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Moral Relativism

TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
edited December 2008 in Debate and/or Discourse
Migrated from [chat] so Thanatos can have a meaningless but symbolic victory :P
Wikipedia wrote:
In philosophy moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances.

This is incorrect. One can argue that, for example, kissing a person that you're meeting for the first time on either cheek is acceptable in one culture and a violation in another. However, the act of kissing is amoral, and the only issue to consider is that if you kiss a person in a culture where it is unacceptable you have committed the immoral act of offending that person's cultural sensibilities.

Again: the act itself - amoral
the act with knowledge that it will offend - immoral

This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

TL DR on
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    Silas BrownSilas Brown That's hobo style. Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    It seems your definition of morality is also culturally dictated. You state that the action that offends is immoral and also that murder (even in situtations where it is decreed by th society to be okay) is immoral. You claim that it is objective, but aren't these dictations also side effects of culture?

    Not that I don't agree, but I fail to see the lack of subjective thinking in your own hypotheticals.

    Silas Brown on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    the act with knowledge that it will offend - immoral

    This is an incredibly problematic stance.

    Offending people is a very important tool, especially in a democracy full of minorities.

    --

    The problem with morality is that it is a system that only works within a magical world where proper behavior is written into the fabric of reality.

    A system of agreed-upon ethics via social contract doesn't require that kind of religious outlook and ethnocentricism.

    Incenjucar on
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    MorninglordMorninglord I'm tired of being Batman, so today I'll be Owl.Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    This is my opinion and what I would like to study.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descriptive_ethics#Lawrence_Kohlberg:_An_example_of_descriptive_ethics
    Descriptive ethics is a form of empirical research into the attitudes of individuals or groups of people. Those working on descriptive ethics aim to uncover people's beliefs about such things as values, which actions are right and wrong, and which characteristics of moral agents are virtuous. Research into descriptive ethics may also investigate people's ethical ideals or what actions societies condemn or punish in law or politics.

    Because descriptive ethics involves empirical investigation, it is a field that is usually investigated by those working in the fields of evolutionary biology, psychology, sociology or anthropology. Information that comes from descriptive ethics is, however, also used in philosophical arguments.

    Value theory can be either normative or descriptive but is usually descriptive.

    That's what I'm talking about. It's not moral relativism, since that requires taking a stand.


    Some examples of Kohlberg's stance from that wiki.

    I don't have an opinion on this, it's just information.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development

    It's also an old theory, so the criticisms section is important to read.

    Morninglord on
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    DasUberEdwardDasUberEdward Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Taking an action with knowledge that it will cause harm to others is generally immoral. By realizing and accepting that your actions will in someway interfere with the well being of another and still committing that action is immoral.

    I believe this is universal but there are of course shades of grey here. There are many justifications and rationalizations that can come into play when committing and immoral deed but that does not in turn make the deed moral.

    DasUberEdward on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Offense is not always harm.

    Sometimes people need to be offended.

    See: Mormons in the Gay Marriage thread.

    Offense can allow for growth.

    Incenjucar on
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    AdrienAdrien Registered User regular
    edited November 2008

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    I think that the problem with this stems from your use of the passive voice. Try rewriting "that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do" as active and I think you'll find yourself with a nice little contradiction.

    Adrien on
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    TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    the act with knowledge that it will offend - immoral

    This is an incredibly problematic stance.

    Offending people is a very important tool, especially in a democracy full of minorities.

    --

    The problem with morality is that it is a system that only works within a magical world where proper behavior is written into the fabric of reality.

    A system of agreed-upon ethics via social contract doesn't require that kind of religious outlook and ethnocentricism.

    I would argue that every action to varying degrees, whether it be firing an employee, driving a car, or eating red meat, have both moral and immoral aspects that must be weighed when making a decision.

    I agree that morality is problematic in that not everyone will play ball due to an altruistic desire to live in a functional and crime-free society. That is why we need laws and enforcers of laws.

    TL DR on
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    LeitnerLeitner Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Taking an action with knowledge that it will cause harm to others is generally immoral. By realizing and accepting that your actions will in someway interfere with the well being of another and still committing that action is immoral.

    There are various problems here though. Such as what is for someones well being? I mean I can think of plenty crazy religions with some pretty wacky ideas about what constitutes the best for someone. For example torturing an individual until they convert is pretty clearly a moral act if we in fact all do have immortal souls which will be condemed to hell if we don't convert.

    Leitner on
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    Silas BrownSilas Brown That's hobo style. Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Exactly. Even if it were universally recognized that harm automatically equals immoral in all societies, that doesn't make it anything other than an arbitrary distinction (albiet, one I'm glad to utilize in my own life, with exceptions) that just happens to have a 100% acceptance rate.

    I guess you could argue that moral doesn't always equal "the right thing to do" though? Or is that it means...

    Silas Brown on
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    TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Adrien wrote: »

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    I think that the problem with this stems from your use of the passive voice. Try rewriting "that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do" as active and I think you'll find yourself with a nice little contradiction.

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that shit is wrong.
    Where's the contradiction? Are you questioning that we can objectively judge another culture?

    TL DR on
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    DasUberEdwardDasUberEdward Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Offense is not always harm.

    Sometimes people need to be offended.

    See: Mormons in the Gay Marriage thread.

    Offense can allow for growth.

    I realize that there is a distinction and avoided usage of the word for that reason. Unfortunately there is no absolute threshold for what harms an individual so we have to develop a universal standpoint.

    DasUberEdward on
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    PonyPony Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    Declared by who?

    You?

    Your culture?

    Saying that there are truly objective moral and immoral acts is saying that you believe there exists an objective standard by which all human beings are judged and measured against, regardless of their individual social or cultural structures.

    If you believe that, that's fine, but it does lead in to some important questions: Who or what is this objective authority, and how is it established and agreed upon? What makes it objective as opposed to optimal?

    If your response is guided not by a religious or otherwise arbitrary principle ("It's wrong to kill people because God says so") then what guides it?

    Are you motivated by some kind of secular humanism? There's many varieties of this, all arguing that they are centered around optimizing human benefit while minimizing human suffering. You've got consequentialists, deontologists, etc.

    But who is objective, then?

    The reality is there is no such thing as objective morality.

    No such thing.

    Because even the choice of a secular ethical principle is a consensus opinion, and nothing more.

    Pony on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I have never found a use for the concept of "good" and "evil" outside of manipulating the behavior of people who believe in it.

    However, describing behavior with less cartoonish terms as "malicious" and so forth can be very useful, because it actually gets at the INTENT of the person, rather than a judgement of their culture and personal level of knowledge and empathy.

    And, hell, you can almost certainly measure this shit.

    Incenjucar on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I realize that there is a distinction and avoided usage of the word for that reason. Unfortunately there is no absolute threshold for what harms an individual so we have to develop a universal standpoint.

    I disagree.

    A universal standpoint only holds in legal situations.

    Incenjucar on
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    TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Leitner wrote: »
    Taking an action with knowledge that it will cause harm to others is generally immoral. By realizing and accepting that your actions will in someway interfere with the well being of another and still committing that action is immoral.

    There are various problems here though. Such as what is for someones well being? I mean I can think of plenty crazy religions with some pretty wacky ideas about what constitutes the best for someone. For example torturing an individual until they convert is pretty clearly a moral act if we in fact all do have immortal souls which will be condemed to hell if we don't convert.

    Sure if a person genuinely believed that they were doing what was best in that situation, and had been unable to learn why their act was wrong then that would be a person that had caused harm but done nothing immoral. We don't treat child soldiers the same way we treat other enemy combatants, for example.

    TL DR on
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    AdrienAdrien Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Adrien wrote: »

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    I think that the problem with this stems from your use of the passive voice. Try rewriting "that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do" as active and I think you'll find yourself with a nice little contradiction.

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that shit is wrong.
    Where's the contradiction? Are you questioning that we can objectively judge another culture?

    Not what I'm looking for. Do you know the difference between active and passive voice? I want you to write the sentence, "that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do," but include as subject the noun which (or, presumably, who) is doing the declaring.

    Adrien on
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    MorninglordMorninglord I'm tired of being Batman, so today I'll be Owl.Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I just want to say, without picking a side, that Kohlberg very rarely found anyone who made decisions based on his sixth universal stage of moral development.

    But, there are valid criticisms of that since he based a lot of his stages on the concept of justice.

    Morninglord on
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    TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Pony wrote: »
    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    Declared by who?
    You?
    Your culture?
    Saying that there are truly objective moral and immoral acts is saying that you believe there exists an objective standard by which all human beings are judged and measured against, regardless of their individual social or cultural structures.
    If you believe that, that's fine, but it does lead in to some important questions: Who or what is this objective authority, and how is it established and agreed upon? What makes it objective as opposed to optimal?
    If your response is guided not by a religious or otherwise arbitrary principle ("It's wrong to kill people because God says so") then what guides it?
    Are you motivated by some kind of secular humanism? There's many varieties of this, all arguing that they are centered around optimizing human benefit while minimizing human suffering. You've got consequentialists, deontologists, etc.
    But who is objective, then?
    The reality is there is no such thing as objective morality.
    No such thing.
    Because even the choice of a secular ethical principle is a consensus opinion, and nothing more.

    By me, yes. If someone can lay out an argument that convinces me that murder or rape can be moral acts, I'm ready to hear it.

    TL DR on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    The notion of justice is its own thread, and ties in with determinism. :P

    Also with Hogfather. :P

    --

    Murder is used constantly by all major civilizations.

    Rape tends to require a really incredibly unlikely scenario, but it can be imagined. Also insanity.

    Incenjucar on
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    JebusUDJebusUD Adventure! Candy IslandRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Pony wrote: »
    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    Declared by who?

    Declared by logic.

    Rule Utilitarianism. Can you dig?

    JebusUD on
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    Phoenix-DPhoenix-D Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    We do it all the time. What else is war but sometimes moral murder?

    Phoenix-D on
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    DasUberEdwardDasUberEdward Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    I realize that there is a distinction and avoided usage of the word for that reason. Unfortunately there is no absolute threshold for what harms an individual so we have to develop a universal standpoint.

    I disagree.

    A universal standpoint only holds in legal situations.

    Why should it only hold true in a legal situation? Is there no benefit in subjecting life (which must be lived in the boundaries of the law) to the same level of scrutiny that would be used in a legal situation.

    DasUberEdward on
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    TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Adrien wrote: »
    Adrien wrote: »

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    I think that the problem with this stems from your use of the passive voice. Try rewriting "that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do" as active and I think you'll find yourself with a nice little contradiction.

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that shit is wrong.
    Where's the contradiction? Are you questioning that we can objectively judge another culture?

    Not what I'm looking for. Do you know the difference between active and passive voice? I want you to write the sentence, "that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do," but include as subject the noun which (or, presumably, who) is doing the declaring.

    "I declare that a man ought not to murder his wife, even if it is socially acceptable"
    So you're questioning that we can objectively judge another culture.

    TL DR on
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    PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    So Timothy Leary is just proposing deontology?

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    TL DRTL DR Not at all confident in his reflexive opinions of thingsRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Phoenix-D wrote: »
    We do it all the time. What else is war but sometimes moral murder?

    Again, just like you can offend someone for a good reason and have the overall act have been moral, you can kill in self defense, for example. Killing is something we ought not to do, but if a person is attempting to kill me because he wants my property and I kill him so that I can live, we would not call my actions immoral.

    TL DR on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Why should it only hold true in a legal situation? Is there no benefit in subjecting life (which must be lived in the boundaries of the law) to the same level of scrutiny that would be used in a legal situation.

    Because in law you can't just write a vague blurb and hope someone gets it. Trying to make laws as functional as living would make them so incredibly massive that you would need a PHD do to your taxes.

    Life allows for more flexibility than law does.

    --

    Sounds pretty relative to me, Timmy.

    Incenjucar on
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    PonyPony Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Pony wrote: »
    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    Declared by who?
    You?
    Your culture?
    Saying that there are truly objective moral and immoral acts is saying that you believe there exists an objective standard by which all human beings are judged and measured against, regardless of their individual social or cultural structures.
    If you believe that, that's fine, but it does lead in to some important questions: Who or what is this objective authority, and how is it established and agreed upon? What makes it objective as opposed to optimal?
    If your response is guided not by a religious or otherwise arbitrary principle ("It's wrong to kill people because God says so") then what guides it?
    Are you motivated by some kind of secular humanism? There's many varieties of this, all arguing that they are centered around optimizing human benefit while minimizing human suffering. You've got consequentialists, deontologists, etc.
    But who is objective, then?
    The reality is there is no such thing as objective morality.
    No such thing.
    Because even the choice of a secular ethical principle is a consensus opinion, and nothing more.

    By me, yes. If someone can lay out an argument that convinces me that murder or rape can be moral acts, I'm ready to hear it.

    How are you defining murder?

    Is an armed soldier, defending his homeland from invasion by a foreign power, murdering other armed soldiers?

    If a police officer guns down a dangerous, shotgun-toting psychopath in a crowded shopping mall, has he murdered that man?

    Is all willful cessation of human life murder, or is there times when deliberately causing another person's life to end not murder?

    This is an important question for you to answer before I can address your point further.

    Pony on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Murder is mostly defined by whether or not the government said you could do it. :P

    Incenjucar on
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    PodlyPodly you unzipped me! it's all coming back! i don't like it!Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Yeah, Pony, knock off the one line posting bullshit here please.

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    AdrienAdrien Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Adrien wrote: »
    Adrien wrote: »

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do.

    I think that the problem with this stems from your use of the passive voice. Try rewriting "that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do" as active and I think you'll find yourself with a nice little contradiction.

    This does not apply to all actions, however. Murder, for example, is not in and of itself amoral. Even in a society that allows a man to murder his wife for being infertile, to use a hypothetical, that shit is wrong.
    Where's the contradiction? Are you questioning that we can objectively judge another culture?

    Not what I'm looking for. Do you know the difference between active and passive voice? I want you to write the sentence, "that act can be objectively declared to be something we ought not to do," but include as subject the noun which (or, presumably, who) is doing the declaring.

    "I declare that a man ought not to murder his wife, even if it is socially acceptable"
    So you're questioning that we can objectively judge another culture.

    That's not the same sentence.

    I'm not questioning anything. I'm stating that a priori "I" or "you" or "we" cannot declare something "objectively". I assume you agree with that, or you wouldn't keep dropping the word "objectively" from that sentence.

    Adrien on
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    DasUberEdwardDasUberEdward Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Why should it only hold true in a legal situation? Is there no benefit in subjecting life (which must be lived in the boundaries of the law) to the same level of scrutiny that would be used in a legal situation.

    Because in law you can't just write a vague blurb and hope someone gets it. Trying to make laws as functional as living would make them so incredibly massive that you would need a PHD do to your taxes.

    Life allows for more flexibility than law does.

    --

    Sounds pretty relative to me, Timmy.

    I'm not saying that laws should cover all aspects of living. But i'm saying that a disservice is done if we are not willing to subject our lives to scrutiny on par with that of judicial proceeding.

    Yes it takes time and it stuffs things up a bit.

    DasUberEdward on
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    PonyPony Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Podly wrote: »
    Yeah, Pony, knock off the one line posting bullshit here please.

    No, that's okay.

    Pony on
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    DasUberEdwardDasUberEdward Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Murder is mostly defined by whether or not the government said you could do it. :P

    That's not true. At all. Leads to the 2+2=5 business.

    Murder is depriving another being of life. The social ramifications are defined by the government/society

    DasUberEdward on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    I'm not saying that laws should cover all aspects of living. But i'm saying that a disservice is done if we are not willing to subject our lives to scrutiny on par with that of judicial proceeding.

    Yes it takes time and it stuffs things up a bit.

    You're not reading very carefully here. You draw an arbitrary line in laws because not doing so makes those laws fucking hard to use, and hope that the judges and juries and so forth can keep it from being a problem.

    Human beings are capable of more dynamic behavior than the legal system is, so we don't draw arbitrary lines unless we are part of a religion or philosophy that demands it.

    --

    Edward: That is only true in your head.

    Incenjucar on
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    JebusUDJebusUD Adventure! Candy IslandRegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Pony wrote: »
    Podly wrote: »
    Yeah, Pony, knock off the one line posting bullshit here please.

    No, that's okay.

    It's against his morals.

    JebusUD on
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    darthmixdarthmix Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Is there anyone in philosophy who's taken on the mantle of moral relativism, and argued in favor of it? It seems like it's really just a slur. As best I can tell moral relativism is the idea that, since there is no universal standard of morality, no moral position is possible across cultures. By and large even people who accept the first premise don't accept the second.

    darthmix on
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    LeitnerLeitner Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    No killing someone is doing that. Murder is a legally defined concept of the society you're staying in. Keep your terms straight.

    Edit: At Ed.

    Leitner on
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    IncenjucarIncenjucar VChatter Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2008
    darthmix wrote: »
    Is there anyone in philosophy who's taken on the mantle of moral relativism, and argued in favor of it? It seems like it's really just a slur. As best I can tell moral relativism is the idea that, since there is no universal standard of morality, no moral position is possible across cultures. By and large even people who accept the first premise don't accept the second.

    The problem with moral relativity is that some people take it as an excuse to be malicious assholes.

    This is why Christians are afraid of atheists.

    Incenjucar on
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    PonyPony Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Murder is mostly defined by whether or not the government said you could do it. :P

    That's not true. At all. Leads to the 2+2=5 business.

    Murder is depriving another being of life. The social ramifications are defined by the government/society

    So you consider all willful and deliberate cessation of human life to be murder, is that correct?

    Regardless of the reasons, timeframes, or chain of events that led up to that choice, every single time a human being knowingly chooses to end the life of another human being, they have murdered that person?

    Pony on
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    DasUberEdwardDasUberEdward Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    I'm not saying that laws should cover all aspects of living. But i'm saying that a disservice is done if we are not willing to subject our lives to scrutiny on par with that of judicial proceeding.

    Yes it takes time and it stuffs things up a bit.

    You're not reading very carefully here. You draw an arbitrary line in laws because not doing so makes those laws fucking hard to use, and hope that the judges and juries and so forth can keep it from being a problem.

    Human beings are capable of more dynamic behavior than the legal system is, so we don't draw arbitrary lines unless we are part of a religion or philosophy that demands it.

    --

    Edward: That is only true in your head.

    I am very glad that you edited that.

    DasUberEdward on
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