• Judaka
    1.1k
    Whether you agree with moral relativism or not, what we call morality is a perspective present in pretty much everyone we know. There is disagreement but there is not an absence - broadly speaking. Which is to say that certain people may, for instance, have very few moral positions when it comes to animals but they will still care deeply about how children or older people are treated. For the people who have these opinions, the relativism of their positions doesn't matter.

    That is what my thread is about, what does it mean or what would it mean if morality is relative?

    A common criticism of moral relativism is that it demeans morality, it means that we have to be tolerant of other points of view on moral issues. That is a choice and it's one that almost no one actually makes. Moral relativism is almost certainly on the rise and yet we are also at a time where society is the least tolerant of traditionally evil acts than it has ever been.

    Moral relativism is not an obstacle to being passionate about your moral positions, this passion can be unforgiving and unrelenting. Moral relativism doesn't mean being amoral and realistically being amoral seems to be a genetic abnormality. We do not get to choose whether we think in moral terms, it is part of our biology. That is why you are not going to see a decrease in the interest and passion of thinking about things in moral terms - as you haven't.

    What is moral or immoral has changed enormously even just over the past 30 years, let alone a century or two. Moral relativism in my view, is just saying, hey, morality is changing according to a variety of factors and this is observable. I still feel disgust, anger, outrage - towards immoral acts but what I find immoral is not the same as what you find immoral and there are reasons for that.

    The idea of moral positions being equal within the framework of a moral relativist is ridiculous, it is not based on observation of moral relativists but ones own unrealistic interpretation. In deciding whether morality is relative or absolute, you are not deciding much. Either way, you were born with a strong proclivity to see things in moral terms, you will develop opinions on the topic of morality and your opinions will be accompanied by a strong emotional response - that's just you being a normal person.

    Whether you believe you are objectively correct or you recognise your subjectivity, the way morality functions for you logically, psychologically and emotionally are virtually the same. You will be just as capable of being horrified, disgusted, outraged and passionate. That's not to say that how it works is identical for everyone but it's definitely not determined solely by whether you beleive morality is relative or not.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    974


    Moral relativism in my view, is just saying, hey, morality is changing according to a variety of factors and this is observable.Judaka

    Yes, morality has changed. What you're describing here is descriptive moral relativism (just basically a factual description of the world, yes, moral norms have changed and continue to change). When philosophers argue against moral relativism they're arguing against prescriptive moral relativism: The view that morality on a fundamental level is always to be viewed relative to something (usually to some time or place) and that other standards cannot be privileged over that.
  • Judaka
    1.1k

    Fair point, I view all characterisations as subjective and moral or immoral are there too. I don't believe the distinction matters for the topic but you were right to point out this difference. Do you think the distinction matters within this context or were you just pointing out my inaccuracy?
  • tim wood
    6.5k
    The question becomes not what grounds morality - I buy the argument that strictly speaking there is no ground. At the same time I am in all the ways listed above opposed to moral relativism. But how can that be? Neither grounded nor relative?

    One answer lies in considering ships at sea. To be anchored is usually understood to be anchored-to, even if the "to" is unspoken. The properly maintained and deployed anchor finds bottom and hooks it, becomes grounded in it, and by it the ship holds its place with-respect-to. At sea, of course, this just isn't possible, though ships at sea still need a capability to anchor. Which is realized in the use of a sea-anchor. That is, in a very real sense the ship self-anchors in respect of itself and the sea it finds itself in.

    Anchors in themselves are a function: they save the ship from damage or destruction. So, ultimately, with morality. But it's a mistake to suppose the ship morality anchors fixed forever in one place, nor one anchor able to do all the jobs of holding, in all possible circumstances. Morality itself, then, becomes self-grounding. Not, is it like something it isn't, some ideal of itself, but rather that which holds and secures that which must be held and secured. It doesn't attach, then, but rather itself is.

    This metaphor becomes convoluted, but then morality itself is not simple, though in the moment dictates of morality can be. Ultimately what morality secures and holds from destruction is itself. As noted above, we are inevitably moral creatures. Loss of morality means loss of self. So we hold to ourselves, self-anchoring in the various gales and tide-ways that may occur. If a good bottom, so much the better, but a bottom not the touchstone of the matter.

    No external absolutes, then. Rather instead the question, is this action to be taken now moral? And a best answer assayed. And that answer being determined is not in-itself relative, but is itself moral.
  • Philosophim
    530
    Pure moral relativism is a translation for, "Morality is an opinion". Such assessments of morality are cop outs because such a morality is useless. Its just a disguise for, "I can't figure it out, so let people do what they want". I call such moral relativism whateverman morality.

    Any good moral relativism theory is going to have some common objective basis between two apparently separate moral ideals.

    For example, (I apologize if this is grizzly) but many people think it is immoral to kill a baby. However, what if we take a situation in Nazi Germany, that a group of Jews are hiding under a house, and one woman has a baby. If the German's find the Jews, they will be brought to concentration camps...and you know how this ends.

    Unfortunately, the baby starts to fuss. The only way the woman can quiet the baby enough is to stifle its ability to breath. For a time, this won't hurt. But unfortunately the German's will be staying longer than the baby can breath and stay alive. Any attempt to let the baby breath, will result in a gasp and a cry.

    If the woman has to suffocate the baby, do we call her moral, or immoral? The whateverman moralist would say, "Sure, if they think it is.". But a more discerning moral relativist would try to find a common thread between the two. Yes, there were two opposing actions of moral claim, "A baby being killed, versus we shouldn't kill babies". But surely the reasoning behind both moral claims has a common thread?

    Which leads to this point. If there is a common thread, can we truly say, "the way morality functions for you logically, psychologically and emotionally are virtually the same"? What if its not our common emotions, but a common reasoning behind morality? And what if even if our emotions do not bring us disgust, there are actions that we should or should not do regardless?

    Just a line of thought to consider.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    What you're describing here is descriptive moral relativism (just basically a factual description of the world, yes, moral norms have changed and continue to change). When philosophers argue against moral relativism they're arguing against prescriptive moral relativism: The view that morality on a fundamental level is always to be viewed relative to something (usually to some time or place) and that other standards cannot be privileged over that.BitconnectCarlos

    A common criticism of moral relativism is that it demeans morality, it means that we have to be tolerant of other points of view on moral issues.Judaka

    There are more than just two things to be differentiated here. Besides descriptive relativism, there are also meta-ethical relativism, which is what Carlos is talking about (the truth or falsity of moral claims is relative), but also normative moral relativism, which is what Judaka mentions here (we ought to tolerate behaviors that our morals say are bad because our morals are just relative). You can be the former without being the latter, and you can also be very tolerant of other cultures and practices without being a relativist of any kind — in fact, many think normative moral relativism is simply incoherent, because that “ought to tolerate” seems to be a universal moral claim.

    Take me for instance. I’m a moral objectivist, or universalist, and I think we ought to be very tolerant of a wide variety of behaviors, because a lot of things are just not morally relevant at all, and a lot of the remaining things vary widely in their morality by context, and it’s often very uncertain whether a particular context even is the one in which something would be immoral, and even if it is, we are often not in a position where it would be morally right to intervene.

    So on my account people who do intervene in circumstances where it’s not their place, where they can’t be sure it’s wrong, because it might not always be wrong, or might not even be the kind of thing that could be wrong... those people are doing something morally wrong, by being thus intolerant of things that might be fine or are none of their business. They’re doing something objectively, universally morally wrong by being intolerant.
  • Judaka
    1.1k

    I see.

    Normative moral relativism just seems to be an interpretation of what to do because of moral relativism. I have complained in the past that for either descriptive relativism or the meta-ethical relativism often include (like nihilism) interpretations about what it means to agree with descriptive relativism or meta-ethical relativism.

    Here's an example.

    https://tinyurl.com/y42zp3za

    "Moral relativism is the idea that there is no universal or absolute set of moral principles. It’s a version of morality that advocates “to each her own,” and those who follow it say, “Who am I to judge?”"

    I can get behind the first sentence, not exactly what I would have said but whatever it's a reasonable attempt. The second sentence is clearly an interpretation of what to do as a result of the first sentence. If when I say I believe in moral relativism I am saying that I am advocating a "who am I to judge?" mentality then this is pretty annoying. Is this kind of cultural interpretation of relativism a component of the definition?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Neither grounded nor relative?

    One answer lies in considering ships at sea.
    tim wood

    For a moment I thought you were going to make the same analogy I do:

    Don’t try to stand on the bottom. There is no bottom, the sea is infinitely deep. But that doesn’t mean you have to sink forever. You can just float on the surface, so long as you let go of anything that would pull you down.

    This is a metaphor for falsificationism vs justificationism, and I think the same thing applies morally as it does factually. Everything and its negation is possible — morally speaking, it’s permissible — until it can be shown wrong. It is the possibility of showing wrong that makes for objectivity.
  • opt-ae
    33
    Our parents have morality; we have morality - parent morality is guidance to kin morality, until that kin becomes a parent.

    My mother's and father's morality, was enough righteous for me to become wise; that being so, I now rule my own mind without parental guidance.

    Earth has parental morality, it parents kin, and I have parental morality, but I don't parent kin other than my heart.

    I can be good to myself, and to others, but my good doesn't mean Earth must be good, to me.

    A God's morality is thought of as morality which is in the most high position in a hierarchy. If I claim that 'something is evil', it means nothing - a super-morality is required.

    Let's take Earth as the closest super-morality; there are common wants and needs, of people (who are a part of Earth), and judging by the majority vote, too much pain is evil.

    Let's take the universe as another example, planets and stars form harmonious families so judgement is anti-family-harmony is evil.

    That doesn't mean that too much pain or anti-family-harmony must be evil to everyone, it's just in the case of the super-morality-agents.

    I want you to reset your mind here, and think about this; God watches over you and says 'I find this evil', then do you say "I find this evil too", or do you point yourself at the good-route based on a God's lesson?

    What I'm proposing is everything I said prior to the previous paragraph was false, due to the fact I'm not talking in proper language.

    If God finds thus evil, I do not find thus evil, but I repent God's evil to be good (I'd exchange God for 'super-morality' but I don't know how to type that).
  • Judaka
    1.1k

    What if its not our common emotions, but a common reasoning behind morality? And what if even if our emotions do not bring us disgust, there are actions that we should or should not do regardless?Philosophim

    The reason I reject "common reasoning" is that morality is not based on reasoning, a psychopath is not someone who thinks differently, they're wired differently. Just as we know killing a baby is wrong - even if we never sat down and thought about it. There aren't any serious philosophy forum threads about "is killing your baby immoral?" because we don't need to have these kinds of discussions. Why is that?

    The only time we ever have to think about it is precisely the instances where we have either a moral conundrum like you have given, or there is a struggle between acting morally versus some other desire. We may have to extrapolate our base moral instincts to a more complicated topic as well.

    I don't think any such situation will be avoided or be made easy by any approach to morality, not in reality at least.

    I agree that moral relativism shouldn't mean the dissolution of moral importance, I am really not sure how many people advocating moral relativism are meaning it in this way.
  • Banno
    11.7k
    Seems as ethical claims are more than claims of personal preference. Ethical claims invoke a move such as that from "I choose not to eat meat" to "you should choose not to eat meat". The move from what I chose to what others should choose.

    If that is so, it is difficult to see how moral relativism could count as a coherent ethical position.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    I can get behind the first sentence, not exactly what I would have said but whatever it's a reasonable attempt. The second sentence is clearly an interpretation of what to do as a result of the first sentence. If when I say I believe in moral relativism I am saying that I am advocating a "who am I to judge?" mentality then this is pretty annoying. Is this kind of cultural interpretation of relativism a component of the definition?Judaka

    Well, there are multiple definitions, which is why we've invented different qualifying terms to distinguish between them. That article you linked seems to be weird in that it lists the three different kinds of moral relativism correctly, but then also at the start and end talks about them like they're all the same thing.

    It sounds like you are a meta-ethical moral relativist. If you say exactly that then nobody who understands the different kinds of moral relativism should think that you mean a "who am I to judge?" kind of attitude. But most people aren't going to understand the different kinds of moral relativism, and will think, like whoever wrote that article, that they're all the same thing: that acknowledging that there are disagreements (descriptive) means thinking nobody is more or less right or wrong than anybody else (meta-ethical) and therefore we ought to tolerate all our differences (normative).

    You'll probably just have to clarify the difference between them and state which of them you support if you want to be understood correctly.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    morality is not based on reasoning, a psychopath is not someone who thinks differently, they're wired differentlyJudaka

    Psychopathy doesn't have to have implications on behavior. Psychopaths can behave morally even if they don't have the empathy that drives people to behave morally.

    I've wondered sometimes if I might have something in the direction of psychopathy. I rarely actually feel emotionally upset about other people suffering. I am able to tell how other people feel very well, and I intellectually do not want other people to suffer, but it doesn't actually hurt me emotionally to see other people suffer. (Normally. Most of last year, something weird came over me, and sent me into a crazy existential dread where I was constantly worried about the likely death to predation of every cute bunny I saw in the meadow, and things like that). 9/11 didn't faze me, for instance; "just another huge tragedy somewhere on the other side of the continent like happens all the time, now I have a job interview to get ready for" was my thought process that morning. (I was also too young to realize the geopolitical ramifications that would stretch beyond that one event, though).

    I've often felt like people who only do moral things because of emotional reactions have a shallow, fickle sense of morality. I try to do what is right because I think it is the right thing to do. I try to figure out what is or isn't right to make sure that when I'm trying to do the right thing, the thing I'm trying to do is actually the right thing, and I don't end up some well-intentioned extremist. In contrast, people who only do whatever they feel is morally right, just because they feel like it, don't seem like people who are actually acting out of any kind of moral duty.

    It's sort of the moral equivalent of people who believe things uncritically, just because they heard someone say it or read it somewhere and it seemed truthy to them. That seems to be most people, and doing what feels like the moral thing to do because they feel like it seems to be most people too, but both of those seem like a very shallow, fragile, easily corrupted and highly fallible ways to go about deciding what to think and what to do, in contrast to, you know... actually reasoning about these things critically.
  • Judaka
    1.1k

    Well I would say both descriptive and meta-ethical moral relativism is true. Nihilism has a similar problem where people project their interpretations of what it would mean if they were a nihilist to them onto you. For Nihilism, that's the "there's no point in living" type thing

    In contrast, people who only do whatever they feel is morally right, just because they feel like it, don't seem like people who are actually acting out of any kind of moral duty.Pfhorrest

    Well, I think that's exactly why people are moral though I disagree with degrading it.

    I agree that psychopaths can believe in morally, or rather that something like an A.I. without our biology could intellectually appreciate the idea of morality. Psychopaths do things like torturing animals which a normal person wouldn't even dream of. Even that you care about bunnies, if someone abused a bunny in front of you, I doubt you would dream to tolerate such a thing and that's something I commend. However, from you feeling that way, to me commending it, that's not moral theory, that's just you being you and me being me.

    I like to think about an A.I. who doesn't have our biology but is capable of intelligence, what positions do I think they can reach? Can they be jealous? Can they feel guilt? We can see that animals besides human care about fairness, they can feel jealousy. For us humans, fairness and jealousy can be deeply intellectual but that doesn't mean they're based on reason - sometimes it's actually very obvious they're not. Morality is the same.

    We all have different personalities and attitudes, your approach to morality is probably just different to others.

    It's sort of the moral equivalent of people who believe things uncritically, just because they heard someone say it or read it somewhere and it seemed truthy to them.Pfhorrest

    I'm not sure, what do you mean by just feel like it?

    There's a YT channel I like to watch sometimes called "the dodo" and it's just short documentaries on animals who got may have gotten adopted or developed an unusual friendship with other animals. Of course, we project our feelings a bit but the friendships can be really adorable, I can see that the people really care about these animals and really want what's best for them. I cannot imagine these feelings NOT affecting their moral positions on issues surrounding animals.

    This is why I get annoyed because although the bias is fairly obvious, animal lovers wanting to protect animals, their passion and love is endearing, why shouldn't they be passionate about moral issues surrounding animals. Why shouldn't I - as someone who also likes that stuff - be horrified and angry about the prospect of their mistreatment also? Why demean this powerful feeling? I think all of this is what makes us human.

    Sometimes it's not emotional, but, it's like having good manners or finding certain provocative behaviour embarrassing or respecting peoples personal space. I think just doing it is good enough, being a moral person generally just means being biologically normal and having a stress-free healthy upbringing. Whether you have very well thought-out moral positions or you just kind of do what you feel like, the end result is probably pretty similar.
  • Tzeentch
    993
    To a moral relativist, what is the purpose of morality?
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Well I would say both descriptive and meta-ethical moral relativism is trueJudaka

    Yes, each later type of relativism assumes the previous types.

    Descriptive: "People disagree about what's moral or immoral..."
    Meta-ethical: "...and none of them are more or less correct than any others..."
    Normative: "...so we should all tolerate each other's differences in behavior."

    something like an A.I. without our biology could intellectually appreciate the idea of morality.Judaka

    Yeah, that's generally how I feel about myself.

    I get emotionally upset about things that impact me directly, but I could, largely, ignore everyone else's suffering. Except that I think I shouldn't. I think the correct way for people to behave generally is to act in a way that minimizes the suffering of others, and I am a person so I should behave that way too; it would be inconsistent for me to do other than what I think people in general ought to do. Whether or not I feel like it isn't relevant, except inasmuch as my feelings might interfere in my doing what I think I ought to.

    I've done right by people that I hated before, even though I'd rather have watched them suffer, because I thought that I ought to and I was able to override the feelings to the contrary. People who only do what's they feel is right because they feel like it seem unlikely to do something like that; if they want to see someone suffer, they'll invent a reason why that person "ought" to suffer to justify allowing it to happen, and not care whether or not that "reasoning" is consistent with their other reasoning about other people in other circumstances.

    I'm not demeaning people having feelings that incline them to do things they ought to do. I'm very happy that people generally have feelings that more or less incline them to more or less usually do things they more or less ought to do, because most people don't think past those feelings. But their feelings can often lead people to do bad things instead, and I'd much rather that more people actually stop and think about what is or isn't actually the right thing to do, than just do what they feel like, even though it's good that they pretty often feel like doing things that are pretty okay.
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    If the woman has to suffocate the baby, do we call her moral, or immoral? The whateverman moralist would say, "Sure, if they think it is.". But a more discerning moral relativist would try to find a common thread between the two. Yes, there were two opposing actions of moral claim, "A baby being killed, versus we shouldn't kill babies". But surely the reasoning behind both moral claims has a common thread?Philosophim

    Well, what is it then? We've been at this for 2000 years, we've either found out what this common thread is or we must surely, on pain of pure dogmatism, concede that there very likely isn't one.

    Seems as ethical claims are more than claims of personal preference. Ethical claims invoke a move such as that from "I choose not to eat meat" to "you should choose not to eat meat". The move from what I chose to what others should choose.

    If that is so, it is difficult to see how moral relativism could count as a coherent ethical position.
    Banno

    A few hundred years ago everyone spoke freely as if there were a god. Most still do "God willing", "For God's sake", "God save us". Does that mean that atheism is incoherent, because people speak as if it were? It sounds like a very odd argument to say that simply because people speak as if there were an objective moral standard, it must be the case that there is one.

    I get emotionally upset about things that impact me directly, but I could, largely, ignore everyone else's suffering. Except that I think I shouldn't. I think the correct way for people to behave generally is to act in a way that minimizes the suffering of others, and I am a person so I should behave that way too; it would be inconsistent for me to do other than what I think people in general ought to do. Whether or not I feel like it isn't relevant, except inasmuch as my feelings might interfere in my doing what I think I ought to.

    I've done right by people that I hated before, even though I'd rather have watched them suffer, because I thought that I ought to and I was able to override the feelings to the contrary. People who only do what's they feel is right because they feel like it seem unlikely to do something like that; if they want to see someone suffer, they'll invent a reason why that person "ought" to suffer to justify allowing it to happen, and not care whether or not that "reasoning" is consistent with their other reasoning about other people in other circumstances.
    Pfhorrest

    It is frightening that you're advocating this stuff. This is Blair's description of a psychopath. Someone who follows the rules but without any feeling. That describes the psychological state of the overwhelming majority of the world's worst most horrendous mass-murderers, and you want people to use it as a basis for making moral decisions?
  • Banno
    11.7k
    A few hundred years ago everyone spoke freely as if there were a god. Most still do "God willing", "For God's sake", "God save us". Does that mean that atheism is incoherent, because people speak as if it were? It sounds like a very odd argument to say that simply because people speak as if there were an objective moral standard, it must be the case that there is one.Isaac

    Seriously?
  • Isaac
    4.3k
    Seriously?Banno

    Yes. Unless I've missed something in your grammar the construction of your proposition is - It seems as if claims are about X, therefore X

    Where X here is some extra-personal force.

    Otherwise moral relativism is completely unaffected. If all you're saying is the the subject of ethical claims is other people, then this offers no issues at all for relativism. We can all have subjective feeling about how we'd like others to behave no less than we can about his we'd like to behave.

    The emotivist argument, for example, is not dented by the subject matter of the expression, unless you're also claiming, as I suggested, the the assumption within some expression reifies that subject.
  • Judaka
    1.1k

    I think it is very human to ignore a stranger's suffering, out of sight out of mind as they say. It is also very human for instance to want to minimise suffering - unless you have the power to cause it and get away with it. You say whether you feel like it isn't necessary but that's easy to say. It's like saying "I won't let anger cloud my judgement" but of course, when you actually get angry then anger clouds your judgement and with your clouded judgement, you no longer care. Or you "won't be lazy and you'll do your homework tomorrow" but then when tomorrow comes and you actually feel lazy, you don't do it and so on. This line of reasoning is unconvincing for that reason.

    That is to say the "feeling" to do right is really must stronger than a belief that you must do right. The first happens naturally while the second is self-imposed. I can often tell by someone's personality what their moral stances are likely to be because there are fairly obvious correlations. Not specifically on specific topics although sometimes even that. However, who's going to be nice to the person they hate versus who's going to be cruel? I consider that to be more of a personality thing than moral stance. These things intertwine in ways that we cannot ourselves completely understand. If you are nonconfrontational then you will be nonconfrontational and your philosophies aren't going to change that. Either you will adopt realistic stances or you will not follow through with your ideals.

    It might be impressive for an A.I. to come to the intellectual conclusion of being nice and kind - but it doesn't make too much sense. Morality is, in fact, based on the feelings and not the intellectual position. The intellectual position of morality is a cheap imitation, evaluated as pragmatic in some way. We conflate a lot when we talk about morality, of course, morality isn't just how you feel about something. What to do as a result of your feeling, what it means to have your feeling and so on, that's all intellectual.

    Hence, though I don't agree with moral absolutism, it makes sense to me that people would think this way. It is an interpretation of the meaning of the feeling.

    My view is moral opinion will be exerted one way or another, there is not a possibility for its disappearance. So in essence, it is about deciding what kind of world I would like to live in and what needs to happen to make that happen. I am decidedly intolerant of people who disagree with me on moral issues, they are obstacles to the creation of my ideal world. Not much different from moral absolutism except I don't feel the need to pretend that my ideals have divine authority. Mostly I believe that when I do what is best for myself and others, the best outcome comes naturally. Then it is only about creating the correct framing and the power to exert your influence. I certainly don't agree with normative relativism.

    Although nearly all replies are just arguing against moral relativism, I just wanted to show that normative relativism is not the same as moral relativism - in which inequality of moral positions can exist. Whether you refuse to acquire your position because you think it has objective truth value or because you feel the way you feel and can't change it, it's not too different.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Someone who follows the rules but without any feeling.Isaac

    I don’t just follow the rules blindly, I criticize the rules and make a great effort to be sure as I can that they really are the correct rules. NB that as I’ve said before I am firmly against absolutism, thinking that certain kinds of acts are always right or always wrong regardless of context; context matters a lot. But also, the ends don’t justify the means.

    Those are the extremes that the usual types of normative ethical theory end up in, which is why I reject them both and try to find something better. And yeah, if someone just blindly followed those usual theories to their logical conclusion it would lead to atrocious ends. Kant would have you tell the Nazis you’re harboring Jews because lying is always wrong. Mill would have you harvest the organs of one healthy patient to save five dying ones because that end justifies those means. Those absurd conclusions that a robot blindly following such rules would reach is a demonstration that those rules are faulty.

    Thinking in terms of how to program a robot is thus very useful in figuring out what the correct normative ethics is, and likewise, the correct normative ethics should lead an emotionless robot or psychopath to behave even more morally than someone just doing what they feel is right because they feel like it.

    In the mean time, it’s still great that most people usually feel like doing something that’s usually mostly alright. But that still frequently goes wrong, to one degree or another. Ethics is all about thinking through what would be right more reliably than just that.

    Although nearly all replies are just arguing against moral relativism, I just wanted to show that normative relativism is not the same as moral relativismJudaka

    Sorry for derailing your thread more above.

    NB though that the terms are “normative MORAL relativism” and “META-ETHICAL moral relativism“. They are both kinds of moral relativism, so if you want to distinguish between them you have to make sure to use the qualifiers, because neither of them is just the one and only “moral relativism”.
  • bert1
    672
    That is what my thread is about, what does it mean or what would it mean if morality is relative?Judaka

    Perhaps it means that what we should do is negotiated rather than discovered. Not sure.

    Besides descriptive relativism, there are also meta-ethical relativism, which is what Carlos is talking about (the truth or falsity of moral claims is relative)Pfhorrest

    I'm one of those...

    but also normative moral relativism, which is what Judaka mentions here (we ought to tolerate behaviors that our morals say are bad because our morals are just relative).Pfhorrest

    ...but not one of those.

    Thanks for the concepts.
  • bert1
    672
    Ethical claims invoke a move such as that from "I choose not to eat meat" to "you should choose not to eat meat". The move from what I chose to what others should choose.

    If that is so, it is difficult to see how moral relativism could count as a coherent ethical position.
    Banno

    I agree moral claims are about others. But they are about getting other people to do what you want them to do, not what they should do in any objective sense.
  • bert1
    672
    It's sort of the moral equivalent of people who believe things uncritically, just because they heard someone say it or read it somewhere and it seemed truthy to them. That seems to be most people, and doing what feels like the moral thing to do because they feel like it seems to be most people too, but both of those seem like a very shallow, fragile, easily corrupted and highly fallible ways to go about deciding what to think and what to do, in contrast to, you know... actually reasoning about these things critically.Pfhorrest

    Moral reasoning is still possible for the meta-ethical relativist (hope I've got that right). We just have to find common terminal goals (as opposed to instrumental goals, to put it in AI terms). Then we can argue about how best to achieve those goals. Rational argument ceases to be possible when people have divergent terminal goals. Then it's just a fight. It may be that, as a matter of fact, all people have convergent terminal goals (I believe that, or at least think it likely). But even if so, this does not make meta-ethical relativism false. It just makes it look like objectivism. Just like intersubjectivity is not objectivity, but seems like it.

    At the moment I see human morality more or less in the same way as the guy in this video thinks about the orthogonality thesis regarding Artificial General Intelligence:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEUO6pjwFOo
  • bert1
    672
    To a moral relativist, what is the purpose of morality?Tzeentch

    Getting other people to do what you want them to do.

    As a panpsychist, I might go as far as to say that reality (the way the world is) is at bottom, negotiated. I used to think that ethics was the last area of philosophy we should study, and is the most derivative. After being influenced by The Great Whatever, I now think it might be foundational.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.4k
    Just like intersubjectivity is not objectivity, but seems like it.bert1

    I've never really understood the supposed distinction between these two. It makes it seem like objectivity is being conflated with transcendence, like the objective is something completely beyond access. As I understand it, the objective is just the limit of the increasingly intersubjective; the maximally intersubjective (that we'll never reach, but can get arbitrarily close to) just is the objective. Any "objective" beyond that is incomprehensible nonsense, and so not worth speaking of.
  • Banno
    11.7k
    I'm just surprised to be so misread.
  • Banno
    11.7k
    But they are about getting other people to do what you want them to do, not what they should do in any objective sense.bert1

    That rather begs the question. There might, perhaps, be reasons to suppose that folk ought act in some particular way that are not objective.
  • Echarmion
    2k
    I've never really understood the supposed distinction between these two. It makes it seem like objectivity is being conflated with transcendence, like the objective is something completely beyond access. As I understand it, the objective is just the limit of the increasingly intersubjective; the maximally intersubjective (that we'll never reach, but can get arbitrarily close to) just is the objective. Any "objective" beyond that is incomprehensible nonsense, and so not worth speaking of.Pfhorrest

    That's an advanced position though. You first have to understand the objective as a realm completely beyond access, realize that therefore everything supposedly objective is therefore merely intersubjective, and then conclude that if the objective is inaccesible, we might as well cut out the middleman and equate intersubjective and objective.

    My view is moral opinion will be exerted one way or another, there is not a possibility for its disappearance. So in essence, it is about deciding what kind of world I would like to live in and what needs to happen to make that happen. I am decidedly intolerant of people who disagree with me on moral issues, they are obstacles to the creation of my ideal world. Not much different from moral absolutism except I don't feel the need to pretend that my ideals have divine authority. Mostly I believe that when I do what is best for myself and others, the best outcome comes naturally. Then it is only about creating the correct framing and the power to exert your influence. I certainly don't agree with normative relativism.Judaka

    So, this is a nice introduction to something I have wondered about before: Given that, internally, you have to justify your moral position to yourself somehow, and that, having justified it, you are going to act on it, how does the distinction between meta-ethical relativism and meta-ethical universalism work from your internal perspective?

    "It's all relative" won't help you when confronted with some moral dilemma. If you want to make a decision, you need to start somewhere, i.e. you need to treat something as an universal baseline to base your reasoning off. It may be true that, what you're actually doing is merely justifiying a conclusion you have already arrived at emotionally. But doesn't your reasoning nevertheless treat whatever you're doing as "logical" and therefore "objective"?
  • bert1
    672
    That's an advanced position though. You first have to understand the objective as a realm completely beyond access, realize that therefore everything supposedly objective is therefore merely intersubjective, and then conclude that if the objective is inaccesible, we might as well cut out the middleman and equate intersubjective and objective.Echarmion

    Indeed, you put that better than I was about to do. Not everyone will be happy with collapsing the distinction like this, and in characterising others' positions, I would maintain the distinction they maintain. (Says me in a high-minded "I never mis-characterise others" way)

    It seems to me Pfhorrest is a meta-ethical relativist, as long as he thinks that everyone has, in fact, the same terminal goals such that rational argument can always in principle result in agreement.
  • Judaka
    1.1k
    Perhaps it means that what we should do is negotiated rather than discovered. Not sure.bert1

    Not necessarily, to intelligently talk about morality we need to break it down into smaller bits, otherwise, disagreements get bogged down in the same places all the time. Firstly, to separate how morality functions within a culture and within a person. Being passionate about your views on morality doesn't mean that others will agree with you, in fact, generally the opposite. No negotiation is required here, you have your passionate views, you may or may not be able to get others to agree/comply with your views but you retain your views and passions nonetheless.

    Within a culture, negotiation is a misleading term because after all, no real negotiation actually takes place. Interpretations act like ideas, some are convincing to people and some aren't, when enough people or enough powerful people latch onto an idea (among other things), then it starts to take hold. What makes ideas convincing aren't necessarily because they're good ideas, there's a lot that goes into this process.

    We have our base moral feelings, that you don't need to think about, the average, healthy person is predisposed to dislike certain acts and compelled to think in certain ways. Then we have the best way to implement those feelings. For instance, there are biological and social reasons for why in the past, society has shamed open sexuality but we can also see the other side, of allowing people to do what they want and being tolerant of difference. So we can in a sense "discover" the best way to think, given that the "best" way is something we determine. However, we are not blank slates, so the "best" way can be about discovering what works within our society (which is constantly changing) and for ourselves, given our values and all the components of our selves and lives which are not optional.

    Meta-ethical relativism for me is certainly not about making morality an individual preference similar to a favourite colour. There are very powerful emotions involved, hugely important consequences and the stakes are very high. So a lot of careful thinking and experimentation has to take place before we can realise a set of moral principles that achieves the aims we hoped for.
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