Re: MD Is Morality Relative?

From: Steve Peterson (
Date: Sat Dec 04 2004 - 18:15:16 GMT

  • Next message: "Re: Ham; Re: MD Is Morality Relative?"

    Hi Platt, erin, Joe, all

    Thanks for responding to my queries.

    I asked:
    >> What is Moral Absolutism?
    >> Are there other types of morality?

    Platt referred to his Philosophy 101 textbook:
    > Relativism: In ethics, the belief, based on empirical observation, that
    > what is considered to be right and wrong differs from one society to
    > another and one person to another, implying that there are no universal
    > codes of right and wrong.

    I think that the MOQ says that the moral codes of the inorganic levels
    and biological level are universal for all societies.

    Intellectual patterns are certainly not agreed upon, though most people
    believe that certain statements must either be absolutely true or false
    and in that way assert absolutes on the intellectual level. With the
    exception of maybe Matt K and his hero Rorty, I think all people at
    least behave as though statements can be either absolutely true or
    false. I think it would be really hard to think otherwise, and if you
    did, you probably wouldn't have much to say.

    On the other hand, Pirsig's MOQ says that there can be multiple truths
    that we use in the way that polar and rectangular coordinates can give
    two different correct descriptions of the same sets of points. Does
    this view conflict with absolutism?

    > Formalism (Absolutism): In ethics, the position that there are
    > universal
    > ethical standards that apply to all men, often believed to have been
    > revealed by a deity.

    A big problem with absolutism seems to be that even if we postulate
    that there is an ideal set of social patterns, we don't know what that
    code of ethics is. It would seem that we would also have to postulate
    that that set of values is revealed to us in some way. Clearly lots of
    religious people do just that, but religions all seem to recognize a
    different set of values.

    The moral absolutism versus relativity/contextualism issue suffers the
    same problem as the 'is there a God?' question. Asking whether morality
    is absolute or contextual begs the question.

    The relativist/contextualist may say that he or she isn't denying
    absolute or ideal social patterns because to do so he would first have
    to postulate that there are ideal patterns to be discovered, which he
    does not choose to do. But the absolutist wouldn't say that he is
    choosing to postulate absolute right and wrong, he is only
    acknowledging it while the relativist is denying it.

    > Contextualism: In ethics, the school of thought which holds that
    > relevant
    > ethical decisions can be made only with the context of a particular
    > ethical problem where the unique factors of the situation can be taken
    > into account.

    Attempts at finding general rules that are consistent with what most
    people consider ethical behavior have not been fruitful. Even Kant's
    maxim suggests that we should not lie to the Nazis looking for the Jews
    we have hidden in our basements. Such general rules don't seem to work.
    The more specific the rule, the more people can come to agreement about
    it, which lends support for contextualism.

    Social level morality varies greatly from culture to culture, in fact
    in the MOQ, to distinguish two different cultures is to assert that
    they represent two different collections of social patterns. The
    question remains as to whether there is an ideal set of social
    patterns. Absolutists would say, yes. Relativists would say, no.

    What would contextualists say? I take the MOQ to be contextualistic,
    since it takes an evolutionary view of morality with DQ in place of an
    absolute, improving static patterns but without a static ultimate goal
    of bestness. DQ is a principle of ongoing improvement. Betterness, not
    bestness. In other words, the MOQ denies that there is an ideal set of
    social patterns, while it supports the idea that any set of social
    patterns can be improved.

    > Then add Pirsigism:--In ethics, the concept that ethical decisions
    > should
    > be based on an evolutionary hierarchy of values

    While absolutism requires a postulating an ideal, the MOQ still
    requires a static postulate. But the MOQ says that the evolutionary
    hierarchy of values is to be taken as provisional, so as to avoid
    denying DQ.

    >> Does absolutism suggest that an act is either right or wrong in and of
    >> itself or are the results or intent important?
    > In practice, universal standards of right and wrong don't work very
    > well.
    > "Thou shall not kill," for example, doesn't apply in self-defense.
    > "Love
    > the neighbor" can invite someone to rob you blind.

    I brought up this issue, because it concerns the issue of
    homosexuality. People opposed to gay rights often claim to hate the
    sin and not the sinner. In other words, they consider the homosexual
    act itself to be simply wrong. Is this your view?

    >> I think we need to agree on what is meant by the terms of discussion
    >> before
    >> deciding whether the MOQ supports one or the other or neither.
    > I think the MOQ generally supports both contextualism and formalism,
    > the
    > evolutionary moral structure being the absolute and context determining
    > its proper applications.

    I think there may be an important disagreement between the MOQ and
    formalism, since the "absolute" of the MOQ is not to be taken as
    absolute as the Christian God or the Founding Father's Natural Law but
    rather as a high Quality intellectual pattern of value. What do you


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