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Any Moral Relativists in the House?
#1
Any Moral Relativists in the House?
When I was a newly-minted atheist, moral relativism seemed like it made a great deal of sense. So I kind of held it as an assumption through my teens and most of my twenties. And, to be fair, moral relativism has some strengths.

For one, relativism is a good assumptive model for sociologists and anthropologists to use when analyzing the mores and customs of a given population. My view is that most people act morally due to social pressures; enforced by law sometimes, but most of the time maintained by soft coercive social forces... friends, family, and whatever clique you may roll with. Perceiving the world through that model, customs become indistinguishable from moral practices. So (in that way) moral relativism is a clear lens through which one may interpret social activities.

As an assumptive model, it's great. But, I'd like to argue that, as a moral theory, it sucks. It's incoherent. If anyone wants to challenge me on that, I'd love to discuss the matter in detail.

Mind you, I'm not saying: "moral realism is the obvious answer." It isn't obvious. There are good criticisms that can be leveled at realism. It's a shaky position (as all metaethical positions are). That's why relativism seems so appealing. It seems less shaky. But there is a problem with cultural relativism that transcends mere shakiness.

"Cultural relativism claims that correct moral standards are relative to cultures or societies." That's one person's definition anyway (Russ Shafer-Landau). We can look at different definitions if you wish. But I think this one says what cultural relativism is pretty well. To me, that doesn't make sense. It's an incoherent position because it says cultural conditions (which are ever-changing and develop the way they do for a myriad of reasons) has some bearing on what moral standards actually are.

If you want to reject moral realism, fine. But the statements or states of societies have no bearing on what "correct" moral standards are. That makes no sense.

Better to say, "No moral statement can be true." Or: Just like a person rejects a belief in a god, so too, one says, "All this morality stuff is make believe." Error theory. THIS is a coherent position. And objectively better than relativism, epistemologically speaking. It stands on firm ground. Every nihilistic position is better than relativism.

What about emotivism? "Moral beliefs aren't statements of fact. They are basic reactions to things."

When we taste a sour lemon, we pucker up. When we taste something bitter, we say "yuck." Likewise we have physiological and psychological responses to things like murder and theft. "Murder... yuck!" ... "Theft... bleh."

Those are two coherent anti-realist positions. The first: "All this morality stuff is make believe." The second: "Most people simply think murder is contemptible. There are no facts involved. It's just how people feel." There are others too, and each one is better than relativism.

As the nihilist sees things, all this talk of moral facts is rubbish. True or not true, nihilism is a coherent position. What's not coherent is to say that "we can speak of what is morally correct, but it has to relate to some cultural norm or social construct. And can only be correct in relation to that." THAT is more rubbish than any supposed moral fact could ever be. Either deny morality has any real existence outright, or say that moral facts are possible. The notion that they are contingent just doesn't gel.

For any who are interested, here is a really fun article written by an unapologetic moral nihilist. It shows what the nihilistic position really is. He gives some interesting defenses of moral nihilism. Though apologetics aren't the main point of the article. The main point of the article is that, it might be wise to maintain morality as a useful fiction. Not only at a societal level, but (even if you're a moral nihilist) in your own individual life.

Moral Fictionalism

I don't want to argue a specific meta ethical position here. I want to talk about the status of moral relativism amidst competing theories. I want to say realism and nihilism are coherent positions. But relativism (whether individual or cultural) is not. At least that's what I think. I'd love to be persuaded otherwise, because that'd mean I learned something significant. Any moral relativists in the house?
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#2
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
(May 23, 2021 at 2:26 am)vulcanlogician Wrote: When I was a newly-minted atheist, moral relativism seemed like it made a great deal of sense. So I kind of held it as an assumption through my teens and most of my twenties. And, to be fair, moral relativism has some strengths.

For one, relativism is a good assumptive model for sociologists and anthropologists to use when analyzing the mores and customs of a given population. My view is that most people act morally due to social pressures; enforced by law sometimes, but most of the time maintained by soft coercive social forces... friends, family, and whatever clique you may roll with. Perceiving the world through that model, customs become indistinguishable from moral practices. So (in that way) moral relativism is a clear lens through which one may interpret social activities.

As an assumptive model, it's great. But, I'd like to argue that, as a moral theory, it sucks. It's incoherent. If anyone wants to challenge me on that, I'd love to discuss the matter in detail.

Mind you, I'm not saying: "moral realism is the obvious answer." It isn't obvious. There are good criticisms that can be leveled at realism. It's a shaky position (as all metaethical positions are). That's why relativism seems so appealing. It seems less shaky. But there is a problem with cultural relativism that transcends mere shakiness.

"Cultural relativism claims that correct moral standards are relative to cultures or societies." That's one person's definition anyway (Russ Shafer-Landau). We can look at different definitions if you wish. But I think this one says what cultural relativism is pretty well. To me, that doesn't make sense. It's an incoherent position because it says cultural conditions (which are ever-changing and develop the way they do for a myriad of reasons) has some bearing on what moral standards actually are.

If you want to reject moral realism, fine. But the statements or states of societies have no bearing on what "correct" moral standards are. That makes no sense.

Better to say, "No moral statement can be true." Or: Just like a person rejects a belief in a god, so too, one says, "All this morality stuff is make believe." Error theory. THIS is a coherent position. And objectively better than relativism, epistemologically speaking. It stands on firm ground. Every nihilistic position is better than relativism.

What about emotivism? "Moral beliefs aren't statements of fact. They are basic reactions to things."

When we taste a sour lemon, we pucker up. When we taste something bitter, we say "yuck." Likewise we have physiological and psychological responses to things like murder and theft. "Murder... yuck!" ... "Theft... bleh."

Those are two coherent anti-realist positions. The first: "All this morality stuff is make believe." The second: "Most people simply think murder is contemptible. There are no facts involved. It's just how people feel." There are others too, and each one is better than relativism.

As the nihilist sees things, all this talk of moral facts is rubbish. True or not true, nihilism is a coherent position. What's not coherent is to say that "we can speak of what is morally correct, but it has to relate to some cultural norm or social construct. And can only be correct in relation to that." THAT is more rubbish than any supposed moral fact could ever be. Either deny morality has any real existence outright, or say that moral facts are possible. The notion that they are contingent just doesn't gel.

For any who are interested, here is a really fun article written by an unapologetic moral nihilist. It shows what the nihilistic position really is. He gives some interesting defenses of moral nihilism. Though apologetics aren't the main point of the article. The main point of the article is that, it might be wise to maintain morality as a useful fiction. Not only at a societal level, but (even if you're a moral nihilist) in your own individual life.

Moral Fictionalism

I don't want to argue a specific meta ethical position here. I want to talk about the status of moral relativism amidst competing theories. I want to say realism and nihilism are coherent positions. But relativism (whether individual or cultural) is not. At least that's what I think. I'd love to be persuaded otherwise, because that'd mean I learned something significant. Any moral relativists in the house?

The blunt harsh reality is that evolution is about all life, including humans, and in evolution, evolution does not care if cruelty or compassion work. Just like lions will kill the cubs of rivals. 

Ultimately life finds a way to get to the next generation, by hook or crook. "Morality" and "ethics" still exist however, and life does have the capability of empathy, even if life includes selfish dominance. 

Most of human conflict is because our species has a tendency of buying what our parents sell us at birth, then growing up to defend that which is local, that which we grew up with. 

Having witnessed countless of other species, in person, or in documentaries , defend their young, and other family members, I simply see humans as no different.
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#3
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
Quote:An advocate of such ideas is often labeled simply as a relativist for short. In detail, descriptive moral relativism holds only that people do, in fact, disagree fundamentally about what is moral, with no judgment being expressed on the desirability of this.

This being the case, I suppose I do adhere to moral relativism.
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#4
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
(May 23, 2021 at 2:26 am)vulcanlogician Wrote: "Cultural relativism claims that correct moral standards are relative to cultures or societies." That's one person's definition anyway (Russ Shafer-Landau). We can look at different definitions if you wish. But I think this one says what cultural relativism is pretty well. To me, that doesn't make sense. It's an incoherent position because it says cultural conditions (which are ever-changing and develop the way they do for a myriad of reasons) has some bearing on what moral standards actually are.

Is it incoherent to state that a product of society or culture can and will be altered by a change in that society or culture?
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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#5
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
I'm reminded of discussions I've had surrounding the coherence theory of truth, that truth with a capital T consists in the internal consistency of a set of propositions. One common argument against this is that you could have two systems that are equally coherent, but that disagree on some particular proposition. That seems to be a contradiction. The problem is that there is no "outside the systems" from which to compare the two -- you're simply creating a third combined system that isn't fully coherent. That's not an allowed operation as there is no "outside the system." Truth, in coherence theory, is a property that systems and propositions within systems have. There is no outside perspective. Suggesting an outside perspective is failing to grant the full set of premises of coherence theory and amounts to a bit of question begging.

Your complaint about the seeming anti-realism of relativism seems similar in that you're not granting the full tenets of relativism and instead are importing a concept of "real morals" which is foreign to relativism and can't meaningfully be compared. Morals in relativism are a construct of society and within that society they have a real existence.

I can't help but be reminded of your suggestions about morals being real if they provide fruitful explanations in Neo's thread. I have to wonder if you're willing to apply that to moral realism but not to moral relativism.

Anyway, just some initial thoughts.
[Image: Fenrir-sign.jpg]
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#6
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
(May 23, 2021 at 2:26 am)vulcanlogician Wrote: I don't want to argue a specific meta ethical position here. I want to talk about the status of moral relativism amidst competing theories. I want to say realism and nihilism are coherent positions. But relativism (whether individual or cultural) is not. At least that's what I think. I'd love to be persuaded otherwise, because that'd mean I learned something significant. Any moral relativists in the house?

Sort of. It depends what exactly you mean. I mostly agree with Dillahunty on this matter.
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#7
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
I consider my views on morality to be of the non cognition type. Is it moral relativist? IDK. It has some features that remind me of it, since a lot of it is dependent on the situation of the moral question, i.e. situational.
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool." - Richard P. Feynman
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#8
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
(May 23, 2021 at 2:26 am)vulcanlogician Wrote: When I was a newly-minted atheist, moral relativism seemed like it made a great deal of sense. So I kind of held it as an assumption through my teens and most of my twenties. And, to be fair, moral relativism has some strengths.

For one, relativism is a good assumptive model for sociologists and anthropologists to use when analyzing the mores and customs of a given population. My view is that most people act morally due to social pressures; enforced by law sometimes, but most of the time maintained by soft coercive social forces... friends, family, and whatever clique you may roll with. Perceiving the world through that model, customs become indistinguishable from moral practices. So (in that way) moral relativism is a clear lens through which one may interpret social activities.

As an assumptive model, it's great. But, I'd like to argue that, as a moral theory, it sucks. It's incoherent. If anyone wants to challenge me on that, I'd love to discuss the matter in detail.

Mind you, I'm not saying: "moral realism is the obvious answer." It isn't obvious. There are good criticisms that can be leveled at realism. It's a shaky position (as all metaethical positions are). That's why relativism seems so appealing. It seems less shaky. But there is a problem with cultural relativism that transcends mere shakiness.

"Cultural relativism claims that correct moral standards are relative to cultures or societies." That's one person's definition anyway (Russ Shafer-Landau). We can look at different definitions if you wish. But I think this one says what cultural relativism is pretty well. To me, that doesn't make sense. It's an incoherent position because it says cultural conditions (which are ever-changing and develop the way they do for a myriad of reasons) has some bearing on what moral standards actually are.

If you want to reject moral realism, fine. But the statements or states of societies have no bearing on what "correct" moral standards are. That makes no sense.

Better to say, "No moral statement can be true." Or: Just like a person rejects a belief in a god, so too, one says, "All this morality stuff is make believe." Error theory. THIS is a coherent position. And objectively better than relativism, epistemologically speaking. It stands on firm ground. Every nihilistic position is better than relativism.

What about emotivism? "Moral beliefs aren't statements of fact. They are basic reactions to things."

When we taste a sour lemon, we pucker up. When we taste something bitter, we say "yuck." Likewise we have physiological and psychological responses to things like murder and theft. "Murder... yuck!" ... "Theft... bleh."

Those are two coherent anti-realist positions. The first: "All this morality stuff is make believe." The second: "Most people simply think murder is contemptible. There are no facts involved. It's just how people feel." There are others too, and each one is better than relativism.

As the nihilist sees things, all this talk of moral facts is rubbish. True or not true, nihilism is a coherent position. What's not coherent is to say that "we can speak of what is morally correct, but it has to relate to some cultural norm or social construct. And can only be correct in relation to that." THAT is more rubbish than any supposed moral fact could ever be. Either deny morality has any real existence outright, or say that moral facts are possible. The notion that they are contingent just doesn't gel.

For any who are interested, here is a really fun article written by an unapologetic moral nihilist. It shows what the nihilistic position really is. He gives some interesting defenses of moral nihilism. Though apologetics aren't the main point of the article. The main point of the article is that, it might be wise to maintain morality as a useful fiction. Not only at a societal level, but (even if you're a moral nihilist) in your own individual life.

Moral Fictionalism

I don't want to argue a specific meta ethical position here. I want to talk about the status of moral relativism amidst competing theories. I want to say realism and nihilism are coherent positions. But relativism (whether individual or cultural) is not. At least that's what I think. I'd love to be persuaded otherwise, because that'd mean I learned something significant. Any moral relativists in the house?


So what’s your problem?
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#9
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
Moral realism and moral relativism are essential the same thing - a realistic view of morality.

Boru
‘Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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#10
RE: Any Moral Relativists in the House?
(May 23, 2021 at 11:57 am)Angrboda Wrote: Your complaint about the seeming anti-realism of relativism seems similar in that you're not granting the full tenets of relativism and instead are importing a concept of "real morals" which is foreign to relativism and can't meaningfully be compared.  

-bit like objecting to the notion of a spherical earth - saying that it's incoherent for not accounting for the corners.

When we think that something is wrong, we have a tendency to want to tack on incoherent like a chaser.

(May 23, 2021 at 2:35 pm)BrianSoddingBoru4 Wrote: Moral realism and moral relativism are essential the same thing - a realistic view of morality.

Boru

Exactly.  Descriptive moral relativism is a well established and easily demonstrable fact.  Moral realism simply posits that we're all doing it wrong when we very much do that.    

Not incoherent - babble and gibberish with no cogent angle to logically approach the problem from.  Wrong in point of fact, not the validity of the inference, but the soundness of the assertions.

(May 23, 2021 at 1:09 pm)Sal Wrote: I consider my views on morality to be of the non cognition type. Is it moral relativist? 

Relativism is a cognitivist moral theory.  Moral assertions are reduced to a true property of your ingroup rather than a pure expression of your emotional states (or some other similar aspect of an individual).  

Relativist moralities can be and often are openly hostile to the natural preferences or natural character of their adherents.  They can tell us that what we think is yuck is good, what we think is yum is bad.  That our misery is for our own good, our happiness to be avoided. That we deserve harm or should expect to be harmed if we step out of bounds even through full on hominid bumblefuckery.

(May 23, 2021 at 6:59 am)Brian37 Wrote: The blunt harsh reality is that evolution is about all life, including humans, and in evolution, evolution does not care if cruelty or compassion work. Just like lions will kill the cubs of rivals. 
Perhaps we misnamed ourselves?  Were not the doubly wise ape, we're the moralizing ape. 

Quote:Ultimately life finds a way to get to the next generation, by hook or crook. "Morality" and "ethics" still exist however, and life does have the capability of empathy, even if life includes selfish dominance. 

What do you think of the idea that morality is an expression of successful behaviors rooted in genetics?  Biological, rather than cultural relativism. That we're apprehending something about ourselves and reproductive success, conflict/competition fitness....not something about a thing out in the world or even in our cultures. That, broadly speaking, any organism with our genetics and in our situations will arrive at ideations about moral properties similar to our own?
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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