Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moral Relativism and Global Warming

There is a raging debate going on about global warming. Sarah Palin and those who agree with her think the evidence has been trumped up and there is no good reason to believe in man-made global warming. Al Gore thinks the evidence for man-made global warming is clear and decisive.



I think we can all agree, whatever side we are on in this, that one of these groups of people has to be wrong. So why do people think that it follows from a diversity of moral opinions that moral judgments are neither true nor false?

7 comments:

philip m said...

Because global warming has to do with complex analysis of myriad scientific data, and moral truths are supposed to be apprehended intuitively.

Leonard said...

I had a completly different thought, when i read the headline.

Lets suppose AGW is true.

If moral relativism is true, then the measures against global warming cannot be justified by moral reasons.

But there are no other reasons to do something against global warming than moral reasons, because the majority of us wont be affected by the increase in temperature. It cannot be justified by self-interest. For most of us action against AGW would be altruistic.

The strange thing is that especially the left is against AGW. But on the left are the most proponents of moral relativism.

Mark Frank said...

You are right that this argument is invalid:

There is a diversity of moral opinions. Therefore moral judgements are neither true nor false

Indeed it is equally invalid to argue:

There is uniformity of moral opinion therefore moral judgements are true or false

But who puts forward this argument? Surely the substantial arguments for moral relativism are round epistemology. How can we prove/know that something is good or bad?

Leonard

If moral relativism is true, then the measures against global warming cannot be justified by moral reasons

No. If moral relativism is true, then the measures against global warming cannot be justified objectively. They can be justified for (subjective but commonly held) moral reasons.

Doctor Logic said...

Mark hits the nail on the head.

Global warming claims are scientifically verifiable. Their meaning cashes out in experiments.

Claims of moral realism predict nothing. Your version of moral realism looks experimentally identical to moral subjectivism. So there's no positive evidence for moral realism.

On the other hand, there's lots of positive evidence for moral subjectivism. We can see the adaptive advantages of moral behavior for social groups, and we can identify the basic physical mechanisms that predict our moral feelings. There's every reason to believe that morality is within us, just like a peanut allergy is within us, and not in the peanut itself.

Leonard said...

Blogger Mark Frank said...

No. If moral relativism is true, then the measures against global warming cannot be justified objectively. They can be justified for (subjective but commonly held) moral reasons.

Right. They can only be justified by subjective moral reasons. But this justifies the measures only for those, who have the same subjective moral reasons.

Still, there is no objective justification for measures against global warming. It is just a kind of fashion under moral relativism.

Mark Frank said...

Still, there is no objective justification for measures against global warming. It is just a kind of fashion under moral relativism.

By calling it a kind of fashion you suggest it is not important and "merely a matter of opinion". But subjective does not necessarily mean trivial.

Leonard said...

By calling it a kind of fashion you suggest it is not important and "merely a matter of opinion". But subjective does nos necessarily mean trivial.

There is nothing that is important by itself. Importance is relative. What is important to one person can be unimportant to another person.

The people that have the opinion, that there should something be done against global warming, surely think that action against global warming is important. But it is only important to them.

For those, who think of this as a matter of indifference, action against global warming has absolutly no importance.

What more can a moral relativist say? There can be no discussion with a true moral relativist about sentences of the type " X should be done", "X should not be done" "There is no need to do X" etc... Because these kinds of sentences have no truth values under moral relativism. They are nothing more than fictions, nothing more than some kind of poetry. They maybe move your heart but thats it.

You cannot even say that you believe that "X should be done". Because to belief in something means to hold this something for true. At best you can say: I am moved by the thought that there should be something done against global warming.

If a moral relativist says: "We should do so and so" and if he is consistent, then what he really means is: "We, such and such group of people, are animated by the thought that so and so should be done." or " Iam moved by the thought that all people should do so and so"

But this is completly against the intention of most speakers, when they utter such kinds of sentences. Most of those, who proclaim that they are moral relativist, show their true convictions by their use of languange.