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Split from another topic: absolute morality

#1SirThinkALotPosted 7/22/2011 4:14:47 AM(edited)
squareandrare requested I start a new topic to continue the discussion started here:

http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/263-religion/59800615

So here we are:

My definition[of absolute morality] is that the moral statement is true and meaningful regardless of context.

I'm curious what you mean by 'regardless of context.' By that do mean that(for example) its ALWAYS wrong to lie, even if you live in Nazi Germany and are being confronted by an SS officer about the Jews living in your basement?

If so you have constructed a strawman of hte concept. I dont think anybody would dispute that context matters when judging the morality of an act. What believers say is that in a given situation a giving action is always right and/or another action is always wrong.

It doesnt make morals any less absolute, since moral statements still apply everywhere you find the given circumstances.

As I said, I don't think morality has any meaning whatsoever in the absence of life. It's simply not an absolute concept. It is completely dependent on our life and our self-awareness.

Very few people would dispute that morality is dependant on the existance of persons. Even most theists would say that its dependant on the existance of at least one person(namely God). But when we talk about absolute morality we arent talking about something that necessarly exists indipendent of people. We are talking about judgments that apply to all self-aware persons.

And anything based on utilitarian ideas certainly isn't absolute.

Sure it is. For a utiltarian its always moral to make as many people as happy as possible, and its always immoral to do something that will make people unhappy. There are specific applications(as there is in any moral system), but those broad statements(according to utilitarains) apply to all persons.

Isn't 'objective' or 'absolute' morality just obviously nonsense. Our morality is defined by context and the Zeitgeist, that's it. That is why slavery can be acceptable in one generation, but not in another. Or racism, or sexism.

I dont see why the existance of absolute moral statements is incompatible with widespread ignorance of said morality.

This might be a problem for people who believe morality is 'built in' to humans(either by God, or evolutionary forces), but if one believes that moral 'laws' have to be discovered and accepted by each indvidual, then the widespread acceptance of slavery(or whatever) isnt a reflection of changing morality so much as it is a reflection of more people discovering the moral 'laws' that would make said actions wrong.

As an analogy, it used to be that diseases were treated by bloodletting. That changed not because of some change in human anatomy, but because more people became aware of the medical science that showed bloodletting to be ineffective.

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#2OnceInALifeTimePosted 7/22/2011 4:43:35 AM
I think in order to prove absolute morality you'd have to show a widespread set of morals that are applicable to most cultures and peoples, and provide evidence that those morals exist for a higher purpose. One of the more obvious answers to that is that few cultures have condoned stealing, rape or murder - but the definition of those terms they use vary to such an incredible degree.

What is considered unlawful killing in one culture may be considered self defense in the other; what may be considered forcing yourself upon a woman in one culture may be considered using part of your property in the other; what may be considered stealing in one culture may be considered wealth redistribution or taxation in another.
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#3squareandrarePosted 7/22/2011 4:50:14 PM
I'm curious what you mean by 'regardless of context.' By that do mean that(for example) its ALWAYS wrong to lie, even if you live in Nazi Germany and are being confronted by an SS officer about the Jews living in your basement?

If so you have constructed a strawman of hte concept. I dont think anybody would dispute that context matters when judging the morality of an act. What believers say is that in a given situation a giving action is always right and/or another action is always wrong.

It doesnt make morals any less absolute, since moral statements still apply everywhere you find the given circumstances.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_absolutism

Give that a read. It isn't very long.

We can certainly make utilitarian judgments about any particular situation, but those judgments are fundamentally subjective.
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#4KNessJMPosted 7/23/2011 9:38:00 AM
Context should always be taken into account. I don't think there's really any way to ethically argue against this.
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#5DienekesPosted 7/23/2011 10:12:51 AM
I think people are confusing moral absolutism with moral realism, or some kind of objective morality.

Moral absolutism is the view that certain moral statements are always true or false regardless of context or intentions or consequences. For example, if you believe lying is always wrong, that would be a moral absolutist belief.

Moral realism (aka objective morality) is the idea that what's right or wrong is independent of subjective opinion. Moral statements are right or wrong in reference to mind-independent state of affairs, and morality exists metaphysically within the universe in the same sense that physical laws exist. The right or wrongness of an action can still take into account context and intentions, however, when people make the claim, they are saying that it's true with respect to moral properties that exist in the same sense as physical properties (and not based on their own preferences or values).

Personally, I don't think either makes a whole lot of sense. Moral realism is, intuitively, attractive but when you think about it more it starts to seem nonsensical. I think the majority of metaethicists hold to some form of moral realism, though. The rest tend to be metaethical nihilists, with an even mix of error theorists and noncognitivists. Error theory makes the most sense to me.
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#6SirThinkALot(Topic Creator)Posted 7/23/2011 1:33:27 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_absolutism

Give that a read. It isn't very long.



First off, I'm not usually that picky on this, but Wikipedia is absolutely horrid when it comes to philosophy.

Secondly there is a difference between moral absolutism and 'objective morality' Really they arent even dealing with the same thing.

Moral absolutism deals with moral judgments, and basically holds that moral statements are always true regardless of intentions or consequences, very few people are moral absollutists anymore....it should be obvious why.

The idea of objective morality belongs more to the relm of meta-ethics, and basically holds that there are moral statements that apply to all persons. However it says nothing about the content of said statements, as long as their is some act, in some context that is wrong regardless of who is doing it, there is objective morality. Very few people reject the idea of objective morality, because to do requires one to acknowldge that, say raping a 6 year old girl to death is not wrong, and idea that very few people are comfortable with(and rightly so)

I dont think its possible to be a moral absolutist without believing in objective morality, but its certainly possible to think that objective morality exists without being a moral absolutist

We can certainly make utilitarian judgments about any particular situation, but those judgments are fundamentally subjective.

Not if those judgements would apply to any person in that situation.
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