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Topic: Why disscussing right and wrong is wrong.
Message: Posted by: jdmagic357 (May 4, 2011 02:24AM)
So the "discussion" is just a sounding board of personal opinions with no real collective. Whats right for one will be wrong for the other, so without consensus the point winds up moot.

The "discussion" also digresses into a judgment call on ones personality which may not have any basis in reality. As ones beliefs is guided by ones own experiences. So to judge without have come from the same background scues the judgment.

In light of these facts, I propose the elimination of this forum. Wouldn't that be the right thing to do? Just asking.
Message: Posted by: Pakar Ilusi (May 4, 2011 02:27AM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-04 03:24, jdmagic357 wrote:

In light of these facts, I propose the elimination of this forum. Wouldn't that be the right thing to do? Just asking.

[/quote]

No.

You are wrong imo...

I disagree, with all that I have learnt from experience.
Message: Posted by: Michael Daniels (May 4, 2011 04:24AM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-04 03:24, jdmagic357 wrote:
So the "discussion" is just a sounding board of personal opinions with no real collective. Whats right for one will be wrong for the other, so without consensus the point winds up moot.

The "discussion" also digresses into a judgment call on ones personality which may not have any basis in reality. As ones beliefs is guided by ones own experiences. So to judge without have come from the same background scues the judgment.

In light of these facts, I propose the elimination of this forum. Wouldn't that be the right thing to do? Just asking.
[/quote]

You are suggesting that moral relativism is an absolute truth - which is self-contradictory.

Mike
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 4, 2011 04:05PM)
And given that most here don't (either own up to or actually) believe in magic, perhaps it would be better to close up the Café too?

So what's magical for you some may be right for others. And what's abusive to some might be wrong for most.

Discuss or disgust?
Message: Posted by: Pakar Ilusi (May 4, 2011 04:12PM)
Discuss, all the way.
Message: Posted by: jdmagic357 (May 4, 2011 05:21PM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-04 05:24, Michael Daniels wrote:
You are suggesting that moral relativism is an absolute truth - which is self-contradictory.
Mike
[/quote]

Can we at least agree that the concepts of right and wrong are subjective?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 4, 2011 06:27PM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-04 18:21, jdmagic357 wrote:...
Can we at least agree that the concepts of right and wrong are subjective?
[/quote]

As long as we also agree that we need to be careful about defining the context within which we wish to use the terms - okay they are subjective (and contextual).
Message: Posted by: HerbLarry (May 4, 2011 06:33PM)
I hear ya JD. I don't agree, but I hear ya. It is pointless most of the time.

Man: Oh look, this isn't an argument.

Mr Vibrating: Yes it is.

Man: No it isn't. It's just contradiction.

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: It is!

Mr Vibrating: It is not.

Man: Look, you just contradicted me.

Mr Vibrating: I did not.

Man: Oh you did!!

Mr Vibrating: No, no, no.

Man: You did just then.

Mr Vibrating: Nonsense!

Man: Oh, this is futile!

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: I came here for a good argument.

Mr Vibrating: No you didn't; no, you came here for an argument.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 4, 2011 08:00PM)
Things one uses to help children or exercise control don't tend to scale well into adult discourse.

If you go with stated values and contexts you can then refer to things like "fair/equitable" <=> "if that were me I'd feel it was okay too" or appeal to different scales of values in context, say where one might choose to put out a fire in one's home before writing an email to a friend to ask about some future event though both are "good things to do".
Message: Posted by: idomagic (May 4, 2011 09:53PM)
Huh? Really? People have time for this? And for this so well thought out discourse... Sad, so very sad ;)
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 4, 2011 09:58PM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-04 22:53, idomagic wrote:
Huh? Really? People have time for this? And for this so well thought out discourse... Sad, so very sad ;)
[/quote]

Philosophy anyone? Thousands of years of it.
Message: Posted by: J-Mac (May 10, 2011 01:27AM)
Love that sketch BTW, HerbLarry!

Jim
Message: Posted by: HerbLarry (May 10, 2011 10:26AM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-10 02:27, J-Mac wrote:
Love that sketch BTW, HerbLarry!

Jim
[/quote]

No you don't!
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (May 10, 2011 06:29PM)
There's nothing wrong with discussing right and wrong.
Humanity has done so for ages.
Message: Posted by: jdmagic357 (May 10, 2011 07:55PM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-10 19:29, Steve_Mollett wrote:
There's nothing wrong with discussing right and wrong.
Humanity has done so for ages.
[/quote]

Just because people have done something for time and memorial, doesn't make it right. Can anybody remember slavery, and how long it's practice was condoned?

Bad argument.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 10, 2011 08:15PM)
The notions of right and wrong are social constructs.
It is a part of social (ethos/morals/evolution) to decide and discuss what they will hold as right and wrong.
And it's an ongoing discussion.
Message: Posted by: captain10 (May 10, 2011 10:02PM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-10 20:55, jdmagic357 wrote:
[quote]
On 2011-05-10 19:29, Steve_Mollett wrote:
There's nothing wrong with discussing right and wrong.
Humanity has done so for ages.
[/quote]

Just because people have done something for time and memorial, doesn't make it right. Can anybody remember slavery, and how long it's practice was condoned?

Bad argument.
[/quote]

There is a huge difference between the discussion of something and the practice of it. The failure to openly discuss or acknowledge something can and does lead to bigger problems.
Message: Posted by: jdmagic357 (May 11, 2011 12:23AM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-10 23:02, captain10 wrote:
There is a huge difference between the discussion of something and the practice of it. The failure to openly discuss or acknowledge something can and does lead to bigger problems.
[/quote]


No doubt. But surly time would never be the measure, of what's right or wrong? Except to argue "thems the times we live in" and I don't perceive it a good argument.

The rebuttal of course being "but the times they be a changing". If you see my point?
Message: Posted by: Michael Daniels (May 11, 2011 04:33AM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-04 18:21, jdmagic357 wrote:
[quote]
On 2011-05-04 05:24, Michael Daniels wrote:
You are suggesting that moral relativism is an absolute truth - which is self-contradictory.
Mike
[/quote]

Can we at least agree that the concepts of right and wrong are subjective?
[/quote]

Yes, concepts of right and wrong are subjective, but that does not mean that every subjective view is equally valid. Hitler believed that it was right to murder millions in the pursuit of an ideal of Aryan purity and supremacy but that does not make his view just as "good" as, say, a belief that all persons are created equal, or a commitment to universal justice. Moral philosophy aims to explore the ways in which we can judge some views of right and wrong as better than others. Not all moral philosophers agree on everything, but very few would argue that Hitler's moral views are just as acceptable as those of Martin Luther King.

Mike
Message: Posted by: jdmagic357 (May 11, 2011 06:01AM)
Mike, I agree with everything you said and see the argument clearly. However, and understand that my view on this issue is equal to yours, I would contend that to those who participated in the atrocities of the second world war, would have believed and to this day possibly believe that their actions were right.

Subjectively it seemed like a solution to a problem, in fact the final solution.

Again, I in no way shape or form think that their actions were right and in fact see them as wrong but that is my subjective view and has nothing to do with what in fact IS right and wrong.

The other problem with discussions that limit ones responses to absolutes, is that the middle ground has no foundation to stand on, there by forcing an all or nothing kind of debate. With no room for the gray areas how can an intelligent debate and or argument be formed?

I'm not being difficult or playing devils advocate, although I do sometimes, I'm seriously concerned about the topic, and it's ramifications as it relates to our sense of omnipotence in the magic community.
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (May 11, 2011 06:43PM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-10 20:55, jdmagic357 wrote:
[quote]
On 2011-05-10 19:29, Steve_Mollett wrote:
There's nothing wrong with discussing right and wrong.
Humanity has done so for ages.
[/quote]

Just because people have done something for time and memorial, doesn't make it right. Can anybody remember slavery, and how long it's practice was condoned?

Bad argument.
[/quote]

The response isn't much better.
It implies that discussing right and wrong is wrong, perpetuating the discussion.
But hey, that was the subject, wasn't it? ;)

So...would it be right or wrong to ban the discussion of right and wrong.
feel free to discuss. :huh:
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 11, 2011 07:28PM)
It's good to be right with yourself.
Being right with others might not be such a good thing.

It might be useful to own your own opinions and beliefs.
Message: Posted by: jfquackenbush (May 14, 2011 09:11AM)
Philosophers of ethics are divided on the question of whether more principals are subjective. I for one don't think they are. They arise from facts about the world and facts about human beings and the way we've developed in society with one another. There may be some play in the joints about how a particular principal is applied in a given society, but the principals of meta-ethics exist independently of any one person's subjective experience of the world.

As such, the discussion of ethics is not only right, it's necessary. It's the sort of social activity that allows people an opportunity to observe those principals in practice and make reasoned judgements about how to apply moral principles and whether some asserted principal is in fact an objective one, or merely some principal that's been invented by someone for some purpose other than the pursuit of the best society.
Message: Posted by: PaulBanda (Sep 28, 2011 10:54AM)
So the "discussion" is just a sounding board of personal opinions with no real collective. Whats right for one will be wrong for the other, so without consensus the point winds up moot.

It never can hurt to bring information and issues to light, but it is up to us to do our own investigations and use a rational and objective approach to assess these issues amongst each other..

I agree with Quakenbush!
Message: Posted by: Bapu (Oct 3, 2011 06:28PM)
Holy cow
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Oct 4, 2011 09:00AM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-14 10:11, jfquackenbush wrote:
Philosophers of ethics are divided on the question of whether more principals are subjective. I for one don't think they are. They arise from facts about the world and facts about human beings and the way we've developed in society with one another. There may be some play in the joints about how a particular principal is applied in a given society, but the principals of meta-ethics exist independently of any one person's subjective experience of the world.

As such, the discussion of ethics is not only right, it's necessary. It's the sort of social activity that allows people an opportunity to observe those principals in practice and make reasoned judgements about how to apply moral principles and whether some asserted principal is in fact an objective one, or merely some principal that's been invented by someone for some purpose other than the pursuit of the best society.
[/quote]

+ 1
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Oct 4, 2011 04:04PM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-14 10:11, jfquackenbush wrote:
Philosophers of ethics are divided on the question of whether more principals are subjective....
[/quote]

Such are those who seem not to understand that when two people have a pie it's the one with the knife who decides what the other one will get.

Shirley understands that what is right for a zebra might not be right for a lion, yet there they are and have been for a very long time.

So is it right to wash your hands, flushing away all those microorganisms - or perhaps you go all the way to convince yourself that they went on to a better place?

Just curious, George.

Or was that exposure because you were supposed to buy my ebook?
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Nov 10, 2011 02:51AM)
[quote]
On 2011-10-04 10:00, stoneunhinged wrote:
[quote]
On 2011-05-14 10:11, jfquackenbush wrote:
Philosophers of ethics are divided on the question of whether more principals are subjective. I for one don't think they are. They arise from facts about the world and facts about human beings and the way we've developed in society with one another. There may be some play in the joints about how a particular principal is applied in a given society, but the principals of meta-ethics exist independently of any one person's subjective experience of the world.

As such, the discussion of ethics is not only right, it's necessary. It's the sort of social activity that allows people an opportunity to observe those principals in practice and make reasoned judgements about how to apply moral principles and whether some asserted principal is in fact an objective one, or merely some principal that's been invented by someone for some purpose other than the pursuit of the best society.
[/quote]

+ 1
[/quote]

+ another.

The fact that the question of who is right and who is wrong when two people have contradictory moral opinions cannot be [i]proven[/i] doesn't imply that neither of them is wrong.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Nov 10, 2011 02:54AM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-11 07:01, jdmagic357 wrote:
Mike, I agree with everything you said and see the argument clearly. However, and understand that my view on this issue is equal to yours, I would contend that to those who participated in the atrocities of the second world war, would have believed and to this day possibly believe that their actions were right.
[/quote]

However, their subjective belief that they were right is entirely incidental to the question of whether or not they were actually right.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Nov 28, 2011 06:51PM)
[quote]
On 2011-05-04 05:24, Michael Daniels wrote:

You are suggesting that moral relativism is an absolute truth - which is self-contradictory.

Mike
[/quote]

How so? Morality can be relative and subjective without all statements about it being relative. The absolute truth may be that morality is relative -- no contradiction at all.
Message: Posted by: BenjaminMan (Dec 2, 2011 04:09PM)
This seems to have gone from an argument of ethics to an argument of deeper morals and religion,
as such I don't think it quite belongs here.

I think discussion on ethics will continue here whether or not you like it,
so I don't see what the point of this post was.
Message: Posted by: billmarq (Dec 4, 2011 10:04AM)
When right is wrong, what's left?
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (Dec 4, 2011 12:59PM)
Disgruntled conservatives, still saying they were right. ;)
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Dec 4, 2011 01:35PM)
The problem with moral relativism is that it seems to arise from the fact that human beings disagree with each other. But disagreeing about what is true or false does not affect the trueness or falseness of anything. In fact, even should no two human beings in the entire world agree on a thing, that doesn't make the thing untrue or unfalse. In other words, subjectivity has nothing to do with whether something is true or not.

It reminds me of when we were kids and we would sit around philosophizing about whether what one of us sees as red the other sees as blue. And we were pretty clever, when you think about it, because all sensory experience is subjective. But the subjectivity of sensory experience does not mean that objective reality does not exist. Quite the opposite, actually: the epistemological dialectic of "knowing" a thing confirms that subject and object both exist. In the same way, subjective opinions regarding moral "truth" implies that such a truth in fact exists.

To put it yet another way: our disagreement regarding moral true would actually seem to confirm that we are disagreeing about something real and actual. People don't argue about the size and color of dragons, do they?

It's like disagreeing on how high a mountain is without any agreed upon method of measuring it. Surely the mountain is still there, right?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Dec 4, 2011 06:20PM)
How sure can you be that what you perceive as blue is what anyone else perceives as blue?
You can check your answer by asking what color someone associates with different instruments in an orchestra or tonalities of voice.

How would you know if the mountain were still there?

Hint - how did you come to expect (and then believe) that the sun will go down and then come up some hours later?
Message: Posted by: writeall (Dec 4, 2011 09:30PM)
This is good, but I think you are frame shifting a bit.
[quote]
On 2011-12-04 14:35, stoneunhinged wrote:
The problem with moral relativism is that it seems to arise from the fact that human beings disagree with each other. But disagreeing about what is true or false does not affect the trueness or falseness of anything. In fact, even should no two human beings in the entire world agree on a thing, that doesn't make the thing untrue or unfalse. In other words, subjectivity has nothing to do with whether something is true or not.[/quote]

Except, in this case, morality isn't a "thing." It doesn't exist without people to have an opinion about it. It is not like a planet we haven't yet discovered that is revolving around some remote star. It is a concept, a behavior, a way of looking at the world. It is something people do, not something people find in the next city over on a weekend trip.

[quote]It reminds me of when we were kids and we would sit around philosophizing about whether what one of us sees as red the other sees as blue. And we were pretty clever, when you think about it, because all sensory experience is subjective. But the subjectivity of sensory experience does not mean that objective reality does not exist. Quite the opposite, actually: the epistemological dialectic of "knowing" a thing confirms that subject and object both exist. In the same way, subjective opinions regarding moral "truth" implies that such a truth in fact exists.[/quote]

Not so. I can imagine, in the next room, a man called Ahab who has an obsession about a whale. You, too, because you've read a book by Melville, can offer an opinion. We can discuss what Ahab might be making himself for lunch. We can do this about many mental constructs. "Who would win a fight between Thor and Loki?" This has no bearing on the existence of either.

[quote]To put it yet another way: our disagreement regarding moral true would actually seem to confirm that we are disagreeing about something real and actual. People don't argue about the size and color of dragons, do they?[/quote]

They do, actually. They also argue about the properties of vampires and how it is possible for zombies to animate without metabolism. We argue about string theory and mulitple dimensions. We invent things like black holes and white holes with mathematics and then look to see if such things are real or only imaginary.

[quote]It's like disagreeing on how high a mountain is without any agreed upon method of measuring it. Surely the mountain is still there, right?
[/quote]

There is a way we measure morality. We look to see what societies accept or reject. We also find that there are differences across cultures and animal species. The existence of this difference is the genesis of relative morality. Instead of just asking people what is moral, you look to see what they actually do, the laws they make and so on.

One other confounding thing is that there may be some common moral principles that aren't the entire body of the work, but still fixed. So, it may be that we can have it both ways -- some fixed items that are enduring and moral, combined with a set that is transient. Still, unlike the mountain, I do not think I might purchase a pound of morality, even if it is only 87% pure and discounted from the wholesaler.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Dec 5, 2011 04:13AM)
That a "thing" isn't a thing without people to have an opinion about it is simply not true. (By "thing", I don't mean a material object, but something that has existence in itself.) Any commodity or artifact has an existence that is determined by the imagination and creativity of human beings; but that doesn't make it any less real.

Take a chair, for example. There wouldn't be chairs without people. "Chairness" is, in fact, defined solely by people. Yet a chair retains it's chairness within its own existence, regardless of whether anyone ever sits on it or not, or whether people's opinions about chairs continue to exist or not. Human consciousness brought chairness into existence--but it is a real existence that maintains its integrity of being even outside human consciousness.

Likewise with morality: human beings bring morality into existence, but it exists independently of us, just like a chair. And the universalism of human beings making moral claims certainly puts "morality" on a different plane than dragons or vampires or zombies. While people disagree about the content of morality, they all act in accordance with a set of habits and conventions that tell them there is a difference between right and wrong.

But this is about as far as we can go without defining our terms. Even the term "moral relativism" would seem to cause disagreement. I do not mean to suggest that what I choose to do this afternoon is relative to my culture, character, and environment. I only mean to suggest that to extrapolate from that fact an entire Weltanschauung that moral absolutes do not and in fact cannot exist is a rather disingenuous--not to say illogical--extrapolation.

Lastly, I have a mountain nearby for sale. Or we can trade. Do you happen to have any real cool Ellusionist decks you're willing to trade? :lol:
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Dec 5, 2011 04:48AM)
I left the word "not" out of one of the sentences above. But it's too late to change it. So y'all can just insert the word "not" anywhere you see fit. No one really reads what I write anyway. :)
Message: Posted by: writeall (Dec 5, 2011 06:00AM)
I read it and I largely agree with it.

I'd have to disagree with the idea of morality have an existence outside of me interacting with someone else though. Material things I can imagine having an existence unto themselves. For instance, I have no problem with that famous teapot buried under a mile of ice on Ganymede. I can imagine and accept that it is quite possible, even without anyone there to see it. But, if you tell me that morality exists in the same place as that teapot, in the same kind of way, I can't get my head around that at all.

To me, morality only makes sense in a transactional way, with people doing things (usually to each other). It's that part that puts the relativism into the mix. I'll go with the idea that morality is invented rather than discovered. But I grant that there may be, unknown to me, some bit of the picture that is both universal and irrefutable, as long as it is attached to human beings somehow. The problem then becomes whether any moral act is relative (even though some part may be absolute), which I think is plain to see. I only have to see what is moral in one culture and not another to dredge up an example.

On what basis, other than my own sense of right and wrong, would I ever be able to claim that you are acting immorally? And, having done that, how might I then avoid you doing the same to me?

Furthermore, suppose there were an absolute morality available. How would we talk about it, since morality is based on my own idea of right and wrong? If I didn't automatically understand it, there'd be no way to convince me because my innate sense of what is right would trump any, even rational, explanation.

Now that I've thought about it more, I can think of good counterarguments, but I like reading what you have to say.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Dec 5, 2011 10:59AM)
[quote]
On 2011-12-05 07:00, writeall wrote:
...but I like reading what you have to say.
[/quote]

Thanks. And I'm enjoying your contribution as well.

Please keep in mind that at least part of one of my above posts was meant in some kind of strange sophistic jest. I'm fully aware of sincere debates about angels and pinheads, and the intensity of the debate didn't prove the existence of either angels or pins.

But the serious part of my argument remains this: subjectivity does not equal relativity. What is relative is exactly what you say--human beings interacting with human beings. There is always a context. Always. But what might not be relative could be something like this: purple is wrong, evil, indecent, life-threatening, and destructive. So I interact with people regarding the meaning of purple, and that meaning affects our lives in different ways and in different contexts; yet purple remains destructive regardless of our interaction.

So are there things in human life which are evil, indecent, life-threatening, and destructive [i]regardless[/i] of our subjective opinions regarding what those things are? If so, then "relativism" is only relative to a degree. The subjectivity of our opinion has nothing to do with the thing in itself (with my above qualifications regarding what a "thing" is, of course).

But again, one could attack my terminology: "evil"? "indecent"? etc.

"Purple?"

One thing is for sure: we are not likely to solve this problem here at the Magic Café. I only meant to spread some fun around.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Dec 5, 2011 06:21PM)
I disagree with the position which has this presupposition: "That a "thing" isn't a thing without people to have an opinion about it is simply not true."

That cavemen did not know about electrons does not mean that there could not have been electrons back then - however, beyond the verifiable extents of our models of "reality" as a universe of discourse it looks awkward to treat things that are not verifiable as "real".

If you have a problem with that take it up with the small invisible flying pink elephant that says his name is "Elmer" who dictated that sentence above to me - also saying I should take it as good advice.

This is where you are supposed to ask (yourselves) "looks awkward? from what possible personal perspective is that?"
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Dec 6, 2011 03:31AM)
Jon, just how many of your 24,000+ posts were dictated by Elmer?

I wonder if the OP is still reading this thread? Positions with presuppositions, untruth and unfalsity, things and unthings...and the OP wanted to delete this forum and deprive us of Elmer!
Message: Posted by: writeall (Dec 6, 2011 07:47AM)
Stoneunhinged,
We might make more progress if we take on an example. I can play the pragmatist card, and bring it back around to conjuring as well.

Let us say that we agree, in the general case, that stealing is wrong. Here are two cases to compare:
The first case has one artist (not even a magician, but the example would be a parallel) who stole someone's act wholesale. http://raymondcrowe.com/rip_off.html or, if you just want the gist: http://www.geniimagazine.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=247757

The consensus seems to be that this was an immoral act (pun unintended), and I agree.

Now, contrast that with other performances we see on the TV talent type shows where some singer sings another's song. The music, phrasing and lyrics are duplicated. In the extreme, we have the Vegas Elvis types, for whom the more exact the copy, the better. This isn't seen as immoral. In some cases, it's seen as honoring the original. Or, if you like, a concert pianist playing someone's song and trying to be technically perfect, note for note.

How, in your view, does this state of affairs fall into what we think of as moral? In one example, copying an act is stealing, in the other, it's fine. Lest we get mired in the side issue of legal permission, I'll remind you that the audience might not know that part but would still judge one as a flagrant rip-off and the other as acceptable. One is a wannabe failure and the other is a "beautiful interpretation." There's more here than law, there's a sense of moral outrage.

Where I'm going with this -- A rule that cannot be applied except conceptually has no external existence, save in the consequences of its subjective application.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Dec 6, 2011 11:22AM)
But your examples both use a concept of "stealing" which remains constant. I have no difficulty saying that all ethical decisions are situational. Nor do I have any difficulty saying that my application of a concept to a particular situation is in some way subjective. My difficulty lies with saying that a term like "stealing" has no content outside of the subjective definitions of human beings in different cultures in different times. I would claim that there remains an "idea" of stealing in all cultures that have any concept of property; and I am not aware of any culture which doesn't have such a concept. Property might be defined differently, of course. But taking someone/something else's property without permission is stealing.

And should one actually do the research you described above--quantifying different moral codes in different cultures--I suspect that there would be a lot of commonalities: concepts of murder, theft, impiety, etc. I think most moral codes have some basis in natural law, and natural law has its basis in...ah...uh...nature. And nature does teach us some general principles through pleasure and pain. If I whack my hand with a hammer or shove a nail up my nose, it's gonna hurt. Now, we can go to the sideshow forum and find people who whack their hands with hammers and shove nails up their noses, and their very existence confirms the general rule that it's not a good idea for most people to go around whacking their hands with hammers and shoving nails up their noses. That's natural law. There are exceptions. There are always exceptions. That's what made Socrates famous.

BTW: feel free to call me Jeff or Stone or Stoney, like my other Café friends do. Must I always be reminded that I am unhinged? :jump:
Message: Posted by: writeall (Dec 6, 2011 04:11PM)
Jeff,
There's nothing like agreement to kill a conversation, and I find myself in agreement with you. Drat.
Message: Posted by: Devious (Dec 7, 2011 02:55AM)
[url=http://animatedconjurors.blogspot.com/2011/12/we-thank-you-4-visiting-us-here-at-ac.html]Grumpy Magicians Posting Here![/url]
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 11, 2012 01:55PM)
Writeall, it’s a bit hard to say why relativism and subjectivism are self-contradictory without having a fairly specific theory, and the arguments for it, as the exact way they go haywire differ from theory to theory. Generally, the arguments in support of moral relativism or moral subjectivism imply a more general relativism or subjectivism, one which is so general that it condemns itself. Thus, for example, if all beliefs are relative to the believer’s experiences (or the society in which the believer was raised, or whatever), which I think is part of what Jdmagic357 is arguing, then the relativist’s belief that all beliefs are relative to experiences (or whatever) must be relative to his experiences (or whatever). (By the way, relativism and subjectivism have similar defects but are not the same and are actually inconsistent with each other.)

Jdmagic357 says that “disscussing [sic!] right and wrong is wrong”. The question then is, what does Jdmagic357 mean by ‘is wrong’?

If Jdmagic357 thinks that when people, including Jdmagic357, say that something is right of wrong, they are merely expressing their own approval or disapproval of the thing, then, when Jdmagic357 says that discussing right and wrong is wrong, Jdmagic357 would be merely expressing Jdmagic357’s disapproval of discussions about right and wrong. If that were the case, then one might very well ask why Jdmagic357 would start a discussion Jdmagic357 himself (or herself) disapproves of. And of course, Jdmagic357’s disapproval of such discussions should have no consequences for those of us who see the need for such discussions. But, of course, that’s not what Jdmagic357 means, because Jdmagic357 also proposes the elimination of the right and wrong forum. So Jdmagic357 wants us, or at least whoever it is that could eliminate this forum, to share his or her disapproval of discussions of right and wrong. And while I confess that I don’t understand Jdmagic357’s arguments, the mere fact that he or she presents arguments in favor of the elimination of the forum shows that Jdmagic357 thinks that reasons can be given disapproving of such discussions.

Jdmagic357’s claim that “Whats [sic!] right for one will be wrong for the other” needs further explication. “4” is the right answer and “5” is a wrong answer to the question “What is 2 plus 2?” regardless of who is asking the question, regardless of who is answering the question, and regardless of anybody’s beliefs, feelings, upbringing, experiences, etc. Likewise, “1492” is the right answer and “1942” a wrong answer to the question “When did Columbus sail the ocean blue?” And Planet Earth is neither getting warmer or it isn’t, whether we belive it or not, and whether we like it or not. On the other hand, my tennis shoes might be the right size for me but the wrong size for Shaquille O’Neal. But still, there is a right answer to the question, “What size tennis shoe is right for Shaquille O’Neal?” and the right answer to that question is right regardless of anybody’s feelings, beliefs, upbringing, experiences, etc.

‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are used to express approval and disapproval (or, more generally, favorable and unfavorable attitudes). The subjectivists are right about that. But then again, ‘true’ and ‘false’ are used to express belief and disbelief. But when we say that something is right or wrong (or good or bad) we are doing more than expressing (or feigning) approval or disapproval, just as when we say that something is true or false we are doing more than expressing (or feigning) belief or disbelief. We are, as it were, suggesting that the attitude or belief should be universal. And that, in turn, implies that there are objective reasons for having the attitude or belief.

Of course there are disagreements about what is right and what is wrong, just as there are disagreements about some matters of fact. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t discuss them. Quite the contrary.

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 12, 2012 10:42PM)
Excellent response. Pardon me if I chop it up just a bit to make a couple of points in turn.

[quote]
On 2012-01-11 14:55, Thom Bliss wrote: (clipped some to get to here:)
Thus, for example, if all beliefs are relative to the believer’s experiences (or the society in which the believer was raised, or whatever), which I think is part of what Jdmagic357 is arguing, then the relativist’s belief that all beliefs are relative to experiences (or whatever) must be relative to his experiences (or whatever). (By the way, relativism and subjectivism have similar defects but are not the same and are actually inconsistent with each other.) [/quote]

True enough, but not a contradiction. I admit that my stance is relative to me, subjective and based on my own experience. This doesn't invalidate it, it just changes the ground I need to plow when I'm out to convince you. Since I hold there is no objective standard outside of our evaluation, I am arguing to change your subjective opinion, not on the basis of calling out to some higher standard.

[quote]Jdmagic357 says that “disscussing [sic!] right and wrong is wrong”. The question then is, what does Jdmagic357 mean by ‘is wrong’? [/quote]

Indeed. To find out, we'd have to ask him. Obviously, since right and wrong are subjective, we cannot say what he means by just guessing at it.

[quote]If Jdmagic357 thinks that when people, including Jdmagic357, say that something is right of wrong, they are merely expressing their own approval or disapproval of the thing, then, when Jdmagic357 says that discussing right and wrong is wrong, Jdmagic357 would be merely expressing Jdmagic357’s disapproval of discussions about right and wrong. If that were the case, then one might very well ask why Jdmagic357 would start a discussion Jdmagic357 himself (or herself) disapproves of. And of course, Jdmagic357’s disapproval of such discussions should have no consequences for those of us who see the need for such discussions. But, of course, that’s not what Jdmagic357 means, because Jdmagic357 also proposes the elimination of the right and wrong forum. So Jdmagic357 wants us, or at least whoever it is that could eliminate this forum, to share his or her disapproval of discussions of right and wrong. And while I confess that I don’t understand Jdmagic357’s arguments, the mere fact that he or she presents arguments in favor of the elimination of the forum shows that Jdmagic357 thinks that reasons can be given disapproving of such discussions. [/quote]

Good point on the face, but it fails because the word 'wrong' is being used in two different senses. Saying that ultimate, objective right and wrong do not exist isn't contradictory. The one sense is meta to the other. When I make a statement about concepts I am relying on a higher level of concept, it isn't polluted by the lower. It looks like this. "All statements are wrong." Well then, that is a statement, so it must be wrong and all statements are right. But, the original "All statements are wrong" isn't talking about itself, it's describing another, lower set. The statement is about other statements. It would be inconsistent if I said, "This sentence is false" but only because I made it self-referential. If we are going to talk about right and wrong at all, we are going to be talking meta.

[quote]Jdmagic357’s claim that “Whats [sic!] right for one will be wrong for the other” needs further explication. “4” is the right answer and “5” is a wrong answer to the question “What is 2 plus 2?” regardless of who is asking the question, regardless of who is answering the question, and regardless of anybody’s beliefs, feelings, upbringing, experiences, etc. Likewise, “1492” is the right answer and “1942” a wrong answer to the question “When did Columbus sail the ocean blue?” And Planet Earth is neither getting warmer or it isn’t, whether we belive it or not, and whether we like it or not. On the other hand, my tennis shoes might be the right size for me but the wrong size for Shaquille O’Neal. But still, there is a right answer to the question, “What size tennis shoe is right for Shaquille O’Neal?” and the right answer to that question is right regardless of anybody’s feelings, beliefs, upbringing, experiences, etc. [/quote]

Ah, but you slipped something in there, didn't you? Here's an example. If I say, "Every single blompf is definitely glort" and ask you to state whether that statement is right or wrong, your method fails. Why? Because without the proper context, meaning and experience, you can't know if it's right, wrong or nonsense. Certainly I could try the 2 + 2 on an infant and get nowhere. While I agree that, as humans who take some concepts to be universally true we will agree on some questions, this is a matter of shared experiences and teaching, not some ultimate truth. If I cannot concieve of a situation where 2 + 2 = 5, it may be evidence more for a lack of imagination on my part than any truth value.

Another approach would be to ask a bacterium and see if they agree. This is impossible because we do not share the same attributes. We couldn't even communicate the question, much less get an answer. But this flows naturally from the subjective nature of mathematics. It makes sense only if you have the tools for it to make sense. When we say it is universally true, we are constructing a given, impossible to test but highly useful to our mode of being.

[quote]‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are used to express approval and disapproval (or, more generally, favorable and unfavorable attitudes). The subjectivists are right about that. But then again, ‘true’ and ‘false’ are used to express belief and disbelief. But when we say that something is right or wrong (or good or bad) we are doing more than expressing (or feigning) approval or disapproval, just as when we say that something is true or false we are doing more than expressing (or feigning) belief or disbelief. We are, as it were, suggesting that the attitude or belief should be universal. And that, in turn, implies that there are objective reasons for having the attitude or belief. [/quote]

Ah, but we know one thing pretty well, don't we? That we have been incorrect in the past. So, while we may insist that something be accepted as right or wrong, that is just a manner of speaking, a way to test agreement between fellows, a setting out of axioms so that conversation may move forward.

[quote]Of course there are disagreements about what is right and what is wrong, just as there are disagreements about some matters of fact. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t discuss them. Quite the contrary.

Thom
.
[/quote]

Good stuff, Thom. I find myself re-energized.
I'd only add that these things have serious, real-world consequences and are not just mental gymnastics played in a forum. How, for instance, am I to deal with a culture (perhaps the Taliban?) that so fundamentally disagrees with some core value I hold to be universal and right? Am I to insist, as loudly and at as great a length as they, that I am right and they are wrong? Shall we end up at an impasse, agreeing that Truth (with a capital T) is universal, while simultaneously disagreeing on what that is?
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 13, 2012 05:35PM)
First, to answer Billmarq’s question, “When right is wrong, what’s left?” Grave and acute.

Another answer to Billmarq’s question. The left is usually right.

The contradiction of relativism.

(1) No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong).
(2) But, because of my up-bringing, culture, or whatever, I believe that (1) is wrong.
Therefore, (1) is wrong.

[quote] "All statements are wrong." Well then, that is a statement, so it must be wrong and all statements are right.[/quote]

No, the denial of “All statements are wrong” is “some statements are not wrong,” which is true. So the original statement is false.

[quote]But, the original "All statements are wrong" isn't talking about itself, it's describing another, lower set.[/quote]
In either case, it’s false.

Okay, so somebody makes a moral judgment – for example, “It’s okay to steal from somebody who has no effective recourse if you steal from them” (a proposition a thief of my intellectual property recently proposed to me). That judgment is, I suppose, based on his up-bringing, his culture, his experience, or whatever. So, depending on the version of relativism, it is either true because he believes it to be true, or not true, because all moral judgments are based on (and polluted by) up-bringing (or whatever) and therefore none of them are true.

Now suppose I make a moral judgment about his moral judgment, for example, “The idea that stealing is okay if you can get away with it is wrong.” My statement, is “meta” – that is, second order, a moral judgment about a moral judgment. But if we believe that all first order moral judgments are based on our up-bringing (or whatever), why isn’t my second-order or meta- judgment also based on my upbringing (or whatever), and therefore either true because I believe it, or “polluted” by my upbringing (or whatever). Alternatively, if my second order judgments can be unpolluted by cultural bias, why can’t my first order judgments somehow avoid the pollution?

And somebody might challenge my second-order moral judgment with a third-order (or meta-meta- ) judgment. But the same question about bias would arise.

Granted, I don’t know what
[quote] "Every single blompf is definitely glort" [/quote]
means, and that
[quote]without the proper context, meaning and experience, you can't know if it's right, wrong or nonsense[/quote] I don’t know everything. There is a great deal that I don’t know and also a great deal that I don’t know that is false. My knowing it or not knowing doesn’t change its true or falsity, rightness or wrongness.

[quote] … but we know one thing pretty well, don't we? That we have been incorrect in the past.[/quote]
But realizing that we have been wrong is not just changing our view. It recognizes that there is something that we can be mistaken about.

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 14, 2012 11:59PM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-13 18:35, Thom Bliss wrote:
First, to answer Billmarq’s question, “When right is wrong, what’s left?” Grave and acute.

Another answer to Billmarq’s question. The left is usually right.

The contradiction of relativism.

(1) No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong).
(2) But, because of my up-bringing, culture, or whatever, I believe that (1) is wrong.
Therefore, (1) is wrong. [/quote]

I'll try to fix that little logical puzzle to remove the contradiction for you.

(1) No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong) [i]from your perspective[/i].

(2) But, because of my up-bringing, culture, or whatever, I believe that (1) is wrong. Therefore, [i]from my perspective[/i], (1) is wrong.

It really isn't much different than you or I disagreeing on how tall a distant building is. If we are looking at it from different distances, I might say, "Well, obviously, it appears to be as big as my thumb." You may say, from your perspective, "Well, that's not right. When I look, it's as big as my hand."

Because our irises are not as large as a building, there is no perspective from which either of us could say, "It is 40.3 ft high" if we are honest about the appearance in our own eye. If the objection to this is that by comparing to a known standard (as when I typed "ft" above), everyone can agree, then I should like to know what is the known standard, the yardstick, for judgements about right and wrong?
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Jan 15, 2012 12:18AM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-15 00:59, writeall wrote:
[quote]
On 2012-01-13 18:35, Thom Bliss wrote:
First, to answer Billmarq’s question, “When right is wrong, what’s left?” Grave and acute.

Another answer to Billmarq’s question. The left is usually right.

The contradiction of relativism.

(1) No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong).
(2) But, because of my up-bringing, culture, or whatever, I believe that (1) is wrong.
Therefore, (1) is wrong. [/quote]

I'll try to fix that little logical puzzle to remove the contradiction for you.

(1) No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong) [i]from your perspective[/i].

(2) But, because of my up-bringing, culture, or whatever, I believe that (1) is wrong. Therefore, [i]from my perspective[/i], (1) is wrong.

It really isn't much different than you or I disagreeing on how tall a distant building is. If we are looking at it from different distances, I might say, "Well, obviously, it appears to be as big as my thumb." You may say, from your perspective, "Well, that's not right. When I look, it's as big as my hand."

Because our irises are not as large as a building, there is no perspective from which either of us could say, "It is 40.3 ft high" if we are honest about the appearance in our own eye. If the objection to this is that by comparing to a known standard (as when I typed "ft" above), everyone can agree, then I should like to know what is the known standard, the yardstick, for judgements about right and wrong?
[/quote]

I think it's more like two people looking at two buildings, and one of them saying, "Building 1 is taller," and the other saying, "Building 2 is taller." Each is stating the truth as he or she believes it to be from his or her perspective, but [i](at least) one of them is wrong.[/i] Perception ISN'T reality.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 15, 2012 12:23AM)
This part was good too:
[quote]Okay, so somebody makes a moral judgment – for example, “It’s okay to steal from somebody who has no effective recourse if you steal from them” (a proposition a thief of my intellectual property recently proposed to me). That judgment is, I suppose, based on his up-bringing, his culture, his experience, or whatever. So, depending on the version of relativism, it is either true because he believes it to be true, or not true, because all moral judgments are based on (and polluted by) up-bringing (or whatever) and therefore none of them are true. [/quote]

In a sense, it restates the original objection. This time, you've switched in the idea of an absolute truth. So, when you say, "it is either true because he believes it to be true, or not true, because all moral judgments are based on (and polluted by) up-bringing (or whatever) and therefore none of them are true," you are relying on some outside, absolute truth. Really, we are talking about some particular person's judgement and nothing else.

The problem is, if you wish to claim either of these absolutes, I should then ask how it is that you would go about demonstrating they are absolute. Isn't it a case of two people with an authentically held difference of opinion, or is there something outside of our own moral judgement (which may differ) to which we can appeal? I'd go with Kant's categorical imperative, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law." Others might prefer the golden rule in one of its various forms. I would claim neither to have absolute authority, but either generates a consistent system we could appeal to when trying to settle arguments.

Just to clarify what would be a useful standard or "moral law." Consider the laws of physics, say the law of gravity. I can deny it, disbelieve it, refute it until I'm blue in the face -- at the end of the day, when I drop my coffee cup, it falls on my foot. The law is a statement about something I cannot escape or philosphize away. It has consequences I cannot control. This is what I would demand of an outside, non-relative moral law. This is the challenge for absolutism.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 15, 2012 12:32AM)
Thanks Lobo.
"I think it's more like two people looking at two buildings, and one of them saying, "Building 1 is taller," and the other saying, "Building 2 is taller." Each is stating the truth as he or she believes it to be from his or her perspective, but (at least) one of them is wrong. Perception ISN'T reality."

Two things. I'd need a diagram to show you that buildings of equal height could be seen by different observers, each disagreeing that one is taller than the other, but I take your point. My point is with the assumption there is a single dimension, like height, and a correct answer, if only we could find it.

I agree that perception isn't reality. In fact, this is the basis for moral relativism. We agree that no observer is in any special position and that any one perception cannot be claimed to be on a higher moral plane than any other.

The way we do it in practice is embodied in the court system, where we ask a disinterested, representative pool of citizens to make a judgement. Generally, this works fairly well. The result is relative to a larger culture and this trumps a single opinion which may be more prone to bias. Of course, even that is still relative, as we can see by the different legal systems put in place in different cultures and different judgements about things like human rights or property rights.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Jan 15, 2012 12:35AM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-15 01:23, writeall wrote:
This part was good too:
[quote]Okay, so somebody makes a moral judgment – for example, “It’s okay to steal from somebody who has no effective recourse if you steal from them” (a proposition a thief of my intellectual property recently proposed to me). That judgment is, I suppose, based on his up-bringing, his culture, his experience, or whatever. So, depending on the version of relativism, it is either true because he believes it to be true, or not true, because all moral judgments are based on (and polluted by) up-bringing (or whatever) and therefore none of them are true. [/quote]

In a sense, it restates the original objection. This time, you've switched in the idea of an absolute truth. So, when you say, "it is either true because he believes it to be true, or not true, because all moral judgments are based on (and polluted by) up-bringing (or whatever) and therefore none of them are true," you are relying on some outside, absolute truth. Really, we are talking about some particular person's judgement and nothing else.

The problem is, if you wish to claim either of these absolutes, I should then ask how it is that you would go about demonstrating they are absolute. Isn't it a case of two people with an authentically held difference of opinion, or is there something outside of our own moral judgement (which may differ) to which we can appeal? I'd go with Kant's categorical imperative, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law." Others might prefer the golden rule in one of its various forms. I would claim neither to have absolute authority, but either generates a consistent system we could appeal to when trying to settle arguments.

Just to clarify what would be a useful standard or "moral law." Consider the laws of physics, say the law of gravity. I can deny it, disbelieve it, refute it until I'm blue in the face -- at the end of the day, when I drop my coffee cup, it falls on my foot. The law is a statement about something I cannot escape or philosphize away. It has consequences I cannot control. This is what I would demand of an outside, non-relative moral law. This is the challenge for absolutism.
[/quote]

The statement "Really, we are talking about some particular person's judgement and nothing else," itself, fails to address the same sort of challenge as the appeal to transcendent morality - it is a truth claim that is unverifiable. You may reasonably expect the burden of proof to fall on the proponent of the claim, i.e. the one who argues [i]for[/i] the outside moral law, but regardless, that's a side issue. You accept as true the unprovable proposition that there is no outside, non-relative moral law.

I don't think it's a problem, per se, to claim an absolute; one does, however, have to recognize that it's not subject to "proof" as we think of it. It's not really subject to "knowledge," in the way that we equate knowledge to verifiability, and so it's not really the subject of "useful" argumentation; however, many things that are unverifiable are nonetheless true. One may be able to persuade another of an unverifiable claim, but ultimately it's a matter of faith. Again, though, the fact that an assertion cannot be proven or verified doesn't render it false. The claim isn't [i]untrue[/i] merely because it's [i]unknowable[/i].
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 15, 2012 01:49AM)
I cut a bit to get to this:
[quote]You accept as true the unprovable proposition that there is no outside, non-relative moral law.[/quote]

I accept it as [i]relatively[/i] true. Since I am arguing the relative side, I could hardly make an absolute claim, otherwise, I'd be claiming special knowledge and contradict myself.

[quote]I don't think it's a problem, per se, to claim an absolute; one does, however, have to recognize that it's not subject to "proof" as we think of it. It's not really subject to "knowledge," in the way that we equate knowledge to verifiability, and so it's not really the subject of "useful" argumentation; [/quote]

Iheartily agree. This is why I am a pragmatist.

[quote]...however, many things that are unverifiable are nonetheless true. One may be able to persuade another of an unverifiable claim, but ultimately it's a matter of faith. Again, though, the fact that an assertion cannot be proven or verified doesn't render it false. The claim isn't untrue merely because it's unknowable.[/quote]

How would you know this part, "many things that are unverifiable are nonetheless true"? But I agree with this part, "The claim isn't untrue merely because it's unknowable." This is actually the power of the relativist position. It doesn't demand that absolutes exist, but may [i]act as if[/i] they do. There is some loss of hubris, but it works in practice.

An example comes to mind. I was of two minds on whether to put up a website about building props. I realized it would entail some exposure. Still, I really wanted to do it. Knowing I'm as biased as the next guy/gal, I asked here in the Café. I wanted to get a community sense of it. The sense I got was that it should at least be password protected and not easily searchable from Google, and probably not a good idea in any case. In a very real way, I tapped into a perspective that wasn't my own and benefitted from it. I honestly wanted to know if what I intended was right or wrong. Not universally so, not absolutely so, but in the eyes of people I respect and with whom I share a similar experience -- the love of this art.

I think the fear that moral relativism leads necessarily to chaos and vice is incorrect. All it really does is get people to listen attentively to other opinions, introduce a little doubt, and keep us away from a kind of toxic certainty.
Message: Posted by: LobowolfXXX (Jan 15, 2012 02:18AM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-15 02:49, writeall wrote:
I cut a bit to get to this:
[quote]You accept as true the unprovable proposition that there is no outside, non-relative moral law.[/quote]

I accept it as [i]relatively[/i] true. Since I am arguing the relative side, I could hardly make an absolute claim, otherwise, I'd be claiming special knowledge and contradict myself.

[quote]I don't think it's a problem, per se, to claim an absolute; one does, however, have to recognize that it's not subject to "proof" as we think of it. It's not really subject to "knowledge," in the way that we equate knowledge to verifiability, and so it's not really the subject of "useful" argumentation; [/quote]

Iheartily agree. This is why I am a pragmatist.

[quote]...however, many things that are unverifiable are nonetheless true. One may be able to persuade another of an unverifiable claim, but ultimately it's a matter of faith. Again, though, the fact that an assertion cannot be proven or verified doesn't render it false. The claim isn't untrue merely because it's unknowable.[/quote]

How would you know this part, "many things that are unverifiable are nonetheless true"? But I agree with this part, "The claim isn't untrue merely because it's unknowable." This is actually the power of the relativist position. It doesn't demand that absolutes exist, but may [i]act as if[/i] they do. There is some loss of hubris, but it works in practice.

An example comes to mind. I was of two minds on whether to put up a website about building props. I realized it would entail some exposure. Still, I really wanted to do it. Knowing I'm as biased as the next guy/gal, I asked here in the Café. I wanted to get a community sense of it. The sense I got was that it should at least be password protected and not easily searchable from Google, and probably not a good idea in any case. In a very real way, I tapped into a perspective that wasn't my own and benefitted from it. I honestly wanted to know if what I intended was right or wrong. Not universally so, not absolutely so, but in the eyes of people I respect and with whom I share a similar experience -- the love of this art.

I think the fear that moral relativism leads necessarily to chaos and vice is incorrect. All it really does is get people to listen attentively to other opinions, introduce a little doubt, and keep us away from a kind of toxic certainty.
[/quote]

With respect to the claim that many things which are unknowable are true (which in itself is a position that may qualify!), if you accept, for instance, the law of the excluded middle, then it becomes fairly easy to demonstrate, by considering any assertion that is uncertain.

For instance, if you agree that it's impossible to "know" whether or not the sense, "Objective, transcendent moral principles exist" is true or not, then it follows that you would have to agree that it's impossbile to "know" that the statement "Objective, transcendent moral principles do not exist" (since if you could know whether the second is true, you'd know whether the first was true, as well). But per the law of the excluded middle, exactly one of the two statements is true. This example of a true thing which is "unknowable" (indeed, we still don't "know" [i]which[/i] of the statements it is that's true!) can be extended to any uncertain proposition p, for which either "p" or "not p" is true but unknowable.

With respect to your example, I think it works just as well from an absolutist point of view. As someone who [i]doesn't[/i] adhere to the relativist position, I frequently solicit input from people whose beliefs I respect. Not because I believe that their consensus creates or defines a truth, but rather because I think that on the close calls, I'm more likely to come to the correct conclusion. This is related to your last paragraph, as well; I don't think that moral relativism is needed to get us to listen to others' opinions or introduce doubt (though it may help). What's required is the humility to recognize that although (assuming the absolutist position for the sake of illustration) there [i]is[/i] a (capital-R transcendent) "Right," that doesn't mean that my belief about what is Right is correct. I could be wrong about my moral judgment, just as I could be wrong when I eyeball a close measurement. It's one thing to say, "There's definitely 'a' 'Right'," and it's another thing to say, "There's definitely 'a' 'Right', [i]and all of my moral judgments comport with it perfectly[/i]."

Conversely, a relativist position [i]could[/i] (although it certainly doesn't have to) lead one to more closed-mindedness, in that one who rejects the notion that there's "a" Right may stop the analysis at that point and do whatever (s)he wants. Ultimately, I don't know that either position is inherently more conducive to moral sensitivity and inquiry, because the belief about whether there are transcendent moral truths isn't really a moral position; it's sort of a general philosophical one, and I think that people of good, average, or bad moral character (whatever that means) may find that either position seems right.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 15, 2012 01:46PM)
[quote]For instance, if you agree that it's impossible to "know" whether or not the sense, "Objective, transcendent moral principles exist" is true or not, then it follows that you would have to agree that it's impossbile to "know" that the statement "Objective, transcendent moral principles do not exist" (since if you could know whether the second is true, you'd know whether the first was true, as well). But per the law of the excluded middle, exactly one of the two statements is true. This example of a true thing which is "unknowable" (indeed, we still don't "know" which of the statements it is that's true!) can be extended to any uncertain proposition p, for which either "p" or "not p" is true but unknowable. [/quote]

This only works if you already accept the idea of an absolute truth. In logic and conceptual analysis, this is a defined, axiomatic thing. In relativism, it's the very thing we are interested in, so we shouldn't be introducing it to set up the excluded middle.

The answers are very similar sometimes, except we say things like, "This seems true/false/right/wrong to me." This gets us away from the burden of your construction above and becomes a comment about a specific person instead of the larger idea. As far as whether I would argue "true or not" in the situation above, I'd add a kind of duality to it. So, for example, I might reject the notions of objective and trancendant as nonsensical and the test phrase neither true nor false on that basis. If those parts are repaired, I would point to the subjective nature of the experience and claim that there are multiple correct answers on offer, depending on who is deciding the issue.

I don't see how we can rise above our own humanity in this. While I think there are better places to stand than just a minute's idle reflection, there does not seem to be a place to stand that is untainted by our own concerns, experiences and biology. In short, Man is truly the measure of all things.

One of my favorite examples of what you describe (the part I quoted above) is here: http://www.edge.org/q2005/q05_9.html#dysonf
It is predicated on the structure of mathematics and evinces how undecidables are handled.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jan 15, 2012 05:47PM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-15 01:18, LobowolfXXX wrote:... Perception ISN'T reality.
[/quote]

Often, it's all that's offered to back up a claim of reality where reality usually means independently verifiable.

Who specifically is asserting the presence of (or better yet attempting to install) a fear associated with moral relativism?

What permits one to claim ethical notions that differ from verifiable patterns of reward and expected rewards in a society?
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 16, 2012 09:50PM)
As I said in an earlier post, “it’s a bit hard to say why relativism and subjectivism are self-contradictory without having a fairly specific theory, and the arguments for it, as the exact way they go haywire differ from theory to theory.”

In my next post, I tried it anyway. I offered an argument to show that one form of relativism was self-contradictory:

(1) No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong).
(2) But, because of my up-bringing, culture, or whatever, I believe that (1) is wrong.
Therefore, (1) is wrong.

I took (1) to be a statement of one form of relativism. And (2) is true – at least it is true that I believe that (1) is wrong. I’m not sure that it’s because of my up-bringing, etc., that I believe that (1) wrong, but I think relativists would be hard pressed to say it was something else.

But writeall’s “fix”, changing (1) to [quote] No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong) [i]from your perspective,[/i][/quote] doesn’t fix it at all. Surely when writeall says he is a relativist, he does not merely mean that he believes that each of us believes what he or she believes! I think that all of us can agree about that! As C. S. Peirce once said, “we think each one of our beliefs to be true, and, indeed, it is mere tautology to say so” (“The Fixation of Belief,” iv, [i]Popular Science Monthly,[/i] Vol. 12 [November 1877], p. 6).

At any rate, all that relativists can claim, on this view, is that they accept relativism. Which we already knew. Yet they are so eager to get the rest of us to accept their view. Why is their view any better than anybody else’s? And if it isn’t, why do they want the rest of us to accept it, to have their perspective?

When people think that something is right (or wrong), what are they thinking? Surely each person is not merely thinking that it is right (or wrong) from his or her perspective! That would involve an infinite regress – the next step would be[i] From my perspective this is right from my perspective (or wrong from my perspective).[/i] Then we could go to [i] From my perspective it is my perspective that this is right from my perspective (or wrong from my perspective).[/i] And we still won’t have said what it is that we think it is, by thinking that it is right (or wrong), even if our judgments that it is or isn’t may be clouded by our culture, or whatever.

And what about the possibility of being mistaken? Does “I was wrong” mean “From my perspective, I was wrong about my perspective”?

To say that an action, practice, or policy is right is, at least in part, to say that it merits or deserves universal acceptance; to say that it is wrong is to say, at least in part, that it merits or deserves universal condemnation. Of course our judgments about what does or does not deserve universal acceptance or condemnation are shaped in part by our up-bringing, our culture, the people we associate with, and many other things. And so are our judgments about Evolution, the Big Bang Theory, Global Warming, Supply-side Economics, Queen Anne's mortality, and Obama's birthplace.

But to say that people disagree about such things, and that their disagreements are at least in part the result of different environments, experiences, etc., does not imply that all of them are right, that all of them are wrong, or that all of them are of equal value.

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 17, 2012 11:09AM)
I think this is the high point of my day. One gets so little opportunity to practice deep thinking.
"Once more into the fray!"
[quote]
On 2012-01-16 22:50, Thom Bliss wrote:
As I said in an earlier post, “it’s a bit hard to say why relativism and subjectivism are self-contradictory without having a fairly specific theory, and the arguments for it, as the exact way they go haywire differ from theory to theory.”

In my next post, I tried it anyway. I offered an argument to show that one form of relativism was self-contradictory:

(1) No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong).
(2) But, because of my up-bringing, culture, or whatever, I believe that (1) is wrong.
Therefore, (1) is wrong.

I took (1) to be a statement of one form of relativism. And (2) is true – at least it is true that I believe that (1) is wrong. I’m not sure that it’s because of my up-bringing, etc., that I believe that (1) wrong, but I think relativists would be hard pressed to say it was something else.

But writeall’s “fix”, changing (1) to [quote] No matter who you are, if, because of your up-bringing, culture or whatever, you believe that something is right (or wrong), then it is right (or wrong) [i]from your perspective,[/i][/quote] doesn’t fix it at all. Surely when writeall says he is a relativist, he does not merely mean that he believes that each of us believes what he or she believes! I think that all of us can agree about that! As C. S. Peirce once said, “we think each one of our beliefs to be true, and, indeed, it is mere tautology to say so” (“The Fixation of Belief,” iv, [i]Popular Science Monthly,[/i] Vol. 12 [November 1877], p. 6).[/quote]

Actually, I do believe it's tautological. This is why moral relativism finds a nice partner in materialism. A similar construct would be to remark, "I am right handed because I am right handed." It also has a similar grounding in observation.

[quote]At any rate, all that relativists can claim, on this view, is that they accept relativism. Which we already knew. Yet they are so eager to get the rest of us to accept their view. Why is their view any better than anybody else’s? And if it isn’t, why do they want the rest of us to accept it, to have their perspective? [/quote]

Here is the rationale (too long to make the case here): http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1698090

[quote]When people think that something is right (or wrong), what are they thinking? Surely each person is not merely thinking that it is right (or wrong) from his or her perspective! [/quote]

Whose perspective, other than their own, are they using? (We have mentioned that they may be informed by society and upbringing, but to make absolutist claims, they'd need something else, something beyond these.)

[quote]That would involve an infinite regress – the next step would be[i] From my perspective this is right from my perspective (or wrong from my perspective).[/i] Then we could go to [i] From my perspective it is my perspective that this is right from my perspective (or wrong from my perspective).[/i] And we still won’t have said what it is that we think it is, by thinking that it is right (or wrong), even if our judgments that it is or isn’t may be clouded by our culture, or whatever.[/quote]

True in the abstract, but limited in the real world by biology. You can try this yourself to see how many steps you can go on such a chain with mental effort alone. Perhaps trying to hold in mind a sequence of "smaller fleas to bite 'em" until you can no longer do so clearly. I find I can't do more than about five without introducing shortcuts and a loss of meaning in the relationships. This is also a well studied cognitive phenomenon.

[quote]And what about the possibility of being mistaken? Does “I was wrong” mean “From my perspective, I was wrong about my perspective”? [/quote]

No. In the relatvist view, it means, "What I thought before I now think is wrong." This works because perspective shifts with time. One's own perspective is considered undeniable in the sense of "I am incapable of denying it." This isn't the same as a remark on "outside of me" but, again, reflects limitations on what we can believe or manage to disbelieve.

[quote]To say that an action, practice, or policy is right is, at least in part, to say that it merits or deserves universal acceptance; to say that it is wrong is to say, at least in part, that it merits or deserves universal condemnation. Of course our judgments about what does or does not deserve universal acceptance or condemnation are shaped in part by our up-bringing, our culture, the people we associate with, and many other things. And so are our judgments about Evolution, the Big Bang Theory, Global Warming, Supply-side Economics, Queen Anne's mortality, and Obama's birthplace.[/quote]

I certainly agree with this.

[quote]But to say that people disagree about such things, and that their disagreements are at least in part the result of different environments, experiences, etc., does not imply that all of them are right, that all of them are wrong, or that all of them are of equal value.[/quote]

We are circling round the same issue. I would not say that they are "right" or "wrong" other than in a relativistic way. The very fact of such undecidable disagreements is the point of relativism. Einstein's special relativity and how time is treated is a very good analogy here. There is no universal time or clock. Still, each person, in their own intertial frame, experiences time in the same way. The "truth value" is relative to the observer.

Good stuff Thom. Thank you.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 18, 2012 12:32PM)
I have no idea what it means to be right or wrong ‘in a relativistic way’. Does this mean that both the Birthers are right (in a relativistic way) in claiming that Obama was born in Kenya and the Hawaii bureau of vital statistics, [i] The Honolulu Advertiser[/i], and so on, are also right (but only in a relativistic way) that he was born in Honolulu? Did his mother endure child-birth twice (but each time only in a relativistic way)?

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 18, 2012 01:47PM)
You get to decide. You aren't expected to have any other perspective than your own.

But, if you'd like to know what other people have decided, you could ask them. You will find that yes, there are people who hold other views and beliefs about the subject. They may also tell you that they are factually correct in what they say and believe it authentically. Just as strongly as you hold whatever you hold.

I doubt you'd have used that example unless you already had some notion as to what you've decided is right?

Here's another interesting consequence of relative morality: When the majority of humans think a thing right, we quit discussing it and move on with whatever our concerns are. It's interesting because those widely accepted things change over time. Last century's "right" becomes this century's "wrong." What, I wonder, will the future bring? Perhaps, if the movement grows, our children's children's children will simply "know" that eating meat is wrong -- no discussion required. Or perhaps we as a species will abandon the notion of families. Or any number of odd and seemingly settled ideas. I can't say, I don't have that perspective.

The sin of the absolutist is hubris. But it's a common human failing. I myself am prone to think that my generation and my time is at some hierachical pinnacle of human endeavor, that the collective We have it figured out and there's nowhere interesting to go from here. I suppose, since the dawn of time, others, now long dead and decayed, have thought pretty much the same thing.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 18, 2012 02:57PM)
I still don’t know what it is to be relatively right or relatively wrong.

Yes, I do think that Obama was only born only once, at least in a fleshy way (although he may have been “born again” in a spiritual way). One side or other is wrong, and not just relatively wrong.

Science is, as much as anything, error correction. We have a theory, but we find it’s not quite right. Then somebody comes up with a better theory, which also isn’t quite right.

You cited the law of gravity in an earlier post. But there have been disputes about gravity. At one time, most people thought that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones. Galileo showed otherwise.

People once thought that the Universe was, if you will, Newtonian. Einstein said it wasn’t and various experiments (such as the eclipse experiments) showed that Einstein was right about that. But Einstein’s view of the Universe might not be right, either.

I would think that the charge of hubris would cut both ways. Anybody who says that his (or her) own views must be right, simply because they are his (or her) views, and that he (or she) is the measure of all things, might have a touch of hubris. People who believe that there is a reality beyond their own views and prejudices are not being hubristic. Of course, some people not only say that there is a reality about which we can be right or wrong, but that they know what that reality is. I make no such claim.

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 19, 2012 07:56AM)
The practical difference is negligible.

The absolutist would say, "That is right/wrong."
The relativist would say, "I think that is right/wrong."

The first is a statement about an external world. The second a statement about an internal one.
Still, in practice, either works. If you leave the "I think" part out, I hear it anyhow.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 19, 2012 03:35PM)
Well, I think there has been a shift here from relativism to some kind of subjectivism. Again, they aren’t the same and are actually incompatible with each other.

When somebody says that something is right, they are, ordinarily, implying in a way that he or she thinks that it is right. (I say, ordinarily, because there are exceptions – actors playing a character, for example.) But what is it that they are thinking about that something when they think that it is right? What is the difference between thinking that something is right and thinking that it is wrong?

When you say that something is right and I say it is wrong, we are not merely, or even primarily, exchanging introspective notes. Nor I am I denying that you think that it is right – I may, in fact, doubt your sincerity, but if I do, that is a separate issue.

“This is right” has very different truth conditions from “So-and-so thinks this is right.” If I want to know whether something is right I may or may not be interested in what So-and-so thinks is right – if So-and-so is an expert I may very well want his input. But I might be very interested in why he thinks it is right or thinks that it is wrong.

As I said in an earlier post, to say that something is right is, in part, to say that it merits or deserves universal acceptance. This involves some idea of the nature of the thing (perhaps including its consequences) and some sort of standard or standards (some criterion or criteria of rightness and wrongness) to judge it by. The standards will vary from one kind of thing to another – the standards to decide whether my buying a particular car at this time is the right thing to do are not the same as the standards to determine whether “12.5” is the right answer to a mathematics question. We can disagree about the nature of the thing, or the standards to be used, or even whether a thing of that nature meets those standards.

Is anybody besides writeall and me reading this thread? If you are reading this and want to dialog to continue, please say something. Otherwise, this is likely to be my last post.

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jan 19, 2012 08:48PM)
Is that "would think" or "believe" or "just feel like typing at the moment"?

I find it an almost interesting distinction - between someone asserting that they do not know a thing (certainty=confidence?) versus claiming that they can't know it (perhaps they would change into a mouse if they did?).

How can you be sure that when nobody is looking the number five does not invite eleven and twelve to squeeze in between it and six? (in fear of seven if you recall that joke).
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Jan 20, 2012 11:20AM)
I find an almost interesting distinction almost interesting, Jon.

And no, I don't recall that joke. Can you tell it here or do you have to PM me?
Message: Posted by: Higgenbottom (Jan 20, 2012 04:35PM)
I thought it was that ten and eleven were afraid because seven ate nine.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Jan 21, 2012 11:51AM)
Right. That's hysterically funny. :)
Message: Posted by: Higgenbottom (Jan 21, 2012 11:22PM)
The six-year-old who told me the joke thought it was funny. But I think we may have strayed a bit from the original topic.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Jan 23, 2012 03:35AM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-22 00:22, Higgenbottom wrote:
But I think we may have strayed a bit from the original topic.
[/quote]

Well, I suppose that all depends on your point of view.

:lol:
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 23, 2012 01:29PM)
Jon,
My favorite take on this comes from Antonio Damasio. He's a cognitive scientist/neurologist who proposed that "knowing" is a feeling, like other feelings we have -- anger, hunger, confidence, whatever. It's a neat way to look at it. Just like other feelings, there's no way we can deny it either. When I say, "I am hungry," it doesn't seem there could be any way to argue the opposite.

What comes up then (and Damasio gives examples) is when someone has contradictory "knowings." He talks about patients who are blind but believe/know they are not, or people with lost limbs who still know where their missing hand is or that it itches. These people are not stupid, rather, they are forced to "know" two contradictory things at the same time. This, I think, is a phenomena we rely on in the art of illusion. We invite people to believe things about the world that are in direct opposition to what they know about the world. Maybe it isn't surprising that some folks do not care for the sensation and think it, not fun to be fooled, but irritating.
Message: Posted by: Higgenbottom (Jan 23, 2012 02:37PM)
[quote] Well, I suppose that all depends on your point of view.[/quote]
That is funny -- and also quite insightful -- or at least I find it so.

Humor is relative. What one finds funny or not does seem to depend on one's background, education, ethnicity, maturity, and so on. Humor is in the eye of the beholder; the ear of the listener.

Perhaps jdmagic picked the wrong forum for elimination. Maybe it is the "Now that's funny" forum that should be eliminated.

After all, that "discussion" is just a sounding board of personal opinions with no real collective. What's funny for one will be lame for the other, so without consensus the point winds up moot.

The "discussion" also digresses into a judgment call on one's personality which may not have any basis in reality. One's beliefs about humor are guided by one's own experiences. So to think something is funny without having come from the same background skews the judgment.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Jan 28, 2012 09:33AM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-23 15:37, Higgenbottom wrote:
Maybe it is the "Now that's funny" forum that should be eliminated.
[/quote]

Well, there are certainly more than a few forum members who don't care for that forum in its present incarnation. :)

But it is very interesting indeed that you make the comparision between a discussion of ethics and a discussion of humor. Most people who argue that morals are relative aren't really saying that they are relative to changing cultures and sitations, but that morals are a question of taste, and that no moral "truth" as such exists.

As I've said before (and in other forums, such as Food for Though), I don't think that most people really hold this position deep down: if bring up the Holocaust, while some hardened souls will try to stick to "well, it's wrong to ME, but...", most will concede that murder somehow violates some kind of natural moral order.

But going from some kind of natural moral order to a thoroughgoing ethical code is simply too complex--and too open to agreement--for most people. What the Founding Fathers of the US wisely realized is that the most rational solution is to allow individuals to make their own ethical decisions as much as possible. But letting each of us decide for ourselves how to live doesn't mean that all ways of living are equally good or capable of leading to happiness. Does any of us really believe such a thing?
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 28, 2012 05:48PM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-28 10:33, stoneunhinged wrote:

As I've said before (and in other forums, such as Food for Though), I don't think that most people really hold this position deep down: if bring up the Holocaust, while some hardened souls will try to stick to "well, it's wrong to ME, but...", most will concede that murder somehow violates some kind of natural moral order.
[/quote]

There's a neat trick we play in this circumstance. We all agree that "murder is wrong" and then we change which act should be counted as murder. You get a broad spectrum of opinion if you ask which of these deaths should be counted as murder -- state executions, abortion, self defense based killing, war deaths, honor killings, euthanasia, eugenics. And even so, everyone will agree that murder is wrong.

In the same light, here on the fora, we all agree that stealing someone else's material is wrong (at least I think we all agree?) and then argue endlessly about just what "stealing" means. Same phenomenon.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 29, 2012 12:39PM)
[quote] … “knowing” is a feeling, like other feelings we have -- anger, hunger, confidence, whatever. [/quote]Knowing, at least in one important sense of that word, is not a feeling. Believing is a feeling (or, better, an attitude, since it is directed towards something). But knowing something is not the same as merely believing it –

Suppose that somebody (let’s call him McEcks) believes that the Moon is made of green cheese. McEcks might say that he knows that the Moon is made of green cheese. But those of us who know that Moon is not made of green cheese would not say that McEcks knows that the Moon is made of green cheese. We would, instead, say that he has a mistaken belief that the Moon is made of green cheese.

Now suppose that later McEcks realizes that the Moon is not made of green cheese. He would [i]not[/i] say that he [i]used to know[/i] that the Moon is made of green cheese but now knows that it is not. He would, instead say that he had had a mistaken belief about the Moon; but now knew better.

(He might say something like, “I used to ‘know’ that the Moon was made of green cheese …”; but the quotation marks around ‘know’ indicate that it’s not really knowing. Compare “I used to ‘know’ that the Moon was made of green cheese …” with a case of genuine once knowing and now not knowing, for example, “I used to know the names of every student in my class, but I have forgotten many of them.”)

[quote]… It’s a neat way to look at it. Just like other feelings, there’s no way we can deny it either. When I say, “I am hungry,” it doesn’t seem there could be any way to argue the opposite.[/quote]This is wrong in so many ways. Of course I have whatever feelings I have; no doubt about it. But what kind of feeling is it? To characterize my feeling as anger rather than say, joy, is to compare my feeling with other feelings I have had (“this is the same feeling I have previously had, and which I called ‘anger’”) and with how others have described their feelings. We do dispute others’ feelings, sometimes correctly. People sometimes say they have feeling which they do not actually have, either because they are mistaken about their own feelings or are simply lying. And we can be mistaken about our own feelings – “I thought I has in love, but it was only lust.”

More to the point, just as our believing or disbelieving a proposition does not make it true or false, our attitudes of liking or disliking, approving or disapproving, or whatever, towards an action or a type of action does not make it good or bad, right or wrong.

[quote]Ah, but we know one thing pretty well, don’t we? That we have been incorrect in the past.[/quote] Being mistaken is not merely changing our minds, or having one sort of feeling and then a different one. As Richard Brandt, wrote in [i]Ethical Theory[/i], “Suppose, for instance, as a child a person disliked eating peas. When he recalls this as an adult he is amused and notes how preferences change with age. He does not say, however, that his former attitude was [i]mistaken.[/i] If, on the other hand, he remembers regarding irreligion or divorce as wicked, and now does not, he regards his former view as erroneous and unfounded. …”

[quote]We all agree that “murder is wrong” and then we change which act should be counted as murder. You get a broad spectrum of opinion if you ask which of these deaths should be counted as murder – state executions, abortion, self defense based killing, war deaths, honor killings, euthanasia, eugenics. And even so, everyone will agree that murder is wrong.[/quote]Well, yes, at least one common meaning of ‘murder’ is ‘[i]wrongfully[/i] taking a human life’. There are many types of taking of human lives that everybody agrees are wrong. I think that was Stony’s point. And his specific example was the Holocaust. Anybody who approvals of the Holocaust needs a new moral compass. Our approval or disapproval of the Holocaust, and genocide in general, is not on a par with our liking or disliking peas – just a matter of taste. There are other cases of taking of human life that there are disagreements about. But these, too, are not a matter of taste. That is one of the reasons why discussing right and wrong is [i]not[/i] wrong and is, instead, almost mandatory.

[quote]We [magicians] invite people to believe things about the world that are in direct opposition to what they know about the world.[/quote]Sorta. We, like other actors, should aim for a [i]suspension[/i] of disbelief. I think, far too often, we only succeed in presenting a display of skill, or a puzzle. We should get our audience to think that – for example – we can really get a signed card to rise to the top of the deck; but far too often we only manage to get them to think we are very skillful with a deck of cards. We want our audience to believe, for a moment, that we have really cut somebody in two and then put the person back together, no worse for the experience. Instead, they only wonder how we created to illusion that we did that. On the other hand, after the show, we don’t want them to think that we can really cut somebody in two and put them together, just as the actors in a murder mystery don’t really want us to think, after the show is over, that the one actor really killed the other. I really don’t want to get this call at three in the morning: “You’ve got to help me! I just cut my wife in two, but I can’t figure out how to put her back together!”
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jan 29, 2012 12:56PM)
How do you know if someone else really believes what they say they know to be true?
Message: Posted by: Higgenbottom (Jan 29, 2012 01:22PM)
Well, if the person is a lawyer or a politician or a banker, it's a pretty good bet that they don't.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 29, 2012 01:55PM)
I suppose we could all add to Higgenbottom’s list.

It is probably easier to detect insincerity than sincerity. Is the person’s actions consistent with his/her professed beliefs?

But, as I have said before, and no doubt will say again, the sincerity of the person professing a belief (whether the belief is about morality, mathematics, or whatever) is an entirely different question from the truth or falsity of that belief.

That’s what some versions of relativism just don’t get.

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 29, 2012 08:20PM)
[quote]Most people who argue that morals are relative aren’t really saying that they are relative to changing cultures and situations, but that morals are a question of taste, and that no moral “truth” as such exists. … I don’t think that most people really hold this position deep down.[/quote]I think that is more properly moral subjectivism; but both relativism and subjectivism end up as skepticism.

If by “deep down” you mean [i]consistently[/i]; then I totally agree. It’s only other peoples’ moral judgments that are mere expressions of feelings.

Moral skepticism is often used as a tool against those who hold a different moral view: “How dare [i]you[/i] say that I acted wrongly in doing such-and-such. All [i]you[/i] have a right to say is that [i]you[/i] don’t approve of it, or that [i]you[/i] don’t like it!” (Note the [i]moral[/i] indignation [“How dare you”] and the moral judgment [“all you have a right to say” – i.e., “you acted wrongly in saying that I acted wrongly ….”])

If my judgment that the person acted wrongly was unfounded, then perhaps the rebuke would be justified. But if the rebuke is simply based on the idea that morals are just a matter of taste, then one reply would be, “How dare I? How dare you to criticize my criticism of your actions? The most [i]you[/i] have a right to say, by your own lights, is that [i]you[/i] don’t like my criticism of your actions. But since I believe that there are objective moral standards, I am in a position to criticize your actions.”

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 30, 2012 05:11AM)
Thom,
We are overwhelming the medium here. I'm going to rephrase some of your excellent post, just to make it fit better. Please call me out if I misstate.

[quote]
On 2012-01-29 13:39, Thom Bliss wrote:
But knowing something is not the same as merely believing it – (Clipped good example about the moon and McEcks)[/quote]

The problem with your example is that [i]at the time[/i] he expresses his "knowings" they are equivalently authentic. How he views them later is a matter of semantics, not historical fact.

[quote]
More to the point, just as our believing or disbelieving a proposition does not make it true or false, our attitudes of liking or disliking, approving or disapproving, or whatever, towards an action or a type of action does not make it good or bad, right or wrong.[/quote]

The problem here is similar. We are using truth in two different senses. I am using it as if I were taking a temperature -- a discrete measurement, fixed in time. "True now, but maybe not tomorrow." You are using it as a kind of eternal thing that extends through time. "Once true, always true." Same for good, bad, right, wrong.

Brandt deserves a direct response:
[quote]Being mistaken is not merely changing our minds, or having one sort of feeling and then a different one. As Richard Brandt, wrote in [i]Ethical Theory[/i], “Suppose, for instance, as a child a person disliked eating peas. When he recalls this as an adult he is amused and notes how preferences change with age. He does not say, however, that his former attitude was [i]mistaken.[/i] If, on the other hand, he remembers regarding irreligion or divorce as wicked, and now does not, he regards his former view as erroneous and unfounded. …”[/quote]

Let us use Brandt's example. On what basis would that same man, now talking to his truculent child say, "You are mistaken, peas are actually very good. You will discover this as you age." Again, the problem is with placement in time and perspective. Putting the man and his previous self together show this. As to the second string, where the man sees his mistake, on what basis is he entitled to say he is not making another mistake right now? Just as surely as he advocates one view in the past, another in the present, so too he may continue a series of "I was mistaken then" until the day he dies.

[quote]Well, yes, at least one common meaning of ‘murder’ is ‘[i]wrongfully[/i] taking a human life’. There are many types of taking of human lives that everybody agrees are wrong. I think that was Stony’s point. And his specific example was the Holocaust. Anybody who approvals of the Holocaust needs a new moral compass. Our approval or disapproval of the Holocaust, and genocide in general, is not on a par with our liking or disliking peas – just a matter of taste. There are other cases of taking of human life that there are disagreements about. But these, too, are not a matter of taste. That is one of the reasons why discussing right and wrong is [i]not[/i] wrong and is, instead, almost mandatory.[/quote]

The Holocaust is a very emotionally laden example, so I won't try to justify it in any way whatsoever. However, I would ask, if it is so obviously wrong (and heinously so), how did it happen in the first place? How did a large segment of the population come to accept that Jews and others were less than human?

[quote]We, like other actors, should aim for a [i]suspension[/i] of disbelief. I think, far too often, we only succeed in presenting a display of skill, or a puzzle. We should get our audience to think that – for example – we can really get a signed card to rise to the top of the deck; but far too often we only manage to get them to think we are very skillful with a deck of cards. We want our audience to believe, for a moment, that we have really cut somebody in two and then put the person back together, no worse for the experience. Instead, they only wonder how we created to illusion that we did that. On the other hand, after the show, we don’t want them to think that we can really cut somebody in two and put them together, just as the actors in a murder mystery don’t really want us to think, after the show is over, that the one actor really killed the other. I really don’t want to get this call at three in the morning: “You’ve got to help me! I just cut my wife in two, but I can’t figure out how to put her back together!”
[/quote]

Spot on, although I think if varies, depending on the trick. And, I think the same techniques can and are used to convince people of psychic powers (not so much by magicians).
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Jan 30, 2012 09:14AM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-30 06:11, writeall wrote:
However, I would ask, if it is so obviously wrong (and heinously so), how did it happen in the first place? How did a large segment of the population come to accept that Jews and others were less than human?
[/quote]

Is this question not one of the (if not THE) most important question of our age?

A bit big for the Magic Café, however. We're still stuck at whether one ought to ask questions that cannot be definitively answered.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 30, 2012 02:22PM)
[quote] The problem with your example is that [i]at the time[/i] he expresses his "knowings" they are equivalently authentic.[/quote]I don’t know what ‘equivalently authentic’ means. If you mean that everything he believes, he believes, then I would agree with that. But I don’t think we need to dress it up with an obscure label (‘equivalently authentic’). We can’t tell which of our beliefs about the world are true, which false, by merely examining the quality or nature of those beliefs. We have to actually study the world. I don’t know why you would think that would be a problem.

[quote]We are using truth in two different senses. I am using it as if I were taking a temperature -- a discrete measurement, fixed in time. "True now, but maybe not tomorrow." You are using it as a kind of eternal thing that extends through time. "Once true, always true." Same for good, bad, right, wrong.[/quote]I confess to using ‘truth’ in the sense that it’s used by all competent logicians and scientists. The world changes, but truths don’t. If it is true now that the temperature of the room I am in is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, then it [i]will always be true[/i] that the temperature of this room was 65 degrees Fahrenheit [i]at this time[/i]—regardless of anybody’s upbringing, feelings, etc., and regardless of the temperature of any other room at this time, or of this one at some other time. If I believe, but believe erroneously, that it is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and later discover that I was wrong, it won’t have changed from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to some other temperature. Similarly, an economic policy that might be the right one to adopt at this time, in these circumstances, might not be the right one to adopt at some other time, in a different set of circumstances.

I think you may have missed the point I was trying to make when I quoted Brandt. I quoted him because I think he said it better than I probably could. There is a difference between questions of morality and questions of taste. One way of bringing out the difference is that we can be mistaken in our judgments of moral rightness or wrongness but not in matters of taste.

[quote]… on what basis is he [Brandt’s hypothetical person who changes his moral views] entitled to say he is not making another mistake right now? Just as surely as he advocates one view in the past, another in the present, so too he may continue a series of "I was mistaken then" until the day he dies.[/quote]Yes, that’s right. He still might be mistaken. He has no guarantee that he isn’t.

Consider again the question of gravity. On what basis were the people who rejected the pre-Galilean view of gravity entitled to say they were not making another mistake right then? If they accepted Galileo’s views of gravity they were mistaken! And what of the people who rejected Galileo’s views in favor of Newton’s? They were mistaken, too, as Einstein showed. And what about those of us who accept Einstein’s view of gravity (as far as we are able to understand it) instead of Newton’s? What guarantee do we have that Einstein was right? We don’t; in fact, we can be pretty sure that he was wrong. But in each case, a not-quite-right view was rejected in favor of a closer-to-the-truth view. And this process will continue long after all of us are dead.

As I said before, I don’t know precisely what the objective (and non-relative) moral standards are. And neither does anybody else, at least not in a way that justifies absolute certainty. But that’s just life. And that doesn’t means that they don’t exist or we shouldn’t keep looking for them.

Thom
.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Jan 30, 2012 11:19PM)
I think this is the meat of it:
[quote]I think you may have missed the point I was trying to make when I quoted Brandt. I quoted him because I think he said it better than I probably could. There is a difference between questions of morality and questions of taste. One way of bringing out the difference is that we can be mistaken in our judgments of moral rightness or wrongness but not in matters of taste. [/quote]

What I am saying is that we can not be mistaken about either, <i>at the time we make them</i>. If I ask you whether something you claim is wrong, really is wrong or whether you are mistaken about it, you would be (I think) hard pressed to say that you honestly believe you are incorrect. There can be no mistake in your judgement at the time you make it. This is what relativism claims, that our only measuring stick is the person doing the measurement. If, later on, you say, "I was mistaken then," you will be just as convinced that your new judgement is correct.

We change over time. Our beliefs change with us. To say that we are progressing is nice, but hard to measure without access to the absolute I am claiming doesn't exist. I'm a materialist, so I think our tastes, including those about morality, are subject to underlying biology (even if emergent). But even that isn't an absolutist stance, for we know biology changes over time as well.

I have another thought experiment. Suppose you met a future version of yourself on the bus. You are convinced this is you, perhaps ten years hence. If that future version told you that you were mistaken about some moral judgement you now hold, without any supporting argument, would you be able to change your stance? I don't think I could. I do not find it in my power to willfully change my views, they are not modifiable, yet they do change.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Jan 31, 2012 04:22PM)
First, let me say that I was wrong when I said,[quote]we can be mistaken in our judgments of moral rightness or wrongness but not in matters of taste.[/quote] The reason I quoted Brandt, above, is that I thought he brought out the difference between morals and mere preferences better than I could. There is a way we can be mistaken our own tastes, because our tastes can change without our being aware of it. More on that later.

[quote]What I am saying is that we can not be mistaken about either [morality or taste], [i]at the time we make them[/i].[/quote][quote]If I ask you whether something you claim is wrong, really is wrong or whether you are mistaken about it, you would be (I think) hard pressed to say that you honestly believe you are incorrect.[/quote]The first sentence makes a very different claim from the second. I take it that you think that the second sentence somehow supports the first. It doesn’t.

Suppose that at some specific time ([i]tx[/i]), somebody believed that π equals exactly 3.5. He or she would be wrong at time [i]tx[/i]! But of course that person “would be … hard pressed to say [at time [i]tx[/i]] that [he or she] honestly believes that [he or she was] incorrect,” because, at that time, that person would honestly but mistakenly believe that he or she was correct! (Of course, the person might acknowledge that he or she [i]might be[/i] mistaken.) At some later time, [i]tx+y[/i], the person might realize that π doesn’t equal exactly 3.5. But as soon as the person realizes that he or she was mistaken, then (like magic!?) that person no longer believe that π equals exactly 3.5.

I don’t think I need to repeat all of that with moral judgments. Simply replace “π equals exactly 3.5” with some mistaken moral judgment and “π doesn’t equal exactly 3.5” with the negation of that moral judgment.

[quote]To say that we are progressing is nice, but hard to measure without access to the absolute I am claiming doesn't exist.[/quote]Yet that is the situation in physics and all the other sciences. It’s not like any of us mere mortals have access to the laws of gravity that Galileo, Newton, and Einstein were merely “guessing” at!

[quote]Suppose you met a future version of yourself on the bus. You are convinced this is you, perhaps ten years hence. If that future version told you that you were mistaken about some moral judgement you now hold, without any supporting argument, would you be able to change your stance? I don't think I could.[/quote]In ten years I might very well be senile! But, if I was also convinced that the future me was still rational, I might change my view. I would, at least, ask the future me [i]why[/i] my present view is mistaken, or — if the future me disappeared in a puff of smoke before I could do that or before he could answer — I might see if I could find some reasons for changing my view. Ah, but notice that a moral judgment can have (and actually needs) supporting arguments; mere matters of taste do not, at least not in the same way.

Suppose now that Newton was somehow transported into the future and met Einstein. Einstein explains his theory, but without giving any of the reasons why it is better than Newton’s. Would Newton embrace Einstein’s views? Not likely!

Now suppose that Einstein explained how his theory was better than Newton’s. (Einstein would have a great deal to explain, including technology that was not even dreamed of in Newton’s time, such as photography, so it would be a very long conversation indeed.) Would Newton accept Einstein’s theory over his own? I don’t know. Newton had quite the ego. Is Einstein’s theory better than Newton’s? Yes!

Now suppose that the person in Brandt’s argument, while a youngster, meets his older self on a bus. The older self tells him that someday he will like peas. Would that change the youngster’s tastes? Maybe, but not likely. Could the older self give reasons for liking peas? Not likely. But the older version might convince the younger version of hisself that some of his moral judgments are wrong by giving him reasons why they are wrong.

I said at the top of this post that there is a way we can be mistaken our own tastes. Suppose that at some time, [i]tx[/i], Brandt’s youngster doesn’t like peas and that at some other time, [i]tx+y+z[/i], the adult does. There is likely a time, [i]tx+y[/i], when the person actually likes peas but doesn’t realize it, simply because he hasn’t tried peas recently.

But, and this is the point, the adult doesn’t regard his former dislike of peas to be mistaken; but when he changes his moral views, he would regard his former views as mistaken (even if, perhaps, they were based on the best information he had at the time).

Jdmagic357 where are you?


Thom
.
Message: Posted by: writeall (Feb 1, 2012 02:30PM)
I flipped the order or these quotes because of how I was thinking about them. (Hopefully, I didn't gerrymander away the sense of your post.)
[quote]
On 2012-01-31 17:22, Thom Bliss wrote: (much clipped)
But, and this is the point, the adult doesn't regard his former dislike of peas to be mistaken; but when he changes his moral views, he would regard his former views as mistaken (even if, perhaps, they were based on the best information he had at the time).[quote]

Actually, I thought about this some more. We [i]can[/i] use the "mistaken" notion for matters of taste. Consider these two examples:
"I thought I liked peas, but now I know I was only trying to show love for my mother by pleasing her. I never really liked them at all." And:
"I was mistaken when I wrote in my diary that I loved her; turns out it was just teenage lust and hormones in play."

[quote] Ah, but notice that a moral judgment can have (and actually needs) supporting arguments; mere matters of taste do not, at least not in the same way.[/quote]

Interesting side issue there. Do we come to our moral judgements only after examining the arguments or are the arguments tacked on to support the judgements we already have? I lean more toward the latter rather than the former. Perhaps it is a mix. However, in my experience, if you ask me a moral question that isn't made complex and dense with difficult nuances, I simply "find" the answer in my head. It seems to be there to discover, as immediate as recognizing a word on a page and just as effortless.

This seems to be the same way with questions about taste. For instance, if you ask, "Do you think a man wearing a skirt to church would be appropriate?" I just "know" my answer, without analysis. (Note I tried to pick an ambivalent question that could be one of taste or morality.) If you then ask me why, I will go back and find reasons to support what I spouted out without any consideration at all. Of course, this isn't always so. But I think it is so more often that we would like to admit.

What's fascintating is how more information about context can change the opinion I express, on both moral issues and matters of taste. Telling me that spinach A is organic and B has been picked by slaves, I might easily prefer the taste of one over the other, even if they are the same. Surely you are familiar with how context shapes experience -- one of the arrows in our conjuring quiver. Taste and preference are therefore not such simple matters, and, like morality, influenced by forces outside ourselves.

Good stuff. Again, I'd like to thank you for your insights.

Bill
Message: Posted by: writeall (Feb 1, 2012 02:32PM)
Doubled up
Message: Posted by: writeall (Feb 1, 2012 02:32PM)
And triple. If I post the same thing over and over, does it make it seem more correct?
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Feb 1, 2012 03:33PM)
LOL!

Just FYI, if you double post, you can click "edit" and one of the options is to delete your post. You have to do it within thirty minutes, and if someone posts before you delete it it stays. Also, you can always report your second and third posts to the moderators, and they'll clean it up for you.

Which leads me to also say this: a moderator might just see it by accident (i.e., without anyone reporting it) and do it anyway. In which case they will delete this post too for being off topic. Then we can go to the manager's forum and ask why our post count is mysteriously going down. :)

Now back to our regular program.
Message: Posted by: Thom Bliss (Feb 1, 2012 06:30PM)
Well, there is the Bellman’s rule of three: “What I tell you three times is true.”
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (Feb 2, 2012 06:57PM)
This thread is so wrong! ;)
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Feb 2, 2012 07:26PM)
[quote]
On 2012-02-02 19:57, Steve_Mollett wrote:
This thread is so wrong! ;)
[/quote]

There's an ironic truth in that since the original poster has long since been banned from the Café.
Message: Posted by: stoneunhinged (Feb 15, 2012 05:26AM)
*snap*