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relativism, realism, and pragmatism
Posted: 04 April 2007 04:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]  
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[quote author=“textman”]
.
> ...  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.

 

Two Axioms:

You can only lie to yourself.

Only you are responsible for your own evolution.

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Posted: 04 April 2007 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]  
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I agree completely with your comments textman.  When I used the term moral relativism of the sort people get crazy about, it’s the kind that is purely tied to each agents’ particular tastes, tastes that could change from today to tomorrow.  (Sort of like today I see nothing wrong with murdering another person, although yesterday it seemed immoral.)  This sort of extreme relativism is what people sometimes fear when they cling to absolutism for the security and not the moral authenticity of it.

The only moral absolute I could even imagine being workable is just like the statement you made, “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.”
I wouldn’t use the word ‘tastes’ in that first sentence, but the rest is perfect.  Moral value must have some sort of general standards (i.e., “cause no harm”), but moral evaluation MUST be the responsibility of each agent.  In order for any system of ethics to be authentic, it must insist that the agent make the evaluation through understanding and reason, and guided by some decent principles.  Simply following the rules does not make a person morally wise, or even moral, because a well designed machine can follow the rules perfectly, yet it has no moral worth.

On another subject textman, you are certainly going against the grain with your emphasis on being an “expert generalist” - what you are trying to achieve is wisdom, and the way academia is structured today you are supposed to be either a specialist or you are nothing.  What an excellent place from where to start your high-powered telescopic synopsis , , , part naive-realist, part existentialist, part textual critic, and part historian!  I think many of us on this forum share exactly that same sort of foundational perspective and you will find much agreement among most of us.

ps.  I completed my Masters degree at the University of Alberta a decade ago, it was an inspirational experience.

Bob

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Posted: 04 April 2007 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]  
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[quote author=“CanZen”]
The only moral absolute I could even imagine being workable is just like the statement you made, “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.”
I wouldn’t use the word ‘tastes’ in that first sentence, but the rest is perfect.  Moral value must have some sort of general standards (i.e., “cause no harm”), but moral evaluation MUST be the responsibility of each agent.  In order for any system of ethics to be authentic, it must insist that the agent make the evaluation through understanding and reason, and guided by some decent principles.  Simply following the rules does not make a person morally wise, or even moral, because a well designed machine can follow the rules perfectly, yet it has no moral worth.


ps.  I completed my Masters degree at the University of Alberta a decade ago, it was an inspirational experience.

Bob

Exactly, so there is a moral obligation that we each have to develop our understanding so that we can make moral choices rather than just following the rules.

University of Alberta, eh?  I was a postdoc there from 73 - 82, since then have been at Athabasca University, still live in Edmonton (although moving to the coast this spring).

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Posted: 04 April 2007 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]  
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I think this may be a good time to introduce the idea of “absolute within a context”. The specific situation in which you apply a principle matters to how it is applied, and wether it even applies. The principles of fluid dynamics and wave propagation do not apply to a body of water when its surface is frozen. The same is true of any principle, physical, chamical, philosophical, or moral. Newton’s laws of motion are absolute, even though they are said to have been overturned by relativity and quantum mechanics. Newton’s laws are still absolute, within the context of macroscopic objects moving at non-relativistic velocities. NASA still uses them to guide spacecraft to other planets. (Unless that other planet is Mercury, whose proximity to the Sun’s graviational field causes significant relativistic effects.)

The same is true of moral principles. Ayn Rand developed her moral/ethical code to apply to normal, day-to-day life, but she herself stated quite clearly that they do not apply to emergency situations. (I think her essay, “The Ethics of Emergencies” is in either The Virtue of Selfishness or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal) She defined an emergency as an unforseeable, short-term situation that would make life impossible if prolonged. Because the value of human life is the fundamental purpose of morality, the only principle Rand could offer for dealing with emergencies is to do what is necessary to save lives and end the emergency. (Professionals who deal with emergencies on a regular basis, such as firemen, police, and EMS workers, can probably develop principles for some specific kinds of emergencies, but Rand’s basic principle would be central to the process.)

One example I have heard of is that of someone who is shipwrecked and washes ashore on a privately owned island. To an Objectivist, property rights are absolute, but they do not apply to this case. It would be absurd to expect them to try to swim to the mainland just to avoid trespassing on someone else’s island. Fortunately, of course, nobody, no matter how rich and excentric, would expect them to. The right to life, in this emergency situation, trumps private property. This doesn’t mean property is not absolute. It is simply an institution and right meant to govern the interactions of people in a division of labor society, under normal circumstances. Within that context, it is absolute.

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Posted: 04 April 2007 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]  
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.
> On 4Apr SaulOhio wrote [snip] One example I have heard of
> is that of someone who is shipwrecked and washes ashore on a
> privately owned island. To an Objectivist, property rights
> are absolute, but they do not apply to this case. It would
> be absurd to expect them to try to swim to the mainland just
> to avoid trespassing on someone else’s island. Fortunately,
> of course, nobody, no matter how rich and excentric, would
> expect them to. The right to life, in this emergency
> situation, trumps private property
.
tx say Interesting argument, SaulOhio. I like your noton of
‘absolute within context’. Nor am I opposed to the institution of
private property, as such. However, this thing about privately
owned islands bothers me. Frankly, I think that the whole idea of
people owing large tracks of land is basically and fundamentally
immoral. The Earth can’t be bought by the rich. It belongs to the
race as a whole, as a trust to keep and honor so that future
generations may have the possibility of a good and healthy life
in a clean and healthy environment.
.
Sadly, the rich do not care about either humanity or the future.
Protecting their “rights” therefore is not only also immoral,
but ultimately self-destructive, not to mention suicidal (ie. in
the long run).
.
Reason is indeed a moral absolute, but so is the welfare of the
human race, AND the planet itself, AND the future of both! And
all of these things “trumps” the needs and desires of the rich.
I guess what I’m trying to say is just that there are no rights
without responsibilities.
x

[ Edited: 04 April 2007 11:01 AM by ]
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Posted: 04 April 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]  
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One example I have heard of is that of someone who is shipwrecked and washes ashore on a privately owned island.

What if a hungry man walks up to the door of a restaurant? What if a sick child walks up to a hospital?

Textman,

You are quite correct to address the paradox of absolutes in conflict.

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Posted: 05 April 2007 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]  
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.
>> On 4Apr Joad wrote [snip] You are quite correct to
>> address the paradox of absolutes in conflict
.
tx say “the paradox of absolutes in conflict”? ... Could you maybe expand on that
a bit? ... the paradox of ‘absolutes-in-context’ in conflict within a larger conflict of
ideologies and interpretive schemes ?!?! ... Yowsers!
.
> On 4Apr CanZen wrote [snip] On another subject textman, you are certainly
> going against the grain with your emphasis on being an “expert generalist” -
> what you are trying to achieve is wisdom,
.
tx say An astute observation, CanZen. That is exactly right. Wisdom is indeed a
large part of what ‘real-philosophy’ is all about; hence the name of the goddess
Lady Sophia. Now philosophy is not the abject slave of the goddess (that is to
say wisdom is not the sum total of the philosophical enterprise), for it both does
and does not serve Her interests. In fact you might even say that Philosophy has
four more-or-less equal partners Religion, Science, History, and Wisdom/Sophia.
Accordingly, a very tight relationship with all these aspects of Mind-in-Action
could only be to everyone’s mutual benefit. Alas, this is not possible under the
current scheme of excessive specialization. Wisdom can’t even be easily found
under such appalling conditions, let alone analyzed and quantified. This is, and
indeed must be, a major problem all around; and especially so for History. But
Science and Philosophy are generally not interested in History, or its problems
and “issues”. Yet only philosophy is situated so as to see the problem, and thus
raise the alarm.
.
> and the way academia is structured today you are supposed to be either a
> specialist or you are nothing.
.
Right. They suppose that they’ve got every little thing covered. But they suppose
falsely. Where is the specialist whose expertise is to investigate the question that
asks whether the current interpretive and scientific paradigm does in fact cover
every-little-thing, or not? And if they are overlooking *that* key question (or
worse, deliberately ignoring it), what else, one wonders, are they ignoring and /
or overlooking?
.
> What an excellent place from where to start your high-powered telescopic
> synopsis part naive-realist, part existentialist, part textual critic, and part
> historian! I think many of us on this forum share exactly that same sort of
> foundational perspective and you will find much agreement among most of us.
.
Hahaha, thx for the kind thoughts, CanZen. On the other hand, I’m sure I’ll be
able to insult the atheist and skeptic types sooner or later. And I dare say that I
can even come up with something that almost anybody can disagree with. D
.
                - the almost disagreeable one - textman ;>
.
P.S. Ah, yes. If only, if only! ... If only there was *some* rational and objective
means by which to get a handle on these strange and slippery critters called
‘wisdom’ and ‘spirit’. Then *maybe* something could be done ...
‘Impossible’, you say? ‘Never happen’, you say? ... Oh ye of little faith!
Never say “It will never happen.” ... It might happen sooner than you think.
The question is not ‘When will it happen?’, the question is Will you be ready
for it? Will you be strong enough to take those all-important first few steps?
If you are ...
x

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