Thoughts on Moral Relativism/Subjectivism?

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Thoughts on Moral Relativism/Subjectivism?

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  • Josh

    I recently published an article challenging two common arguments made my moral relativists and subjectivists. http://joshie.liberty.me/2014/07/14/deconstruct-and-rebut-moral-relativistsubjectivist-arguments/

    I’m interested in hearing some more thoughts on the positions, and any arguments supporting or refuting the positions.

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  • Ricky Peter Newins

    Hi Josh,

    First of all we need to point out that there are 3 types of moral relativism:

    Descriptive, Meta-ethical and Normative.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism#Variations

    One cannot disagree with descriptive moral relativism, it is a reality.

    Meta-ethical moral relativism is easily refuted as if there is not such thing as good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust etc. then those who support this position ought to refrain from making any value judgements/comments and from using such words.

    Normative moral relativism is one step further and it is even easier to refute as it is unattainable. It argues that “we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards” No man has ever been able to do this. For example, in not choosing to befriend a person one is showing intolerance towards that person.

     

     

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    Michael Bunch

    I can’t say that I subscribe to any form of moral relativism. I personally think that moral relativism spawns from materialism and scientism, and its extreme manifests as nihilism. If things can only be proven empirically, then naturally one would think that all morals are equal. And so it is easy to see why moral relativism attracts materialists and adherents of scientism. Though at the same time, I personally doubt that anyone is truly moral relativistic, as if anyone really thinks that every moral is equally fine as the next. Such as, for example, it is legitimate for one person to think that it’s moral to murder and for another to think that murder is immoral. Or another example, that it’s okay to practice female circumcision just as much as it’s okay not to do so. I don’t think anyone actually thinks this way.

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    PG (Pierre-Guy) Veer

    Although I don’t consider myself objectivist, I do agree with them that there ARE objective moral truths. One’s self-ownership is the basis of success and the surest way to happiness. Otherwise, you have to take into account the whim of others (husband, master, government, whatever)

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    Michael Bunch

    Something I am genuinely curious about is whether or not a moral subjectivist can be libertarian or not. If morals are subjective, wouldn’t that mean that the morality of coercion is validated only by culture rather than something objective? I suppose, to play devil’s advocate, it could be supported based on utilitarian grounds, but is that enough to validate the NAP across differing cultures?

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      Ricky Peter Newins

      No, not unless they are only a descriptive moral relativist. The NAP is a universal/objective principle, universal/objective meaning that it applies to all human beings. Ethics is about universality/objectivity, meta-ethical and normative moral relativists do not deal with ethics.

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    Andrew David

    Subjectivism is the reason why Ayn Rand said she would rather live in a socialist country than one run by libertarians (or anarchists). But really though, I think subjectivism is just a rationalization of morally lazy people who do not want to be moralized or their behavior judged. Terse but true.

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      Ricky Peter Newins

      I agree with your observation Andrew. For the most part I think we are dealing with psychological defense mechanisms to be honest.

      Most of the time you can really see what a person actually believes as opposed to what they SAY they believe by how s/he reacts to how another individual or group of individuals treat her/him in a given situation.

      Perhaps the facade of relativism will hold. Oh wait, the lack-of-principles is the mortar. Now I get it.

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        Andrew David

        Exactly right. The lack of principles is their conclusion in the first place. They believe objective morality impossible because they do not want to commit to anything or live up to a standard. They want to be left alone in their contradictions and short-term-gain hedonistic behaviors…AND….they want to be respected, they want to be included in meaningful discussion, and they want to be considered having philosophical knowledge. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. At least Cratylus was no coward.
        Unfortunately, so many (most) in the lib/A movement are subjectivists – which is self-defeating if you’re going to argue against the state. Why? Because libs/As cannot have a movement if they are merely saying that THEY, as individuals, don’t want a state – that this is there subjective preference only – and that THEY will simply withdrawn from society, not judge statists, and go on living their lives in isolation. No..they are trying to argue the state is unjust, immoral, etc., for ALL humanity. You cannot do this meaningful from a subjectivist stance.

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