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Posted: 9/20/2004 7:51:12 PM EST
I have gotten into several political discussions with my boss who is bleeding heart liberal. Everytime he tells me, that I see things as black and white, that I don't see the grey areas. The way I was raised, I was taught that there is right and there is wrong. I am a conservative. What are your thoughts???
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 7:53:44 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/20/2004 7:58:07 PM EST by fight4yourrights]
There is a Cultural War that has been raging in America for decades. One of the battle grounds is MORAL RELATIVISM.

The Myth of Moral Relativism

by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D.



The purpose of this brief essay is to show that moral (or ethical) relativism is a philosophical myth that is accepted by no one who has critically examined its tenets and that those who claim to be moral relativists are really not. We are dealing here with two aspects of a specific condition:

* First, with a "belief" that states there are no fixed values, there are only fluctuating human valuations, or that ethical truths are relative, that is, the rightness of an action depends on or consists in the attitude taken towards it by some individual or group, and hence may vary from individual to individual or from group to group.
* Second, with "actions" based on this belief which clearly show that the agent is, more or less, acting or behaving in a way that is consistent with the belief that moral relativism is, in fact, the true and only philosophical position.

As is usually the case in this type of reflective situation, the belief comes first, the action follows, but the action taken tells us something about the commitment to the belief undergirding the action taken.

It is easy in our contemporary society to find statements which apparently show a commitment to moral relativism. Consider just a sampling:

* What's true for you may not be true for me.
* Nothing is really right or wrong, but thinking makes it so.
* Ethical judgments are just a matter of personal opinion.
* Anything goes.
* One man's meat is another man's poison (in regard, of course, to morals).
* We should not judge another's personal morality.
* No society is better or worse than another (in regard to social ethics).

The above statements, and ones similar to them, are now bandied about in ordinary conversation as if they were truths about which no one should disagree. Moreover, those who claim to be moral or ethical relativists and are bold enough to declare it would simply say: "All morals are relative and that's the end of it," or some such "philosophical" assertion.

Opinion surveys recently taken in America have shown the pervasiveness of the position promoted by moral relativism. For instance, in one survey where adults were asked if they agreed with the statement "there are no absolute standards for morals and ethics," seventy-one percent said that they agreed with it. Other surveys have shown even higher numbers who think that morality and ethics is a matter of personal opinion and that there are no universal standards by which one can determine the rightness or wrongness of a human act.

Now, I never question what a person tells me regarding his or her personal beliefs, unless I have a valid reason to think otherwise. If someone tells me that truth is a relative matter, then I accept that that is what that person believes. I then consider that person's actions to see if they are consistent with the beliefs stated. And that is where the "rubber meets the road," so to speak. I find that those who claim "all truth is relative" may spout that belief, but they never act as if its true. Similarly, I find that those who say they believe in moral relativism never act as if they really do. In fact, I find them to be moral absolutists, not moral relativists. Belief is one thing; actions are another. And it is in the realm of action that moral relativism takes the fatal "hit."

The old adage "actions speak louder than words" has a special significance here. If the "words" (beliefs) are really committed to by the moral relativist, then his or her "actions" should be consistent with those words or beliefs. And it is precisely here that moral or ethical relativism becomes a "myth." While many may claim to be moral relativists, their actions show they are not. In fact, their behavior shows them to be moral absolutists of a type, the very opposite of what they claim to be. And it is this point that I want to address in the remainder of this essay.

The self-proclaimed moral relativist does not and cannot maintain his or her commitment to the "philosophy" of moral relativism. In fact, the record clearly shows that these "moral relativists" are not relativists at all, but moral absolutists. This assertion is based on their behavior, not on their alleged support of a philosophical position. To wit:

* Modern "liberal" political groups who promote "political correctness." These groups want to suppress what they consider to be offensive language and views. Most of these people claim to be moral relativists, yet they promote a doctrine that includes an "absolutist" program, that is, "statements that are politically incorrect must be eliminated or even made illegal." No relativism here.
* Groups promoting "Multiculturalism." All the beliefs and practices of non-Western cultures must be considered as "good" regardless of the belief and practice, but Western civilization and the "white European" are evil and to be eliminated as soon as possible. No relativism here.
* Pro-abortion groups. Claiming that morality is a matter of personal opinion, these groups are now attempting to legally quash any opposition to their position. They want "special protection" and do not want to confront any philosophical opposition. No relativism here.

The above are simply examples of "absolutist" behavior parading as moral relativism. But there is more. One of the most vocal and active groups to promote moral relativism in America is the so-called "Feminist Movement." Yet, even here, we find, not moral relativism as claimed, but moral absolutism. To wit:

* The "Feminist Movement" says that the Taliban government in Afghanistan was "wrong" in its treatment of women. But, to be consistent, the feminists should say, it is after all just a "cultural" thing and we have no business judging the rightness or wrongness of Taliban culture.
* The "Feminist Movement" labels child-adult sexual activity as "wrong," but, to remain consistent, it should say, it's merely a "personal" opinion. No one should be punished for engaging in such behavior.
* The "Feminist Movement" should say, to be consistent, "rape" is really in the eye of the beholder. What is rape to one person is making love to another. It's a matter of one's point of view.

Now, the "Feminist Movement" is not going to take the moral relativist position; they will take the position of the moral absolutist, the very position they condemn in those who are not in agreement with their particular views. They will say:

* The treatment of women by the Taliban is wrong and should be changed.
* Child-adult sexual activity is wrong and should be criminally punished.
* Rape is wrong, regardless of the perpetrator's opinion, and should be criminally punished.

None of the above judgments regarding a human act can be judged as right or wrong without appealing to some standard used as a criterion for judging the behavior. This standard, by its very nature, is "absolutist." Moral relativism cannot appeal to a standard, simply because "relativism" itself means there are no standards.

I could continue with many other examples of the "moral absolutist" masquerading as a "moral relativist." But brevity forbids it. And, besides, I want to make another important point. The pseudo-moral relativist (because that's what they really are!) do not really want to convince you that his or her philosophical position is correct or true by engaging in an intellectual discourse. Rather, in American society, the pseudo-moral relativist wants to appeal to the legislative bodies (Congress, et al) or the judiciary bodies (the Supreme Court, etc.) to have their "beliefs" encased in law. This means that what is "legal" is the same as what is "moral," and nothing else. And this is the final nail in the coffin of the moral relativist.

We are not talking about morality at all! We are talking about positive law. Morality or ethics has nothing to do with the situation. Positive law is now all that matters. Making some "human act" legal is to be distinguished from the "morality" of any human act. All we need to do, according to this philosophical position, is declare something to be "legal" and it is, ipso facto, "moral." This, by the way, is, in my opinion, the current state of affairs in American society today.

Okay, let us accept that for the sake of the current argument: What is "legal" is equivalent to what is "moral," as a defining example of moral relativism. The so-called moral relativist is dead in the water. Because if "legality" is to define "morality" then any outrage against such phenomena as the Nazi "Holocaust" or the attack on America by terrorists on September 11, 2001 or the "circumcision" of little girls in many black-African countries or the "abuse" of women in Taliban Afghanistan or the practice of owning black slaves in 19th-century America is misplaced and unfair. These are or were "legal." Therefore, according to the logic of this type of moral relativists, all these practices are or were "moral."

No moral relativist I am familiar with will accept the above. They will insist these are "evil" acts. But by what standards, or on what grounds, or by what criteria, if judging human acts is relative matter and there are no absolute standards that can be used to make a judgment? Either all moral principles are relative or there is at least one moral principle which is absolute, or, in the case of the logical positivists and some others, morality is simply a semantic game which has no real content (which is not at issue here since no one really believes that anyway, including the logical positivists who promoted it).

Now, let's get real. If moral relativists were really sincere in their beliefs, they could not condemn the following practices and would have to say...

* Cannibalism is permitted if you think it is morally correct.
* Raping two-year olds is acceptable if that is part of your cultural tradition.
* Brutalizing your wife is understandable if that is part of your ethical system.
* Castrating young boys is permitted for the sake of your cultural heritage.
* Torture is a morally accepted part of your criminal justice system.
* Human sacrifice is allowed as part of your religious system.
* Certain groups defined as unwanted by your society can be destroyed.
* There is no such thing as a war crime; it's in the eye of the beholder.
* Adolf Hitler should not be judged as morally reprehensible since he was acting lawfully.
* Josef Stalin was not acting immorally when he killed millions of innocent people.
* The suicide bombers of September 11, 2001 were acting properly in their own interests.
* Anything goes. Anything goes. Anything goes. We cannot judge.

There is no way the declared moral relativist can get around this issue. If there is not at least ONE absolute, objective standard or principle or proposition of moral philosophy or ethics, one that can be used to further develop a system of objectively-based moral philosophy, then "anything goes."

Finally, I get back to the initial position I was trying to argue. Moral or ethical relativism is a "myth." That is, no one really believes in moral relativism, in spite of what one might say. All one has to do is look at the "actions" of the moral relativist instead of concentrating on the beliefs espoused. Self-proclaimed moral relativists appear to be guilty of hypocrisy, saying one thing but practicing the opposite. And, finally, moral relativism is just another example of "intellectual insanity," the attempt to remake and reshape reality into what one wants it to be, rather than accepting reality as it is and dealing with it rationally.

There has to be at least ONE rational, objective standard by which human beings can judge the rightness, the correctness, or the appropriateness of human actions. There may be more, but there has to be at least one. It is the discovery of this rational, objective standard that is the object of what we call moral philosophy or ethics.
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 7:54:28 PM EST
While principles and values can be black/white and unambiguous, the application to the real world is almost invariably some shade of grey.


Link Posted: 9/20/2004 7:54:50 PM EST
The grey areas are reserved for Kerry. He flips and flops so much everything is grey to him!
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 7:56:08 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/20/2004 7:57:09 PM EST by Lockedon]
I believe restricting youself to black and white only allows you to see reality as you have been taught. The idea of Right and Wrong are HUMAN DEFINITIONS and are therefore susceptible to error. Half of wisdom lies in the grey area. IMHO.

(hope that made sense, had a long day and I'm tired)
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 7:59:13 PM EST
I don't see everything as pure black and white...but the grey I see is very, very dark...
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 8:01:22 PM EST
Only a little bit of grey to me.
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 8:03:57 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/20/2004 8:06:09 PM EST by nightstalker]
The basic difference between conservative and liberal is the perfectability of man. The liberal believes that man can be perfected by laws that mold and shape his behavior. The conservative believes man can be influenced by encouraging behavior that is in his own self interest. IOW liberals will more often choose to tax to achieve "charity" whereas conservatives will do this by not taxing charitable donations. That's a simple basic difference. It's just a variation of the give a man a fish, teach a man to fish story.

Both conservative and liberal thought have plenty of black and white and equal shades of grey..or is it gray..
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 8:05:54 PM EST
... Yeah, for the most part.

... I'm fairly color blind
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 8:05:57 PM EST
yes

indecisiveness belongs in the middle
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 8:16:24 PM EST
You are taught to think in terms of right and wrong, black and white. For the people doing the teaching, it makes your behavior more predictable.

If you are the type of person who hates to think and decide the issues for yourself, then black and white is comforting. A belief system that provides structured rules for behavior always lets you know where you stand. Some people love military life for just that reason. It is orderly and organized, sometimes down to the minute. I remember my lifer platoon sargeant telling me how much he feared civilian life where no one was really in charge and people decided for them selves what to do. How chaotic!

However, we are all human beings and as such have traits and characteristics in common. Yes, sometimes a driver crosses the white line and goes into oncoming traffic but almost all the time we stay in our lanes for mutual good. What I mean is, we almost all want similar things and so play by similar rules. Once in a while exceptional humans emerge who have a combination of traits and characteristics that are outside the 60% that resides in the middle of the bell shaped curve.

The Einstein's, Hitler's, Thomas Acquinas', Lincoln, Hawking, look at things in new ways, politically, scientifically, etc. They expand the envelop and upset the status quo for better or worse.

They try bold initiatives that cause us to rethink right and wrong, black and white.

For example:

We can stop the spread of AIDS by killing all people who have the disease. Does the end justify the means? Would that be right or wrong?

We can prevent the election of John Kerry (or Geo. Bush) by lying about his military record and misrepresenting his position on the economy. Right or wrong?

To save Russia from terrorism and crime, Putin assumes dictatorial powers. Right or wrong. Are the Chechnyans wrong? Are the Russians wrong?

Horribly deformed infants used to be euthanized by the doctor or midwife. Right or wrong?

The fact is that almost any action that the majority considers right, harms some minority who considers it wrong. That is about the only absolute.
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 8:20:43 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/20/2004 8:22:16 PM EST by lippo]
Black and white?

Yep. I see one.

Those terrorists that cut Armstrongs head off, need to DIE! That's as black and white as it gets for me. These f******'s need to DIE! Am I pissed? You bet. I hope we carpet bomb that whole city. Every swinging dick that's not in the fight should get out, cause the rest should be sent to hell.

ISLAM/Muslims = = there a black and white issue for you.
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 8:52:06 PM EST

Originally Posted By DK-Prof:
While principles and values can be black/white and unambiguous, the application to the real world is almost invariably some shade of grey.



Too much academia, my good man. Most moral questions (even in application to real life) are not difficult. We only imagine them to be so because we are conditioned to spare the feelings of those who are immoral.
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 8:53:50 PM EST

Originally Posted By fight4yourrights:
<snip>



What he said.
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 9:06:43 PM EST
Most issues are just that black and white, one question comes to mind. Is killing wrong?

Think carefully beforeyou answer.


The answer must not have any qualifiers.


For every person that thinks that there should be a "middle ground" is usually trying to get you over to the wrong side in little steps.

This happens all of the time, take a drink, have a joint, let me regulate that for you. Can you do this for me, hire the most inept person you can find for diversity purposes. Elect the lesser of 2 evils.

It may be legal but that does not make it right, except in the mind of person doing whats legal.
Conmversly it may be the right thing to do, but it may not be legal.
Link Posted: 9/20/2004 9:11:01 PM EST
Is there a difference to you between right and wrong vs. legal and illegal?

Link Posted: 9/21/2004 3:41:07 AM EST

Originally Posted By longun45:
Most issues are just that black and white, one question comes to mind. Is killing wrong?

Think carefully beforeyou answer.


The answer must not have any qualifiers.


For every person that thinks that there should be a "middle ground" is usually trying to get you over to the wrong side in little steps.

This happens all of the time, take a drink, have a joint, let me regulate that for you. Can you do this for me, hire the most inept person you can find for diversity purposes. Elect the lesser of 2 evils.

It may be legal but that does not make it right, except in the mind of person doing whats legal.
Conmversly it may be the right thing to do, but it may not be legal.



I think I agree with you, but I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. "Is killing (inherently) wrong?" is easy to answer: no. The answer to the question "Is killing (inherently) right?" is similarly "no". Killing is an abstract action which can be absolutely right or wrong in a given situation. This is not moral relativisim; it is moral awareness. You might as well ask: "Is using a hammer wrong?"
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 3:43:01 AM EST

Originally Posted By Palo_Duro:
Is there a difference to you between right and wrong vs. legal and illegal?



The question should be: is there any similarity...?
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 3:46:55 AM EST

Originally Posted By fizassist:

Originally Posted By Palo_Duro:
Is there a difference to you between right and wrong vs. legal and illegal?



The question should be: is there any similarity...?



Just because something is legal, doesn't = right. Just because something is illegal it doesn't = wrong
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 3:47:46 AM EST
Pretty much, yeah.
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 4:23:29 AM EST

Originally Posted By VTHOKIESHOOTER:

Originally Posted By fizassist:

Originally Posted By Palo_Duro:
Is there a difference to you between right and wrong vs. legal and illegal?



The question should be: is there any similarity...?



Just because something is legal, doesn't = right. Just because something is illegal it doesn't = wrong



+1
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 4:51:55 AM EST
[Last Edit: 9/21/2004 5:37:44 AM EST by AshNH]

Originally Posted By Lockedon:
I believe restricting youself to black and white only allows you to see reality as you have been taught. The idea of Right and Wrong are HUMAN DEFINITIONS and are therefore susceptible to error. Half of wisdom lies in the grey area. IMHO.

(hope that made sense, had a long day and I'm tired)



+1

I was raised pretty conservatively but eventually found my own beliefs to lie somewhere in the middle ... The extremism is what bothers me the most about this country right now. If I lean one direction or the other politically I end up lumped in with the ENTIRE Left or the ENTIRE Right, and frankly being lumped in with extremists on either side is just embarassing ... You're either a gun-banning, granola crunching, birkenstock wearing, commie, pinko, fag or you're a gun-slinging, bible thumping, pickup driving, cousin loving, redneck nutjob.

The majority of Americans are probably in the gray, it's just that this petty political divisiveness that's being fought out by the two extremes is dragging everyone along with it. And it's not good for the country IMHO.

VVV VVV
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 4:53:37 AM EST
Grey is the color of gutlessness.
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 4:55:45 AM EST
To me there is no gray, it's either right or wrong.
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 9:22:21 AM EST
There is very little that is black and white. There are different sides to every dispute, every situation. And usually people on either side of a dispute/ difference in viewpoint thinks THEY are the correct viewpoint.
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 9:25:03 AM EST
For the most part, yes.

The only thing you find in the middle of the road is a yellow stripe and roadkill.
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 9:42:15 AM EST

Originally Posted By tcsd1236:
There is very little that is black and white. There are different sides to every dispute, every situation. And usually people on either side of a dispute/ difference in viewpoint thinks THEY are the correct viewpoint.



Viewpoints have nothing to do with right and wrong. The study of ethics provides a number of excellent non-contradictary, objective tests for the morality of a given action. A human being's flawed logic is no proof that morality is ill-defined.
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 9:49:01 AM EST
I have had several people that know me well say something like, "I've never met a man that sees things as clearly black or white as you. Never a shade of gray."

And, I do not suffer fools gladly.
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 10:02:32 AM EST

Originally Posted By fizassist:

Originally Posted By tcsd1236:
There is very little that is black and white. There are different sides to every dispute, every situation. And usually people on either side of a dispute/ difference in viewpoint thinks THEY are the correct viewpoint.



Viewpoints have nothing to do with right and wrong. The study of ethics provides a number of excellent non-contradictary, objective tests for the morality of a given action. A human being's flawed logic is no proof that morality is ill-defined.


The question is how people see issues, not morality specifically. There are multiple viewpoints on any given issue, and even when discussing issues that might involve morality, you might have a difference of opinion between the parties, with both sides convinced that what they are doing is the moral and proper course of action. Look at all fo the anti-Arab threads here on AR15 lately, for instance. The posters by and large probably see their stance as being quite moral, when history most likely will show them to be caught up in the same sort of racist hysteria that has swept populations in the past...fhere in the USA for instance, instances of anti-native american anti-chinese, anti-Japanese, anti-Italian and a general anti-immigrant hysteria comes readily to my mind.
Link Posted: 9/21/2004 10:56:06 AM EST

Originally Posted By tcsd1236:
The question is how people see issues, not morality specifically. There are multiple viewpoints on any given issue, and even when discussing issues that might involve morality, you might have a difference of opinion between the parties, with both sides convinced that what they are doing is the moral and proper course of action. Look at all fo the anti-Arab threads here on AR15 lately, for instance. The posters by and large probably see their stance as being quite moral, when history most likely will show them to be caught up in the same sort of racist hysteria that has swept populations in the past...fhere in the USA for instance, instances of anti-native american anti-chinese, anti-Japanese, anti-Italian and a general anti-immigrant hysteria comes readily to my mind.



You are entirely wrong, my friend.

It has absolutely nothing to do with race.

It has to do with an evil and Godless religion, Islam. This religion teaches hatred, murder, and conversion by the sword. It clearly claims to desire to convert all other people to it's religion or kill them.

Islam has members of all races. It has nothing to do with race.
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