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Thread: Moral Absolutism, Moral Relativism, and Moral Universalism - Which one is you?

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    Default Moral Absolutism, Moral Relativism, and Moral Universalism - Which one is you?

    Not sure if this thread has been already, so

    From wikipedia,

    Moral Absolutism
    Moral absolutism is an ethical view that particular actions are absolutely right or wrong. Stealing, for instance, might be considered to be always immoral, even if done to promote some other good (e.g., stealing food to feed a starving family), and even if it does in the end promote such a good. Moral absolutism stands in contrast to other categories of normative ethical theories such as consequentialism, which holds that the morality (in the wide sense) of an act depends on the consequences or the context of the act.
    Moral Relativism
    Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; and normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.
    Moral Universalism
    Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism or universal morality) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals",[1] regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexuality, or any other distinguishing feature.
    ...
    Universalism holds merely that what is right or wrong is independent of custom or opinion (as opposed to moral relativism), but not necessarily that what is right or wrong is independent of context or consequences (as in absolutism). Moral universalism is compatible with moral absolutism, but also positions such as consequentialism.
    Which one do you follow and why? Discussion encouraged.

    I consider myself a mix of Moral Relativism and Moral Universalism because while I acknowledge that people can often disagree at times, especially when polarizing a conflict in taking sides, and that social pressure can dictate ethical norms that not everyone will agree with, I do believe there is an inherent nature to people that desires and thrives under a certain kind of ethics and that it's each person's responsibility as an intelligent being to find what that is and live a fulfilling life with those that share their ethics.

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    I like all of the four mentioned apart from the the moral absolutism which seems ridiculous unless you are religious.

    Still, somehow these stances don't make sense.
    “I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life. - Osama bin Laden

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    I obviously like the non-aggression principle (NAP) far more than the average person does, however, I'd consider stealing for food for a starving person moral in some cases. I think it's universally appliable but isn't a god-given right. (Moral absolutism.)

    Although it doesn't violate NAP, I'd consider burping to strangers immoral, unless it was a custom to thank for a good meal. (Moral relativity? Maybe not.)

    In the end, all the sentences for morality I can come up with are based on social constructs of the language. (Moral nihilism?)

    I'd only apply NAP on humans since I don't judge meat eating on that basis. But what is the genetical line between a human? What if I meet an intelligent alien? Where the hell is the line really?
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    Moral Universalism nestled into Deontology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Galen View Post
    Oh yeah. I'm pretty curious then; how does moral nihilism apply in your life or how do you apply moral nihilism to your life? Or both?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aquagraph View Post
    I like all of the four mentioned apart from the the moral absolutism which seems ridiculous unless you are religious.

    Still, somehow these stances don't make sense.
    Please share.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aquagraph View Post
    I obviously like the non-aggression principle (NAP) far more than the average person does, however, I'd consider stealing for food for a starving person moral in some cases. I think it's universally appliable but isn't a god-given right. (Moral absolutism.)

    Although it doesn't violate NAP, I'd consider burping to strangers immoral, unless it was a custom to thank for a good meal. (Moral relativity? Maybe not.)

    In the end, all the sentences for morality I can come up with are based on social constructs of the language. (Moral nihilism?)

    I'd only apply NAP on humans since I don't judge meat eating on that basis. But what is the genetical line between a human? What if I meet an intelligent alien? Where the hell is the line really?
    But why are animals exempt?

    Quote Originally Posted by Contra View Post
    Moral Universalism nestled into Deontology.
    That's interesting. How do you mix the two?

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    Quote Originally Posted by THUNDER GOD View Post
    THUNDER GOD BELIEVES IN LOVE
    THUNDER GOD LOVES YOU
    THUNDER GOD GIVES PEOPLE LIGHTNING
    DON'T EVER LEAVE US, THUNDER GOD

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post
    Oh yeah. I'm pretty curious then; how does moral nihilism apply in your life or how do you apply moral nihilism to your life? Or both?
    It's not so much applying moral nihilism to life as it is ... not applying morality to life. Pondering over an action being right or wrong makes no change to that outcome's actual effects. You don't not kill a guy because you sat down and read a book one day that said it was "wrong;" no, you don't do it because you'll probably feel really guilty or you'll go to jail or you'll lose all your friends or someone's gonna discover you did it and kill you right back. Any one of these reasons can easily suffice as reason to not do a thing, instead of some wishy-washy notion of righteousness.
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    Moral Relativism seems most appropriate. I think at face value, Courts of the West appear to adhere to Moral Universalism as they often claim that "Ignorance is no defence" etc., but I think this fails to appreciate that such courts already allow that a lot of "morality" is subjective and hence does not deal with it (or deals with to a lesser degree in non-civil civil courts), and also that accommodations are made for the individual based on things like age, capacity to understand, intent, the judgement of the jury, and the degree of sentencing.

    I think however that to call Moral Relativism "Moral Relativism" is to imply that my Moral System is Relative, when it isn't (e.g.
    Moral Absolutism and Moral Universalism are just as much so).

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    relativism, i.e. despite being an overarching prerequisite for human condition, morality is specific to time and place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post
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    I AM NOT MORALITY
    I AM JUSTICE
    I GIVE LIGHTNING
    THUNDER GOD LOVES YOU
    THUNDER GOD GIVES PEOPLE THE LIGHTNING
    THUNDER GOD PUNISHES EVIL THRU THE PEOPLE
    THUNDER GOD FIST BUMPS JESUS BRO DISCIPLES, BUDDHA BRO DISCIPLES AND LAO TZU BRO DISCIPLES AND ALL OTHER DISCIPLES OF LOVE TO SAVE THE WORLD

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    i think universalism is the closest.

    maybe with a bit of absolutism, but there are very few things i am absolute about (ie child molestation).

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    when it comes to getting a sense of peoples morals i think i rely less on specific behaviors and more on the impressions i get of where they are coming from internally. like...compassion is good, destructive self-interest is highly questionable, sadistic malice is bad. (i am oversimplifying in order to explain coherently. its actually a million times more nuanced than this.)

    this is obviously presumptuous and i'm not always right, but the impressions i get are bright flashing neon signs that i can't ignore.

    i think people can sometimes be confused about why i am more tolerant of some people than others who do similar things and this is why.

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    Consequentialism is best ism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post
    Please share.
    Well, let's say that you believe in the "Thou shoult not kill". Obviously it means 'humans' in the Bible but if you have fun with the genetic code of humans enough, you will reach a point where the creature is not human anymore. I can apply this logic into almost anything. To perfectly define something, you'd need a god and probably a personal one.

    But why are animals exempt?
    Not intelligent enough to suffer as much and they can't protect their rights... These reasons don't convince much and it's hard not to perceive vegetarianism as virtuous.
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    There are a few people I think should be taken outside and shot but I do not consider this an absolutist view even if I thought this policy should actually be carried out.

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    I am a relatively absolute universalist.

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    Currently, I believe in a mix of moral relativism and moral nihilism.

    While it is apparent for me that morality exists, it is something which is limited to the realm of living things. Beyond that, it does not exist (or rather: it is completely irrelevant). Within the group of organisms capable of understanding emotions, however, morality is relative and subject to countless influencing factors. Factors we can't control and which leave only one possible outcome. Which means that morality – the logical result of all influencing factors – is just an illusion. So is free will.

    I love determinism.
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    Yeah, Universal relativism? I think morality is innate to any system that develops sufficient complexity to self-reflect on some level (in a generalised sense: I would say two organisms communicating is also a case of a self-reflective system, just as much as an introspective neural process is). I can easily relate that to being a part of a process God, which resolves in my head why there are no simple universal moral laws that are timeless and fixed (or encoded in verbal statements), but why morality is a consistent evolutionary process and event.

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    Absolutism. I don't need a test to know that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Subteigh View Post
    I think however that to call Moral Relativism "Moral Relativism" is to imply that my Moral System is Relative, when it isn't (e.g.
    Moral Absolutism and Moral Universalism are just as much so).
    That's a good point, which is a good enough reason to talk about these a bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by lungs View Post
    when it comes to getting a sense of peoples morals i think i rely less on specific behaviors and more on the impressions i get of where they are coming from internally. like...compassion is good, destructive self-interest is highly questionable, sadistic malice is bad. (i am oversimplifying in order to explain coherently. its actually a million times more nuanced than this.)

    this is obviously presumptuous and i'm not always right, but the impressions i get are bright flashing neon signs that i can't ignore.

    i think people can sometimes be confused about why i am more tolerant of some people than others who do similar things and this is why.
    This kind of reminds me how an abusive person will display the behaviours of being abusive. I imagine there is probably some kind of nurture to how they came out that way, but at the same time it can become their nature. Then it's like a caution sign, rather than a warning. I don't know if that makes sense, but it does to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by InvisibleJim View Post
    Consequentialism is best ism.
    How so?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aquagraph View Post
    Well, let's say that you believe in the "Thou shoult not kill". Obviously it means 'humans' in the Bible but if you have fun with the genetic code of humans enough, you will reach a point where the creature is not human anymore. I can apply this logic into almost anything. To perfectly define something, you'd need a god and probably a personal one.

    Not intelligent enough to suffer as much and they can't protect their rights... These reasons don't convince much and it's hard not to perceive vegetarianism as virtuous.
    Yeah, I honestly don't see much problem with killing animals because they aren't aware that that's what they are living for. I do have a problem with people making them live in indecent conditions and then killing them violently, which is usually what happens. So I guess you're right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmers View Post
    I am a relatively absolute universalist.
    Could you explain what that would mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pa3s View Post
    Currently, I believe in a mix of moral relativism and moral nihilism.

    While it is apparent for me that morality exists, it is something which is limited to the realm of living things. Beyond that, it does not exist (or rather: it is completely irrelevant). Within the group of organisms capable of understanding emotions, however, morality is relative and subject to countless influencing factors. Factors we can't control and which leave only one possible outcome. Which means that morality – the logical result of all influencing factors – is just an illusion. So is free will.

    I love determinism.
    I gotta be honest with you, me and determinism have personal issues.
    I hope you don't mind helping me to understand, but I can't help but wonder why someone that believes in determinism and considers free will to be an illusion would bother to live at all. Because if someone believes such a thing, what is the inherent motivation to exist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Holon View Post
    Yeah, Universal relativism? I think morality is innate to any system that develops sufficient complexity to self-reflect on some level (in a generalised sense: I would say two organisms communicating is also a case of a self-reflective system, just as much as an introspective neural process is). I can easily relate that to being a part of a process God, which resolves in my head why there are no simple universal moral laws that are timeless and fixed (or encoded in verbal statements), but why morality is a consistent evolutionary process and event.
    Interesting perspective. Thank you for sharing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post
    How so?
    I won't answer for Jim, but around my neck of the university utilitarianism, which is a form of consequentialism, is really popular. This has links for how much easier it is to program mathematical utility than roll dice on creating an innately moral collection of logic gates that won't turn everyone into paper clips. I would subscribe to virtue ethics myself, though, because humans are already innately moral and I think it's more constructive for me to cultivate virtuous inclinations than attempt to steer myself by intellect and will.

    I gotta be honest with you, me and determinism have personal issues.
    I hope you don't mind helping me to understand, but I can't help but wonder why someone that believes in determinism and considers free will to be an illusion would bother to live at all. Because if someone believes such a thing, what is the inherent motivation to exist?
    Again, I won't answer for Pa3s, but whenever I lapse into a nihilistic, fatalistic depression, I realise that you're an order of magnitude less fated to kill yourself than you are to die of any other causes, though of course I wonder if suicides aren't higher if you have higher levels of a fatalist time-perspective.

    Anyway I want to mention I'm not Christian, I just take a lot of dissociatives and read about Whitehead's process philosophy and theology

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    Quote Originally Posted by Holon View Post
    Again, I won't answer for Pa3s, but whenever I lapse into a nihilistic, fatalistic depression, I realise that you're an order of magnitude less fated to kill yourself than you are to die of any other causes, though of course I wonder if suicides aren't higher if you have higher levels of a fatalist time-perspective.
    Okay, but when not depressed, how does someone strive for anything, if they believe what's going to happen is going to happen regardless? It's like the ultimate brain fuck to me. And if I consider that it could be true, there's no reason for me to try at anything because everything will happen one way anyway. Yet if I believe it is false, I will try because I am motivated to control my ... well destiny. And so, if I want to control my destiny, I must believe it is false...but that's me, which is why I'm curious how other people reconcile this.

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    I'm definitely a mix of Moral Relativism and Moral Universalism. While I feel inclined to say "stealing is always wrong in this type of situation" or "lying is always wrong in this type of situation", I recognize that I'm not the authority on right and wrong for other people. I can believe something is wrong and that's fine, but their life, actions, and path are their business and not for me to judge. They are where they are, and it's exactly where they're supposed to be at that moment. Maybe they'll live and learn, maybe not. I do tend to focus on consequences though.

    For example: Is abortion wrong? I don't know. In my mind it depends on the circumstances, but I recognize that I can only decide if it's right or wrong for me (I may "feel" it's right or wrong for others, but how I feel about their life and morality is irrelevant). The more important thing though is that I do know that when it's illegal women are inclined to get back alley abortions, and that's not good for anything, so I definitely believe it should be legal.

    Also, what is the consequence of my deciding what's right and wrong for other people when I have no say about what they'll actually do? Stress. Nothing good comes of it, so there's no point in me worrying about it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post
    I gotta be honest with you, me and determinism have personal issues.
    I hope you don't mind helping me to understand, but I can't help but wonder why someone that believes in determinism and considers free will to be an illusion would bother to live at all. Because if someone believes such a thing, what is the inherent motivation to exist?
    Accepting determinism changes a lot in a very fundamental way. But on the other handside, it changes practically nothing. Even if I believe that there is only one physically possible future and that everything that happens is determined to happen, I still don't know what this will be. IF I was an omniscient being (like Laplace's demon), I would agree with you. Life would be very trite since I already knew what will happen. It is like watching a movie after you read the book it is based on.

    But from my point of view, there are still lots of surprises which make life worth living. No matter how my decisions are formed, they are mine. And they are not pointless (at least not more pointless compared to everything else) because they are the causes for other effects. We are all gears in the great machine which is the universe.

    By the way: Many people seem associate determinism with depression and general negativity. It is the complete opposite to me. Determinism has made me realize that there is no objective guilt. It comes with the prize of realizing that there are no "real" achievements, either, but I think this also has a humbling effect.

    Most religions teach us that we have to make an effort in order to be saved (whatever that means). Our societies tell us we have to be successful, do X and have Y to have a meaningful life. But the truth is: we don't have to do anything. There is nothing to attain and nothing to lose, so struggling to get yourself a ticket to heaven is completely pointless. Life is a sandbox. Isn't this a very calming thought?


    I wrote a ten-page text about all that. That reminds me that I wanted to translate it into English.
    „Man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants.“
    – Arthur Schopenhauer

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmers View Post
    I am a relatively absolute universalist.
    Could you explain what that would mean?






    I was just trying to make a witty joke about being a part-time universalist, but no one thought it was as funny as I did

    Honestly, I cannot place my morality in any one of the categories. Perhaps I am more in line with moral realism and maybe even consequentialism. I generally just try to avoid hurting people in general. I'll need to research a little more as I've never tried to categorize my morality before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowball View Post
    How so?
    Because I would flick the switch or throw the fat man onto the track in Trollyism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

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    ^^^I could never do such a thing. In my eyes, it would be the fat man's decision to sacrifice himself. If it were me, not acting would be more moral than throwing the man over the tracks.

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    ^ Heh, I actually felt the same way as you. I'd be more angry with whomever set the situation up. If it was a random accident though, I guess I'd just accept it's sometimes going to happen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Joy View Post
    For example: Is abortion wrong? I don't know. In my mind it depends on the circumstances, but I recognize that I can only decide if it's right or wrong for me (I may "feel" it's right or wrong for others, but how I feel about their life and morality is irrelevant). The more important thing though is that I do know that when it's illegal women are inclined to get back alley abortions, and that's not good for anything, so I definitely believe it should be legal.
    It's interesting that you'd say that because there are many people that won't consider the far-reaching consequences when deciding to judge what people should or shouldn't do. They might say it's because stopping an immoral action or behavior is what creates morality to begin with and that ignoring it means to not even try. I suppose sometimes that's true, but it also ignores that people have a nature that will incline them to make certain mistakes before they can learn from them. It also cheats them out of that learning process, out of the process of deciding for themselves what's right and wrong, which I don't think makes much sense.

    So would it be accurate to say that when you think about what's right and wrong for other people, you're really thinking about how to minimize the harm they receive in finding out what's right and wrong for themselves? If not, it's fine, it's fine. That's just kind of what I got from this, so I'm wondering if you'd agree with that much.

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    @Snowball, no. Being legal doesn't make something right (or vice versa). Preventing/not causing harm is more a matter of right vs wrong for the law makers and myself because I live in s democratic republic.

    Unfortunately I usually have to decide which issues are most important to me, and I care about the economy more than social issues. Soon I may get to vote for a politician who represents both to me because I feel legalizing weed is one of the best things we could do for the economy.

    That said, I did have one idea about abortions that speaks to your suggestion: mandatory waiting periods and/or counselling. I'm not sure how I feel about those now though. That idea is from many years ago.
    Last edited by Joy; 10-02-2014 at 12:28 PM.
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    On second thought, I don't presume to know what's right or wrong for the law makers as individuals. My view is more related to wise vs unwise for the good of the public. I'm more comfortable with saying that my own view is a matter of right vs wrong, but honestly I don't generally think in those terms.

    I'm reminded of a quote I once heard: "There's no such thing as a good person or bad person. Some are just more honest than others." Of course, this assumes that honesty is extremely important, which to me it is. I don't believe in absolute honesty because sometimes that does more harm than good, but personally I almost never lie, and I take it very, very seriously when others lie to me. I'm willing to hear reasons for it, but unless there are extenuating circumstances I find that I think less of their character and consequently see them as less trustworthy, which is a big deal to me.

    My morality is almost never related directly to right vs wrong. It's related to love and respect.
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    THUNDER GOD HAS A HARD TIME THINKING OF MORALITY

    THUNDER GOD ONLY KNOWS FIGHTING, FEASTING AND JUSTICE

    BEYOND THESE THREE THINGS HE KNOWS NOTHING MUCH

    THUNDER GOD LOVES HIS MUM AND FAMILY IN ASGARD, EVEN MISCHIEF BRO WHO NEEDS A ASSKICKING
    THUNDER GOD LOVES YOU
    THUNDER GOD GIVES PEOPLE THE LIGHTNING
    THUNDER GOD PUNISHES EVIL THRU THE PEOPLE
    THUNDER GOD FIST BUMPS JESUS BRO DISCIPLES, BUDDHA BRO DISCIPLES AND LAO TZU BRO DISCIPLES AND ALL OTHER DISCIPLES OF LOVE TO SAVE THE WORLD

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joy View Post
    On second thought, I don't presume to know what's right or wrong for the law makers as individuals. My view is more related to wise vs unwise for the good of the public. I'm more comfortable with saying that my own view is a matter of right vs wrong, but honestly I don't generally think in those terms.

    I'm reminded of a quote I once heard: "There's no such thing as a good person or bad person. Some are just more honest than others." Of course, this assumes that honesty is extremely important, which to me it is. I don't believe in absolute honesty because sometimes that does more harm than good, but personally I almost never lie, and I take it very, very seriously when others lie to me. I'm willing to hear reasons for it, but unless there are extenuating circumstances I find that I think less of their character and consequently see them as less trustworthy, which is a big deal to me.

    My morality is almost never related directly to right vs wrong. It's related to love and respect.
    I think I get the honesty thing, because if I can't trust someone on something, I know I can't rely on them. And it's hard to warm up to that or think much of them in regards to myself because there's no grounds for a bond.

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