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Moral Skepticism: The Honest Conclusion of Moral Relativism and Moral Language

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posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 12:41 PM
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The moral relativist considers moral propositions to be subjective statements made about some action or intent of oneself or another. So in a sense the moral relativist is telling us that when we say something like, "Jesus was a good man" or "Hitler was an evil man" what we are really doing is saying something along the lines of "I like Jesus" or "I don't like Hitler". I would imagine for those of us who can truly introspect we recognize a problem right away. In our everyday lives when we aren't actually thinking about morality we make statements like this, but at no point in time when make moral claims do we consider them to be about preferences, but for a moment let us yield to moral relativism and follow it thru to its ends.

If we take the position that moral claims are indeed simply talking about preferences, then the statement "Hitler was an evil man" is the same as saying "Vanilla ice cream is a bad flavor of ice cream". The moral relativist say there is nothing true or false about either of those statements, but rather these statements are about preferences and believing that something like a truly bad flavor of ice cream exists would be silly. You have flavors of ice cream you enjoy and some you don't, but the idea that ice cream has some objective reference point that makes it more or less delicious is absurd. In the same way, if morals are simply statements about ones preferences, then the meaning we perceive behind these claims is just as illusory as the meaning behind a statement about good and bad flavors of ice cream. This lead us to the conclusion that if moral relativism is true, then there really is no such thing as a moral or immoral action beyond that of the illusion we humans pull over our eyes, this is moral skepticism. This position however leaves us with some pretty heavy baggage.

The statement “Torturing babies for fun is wrong” is an indicative moral proposition rather than an imperative moral statement like, “you ought not torture babies for fun”. Indicative moral propositions such as “torturing babies for fun is wrong” are meaningful and are truth claims. All this means is that the statement “torturing babies for fun is wrong” is a like a Boolean value, either true or false. All indicative moral propositions, if they are meaningful, are either true or false.

The idea I will put forth here is the idea that the meaningfulness of moral language presupposes the objective existence of moral qualities and facts. In other words, IF moral statements are indeed truth-accessible, THEN some moral statements are in fact true. That is, moral skepticism is false. We will begin elaborating on this idea by looking at a simple tautology, which is a statement that is necessarily true because it is logically impossible that it is false. For any statements P and Q, either [either P or Q] or [not-P and not-Q]. That is to say, either P is true or Q is true or neither P nor Q are true. The relevance of this tautology to morality becomes clear when we substitute P and Q for some indicative moral proposition.

So let us use our example of an indicative moral proposition from earlier, so the P = "Torturing babies for fun is right" and Q = "Torturing babies for fun is wrong". The tautology could then be transformed to into some statement that has relevance in the real world. Either [either “torturing babies for fun is right” or “torturing babies for fun is wrong”] or [“torturing babies for fun is not right” and “torturing people for fun is not wrong”]. This of course means the same as, either “torturing babies is right” or “torturing babies is wrong” or “torturing babies for fun is neither right nor wrong”.

Moral Skepticism, however, holds that all moral propositions are false. So it would follow from this, that both P and Q are false thus affirming the truth of [not-P and not-Q]. The moral skeptic therefore has to conclude that “torturing babies for fun is neither right nor wrong,” which means the same thing as “torturing babies is not a moral issue." Moral skeptics can espouse the truth of certain claims that use moral language, that is the honest moral skeptic can accept the claim, "torturing babies for fun is not a moral issue" because it is an amoral claim rather than a moral one.

The moral skeptic, however, does not say that the action of "torturing babies for fun" is the only action that is amoral, but rather the true moral skeptic holds that all actions are amoral. This brings us to what I think is a rather simple refutation of moral skepticism, as the skeptics position as it stands is literally meaningless. The words "moral" and "amoral" are classificatory devices. In other words, they exist as categories into which people and actions are sorted. The meaning of these words is established by the contrast that exists between the two categories. The concepts are bi-polar in that the existence of one classificatory device on its own is a meaningless idea. There is only meaning if and only if a contrast exists between the two terms and this necessarily requires that they both exist. ‘Amorality’ is understood by the contrast with ‘morality.' Without the understanding provided by the existence of a competing category, a person would not be able to understand what it is that is meant when an action is assigned to the category, even in principle. In other words, the claim that an action is not a moral issue is meaningful if and only if moral issues do actually exist.

The skeptic destroys the language they use by eliminating the opposite category. The claim "all actions are amoral actions" is meaningless, if it says anything at all, it simply says all actions are indeed actions, which is true but meaningless.

Now let us look at the following syllogism:

1) If eating animals is wrong then eating panda bears is wrong.
2) Eating animals is wrong.
3) Eating panda bears is not wrong.

I am assuming all of you recognize that this syllogism is internally inconsistent, but for the moral skeptic there is no contradiction here. If one assigns the value of false to the above statements, then the if/then relationship does not hold and as a consequence of this the conjunction of the other two (false) statements is not inconsistent.

So in conclusion, the meaningfulness of the moral language we use presupposes the truth of moral realism. It presupposes the existence of moral qualities and entails the existence of moral facts. That means the doubts of the skeptic are meaningful if and only if they are necessarily groundless.
edit on 16-1-2017 by ServantOfTheLamb because: (no reason given)




posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 01:01 PM
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a reply to: ServantOfTheLamb

Interesting. We live in a morally cruel reality. May it all end soon.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 01:26 PM
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a reply to: ADSE255

Glad you found it interesting.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 01:38 PM
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a reply to: ServantOfTheLamb

Suppose we totally ditch the terminology and concepts around the word moral. Suppose we substitute the Prime Directive from Star Trek as the "go to" rule of order. --The old-fashioned Golden Rule that really is just a nice rule to live by and not necessarily connected to any religion but it is an obvious deduction to the view that life is sacred. That is an objective position.

But even objectivity hits a wall. Taken in a relative sense of a typical, modern human all bacteria harmful to humans is "bad." But given the scenario that all other life is dead in the universe and only the harmful bacteria is the only life form left, is it not then sacred?

Morality is relative, a mere human invention to placate its mind and heart with/for no good reason.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 03:08 PM
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Moralism always leads to authoritarianism/fascism; it removes any and all choice from adults, to treat them as children as a burden and expendible ones at that if they don't fall in line and start towing it.

Ethics does not do such a thing... as ethics are society based; by the very people that make it up all of them as a group known as humanity, despite any belief or ideology any particular individual or group may hold with in it. Individuals act regardless of any individual or group ideology or belief claimed...

In such a manner; the individual is put on trial on the ethics of the entire society involved in whatever situation or effect as them the cause of it. Moralism judges and condemns points fingers from a group ideology and identification... from a black and white area of ideological right and wrong, there's no gray area or room to move or change. It is one of rigidity and firmness whether it itself is right or wrong does not matter; once such a system is in place... corruption also follows such things as the individuals of that group ideology; when having the money, power or influence to do so... always twist it to suit them anyway. In such a manner; those that profit off of such rigid ideologies are the ones that always stand to benefit... while those that do not; are always a martyr for the common ethical good; fighting against such oppression of the masses.

Ethics knows better because the people as a whole are actually taken into account... not the ideology(ies) they may or may not hold. Each person has personal responsibility; and free will to act, and those acts are judged and each person held personally accountible for those acts, to that societial standard. That is what leads to all freedom in a society, where it is filled with adults not children to dictate too or be told to do or act, society itself holds people to standards based on their peers, that is why a jury is supposed to be filled with an unbiased sampling of them.

Of course; in moral systems... anything and everything is blamed instead of the individual being held accountible for the action; it is externalized. When such happens, this is to blame that is to blame, this is at fault that is at fault... not the individual that chose to act. It is the individual that carried out the act at fault not anything else that individual may have been exposed too... the individual chose to attach to whatever it is; things do not attach themselves to people.

Holding things one may or may not attach too or those attached to them that do not cause issues in society; accountible? Is stupidity, it is chasing ghosts and demons that do not exist, trying to cut some imaginary fear off before they think they can even begin out of control of others, going on "witch hunts". Individuals makes all their own choices; and will always make their own choices... even when forced to make a choice; which is what moralism does to adults. Forces a choice on someone that they did not themselves make... as there is NO choice in the matter; and by the same token? Better not question it.

Control does not allow people to grow up; have experience, learn from their own mistakes which brings wisdom... belief is not wisdom, following others is not wisdom, it is a rote grasping that: "Oh, yes this is the right thing." but have no damned understanding if it is in fact the right thing... it is just accepted as that without question, and then argued that it is the right thing without question... and in such a manner human stupidity rises into the greatest heights of stupidity one could ever imagine.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 05:51 PM
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a reply to: ServantOfTheLamb


Your suggesting that pain and pleasure are subjective experience when in reality they are not.


See the problem with the whole eating animals thing is that without that the brain that would allow you to do what you are



A number of studies have shown that plants feel pain, and vegetables are picked and often eaten while still alive. Animal rights activists are often in the news, but has anyone ever protested for vegetable rights?

Phil Cohen, Sydney, Australia
This must be a spoof question. The comment "and often eaten while still alive" raises the question when do vegetables die? two minutes, ten minutes, two hours after being pulled from the ground???

Farmers often allow sheep to graze on marigolds and cabbages still growing in the fields.

Plants begin to wilt the moment that their link with a supply of moisture is severed, so the fresher they are the better the taste and nutritional value. Perhaps that Guru of plants, HRH Prince Charles, should be consulted....


www.theguardian.com...


At issue would be that Morality is subjective because the issues of survival can and do preclude it?



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 07:00 PM
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originally posted by: Aliensun
a reply to: ServantOfTheLambMorality is relative, a mere human invention to placate its mind and heart with/for no good reason.


These responses are like watching children read something in a foreign language and pretend they understood it, then start congratulating themselves.

Notice this person didn't even attempt to counter the syllogisms in the OP, they just spat out their lame, ruminant truisms and expected us to believe it. If this person had read the OP and understood it, they would realize they've just posted what amounts to meaningless dross.

No point posting this kind of stuff on ATS, this is all you'll get.
edit on 16-1-2017 by Talorc because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 07:27 PM
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a reply to: Talorc


The Rhetoric of Tautology comes to mind.

en.wikipedia.org...



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 07:42 PM
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a reply to: Kashai

Ideology sort of has a way of chasing it's own tale... when so many systems are built off of various ideologies and all sorts of various groups and people profit off of them? It will remain a circular constant... chasing such things eventually becomes seen as an futility, or waste of time and breath. Since individuals are put on trial it's best to leave identification with the group business alone and mind one's own ass.

If an ideology is worth it's salt; as a way of life, it needs no defense from anyone.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 08:35 PM
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originally posted by: ServantOfTheLamb
The moral relativist considers moral propositions to be subjective statements made about some action or intent of oneself or another. So in a sense the moral relativist is telling us that when we say something like, "Jesus was a good man" or "Hitler was an evil man" what we are really doing is saying something along the lines of "I like Jesus" or "I don't like Hitler". I would imagine for those of us who can truly introspect we recognize a problem right away. In our everyday lives when we aren't actually thinking about morality we make statements like this, but at no point in time when make moral claims do we consider them to be about preferences, but for a moment let us yield to moral relativism and follow it thru to its ends.

If we take the position that moral claims are indeed simply talking about preferences, then the statement "Hitler was an evil man" is the same as saying "Vanilla ice cream is a bad flavor of ice cream". The moral relativist say there is nothing true or false about either of those statements, but rather these statements are about preferences and believing that something like a truly bad flavor of ice cream exists would be silly. You have flavors of ice cream you enjoy and some you don't, but the idea that ice cream has some objective reference point that makes it more or less delicious is absurd. In the same way, if morals are simply statements about ones preferences, then the meaning we perceive behind these claims is just as illusory as the meaning behind a statement about good and bad flavors of ice cream. This lead us to the conclusion that if moral relativism is true, then there really is no such thing as a moral or immoral action beyond that of the illusion we humans pull over our eyes, this is moral skepticism. This position however leaves us with some pretty heavy baggage.

The statement “Torturing babies for fun is wrong” is an indicative moral proposition rather than an imperative moral statement like, “you ought not torture babies for fun”. Indicative moral propositions such as “torturing babies for fun is wrong” are meaningful and are truth claims. All this means is that the statement “torturing babies for fun is wrong” is a like a Boolean value, either true or false. All indicative moral propositions, if they are meaningful, are either true or false.

The idea I will put forth here is the idea that the meaningfulness of moral language presupposes the objective existence of moral qualities and facts. In other words, IF moral statements are indeed truth-accessible, THEN some moral statements are in fact true. That is, moral skepticism is false. We will begin elaborating on this idea by looking at a simple tautology, which is a statement that is necessarily true because it is logically impossible that it is false. For any statements P and Q, either [either P or Q] or [not-P and not-Q]. That is to say, either P is true or Q is true or neither P nor Q are true. The relevance of this tautology to morality becomes clear when we substitute P and Q for some indicative moral proposition.

So let us use our example of an indicative moral proposition from earlier, so the P = "Torturing babies for fun is right" and Q = "Torturing babies for fun is wrong". The tautology could then be transformed to into some statement that has relevance in the real world. Either [either “torturing babies for fun is right” or “torturing babies for fun is wrong”] or [“torturing babies for fun is not right” and “torturing people for fun is not wrong”]. This of course means the same as, either “torturing babies is right” or “torturing babies is wrong” or “torturing babies for fun is neither right nor wrong”.

Moral Skepticism, however, holds that all moral propositions are false. So it would follow from this, that both P and Q are false thus affirming the truth of [not-P and not-Q]. The moral skeptic therefore has to conclude that “torturing babies for fun is neither right nor wrong,” which means the same thing as “torturing babies is not a moral issue." Moral skeptics can espouse the truth of certain claims that use moral language, that is the honest moral skeptic can accept the claim, "torturing babies for fun is not a moral issue" because it is an amoral claim rather than a moral one.

The moral skeptic, however, does not say that the action of "torturing babies for fun" is the only action that is amoral, but rather the true moral skeptic holds that all actions are amoral. This brings us to what I think is a rather simple refutation of moral skepticism, as the skeptics position as it stands is literally meaningless. The words "moral" and "amoral" are classificatory devices. In other words, they exist as categories into which people and actions are sorted. The meaning of these words is established by the contrast that exists between the two categories. The concepts are bi-polar in that the existence of one classificatory device on its own is a meaningless idea. There is only meaning if and only if a contrast exists between the two terms and this necessarily requires that they both exist. ‘Amorality’ is understood by the contrast with ‘morality.' Without the understanding provided by the existence of a competing category, a person would not be able to understand what it is that is meant when an action is assigned to the category, even in principle. In other words, the claim that an action is not a moral issue is meaningful if and only if moral issues do actually exist.

The skeptic destroys the language they use by eliminating the opposite category. The claim "all actions are amoral actions" is meaningless, if it says anything at all, it simply says all actions are indeed actions, which is true but meaningless.

Now let us look at the following syllogism:

1) If eating animals is wrong then eating panda bears is wrong.
2) Eating animals is wrong.
3) Eating panda bears is not wrong.

I am assuming all of you recognize that this syllogism is internally inconsistent, but for the moral skeptic there is no contradiction here. If one assigns the value of false to the above statements, then the if/then relationship does not hold and as a consequence of this the conjunction of the other two (false) statements is not inconsistent.

So in conclusion, the meaningfulness of the moral language we use presupposes the truth of moral realism. It presupposes the existence of moral qualities and entails the existence of moral facts. That means the doubts of the skeptic are meaningful if and only if they are necessarily groundless.




I think it is all based on relative POV..

Take for example ;

"Slavery and slave holders are evil."

But everyone's ancestors were slave holders..everyone.

So were everyone's ancestors evil?!

Through the lenses of the better understanding of modern society, yes all our ancestors were evil.

But from their own POV ..not so much.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:05 PM
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a reply to: JoshuaCox

Leaves a lot to be said about burying the past and stop putting shovels to it to dig up the dead to fuel problems for the future... that's why monuments are typically erected to be left as a reminder to not repeat the same mistakes, of course those holding shovels are pretty well apt to take offence even if it is something they personally were not a part in; as it is easy to then use that as a damning finger disgruntled with their personal situation and use that as the excuse for their cirumstances... no matter what background or belief? Many that could claim the same background or belief is not in that situation... they didn't let that stop them; they used the adversity to their advantage and ceased being disadvantaged and playing victim to circumstances and changed the circumstances with hard work and dedication.

Labels only matter if someone claims it; if you don't claim it... how can it be offensive? No one is a label claiming a label and defending them is silly business. Actions and deed defines someone; talk is just talk... saying someone is anything only grants a fools pardon in like company. A label doesn't put in any of the work to be what that label stands for... and once being it? No need to talk about it, as that's just being it.(unless using it to profit off of nothing to be said about it when walking it)



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:14 PM
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a reply to: Aliensun




Suppose we totally ditch the terminology and concepts around the word moral.


Then we wouldn't have the actual world.




Suppose we substitute the Prime Directive from Star Trek as the "go to" rule of order. --The old-fashioned Golden Rule that really is just a nice rule to live by and not necessarily connected to any religion but it is an obvious deduction to the view that life is sacred. That is an objective position.


What do you mean by "a nice rule to live by"? Something pleasant to you or are you saying that the Golden rule compared to other is better in someway? In order for there to be a nice rule, there must also be a cruel rule. Again the opposites necessitate one another. This is exactly what the OP is about. The moral language we use presupposes that objectivity of the moral realm. Nice and cruel are again classifactory devices, and the very fact that you can classify something as nice shows that in your mind and daily life you recognize that there are indeed moral facts.




But even objectivity hits a wall. Taken in a relative sense of a typical, modern human all bacteria harmful to humans is "bad." But given the scenario that all other life is dead in the universe and only the harmful bacteria is the only life form left, is it not then sacred?


There is a vast difference in meaning and context here. Are you trying to get me to believe that when humans say harmful bacteria is "bad" that they are using the word with the same meaning as when they say it in the context of a man torturing babies for fun? That is simply a faulty comparison.




Morality is relative, a mere human invention to placate its mind and heart with/for no good reason.


Morality is relative is akin to saying that a real moral realm doesn't exist, but then you fall prey to the OP.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:19 PM
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a reply to: Kashai




Your suggesting that pain and pleasure are subjective experience when in reality they are not.


I've done no such thing. If you actually read OP then you should realize it is arguing for the existence of an objective moral values and duties. You seem to be suggesting that pain is objectively bad and pleasure is objectively good, and I would not agree with such a conclusion. Getting a vaccine shot is painful, but that doesn't mean getting a vaccine shot is bad. Having sex feels good, but that doesn't mean having sex with your neighbors wife is good.

I would love to respond to the rest of your post but I am going to need you to make it a bit more clear as I have no idea what you were trying to say.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:25 PM
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a reply to: ServantOfTheLamb



Perhaps if you were subjected to a week or even a month of torture that would change, hypothetically of course.
edit on 16-1-2017 by Kashai because: Added content



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:26 PM
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a reply to: Talorc

I am glad you are as lost on some of these responses as I am lol.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:30 PM
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a reply to: ServantOfTheLamb


To put it bluntly pain is not physiologically subjective.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:32 PM
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a reply to: JoshuaCox




I think it is all based on relative POV.. Take for example ; "Slavery and slave holders are evil." But everyone's ancestors were slave holders..everyone. So were everyone's ancestors evil?! Through the lenses of the better understanding of modern society, yes all our ancestors were evil. But from their own POV ..not so much.


I am not sure how you think this response shows morality to be relative nor am I sure you completely understand the concept of a moral fact. A moral fact is talking about a indicative moral proposition, or in other words a statement that is true or false independent of your perspective. If our ancestors thought is was morally good to own slaves, then they were mistaken. The very fact that the vast majority of people would call the abolishment of slavery moral progress, but how can something progress if there isn't some outside reference point to which it is progressing towards? I gave you an entire post about why morals are objective and I get maybe five simple assertions with no explanation ? Why quote the whole OP?



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:35 PM
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a reply to: BigBrotherDarkness

I would love to have a conversation with you, but I am going to need you to actually tell me what it is you are responding to from the OP.



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:35 PM
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a reply to: Kashai

Your reply is a wiki page with like three sentences on it...are we supposed to read your mind to figure out what you meant by that?



posted on Jan, 16 2017 @ 09:42 PM
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a reply to: Kashai


One can relate to nature as immoral as in not related to morality, because of the necessities of survival.

Any thoughts?





edit on 16-1-2017 by Kashai because: Added content



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