Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Defense of Moral Relativism

From Internet Infidels.


Blue Devil Knight said...


written like a sophomore.

Blue Devil Knight said...

just so i'm not accused of contentless name calling by the thin-skinned...

1 the consequences of the variability in morals in different cultures are far from clear--for one, variability doesn't imply subjectivity. we could have cultures without science that think F=ma (or its relativistic counterpart) is false, but that doesn't mean nature is variable, but that different cultures approximate the truth to different degrees.

2 I'm not sure what is wrong with appealing to the consequence of a belief. I'm unaware of any such fallacy. Indeed, something called reductio ad absurdum makes pretty darn good use of appealing to the consequences of a belief.

3 appeal to objective truth seems a straw man

4 The last bit, on the importance of personal conscience, is the best part, even though it is handled amateurishly. He wriggles in the vicinity of the problem, but frankly I think Victor states it better than he does.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Wow the stuff at that site is generally awful. I just spent about 15 minutes there. I need a break so my IQ can rise back to its baseline.

Steven said...

Something I thought was interesting was he claimed the Bible was "replete with moral contradictions" and cited two as evidence: "eye for an eye", and "turn the other cheek".

I wonder how many "former evangelical Christians" whose faith "crumbled under the weight of the evidence" when they "attacked their doubts head on" ever bothered to apply their mind to what they believed before they were confronted with objections and arguments, etc; ever bothered to think about what they believed. The reason I ask is because when they are "enlightened" and become nonChristians, the arguments they give against Christianity are the sort I'd expect from someone who'd never opened a Bible before.

How is there a moral contradiction between one teaching with deals which appropriating punishment for crime to the nature of the crime committed, and a general principle for interaction among private citizens experiencing persecution from others?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Steven: eye for an eye and cheek-turning are pretty different approaches to things. Your exegesis is one way to work it out (frankly I'm not convinced), but others can say Jesus indeed overturned some of the strictures in the Hebrew Bible. That seems at least as reasonable.

But I do agree that article overstates things a bit on that front. However, the importance of personal (individual) ethical judgment, or conscience, is pretty key in his article. There's where you get some tricky issues for the person who acts as if bringing in God trivially solves all problems in the foundations of ethics. E.g., Euthyphro type problems (e.g., what if God had said that baby torture was good? You would say that God was not good, you would use your personal ethical judgment to realize that was something very bad). I realize there are ways people try to get around this (e.g., appeals to Divine Nature, that God by his nature could not do such a thing), but again we are left with questions about the basis by which we are able to justify our conclusions about such a God's goodness.

At any rate, he touches on an interesting topic that has been covered better at this site, and a little bit over at Debunking Christianity.

Steven said...

I didn't read the article in great detail; I did some skimming and saw that point brought up.

If there are moral contradictions in scripture, I don't think that that is one of them.

You say you disagree and that my exegesis is not entirely convincing; I don't know what else to say besides I disagree.

I think that even if Jesus did some sort of overturning with his teachings (on the Sermon on the Mount, for instance), it could plausibly be understood as overturning the Jews' understanding of Old Testament texts and positing the proper interpretation, which he, if anyone, would be an authority on.

If I want to discuss it in any detail, I think I'd have to read it more carefully, so I'll hold off until then.