Staredit Network > Forums > Lite Discussion > Topic: Moral relativism
Moral relativism
Mar 23 2013, 6:29 pm
By: payne  

Mar 23 2013, 6:29 pm payne Post #1

:payne:

I have been struggling with this idea lately: it seems like it is impossible to prove a value, or morality, to be superior to another. This leads to moral relativism (or moral nihilism).
Thus, how can we justify any type of coercive social order? Isn't anomie the logical system that would rise from this premise?
One might be tempted to appeal to utilitarianism to solve this conflict by saying that a coercive social order might create more benefit in general for individuals, but doesn't that in itself assume and put forward the idea that happiness (or well-being, or whatever you want to call it) is something to be striven for, as if it was something to be absolutely "good"?
(Now comes the problem of defining "good", which I must admit, I do not really have an answer to that.)

I'm actually having problems presenting this problem properly, so I'll just hope that people understand.



None.

Mar 23 2013, 6:34 pm Oh_Man Post #2

Now on ICCUP, channel donuts

Ever heard of this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressivism




Mar 23 2013, 6:41 pm payne Post #3

:payne:

Couldn't we argue against that by using the concept of "social constructs"? That is, if saying "X is bad" is supposed to represent your feeling toward "X", can't we argue that this doesn't really hold any value since the reason why you feel this way about "X" stems from a social construct? (Or I might be misunderstanding the concept.)



None.

Mar 23 2013, 6:46 pm Sacrieur Post #4

Still Napping

There's always hedonic calculus.



None.

Mar 23 2013, 8:04 pm Biophysicist Post #5



Sacrieur, I know this is light discussion, but it is a serious topic and should be treated as such and with proper philosophical rigor. I'd advise editing your post to define your terms.

Now, OP, you seem to be taking the position that all ideas of morality are taught by society, and therefore hold no value. However, I contend that your are wrong on two points, the first of which I will address here. Let us assume that people in a "state of nature", that is those who have never been in any form of society, have no concept of morality. This is implied by the statement "ideas of morality comes only from society", as, if that is true, people without a society would have no idea of morality. Where then would a society get its ideas of morality? A human with no data on a subject can arrive at no conclusions about that subject, because that person is unaware that the subject even exists. For example, suppose a race of photosynthetic aliens exists, who neither need to eat nor are capable of doing so. This race would have no concept of food, and as such could arrive at no conclusions about it. So, if people outside of society have no ideas of morality, then where does society get the ideas of morality to teach people inside it? It would be an example of what is sometimes called "bootstrapping". In other words, there has to be somewhere for the concept of morality to enter the human mind; if it does not in some manner come from people themselves, society would not have anywhere else to get the idea in the first place.

Of course, all that I have proven so far is that people must have some idea of morality, not necessarily that their idea of it is correct or corresponds to anything that actually exists. However, is it not the case that every other idea humans naturally have relates in some manner to something real? To demonstrate, I will ask you to come up with something that neither exists nor has any relation to anything that exists, except that it is unlike it. You will find, I think, that this is impossible. So, if you cannot come up with something utterly unrelated to anything real, why does almost everyone come up with some idea of morality, if that idea is indeed unrelated to anything real?

The second problem, which leads to a much stronger argument, with this position is that it assumes everything society comes up with is artificial and that that means it has no value, but does not prove this. Let me define "society" as "a group of people working towards the greatest common good". This is a bit of an incomplete definition, but for our purposes it should suffice. Now, in order for society to meaningfully exist, there has to be some things that are naturally good. What exactly those things are is another matter entirely; however, if we accept my definition, and there is nothing inherently good, then society's value depends on that natural good's existence. Of course, one could argue that society does indeed have no value, and I will attend to that point if asked. But for now, let us assume that a properly-ordered society works towards some good which exists. Now, in philosophy, evil is commonly defined simply as the opposite or lack of good, and morality is defined as acting for good things and against evil things. If good exists, and evil is its opposite, then morality must also exist.

Now, this is not a bulletproof argument, nor is it intended to be. Rather, the purpose of this post is to see how you reply to it, and which portions you disagree with. If you agree with X, Y, and Z, but not with A, then there is not much point discussing X, Y, or Z, but instead we should focus on A. As such I did not attempt to make every single point completely compelling, simply because that could take pages, and that could lead to things getting muddied.



None.

Mar 24 2013, 8:36 am payne Post #6

:payne:

Quote from Biophysicist
A human with no data on a subject can arrive at no conclusions about that subject, because that person is unaware that the subject even exists. For example, suppose a race of photosynthetic aliens exists, who neither need to eat nor are capable of doing so. This race would have no concept of food, and as such could arrive at no conclusions about it. So, if people outside of society have no ideas of morality, then where does society get the ideas of morality to teach people inside it?
If we think about how microwaves were invented, from an accident that is, we can understand how certain things can be discovered without having prior knowledge. The whole field of Physic Theoretical Research is riddled with ideas that do not necessarily abide to our current conception of reality, and we end up accepting one theory not because it seems to make sense, but because it ends up being supported by empirical scientific results.

In the case of the emergence of morality within societies, what if it was simply the strongest individual that would be violent toward other individuals for undefined (read: random) reasons. Over time, there is a certain chance that those random acts of violence somehow end up being similar in certain ways, and the brutalized individuals would rationalize that character to be the source of their pain and would thus do their best to avoid doing it. On the course of a single generation, we can postulate that parents will do their best to educate their children to not do what they think to be the source of pain. And here we are already with a basic form of morality that emerged from nowhere. That's just one theory, though.
Another way of seeing it is to think in terms of genetics and our determined behaviours: we are hard-wired to do certain things that benefit our survival. Over time, certain tendencies probably became the norm, and started being perpetrated by societies. But can we affirm that "natural" things are good? How can we prove that benefiting humanity is indeed what is "good"?

Also, an argument often used when discussing moral relativism is the fact that if you study different civilizations, you often see how moral values can be extremely different. Surely there has been certain societies that thought killing each other, stealing each other, raping each other, or whatever, was right (I however have no evidence backing that up).

Quote from Biophysicist
Of course, all that I have proven so far is that people must have some idea of morality, not necessarily that their idea of it is correct or corresponds to anything that actually exists. However, is it not the case that every other idea humans naturally have relates in some manner to something real? To demonstrate, I will ask you to come up with something that neither exists nor has any relation to anything that exists, except that it is unlike it. You will find, I think, that this is impossible. So, if you cannot come up with something utterly unrelated to anything real, why does almost everyone come up with some idea of morality, if that idea is indeed unrelated to anything real?
What came to mind when reading this was the fact that we are not necessarily always able to grasp fully certain concepts (infinity, god, void/nothingness, etc.). Do we know those things to be real? Or are they pure fictions?
Also, your questions here all relate to what is "real". But how do we know what is "real"? Without knowing this, it is hard to be able to make sure that anything is part of, or outside of reality.

Quote
The second problem, which leads to a much stronger argument, with this position is that it assumes everything society comes up with is artificial and that that means it has no value, but does not prove this. Let me define "society" as "a group of people working towards the greatest common good". This is a bit of an incomplete definition, but for our purposes it should suffice. Now, in order for society to meaningfully exist, there has to be some things that are naturally good. What exactly those things are is another matter entirely; however, if we accept my definition, and there is nothing inherently good, then society's value depends on that natural good's existence. Of course, one could argue that society does indeed have no value, and I will attend to that point if asked. But for now, let us assume that a properly-ordered society works towards some good which exists. Now, in philosophy, evil is commonly defined simply as the opposite or lack of good, and morality is defined as acting for good things and against evil things. If good exists, and evil is its opposite, then morality must also exist.
I've addressed this issue in my response to your second paragraph: "natural" does not equal "good".

Post has been edited 1 time(s), last time on Mar 24 2013, 8:44 am by payne.



None.

Mar 25 2013, 10:38 am Sand Wraith Post #7

she*

bullshitfuckme

Post has been edited 3 time(s), last time on Aug 30 2014, 8:30 pm by Sand Wraith.




Mar 25 2013, 5:14 pm payne Post #8

:payne:

Quote from Sand Wraith
Dear diary,

[...]

etc.
What the hell did I just read? Were you under the effects of psychedelics when you wrote that? (This is not meant to be an aggressive comment, but rather a good explanation of how puzzled I am after reading this.)

Out of what I think I might have understood, I feel like you misunderstand what moral relativism is. But I'm not even sure, because I can't even quote you on something that'd actually point out why I feel like you misunderstood this topic.

Quote from Sand Wraith
All this means, payne, is that you should continue being a piece of shit social service-leeching peacebringing flower-wearing tree-hugging communist nigger. Cuz I'd honestly rather have more people like you in the world than fat, disgusting capitalist swines who don't know shit and akfiheiqoueiwufnamhroe.
I'm also hoping this is not an actual proper depiction of how your perceive me (and capitalists, for that matter) to be because it is quite prejudicial.



None.

Mar 26 2013, 2:52 am Sand Wraith Post #9

she*

bullshit fuck me

Post has been edited 4 time(s), last time on Aug 30 2014, 8:27 pm by Sand Wraith.




Mar 28 2013, 11:56 pm EzDay281 Post #10



Quote
Thus, how can we justify any type of coercive social order?
If you have accepted moral nihilism, then why are you looking to "justify" something in a moral sense?
In the context of nihilism, justification has just lost meaning.



None.

Mar 29 2013, 1:38 am payne Post #11

:payne:

Quote from EzDay281
Quote
Thus, how can we justify any type of coercive social order?
If you have accepted moral nihilism, then why are you looking to "justify" something in a moral sense?
In the context of nihilism, justification has just lost meaning.
I guess what I am looking for is a way to get away from nihilist thoughts? Hence the use of the word "struggling" in the OP.



None.

Mar 29 2013, 6:18 am Sand Wraith Post #12

she*

bullshitfuckme

Post has been edited 1 time(s), last time on Aug 30 2014, 8:28 pm by Sand Wraith.




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