Moral Relativism: There are No Moral Absolutes

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There seems to be a miscommunication going on... The word "moral" is not about personal opinion. It is about rightness and wrongness... that's just what the word means. Now two different people may different opinions regarding the morality of an action, but that does not mean the action itself is morally ambiguous. Two people may judge actions differently, but that does not mean the action itself is morally ambiguous. It is the judgment that varies, not the actual morality of the action. In other words the action may have been morally right, but judged as wrong by someone in which case his judgment was incorrect.

One cosmologist has the opinion that the universe is finite. The other has the opinion that the universe is infinite. Now, just because they are both personal opinions, does not mean that the universe is neither finite nor infinite. That would be absurd. One person's personal opinion is correct, and the other one is incorrect.

Now if you are saying that all actions are morally neutral, that's fine. But I'd call that a morally absolute.
 
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Define morally right then.
 
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Jameson said:
Define morally right then.
It is difficult but... something like this.

A "moral" act, is an act that "should take place".

An immoral act, is an act that "should not take place".

All other acts are morally neutral.

Anyway, I wish to apologize Jameson, and El Hombre if I seemed contentious. I can get caught up in these debates sometimes, and come off as antagonistic. Sorry about that. :frown:
 
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No need to apologize, I have liked our discussion very much. :tongue2:

Do you see the possible subjectiveness in your definition? Can't you feel your opinion slipping in when defining right?

I would love to hear a rational justification for the absolutes of right and wrong without an appeal to a Creator. If you have time and are willing, take it away!

Jameson
 
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Jameson said:
No need to apologize, I have liked our discussion very much. :tongue2:

Do you see the possible subjectiveness in your definition? Can't you feel your opinion slipping in when defining right?
Not in my definition of "right". But my judgments of actions may be wrong as they will inevitably involve subjectiveness.

I'm curious as to how you approach this. How do you judge something to be moral when there is no absolute morality? If one believes there is no rightness or wrongness to abortion, then I don't see how one goes about making a moral judgment (absolute or not). On what basis do you make a judgment?

Glad you're enjoying our discussion. I am too. :approve:

EDIT: Got to run for now! Will return! o:)
 
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Have you ever had a discussion where you and the other person make very good arguments and have very rational reasons for what you think, but for some reason do not reach the same conclusion?

I really believe that morality is something invented by humans. Most other species just live. We analyze why things are certain ways and if that is ok by different standards.

LearningPhysics said:
I'm curious as to how you approach this. How do you judge something to be moral when there is no absolute morality? If one believes there is no rightness or wrongness to abortion, then I don't see how one goes about making a moral judgment (absolute or not). On what basis do you make a judgment?
I am not saying that I do not feel abortion is right or wrong, what I mean is that I recognize that how I feel does not have to be how others do. And, that how I feel isn't the absolute right.

Right and wrong are concepts really. They are not as concrete as say, the apple you were talking about.

I personally decide what is right or wrong through logical thinking. My general philosophy on life is to allow as much freedom to all as possible and to harm as little as possible. It gets hard to draw lines, which is why I do not feel my lines are right for all.
 
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Reading this interesting discussion you guys have it came to me that morality must be related to justice.



would not 'right' and 'wrong' needed to be defined through justice. Than the question of jameson would rather be if there is absolute justice.

what do u think?
 
learningphysics said:
Suppose some guy comes to you. He's learning the English language. He asks you what the word "moral" means. What would you say to him? That you can't say what the word means because morality is relative?
Uhh... how did you figure that? No-one is saying the definition of moral, or morality, is relative, but that a particular moral itself is relative. Your question suggests you haven't quite got the gist of the discussion. Someone has already posted the definition of 'moral' - i.e. a judgement as to whether something is good or bad. That is not the question. The question is whether that judgement can be absolute and inherently true or not.
 
Jameson said:
Define morally right then.
This could have several meanings:
1. Good in accordance with one's personal moral codes;
2. Good in accordance with a society's moral codes;
3. Absolutely good.

Again, the question is not what 'morally right' means - it's whether anything can be truly described as such.

For a Christian or a Muslim or such, it would be quite easy to determine something that is all three. For instance, to covet thy neighbour's missus is morally wrong for a Christian: personally, socially and absolutely. However, if that person is wrong in their beliefs, they would also be wrong in the assertion that the deed in question is absolutely morally wrong, since its 'wrongness' has been supposedly made absolute by an entity that does not exist (if they are wrong).

For a non-believer, the question of moral absolutes is much more difficult. We have not been raised in a world in which absolute truth is supplied. The nearest we have is science. If we believe that there is no influence of moral truth in the fundemental matter and forces of nature, and that morality is an emergent property, then it is difficult to claim any inherent moral good or bad in any event in spacetime, since you can break it down to quarks, leptons, photons and gluons and find no moral truth in it. Other than that, we have only the moral codes impressed upon us by society, and those we make for ourselves through experience. Since societies and personal experiences differ, these moral codes are relative to the society or person that holds them.
 
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El Hombre Invisible said:
This could have several meanings:
1. Good in accordance with one's personal moral codes;
2. Good in accordance with a society's moral codes;
3. Absolutely good.
I don't think 2 works. Well... the way I use the word, "moral" means "right", "just"... something is "moral" when something is "the way it ought to be." People say that something is "moral" when they believe the act has a sense of rightness to it.

This point is important for the definition of "moral". To say something is "moral" is not to simply say "my society's codes agree with this." Suppose we travelled back in time to when slavery existed and was accepted by society. Would you or I say, "Slavery is moral." ? Using a peculiar definition of "moral" as reference to society's codes I guess it would make sense. But that's not what people mean by the word.

When someone says "Abortion is immoral", they are not saying "society's codes do not accept abortion"... they are saying that abortion has a wrongness to it. So the definition of moral as agreement with society's codes doesn't work.

I'd say "Slavery ought not to have happened." in other words "Slavery was immoral". I may be wrong when I say slavery ought not to have happened... but that's not the point here. When I use the word "moral" here, I'm not referring to a particular society or code or anything of the sort. All I have is a sense of the way things "ought to have been"... it is this sense of the way things "ought to have been" that gives the word "moral" or "good" or "just" their meanings.

When the people in society... after some time found that "slavery is immoral"... that didn't mean that the morality of slavery changed. Either slavery ought to have happened or not. That didn't change when society changed its viewpoint and its moral code. Most people would say "Society believed slavery was moral but they were wrong." Moral codes changed... morality didn't.

It's the same as with science... Just because Newton believed in his law of gravitation and society believed it was correct, does not mean he wasn't wrong at the time. Society's judgment changed when Einstein came along but the correctness of Newton's theory didn't. It was wrong all along.

This is why I'm thoroughly confused by the concept of "relative morality"... "Moral codes" may change frequently... but morality doesn't.
 
learningphysics said:
This point is important for the definition of "moral". To say something is "moral" is not to simply say "my society's codes agree with this." Suppose we travelled back in time to when slavery existed and was accepted by society. Would you or I say, "Slavery is moral." ?
Again, you are demonstrating the relativity of morality. Would you or I say slavery is moral? No - those are our personal moral views, and those of the societies we now inhabit. However, they were not the prevalent views of individuals living in, say, Egypt 3000 years ago, or America 200 years ago. In those societies, the moral views were different such that slavery was moral acceptable. Individuals, though, at that time may have held differing views on the subject (certainly the slaves themselves, no?).

learningphysics said:
Using a peculiar definition of "moral" as reference to society's codes I guess it would make sense. But that's not what people mean by the word.
I disagree. You can say it's redundant for a person who accepts all of their society's moral views, for such a person holds those views personally. However, there are many issues in which personal and social moral codes may conflict. For instance, the moral view on willful killing is strict in our societies, and yet a person seeking revenge for a crime commited against a loved one, for instance, will hold a different personal moral view - most likely one amended by that experience (i.e. they may have held the view that murder is immoral until they fell victim to such a crime that altered this view and became convinced that, in this specific instance, murder would be morally acceptable). In short, there is a big difference between the rationalised moral codes of an individual and the more ethically-driven moral codes of the society they belong to.

learningphysics said:
When someone says "Abortion is immoral", they are not saying "society's codes do not accept abortion"... they are saying that abortion has a wrongness to it. So the definition of moral as agreement with society's codes doesn't work.
No, you misunderstood, but I see why. I did not explain myself correctly. In this instance, the individual holds a personal moral view that abortion is immoral. This is not the moral view of his or her society as a whole. Nor, if such a thing did exist, is it necessarily the absolutely right view. I did not mean to suggest that the three types of moral correctness are in line - quite the opposite. The differences become pronounced and much more relevant when there is conflict between them.

learningphysics said:
I'd say "Slavery ought not to have happened." in other words "Slavery was immoral". I may be wrong when I say slavery ought not to have happened... but that's not the point here. When I use the word "moral" here, I'm not referring to a particular society or code or anything of the sort. All I have is a sense of the way things "ought to have been"... it is this sense of the way things "ought to have been" that gives the word "moral" or "good" or "just" their meanings.
Yes, this is your personal moral view. It is also the moral view of your society and you may well (and probably do) hold your personal view because of the society you have been raised in. If you had lived in America 150 years ago, you may have held the different view that slavery was not immoral, in line with your society's moral code. On the other hand, you may have been one of the ones who believed, as you do now, that slavery was immoral, at odds with society's moral code. But on the whole, most people's basic set of moral values are adopted from those of their society. Those issues on which people have conflicting moral views are generally those in which there has already been prior conflict. This is why people who stood against their society's values, be it on slavery, suffrage, equal rights or abortion, are of great historical importance. They brought a conflict between social and personal moral values where previously it did not exist. You certainly cannot say that people such as Martin Luthor King held moral views in line with society - he was both controversial and inspiring for his views.

learningphysics said:
It's the same as with science... Just because Newton believed in his law of gravitation and society believed it was correct, does not mean he wasn't wrong at the time. Society's judgment changed when Einstein came along but the correctness of Newton's theory didn't. It was wrong all along.
Quantum gravity may prove Einstein wrong. But these are absolute truths, or approximations of them. There is a big difference between "does an apple fall to the ground when released" and "should a woman have the right to abort her unborn child".
 
By the way, I don't want to give the impression that I define society's morality as its set of laws or ethics. For instance, the recent ban in the UK on fox-hunting: I believe it is safe to say that the personal moral views of the activists and lobbyists were also those of British society as a whole, and it is the hunters and pro-hunting activists who held conflicting moral views. In this instance, prior to the ban, the views of these people were in line with the country's laws. They did not behave illegally, but the general view of the country as a whole was that they were behaving immorally, as cruelty to animals in general is socially morally unacceptable. Attempts to change the law to ban this immoral activity were continually thwarted by the House of Lords which, by amazing coincidence (not), had a proportion of hunters and pro-hunters that was not representative of the country as a whole. The interesting thing here is that it became clear that an age-old parliament was behaving in an immoral way: protecting personal interests over those of the country, and had probably been doing so for some time. This may well have altered the public's view on the House of Lords were it not for the intervention of Blair in one of his good moments. By reforming the House of Lords he highlighted and immediately resolved a conflict between the personal moral views of those affected and those of society as a whole: that the aristocracy were infallible.
 
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El Hombre Invisible said:
Again, you are demonstrating the relativity of morality. Would you or I say slavery is moral? No - those are our personal moral views, and those of the societies we now inhabit. However, they were not the prevalent views of individuals living in, say, Egypt 3000 years ago, or America 200 years ago. In those societies, the moral views were different such that slavery was moral acceptable. Individuals, though, at that time may have held differing views on the subject (certainly the slaves themselves, no?).
I'm only demonstrating that moral views and codes change... I grant that. But the morality of an act itself doesn't change. Whether or not our moral views stem from society or somewhere else is not the point. That only shows that moral codes vary. That is aside from the point I'm trying to make.

I'm talking about the morality of the act itself. Whether or not the act "ought to have happened". I'm not talking about our judgment of an act's morality. That may waver. Our codes/judgments are our best guess of the way things "ought to be" Judgments about whether or not slavery "ought to have happened" may vary and contradict. But the fact of whether or not slavery ought to have happened or not doesn't vary. This has nothing to do with our judgment of the act... any more than our measurement of the speed of light makes it actually have that speed.

If slavery ought not to have happened (or not).... then I can't change this fact by changing my moral code. Tomorrow this fact doesn't change just because even if my judgments change.

Yes, this is your personal moral view. It is also the moral view of your society and you may well (and probably do) hold your personal view because of the society you have been raised in. If you had lived in America 150 years ago, you may have held the different view that slavery was not immoral, in line with your society's moral code.
Yes my view may have been different. The actual morality of slavery doesn't change. My moral code could not have been correct both times. The actual morality of slavery was absolute (as moral, immoral or morally neutral)... it was my judgment, my code that changed... not the fact of whether or not slavery "ought to have happened". My code may be correct, or incorrect... my code doesn't determine an act's morality. My code is my best guess at the morality of the act which is independent of my code.
 
learningphysics said:
I'm only demonstrating that moral views and codes change... I grant that. But the morality of an act itself doesn't change. Whether or not our moral views stem from society or somewhere else is not the point. That only shows that moral codes vary. That is aside from the point I'm trying to make.
You're coming from the perspective that an act has an absolute morality, then using this as an argument against it not having one. The point is that you state an act, such as slavery, as being absolutely immoral, but this is simply your judgement, based on your own moral values and those of the society that has influenced you. The judgement of the 'morality' of something is itself a judgement based on personal values. IF there is an absolute moral truth, it may well be hidden from either one of or both of us, so our judegements are still relative.

learningphysics said:
I'm talking about the morality of the act itself. Whether or not the act "ought to have happened". I'm not talking about our judgment of an act's morality. That may waver. Our codes/judgments are our best guess of the way things "ought to be" Judgments about whether or not slavery "ought to have happened" may vary and contradict. But the fact of whether or not slavery ought to have happened or not doesn't vary. This has nothing to do with our judgment of the act... any more than our measurement of the speed of light makes it actually have that speed.
Again, you are first assuming that there is an absolute moral truth. If there were such a thing, how would it manifest itself? If it did not, how can you say it exists? If it does, and there is no-one there to recognise it (say, life did not form), how can you say it exists. If it does and someone did recognise it, how can you distingiush this absolute truth from that person's personal moral view? I fail to see how you can arrive at the idea of absolute morality when answering these questions...

... EXCEPT, getting back to my original point, when you consider the evolution of moral standards in developing societies (I don't mean ones working towards what is arrogantly called 'developed' countries, merely ones in which change of moral standards does or may still occur - which is every country, but not necessarily every society). The interesting fact is that moral standards of societies (something you do not seem to think exists) do tend to converge as those societies change - there is a kind of moral arrow of time analogous to the entropical one. The question is why? It is not necessary that absolute moral truths are being recognised, though it is certainly easy and reasonable to believe this. There may be a much more Darwinian, memetic explanation - the countries that achieve success in other areas (such as economics) hold moral codes that other, less successful countries adopt as part of their attempts to 'join the club'. I think I favour this latter explanation, though I'm not 100% (so clearly I've been playing Devil's advocate - ha ha).
 
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El Hombre Invisible said:
You're coming from the perspective that an act has an absolute morality, then using this as an argument against it not having one. The point is that you state an act, such as slavery, as being absolutely immoral, but this is simply your judgement, based on your own moral values and those of the society that has influenced you. The judgement of the 'morality' of something is itself a judgement based on personal values. IF there is an absolute moral truth, it may well be hidden from either one of or both of us, so our judegements are still relative.
There may not be an absolute morality. But if there is no absolute morality, then all acts are morally neutral. Where does any "relative morality" enter the picture? If there is no "absolute morality" then how can there be any relative morality? If there is no specific way things "ought to be" then moral codes are purposeless aren't they? In what sense are they even "moral" codes, if things ought not to be one way or another?

It seems to me that anyone that has a moral code is believing or at least assuming that there is a certain way things "ought to be"... otherwise I fail to see how their code is a "moral" code. What makes it "moral", if they don't believe things ought to be one way or another?
 
learningphysics said:
There may not be an absolute morality. But if there is no absolute morality, then all acts are morally neutral. Where does any "relative morality" enter the picture? If there is no "absolute morality" then how can there be any relative morality? If there is no specific way things "ought to be" then moral codes are purposeless aren't they? In what sense are they even "moral" codes, if things ought not to be one way or another?

It seems to me that anyone that has a moral code is believing or at least assuming that there is a certain way things "ought to be"... otherwise I fail to see how their code is a "moral" code. What makes it "moral", if they don't believe things ought to be one way or another?
Morally neutral? Not really. Nothing has absolute velocity (except light) but that doesn't mean everything has zero velocity - it just means everything has relative velocity. Likewise, a lack of absolute morality does not make everything morally neutral, just morally relative. Of course, if there were no concept of morality (relative or otherwise), then even "morally neutral" wouldn't exist. You have to distinguish between 'morality' and 'absolute morality', just as you do with 'velocity' and 'absolute velocity'. (Of course, by that token you may ask if there is some exception to the rule, like light, that has an absolute moral truth. :smile: )

As for the origins of morality, if we go my route, it is not a case of the way things 'ought' to be, but the way things are beneficial personally or for society. If it was morally acceptable to kill whoever you wanted for no reason, that society would not benefit. Of course, once dynamic moral codes are in place, they would have a life of their own, since you introduce concepts of moral superiority (see my comment about memetic morality). A person deemed of good moral stature by society may well be looked up to, so his or her personal moral values will become desirable. This doesn't necessarily mean they are the correct morals, just the beneficial ones, personally or otherwise. On the flip side, where there is some area of change that may benefit society as a whole, that society may change its social moral codes that then cascade down to persons within it.

Morality, I would say, is an emergent notion that evolves. This, like life, does not imbue it with meaning. Just because there is no meaning of life, doesn't mean the existential question is redundant - it just means it is unique to a person. Likewise with morality.
 
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This discussion is really going in circles, but I guess I'll keep going.

To me, moral and ethical fall into similar realms. Instead of saying "x is the right thing to do in y situation", I follow guideless to decide whether something is moral, for myself that is. That is how I decide. I can think that this is right for everyone, but that doesn't make it so.

If morality was created by humans, and not by some God, how can there be absolutes? As I said before, morality is a concept. Let's stop circling and get down to it.
 
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El Hombre Invisible said:
Morally neutral? Not really. Nothing has absolute velocity (except light) but that doesn't mean everything has zero velocity - it just means everything has relative velocity. Likewise, a lack of absolute morality does not make everything morally neutral, just morally relative.
Hmmm... would you agree that if there is no absolute morality then there is no one way or another that things "ought to be"? Just want to make sure we are on the same page. This is the sense in which I mean things are morally neutral if there is no absolute morality.


Of course, if there were no concept of morality (relative or otherwise), then even "morally neutral" wouldn't exist. You have to distinguish between 'morality' and 'absolute morality', just as you do with 'velocity' and 'absolute velocity'. (Of course, by that token you may ask if there is some exception to the rule, like light, that has an absolute moral truth. :smile: )

As for the origins of morality, if we go my route, it is not a case of the way things 'ought' to be, but the way things are beneficial personally or for society. If it was morally acceptable to kill whoever you wanted for no reason, that society would not benefit. Of course, once dynamic moral codes are in place, they would have a life of their own, since you introduce concepts of moral superiority (see my comment about memetic morality). A person deemed of good moral stature by society may well be looked up to, so his or her personal moral values will become desirable. This doesn't necessarily mean they are the correct morals, just the beneficial ones, personally or otherwise. On the flip side, where there is some area of change that may benefit society as a whole, that society may change its social moral codes that then cascade down to persons within it.

Morality, I would say, is an emergent notion that evolves. This, like life, does not imbue it with meaning. Just because there is no meaning of life, doesn't mean the existential question is redundant - it just means it is unique to a person. Likewise with morality.
You may be right about the origins of morality. I think I understand your position much better now. :smile:
 
Jameson said:
This discussion is really going in circles, but I guess I'll keep going.

To me, moral and ethical fall into similar realms. Instead of saying "x is the right thing to do in y situation", I follow guideless to decide whether something is moral, for myself that is. That is how I decide. I can think that this is right for everyone, but that doesn't make it so.

If morality was created by humans, and not by some God, how can there be absolutes? As I said before, morality is a concept. Let's stop circling and get down to it.
But that circle may become a spiral that ends on a profound conclusion. I think this debate has been interesting. You're not really making a case, simply restating your point of view. I agree with your view (although I'd distingiush between morality and ethics more than you do), but some don't. Simply making your own position known once again isn't going to make the argument go anywhere. Be more patient.
 
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El Hombre Invisible said:
Again, you are demonstrating the relativity of morality. Would you or I say slavery is moral? No - those are our personal moral views, and those of the societies we now inhabit. However, they were not the prevalent views of individuals living in, say, Egypt 3000 years ago, or America 200 years ago. In those societies, the moral views were different such that slavery was moral acceptable. Individuals, though, at that time may have held differing views on the subject (certainly the slaves themselves, no?).
All that shows is that prevailing moral beliefs vary. It doesn't demonstrate that moral *truth* is relative. Some moral beliefs, like other kinds of beliefs,
may be wrong. The egyptians may have been wrong about slavery as
they wre wrong about hte world being flat.
 
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Jameson said:
This discussion is really going in circles, but I guess I'll keep going.

To me, moral and ethical fall into similar realms. Instead of saying "x is the right thing to do in y situation", I follow guideless to decide whether something is moral, for myself that is. That is how I decide. I can think that this is right for everyone, but that doesn't make it so.
If you believe it is "moral" for yourself, then you believe it is "absolutely moral" for yourself don't you? If you don't believe it is "absolutely moral" for yourself, then why follow any moral guidelines at all?

Is there a particular "right action"? If there isn't then what does it matter what you do in the particular situation?

If morality was created by humans, and not by some God, how can there be absolutes?
Same thing could be said of mathematics.

Why have any morals at all if there are no absolutes? If there are no moral absolutes, then there isn't any particular way things "ought to be"... so what is the point of morals?
 
learningphysics said:
Hmmm... would you agree that if there is no absolute morality then there is no one way or another that things "ought to be"? Just want to make sure we are on the same page. This is the sense in which I mean things are morally neutral if there is no absolute morality.
Difficult question. Of course I think there are ways that certain things 'ought to be', but that's my moral values answering. I don't think there is any natural way that something ought to be - i.e. no one action has an absolute right or wrong. The judgement of right or wrong is made by societies and individuals in accordance with their moral views, and these differ between societies and individuals (not all the time, but in lots of cases). 'Ought' is a judgement - there has to be someone or something making that judgement, and it will be made in accordance with their moral codes. I personally have very definite ideas about the way things ought to be, but I do not believe these 'oughts' are intrinsic - they are based on my own personal ideals, largely advised by society. I hope that answers your question because I can't think of another way of answering it. I must add that my belief that there is no absolute moral truth does not stop me judging others who hold what are, to me, abhorrent moral attitudes.

learningphysics said:
You may be right about the origins of morality. I think I understand your position much better now. :smile:
Thanks for the interesting discussion, by the way.
 
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El Hombre Invisible said:
You're coming from the perspective that an act has an absolute morality, then using this as an argument against it not having one.
If objective morality is the only coherent kind , that would be valid.

The point is that you state an act, such as slavery, as being absolutely immoral, but this is simply your judgement, based on your own moral values and those of the society that has influenced you.
The fact that a subject makes a judgement does not make a judgement
subjective. It takes a subject to say 2+2=4, based on what society has tauhgt them, but it is an objective truth.

The judgement of the 'morality' of something is itself a judgement based on personal values. IF there is an absolute moral truth, it may well be hidden from either one of or both of us, so our judegements are still relative.

Or it may not be hidden.

Again, you are first assuming that there is an absolute moral truth. If there were such a thing, how would it manifest itself?
What happens when we realise that something we previously thought right,
such as salvery, is wrong ? That is how.

If it did not, how can you say it exists? If it does, and there is no-one there to recognise it (say, life did not form), how can you say it exists. If it does and someone did recognise it, how can you distingiush this absolute truth from that person's personal moral view?
Moral values have to achieve criteria of justice and universality that
subjective whims cannot. It may suit me subjectively to keep slaves
but I cannot maintain "everyone should make slaves of everyone else" as a mroal rule.
 
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El Hombre Invisible said:
Morally neutral? Not really. Nothing has absolute velocity (except light) but that doesn't mean everything has zero velocity - it just means everything has relative velocity.
Eveything has zero velocity in its own reference frame. Likewise, if every
moral code is equally valid, you can justify anything by sayin it is in
accordance with your own moral code. But then "moralilty" becomes
completely indistiguishable from personal preference. At that point you
could abandon any pretence of having any kind of morality and it would make no difference whatsoever. So moral realtivism leads to moral nihilism.


As for the origins of morality, if we go my route, it is not a case of the way things 'ought' to be, but the way things are beneficial personally or for society. If it was morally acceptable to kill whoever you wanted for no reason, that society would not benefit. Of course, once dynamic moral codes are in place, they would have a life of their own, since you introduce concepts of moral superiority (see my comment about memetic morality). A person deemed of good moral stature by society may well be looked up to, so his or her personal moral values will become desirable.
Being a uniform set of rules which maximises the goals aof society places a heavy set of restraints on possible moralities. Who says those constraints
aren't what makes morality objective, just as the fact that the rules of arithemtic only allow certain answers makes mathematics objective ?
What is still relative about your picture ?
 
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Tournesol said:
Being a uniform set of rules which maximises the goals aof society places a heavy set of restraints on possible moralities. Who says those constraints
aren't what makes morality objective, just as the fact that the rules of arithemtic only allow certain answers makes mathematics objective ?
What is still relative about your picture ?
Morality is not social policy, although it can be. Your mention of a set of rules which maximises the goals of a society is clearly indicative of a presupposed moral philosophy, and so whatever rules you claim come about objectively are in fact relative to your morality. Some moralities don't focus on making rules, but simply suggest attitudes by which to live your life. In other words, people set goals for themselves to try to be more and more compassionate, disciplined, etc. not in the sense that it is a rule that you must be compassionate, but it is a goal, a virtue that you try to cultivate. Your use of the term "maximises" suggests some utilitarian leanings, but some people believe that "maximizing" is not a good, or even sensible approach. Some goals are not set in quantifiable terms, and maximizing doesn't make sense. In BicycleTree's thread yesterday, someone made a comment that you can't place a numerical ratio between two tragedies. Whether or not she's right about that is a different story, but it remains that does seem to be a matter of opinion -- it does not appear to be objectively true that "maximizing" is the appropriate goal. Finally, some moralities don't place the goals of society at the center, they place the goals of the individual, God, all life in the universe, or something else at the center. If morality is about, in the most general terms, what the right thing are to do in life, then we must ask: whose actions are we concerned with (is morality about determining what actions people should be doing, or just what actions I should be doing -- and when we say "should" do we mean that these are goals people should aspire to, or rules people must conform to) and by what standard do we judge what's right? Your morality is objective only insofar as we ignore the fact that it is relative to how you answer the preceeding question (and/or questions like), and that there are several valid answers to those questions.
 

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