Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
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06-06-2011, 10:13 PM
Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
So i've been thinking about morality for a long time, but I can't decide if morality is relative or if it is absolute, and if it evolves!

Sam Harris always say that morality is like health, you never say that a person who likes to vomit is healthy! (he gives many examples). He also said that you don't question your doctor when he tells you you have a problem. So to Harris, morality is fairly objective and we just need to discover the moral values (or i am wrong and he says something else?)

I sometimes think morality is relative, but then again it can be absolute!Huh
What do you guys/girls thinks?

Also, do you think morality evolves?
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07-06-2011, 12:03 AM
 
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
Morals are relative and they do evolve and adapt to the setting so that everything will run smooth. I think there should be a survey contrasting the morals between citizens of a large U.S. city and those of a small african village, but I don't exactly know how you can measure someones morals on any just scaleUndecided.
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07-06-2011, 12:46 AM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
IMO
Morals are relative to their context, where context is defined as situation, position in time, perception and social group. Morals slide on a scale from 0% bad to 99.9% bad.
Eg:
  • corporal punishment: It entirely depends on your character weather you endorse this or not.
  • Slavery. Bad today, but quite allright some 100 years ago. So clearly it must have shifted on the moral scale.
  • Manslaughter: Not done during peacetime, common during wartime
  • War itself: Even the most moral person can find himself into a situation of war where he need to abandon his position.
  • Rape: Although from my perception always 99,9% bad, there are figures on this globe that don't share my view on this and use it as a weapon of war, witch means rape is not bad in their perception. In that context rape is not worse then shooting someone with a gun.

Although a sane person can see that something can always be wrong to him, some of his own standards will evolve over his lifespan. As an example from my own life, I have to admit that I use to think of religious faith as a virtue, yet now I think the complete opposite.

Anyway...
That's my take on it.

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Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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07-06-2011, 04:32 AM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
I think we need to look at this on multiple levels.

First, there is the widespread, perhaps universal, existence of a moral sense, the idea that some things are right and some things are wrong, even if it is not entirely clear which are which.

Second, there seem to be some things which almost everyone thinks are wrong. Unprovoked violence is one. No one can be a complete relativist when a gun is pointed at their heart by a total stranger.

Third, there are clearly certain things which have changed. Slavery is a good example. What foods are permissible and which are not is a less emotional one (unless you are muslim or hindu maybe?).

He was part of my dream, of course--but then I was part of his dream, too!
--Alice
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07-06-2011, 06:08 AM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(07-06-2011 12:46 AM)The_observer Wrote:  there are figures on this globe that don't share my view on this and use it as a weapon of war, witch means rape is not bad in their perception. In that context rape is not worse then shooting someone with a gun.

I thought about this comment for a long time after I first posted and I just need to respond with a short rant. Although a rapist may try to justify their action in war, I think it it precisely because they know it is evil that they do it. The ability to inflict a lifetime of pain and terror, a living death, on a person is precisely why it is done. It's even worse because of the pleasure received from another's pain.

Some other examples to show what we think of rape: The church is more vilified because of priests who abuse children that it ever was for its complicity in the holocaust. What is more reprehensible than the recent case in the UAE where an Australian woman was thrown into prison for being raped?

Even if local groups find ways to rationalise rape, they are a minute minority. I don't think there is any practise more widely condemned than rape. [end of rant Blush]

He was part of my dream, of course--but then I was part of his dream, too!
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07-06-2011, 08:15 AM
 
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
Morality is definitely relative, no way around it. What is moral just depends on how you define moral, and you can use certain criteria to evaluate a definition of morality. So, in a sense, I think there can be some objectivity to it.

Slavery, rape, genocide, etc. may have been moral to certain people or cultures, but the way I define morality something like that was wrong then and is wrong today. Just because they had different ideas of what was right doesn't mean I have to consider them valid.

As I write this I'm struggling to justify my stance and failing to come up with something that someone couldn't simply disagree with and call subjective. I guess the best ways to evaluate morality is whether it conflicts with one's empathy(most of us have a similar capacity to empathize with others) and whether it's practical(most people would accept it and could live by it). I'm still unsure about this, I haven't given it nearly enough thought to know what I'm talking about.
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07-06-2011, 11:33 AM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(06-06-2011 10:13 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  So i've been thinking about morality for a long time, but I can't decide if morality is relative or if it is absolute, and if it evolves!

Sam Harris always say that morality is like health, you never say that a person who likes to vomit is healthy! (he gives many examples). He also said that you don't question your doctor when he tells you you have a problem. So to Harris, morality is fairly objective and we just need to discover the moral values (or i am wrong and he says something else?)

I sometimes think morality is relative, but then again it can be absolute!Huh
What do you guys/girls thinks?

Also, do you think morality evolves?

There is a fundamental problem with Harris' argument. He doesn't see there's a fundamental difference between these 2 questions:

- Is being happy desirable for the individual whose happiness is in question?
-Is this individual's happiness a moral value?

Of course we can actually conduct objective tests to show that when the individual is happy, that individual is probably healthier, more productive, etc etc. But that alone doesn't make it "morally right". After all, a rapist is probably happy while raping somebody, but that doesn't make it morally right. The problem is that Harris defined arbitrarily that morally right means maximizing happiness. And since that definition is arbitrary, his morality is relative. It doesn't matter that most of us probably agree with his definition, it is still arbitrary. Now say somebody comes along and says "no, moral good is not maximizing human happiness, but serving god". Well, how do you prove that your definition of moral good is objectively better than that other one? You can't because "good" is an artificial human construct, and as such arbitrary.

English is not my first language. If you think I am being mean, ask me. It could be just a wording problem.
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07-06-2011, 02:27 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(07-06-2011 06:08 AM)pilgrim Wrote:  I don't think there is any practise more widely condemned than rape.
Indeed and with good reason! I think rape is a fate worse then death. When a theist states that morality is absolute, the first example he comes up with is rape. Mostly followed with a smug look on his face. As long is I can think about it, I can never come up with a good reason to rationalize rape. So that's why I rape is 99,99% bad. Now you are going to ask, "what about that ,01%"? Well, that would be the "argument of ignorance" margin. Confused

Observer

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Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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07-06-2011, 03:48 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(07-06-2011 02:27 PM)The_observer Wrote:  
(07-06-2011 06:08 AM)pilgrim Wrote:  I don't think there is any practise more widely condemned than rape.
Indeed and with good reason! I think rape is a fate worse then death. When a theist states that morality is absolute, the first example he comes up with is rape. Mostly followed with a smug look on his face. As long is I can think about it, I can never come up with a good reason to rationalize rape. So that's why I rape is 99,99% bad. Now you are going to ask, "what about that ,01%"? Well, that would be the "argument of ignorance" margin. Confused

Actually, I think crimes against children are considered worse than rape, and I can certainly think of a biological reason why that would be, children being our offspring who carry our genes, we tend to value them over adults, etc etc... But saying it's morally wrong to do something nasty to children is simply the rationalization of a biological imperative.

English is not my first language. If you think I am being mean, ask me. It could be just a wording problem.
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07-06-2011, 11:59 PM (This post was last modified: 08-06-2011 12:08 AM by godofskeptic.)
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(07-06-2011 04:32 AM)pilgrim Wrote:  I think we need to look at this on multiple levels.

First, there is the widespread, perhaps universal, existence of a moral sense, the idea that some things are right and some things are wrong, even if it is not entirely clear which are which.

Second, there seem to be some things which almost everyone thinks are wrong. Unprovoked violence is one. No one can be a complete relativist when a gun is pointed at their heart by a total stranger.

Third, there are clearly certain things which have changed. Slavery is a good example. What foods are permissible and which are not is a less emotional one (unless you are muslim or hindu maybe?).

Although people might say that morality is relative, but I still believe that it is partially absolute! Heres an example:

Killing is considered bad today!
Moral relativists say that it is bad today, but years ago it was considered a normal act.
According to Moral absolutism, it was bad 2000 years ago, 1500 yrs ago, and now!

Both are right, but at the same time wrong.

Moral absolutism is right because if you were born 2000 years ago would you have let your child do that? hmm, i don't think so! (or maybe! idk)
Moral relativism is right because values seem to evolve and depend on time/social/condition/..., but relativism is wrong because i dont think anyone wants to accept slavery! if they do, are you going to tell them they can't? you can't tell them cause it is relative! You can't tell the president of X not to kill their own people because morality is relative!

So i don't think it is 100% relative! it can't be!

It is hard question to answer. I mean I can't still decide if it is absolute or relative.

but We for sure don't get our moral values from religions! Homosexuality is considered normal today. If religious people were right that we actually get our "morality" from religion, If religion tells us what is right and what is wrong, then how come people don't get the idea that homosexuality is a sin from religions??? How come people are accepting homosexuality and are not discriminating against them (obviously less than before) if all religions are against homosexuality! so we dont get our moral values from religions!

BY THE WAY, i don't agree with religion people who say that morality is absolute and is God-given! no, don't get me wrong!
(07-06-2011 11:33 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
(06-06-2011 10:13 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  So i've been thinking about morality for a long time, but I can't decide if morality is relative or if it is absolute, and if it evolves!

Sam Harris always say that morality is like health, you never say that a person who likes to vomit is healthy! (he gives many examples). He also said that you don't question your doctor when he tells you you have a problem. So to Harris, morality is fairly objective and we just need to discover the moral values (or i am wrong and he says something else?)

I sometimes think morality is relative, but then again it can be absolute!Huh
What do you guys/girls thinks?

Also, do you think morality evolves?

There is a fundamental problem with Harris' argument. He doesn't see there's a fundamental difference between these 2 questions:

- Is being happy desirable for the individual whose happiness is in question?
-Is this individual's happiness a moral value?

Of course we can actually conduct objective tests to show that when the individual is happy, that individual is probably healthier, more productive, etc etc. But that alone doesn't make it "morally right". After all, a rapist is probably happy while raping somebody, but that doesn't make it morally right. The problem is that Harris defined arbitrarily that morally right means maximizing happiness. And since that definition is arbitrary, his morality is relative. It doesn't matter that most of us probably agree with his definition, it is still arbitrary. Now say somebody comes along and says "no, moral good is not maximizing human happiness, but serving god". Well, how do you prove that your definition of moral good is objectively better than that other one? You can't because "good" is an artificial human construct, and as such arbitrary.

I totally agree. His definition is totally arbitrary.
(Btw, for those of you who wants to watch Sam's lecture, here it is:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTKf5cCm-9g and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm2Jrr0tRXk)

I think people first to need to define morality and see if it actually exists!
If i don't like to kill people, it does not mean I am a "moral" being! It just mean i don't like to kill people! at the same time, it is better to say things are bad and good cause we don't want chaos! Shy
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