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Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

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Belindi
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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » September 8th, 2019, 6:08 am

GE Morton wrote:
For the life of me, I can't see what bearing any of that has on the statements you quoted.
Human culture is the main means by which humans change. Not slow biology. Human freedom is due to this fact because each human individual influences his culture. The more the individual influences his culture the more free he is, is one parameter of human freedom. The other parameter of human freedom is the individuals' consciousness of the other and his own effect on the other.

The scope of education in a society is a measure of the society's economic stability. Free universal education is expensive and justifiable because of the long term benefit to the society that promotes it.

As I pointed out, there is no such thing as "free" education. It must be paid for by someone. Either it is paid for by the beneficiary, or by someone else; if someone else, then that person either pays voluntarily, or is forced to do so. The latter raises a moral question you need to address.
The moral question is actually a practical question. To what extent can a society afford to invest in its own future?
Also, in your two statements above you're using the "learn" and "education" as though they denote the same thing. They don't. There are many ways to learn, most of which cost little or nothing, and of course people ought to be free to learn --- meaning no one else should interfere with their learning. But by "education" you mean a formal, State-prescribed course of instruction, heavily infused with indoctrination, which is costly and must be paid for by someone --- which raises the moral question just mentioned. A person's freedom to learn does not entail forcing others to educate him.
Maybe your own experience with the education you have received has coloured what you think education is. The teachers you have met must have been either poorly educated in the basics of education or have been trapped by government rules.
This is not the place to educate you in the basics of education as taught in initial teacher training.
Servitude of one man to another man causes both master and slave to be stupid.
Yet forcing Bruno to pay for Alfie's State-prescribed "education" establishes precisely that sort of relationship between Bruno and Alfie.
It's a pity you feel forced to pay taxes that fund such a good cause. Don't you approve of taxation?
All who pay for universal education together with those who cannot pay receive the benefits of universal education.
That is false. If Alfie graduates from medical school the benefits accrue to Alfie and his patients. The latter pay for the benefits they receive when treatment is delivered. No one else benefits, and has no obligation to pay for benefits received by Alfie or his patients.
Vocational education usually does benefit the recipient more than a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education benefits society and the individual in less direct ways .

The natural environment composed of other species and inorganic matter is a moral agent for the same reason , it's composed of individuals many of who are sentient and many of who are intelligent learners.
It's disputable that an ancient stone statue is part of the social or the natural environment. Both I'd say and it's also part of the community of men.Those artworks in Iraq that were deliberately wrecked by Daesh were moral agents.
Well, you seem to be using some idiosyncratic definition of "moral agent." Inanimate, non-sentient objects do not qualify per the common definition.
Probably not, but we are doing philosophy not chatting at the bus stop.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » September 8th, 2019, 1:38 pm

Belindi wrote:
September 8th, 2019, 6:08 am

Human culture is the main means by which humans change. Not slow biology. Human freedom is due to this fact because each human individual influences his culture. The more the individual influences his culture the more free he is, is one parameter of human freedom. The other parameter of human freedom is the individuals' consciousness of the other and his own effect on the other.
Any discussion of freedom presumes some answer to the question, "Freedom from what?" As I mentioned earlier, in the liberal political tradition the freedom sought was freedom to live one's life as one chooses, without interference from other moral agents, especially government: e.g., the freedom to follow the religion of one's choice, the freedom to speak one's mind, the freedom to travel, to ply the trade or occupation of one's choice, the freedom to choose with whom one associates and forms relationships, the freedom to pursue one's interests and indulge one's passions as one sees fit --- all subject, of course, to the proviso that one violates no one else's rights.

"Freedom" means the absence of constraints. So when speaking of freedom you need to spell out what constraints you seek to escape. In the liberal tradition the constraints of concern were those imposed by government --- by kings, emperors, dukes, bishops, and their minions. When you say, "The more the individual influences his culture the more free he is . . .", from what is he free? What sort of freedom does this gain him? When you say, "The other parameter of human freedom is the individuals' consciousness of the other and his own effect on the other," from what does this free him?
The scope of education in a society is a measure of the society's economic stability. Free universal education is expensive and justifiable because of the long term benefit to the society that promotes it.
You're again speaking of "society" as though it is a moral agent with interests, an entity which can be harmed or benefited. That is a fallacy of composition --- you're imputing properties to a group which only apply to members of the group. Societies have no interests other than the diverse interests of their members; they can suffer no harms or enjoy no benefits other than those their members suffer or enjoy. Any proposition about a "benefit to society" has to be translatable into a proposition about benefits to Alfie, Bruno, etc. --- some member(s) of that society --- to be cognitive. So a claim that "education is beneficial to society" has to be translatable into a proposition of the form, "Educating Alfie yields benefits to Alfie, Bruno, Chauncey, etc." That proposition can then be determined to be either true or false. Whether imposing taxes on Bruno and Chauncey is justifiable depends upon whether they indeed benefit from educating Alfie.

I.e., you can't gloss over the differential benefits of educating Alfie to different agents --- which can range from large to none --- by claiming that "society" benefits. Claims about "society" must be translated into claims about specific actual agents in order to be morally meaningful and analyzable.
As I pointed out, there is no such thing as "free" education. It must be paid for by someone. Either it is paid for by the beneficiary, or by someone else; if someone else, then that person either pays voluntarily, or is forced to do so. The latter raises a moral question you need to address.
The moral question is actually a practical question. To what extent can a society afford to invest in its own future?
Are you suggesting that "practical" considerations trump moral ones? I.e., we can dispense with a trial and lynch the accused rapist because otherwise the mob might burn down the courthouse?

And of course, "societies" make no investments; only their members do, either voluntarily or because they are forced to do so. What investments someone willingly makes depends upon the particular future he desires or envisions. Alfie has no obvious duty to invest in Bruno's vision of the future.
Maybe your own experience with the education you have received has coloured what you think education is. The teachers you have met must have been either poorly educated in the basics of education or have been trapped by government rules.
Some were reasonably well-educated, others not so much. But all were trapped by government rules. The "basics" of education are whatever the State Superintendent of Education decrees them to be.
Yet forcing Bruno to pay for Alfie's State-prescribed "education" establishes precisely that sort of relationship between Bruno and Alfie.
It's a pity you feel forced to pay taxes that fund such a good cause. Don't you approve of taxation?
It is not a matter of "feeling," Belindi. If I am threatened with confiscation of my property, perhaps imprisonment, if I fail to pay school taxes, I am forced; that is a matter of fact --- regardless of how "good" someone else considers that cause.

Yes, I approve of taxes --- each citizen should pay for government services to the extent he benefits from them, just as one pays for everything else one consumes.
Well, you seem to be using some idiosyncratic definition of "moral agent." Inanimate, non-sentient objects do not qualify per the common definition.
Probably not, but we are doing philosophy not chatting at the bus stop.
"Moral agent" is a term mainly wielded by philosophers, not commuters at a bus stop. The definition I mentioned is that common among philosophers. Here is Mary Anne Warren's:

"1. Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal
to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain;

"2. Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively
complex problems);

"3. Self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively
independent of either genetic or direct external control);

"4. The capacity to communicate, by whatever means, messages
of an indefinite variety of types, that is, not just with an
indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinitely
many possible topics;

"5. The presence of self-concepts, and self-awareness, either
individual or racial, or both."

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/68c5/f ... 1567963592

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » September 8th, 2019, 6:00 pm

GE Morton, a society is several individuals who are purposively organised. It's a matter of fact purposive organisation includes moral consensus to a significant degree that the all the individuals may get mobilised. E.g. "We ought to kill that man-eating tiger with the least loss of life" E.g. "We ought to keep the Temple free from money changing that profits the Romans and collaborating Jews."
E.g. "We ought to be taxed to pay for the best education system we can afford so we, our children, and our children's children may benefit from a wise and reasonable ruling elite."

Morality is a simpler necessity than you think.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by anonymous66 » September 10th, 2019, 11:08 am

Greta wrote:
September 6th, 2019, 5:48 pm
@anonymous66 s66

Yes, rape is a more difficult case than killing, even though it is a lesser crime (the dead cannot complain about being traumatised).

Still, the ruling powers of entire societies have no problem at all with rape, and do not punish it. We cannot posit that as a universal either, even though it seems obvious to us.
I don't follow- what does the behavior of ruling powers have to do with whether or not morality is objective? It could very well be the case that morality is objective and that ruling powers are sometimes just morally in the wrong. If that is the case then it is a fact that ruling powers don't have a problem with rape... And if morality is objective, that means they are in the wrong.

"We cannot posit that as a universal..." It is the case that I and many others do consider the possibility that there are universal moral principles.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » September 10th, 2019, 12:06 pm

Belindi wrote:
September 8th, 2019, 6:00 pm

GE Morton, a society is several individuals who are purposively organised.
This may be at the root of our disagreement.

In the broadest sense a "society" is any group of animals so situated as to be able to interact, who do interact, at least occasionally, and who freely remain in that setting because they derive ongoing benefits from those interactions.

Of course, all sexed animals interact occasionally for mating purposes. But most of them don't remain in that setting any longer than copulation requires. All female mammals, most birds, many insects and arachnids interact with their offspring --- protect them and provide for them --- until they can provide for themselves. But in most cases that social relationship ends when the offspring become mature. Those relationships are not ongoing.

Societies in the broad sense mentioned have many forms and structures.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/animal ... -behaviour

Your claim, "Society is several individuals who are purposively organised," is not true of natural human societies. It is true of constructed societies --- groups who have voluntarily joined together and organized themselves to pursue a common interest, such as the Audubon Society or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Natural societies --- the societies composed of individuals who happen to have been born in a defined territory --- are not purposely organized. They are not organized at all. Unlike with members of the Audubon Society, there is no purpose they all share, nor any defined tasks each member performs in pursuit of that purpose. The members of natural societies have no natural bonds, no shared personal histories, no common interests, no overriding concern for the welfare of most other members, and no a priori obligations to one another. The only purpose such societies serve is affording better opportunities for each member to pursue his own interests and advance his own welfare than a solitary existence would offer. Those interests differ enormously from individual to individual.

Of course, there are many groups satisfying your criteria within natural societies. But the society as whole does not.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Greta » September 10th, 2019, 5:49 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
September 10th, 2019, 11:08 am
Greta wrote:
September 6th, 2019, 5:48 pm
Yes, rape is a more difficult case than killing, even though it is a lesser crime (the dead cannot complain about being traumatised).

Still, the ruling powers of entire societies have no problem at all with rape, and do not punish it. We cannot posit that as a universal either, even though it seems obvious to us.
I don't follow- what does the behavior of ruling powers have to do with whether or not morality is objective? It could very well be the case that morality is objective and that ruling powers are sometimes just morally in the wrong. If that is the case then it is a fact that ruling powers don't have a problem with rape... And if morality is objective, that means they are in the wrong.

"We cannot posit that as a universal..." It is the case that I and many others do consider the possibility that there are universal moral principles.
For any who have followed history, it is clear that authorities decide right and wrong and that objectivity, such as is found in gravity and magnetism, is not possible in that domain.

You note that an authority may be wrong regarding its morals, and clearly they all have significant moral shortfalls. Yet you will be unable to prove a single moral espoused by authorities to be objectively wrong.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » September 10th, 2019, 7:40 pm

Greta wrote:
September 10th, 2019, 5:49 pm
. . . you will be unable to prove a single moral espoused by authorities to be objectively wrong.
A moral principle or rule will be objectively wrong if it is inconsistent with the postulated goal of a moral theory or system. I.e., if we postulate that the goal of a moral theory or system is developing/devising principles and rules of interaction which will allow all agents in a moral field to maximize their welfare, then whether Rule X advances or impedes that goal is determinable empirically, and is thus objective. E.g., "Thou shalt not murder" advances that goal, because it prohibits an act which reduces someone's welfare. "You ought to help persons in need when you can do so without reducing anyone else's welfare," also advances that goal, and that fact is also objective.

Whether a given act by one agent improves or reduces someone else's welfare is usually empirically determinable, and thus a proposition characterizing that act as moral or immoral will be objective. Whether a proposition is objective does not depend upon anyone's behavior, beliefs or opinions.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Greta » September 10th, 2019, 8:59 pm

GE, could you please point me to a system designed to allow all "agents in a moral field" to maximise their welfare?

I have seen systems that state that aim, but it's a lie, possibly a necessary one to keep the peace. If leaders were in a position to be honest they would admit that the society aims to allow a majority of "agents in a moral field" to maximise their welfare, but definitely not all. Note that, until the recent proliferation of part-time jobs, the economic system has always relied on an approximate unemployment rate of 5% for wage stability.

Societies at best are utilitarian, at worst, dictatorships. Their moral tenets are conditional and relative.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » September 11th, 2019, 6:10 am

GE Morton wrote:
Natural societies --- the societies composed of individuals who happen to have been born in a defined territory --- are not purposely organized. They are not organized at all. Unlike with members of the Audubon Society, there is no purpose they all share, nor any defined tasks each member performs in pursuit of that purpose. The members of natural societies have no natural bonds, no shared personal histories, no common interests, no overriding concern for the welfare of most other members, and no a priori obligations to one another. The only purpose such societies serve is affording better opportunities for each member to pursue his own interests and advance his own welfare than a solitary existence would offer. Those interests differ enormously from individual to individual.
If the individuals lack any common interest they are not a society of individuals but an aggregate of individuals.

If an aggregate of individuals is "affording better opportunities for each member to pursue his own interests and advance his own welfare than a solitary existence would offer. "it's more than an aggregate, it's a society.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » September 11th, 2019, 11:07 am

Belindi wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 6:10 am

If the individuals lack any common interest they are not a society of individuals but an aggregate of individuals.
You can get a common interest if you construe the term broadly enough. E.g., all animals, social or not, have an interest in survival in common, and in pursuing their own interests, whatever they may be. But that is the extent of their common interests.
If an aggregate of individuals is "affording better opportunities for each member to pursue his own interests and advance his own welfare than a solitary existence would offer. "it's more than an aggregate, it's a society.
Yes, it is. But it is not a "purposive, organized" society. A society is organized when each member has some defined role to play or task to perform in pursuit of a common goal. There is no common goal among members of modern civilized societies, other than the universal goal mentioned above, and no defined roles for everyone to play. There are no roles, because there is no play with a cast, a guiding plot or a prepared script.

There is a widely-held assumption that natural societies are "organic unities" --- organized systems of interdependent elements whose functions are coordinated and directed to a common purpose. One classic expression of this view is Plato's:

"And is not that the best-ordered State in which the greatest number of persons apply the terms ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’ in the same way to the same things?

"Quite true.

"Or that again which most nearly approaches to the condition of the individual–as in the body, when but a finger of one of us is hurt, the whole frame, drawn towards the soul as a centre and forming one kingdom under the ruling power therein, feels the hurt and sympathizes all together with the part affected, and we say that the man has a pain in his finger; and the same expression is used about any other part of the body, which has a sensation of pain at suffering or of pleasure at the alleviation of suffering.

"Very true, he replied; and I agree with you that in the best-ordered State there is the nearest approach to this common feeling which you describe."

---The Republic, Book V

But in what modern society do we find even an approximation of this “common feeling”? Nowhere do we find a global or “general” will or uniformity of purpose; in none do we find everyone, in Plato’s words, applying the terms “mine” and “not mine” in the same ways to the same things. Instead we find millions of individual wills enthusiastically pursuing millions of individual purposes.

This view of the structure of modern societies is the organic fallacy.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » September 11th, 2019, 2:38 pm

GE Morton wrote:
There is a widely-held assumption that natural societies are "organic unities" --- organized systems of interdependent elements whose functions are coordinated and directed to a common purpose.
In wartime this is generally more the case than in peacetime. When the purpose is more urgent and is perceived to affect individuals directly the individuals are more coordinated and directed. So it's necessary that extinction of our species and other dependent species be regarded by individuals as immediate and urgent emergency as much so as outbreak of war.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Thomyum2 » September 11th, 2019, 4:37 pm

GE Morton wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 11:07 am
But in what modern society do we find even an approximation of this “common feeling”? Nowhere do we find a global or “general” will or uniformity of purpose; in none do we find everyone, in Plato’s words, applying the terms “mine” and “not mine” in the same ways to the same things. Instead we find millions of individual wills enthusiastically pursuing millions of individual purposes.
I quite disagree with this picture of modern human society - I think the reality does not reflect this at all. A hive of bees might appear to be a disordered collection of individual activities to a casual observer, but when those activities are understood you see an pattern aimed at a single goal. What you call a "common feeling" can be found just about everywhere you look - in the worlds of business, arts, sciences all, you find 'uniformity of purpose'. An individual cannot build a cell phone, nor perform a symphony, nor travel to the moon - yet all of the complex human accomplishments of the modern world have come about precisely through individual aligning, or even subjugating, individual purposes in order to enable something that is beyond the capability of an individual to become possible. Even the very act of speaking, or of having this very discussion presupposes a mutual understanding of a complex language vocabulary, structure and common usage. You don't have to have perfect uniformity in order to have common purpose. We have so much in common but we tend to focus on our differences and disagreements that we don't see it.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Felix » September 11th, 2019, 5:17 pm

GE Morton: "You ought to help persons in need when you can do so without reducing anyone else's welfare," also advances that goal, and that fact is also objective.
It should be obvious that if you start from your position that each person has their own subjective opinion as to what aims will contribute to or reduce their welfare, and one persons values are no better than any others, they are all equally acceptable, than it will not be possible to make an objective determination as to what will reduce everyone's welfare or fulfill their needs. What's more, such a moral theory will encourage people to place the fulfillment of their own subjective desires above the needs of others, i.e., helping others in need will always come second to not reducing one's own welfare, however one happens to define that.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Greta » September 11th, 2019, 5:46 pm

Greta wrote:
September 10th, 2019, 8:59 pm
GE, could you please point me to a system designed to allow all "agents in a moral field" to maximise their welfare?

I have seen systems that state that aim, but it's a lie, possibly a necessary one to keep the peace. If leaders were in a position to be honest they would admit that the society aims to allow a majority of "agents in a moral field" to maximise their welfare, but definitely not all. Note that, until the recent proliferation of part-time jobs, the economic system has always relied on an approximate unemployment rate of 5% for wage stability.

Societies at best are utilitarian, at worst, dictatorships. Their moral tenets are conditional and relative.
GE, thank you for the implied concession.

I guess it had to happen because your premise has been wrong all along, only based in theory and unable to deal with realpolitik.

No society has ever been interested in the welfare of all of its citizens. That is not the point. In fact, all citizens enjoying a positive lifestyle would destroy any large society of the world in all of history. They are as based on, and levered by inequality, as the human body; a brain comprising 2% of the body's mass consumes over 20% of the body's energy. Today, the richest eight people own more than the poorest 3.5 billion people.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » September 11th, 2019, 7:08 pm

Thomyum2 wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 4:37 pm
GE Morton wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 11:07 am
But in what modern society do we find even an approximation of this “common feeling”? Nowhere do we find a global or “general” will or uniformity of purpose; in none do we find everyone, in Plato’s words, applying the terms “mine” and “not mine” in the same ways to the same things. Instead we find millions of individual wills enthusiastically pursuing millions of individual purposes.
I quite disagree with this picture of modern human society - I think the reality does not reflect this at all. A hive of bees might appear to be a disordered collection of individual activities to a casual observer, but when those activities are understood you see an pattern aimed at a single goal.
I was speaking of modern (civilized) human societies above, not societies in general. Bees are "eusocial" animals; the structure of bee societies is much different from human societies.
What you call a "common feeling" can be found just about everywhere you look - in the worlds of business, arts, sciences all, you find 'uniformity of purpose'. An individual cannot build a cell phone, nor perform a symphony, nor travel to the moon - yet all of the complex human accomplishments of the modern world have come about precisely through individual aligning, or even subjugating, individual purposes in order to enable something that is beyond the capability of an individual to become possible.
That's perfectly true. As I said, one can find many cooperating groups with a common purpose --- thousands of them --- within the larger society. But the society as a whole is not one. None of those collective endeavors involve more than a very small fraction of the society's members.

Modern societies are rather like public playing fields. Many teams may use the field, each with its own game, its own gear, and its own rules. Players in one game give but cursory attention to other games being played elsewhere on the field. Unattached spectators may scan the field, pondering whether to petition to join one team or another, or remain free agents.

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