The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now

The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.

Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Use this philosophy forum to discuss and debate general philosophy topics that don't fit into one of the other categories.

This forum is NOT for factual, informational or scientific questions about philosophy (e.g. "What year was Socrates born?"); such homework-help-style questions can be asked and answered on PhiloPedia: The Philosophy Wiki. If your question is not already answered on the appropriate PhiloPedia page, then see How to Request Content on PhiloPedia to see how to ask your informational question using the wiki.
Post Reply
GE Morton
Posts: 779
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 12th, 2019, 12:10 am

Hereandnow wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 2:31 pm

What is a choice? What is a habit? How is it made and how is this such that the choice, belief or habit is free of determinants? This is not an argument against free will, it is an argument that understands such a thing as a qualified concept: I am free to choose but my choices are limited to what is meaningful for me, not to a China man in Beijing and not to anyone who does not possess my volitional profile. My choices can only coincide with what is legally acceptable if I have had a sufficient exposure so as to assimilate prevailing rules.
Oh, no. There is no need to assimilate anything. One need only be aware of them, and of the consequences of violating them (which virtually all criminals are, as evidenced by their efforts to conceal their crimes and their identity, and to avoid arrest). Everyone has had sufficient "exposure" to have that knowledge. And no matter what other alternatives are available, there is always a choice not to commit the crime (I suppose there are rare exceptions to this).

You can't deny that you're rejecting free will, and at the same time imply that choices are determined, which you appear to be trying to do.
Making free choices means nothing more than there are alternative possibilities laid before you, but these are different for all. So, the bad choices made by the poor you hold accountable, ones like having sex and getting pregnant, not going to college, brutalizing others and getting thrown in jail, and so on, why does a person DO these things?
That is indeed the question, and one for which no one has a plausible answer, including me. But it is easily shown that the correlated factors ritualistically and dogmatically cited --- inferior education, unskilled, indifferent, abusive parenting, poor role models, peer pressure, social insularity, racism, etc. --- do not force those bad choices. The evidence for that being that for every "disadvantaged" person who turns to crime or drugs or other destructive behaviors there are two or three other similarly disadvantaged persons, from the same environment, who don't. A social environment is created by the people in it, not the other way around.
You see, GE Morton, this question why takes a turn where you cannot go, apparently, which is a mystery to me. You think like an absolutest when it comes to responsibility, but you will not take up the issue of how it is that decisions are made absolutely free. Fickled finger of fate? And how is it that this finger does NOT apply to a person brought up in a drug infested world with poor or overworked teachers, an extended (so-called implcit) environment of enculturation in which there are no pro educational values, no one encouraging them, and so on.
And yet people escape from those worlds every day. They see the consequences of that lifestyle and reject it. They make up for the immediate disdvantages by working harder and seeking out alternatives, and quite often succeed in doing so.
And there you are, at the age of sixteen sitting on a childhood of "poor choices" made when you were young (are children responsible for their choices?), and now with no future. Your affections side with the most dangerous criminal types as this is how you were "raised" in an largely implicit process of learning.
Yes, that is what happens in many cases. But not to everyone in that environment.
How is it that successful people did not acquire these bad habits? Could it be that they had encouraging parents, associated with others who were on the college track since they were five, were given all that was needed to be a success in family, friends, teachers....
It is certainly true that persons with those advantages are more likely to be "successful." But that begs the question. How did the parents become encouraging, and able to provide "all that was needed" for their children to become successful? And then their parents, ad infinitum? You can only explain that via something intrinsic to the person which disposes them --- but does not force them -- to certain behavioral patterns. Something that can be passed on genetically to offspring. (Keep in mind that some persons with all of those advantages also become criminals or addicts).
I mean, do think it a coincidence that the poorest parts of society are where there is the greatest crime and the least educational possibilities? Have you never heard of structural poverty and ignorance?
Yes indeed. But as I said, that structure is constructed by the people, not the other way around.
Responsibility requires understanding, which is why we do not hold children and insane people responsible.
Yes. They are not moral agents; they are "moral subjects." When you begin absolving sane adults from responsibility for their choices and actions you place them in the same category. You might think through the consequences of doing that.
What the situation needs is money and an intelligent plan.
Well, since 1965 the US has spent $23 trillion on anti-poverty programs. In 1966, when the first antipoverty dollars left the pipeline, the official poverty rate was 14%. Last year (and $22 trillion later) it was 13%.

https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p60-248.pdf

http://federalsafetynet.com/poverty-and ... years.html

Gertie
Posts: 692
Joined: January 7th, 2015, 7:09 am

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Gertie » July 12th, 2019, 7:59 am

Freudian Monkey wrote:
March 13th, 2019, 9:11 pm
Most secular contemporary thinkers agree that there are no absolute objective moral values. Meaning that the only way for us to arrive to objective morality is to essentially invent a moral standard that most people agree with (such as well-being) and base our morality around that generally agreeable standard. However there's no way getting around the fact that people throughout ages and living among different cultural environments have had wastly different interpretations about what can be considered well-being or harmful. To me it's simply disingenuous to suggest that contemporary Western thinkers are the only ones who can state with absolute certainty what is good for a person and what are the standards we should base our "objective" morality around.

Are secular philosophers trying to find cure for moral relativism simply because it's harmful for a society? But if moral relativism is the only logical outcome based on our knowledge about the nature of reality, shouldn't we be honest about it instead of trying to tiptoe around the issue?
First thing I'd say is that our language, and concepts (like morality) have a history, baggage. Which influence our thinking.

And a useful way I've found to tackle this question is to go back to basics, to what a justifiable notion of morality might look like if we started afresh from our current knowledge base. Which is of course limited and culturally dependant too, and not set in stone.

So the first question for me is why does morality matter? (Not is it subjective or objective, but what's key to it mattering, what is its foundational justification). And I'd agree that it is to do with well-being, quality of life. And the basis for that is the ability to have conscious experiences, which are qualiative in nature (nasty, nice and all the rest).

That foundation seems pretty straightforward to me. And basic moral values naturally flow from it. It's why we don't have to worry about smashing a non-conscious rock or toaster with a hammer, but we do have a moral responsibility towards other people and other conscious species, and shouldn't smash our annoying neighbours' skulls with hammers or treat conscious animals without thought for their well-being.

After that it gets more complicated. Because the very nature of consciousness is 'subjective'. In that it's a property of Subjects whose minds you can't get inside to verify and measure objectively what's going on. And subjective in the sense that the conscious unified sense of self I call 'Me' has a unique history which has resulted in Me finding some things more harmful to my well-being than perhaps you or others do. And when we get to other species, the differences are very significant, as their neurology is very different.

Then there is the additional complexity of coming to agreement between us on what to forbid, how to educate, punish, use institutions, laws. And values like freedom and fairness (which might bring contradictory 'goods' into conflict). And the fact that we can't predict all consequences based on values and rules. (And this sort of basis for morality has to have Consequentialism at its core, I think, if our goal-oriented morality is based on the outcome/consequence of the well-being of conscious creatures).

But still, we find ways of developing a Social Contract of sorts together out of that mess for ourselves and each other. Which people will disagree about. But we can agree basic laws based on basic values related to basic well-being without much trouble. And find ways to resolve the rest, through mechanisms like democracy and rights.

So the answer will always be messy in practice, because the straightforward foundation for well-being is messy itself - subjective conscious experience.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2213
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Hereandnow » July 12th, 2019, 10:34 am

GE Morton
Oh, no. There is no need to assimilate anything. One need only be aware of them, and of the consequences of violating them (which virtually all criminals are, as evidenced by their efforts to conceal their crimes and their identity, and to avoid arrest). Everyone has had sufficient "exposure" to have that knowledge. And no matter what other alternatives are available, there is always a choice not to commit the crime (I suppose there are rare exceptions to this).

You can't deny that you're rejecting free will, and at the same time imply that choices are determined, which you appear to be trying to do
Were the world so simple. Proof that conservatives cannot think morally. Weighing of consequences occurs not within some abstract public space, but in real space, that of a given mind. If you live in a oppressive environment, your values are much different than the your model implies: You will not simply "take it"-- because you realize you have the moral upper hand as those who make the laws and enforce them are not interested in your well being and so the equation changes from a strict observance of the consequences to moral rectitude, revolt and revolution. This is how oppressed people respond. And they are right. Or do you think being confined to poverty and ignorance is something people shoudl just grin and bear while tremendous wealth belongs to others who did nothing to deserve it, and by nothing I am referring to what was not done to deserve the tonnage of wealth that exceeds their due. Bill Gates, and he will tell you this, does not deserve most of his wealth. It was never his, it belongs to those who produce, and their responsibility to others is to create conditions such that all have equal access, as your list of rules indicates.
Perhaps you think living in a ghetto is not oppressive......

As to free will, it sounds like you're a free will advocate. Explain.
That is indeed the question, and one for which no one has a plausible answer, including me. But it is easily shown that the correlated factors ritualistically and dogmatically cited --- inferior education, unskilled, indifferent, abusive parenting, poor role models, peer pressure, social insularity, racism, etc. --- do not force those bad choices. The evidence for that being that for every "disadvantaged" person who turns to crime or drugs or other destructive behaviors there are two or three other similarly disadvantaged persons, from the same environment, who don't. A social environment is created by the people in it, not the other way around.
Inferior education, unskilled, ....and then you say the social environment DOES NOT create people???? Have you lost your mind? Sorry. What I mean to say is that you have presented a contradiction, then validated it with your approval only. You need to reconcile these beyond the mere saying.

A
nd yet people escape from those worlds every day. They see the consequences of that lifestyle and reject it. They make up for the immediate disdvantages by working harder and seeking out alternatives, and quite often succeed in doing so.
Relatively few escape, and it is by the hard work of liberal activism making for government programs and money that have allowed this to happen. The fallacy of argument from the exception.
It is certainly true that persons with those advantages are more likely to be "successful." But that begs the question. How did the parents become encouraging, and able to provide "all that was needed" for their children to become successful? And then their parents, ad infinitum? You can only explain that via something intrinsic to the person which disposes them --- but does not force them -- to certain behavioral patterns. Something that can be passed on genetically to offspring. (Keep in mind that some persons with all of those advantages also become criminals or addicts).
You cannot argue from the exception. It is bad thinking, as if to say some due recover from cancer without medical attention, therefore, no need to address this as a health concern.
Bad families make for badly behaved kids. Add to this the societal factors, the resentment, the lack of an implicit curriculum that engenders caring about education, the exposure to counter educational culture, the modeling of bad decision making, and on and on; I mean, you don't get this????
Well, since 1965 the US has spent $23 trillion on anti-poverty programs. In 1966, when the first antipoverty dollars left the pipeline, the official poverty rate was 14%. Last year (and $22 trillion later) it was 13%.
So therefore, let's just stop trying. What else uses this logic? It is a slow remedial process. Go online and look for this evidence of success; it's there, but you have to turn away from FOX news and look. Things get worse, on the other hand, because helping the poor needs much, much more than easing their pain. It needs to be about structural changes, and this is very hard to do. Take a lot of money, and rhetorical convincing. The family is still, stupidly sacrosanct, for example, and impoverished families transfer their values on the their infant children, values that become foundational for all future development. Only recourse: massively more school time, time away from home, time in an intelligent environment where adults speak well, demonstrate prosocial behavior,encourage. Read Skinner's Walden II for a good idea, a start, at any rate

But this can't happen. It is the conservative cry for family prerogatives, as if God insisted. I remember how outraged they were when China's one child policy was made public. Outraged that government would interfere with the family's decisions. Not that the idea was so sound. But to do nothing was insane. This country is much, much better off. We could be free of structural poverty and ignorance in a generation if the matter wasn't complicated so by conservative taboos.

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 363
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Sculptor1 » July 12th, 2019, 11:11 am

GE Morton wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 12:10 am
Well, since 1965 the US has spent $23 trillion on anti-poverty programs. In 1966, when the first antipoverty dollars left the pipeline, the official poverty rate was 14%. Last year (and $22 trillion later) it was 13%.

https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p60-248.pdf

http://federalsafetynet.com/poverty-and ... years.html
Its a shame it did not spend twice that, since this is exactly what has kept the economy from imploding to the top. Spending more would reduce crime and improve economic growth.

The aim here is not to alleviate poverty but simply to provide big business with large lucrative government contracts. The rich who the government award themselves just enough to keep poverty active, and in balance so they can maintain the economy by feeding the bottom.

The aim is twofold; One is to keep people in poverty, so that those contracts keep coming in, and the other is to provide stimulus - without which money would go ever upwards driving wages down and growing more inequality.

The other offshoot of keeping poverty going is keeping the prisons full to bursting. Since that also provides the rich with lucrative government contracts to run prisons.

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2213
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Hereandnow » July 12th, 2019, 12:11 pm

"The aim here is not to alleviate poverty but simply to provide big business with large lucrative government contracts. The rich who the government award themselves just enough to keep poverty active, and in balance so they can maintain the economy by feeding the bottom."

Brilliant!!

GE Morton
Posts: 779
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 12th, 2019, 1:07 pm

Gertie wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 7:59 am
Freudian Monkey wrote:
March 13th, 2019, 9:11 pm
Most secular contemporary thinkers agree that there are no absolute objective moral values. Meaning that the only way for us to arrive to objective morality is to essentially invent a moral standard that most people agree with (such as well-being) and base our morality around that generally agreeable standard. However there's no way getting around the fact that people throughout ages and living among different cultural environments have had wastly different interpretations about what can be considered well-being or harmful. To me it's simply disingenuous to suggest that contemporary Western thinkers are the only ones who can state with absolute certainty what is good for a person and what are the standards we should base our "objective" morality around.

Are secular philosophers trying to find cure for moral relativism simply because it's harmful for a society? But if moral relativism is the only logical outcome based on our knowledge about the nature of reality, shouldn't we be honest about it instead of trying to tiptoe around the issue?
First thing I'd say is that our language, and concepts (like morality) have a history, baggage. Which influence our thinking.

And a useful way I've found to tackle this question is to go back to basics, to what a justifiable notion of morality might look like if we started afresh from our current knowledge base. Which is of course limited and culturally dependant too, and not set in stone.

So the first question for me is why does morality matter? (Not is it subjective or objective, but what's key to it mattering, what is its foundational justification). And I'd agree that it is to do with well-being, quality of life. And the basis for that is the ability to have conscious experiences, which are qualiative in nature (nasty, nice and all the rest).

That foundation seems pretty straightforward to me. And basic moral values naturally flow from it. It's why we don't have to worry about smashing a non-conscious rock or toaster with a hammer, but we do have a moral responsibility towards other people and other conscious species, and shouldn't smash our annoying neighbours' skulls with hammers or treat conscious animals without thought for their well-being.
Thoughtful post, Gertie. I agree with the thrust of it. Some observations and caveats:

First, we need to ditch the phrase "moral values." It confuses two concepts, value and morality, which are related but distinct. Value is a pseudo-property imputed by moral agents to things they desire ("goods"), which they believe will enhance their quality of life, or in the case of disvalues, things they believe will reduce it ("evils"). There are "end goods" --- things desired "for their own sake," i.e., because they will confer satisfaction of some sort upon the valuer --- and "means goods," things valued because they are, or are perceived to be, means for obtaining an end good. Values assigned to end goods are idiosyncratic and subjective; what will enhance quality of life, what will yield satisfaction, varies from person to person.

So we have one fact bearing on the question of whether and why morality matters: People value things, and their quality of life is a function of the extent to which they secure those valued things (you have to understand "things" here in the broadest possible sense). I take this fact to be self-evident.

Another fact, likewise self-evident, is that people are better able --- much better able --- to secure most of the things they value in a social setting where they can cooperate with other people, by joining with others at a task which benefit all participants, or by exchanging their products and services with others who have different talents and skills.

A third fact, so obvious from experience as also be self-evident, is that since people have different interests, value different things, have different goals, or are seeking the same good or goal as someone else, but which good can only benefit one of them, conflicts will arise, and an action by one agent to secure some goal of his own may prevent another agent from securing some goal of his.

So now the need for morality arises: What is needed is a set of rules of interaction constraining the actions of agents in a social setting, so that an act by one agent to secure some good, to enhance his welfare, does not reduce others' welfare, or prevent them from acting to improve theirs. We call those rules "morality." It obliges all agents in a moral field to consider the effects of their acts on others, and refrain from acts which will harm others (a "harm" being any act which reduces an agent's welfare). These rules must not favor any agent or any particular values; they must be agent- and value-neutral.
After that it gets more complicated. Because the very nature of consciousness is 'subjective'. In that it's a property of Subjects whose minds you can't get inside to verify and measure objectively what's going on. And subjective in the sense that the conscious unified sense of self I call 'Me' has a unique history which has resulted in Me finding some things more harmful to my well-being than perhaps you or others do. And when we get to other species, the differences are very significant, as their neurology is very different.
Agree.
Then there is the additional complexity of coming to agreement between us on what to forbid, how to educate, punish, use institutions, laws. And values like freedom and fairness (which might bring contradictory 'goods' into conflict). And the fact that we can't predict all consequences based on values and rules. (And this sort of basis for morality has to have Consequentialism at its core, I think, if our goal-oriented morality is based on the outcome/consequence of the well-being of conscious creatures).
Likewise agree. All moral theories are ultimately consequentialist. Any program or set of rules or procedures that aim at some goal is consequentialist by definition.
But still, we find ways of developing a Social Contract of sorts together out of that mess for ourselves and each other.
No contract is needed, and most unlikely to ever be drafted. If the postulates of a moral theory are self-evident and the rules proposed follow from them, then they are binding on all agents, whether they consent to them or not. So the real question is, "What rules follow from those postulates?"

GE Morton
Posts: 779
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 12th, 2019, 1:25 pm

Sculptor1 wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 11:11 am

Its a shame it did not spend twice that, since this is exactly what has kept the economy from imploding to the top. Spending more would reduce crime and improve economic growth.
Well, that is the classic bureaucratic argument: "It would work if only we had more money!" Regularly invoked by teachers' unions and other public school bureaucrats. They get more money, no improvement is seen, and they repeat the argument, ad infinitum.

Sorry, but if $23 trillion has not produced an improvement, then there is utterly no reason to expect another $23 trillion to do so. That is the pinnacle of irrationality.
The aim here is not to alleviate poverty but simply to provide big business with large lucrative government contracts. The rich who the government award themselves just enough to keep poverty active, and in balance so they can maintain the economy by feeding the bottom.
You're correct in substance, but you misidentify the trough feeders. They are not, for the most part, "big business." They are a slew of non-profits and advocacy groups who receive grants and contracts and manage and deliver poverty programs at the local level, and, of course, the massive government bureaucracies who dole out the money --- the "poverty industry."

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 363
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Sculptor1 » July 12th, 2019, 4:09 pm

GE Morton wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 1:25 pm
Sculptor1 wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 11:11 am

Its a shame it did not spend twice that, since this is exactly what has kept the economy from imploding to the top. Spending more would reduce crime and improve economic growth.
Well, that is the classic bureaucratic argument: "It would work if only we had more money!" Regularly invoked by teachers' unions and other public school bureaucrats. They get more money, no improvement is seen, and they repeat the argument, ad infinitum.

Sorry, but if $23 trillion has not produced an improvement, then there is utterly no reason to expect another $23 trillion to do so. That is the pinnacle of irrationality.
your view is the pinnacle of ********.
The aim here is not to alleviate poverty but simply to provide big business with large lucrative government contracts. The rich who the government award themselves just enough to keep poverty active, and in balance so they can maintain the economy by feeding the bottom.
You're correct in substance, but you misidentify the trough feeders. They are not, for the most part, "big business." They are a slew of non-profits and advocacy groups who receive grants and contracts and manage and deliver poverty programs at the local level, and, of course, the massive government bureaucracies who dole out the money --- the "poverty industry."
Not big business?
Don't be silly.
But the trough feeds to cattle and the cattle are the life blood of the economy.
You spend a dollar on a poor man and he spends it locally. Spend a dollar on a rich man and he buys a BMW.

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 7822
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Greta » July 12th, 2019, 6:01 pm

ThomYum, I'll wait for your reply because I have lost patience with GE's endless energy for gaming a debate. Too many tricks and distractions, not enough straightness.

The basis for this thread is not philosophical but political - to justify the socially conservative libertarian nightmare that GE prefers.

Again, there are no objective moral tenets - all is built on foundation relativities. Consider the opposite to "moral relativity" - "morality objectivity".

Hands up all those who support the idea that morals are objective?

Whose morals??

GE Morton
Posts: 779
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 12th, 2019, 9:12 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 10:34 am

Were the world so simple. Proof that conservatives cannot think morally.
Well, first, I am not a "conservative." But since for you "thinking morally" means acting upon intuitions and emotional impulses, it's true that I don't "think morally" as you understand it. But for most philosophers acting upon emotional impulses does not qualify as "thinking" at all.
Weighing of consequences occurs not within some abstract public space, but in real space, that of a given mind. If you live in a oppressive environment, your values are much different than the your model implies: You will not simply "take it"-- because you realize you have the moral upper hand as those who make the laws and enforce them are not interested in your well being and so the equation changes from a strict observance of the consequences to moral rectitude, revolt and revolution.
What you have just described is envy. And it is augmented by the false belief that others ought to be interested in your well-being, that they have some duty to guarantee and promote your welfare. But they don't. Your welfare is your sole responsibility; others have a duty not to reduce it, but no duty to contribute to it. And as long as the envious remain convinced that their welfare is someone else's responsibility they will remain poor and resentful.
Or do you think being confined to poverty and ignorance is something people shoudl just grin and bear while tremendous wealth belongs to others who did nothing to deserve it, and by nothing I am referring to what was not done to deserve the tonnage of wealth that exceeds their due. Bill Gates, and he will tell you this, does not deserve most of his wealth. It was never his, it belongs to those who produce, and their responsibility to others is to create conditions such that all have equal access, as your list of rules indicates. Perhaps you think living in a ghetto is not oppressive......
You will have to explain to me how you discern or calculate what someone is due. You said that "it belongs to those who produce," with which I fully agree. I.e., what someone is due is equal to what he has produced. Please advise if you have a different measure or criterion. What Bill Gates produced was, to begin with, a version of BASIC that would run on the new personal computers that had begun to appear on the market in the late '70s. At the time no other software existed for those machines. But their buyers were mostly nerds who would write their own software if they had a programming language. Soon nearly every maker of PCs was bundling Micro-soft BASIC (yes, it had a hyphen at that time) with their computers, and Gates, still a college student, made a lot of money. With that money he hired other programmers, offering many of them shares in Microsoft as part of their compensation. Over the next few years they produced PC versions of Fortran, Cobol, "C," and other programming languages. Most of those early hires became millionaires --- Microsoft produced over 12,000 millionaires and 3 billionaires. Plus thousands more who made more money than they'd ever dreamed of before going to work for Gates.

https://www.businessinsider.com/microso ... tly-2015-8

What Bill Gates produced was an environment --- a shop --- that produced tens of thousands of wealthy employees and software that became the standard of a vast industry and an ubiqitous tool in virtually every home and office on the globe. He is this century's Henry Ford, whose influence on the economy exceeded even Ford's.

You say, " . . . their responsibility to others is to create conditions such that all have equal access, as your list of rules indicates." I haven't given any list of rules, only some postulates, none of which entail any such responsibility. They entail that no one should interfere with another's efforts to improve his welfare, but impose no duty to contribute to it. The postulates stipulate only equality of moral status, not material equality, i.e., equality in talents, intelligence, ambition, diligence, strength, health, etc., which no moral theory can "equalize." Those are naturally and unalterably unequal, and always will be. Assuring "equal access" is impossible; a person who has dropped out of school, is semi-literate, whose chief interests are sex, drugs, and rock&roll, for whom a computer is merely something to steal and pawn, will never have equal access to a job at Microsoft. And no one has any duty to try to provide it.

But please explain to me how, per what principle or criterion, a person "living in a ghetto" is entitled to some share of that wealth. And supply a rational argument for that principle.
As to free will, it sounds like you're a free will advocate. Explain.
Sure. Free will is what is left after determinism is refuted. Determinism is refuted when the proffered determinants have no predictive power. I.e., if A, B, and C are held to be the determinants of D, and D does not consistently ensue given A, B, and C, then that deterministic hypothesis is refuted. A partial corrrelation between A, B, C, and D --- less than 100% -- does not establish a deterministic relationship; the proposition "A, B, and C are the causes of D" will be false.
Inferior education, unskilled, ....and then you say the social environment DOES NOT create people???? Have you lost your mind? Sorry. What I mean to say is that you have presented a contradiction, then validated it with your approval only. You need to reconcile these beyond the mere saying.
What is the contradiction? Two propositions are contradictory when one specifically denies what the other asserts. What are the two contradictory propositions you see?

But, yes, people create their environment, not the other way around. People are the actors, the dynamic forces, the movers and shakers who construct their social environment and the "built" portion of the physical environment (nature, of course, supplies various natural elements). Every rape and mugging, every drive-by shooting, every threat uttered by every gangster, every drug transaction in every dark alley, every graffiti scrawl on every wall, every broken window, every pile of trash in every stairwell and every discarded syringe in every gutter, were committed or put there by some person. Together all of those things define the social environment in that community, every one of them the products of people.
Relatively few escape, and it is by the hard work of liberal activism making for government programs and money that have allowed this to happen. The fallacy of argument from the exception.
When discussing cause and effect, citing exceptions is not a fallacy. Exceptions refute causal hypotheses. And it only takes one.
Bad families make for badly behaved kids. Add to this the societal factors, the resentment, the lack of an implicit curriculum that engenders caring about education, the exposure to counter educational culture, the modeling of bad decision making, and on and on; I mean, you don't get this????
I agree with the first statement. But please explain to me what sort of curriculum would "engender caring about education." Why would a person who does not care about education care any more about that curriculum (whatever that might be) than any other curriculum? Your suggestion is question-begging. Your pupil would already have to care about education to benefit from it, in which case it would be superfluous.
Well, since 1965 the US has spent $23 trillion on anti-poverty programs. In 1966, when the first antipoverty dollars left the pipeline, the official poverty rate was 14%. Last year (and $22 trillion later) it was 13%.
So therefore, let's just stop trying. What else uses this logic?
Everyone capaable of performing cost-benefit analyses.
The family is still, stupidly sacrosanct, for example, and impoverished families transfer their values on the their infant children, values that become foundational for all future development. Only recourse: massively more school time, time away from home, time in an intelligent environment where adults speak well, demonstrate prosocial behavior,encourage. Read Skinner's Walden II for a good idea, a start, at any rate.
Sounds more like Huxley's Brave New World. Good luck with that!

User avatar
aveenire
New Trial Member
Posts: 13
Joined: March 21st, 2019, 12:48 pm

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by aveenire » July 12th, 2019, 11:02 pm

Never mind, GE. Keep your blinders. BTW, you refuse to engage my main points and just argue about technicalities. It's boring and trivial.

Belindi
Moderator
Posts: 2160
Joined: September 11th, 2016, 2:11 pm

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » July 13th, 2019, 4:45 am

GE Morton wrote:
So now the need for morality arises: What is needed is a set of rules of interaction constraining the actions of agents in a social setting, so that an act by one agent to secure some good, to enhance his welfare, does not reduce others' welfare, or prevent them from acting to improve theirs. We call those rules "morality." It obliges all agents in a moral field to consider the effects of their acts on others, and refrain from acts which will harm others (a "harm" being any act which reduces an agent's welfare). These rules must not favor any agent or any particular values; they must be agent- and value-neutral.
Most men are not to be trusted with unlimited power over other men so democracy is an essential practice. Most men thrive with liberty . The problem with morality in a changing world is how much social control permits the most liberty of the most people. By "most people" I mean everyone except genuine criminals and those such as children and demented people whose judgement is insufficient.

Liberty allied with utilitarian ethics is very important for a viable moral system which changes in technology dictate must be consequentialist. The avant garde must be permitted to flourish .Private morality can't be utilitarian so private morality, such as traditional religious forms,has to operate within the bounds of codified public morality.

Codified public morality must relate both to technological advances and also to personal liberty.

Thomyum2
Posts: 36
Joined: June 10th, 2019, 4:21 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Wittgenstein

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Thomyum2 » July 13th, 2019, 11:55 am

Greta wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 6:01 pm
ThomYum, I'll wait for your reply because I have lost patience with GE's endless energy for gaming a debate. Too many tricks and distractions, not enough straightness.

The basis for this thread is not philosophical but political....
Thanks for following up Greta. The thread has indeed gone a little off into the political which is not really my thing. But to respond to your previous question:
Greta wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 7:22 pm
If one claims to have The Truth, then that is a claim to objective knowledge and no shared learning can happen. Broadly, that is what happens in religion.
If one claims to have The Truth, then yes I'd agree with you. It's a false claim because no one can have it - one can only have one's own experience of The Truth - one's own perspective on it. That experience is/can be an objective one, without requiring a claim of absolute authority or perfect knowledge of the 'object' that is experienced (like the three blind men and the elephant). Because an individual's or group's experience is not complete, does not mean that it is not objective.
Greta wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 6:01 pm
Again, there are no objective moral tenets - all is built on foundation relativities. Consider the opposite to "moral relativity" - "morality objectivity".

Hands up all those who support the idea that morals are objective?

Whose morals??
I don't think the foundation is the relativity. The foundation is the experiences that we each have, and those experiences are one that we bring to the whole to contribute to our mutual understanding of ourselves and the universe that we inhabit. Whose morals? Ours. Not an exclusive 'ours' that only includes a select group of 'us', but an all-encompassing 'Ours'.

Roger Scruton says this better than I can in his history of modern philosophy that I've been reading recently: "we cannot begin our enquiries from the first-person case and think that it gives us a paradigm of certainty. For, taken in isolation, it gives us nothing at all....[W]hile the distinction between being and seeming does not exist for me when I contemplate my own sensations, this is only because I speak a public language which determines this peculiar property of first-person knowledge. I can know, therefore, [of the distinction between being and seeming]...because there are people in the world besides myself, and because I have a nature and form of life in common with them. I do indeed inhabit an objective world, a world where things are or can be other than they seem."

User avatar
Hereandnow
Posts: 2213
Joined: July 11th, 2012, 9:16 pm
Favorite Philosopher: the moon and the stars

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Hereandnow » July 13th, 2019, 12:29 pm

GE Morton:Well, first, I am not a "conservative." But since for you "thinking morally" means acting upon intuitions and emotional impulses, it's true that I don't "think morally" as you understand it. But for most philosophers acting upon emotional impulses does not qualify as "thinking" at all.
.
Then you are doing a fine imitation of one, for conservatives, for example, would like to dismantle government agencies that assist the poor. As to thinking morally, I certainly do not believe as you say. Qualified moral intuitionists like myself hold that something like compassion or empathy makes for a foundation of moral concern; it does not make morally entangled issues intuitive, it simply makes the prima facie case to be sorted out in subsequent thought. Consequently, if a society incorporates certain organizational features to make it run better, this has moral content only insofar as it addresses a foundational concern established by compassion for others. Otherwise, it has no more morality to it than a move on a chess board tha may be efficient for winning the game. These are pragmatically conceived, not morally. I said something like this earlier.
What you have just described is envy. And it is augmented by the false belief that others ought to be interested in your well-being, that they have some duty to guarantee and promote your welfare. But they don't. Your welfare is your sole responsibility; others have a duty not to reduce it, but no duty to contribute to it. And as long as the envious remain convinced that their welfare is someone else's responsibility they will remain poor and resentful.
It certainly is envy. It is also indignation due to oppression, implicit or otherwise. The oppression comes by way of unequal access to education, quality living environments, and so forth. Resentment, envy, these are not to measured as such, but in a context fairness. Now, when you say things like your welfare is your sole responsibility, I am first struck by the cash value of such a stark and uncompromising statement: Thank god we don't have to help these miserable people through tax dollars. A terrific rationalization of systemic cruelty. This is the way to a glorious Third Reich. I am not exaggerating, for what is it to leave the poor to help themselves alone if not to allow them to perish so as to achieve greatness for "the whole"? Unfortunately for those like you who are unburdened by conscience, and this is part of the point here, your prisons will overcrowd, there will be massive resentment, poverty and ignorance will bear upon the "whole" and your anal retentive postulating will be for naught. Of course, you can allows just take them all out and shoot them to ensure the well being of all. But then, it is often the other way around, isn't it? Just remember what happened to Nicholas the II and Louis the XVI.
You will have to explain to me how you discern or calculate what someone is due. You said that "it belongs to those who produce," with which I fully agree. I.e., what someone is due is equal to what he has produced. Please advise if you have a different measure or criterion. What Bill Gates produced was, to begin with, a version of BASIC that would run on the new personal computers that had begun to appear on the market in the late '70s. At the time no other software existed for those machines. But their buyers were mostly nerds who would write their own software if they had a programming language. Soon nearly every maker of PCs was bundling Micro-soft BASIC (yes, it had a hyphen at that time) with their computers, and Gates, still a college student, made a lot of money. With that money he hired other programmers, offering many of them shares in Microsoft as part of their compensation. Over the next few years they produced PC versions of Fortran, Cobol, "C," and other programming languages. Most of those early hires became millionaires --- Microsoft produced over 12,000 millionaires and 3 billionaires. Plus thousands more who made more money than they'd ever dreamed of before going to work for Gates.
Yes, I am aware that I have to explain this to you. You don't really grasp what it is to think at the basic level, that is, philosophically, so this kind of thinking will be alien to you. Desert is not to be measured in the consequences of what is produced because these consequences and the ability to to produce them are morally arbitrary. This is simply a solid fact that would be unworthy of discussion if it were not for people who thoughtlessly assume merit and results go hand in hand, as if there were nothing at all to the moral arbitrarity of what makes for success. We allow Bill Gates to have his fortune, not because he deserves it, but because because there is the prevailing belief that it works better to do so than to redistribute wealth for a more equatable distribution. This latter has had disastrous consequences, though, one could argue that it was in its implementation that things go so badly. At any rate, all you have to do is ask basic questions to see where the moral end of this instantly falls apart: where did Bill Gates get his ability to think clearly, his opportunity to capitalize; what made for the opportunity at all? Why wasn't Bill Gates afflicted with a debilitating abnormality? Why, why, why? The foundations of assumed thinking behind the concept of desert are littered with foolishness an we all know this. Einstein "deserved" to be a genius?? How does this work?

So clearly, the deserving of good fortune or bad is nonsense at the level of basic questions. Religion can assume all it pleases that the Brahmin class is superior to the Shudra and more deserving, but this is pure metaphysical manure. We are all equal in our throwness into this place, this world, and this is without argument. Our laws are morally provisional, relative, contingent, pending, but their direction, to be moral at all, must reflect this foundation of equality: I was not mutilated by organized crime and thrown onto the streets of Delhi like so many are just by the luck of the draw. This puts Gates' "desert" into question: we allow it because we think it works best to let individuals amass great wealth. We think it brings out the best in the smart capable people, and there is certainly something to be said for this. But this matter is pragmatic, not moral (unless you want to go down that rabbit hole where all social rule making finds its justification in need, which is real, thereby grounding even the pettiest pragmatic ideas. There is a point where pragmatism takes on a life of its own. take citizenship: why do I have the rights that belong to citizenship? Geographical rights? But this plays out significantly in current affairs and people start thinking magicallyabout rights. The moral/pragmatic basis for all this gets lost in torrents of god and country and the rhetoric turns pragmatic necessity of drawing boundaries into sheer foolishness.)
But please explain to me how, per what principle or criterion, a person "living in a ghetto" is entitled to some share of that wealth. And supply a rational argument for that principle.
See the above re. the rational argument you seek.
Sure. Free will is what is left after determinism is refuted. Determinism is refuted when the proffered determinants have no predictive power. I.e., if A, B, and C are held to be the determinants of D, and D does not consistently ensue given A, B, and C, then that deterministic hypothesis is refuted. A partial corrrelation between A, B, C, and D --- less than 100% -- does not establish a deterministic relationship; the proposition "A, B, and C are the causes of D" will be false.
The assumption is that the predictive power in question is possessed within the matrix of the human neurological physiology, which is too complex to analyze. we are bound to this because of the principle of sufficient reason. Nothing occurs ex nihilo. This is a priori true.
But ignore this. The best way to understand freedom is to follow Heidegger in his claim that even in our absence from memory's finite "causes" (to use other language than his) for possible behavior choices, we are still bound in the creation of something novel, an expression of our authentic self, to what is always already there. In other words, our freedom is a standing at the threshold of future possibilities, but these possibilities are not infinite. And so, there you are, poorly educated, abused by poverty and a life of struggle, but you have before you nothing causing you to do anything, but you do have a battery of meaningful possibilities which are cultural, historical, and this personal history is possesses its own unique "wisdom" to proceed. Therefore, it is foolish to think of freedom and lining up with status quo responsibilities if one's person'a history does not project future possibilities in this way. Your possibilities will be those filled with your rage and discontent. So from a pragmatic viewpoint even, you have to make sure, as Sculptor1 suggested, you keep poverty at a bay. But even here, you could take the Marxist view of capitalism: sure, give them what they need to subsist, says the bourgeois capitalist, as long as they produce in our factories. Limit education so they don't really have the means or the time to think on these things. This is what happens when there is no compassion in decision making, which engenders a culture of power and cruelty.
But, yes, people create their environment, not the other way around. People are the actors, the dynamic forces, the movers and shakers who construct their social environment and the "built" portion of the physical environment (nature, of course, supplies various natural elements). Every rape and mugging, every drive-by shooting, every threat uttered by every gangster, every drug transaction in every dark alley, every graffiti scrawl on every wall, every broken window, every pile of trash in every stairwell and every discarded syringe in every gutter, were committed or put there by some person. Together all of those things define the social environment in that community, every one of them the products of people.
This is not even an attempt to be slippery, G E Morton. Your contradiction lies with on the one hand admitting people are inclined to behave according their Inferior education, implicit and explicit learning environments, and so forth, then saying people are not made by their environments. What can this possibly mean to make sense?
When discussing cause and effect, citing exceptions is not a fallacy. Exceptions refute causal hypotheses. And it only takes one.
Tell me you're joking. If a person turns out well despite the environmental failings that produced her, one does not throw efficient cause out the window, one simply acknowledges the failings of the analysis due to the complexity of the causal matrix, like the one found in the human brain. Off hand, it is simply likely that such a person is endowed with an adaptive predisposition that allowed her to weather through.
But who cares about naive determinism.
I agree with the first statement. But please explain to me what sort of curriculum would "engender caring about education." Why would a person who does not care about education care any more about that curriculum (whatever that might be) than any other curriculum? Your suggestion is question-begging. Your pupil would already have to care about education to benefit from it, in which case it would be superfluous.
A curriculum that extends educational concerns into the family life. Better schools, more teachers, more control in the explicit educational process is very helpful, but it is the implicit environment, which is everything else, that brings this down. Children are strongly influenced by their parents in the formative years, especially. The primacy of this influence and the way it structures all future possibilities has to be undone. The Korean model: extensive time in educational conditioning facilities outside the home. As to motivation: this emerges with success, and success in solving problems, educational or otherwise, hinges on conditioning. Skinner was right.
Sounds more like Huxley's Brave New World. Good luck with that!
No, it is the opposite of the Huxley's book, for once oppressive aspects of the socializing environment that are oppressive are addressed and effort is made to eliminate them, there will be no Delta class, nor will there be all Alphas. There will be opportunity for all, and Nietzschean resentment will become a thing of the past.

User avatar
Greta
Site Admin
Posts: 7822
Joined: December 16th, 2013, 9:05 pm

Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Greta » July 13th, 2019, 5:14 pm

Thomyum2 wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 11:55 am
Greta wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 6:01 pm
ThomYum, I'll wait for your reply because I have lost patience with GE's endless energy for gaming a debate. Too many tricks and distractions, not enough straightness.

The basis for this thread is not philosophical but political....
Thanks for following up Greta. The thread has indeed gone a little off into the political which is not really my thing. But to respond to your previous question:
Greta wrote:
July 11th, 2019, 7:22 pm
If one claims to have The Truth, then that is a claim to objective knowledge and no shared learning can happen. Broadly, that is what happens in religion.
If one claims to have The Truth, then yes I'd agree with you. It's a false claim because no one can have it - one can only have one's own experience of The Truth - one's own perspective on it. That experience is/can be an objective one, without requiring a claim of absolute authority or perfect knowledge of the 'object' that is experienced (like the three blind men and the elephant). Because an individual's or group's experience is not complete, does not mean that it is not objective.
Yes, there's plenty of politics elsewhere on the web and it's not much needed on forums with different foci.

I do not see any experience as "objective", though. An event might be objective (to some extent, taking the universe's general relativity into account) - let's say something very unsubtle and unmistakeable like a car accident - but one's experience of the event is always subjective. Experience is the event filtered through the brain and nervous system. In an extreme example like a car accident, the objective component - the injuries - are straightforward and dominant to largely line up with the experience, so for practical means and purposes it's a pretty objective experience even though it would still be very different to others.

We are all "blind men".
Thomyum2 wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 11:55 am
Greta wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 6:01 pm
Again, there are no objective moral tenets - all is built on foundation relativities. Consider the opposite to "moral relativity" - "morality objectivity".

Hands up all those who support the idea that morals are objective?

Whose morals??
I don't think the foundation is the relativity. The foundation is the experiences that we each have, and those experiences are one that we bring to the whole to contribute to our mutual understanding of ourselves and the universe that we inhabit. Whose morals? Ours. Not an exclusive 'ours' that only includes a select group of 'us', but an all-encompassing 'Ours'.

Roger Scruton says this better than I can in his history of modern philosophy that I've been reading recently: "we cannot begin our enquiries from the first-person case and think that it gives us a paradigm of certainty. For, taken in isolation, it gives us nothing at all....[W]hile the distinction between being and seeming does not exist for me when I contemplate my own sensations, this is only because I speak a public language which determines this peculiar property of first-person knowledge. I can know, therefore, [of the distinction between being and seeming]...because there are people in the world besides myself, and because I have a nature and form of life in common with them. I do indeed inhabit an objective world, a world where things are or can be other than they seem."
Let's examine the all-encompassing "ours" . I have not seen it. I have always seen conflicts of interest, always.

I would say that it feels like we are in an objective world because what we feel lines up with what others apparently feel. However, how trustworthy are the words in such a subtle domain. Very often we think we are in accord with another until you learn the details of the other. Once that extrapolates to the highly contestable arena of morals, though, the gulf widens.

Post Reply