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Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

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Greta
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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Greta » July 13th, 2019, 5:15 pm

aveenire wrote:
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.
It's no consolation but I feel your pain :)

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 13th, 2019, 11:01 pm

aveenire wrote:
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.
You seem to be parroting Greta. If not, it is tough to determine what are your main points, since this is the only comment you've posted in this thread.

???

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Sculptor1 » July 14th, 2019, 6:20 am

Greta wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 5:14 pm
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.
Well indeed. We also learn of the huge semantic limitations of communication; out lack of being able to clearly convey our emotions; and inability to fully express communicate pain both physical and mental.

Fortunately the number of GE Morton's in this world are low; those who would reduce morality to a simple algorithm. Unfortunately such psychopathy does seem to exist in high places such as the Tory leadership contest.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 14th, 2019, 1:49 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 12:29 pm

Then you are doing a fine imitation of one, for conservatives, for example, would like to dismantle government agencies that assist the poor.
That is true of some conservatives (others support certain programs). The opponents are inconsistent, however: they generally support government subsidies to farmers, various industries ("corporate welfare"), local governments, local schools and colleges, etc. Libertarians oppose government subsidies and free lunches for anyone.
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.
I'd agree that compassion, empathy may underlie moral concern. But they don't contribute constructively to sound moral principles or rules; indeed they can lead to irrational and profoundly immoral ones. A competent moral philosopher, when "sorting out [moral issues] in subsequent thought," puts his passions and sympathies aside, and considers the impacts and consequences of a proposed rule dispassionately.

I agree, however, that incorporating "certain organizational features to make it run better" has no moral content. Morality is not about making society "run better."
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.
The term "oppression" tends to be inserted by rote in discussions of this sort. It needs to be defined. If "unequal access to education and quality living enviroments" are the definitive earmarks of "oppression, then you are using the term frivolously. There is no "unequal access to education," at least in the US (of which I'm aware). Every community has a public school system open to all children in that community. Nor are schools in poor neighborhoods funded less generously than schools in wealthier neighborhoods in the same community. Indeed, they are often better funded. Nor, BTW, is there any correlation between per pupil school spending and educational performance. The District of Columbia, for example, spends >$19,000 per pupil per year, but its students' performance, as measured by the NAEP, is 49th in the nation. New York State spends > $20,000, but its NAEP score is "average," while Utah and Idaho spend about $7000, and their students' scores are above average.

https://www.creditsesame.com/blog/educa ... education/

No amount of money can educate kids who are incapable or uninterested in learning, or whose parents don't send them to school.

And, of course, we've already covered the "quality living environments." Those are created by the persons living in them, and can only be improved by those people. They have to cease tolerating the gangs and their crimes, the drug-dealing, the casual vandalism, the petty thievery. When they encounter those acts they have to cease looking the other way, and instead tackle the perpetrator, summon the cops, and hold him down until they arrive. They have to cease allowing their kids to run unsupervised, and to skip school. They have to stop making babies they cannot afford to support. They have to start watering their lawns, hosing down the sidewalks, cleaning up the trash the instant it appears, repairing broken windows immediately, and making sure whoever broke it pays for it. They have to forgo buying that bag of weed or that fifth of Jim Beam and spend the money on a gallon of paint or on a planter and some petunias.

There is no "oppression," Hereandnow, though the environment may indeed be oppressive. But that is a result of the inhabitants' own behaviors; it is not inflicted upon them by malevolent outside forces. People are oppressed when they are jailed for practicing a certain religion, or tortured or killed for criticizing the government, when they are forced to labor on collective farms, when their honestly acquired property is confiscated by the State, leaving them impoverished, or when they are exiled to a gulag for failing to praise Big Brother with sufficient enthusiasm. North Koreans are oppressed; the Russian kulaks were oppressed, as were German Jews in the '30s. Americans living in poor neighborhoods are not "oppressed" in any legitimate sense of the term.
Resentment, envy, these are not to measured as such, but in a context fairness.
I'd agree that resentment is justifiable if one is treated unfairly. But don't equate "fairness" with "equality." You are not treated unfairly merely because you are less wealthy than someone else; you are only treated unfairly if you produce as much as someone else, but are paid less. If you give nothing and as a result receive nothing that is perfectly fair.

(more later)

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Gertie » July 14th, 2019, 4:16 pm

GE Morton wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 1:07 pm
Gertie wrote:
July 12th, 2019, 7:59 am


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?"
Above my pay grade to set the rules! Once I get past ''Try to be happy and try to be kind'' it gets remarkably complicated very quickly. An all purpose set of rules will always have failings I think, because of the reasons previously mentioned.

But if we at least have the justified grounding of the well-being of conscious creatures against which to measure our individual actions and the way we organise society, we have a rough direction to follow.

Which imo your individual-libertarian focus would often deviate from. But we've been round that track a few times now, and never get anywhere, so I'll leave it there.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Greta » July 14th, 2019, 5:42 pm

GE Morton wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 11:01 pm
aveenire wrote:
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.
You seem to be parroting Greta. If not, it is tough to determine what are your main points, since this is the only comment you've posted in this thread.
Maybe you could accept that this is what you do rather than reflexively attack?

It is true that you ignore or distort people's main points and distract with minor technicalities and it is frustrating.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 14th, 2019, 7:19 pm

Greta wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 5:42 pm

It is true that you ignore or distort people's main points and distract with minor technicalities and it is frustrating.
Well, you levied that charge earlier. I listed what I took to be your main points, and rebutted each. I also asked, if those were not your main points, to tell me what they were. You didn't answer the rebuttals to the listed points, and responded to the question with an ad hominem.

Logic and scientific method are technical matters, Greta. Those technicalities are what differentiates a sound theory from nonsense.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 14th, 2019, 7:25 pm

Gertie wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 4:16 pm

Above my pay grade to set the rules!
No, it isn't. You don't have to set them, only derive them from what you know to be the case regarding human nature and the social setting. You're probably better qualified to draw out those rules than most of the others here.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 14th, 2019, 9:41 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
July 13th, 2019, 12:29 pm

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.
Well, we might thank God were it true. But in fact we are forced to help them (via tax dollars) whether we wish to do so or not, regardless of whether giving that help coincides with our own interests and priorities (which reduces our own quality of life), and regardless of whether they deserve the help or not.

There is certainly nothing wrong with helping others in need, and indeed, a duty to do so can be be derived from my postulates. But it is a conditional duty, conditioned upon whether the distressed person is responsible for his own distress, and upon whether he has done what is within his power to do to relieve it. No agent has a duty to incur costs to himself to aid another who is himself unwilling to incur those costs. (A conclusion derivable from the postulates).

Beyond that "public" duty to aid, every agent is also free to render aid to anyone he wishes, pursuant to some private morality that he embraces, with or without any conditions. But he is not entitled --- nor allowed --- to force others to act in accordance with his private morality. Any such forcing violates the Equal Agency postulate.

So if you believe that someone is "oppressed" (per your private definition of "oppression) you may aid him as generously as you please. But you must allow others to follow their own private moralities. Private moralities may not violate rules of the "public morality."
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.
Egads.
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 . . .
Well, earlier you claimed it was. But no matter.
. . . 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.
You are paraphrasing Rawls here. Yes, the "distribution of talents," as Rawls says, is neither just nor unjust. "These are simply a natural facts. It is what we do about them that is just or unjust." But what he and you overlook is that there is no obvious duty to do anything about a natural fact that is neither just nor unjust. You, and he, are admitting that the distribution of talents is neither just nor unjust, that it is morally arbitrary, and then immediately propose actions that presume that it is not arbitrary, that it is unjust, and that that injustice must be rectified. That is a glaring non sequitur.

The reasoning underlying this logical lapse is, I believe, the equation of justice with material equality, together with the assumption that material equality is the morally favored ideal. Hence, per this reasoning, a distribution of something that is unequal is per force unjust. That is a specious definition of "justice," and no argument is ever offered for considering material equality to be an ideal, or indeed, to have any moral significance at all. Robert Nozick noted, "while there is no shortage of presumptions in favor of [material] equality, there is a surprising dearth of arguments supporting that presumption."

If you have such an argument I'd be delighted to hear it.
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.
Er, no. We "allow" him to have his fortune because he earned it. And because he earned it he deserves it. That is the only basis upon which anyone deserves anything --- what one deserves is a function of one's acts. The winner of an Olympic sprint deserves the Gold Medal. The 3rd grader who aces her spelling test deserves a gold star. The worker who puts in his 40 hours deserves his paycheck. The person who commits a murder deserves to be imprisoned. The boy who hits his little sister deserves a swat on the butt and confinement to his room for the rest of the day. Etc. No one deserves anything merely because they exist; their deserts are determined by what they do. The former is a perversion of the concept.
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?
Nope. Einstein did not deserve to be a genius; Gates did not deserve to be a whiz-bang programmer with a bright idea, the determination to pursue it, or the luck to realize it before someone else did. Those are all morally arbitrary facts. But morally arbitrary facts do not give rise to moral duties or justify moral complaints. Whining about the "unfairness" of Mother Nature is sophomoric and idle. What justifies praise or blame is what one does with the hand one is dealt. The fairness of the dealer is beyond the scope of morality.
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.
Oh, my. What does that mean? The predictive power of a theory or hypothesis is simply the extent to which it accurately predicts an effect from an ostensible cause. It is a straightforward, uncomplicated, empirical matter. "Human neurological physiology" has nothing to do with it; that is extraneous metaphysical gibberish.
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?
Their educations are only "inferior" in the sense that the outcomes are inferior, not because the schools are inferior. The "learning environment" is the product of the students, their parents, their peers, their neighborhood, not the product of the school faculty or facilities or the citizens who pay for them.
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.
If there is a "failure of analysis," for whatever reason, then that A,B,C are efficient causes of D is not established. If there is a corrrelation less than unity between those factors, then there may be another factor that is the cause of all of them.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Belindi » July 15th, 2019, 11:31 am

GE Morton wrote:
There is certainly nothing wrong with helping others in need, and indeed, a duty to do so can be be derived from my postulates. But it is a conditional duty, conditioned upon whether the distressed person is responsible for his own distress, and upon whether he has done what is within his power to do to relieve it. No agent has a duty to incur costs to himself to aid another who is himself unwilling to incur those costs. (A conclusion derivable from the postulates).
How might you establish criteria for the pathologising of self harm?

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 15th, 2019, 1:11 pm

Belindi wrote:
July 15th, 2019, 11:31 am

How might you establish criteria for the pathologising of self harm?
I'm not sure what you're asking, Belindi. Can you elaborate?

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Felix » July 15th, 2019, 2:06 pm

Does anyone here find GE Morton's superficial idiological assumptions and irrelevant statistics to be persuasive? Can't imagine they would impress anyone with any real world experience.
"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 Belindi » July 15th, 2019, 5:22 pm

Belindi wrote:
July 15th, 2019, 11:31 am
GE Morton wrote:
There is certainly nothing wrong with helping others in need, and indeed, a duty to do so can be be derived from my postulates. But it is a conditional duty, conditioned upon whether the distressed person is responsible for his own distress, and upon whether he has done what is within his power to do to relieve it. No agent has a duty to incur costs to himself to aid another who is himself unwilling to incur those costs. (A conclusion derivable from the postulates).
How might you establish criteria for the pathologising of self harm?
In other words do you agree that if a free adult person attempts self harm others should try to protect them from themselves?

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by Greta » July 15th, 2019, 6:45 pm

GE Morton wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 7:19 pm
Greta wrote:
July 14th, 2019, 5:42 pm

It is true that you ignore or distort people's main points and distract with minor technicalities and it is frustrating.
Well, you levied that charge earlier. I listed what I took to be your main points, and rebutted each. I also asked, if those were not your main points, to tell me what they were. You didn't answer the rebuttals to the listed points, and responded to the question with an ad hominem.

Logic and scientific method are technical matters, Greta. Those technicalities are what differentiates a sound theory from nonsense.
You did not rebut them, you diddled around the bush with more tricks, distractions and diversions as you always do without getting to the meat of the matter.

Logic and the scientific method are critical. It's a shame that you prefer gaming and manipulation to using those tools.

Yet you still cannot deal with the fact that reality does not provide the objective moral playing field that your red tribe claims. You are in fact the anti-science one. Ask any scientist about how objective reality - and especially morality - is and they will all support me 100%.

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Re: Are we forced to accept moral relativism?

Post by GE Morton » July 15th, 2019, 7:08 pm

Belindi wrote:
July 15th, 2019, 5:22 pm

In other words do you agree that if a free adult person attempts self harm others should try to protect them from themselves?
Depends on the circumstances. If the self-harm is about to be inflicted due to ignorance (the person doesn't know what he is about to do will harm him), or if informed but the act is an attempt to escape some temporary stress and the person would regret it later, then, yes, others should intervene.

If it is fully informed and the person is not under any sort of duress, then, no. If Evel Knievel wishes to risk his life trying to leap the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle, or if someone with a painful terminal illness wishes to commit suicide, that is their decision to make. No one should interfere.

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