• Joshs
    1.1k
    In 1999 the social constructionist Kenneth Gergen penned an article about identity politics which I think is as pertinent now as it was then. While I’m not a social constructionist, I do reject, along with Gergen , the moral realism that turns so much of the political rhetoric on the left these days into a finger-pointing blamefulness. I’ m curious as to how many on this forum identify with Gergen’s non-blameful approach to moral issues.

    “By and large identity politics has depended on a rhetoric of blame, the illocutionary effects of which are designed to chastise the target (for being unjust, prejudiced, inhumane, selfish, oppressive, and/or violent). In western culture we essentially inherit two conversational responses to such forms of chastisement - incorporation or antagonism. The incorporative mode ("Yes, now I see the error of my ways") requires an extended forestructure of understandings (i.e. a history which legitimates the critic's authority and judgment, and which renders the target of critique answerable). However, because in the case of identity politics, there is no pre- established context to situate the target in just these ways, the invited response to critique is more typically one of hostility, defense and counter-charge.

    In its critical moment, social constructionism is a means of bracketing or suspending any pronouncement of the real, the reasonable, or the right. In its generative moment, constructionism offers an orientation toward creating new futures, an impetus to societal transformation.

    Constructionist thought militates against the claims to ethical foundations implicit in much identity politics - that higher ground from which others can so confidently be condemned as inhumane, self-serving, prejudiced, and unjust. Constructionist thought painfully reminds us that we have no transcendent rationale upon which to rest such accusations, and that our sense of moral indignation is itself a product of historically and culturally situated traditions. And the constructionist intones, is it not possible that those we excoriate are but living also within traditions that are, for them, suffused with a sense of ethical primacy? As we find, then, social constructionism is a two edged sword in the political arena, potentially as damaging to the wielding hand as to the opposition.”
  • Pfhorrest
    4.1k
    Constructivism claims that all assertions of supposed facts are in actuality just social constructs, ways of thinking about things put forth merely in an attempt to shape the behavior of other people to some end, in effect reducing all purportedly factual claims to normative ones. That is to say, in claiming that all of reality is merely a social construct, such constructivism reframes every apparent attempt to describe reality as actually an attempt to change how people behave, which is the function of normative claims.

    On such a view, no apparent assertion of fact is value-neutral: in asserting that something or another is real or factual, you are always advancing some agenda or another, and the morality of one agenda or another can thus serve as reason to accept or reject the reality of claims that would further or hinder them. This is simply the flip side of the same conflation of "is" and "ought" committed by scientism: where scientism pretends that a prescriptive claim can be supported by a descriptive claim, constructivism pretends that all descriptive claims have prescriptive implications.

    Constructivism responds to attempts to treat factual questions as completely separate from normative questions (as they are) by demanding absolute proof from the ground up that anything at all is universally factual, or real, and not just a normative claim in disguise or else baseless mere opinion. So it ends up falling to justificationism about factual questions, while failing to acknowledge that normative questions are equally vulnerable to that line of attack. Thus such constructivism is tantamount to cynicism with regards to factual questions, inevitably leading to ontological relativism.


    An objection to relativism is thus a reason to object to constructivism.


    In terms of moral relativism, there are three different senses of the term "relativism" discussed in the field of ethics:

    -One of those three senses, called "descriptive relativism", is merely the view that there are in fact disagreements about what is or isn't moral. I am not against that view, and I agree that there are in fact disagreements, quite obviously.

    -Another sense, called "metaethical relativism", is the view that in such disagreements, nobody can possibly be any more or less correct than anybody else, that there is no way of resolving such disagreements. That is the kind of view I am against, in that it claims that there simply are not universally correct answers to moral questions, only different opinions, none better or worse than any others.

    -The third sense, called "normative relativism", holds that because nobody can possibly be any more or less correct than anybody else, we morally ought to tolerate differences of moral opinion. While as already stated I disagree with the premise that nobody can be any more or less correct, I am nevertheless broadly sympathetic to the view that we ought to be rather tolerant of disagreement anyway.

    Though philosophers do not usually give them names, I think we could usefully distinguish between a similar three different senses of ontological relativism, or relativism about what is real.

    -One of those senses would hold only that there do in fact exist differences of opinion about what is real; and with that I would agree, just as with descriptive moral relativism.

    -Another sense would hold that in such disagreements, nobody is any more right or wrong than anybody else; and with that I would disagree, just as with metaethical moral relativism.

    -A third sense would hold that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to be tolerant of disagreements; and like with normative moral relativism, I would disagree with the premise of that, but largely agree with the conclusion: though it's possible that in disagreements about reality, someone is right and everyone else is wrong, we should generally be tolerant of such differences of opinion.


    The reason to be thus tolerant about differences of opinion, whether those are factual or moral opinions, is precisely because to do otherwise would lead to relativism. Universalism (of which the moral realism you contest is a species) logically demands freedom of opinion, unless it's also going to completely abandon criticism and take refuge in some kind of dogmatism. Unless someone's word could make it so, which it can't, to claim that something is universally right entails that any claim about what specifically that is might be incorrect, precisely because there is more to the claim than just an expression of subjective opinion.

    I suspect it's really the dogmatism you're against, and you think that relativism is the only alternative to it, but it's not. You can be both universalist and also critical. That's a no-brainer nowadays when it comes to claims about reality: all of the natural sciences are founded on a critical univeralist approach. It's kind of exasperating that so few people can even contemplate the possibility of it when it comes to claims about morality.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    Blame is tightly linked to moral judgement, and this is not at all specific to identity politics. For the purposes of making a distinction, we can identity two stages of moral judgement: first, judging some action as praiseworthy or blameworthy (or neutral), and then assigning praise or blame to those responsible, where appropriate. One may argue that the second stage is not moral as such, and that it is detachable from the first. One can pass the judgement but withhold the blame.

    In reality though, the two stages - judging and assigning praise or blame - often bleed into one another (for better or for worth). More importantly, withholding praise and blame implies not holding people responsible for their actions, and that is a dubious position*. By not holding people responsible for their actions we rob them of their agency, dehumanize them.

    * I should emphasize that withholding blame, for example, is not the same as forgiving: only the guilty can be forgiven.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    Constructivism claims that all assertions of supposed facts are in actuality just social constructs, ways of thinking about things put forth merely in an attempt to shape the behavior of other people to some end, in effect reducing all purportedly factual claims to normative ones.Pfhorrest

    Well, one can be a social constructionist about some specific area of human life, such as morality; it doesn't have to be a slippery slope. Being a constructionist about games, for example, wouldn't even be particularly controversial.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.1k
    One can use the notion of social constructs without endorsing constructivism, just like one can use science without endorsing scientism. In rejecting constructivism, I am not at all rejecting the employment of social constructs in the description of social behavior. I am merely against the claim that all of reality is merely a social construct, and thus that there there can be no mere attempts (however fallible) at description of a universal reality that are not implicitly pushing some prescriptive agenda.

    Social constructs are actually defined in a sense by their unreality: to say, for example, that money is a social construct, is to say that there is nothing intrinsic about gold, or seashells, or any other token of currency, that makes it really money, that could be found in a thorough description of the gold or shells or whatever themselves. Nothing is really money in any universal sense; things are only subjectively accepted as money by some people, and to say that something is money (to some people) is really to say something about the people (namely, that they will accept the thing in trade), not about the thing itself, but phrased in such a way as to project what the people think about the thing onto the thing itself.

    That is undoubtedly an indispensable concept for describing many social behaviors, but to say that all of reality is merely socially constructed is consequently to deny that there is anything really real about reality, or at least to refuse to even attempt to talk about it, or to believe that others are genuinely doing so, insisting instead that all that can be discussed is the things that people think about it, and how that effects what they think they should do.

    In any case, moral claims are not attempts at describing reality in the first place, so constructivism doesn't properly apply to them at all. Just interpreting moral claims as descriptions of reality gets you to effective moral relativism (inasmuch as nihilism is tantamount to relativism) already. Then applying constructivism to descriptions of reality on top of that would get you to some weird paradoxical view where moral claims are attempts at describing reality and attempts at describing reality are all just hidden moral claims in effect.
  • Harry Hindu
    4k
    Constructivism claims that all assertions of supposed facts are in actuality just social constructs, ways of thinking about things put forth merely in an attempt to shape the behavior of other people to some end, in effect reducing all purportedly factual claims to normative ones.Pfhorrest
    Then Constructivism is just another assertion of supposed facts that is actually just a social construction, ways of thinking about morality put forth merely in an attempt to shape the behavior of other people to some end, in effect reducing all purportedly factual claims to normative ones. So you never assert facts,, like what Constructivism entails,, only normative claims in an effort to manipulate others?? Why do you keep making this same mistake? You keep pulling the rug out from under your own argument.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    withholding praise and blame implies not holding people responsible for their actions, and that is a dubious position*. By not holding people responsible for their actions we rob them of their agency, dehumanize them.SophistiCat

    Yes, but the issue here is how such notions as responsibility and agency are to be understood from a social constructionist perspective. Gergen ( as well as Foucault) would argue that one could trace a genealogical history of changes in cultural understanding of these terms. For instance, for a Kantian, agency, character and responsibility are attributes of an autonomous subjectivity. Implied by this idealistic model of personhood and agency is the capacity to approximate moral correctness though successive approximations pointing to an asymptotic telos.Morality by this measure is conformity to the real, and the real is a pre-established objectivity.

    By contrast , social constructionism abandons the notion of correctness as conformity to empirical
    objectivity.

    A useful comparison would be in the realm of philosophy of science. In Popper’s Kantian falsificationist approach , one cannot definitely prove a theory correct , but one can falsify, because Popper assumes a non-culturally relative, universal standpoint from which to judge empirical validity. This is an empiricist ‘moralism’, allowing one to judge a theory with respect to a supposed universal yardstick, and thus to ‘blame it’ as wrong. By contrast , Kuhn’ s post-Hegelian philosophy of science denies that there is such a standard of validation that transcends the paradigmatic basis of local scientific practice. While some interpreters of Kuhn, like Putnam, hold onto a modified form of realism whereby he maintains that it is possible to adjudicate or translate between scientific paradigms ( and thereby assess empirical ‘blame’), others , including Gergen’ s social constructionism, deny this possibility. This does not mean that one cannot find one particular paradigm preferable to another , but one cannot ground this judgement in some universal scientific standard on the basis of which one can align different scientific theories. So in this way, Gergen’s approach denies the justification of ‘blame’ ( falsification) in science as well as in politics. So one is responsible for openness to new possibilities of seeing and negotiating new understandings with others, and one is responsible for avoiding blaming others for falling short of universal standards of moral correctness.
  • praxis
    3.2k
    ... social constructionism is a two edged sword in the political arena, potentially as damaging to the wielding hand as to the opposition.Joshs

    Which would ideally have a depolarizing effect.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    One would hope.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    moral claims are not attempts at describing reality in the first place,Pfhorrest

    If moral claims are not attempts at describing reality, are they not grounded in certain assumptions concerning the nature of reality( universality, transcendence
    of local cultural contexts of normativity, etc)
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    Yes, but the issue here is how such notions as responsibility and agency are to be understood from a social constructionist perspective.Joshs

    Is it really? You disclaimed that you are not a social constructionist; I understood your post as an invitation to comment on a specific thesis that you did endorse, not on social constructionist position as a whole.

    By contrast , social constructionism abandons the notion of correctness as conformity to empirical objectivity.Joshs

    Well, my response didn't assume or imply empirically objective moral standards, so I am not sure how this is relevant. As I said, all that is required for assigning praise and blame is (a) moral valuation and (b) personal responsibility. This should be compatible with most positions on the nature of morality.

    A useful comparison would be in the realm of philosophy of science.Joshs

    Frankly, I find this to be a strained comparison, and I am not sure what point you are trying to make here with respect to blameworthiness.
  • Joshs
    1.1k


    A useful comparison would be in the realm of philosophy of science.
    — Joshs

    Frankly, I find this to be a strained comparison, and I am not sure what point you are trying to make here with respect to blameworthiness.
    SophistiCat

    Could you elaborate on why it is a strained comparison? The point I am trying to make is that in order to assess moral blame one must have a justification for correctness that goes beyond mere local consensus.That is , one must believe local norma are rooted in something more universal.

    As I said, all that is required for assigning praise and blame is (a) moral valuation and (b) personal responsibility. This should be compatible with most positions on the nature of morality.SophistiCat

    I really want to know how YOU make use of moral
    valuation in your own life to assess blame. Give me an example of a moral claim that you have made recently concerning some issue of significance and how you ground that claim. That will give us something concrete to go on in the discussion.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.2k
    In 1999 the social constructionist Kenneth Gergen...Joshs

    Constructivism claims that all assertions of supposed facts are in actuality just social constructs...Pfhorrest

    As I understand it, social constructionism is the study of *which* and *how* social constructs are shared. Social constructivism is the theory *that* knowledge is socially acquired. They are not quite the same thing. The usual dismissal of social constructivism does not hold here.

    I'm not sure that dismissal is ever generally valid even of constructivism. At root it is about how we learn things through social interaction. Whether by lecture, by book, by conference or by journal, science is a social endeavour in which each individual acquires knowledge through interaction with others. If that society has some bad assumptions or biases, the individual will invariably learn those too. The classic, and perfectly valid, constructivist case in point is Freud.

    Strong social constructivism claims that most or all scientific knowledge is like this, while others are more interested in the extent to which this holds in the harder sciences. The former are obviously bonkers.

    Social constructionism by contrast takes a social construct as its starting point, for instance an historical account of money, or systems of morality. It is the objects themselves that are of interest, not how knowledge is transmitted (although how knowledge is transmitted *into* constructs is relevant).

    Unless you believe in divine revelation or some such, you'd probably agree that, to some extent, our morals are derived from our interactions with others: how we are taught by our parents, our teachers, our clergy, our peer groups and the media. As Pfhorrest knows, I actually don't think that morality is fundamentally like this, rather what we do with our morality is *altered*, rather than created, by society. We have built in moral rules, but we learn exceptions to those rules through social interaction.

    Pfhorrest is a moral objectivist insofar as he believes there is exactly one correct answer to all moral questions but I don't think relativism versus objectivism is particularly relevant here. There may indeed be correct answers to moral questions, but that makes no odds to someone who learns *these particular moral rules* from their interactions. One can have a socially constructed morality and still be right or wrong. A strong social constructivist would say that objective moral truths have little to no influence on the moral rules people learn, and I think they'd be close to being right.

    Like social constructivism, identity politics can yield a spectrum of claims. Eddie Izzard recently changed his (past) preferred pronoun to she (present), but said she doesn't care which people use. This is identity politics -- Izzard had established a preferred policy regarding her identity -- but it is not the sort of "fascist" identity politics that the right-wing like to accuse people like Izzard of. What are like that are those who would not only be outraged if someone now called Izzard "he", even though she's fine with it, but would be outraged that I referred to her past pronoun as "he" (a la dead-naming). Like strong social constructivists, these have a technical name: assholes.

    The historic reason for identity politics is that some social constructs regarding people are harmful. Racism, misogyny and homophobia attempt to establish a natural order with straight white heteronormative people at a supremum and different people at lower strata. Such schemes are oppressive. Since these people are not open to integration and will support the perpetuation of oppressive structures, usually while denying they exist, the oppressed reassert their identities as positive qualities to challenge normalised constructs with negative connotations.

    Identity politics is a social construct that is really the flip side of another, oppressive social construct. Gay pride is not an obviously useful construct except in the context of (especially religiously-fuelled) homophobia. Likewise black pride, black power, and BLM.

    The problem is that these counter-oppressive identity politics can end up looking as oppressive as the social constructs they sought to challenge, and they often do so by confusing legitimate criticism of new forms of oppression with the original oppressive constructs. Two cases in point are people's reluctance to criticise Israel and the accusations of anti-Semitism they receive when they do, and their reluctance to criticise the excesses of feminism (such as a recent call to presume men guilty until proven innocent) for fear of being accused of misogyny.

    If there's a common theme here, it's that sound ideas run amok, and vested interests use this as a means of dismissing the sound idea along with its extreme and absurd conclusions. Or, more briefly, there's assholes of all sizes.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    The historic reason for identity politics is that some social constructs regarding people are harmful. Racism, misogyny and homophobia attempt to establish a natural order with straight white heteronormative people at a supremum and different people at lower strata. Such schemes are oppressive. Since these people are not open to integration and will support the perpetuation of oppressive structures, usually while denying they exist, the oppressed reassert their identities as positive qualities to challenge normalised constructs with negative connotations.Kenosha Kid

    Would you say that your characterization of those who are named by categories such as racism, misogyny and homophobia is compatible with Gergen’s
    characterization of ‘those we excoriate’? Do you mean such terms as oppression and harmful in a way that takes into account that from their own perspective , those who are ‘guilty’ of being oppressors act from intentions as noble as we feel our own to be, and that inevitably, our own preferable perspective will appear to another group in a future era as oppressive?

    is it not possible that those we excoriate are but living also within traditions that are, for them, suffused with a sense of ethical primacy?Joshs
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.2k
    Do you mean such terms as oppression and harmful in a way that takes into account that from their own perspective , those who are ‘guilty’ of being oppressors act from intentions as noble as our own, and that inevitably, our own preferable perspective will appear to another group in a future era as oppressive?Joshs

    No, I don't. These traits are examples of hypocrisy: the people who do them wouldn't have them done back to them also. But how oppressive people feel about it isn't pertinent to my point, which concerns why their victims engage in identity politics. I would think that their oppressors thinking themselves noble would only justify their counter-narrative all the more, from their point of view.

    Would you say that your characterization of those who are named by categories such as racism, misogyny and homophobia is compatible with Gergen’s
    characterization of ‘those we excoriate’?
    Joshs

    I'd say they all belong to a specific subclass of that class, sure. First and foremost, they are those who excoriate. Second, they are excoriated in turn.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    No, I don't. These traits are examples of hypocrisy: the people who do them wouldn't have them done back to them also.Kenosha Kid

    We tend to accuse others of hypocrisy when we are unable to understand their thinking from their own point of view. It’s one of the favored words of blameful
    politics, which is why it is used so often both on the right and the left.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.2k
    We tend to accuse others of hypocrisy when we are unable to understand their thinking from their own point of view. It’s one of the favored words of blameful
    politics, which is why it is used so often both on the right and the left.
    Joshs

    I mean hypocrisy in its strict sense, e.g. espousing rules but holding themselves or others as exceptions. That's not really a subjective opinion; it follows from logic.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    That's not really a subjective opinion; it follows from logic.Kenosha Kid

    I’ve heard tell that logic is grounded in intersubjectivity.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.2k
    I’ve heard tell that logic is grounded in intersubjectivity.Joshs

    Even as a construct, it's the same construct everywhere. The laws of logic are independent of opinion, even if they're arrived at by consensus.
  • Wayfarer
    11.3k
    Unless you believe in divine revelation or some such, you'd probably agree that, to some extent, our morals are derived from our interactions with others: how we are taught by our parents, our teachers, our clergy, our peer groups and the media.Kenosha Kid

    I think the Western ethical systems were clearly grounded in 'divine revelation or some such'. It provided a common ground, or the sense of a supreme end, to which all were oriented, and which put an obligation on all members of the society to help one another. Hence the notion of 'commonwealth'.

    This was originally a kind of contract, or actually, covenant, whereby salvation was guaranteed on the basis of faith. I'm sure this was a factor in the emergence of the notion of universal human rights, although I don't know if there's much consensus on that. But the salient point was the universalist claims of Christianity - 'Catholic', after all, means 'universal'. All mankind, including the least, socially outcaste, poor, and sick, was the subject of the 'divine plan'. That is one of the main foundations of Western invidualism. However with the advent of secular culture, the sense of the infinite worth of each individual has been retained, but the corollary of religious faith abandoned. Hence the individual is the ultimate arbiter of truth. I'm sure that is a major factor in many of these arguments and conflicts.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.2k
    I'm not questioning the positive impacts of Christianity on the course of morality; I'm well in agreement. The point was about the origins of those oughts: someone who believes in a more literal interpretation of the Bible, for instance, will likely disagree that our moral *knowledge* is acquired socially, on the grounds that, at root, it came from divine revelation (even if that revelation was later shared socially, e.g. by preaching, teaching or printing and reading Bibles). An atheist like my hellbound self would more likely say that the Bible encoded existing human ethics arrived at through social interaction, even if those ethics weren't universal, were waning even.

    I'm actually somewhere in between, insofar as I believe that those social interactions were heavily biased by biology in a direction quite parallel to what was later encoded in Jewish and more so Christian values. I don't argue this is a priori knowledge, it's not knowledge at all, but it's not purely emergent from social interaction either.

    My point was just that an individual's moral knowledge being arrived at through social interaction -- even if not a universal belief -- is not as controversial a belief as those who are quickly critical of social constructionism would make out.
  • Joshs
    1.1k



    Even as a construct, it's the same construct everywhere. The laws of logic are independent of opinion, even if they're arrived at by consensus.Kenosha Kid

    But logic is meaningless apart from the opinion( axiom) that it applies to. Your axiom or hypothesis concerning certain others is that they are espousing rules but holding themselves or others as exceptions.

    I mean hypocrisy in its strict sense, e.g. espousing rules but holding themselves or others as exceptions. That's not really a subjective opinion; it follows from logic.Kenosha Kid

    But I suggest you may be led to this hypothesis by your exasperation over not being able to fathom how they could justify to themselves in good faith certain behaviors towards others. The key here is your interpretation. of how they are perceiving the rules. If the rules mean the same to them as they do to you, then yes, they would be hypocrites. But the source of most moral and political conflicts , like those ripping the world apart today, is that the world views by which rules are interpreted are incommensurable with each other.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.2k
    But logic is meaningless apart from the opinion( axiom) that it applies to.Joshs

    But that axiom is not a personal opinion.

    But I suggest you may be led to this hypothesis by your exasperation over not being able to fathom how they could justify to themselves in good faith certain behaviors towards others.Joshs

    That's merely a claim that the reasons I give are not my true reasons and what you think my reasons are are the true ones. There's nowhere for that conversation to go. You can either trust me to represent myself as accurately as I can and, assuming I reciprocate, we can have a meaningful dialogue, or else you can assume anything I say is suspect and this amounts to nothing. Your call.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    That's merely a claim that the reasons I give are not my true reasons and what you think my reasons are are the true ones.Kenosha Kid

    No no no. I believe they’re absolutely your true reasons. I’m not saying you’re making anything up or fooling yourself. To demonstrate what I mean we’d have to make this concrete. Give me an example of a homophobe who is acting hypocritically with regard to rules and I’ll try and suggest what I think you may be missing about how they are interpreting their rules, and thus why their are being consistent even as they act in ways that appear oppressive or harmful.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.2k
    Give me an example of a homophobe who is acting hypocritically with regard to rules and I’ll try and suggest what I think you may be missing about how they are interpreting their rulesJoshs

    I think I've already told this anecdote, but I'm old now so I take great pleasure in repeating the same stories and nauseum.

    One of my best friends was once homophobic and I actually convinced him to about face on it precisely because it was hypocritical (he agreed). His first objection regarded anal sex, but I asked him what he thought about himself having anal sex with a woman or enjoying a pornographic film of a man having anal sex with a woman and he conceded that he was down with that. His second objection regarded same-sex relationships, so I asked him how he'd feel about watching two women having sex and he was, again, down for it. (If anyone ever tells you porn isn't good for anything, remember this! :rofl: )

    This was a very liberal guy when it came to *his* sexual activity: promiscuity, infidelity, picking drunk women off nightclub floors, anal, threesomes, some pretty exploitative behaviour... He held himself to absolutely no external standard whatsoever. And yet he held gay men to severe and arbitrary standards with values that only applied to them, no one else. That is hypocrisy. Not: this is an outrage!!!! hypocrisy. Just, dispassionately, it is inconsistent and biased toward himself and away from others.

    Generally I think a good measure of hypocrisy is the veil of ignorance. If it seems unlikely that someone would espouse a value if their place was switched with who that value harms, it's probably held hypocritically.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    Great story. Ok, here’s an idea that comes to mind. It may or may not apply to your friend , but I think it gets to the heart of at least one aspect of homophobia. Males brought up in our society are encultered into an ethos of masculinity and I think this explains an apparent double standard with regard to attitudes toward male homosexual behavior vs lesbianism( or I should say, the idea of two women having sex, which is not necessarily the same thing). I think it also explains what a number of women I’ve known have told me, which is that even though they consider themselves heterosexual, the idea of sex with another woman was not repulsive to them. This runs directly counter to what most self-declared heterosexual men I know feel about the idea of sex with another man, which is that the idea horrifies them.

    I think the reason for this is that the idea of masculinity engrained in us sees affection between two men as a sign of weakness and a violation of that manliness , whereas two women being affectionate with each other doesn’t violate the conventional idea of femininity. So it’s possible that your friend was instinctively offended by male to male anal intercourse and relationship for this reason.
    One way to test this out with your friend is to ask him whether he is more comfortable with a male who ‘tops’ another man anally as opposed to the one being the ‘bottom’.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.2k
    So it’s possible that your friend was instinctively offended by male to male anal intercourse and relationship for this reason.Joshs

    Oh, it's absolutely certain that's a factor, as was the homophobic culture he was raised in.

    This conversation has featured anal sex much more than anyone was expecting.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    I wonder if pornhub has a discussion section.
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    Could you elaborate on why it is a strained comparison? The point I am trying to make is that in order to assess moral blame one must have a justification for correctness that goes beyond mere local consensus.That is , one must believe local norma are rooted in something more universal.Joshs

    I don't want to digress into philosophy of science and falsificationism. I think you made your point clearly as it is. What I don't understand is why you think that holding someone morally responsible requires a commitment to moral objectivism. I haven't picked up any clues from what you've said here.

    I really want to know how YOU make use of moral valuation in your own life to assess blame. Give me an example of a moral claim that you have made recently concerning some issue of significance and how you ground that claim. That will give us something concrete to go on in the discussion.Joshs

    I am puzzled by this request. How would it help the discussion? The common ground for both moral valuation and attribution of agency is me. I may or may not perform some moral reasoning in arriving at the conclusion in any given scenario, but as long as some conclusion is reached on both counts, I just don't see how I could go on to deny that someone did something praiseworthy or blameworthy.
  • Joshs
    1.1k
    What I don't understand is why you think that holding someone morally responsible requires a commitment to moral objectivism. I haven't picked up any clues from what you've said here.SophistiCat

    Give me an example of what it could mean to hold someone morally responsible without a commitment to moral objectivism. More specifically , give me an example of what it would mean to hold someone morally accountable if we follow Gergen’s perspective:

    is it not possible that those we excoriate are but living also within traditions that are, for them, suffused with a sense of ethical primacy?Joshs

    Can we hold someone morally accountable if we believe that they acted with the best and most noble intentions , and that their ‘failing’ was not one of bad intent but rather of a limitation in their worldview that they couldn’t have been expected to recognize? This is Gergen’s perspective and one I agree with. Do you agree with it? What I’m asking is, can we hold someone morally blameful if we completely sympathize with their intent and know that anyone would have done the same in their shoes? Does the issue of blame even come up here?
  • SophistiCat
    1.6k
    Give me an example of what it could mean to hold someone morally responsible without a commitment to moral objectivism.Joshs

    I will humor you with an example, if you insist. Someone I know was beaten and robbed in the street. That person suffered a concussion and a broken bone as a result. I hold the perpetrators morally responsible for what they did, because (a) they did it, and (b) what they did was wrong. Whether the act was objectively, universally wrong is simply beside the point; all that matters, as far as me holding people morally responsible, is how I relate to the incident.

    Once I have given a moral assessment of an act, it would simply be incoherent for me to then say that no one is morally responsible for it. An act can only be morally charged if it is performed by a moral actor, and a moral actor is morally responsible by definition. No one would be morally responsible if the person in my example was mauled by a bear instead of being assaulted by hoodlums. But that is why we wouldn't qualify that as a moral act - it would be an accident.

    More specifically , give me an example of what it would mean to hold someone morally accountable if we follow Gergen’s perspective:

    is it not possible that those we excoriate are but living also within traditions that are, for them, suffused with a sense of ethical primacy?
    Joshs

    I intentionally led with an example that was not of this sort (I think we can all agree that violent street criminals are not "suffused with a sense of ethical primacy.") I can supply another, but my interpretation won't be much different. What matters is that someone did something blameworthy in my assessment. The actor may have a different take on it. You or Gergen may have a different take on it. But moral valuation is not a view from nowhere - it is personal. So you ask me and I give you mine; it can't be someone else's.

    Can we hold someone morally accountable if we believe that they acted with the best and most noble intentions , and that their ‘failing’ was not one of bad intent but rather of a limitation in their worldview that they couldn’t have been expected to recognize? This is Gergen’s perspective and one I agree with. Do you agree with it?Joshs

    To some extent. Moral valuation is not a simple function of the facts of the case. Knowing the background of an act and the actors, sympathizing with their circumstances and empathizing with their feelings can influence how we assess culpability. What I don't agree with is that moral vision must be aperspectival, that as long as someone else sees things differently than me, I am not entitled to my own point of view.
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