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Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

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Plaffelvohfen
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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Plaffelvohfen » March 15th, 2019, 8:45 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
March 15th, 2019, 6:10 pm
It seems plaffelvohfen that, with Putnam, you are approaching an absolutist position, one which I hold. For if facts are entangled with values, and, as Wittgenstein said, value, ethical value, is absolute, and this entanglement is essential and therefore inextricable, then the conclusion would be that facts are absolutes, further given that ethical(aesthetic) value is present in all facts.
I was just listing answers to the is/ought problem, not endorsing anyone of those per se... ;)

I have not read Wittgenstein's work, I'm aware of Tractatus and the "picture theory" but little more... So little time to spend for a whole lifetime... :|

I have not yet found a holistically satisfying, working definition for "what is morality", and It may be that this definition I'm after, rests on the horizon of my being, in plain sight yet forever out of reach so I can't grab and share it... But, in regards to the is/ought problem, I'm leaning in favor of adding a goal to the formulation, to me it seems to capture a little bit more of my intuition of "what is morality". Maybe that's why I find Sam Harris Landscape appealing, who knows...

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by jonathan » March 15th, 2019, 11:03 pm

JosephM wrote:
March 14th, 2019, 6:19 pm
Moral relativism is not bad for society. Society makes its adjudication ( theoretically) through a legal system, not morality.

Moral relativism when taken to its proper extreme , leaves individuals responsible for their own moral behavior ,
How so? Responsible to whom?
JosephM wrote:
March 14th, 2019, 6:19 pm
and undermines the critical judgement and imposition of others.
What if the morality I’ve chosen for myself happens to be a very pushy and judgmental morality?
JosephM wrote:
March 15th, 2019, 7:19 pm

That would be moral relativism again , just on a societal scale.
The problem coming with- adding a moral weight to what was secular law -, is that now there is an expectation of hatred for anyone who falls on the wrong side of the law.
You are in the process of creating a hatred filled , antagonistic society , of bigots :) and none of us want more of that , do we?
Does this contradict what you said above? You said that moral relativism is not bad for society. Yet here you say that when we have moral relativism on a societal scale, we create a hatred-filled, antagonistic society of bigots, which none of us want. The only qualifier seems to be “adding a moral weight to what was secular law,” — but isn’t the whole point of laws, secular or otherwise, to have moral weight, especially if morality is relative to culture? Or how else do we determine what a culture’s morality is other than its laws?

Furthermore, this seems to me the logical conclusion of cultural relativism. If culture is the ultimate arbiter of what is right or wrong (relatively), then our own culture is right for itself by virtue of being itself, and we agree with our own culture only by virtue of being part of that culture. Which is essentially tribal loyalty. So when cultures clash, it’s one tribe against another. And if there’s no extra-cultural framework for determining which of two conflicting cultures’ moralities is the correct one, then there's no way to settle disputes other than by force. The victory will go to whoever is strongest — might makes "right." If there's no hope of meaningful cross-cultural moral arguments, we're essentially forced to become hateful, antagonistic bigots if we are to preserve our culture's values against opposition.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Hereandnow » March 16th, 2019, 6:39 am

Plaffelvohfen,

It is to me the most important issue in philosophy, that of value. If you are interested you can read wittgestein’s lecture on ethics online. Just google it and this very short but important bit will come up as a pdf. Ethics is so utterly weird because the good and bad of it are not apparent in logic or objects. I mean, suffering and delight are bad and good in a way that defies understanding. Sure, the suffering, the broken bones, the burns and thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to are descriptively there, but the BAD is these, the ethical bad is not part of these factual conditions. It’s really quite, well, invisible. Without doubt ethical good and bad, value, is the oddest thing in existence, is that is where it is. And yet it is by far the most salient feature of our being here.
To understand this one has to look at the kind of good and bad that is clear and unproblematic, and that would be contingent value, as a sharp knife is good contingent upon one’s needs. Not good if the knife is for A Macbeth performance but good for the kitchen. The sharpness is is not absolutely good. It is a good that changes according to context. Absolute good is of course always good. Etc. see Wittgesteins very clear lecture.
The question I gave on this matter is why ethical goods and bads are not facts in the world.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » March 16th, 2019, 12:45 pm

Plaffelvohfen wrote:
March 15th, 2019, 11:48 am
It's not a fallacy, it's a problem, a good one sure, but it still can be answered.
Well, that depends upon one's epistemological view of the issue. :-)
For example, Jackson's moral functionalism offer compelling counter-examples. Putnam argues that the distinction between fact and value is not as absolute as Hume envisioned and that it can be said that this "is/ought" problem is just denying ethical realism, excluding values from the domain of facts.
As I mentioned before, it is helpful (and indeed essential) not to conflate values (good/bad) with moral precepts (right/wrong), to lump deontology (theories of moral rules) and axiology (theories of value) together. They are separate and distinct concepts and require separate analysis.

A value is a "pseudo-property" imputed to a thing (which can by anything) by a moral agent. It denotes the desirability of that thing to that agent. "Good" and "bad" are value terms, the former denoting something having positive value, a thing deemed desirable and worth seeking by an agent, the latter something having negative value, a thing deemed undesirable and worth avoiding. The measure of value (or disvalue) is given by what that agent would give up to procure (or avoid) that thing.

Values are inherently relative to agents, but value claims can be objective and cognitive, provided a valuer is specified. E.g., "The value of x to P is V" can be determined empirically by observing P's behavior with respect to x. So there are indeed value "facts."

A value proposition which does not specify, or at least imply, a valuer is non-cognitive, and meaningless.

Since values are inherently relative to agents, they cannot serve as the bases of a universal, objective set of moral rules. The latter must be consistent with natural facts about humans and human societies that are objective and universal, but none of those facts by themselves can give answers to whether a given act by moral agent is (morally) right or wrong. Churchland's efforts to elucidate primal instincts that give rise to typical primate behaviors provide no answers to whether Alfie's killing of Bruno was right or wrong. Instincts or propensities honed over a million years of primate evolution may well elicit behaviors that are wrong, per a sound moral theory.
A simple solution is through the addition of a goal to the formulation. The problem can therefore be bypassed with a simple if: "If you want to achieve goal X, you should do Y which has been shown to lead to X."
Yes, indeed. As I've argued elsewhere on this forum, once a goal of a moral theory has been agreed upon, then the "oughts" in the principles and rules developed become instrumental "oughts," (e.g., "If you wish to drive a nail, you ought to get a hammer"), not mysterious "moral oughts."

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=15887&p=323813&hilit=hammer#p323575

But that move does not eliminate the need for at least one normative premise, or axiom, upon which to build the theory. That goal itself will have normative content.
It all comes down to whether one thinks it's possible to have an adequate working definition of "moral" or not . . .
I agree. My definition of "morality" is, "A set of principles, and rules deriving therefrom, for governing interactions between agents in a moral field (a social setting)."

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Hereandnow » March 16th, 2019, 4:12 pm

Plaffelvohfen,

A case in point about how adamant the consensus is about this, see GE Morton’s “since values are inherently relative to agents they cannot serve as universal moral rules. It fails to see that the same claim could apply to reason. Reason is in its actuality just as localized as value: it is squarely within an agents restricted domain Of experience. The difference here is only that reason is readily communicable and value is not, or is limited and it is through this that disagreement arises. Universality is what is because it is universally acknowledged. If we could communicate our feeling, our value priorities just as readily there would be no disputing the matter of x being good and the like.
The trouble with thinking like GE Morton is that it loses sight of value as the essence of morality in the recognition of a disparity in ethical judgments and a determination to account for this by treating judgment and ethics as different things and ultimately denying analysis to value as such altogether.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Plaffelvohfen » March 16th, 2019, 5:30 pm

GE Morton wrote:
March 16th, 2019, 12:45 pm
Plaffelvohfen wrote:
March 15th, 2019, 11:48 am
It's not a fallacy, it's a problem, a good one sure, but it still can be answered.
Well, that depends upon one's epistemological view of the issue. :-)
True... :wink:
GE Morton wrote:
March 16th, 2019, 12:45 pm
As I mentioned before, it is helpful (and indeed essential) not to conflate values (good/bad) with moral precepts (right/wrong), to lump deontology (theories of moral rules) and axiology (theories of value) together. They are separate and distinct concepts and require separate analysis.
I agree, it's essential to distinguish between those and linguistic being what it is, it's easy to fall into traps, I often do I'm afraid...
As an aside, on right/wrong, would I be correct in saying that those terms carry a sense of "goal" in themselves? As in; they need context to mean anything?
GE Morton wrote:
March 16th, 2019, 12:45 pm
Churchland's efforts to elucidate primal instincts that give rise to typical primate behaviors provide no answers to whether Alfie's killing of Bruno was right or wrong.
With regards to Churchland, I don't mean to say that research in neuroscience will tell us anything about axiology or deontology per se, but I do think that it will open up new horizons where we might discover new facts in regards to the nature of consciousness and these might have repercussions on how we approach axiology and deontology. Of course, we're very, very far from there mind you but considering the speed at which we progressed so far and if the cosmos doesn't kill us first, well... ;)

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » March 17th, 2019, 11:13 am

Plaffelvohfen wrote:
March 16th, 2019, 5:30 pm

As an aside, on right/wrong, would I be correct in saying that those terms carry a sense of "goal" in themselves? As in; they need context to mean anything?
They always do when used in the instrumental sense (which constitute most occasions when those words are used). E.g., "Use the right tool for the job;" "Do it the right way, not the easy way;" "He used the wrong method and got a wrong answer;" "I took a wrong turn and ended up in Hoboken."

If a moral goal is agreed upon, then "right" and "wrong" have the same instrumental sense: a given act either does or does not advance that goal, which is (in many cases) an objective fact empirically verifiable. The act is morally right or wrong only because the goal is a moral one.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » March 17th, 2019, 11:16 am

"The act is morally right or wrong only because the goal is a moral one." I.e., the terms have no "special" moral sense.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by h_k_s » March 19th, 2019, 2:55 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?
Are we forced to reject moral relativism ?!

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » March 19th, 2019, 8:06 pm

GE Morton wrote:
March 17th, 2019, 11:16 am
"The act is morally right or wrong only because the goal is a moral one." I.e., the terms have no "special" moral sense.
So the act is right or wrong relative to the goal. That's insufficient. Not only is the act right or wrong relative to the goal but also the act is right or wrong relative to the amount and quality of knowledge and judgement that has preceded it.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » March 19th, 2019, 11:16 pm

Belindi wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 8:06 pm
So the act is right or wrong relative to the goal. That's insufficient. Not only is the act right or wrong relative to the goal but also the act is right or wrong relative to the amount and quality of knowledge and judgement that has preceded it.
I think you're confusing the (moral) rightness or wrongness of an act with its blameworthiness or praiseworthiness. An act may be wrong because it thwarted the goal, but if the agent acted with inadequate or inaccurate knowledge, but with good intentions, he may not be blameworthy. One can only act on the basis of the information available, and we are often forced to act with incomplete information.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » March 20th, 2019, 5:47 am

GE Morton wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 11:16 pm
Belindi wrote:
March 19th, 2019, 8:06 pm
So the act is right or wrong relative to the goal. That's insufficient. Not only is the act right or wrong relative to the goal but also the act is right or wrong relative to the amount and quality of knowledge and judgement that has preceded it.
I think you're confusing the (moral) rightness or wrongness of an act with its blameworthiness or praiseworthiness. An act may be wrong because it thwarted the goal, but if the agent acted with inadequate or inaccurate knowledge, but with good intentions, he may not be blameworthy. One can only act on the basis of the information available, and we are often forced to act with incomplete information.
Morality of any collective originates in social consensus even when that social consensus is created by the rulers.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » March 20th, 2019, 10:39 am

Belindi wrote:
March 20th, 2019, 5:47 am

Morality of any collective originates in social consensus even when that social consensus is created by the rulers.
Groups don't have moralities, Belindi. Only moral agents do. It is true, of course, that the private moralities of many people are absorbed, with little analysis or reflection, from their personal social circles (parents, teachers, friends, etc). It is also true that people with similar or at least compatible moralities may join together to practice and promote their views. They would be collectives. But modern civil societies are not collectives.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » March 20th, 2019, 11:24 am

GEMorton, your usage of 'morality' is not the same as mine. Mine is sociological. A society is not a society unless there is a working consensus of what the members of it ought to do.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Theophane » March 20th, 2019, 12:30 pm

Intellectual_Savnot wrote:
March 14th, 2019, 12:39 pm
And yes, legally, we are forced to accept these things.
Moral relativism undermines the foundation of law, does it not? Post-modernism makes a mockery of it.

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