Moral relativism and relativism in general?


January 24, 2003, 05:34 PM
Hi all.

As you may know from some other threads I've posted recently, I'm engaged in an email debate with someone.

He is a relativist.

Tell me more about relativism, please.

The more I correspond with him, the more I think its a big waste of time, since we are so fundamentally different in our fundamental beliefs. (If he even has any, being a relativist. :rolleyes: )

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January 24, 2003, 05:50 PM
Relativists believe in no absolutes; all feelings, desires, wants, and needs are nothing more than electrical impulses travelling down a nerve. All cultures, beliefs, and values are social constructs that exist in a vacuum. Therefore there is no "right" and no "wrong", as those are abstract concepts that would require an absolute authority presiding over everything (God, for example).

This is just as as near as I can figure. I'm not a philosophy major.

January 24, 2003, 05:55 PM
From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:Although there are many different kinds of relativism, they all have two features in common:
1) They all assert that one thing (e.g. moral values, beauty, knowledge, taste, or meaning) is relative to some particular framework or standpoint (e.g. the individual subject, a culture, an era, a language, or a conceptual scheme).
2) They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.

In other words, they deny any objective authority in any area, especially in matters of morality. To any thinking person, this is so easily debunked by pointing out that if all viewpoints are equally valid or invalid, so is this one! In other words if there is no truth, then the idea that there is no truth isn't true!

Where this gets practical in regards to RKBA is that we say that we have a right, based on natural law and the laws of nature's creator, to self-defense. They would say that there is no objective natural law. Our "right" to self-defense is just our subjective point-of-view and is no better or worse than Saddam Hussein's point-of-view that he can torture and kill whomever he pleases.

Further, we appeal to the Constitution as an objective standard by which our nation's laws are to abide. A relativist feels no need to abide by any standard other than his own opinion. This is where the argument that the Constitution is a "living document" comes from.

Relativism is at the very heart of liberalism.

January 24, 2003, 06:41 PM
There is an acid test: reality as we jointly experience it.

Actions have consequences (something that some relativists have trouble with). Values and beliefs that lead to consequences that endanger survival are, to say the least, not conducive to a good life or a good society. Communism was a good example. It failed because it doesn't work.

Beliefs that have no clear relationship to survival are indeed relative (something that any fundamentalist will have trouble with). Multiple belief systems are equally able to support survival in the real world. Here the relativists have a point. Its a proud American tradition to respect the beliefs of others, as long as those beliefs do not have consequences that impinge on our right to do likewise.

Chris Rhines
January 24, 2003, 07:05 PM
RANash perfectly describes the concept of moral relativism; the denial of objective meaning in any idea.

To a relativist, reality is the sum total of one's perceptions rather than the sum total of existence. It is quite possible for a relativist to argue provably false points, such as, "The sky is green," because "green" is simply a word that means whatever he wants it to mean.

It is my considered opinion that relativism is a particularly nasty form of mental illness, and that adherents to this philosophy really shouldn't be wandering around unsupervised.

Debating with a relativist is about as enlightening as debating with a brick wall.

- Chris

January 24, 2003, 08:22 PM
Ask him why you should not be able to go and eat his liver.

If YOU think that it would be the right thing to do, then you should do it right? You could even argue that things he does not like (his liver eaten) are good for him because the very idea of liking something or disliking it is relative.

The problem with relativism in liberalism is that liberals want to make absolute laws based on their relativism.

How about asking him to support laws that ourlaw guns for those who think guns should be outlawed and legalize guns for those who want them? Or reverse it - legal for the antis to own, illegal for us to own.

Nothing is good, nothing is bad, nothing is true or false - alive, dead, everything is matter - so far as we percieve and we cannot agree on that.

The problem is - everything is so liquid that you can just "no it aint!" "yes it is!" back and forth forever....

January 24, 2003, 08:57 PM
There is no right answer, as long as you show your work.

Harold Mayo
January 24, 2003, 10:32 PM
You can't argue with someone who is an ardent relativist. Why try? It's all relative to them.

The sad thing is that they are right. There is no purpose to the universe, everything is just electrical impulses, there are no "rights" per se...

BUT, if you are going to believe that and run with it, you might as well just lay down and die. What is the purpose of an existence that means nothing? There is none.

I CHOOSE to believe in certain things because I feel that they are right. What is "right"? Whatever I perceive it to be.

You have to have a purpose. Moral relativism is elitist intellectual laziness. A moral relativist can say that his philosophy is "superior" because it trumps any other philosophy so he must therefore me smarter than you. That's a load of horse ****.

To BELIEVE is to live.

January 24, 2003, 10:47 PM
What it comes down to is this.
What does your gut tell you?
Take that and run with it,

January 24, 2003, 11:08 PM
Throughout history, folks who see themselves as the sole proprietors of RIGHT have often gone on to things like driving nails into the heads of those who don't "get it".

Don't mind me, I'll just be over here contemplating the nature of this existence & testing my beliefs by saying to myself "what if I'm wrong" every once in a while...;)

January 25, 2003, 12:07 AM
As has been alluded to in previous posts, you can't win such a debate; it is like trying to win an argument on the existence of God.

Therefore, my suggestion is that you not try to win the "argument." Instead give him his points, and then demonstrate the logical consequences of his belief system. As has been suggested find out what he cares about, what are his sacred cows, and then ruthlessly apply his belief system to them. A sometimes productive way to do this is to use the Columbo routine, "I'm sorry sir, but could you explain again why murder is wrong?.....Oh, I see sir, but doesn't that contradict what you said before?" I guarantee, unless he is a complete troll, that he will start to get a bad case of the, "yeah buts," and start trying to make qualifications to his relativistic philosophy. When he does this be sure to point it out to him in a nicely phrased question, "I'm confused sir, could you explain...."

By putting him in the position of explaining himself and his philosophy, you make him carry the burden of convincing you by making his case. This allows you to sit back and question him, thus forcing him to think and therefore confront the uncomfortable logical consequences of his beliefs. This will maximize the chance you have of reaching him and if others are following along with the debate, it will demonstrate to them the logical consequences of his belief system.

Just a note, I find that a majority of so called relativists, are mostly only relativists involving areas of life where they wish to evade personal responsibility. Generally they are not relativists when it comes to their own mortality or things that they value, i.e. they don’t believe that their being shot to death is just a relative matter. Relativism also seems to be college chic – the perfect philosophical pose, to project that affected jaded cynicism that has always been so popular amongst the pseudo-intellectual college crowd.

January 25, 2003, 12:35 AM
The problem with some relativists, particularly those involved in Deconstructionism, is that they take their relativism too...absolutely. :D
Seriously, it's blatantly obvious that some things are relative to time, culture and society. To deny that is to deny reality.
But it is also true that some things objectively WORK BETTER. For example, an economy based on slave labor is, in the long run, inefficient, technologically retardent and ethically erosive. An oppressive dictatorship is less conducive to sociological and technological advancement than a more representative and open government. These things are objectively true for humans...we've seen the proof throughout history.
The problem some of those who believe totally in objective morality run into, however, is in taking this truth to an extreme (the same problem some relativists have).
Another problem of some objective moralists is that they judge the personal worth of someone for acts that were considered all right by their culture...the institution of slavery is always wrong, always evil, but not everyone who ever owned a slave was evil.
Many times they were simply living according to the mores of their culture, ignorant of the injustice they were helping to perpetrate.
Anyway, that's my take on it.


January 25, 2003, 04:02 AM
i dunno exactly how to interpret the question. "relative" is a term i often use in my daily speech. i could be a relativist??:confused: i don't get particularly excited by details..what was i going to say??:banghead: an example of a "relative" experience...a guitar playing friend invites me to a satriani concert. to him (my bud), satriani is his idol. i then invite another buddy of mine to the concert. also a music lover( claims);) ...after the concert, friend #1 exclaims" that was the greatest experience for me yet" which friend #2 replies" you kidding me"..." that was the loudest most obnoxious noise , blah blah!! so,
:neener: what can i tell ya.!! :evil:

Vladimir Berkov
January 25, 2003, 06:13 AM
Can someone here name even one absolute truth?

January 25, 2003, 07:46 AM
The one ABSOLUTE truth:

The Red Sox Will Never Win A World Series In My Lifetime.;)

January 25, 2003, 07:54 AM
Seriously, there is no absolute truth, and that statement is self-contradictory, because it is stating an absolute. Our lives, and our beliefs and behaviors, are based on in what we feel or hope of what the truth(s) may be. Understanding this fact leads to tolerance of other belief systems. But the question remains: Just because someone's belief system allows them to commit horrible acts, does that make it aceptable? No. The tolerance of others is based upon a certain base-line of what is acceptable. Look at the majority of US law pertaining to acceptable is based upon the Old English Common Law, which grew from the Christian faith.

Marko Kloos
January 25, 2003, 08:16 AM
Closed as OT.

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