problem.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 March 2007 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  734
Joined  2007-03-10

[quote author=“Joad”]I make the following distinction:

1: Moral Absolutism places the morality with the act.
2: Moral Relativism places the morality with the actor.

Moral Absolutism addresses what you did. Moral Relativism addresses why you did it.

Christianity likes Moral Absolutism. It has a built-in why:  We are Sinners.

However, such a view removes consideration of our actions and reduces morality to nothing more than a mangement problem.

Very nice.  This is why I brought this up.  Why are we attacking everyone else instead of working together to find something we can all agree with.
Which majority would you rather have deciding what philosophy we follow as humans?  Our politicians version, or our own.  I swear we need to write a new American Creed.  It would change the world.

We have always worked under dual moralities.  We have lived according to society and our own.  Don’t fool yourself into believing that you didn’t before you started thinking about this topic.  We all have since we were born.  Personal religion is our moral relativism.  Public law is our moral absolutism. 

Think about that.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 March 2007 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  221
Joined  2007-01-24
[quote author=“CanZen”]My understanding was that ‘moral relativism’ meant that moral value is relative to the situation/circumstance.  It surely cannot mean that moral value is relative to each agent, because that would simply translate into “there is no morality” if everyone gets to decide by his/her own tastes.

Both are correct, and you see a lot of the second version today.

In Norway, leftists and feminists are very lenient on religious intolerance if it comes from the muslims. But they get extremely upset with Norwegian conservative Christians. This is relativism. They accept that other cultures have their traditions, and even encourage this, while at the same time they react furiously when confronted with a milder version from either Europe or USA.
In the 70s, these feminists burnt their bras - but now they support the hijab and even niqab.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 March 2007 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  308
Joined  2006-10-18

[quote author=“Joad”]I make the following distinction:

1: Moral Absolutism places the morality with the act.
2: Moral Relativism places the morality with the actor.

Moral Absolutism addresses what you did. Moral Relativism addresses why you did it.

Christianity likes Moral Absolutism. It has a built-in why:  We are Sinners.

However, such a view removes consideration of our actions and reduces morality to nothing more than a management problem.

I like it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 March 2007 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  734
Joined  2007-03-10

[quote author=“snapshot1”][quote author=“Joad”]I make the following distinction:

1: Moral Absolutism places the morality with the act.
2: Moral Relativism places the morality with the actor.

Moral Absolutism addresses what you did. Moral Relativism addresses why you did it.

Christianity likes Moral Absolutism. It has a built-in why:  We are Sinners.

However, such a view removes consideration of our actions and reduces morality to nothing more than a management problem.

I like it.

Did anyone else notice the similarities between Obama on Larry King last night and everything we have been talking about on this board?  Appealing to pragmatism?  Better yet, did anyone watch Saturday Night Live last night and see all of the political statement acts?  The revolution is upon us.  We are running out of time to decide the best way to go about life.  Be careful that the talking heads do not pick up our buzzwords and recite them to us.  This is how the brainwashing began.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 March 2007 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  734
Joined  2007-03-10

Bump.  No one noticed this?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 25 March 2007 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  308
Joined  2006-10-18

I’m going to look for it. CNN has gotta show it again, or it has to be on the net.

edit: they’ve been showing bill cosby/autism nonstop.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 01 April 2007 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  734
Joined  2007-03-10

Also, Einstein’s theory of relativity was not only about physics.  It was his personal philosophy.  How much do you know about Einstein?  Read his book, it is great.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 April 2007 04:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  924
Joined  2006-09-07

People have said some interesting and valid things on this thread, but I have to come out very strongly on the side of realism, both epistemological and ethical. All of the true facts and valid arguments arguments that have been made for and against relativism, pragmatism, and moral absolutism are necessarily consistent with realism, defined as the principle that the truth is that which corresponds to reality.

Here’s a good example: In modern civilizations, the marriage age for girls is usually sixteen. We do not allow girls younger than that to marry, and most often they are encouraged to wait a few years longer. In primative societies, girls marry as young as twelve or thirteen. There are good reasons for this. Especially in stone-age tribes, life expectancy is low, sometimes as little as 30-40 years, so it is important to get on with your life as soon as possible. Child mortality is high, so a woman should be expected to try as often as possible to have a child, and start early. In a stone-age society, a person is usually fully-educated by this age, and ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. In civilized technological society, however, life expectancy is more like 70-80 years, child mortality is very low, and our culture is much more complex, requireing many more years of education before a young person is considered mature enough to start a family.

Does this mean ethical relativism is true and realism is false? Notice that in both societies, I described facts of reality that are true for each society.

Then there are moral principles that I consider absolute across all cultures. The value of life is one. That individuals should be judged AS individuals is another. There are practices that are considered moral in some societies, but most people on this forum would consider that just an excuse for oppressing and victimizing some people. Slavery was rightly abolished (And most places where it is practiced it is a crime), though there was a time when nobody questioned that it was moral to enslave others. I doubt that anyone here would try to defend female “circumcision” by cultural relativism. In fact, I think most people would denounce it as an absolute evil, along with honor killings and wife beating.

So how do you choose between relativism and absolutism? The answer is realism. Any argument for any moral position, including relativism or absolutism in any case, has to be based on evidence of what exists in the real world.

Its difficult to argue for realism, because realism is itself the very basis for any argument about anything else. Realism has to be accepted as self-evident, meaning that we experience it directly. Every time you make a statement you believe to be true, it is a statement about reality, and the facts you refer to are themselves evidence for realism.

Any argument you might want to make AGAINST realism, however, is self-defeating. In order to persuade a realist of anything, you have to present facts of reality. Any supposed evidence against realism would be some fact about reality. Any alternate theory of truth would itself be some claim about reality, which you would be something you accept as describing (corresponding to) reality.

So in order to decide between relativism and absolutism in any specific case, you have to accept realism. Any “relativist” principle would be an expression of realism when dealing with actual differences between individual people, differences in their situations, differences in their state of knowledge. Any “absolutist” rule or principle would have to say something about what everyone has in common, no matter what their state of knowledge, intelligence, cultural or racial background, or environmental situation. Examples of that are the facts that people are all living organisms that have certain needs for survival, such as food, clothing and shelter, and the fact that they are capable of reason, and reason is their fundamental means of survival. All of these facts, “relativist” and “absolutist”, are facts of reality. Even if you manage to prove any of them wrong, if you managed to prove to me that humans don’t need reason in order to survive, you would have done so using realism.

Realism is inescapable.

 Signature 

“Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work.”—Alan Metzer

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 April 2007 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  734
Joined  2007-03-10

[quote author=“SaulOhio”]People have said some interesting and valid things on this thread, but I have to come out very strongly on the side of realism, both epistemological and ethical. All of the true facts and valid arguments arguments that have been made for and against relativism, pragmatism, and moral absolutism are necessarily consistent with realism, defined as the principle that the truth is that which corresponds to reality.

Here’s a good example: In modern civilizations, the marriage age for girls is usually sixteen. We do not allow girls younger than that to marry, and most often they are encouraged to wait a few years longer. In primative societies, girls marry as young as twelve or thirteen. There are good reasons for this. Especially in stone-age tribes, life expectancy is low, sometimes as little as 30-40 years, so it is important to get on with your life as soon as possible. Child mortality is high, so a woman should be expected to try as often as possible to have a child, and start early. In a stone-age society, a person is usually fully-educated by this age, and ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. In civilized technological society, however, life expectancy is more like 70-80 years, child mortality is very low, and our culture is much more complex, requireing many more years of education before a young person is considered mature enough to start a family.

Does this mean ethical relativism is true and realism is false? Notice that in both societies, I described facts of reality that are true for each society.

Then there are moral principles that I consider absolute across all cultures. The value of life is one. That individuals should be judged AS individuals is another. There are practices that are considered moral in some societies, but most people on this forum would consider that just an excuse for oppressing and victimizing some people. Slavery was rightly abolished (And most places where it is practiced it is a crime), though there was a time when nobody questioned that it was moral to enslave others. I doubt that anyone here would try to defend female “circumcision” by cultural relativism. In fact, I think most people would denounce it as an absolute evil, along with honor killings and wife beating.

So how do you choose between relativism and absolutism? The answer is realism. Any argument for any moral position, including relativism or absolutism in any case, has to be based on evidence of what exists in the real world.

Its difficult to argue for realism, because realism is itself the very basis for any argument about anything else. Realism has to be accepted as self-evident, meaning that we experience it directly. Every time you make a statement you believe to be true, it is a statement about reality, and the facts you refer to are themselves evidence for realism.

Any argument you might want to make AGAINST realism, however, is self-defeating. In order to persuade a realist of anything, you have to present facts of reality. Any supposed evidence against realism would be some fact about reality. Any alternate theory of truth would itself be some claim about reality, which you would be something you accept as describing (corresponding to) reality.

So in order to decide between relativism and absolutism in any specific case, you have to accept realism. Any “relativist” principle would be an expression of realism when dealing with actual differences between individual people, differences in their situations, differences in their state of knowledge. Any “absolutist” rule or principle would have to say something about what everyone has in common, no matter what their state of knowledge, intelligence, cultural or racial background, or environmental situation. Examples of that are the facts that people are all living organisms that have certain needs for survival, such as food, clothing and shelter, and the fact that they are capable of reason, and reason is their fundamental means of survival. All of these facts, “relativist” and “absolutist”, are facts of reality. Even if you manage to prove any of them wrong, if you managed to prove to me that humans don’t need reason in order to survive, you would have done so using realism.

Realism is inescapable.

Thank you for this beautiful post.  Very well thought out.

I do have one question, assuming what you say is true, which I do not disagree, from what authority does our government derive its power?  This isn’t a trick question, I just would like to hear how you believe that humans should be governed, and under what principles, guidelines, etc.  Just trying to expand your ideals, and understand what you are saying.

Beach

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 April 2007 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  924
Joined  2006-09-07

[quote author=“MDBeach”]
Thank you for this beautiful post.  Very well thought out.

I do have one question, assuming what you say is true, which I do not disagree, from what authority does our government derive its power?  This isn’t a trick question, I just would like to hear how you believe that humans should be governed, and under what principles, guidelines, etc.  Just trying to expand your ideals, and understand what you are saying.

Beach

I wonder why my post made you think of that question as most important.

My answer is sort of in the spirit of the concent of the governed, except that that theory is often used to defend democratically impose tyranny, allowing a majority to oppress a minority. It is true that a government cannot remain in control without the support of a significant portion of the population, and some elements of democracy can help control the excesses of powerful government, but the essential source of a government’s legitimacy is how well it protects the individual rights of its citizens. By this standard, some people have called the government of the USSR a gang of thugs rather than a legitimare government, and I agree. By contrast, even though America’s government does violate individual rights (eminent domain, high taxes, heavyhanded government actions like Ruby Ridge and Waco), overall American’s are among the most free people on Earth. We have freedom of speech and press, our rights to our homes and other property is almost always protected, and government abuses of power leading to the deaths of innocents is rare enough to be newsworthy. So America’s government, moral legitimacy is intact enough that any change we need to do can be done by voting the bastards out of office. I am not sure exactly where the line is between the two.

 Signature 

“Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work.”—Alan Metzer

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 April 2007 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  775
Joined  2006-12-04

SaulOhio,

I was pleased to read your comment and find myself in overall agreement.

So America’s government, moral legitimacy is intact enough that any change we need to do can be done by voting the bastards out of office.

On a philosophical note: The problem with change from within the system is that it makes the system self-perpetuating. It only allows those changes of which the system approves.

It’s been over 200 years and we have never managed to vote the bastards out of office. We’ve just get a new set of them every few years.

The most important change our system needs is one the system won’t allow. We deperately need to be able to vote for “None of the Above”.

IE: A system based on Female Circumcision would give its citizens the freedom to decide whether it should be done by parents or by a licensed physician.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 April 2007 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  924
Joined  2006-09-07

Oh my gods. If Joad agrees with me, I must have gotten something wrong.
I’m going to have to rethink my whole position on this.  LOL

 Signature 

“Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work.”—Alan Metzer

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 April 2007 02:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  775
Joined  2006-12-04

SaulOhio,

I can usually find areas of agreement with people’s opinions. I just seldom find any area of agreement with anyone’s ideology.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 April 2007 08:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
Newbie
Rank
Total Posts:  35
Joined  2007-03-26

.
> On 24March07 CanZen wrote [snip]
.
tx say Hey, cz, good post. I tend to agree with all that you
say ... with one notable exception
.
> ...  if everyone gets to decide by his/her own tastes
.
Well that’s just what makes ethics and morality and spirituality
so darn interesting everyone DOES get to decide by his/her own
tastes, understanding, and reason. This is why there’s just no
escaping the fact that every single mature individual must take
responsibility for his/her own actions. THAT is the heart and
soul of all ethics and morality and spirituality. And also the
one thing that moral relativism can never do away with.
.
As for myself, I’m part naive-realist (of the common-sense
faction), part existentialist, part textual-critic, and (large)
part historian. Now that’s a lot of hats to wear all at the same
time, but it has one great advantage Whereas the vast majority
of philosophers (as also scientists) are ‘experts’, which is
to say ‘specialists’ in just one particular area or field, my
multi-tasking approach to philosophy allows me to be something
of an “expert generalist”. If you don’t know quite what to make
of that, think of it as the ability to see the big-picture
where others get entangled by the details. I’m a high-powered
telescope surrounded by thousands of puny little microscopes!
.
D
.
As for the idea that pacifism is flagrantly immoral, I don’t
know. I understand and accept Sam’s thinking as to why this so,
and therefore agree that absolute pacifism is indeed immoral,
or rather, can be immoral; but I see nothing wrong with
pacifism as a general social norm for the majority of citizens
living within a civilized society and culture. After all, we
have police-forces and armies to do the “dirty work” of
subduing criminals and invaders for us. And don’t forget that
social-diversification also allows for the presence and
activities of philosophers.
.
      - the almost diversified one - textman ;>
x

Profile
 
 
   
2 of 3
2
 
RSS 2.0     Atom Feed