Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dictators are particularly useful for changing moral relativists into believers in right and wrong.

20 comments:

Glen20 said...

It has been said that "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil -- that takes religion." (Steven Weinberg) but I think it's more than that. Oh, religion can do that but it is not unique in that respect. Other ideologies like nationalism, etc.

But in the words of Blaise Pascal: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

Glen20 said...

Ethics are situational.

Makarios said...

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

I'd like to say that's not true but evidence seems to say otherwise. That's when I remember that my job is to make sure that I'm doing the right thing.
=========================

Ethics are situational."

Mmm Hmm and when the government confiscates your house you just shrug and say, “What’s right for you is right for you and since you have more power than I do, taking my house is the right thing to do.”

Dale said...

So ... are you suggesting that your favorite god puts dictators in power in order to bring people around to larger truths? That would be consistent with Chapter 13 of Paul's epistle to the Romans, in which this delightful bit of political economy appears:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Do you, Makarios, make certain to view all world leaders as duly appointed and authorized by your favorite god and thus decline to rebel against their authority? Or do you pretend this passage does not appear in your favorite book, as most Christians do?

Glen20 said...

"Ethics are situational."

Mmm Hmm and when the government confiscates your house you just shrug and say, “What’s right for you is right for you and since you have more power than I do, taking my house is the right thing to do.


Did you notice you constucted a situation where you thought the action was not right.

Flute said...

I am amused when people have to come up with situations to prove morals aren't situational.

Makarios said...

"Did you notice you constucted a situation where you thought the action was not right."

What else would I do? I'm not a moral relativist. I believe there are objective rights and wrongs. To make the point, I select something that I think would be wrong on the assumption that you would agree; that you aren't really selective in your ethics.

Nor do I see what's amusing about doing that. The very fact that you notice what I've done betrays the fact that you are not selective in your morality, or at least not when it comes to people doing wrong to you.

Flute said...

How so?

Makarios said...

If you were truly a moral relativist, if you were truly selective in your ethical stance of the behaviours of yourself and others, then any action, like the government confiscating your home would just be “eh, that’s life. I don’t like it but who’s to say that it’s wrong? Certainly not me.”

Flute said...

...then any action...would just be ...

No, it wouldn't. But keep trying to beat up that strawman...

What are these "objective" rights and wrongs you are talking about? (And how can a concept or action be objective?)

Makarios said...

How could it not be? To say anything else is to suggest that your opinion of right is more correct than the governments opinion of right. In the world of selective ethics, right and wrong are just that, opinion, desire, likes and dislikes and who ever has the most power gets to see their likes put in place.

As to objective morals, see my next post.

Flute said...

False dichotomy and appeal to consequences.

Makarios said...

Avoiding your absurd claims is not helpful to the quality of your life Flute. You and Glen preach selective ethics and relative morality but when it happens to you you're as aware of objective right and wrong as the next person.

Dale said...

Suppose lying is taken to be always wrong in all circumstances. (The Bible never quite manages to say so, but most people would agree to that, subject only to their interest in participation in debates such as this one. But I digress.)

Now consider the famous dilemma put forward by Kant: is it still wrong to lie if you're asked to betray the location of an innocent person to a murderer seeking to kill him/her?

Strictly speaking, yes, it is still wrong to lie, even in that extreme case. Sure.

But *the point* is: most people would still lie in that case because *in that situation,* there is more to consider than the morality of lying. The moral duty to prevent senseless suffering / death is at stake, perhaps the moral duty to protect those to whom you are bound by explicit oath (your compatriot in a situation of war, for example) or by bonds of love, family, or just basic humanity.

In such a *situation,* lying is still wrong but it is considerably less wrong than putting on ridiculous moral blinders and by doing so enabling an unjust killing.

(Gosh, did I just say "unjust killing"? What, pray tell, might be the basis of unjust vs. just killing? It wouldn't be situations would it?)

To say that this or that moral value is absolute is, at best, trivially true. In the real world, important values come into conflict, and choices must be made -- moral choices. This means choosing one value over another.

It's easy to sit at a keyboard and issue declarations about the absoluteness of morals. It's not nearly so easy to move through the world in a moral way. The world is rich with -- here comes the scare word -- *situations* that call for moral judgments.

Makarios said...

The error in your thinking is mistaking objective morality for absolute morality.

Dale said...

Makarios, uh, yea. You've been railing against "moral relativism" -- the direct antonym of "relativism" is "absolutism."

If you're actually railing against "moral subjectivism," then the confusion originates in your mislabeling it as "moral relativism."

To review: the antonym of "relative" is "absolute." The antonym of "subjective" is "objective." Check any English dictionary if you don't believe me.

Please feel free to lay out how and why you think the distinction matters. You appear to hold that god exists and has defined right and wrong, and therefore his human test subjects have no say in the matter -- what god defines as right is right, whatever humans think or say or do, and what god defines as wrong is wrong, and is likewise fixed. Call this account of morals "absolute" or call it "objective" -- I don't see what of importance turns on the word choice. We're in the company of synonyms here, certainly under the words' everyday usages. Again, if you have sharper distinctions to draw that bear on the matters at hand, draw them.

Until then, you're evading the actual argument.

Makarios said...

Moral Values: Whether something is good or bad

Moral Obligations: Whether something is right or wrong.

I’m not morally obligated to do something just because it would be good for me.

Nor is it wrong for me to make a choice between two bad options. Eg. I’ve been in an accident. The car is on fire and I have time to rescue only one of my two children. Choice one over the other is not wrong, just difficult or bad.

To say that something is objectively right or wrong is to say that it is right or wrong independent of what you or I think. If it’s subjective, it's to say that it is dependent on what you and I think. I think we agree on that.

Killing six million Jews, gypsies and homosexuals was objectively wrong, even though the subjective decision by the Nazis was that it was exactly the right thing to do. Even if the Nazis had won the war it would remain wrong.

Descriminating against you as a homosexual is objectively wrong even if the government in power says that it's a good thing.

Yet Richard Dawkins says, “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

If he is correct then there really isn’t any right or wrong because any subjective ideas of right or wrong are just that, opinions, thoughts, desires. What’s right for you is right for you and what’s right for me is what’s right for me, and whoever has the most power decides what's right and what's wrong.

Nice idea, I suppose, for those who are into survival of the fittest, but none of us really believe that. And the proof is when someone does something to us that we ‘KNOW’ is wrong. It’s not just your opinion, or even your community’s opinion. It’s wrong, period and you know it's wrong.

I’m not saying - You have to believe in God in order to have “good” moral values.

I’m not saying - You have to believe in God in order to recognise the existence of objective moral values.

I’m not saying - You have to believe in God to live a morally ethical life.

I’m saying that if God does not exist, then morality is not objective but subjective. But we know from our interactions with others that wrong IS wrong and right IS right.

As to absolutes. It is wrong, objectively wrong to kill an innocent person. However it is not absolutely wrong to kill as you would soon agree if a police officer killed the person who was trying and succeeding in killing you.

Flute said...

Avoiding your absurd claims is not helpful to the quality of your life.

Read that outloud.

You and Glen preach selective ethics and relative morality but when it happens to you you're as aware of objective right and wrong as the next person.

Saying "It's objective and you know it!" does not make an action's rightness or wrongness "objective".

Killing ... homosexuals was objectively wrong,

This coming from the guy whose book says the kill homosexuals?

And the proof is when someone does something to us that we ‘KNOW’ is wrong. It’s not just your opinion, or even your community’s opinion. It’s wrong, period and you know it's wrong.

Saying "It's objective and you know it!" does not make an action's rightness or wrongness "objective".

Even if I believe someone has done me a wrong, it's not "objective" or absolute.

Makarios said...

Avoiding your absurd claims is not helpful to the quality of your life.

Read that outloud.

That could make sense - somewhere.
==============

Killing ... homosexuals was objectively wrong,

Are you suggesting that killing someone because of their sexual orientation may not be wrong depending on circumstance or situation?
=======

Even if I believe someone has done me a wrong, it's not "objective" or absolute.

Never? Right and wrong are always open to interpretation?
=================

God 777 said...

"Killing ... homosexuals was objectively wrong"

Hey... I commanded that once but I've grown out of that. Stop with the stones dudes.

Morals is just doing what I say. If I say "kill homosexuals" then it's the right thing to do. If I say "Kill the tribe of people and take the little girls to do with as you want" then that is the right thing to do. If I say "it's okay to beat your slaves" then... hey, that's the right thing to do too.
Fear and obey me! I have the power to cast you into Hell! Might makes right so what I say goes.