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What is right and what is wrong?

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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Compassionist
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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#21 Post by Compassionist » May 23rd, 2012, 9:34 am

Latest post of the previous page:

Alan C. wrote:
compo
What's PN?
Philosophy Now magazine.
Thank you Alan C.

stevenw888
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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#22 Post by stevenw888 » May 23rd, 2012, 11:28 am

Fia
Cognitive dissonance is a wonderful tool
I had never heard of this statement, so looked it up on wikipedia. A fascinating subject, but one that I feel only really means something to those who are prepared to think about it (i.e people who study philosophy/psychology.). I smoked for 33 years and did so because I liked smoking. I didn't try to pretend that I didn't know it was no good for my health. I just accepted that it was no good for my health and that I would die younger than I might otherwise be expected to die. I gave up 6 years ago, when I was 47, as that "die younger" day was then starting to gert closer and closer. I'm very glad I gave up but can't say that I ever played the game of "cognitive dissonance" in my head.
Maybe other people, who are perhaps better educated than me, might do.
"There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots." - From the film "Top Gun"

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#23 Post by Dave B » May 23rd, 2012, 12:03 pm

Cognitive dissonance played a fair part in my life I think, especially smoking (especially in the five years before my heart attack cured me of the habit!) and alcohol - that morning-after, "Never again!" You know that damage is being done but . . .

I often wonder if there is a tie between this and masochism. Crawling about in mud and water in caves hundreds of feet underground and hanging by one's finger nails from a Derbyshire crag in the winter are hardly pleasant occupations when viewed objectively, but some people (myself once included) insist on continuing with such practices!
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#24 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 23rd, 2012, 3:47 pm

animist wrote:How do you know you are morally inconsistent - in what way? And when you talk of this, do you mean that your views are inconsistent with each other or with your behaviour?
I mean that my moral views are inconsistent with my whole way of life, which is a fundamentally selfish one. I believe, like you, that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering, directly and indirectly. I try my best on that one. I also believe that it is wrong to allow unnecessary suffering to happen when one can do something to prevent it. And yet I do very little. Obviously there are limits to the extent to which a single person can prevent suffering, but I am a long, long way from those limits. I could do so much more. I always intend to do more, sometime soon, but I keep putting it off.
animist wrote:To answer your questions, yes to a, yes to b, and no to c. So I am very inconsistent between views and behaviour - I have been veggie but no more.
Like a lot of people. Many people find being vegetarian (let alone vegan) rather difficult. And perhaps it could be argued that it is necessary for many people, most people perhaps, not to live lives that are too difficult. Perfection is impossible; perfect consistency is impossible; something has to give. For me, being vegan isn't too difficult. But plenty of other things are.
animist wrote:Surely consistency really is a good thing - this is not in a moral sense but in a pragmatic one: if you are not consistent then people will take less notice of you than if you are, and you will be shown as either a fool or a liar (well, not quite that strong, depends on the circumstances) for having inconsistent views, or a hypocrite in the case of inconsistency between views and behaviour.
Well, I think you're right that consistency does tend to be rather useful, but I think there's a danger in striving too hard to be consistent between one's behaviour and one's views. It can lead, I believe, to the espousal of rather horrible views.

Emma

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#25 Post by Compassionist » May 23rd, 2012, 4:49 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:How do you know you are morally inconsistent - in what way? And when you talk of this, do you mean that your views are inconsistent with each other or with your behaviour?
I mean that my moral views are inconsistent with my whole way of life, which is a fundamentally selfish one. I believe, like you, that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering, directly and indirectly. I try my best on that one. I also believe that it is wrong to allow unnecessary suffering to happen when one can do something to prevent it. And yet I do very little. Obviously there are limits to the extent to which a single person can prevent suffering, but I am a long, long way from those limits. I could do so much more. I always intend to do more, sometime soon, but I keep putting it off.
Could you please give us some examples? I am trying to understand but I am failing to understand due to lack of examples.

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:Well, I think you're right that consistency does tend to be rather useful, but I think there's a danger in striving too hard to be consistent between one's behaviour and one's views. It can lead, I believe, to the espousal of rather horrible views.
Again, could you please give some example of the 'horrible views'? Thank you.

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#26 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 23rd, 2012, 4:57 pm

animist wrote:can you explain the difference between relative and arbitrary?
Well, if something is described as "relative" it is usually understood that it is to be considered in relation to something else. Whereas if something is described as "arbitrary" the usual implication is that it is based on random choice or personal whim. I think there are many ways in which moral values and moral choices might be described as relative, and many things to which they might be relative.
animist wrote:MR does not rule out the existence of shared values, but logically the fact of being shared would not be an argument for them, surely; otherwise morality would be some sort of popularity poll.
I think that shared moral values are, at least to some extent, desirable for pragmatic reasons similar to those you gave for consistency. I think it's much easier for a society to function if it has at least some basic shared moral values. But I agree that the fact of a moral value being widely shared is not, in itself, an argument for it. However, I think this is where consistency comes in again. If our widely shared moral values include things like: "It is good to do to others as you'd have them do to you" and "It is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering", then we can consider other specific moral questions in relation to those particular ones. We can ask if an action is "good" or "bad" or "right" or "wrong" in terms of how well it meets those criteria. I think that's another sense in which moral issues are relative. A morally "good" decision is one that is seen to meet certain commonly agree criteria, just as a "good" book or a "good" movie is one that is seen to meet certain commonly agreed criteria. There will be plenty of room for disagreement, both on the matter of what the criteria are, and on the matter of how well they are met, but a meaningful discussion about the goodness of the decision/book/movie is still possible, which it wouldn't be if the goodness were arbitrary. Does that make sense?
animist wrote:The problem with MR, as you express it, is that if you insist on evaluation of a moral opinion in relation to the prevailing ethos of the host society, you get into the position of justifying slavery, discrimination or whatever if these are the prevailing mores of that society.
No. I wouldn't be insisting on such an evaluation. I'm not a normative moral relativist, and I do agree that normative moral relativism is problematical. My approach is more a matter of recognising that there are no moral absolutes, no perfect moral objectivity; that moral relativism describes what we've got, more or less; and that it is better to recognise that, and work with it, rather than deny it and pretend that absolutes exist. Perhaps that's not far from what you were referring to when you were talking about "something in between"?
animist wrote:There is also the tu quoque/inconsistency argument that a MR, by taking a particular ethical position, is breaking his own rule - MR is itself a moral system, I suppose, because it is telling people not to interfere with the genuinely held views (and actions) of others.
No, it isn't. Not necessarily. There might be some moral relativists who do that, but it isn't a necessary part of it.

Emma

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#27 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 23rd, 2012, 5:14 pm

Compassionist wrote:Could you please give us some examples? I am trying to understand but I am failing to understand due to lack of examples.
Sorry. I'm being deliberately cagey out of embarrassment. What I mean is that I don't go out of my way to stop the suffering that goes on in the world. Unlike you, and plenty of other contributors to ThinkHumanism, I don't (yet) do any voluntary work that contributes to the reduction of anyone's suffering. The charitable donations I make are small in relation to the money I spend on things that aren't absolutely necessary. Although I'm fairly affable, a seemingly "nice" person, I am fundamentally selfish, and greedy, and lazy.
Compassionist wrote:Again, could you please give some example of the 'horrible views'? Thank you.
Well, at the level of the overarching moral system there's ethical egoism (Wikipedia). But a more specific example might be racism. A person might profess to believe that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering to another human being, and in order to justify the suffering he or she causes to other human beings, he or she might argue that those human being are not really human beings: they are subhuman. That post-hoc justification then becomes a justification for future behaviour, and is self-reinforcing.

Emma

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#28 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 23rd, 2012, 5:42 pm

animist wrote:it is hard to keep personalities out of this. My perception of you is of a very unusual person who has strong ethical values and acts on them (which is why I queried why you think you are inconsistent).
Ah, well. That's the problem. I don't act on them. If I really acted on my strong ethical values, I would have given away all my worldly goods and be working hard in some poor deprived place doing something really worthwhile, instead of languishing in Complacency upon Thames.
animist wrote:I am now going to kind of contradict this by opining that if you take an ethical relativist view, you are indeed being inconsistent: I don't think that you can say that eating animals is wrong for you but not for anyone else, and I feel that this opinion (assuming I have got it right about how you feel) reflects your non-judgemental personality (and seems to tie in with your unwillingness to accept free will and moral responsibility/blameability).
It's not quite right. What I feel is that I can confidently say that something is wrong for me, because I'm an expert on my own moral values, and on what is necessary for me. But I'm not an expert on other people's moral values or what is necessary for them. Still, where I do have a fair bit of information, I can, and do, make judgements about these things. For example, I can say that it was not wrong for my mother to stop being a vegetarian in the last few months of her life, even though she felt it was wrong to cause unnecessary suffering and believed that fish suffer when they're ... fished, because she couldn't get adequate nutrition from the very small quantity of food that she was able to eat (especially when in hospital). Eating fish was necessary for her. But you ... you who have admitted your inconsistency, you who know that it isn't necessary for you to eat animal products but carry on doing so out of greed and laziness, you, you hypocrite, are wrong. Happy now? :D
animist wrote:I suppose that most moral philosophy I read at university was influenced by an assumption that whatever was right would be right for everyone: R. M. Hare's analysis of moral language was that it was prescriptive and universalisable - so this does not leave room for "this would be wrong for me but you go ahead".
I think my approach to this has been hugely influenced by my veganism. I've been vegan for 27 years. I don't have any vegan friends. Everyone I know and l love at the very least eats eggs and cheese, if not fish, if not meat. How can I go through life believing that I'm right and everyone around me is wrong. It's just not tenable. Not for me, anyway. I know I'm not morally superior to everyone around me. It's pretty obvious. So my moral relativism (or moral scepticism, which is the term I tend to use) has probably developed from that recognition. That, and the fact that vegans who do believe that they're morally superior to everyone around them are pretty unbearable. I don't like to be disliked.

Emma

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#29 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 23rd, 2012, 5:51 pm

stevenw888 wrote:A fascinating subject [cognitive dissonance], but one that I feel only really means something to those who are prepared to think about it (i.e people who study philosophy/psychology.). I smoked for 33 years and did so because I liked smoking. I didn't try to pretend that I didn't know it was no good for my health. I just accepted that it was no good for my health and that I would die younger than I might otherwise be expected to die. I gave up 6 years ago, when I was 47, as that "die younger" day was then starting to gert closer and closer. I'm very glad I gave up but can't say that I ever played the game of "cognitive dissonance" in my head.
Maybe other people, who are perhaps better educated than me, might do.
I'm not convinced, Steve. What Wikipedia said about smoking was: "An example of this would be the conflict between wanting to smoke and knowing that smoking is unhealthy; a person may try to change their feelings about the odds that they will actually suffer the consequences, or they might add the consonant element that the smoking is worth short term benefits." Are you sure you didn't do the latter, when you "accepted" that you were going to die younger than you might otherwise, when you decided that the pleasure you got from smoking was worth the loss of life expectancy? The fact that you changed your mind when the "die younger" day started getting closer rather confirms that dying younger wasn't really acceptable, that the pleasure of smoking wasn't really worth it. Yep, sounds like cognitive dissonance to me. :wink:

Emma

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#30 Post by animist » May 23rd, 2012, 6:56 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:it is hard to keep personalities out of this. My perception of you is of a very unusual person who has strong ethical values and acts on them (which is why I queried why you think you are inconsistent).
Ah, well. That's the problem. I don't act on them. If I really acted on my strong ethical values, I would have given away all my worldly goods and be working hard in some poor deprived place doing something really worthwhile, instead of languishing in Complacency upon Thames.
well, that really a case for taking a relativistic approach. I know that you actively support at least one good cause as well as abstaining from animal products, plus which you are...I must not overpraise you, but the point is that you are better than most people and you should not forget that
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:I suppose that most moral philosophy I read at university was influenced by an assumption that whatever was right would be right for everyone: R. M. Hare's analysis of moral language was that it was prescriptive and universalisable - so this does not leave room for "this would be wrong for me but you go ahead".
I think my approach to this has been hugely influenced by my veganism. I've been vegan for 27 years. I don't have any vegan friends. Everyone I know and l love at the very least eats eggs and cheese, if not fish, if not meat. How can I go through life believing that I'm right and everyone around me is wrong. It's just not tenable. Not for me, anyway. I know I'm not morally superior to everyone around me. It's pretty obvious. So my moral relativism (or moral scepticism, which is the term I tend to use) has probably developed from that recognition. That, and the fact that vegans who do believe that they're morally superior to everyone around them are pretty unbearable. I don't like to be disliked.

Emma
that is strange to a degree. Surely you can know that you are morally superior (at least in specific ways) without bleating about it (I cannot imagine you doing this anyway). I don't really get your link from this to moral relativism, and you anyway have just roundly and fairly chastised me for my behaviour - do you not feel superior to me at least? Surely you can just make allowances for us (or for them anyway) given that tasty or whatever food is something which is important to many people (and the consumerist society keeps on about yummy meals all the time) yet still know for yourself that you are right? Anyway, the moral relativism I was talking about in response to you previous post was about whole societies, not about individuals within particular societies.

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#31 Post by Compassionist » May 23rd, 2012, 6:58 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:Could you please give us some examples? I am trying to understand but I am failing to understand due to lack of examples.
Sorry. I'm being deliberately cagey out of embarrassment. What I mean is that I don't go out of my way to stop the suffering that goes on in the world. Unlike you, and plenty of other contributors to ThinkHumanism, I don't (yet) do any voluntary work that contributes to the reduction of anyone's suffering. The charitable donations I make are small in relation to the money I spend on things that aren't absolutely necessary. Although I'm fairly affable, a seemingly "nice" person, I am fundamentally selfish, and greedy, and lazy.
Thank you for your examples. I understand better now. You don't come across as selfish, greedy and lazy. You come across as a caring and intelligent human being who strives to do the right things.
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:Again, could you please give some example of the 'horrible views'? Thank you.
Well, at the level of the overarching moral system there's ethical egoism (Wikipedia). But a more specific example might be racism. A person might profess to believe that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering to another human being, and in order to justify the suffering he or she causes to other human beings, he or she might argue that those human being are not really human beings: they are subhuman. That post-hoc justification then becomes a justification for future behaviour, and is self-reinforcing.

Emma
I understand now. Thank you very much.

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#32 Post by animist » May 23rd, 2012, 7:01 pm

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/87bf2654-89b3 ... z1vgYJI6zL
as we seem to have got onto the dreadful meat industry, this article discusses a possible way of catering for the meat craving (maybe - there seem to be lots of problems) but at least reducing the number of animals used

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#33 Post by animist » May 23rd, 2012, 7:32 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:
animist wrote:There is also the tu quoque/inconsistency argument that a MR, by taking a particular ethical position, is breaking his own rule - MR is itself a moral system, I suppose, because it is telling people not to interfere with the genuinely held views (and actions) of others.
No, it isn't. Not necessarily. There might be some moral relativists who do that, but it isn't a necessary part of it.

Emma
ok, and you have already said that you are not a normative ethical relativist, which is what this tu quoque criticism refers to. But then, how would you deal with someone who does defend, say, honour killing by referring to various mores of his society?

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#34 Post by animist » May 23rd, 2012, 7:39 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
Compassionist wrote:Again, could you please give some example of the 'horrible views'? Thank you.
Well, at the level of the overarching moral system there's ethical egoism (Wikipedia). But a more specific example might be racism. A person might profess to believe that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering to another human being, and in order to justify the suffering he or she causes to other human beings, he or she might argue that those human being are not really human beings: they are subhuman. That post-hoc justification then becomes a justification for future behaviour, and is self-reinforcing.

Emma
but surely it is not really the consistency which is at fault here but the flawed reasoning or self-delusion which allows one to decide, against reasonable evidence, that some human group is sub-human

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#35 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 24th, 2012, 11:07 am

animist wrote:well, that really a case for taking a relativistic approach. I know that you actively support at least one good cause as well as abstaining from animal products ...
I should emphasise that I'm not beating myself up about this. I only mentioned my own moral inconsistency because I'd just referred to the moral inconsistencies of others, and I wanted to emphasise that just because I'm a vegan I'm not immune to it. I doubt that there's a single human being in the world who is morally consistent all of the time. I think we need to be aware of, and tolerant of, the moral inconsistencies of ourselves and others. We do need to try to reduce them, but in a way that doesn't involve "flawed reasoning or self-delusion", as you put it elsewhere.
animist wrote:Surely you can know that you are morally superior (at least in specific ways) without bleating about it (I cannot imagine you doing this anyway).
It's not a matter of bleating about it. When one is a vegan and one mixes with non-vegans, it is inevitable that one's veganism becomes the subject of discussion. People are curious. But these discussions can be tricky. The process of becoming a vegan is quite an emotional one. To make such a drastic change to one's life, one needs strong motivation. One has generally read books and articles and seen documentaries that stir up strong emotions, especially empathy with the suffering of animals, and anger at the systems and individuals that cause their suffering. And there's another emotion I'm particularly interested in, one I think is crucial to the development of strong moral feelings. That's disgust. It's something that develops quickly after one has made the first steps. One sees chunks of dead animals hanging in the window of a butcher shop (they had lots more of those in 1985) and feels disgusted. One smells raw meat in a supermarket, or meat being cooked in a neighbour's house, and feels disgusted. One feels disgusted at the thought of consuming the flesh of what was once a living, breathing mammal or bird, and disgusted at the sight of other people doing it. I think this sort of reaction is both necessary (for significant behaviour change) and problematic. (Gosh, we could have a whole new thread on disgust alone.) But anyway, when one is at that early stage of developing a strong moral belief, and adjusting one's behaviour accordingly, it can be quite difficult to hide one's disgust, even if one isn't actively bleating about one's own moral superiority. It probably comes across in conversations, despite efforts to suppress it, and probably leads to defensiveness and even aggressiveness in others. I think it might be one reason why a lot of vegans avoid the company of non-vegans. I didn't do that, so I had to learn to damp down the disgust. And perhaps that damped down the moral stance too. And it's possible that the process made me more aware of the emotions underlying some of my other moral viewpoints, and those of others. Perhaps I did become less emotionally judgemental as a result.
animist wrote: I don't really get your link from this to moral relativism ...
It isn't a simple, logical link. As I said, I think my approach was influenced by my experience as a vegan.
animist wrote:... and you anyway have just roundly and fairly chastised me for my behaviour - do you not feel superior to me at least?
Couldn't you tell that my heart wasn't in it? :D
animist wrote: Surely you can just make allowances for us (or for them anyway) given that tasty or whatever food is something which is important to many people (and the consumerist society keeps on about yummy meals all the time) yet still know for yourself that you are right?
Yes. That's a fair description of what I do. I just think there's a little bit more to it than that. It is, after all, a fairly big issue, for a vegan.
animist wrote:Anyway, the moral relativism I was talking about in response to you previous post was about whole societies, not about individuals within particular societies.
Right. That's something I do struggle with. Because "whole societies" are made up of individuals. Morality, in my view, is very much an individual thing. Of course, there will be certain moral views that are widespread in a society, and that are reflected in that society's rules and laws and customs. And all that will obviously strongly influence an individual's moral approach. But in any society at any time there will be people whose moral views differ from the mainstream, and I think it's important to remember that.

Anyway, as we've established, I'm not that kind of moral relativist.

Emma

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#36 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 24th, 2012, 11:10 am

animist wrote:how would you deal with someone who does defend, say, honour killing by referring to various mores of his society?
I'd want to understand what his or her own moral principles are, and then "deal with" him or her on that basis. I'd be looking for inconsistency, flawed argument, self-delusion, etc.

Emma

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#37 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 24th, 2012, 11:13 am

animist wrote:but surely it is not really the consistency which is at fault here but the flawed reasoning or self-delusion which allows one to decide, against reasonable evidence, that some human group is sub-human
Yes, absolutely. I picked an extreme example, but flawed reasoning and self-delusion are commonplace. We all do it. I just think we might be more inclined to do it when we're trying hard to make our beliefs consistent with how we want to behave.

Emma

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#38 Post by thundril » May 24th, 2012, 11:29 am

animist wrote:. . . how would you deal with someone who does defend, say, honour killing by referring to various mores of his society?
I can say to someone ..'in my view this is wrong,' and we can argue why I believe it is wrong and s/he believes it is right, with some chance of my persuading her/him, providing we can find some common ground to work from.
This does not involve, for even one moment, my saying '. . but I believe you are not wrong to doit, because your culture recommends it'. Nor does it require that the common ground we find is itself an 'absolute'.

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#39 Post by animist » May 24th, 2012, 11:33 am

thundril wrote:
animist wrote:. . . how would you deal with someone who does defend, say, honour killing by referring to various mores of his society?
I can say to someone ..'in my view this is wrong,' and we can argue why I believe it is wrong and s/he believes it is right, with some chance of my persuading her/him, providing we can find some common ground to work from.
This does not involve, for even one moment, my saying '. . but I believe you are not wrong to doit, because your culture recommends it'. Nor does it require that the common ground we find is itself an 'absolute'.
I agree with a lot of this, and the word "absolute" should be banned - absolutely - from ethics :laughter: . But what you say is not what I call ethical relativism, and I am not sure that what Emma talks about is ethical relativism either - yet I think both of you have called yourselves ethical relativists, so I am a bit confused

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#40 Post by thundril » May 24th, 2012, 1:07 pm

animist wrote: I agree with a lot of this, and the word "absolute" should be banned - absolutely - from ethics :laughter: . But what you say is not what I call ethical relativism, and I am not sure that what Emma talks about is ethical relativism either - yet I think both of you have called yourselves ethical relativists, so I am a bit confused
Er, because I'm not an ethical absolutist?
What else can relativism be different from?

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Re: What is right and what is wrong?

#41 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 24th, 2012, 1:19 pm

animist wrote:what you [thundril] say is not what I call ethical relativism, and I am not sure that what Emma talks about is ethical relativism either - yet I think both of you have called yourselves ethical relativists, so I am a bit confused
I don't normally call myself an ethical or moral relativist, because the term is so loaded and tends to be used pejoratively. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it, "Moral relativism has the unusual distinction—both within philosophy and outside it—of being attributed to others, almost always as a criticism, far more often than it is explicitly professed by anyone." I am not yet sure how well I fit with the various definitions of moral relativism given by the SEP. I shall have to read the article thoroughly, along with the one on moral skepticism, and perhaps some articles on a few other alternative positions, to work that out.

But at first glance, while not fitting the SEP's definition of metaethical moral relativism perfectly, I can make it fit me by tweaking it a little. I believe that the truth or falsity of moral judgements is not absolute or universal, but is relative to various things, including the traditions, convictions, practices, circumstances, knowledge and abilities of an individual or group. I do think it is reasonable to be tolerant, up to a point, of the different moral judgements of other people. But it is also important, on the basis of my own moral judgements, to help those who suffer as a consequence of those different moral judgements. It can be a bit tricky sometimes to reconcile these two approaches!

Although I value diversity, and the ability of an individual to reach his or her own moral conclusions, at the same time, for pragmatic reasons, I also think it is desirable for human beings to achieve higher levels of agreement on moral judgements [---][/---] not superficial moral uniformity, but a greater degree of agreement between genuinely held individual moral beliefs and conclusions. I wonder whether it might, one day, be feasible to find some basic moral tools that we can all, or nearly all, agree on. Without relying on some kind of moral arbiter, real or imaginary, and without getting into the complexities of high-level moral philosophy, might it be possible, on the basis of our shared humanity, those near-universal characteristics that we do seem to have, to find ways of making moral judgements that don't depend to such a great extent on things like traditions and customs?

It might appear from this that I'm a descriptive moral relativist but a normative moral absolutist, but I'm not. I still believe that the truth or falsity of moral judgements is not absolute or universal, but I think that the things that they're relative to can be more widely shared and closer to universal than they are currently. And I suppose my confidence in humankind is such that I think that development would be a good thing. I guess that's what makes me a humanist.

Emma

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