Sunday, July 11, 2004

Moral Relativism: Because of my last post, Sandefur has called me a Moral Relativist.

Which I am, of course, not. I'm a moral absolutist to the core. I've spent a lot of time in discussion with moral relativists who felt that the only way for there to be absolute morality was if there was a God, and since there wasn't one, there was no absolute morality.

My position was that in order for morality to be absolute, God couldn't proscribe it, he would have to be subject to it, whether he existed or not.

So why, then, my stance, which seems to be that of a moral relativist?

Because it's actually the opposite. The moral relativist would ask, "Who are the majority, that they may dictate to me what is right and wrong?"

Only a moral absolutist would assert that it was possible to actually be morally right or morally wrong, in complete isolation from what opinions were held by others.

Consequently we need some way to determine what moral system to operate under, since it will be disagreed with.

As I said in my last post, "In a government of the people, by the people, for the people, the people should, and do, have the greatest influence on the nation's policy."

I used the phrase "of the people, by the people, for the people," deliberately--it's from the Gettysburg Address, a war that was fought, to some degree, over moral issues--slavery, and the right of secession.

Which is what the real question Sandefur doesn't think I've answered seems to boil down to--when, as was the case with Lincoln and Confederacy, can morality be imposed on someone, and when are we forced to accept the will of the majority, notwithstanding it be contrary to our own?

I can honestly say I've never really considered where the line needs to be placed. My attitude has always been that if the majority is trying to vote in immoral policy or elect immoral officials, your only recourse is to try and change the voters.

As ridiculous as he finds it that the majority can enact laws that he feels to be morally reprehensible, I find it equally ridiculous to assert that somehow my moral position should be deemed more weighty than that of the masses, and they should be subjected to my whims.

I understand his rationale--he feels that if the morality is built into the system, then even if the people go astray, the system can still remain stable and moral. And to a large degree, this is what we do.

It's the purpose of so many declarations of "rights." Laws that violate those pre-defined "rights" are immoral, and get tossed. Laws that do not get to stand.

So then, "What, precisely, is the limit to which Peterson refers?"

It's that the people can't vote in a law that violates their outlined rights.

That's the limit.

The problem is that a lot of aspects of those rights are subject to interpretation. He interprets it a violation of those rights for drugs and prostitution to be outlawed--most would disagree. Some would interpret it a violation of those rights for him to refuse to play their song on a radio station he owned--he (and I) would disagree.

So "rights"-based morality is still, to some degree, not absolute.

This is not bad. This is, in fact, how it should be. The people should ultimately have their way. That's what Democracy is about.

And if even we tried to stop it, even if we ultimately declared the will of the people as secondary to that of the judiciary or whoever, the people would eventually vote in people who would replace those justices or judges or senators, and in the end things would go the way they wanted.

So the people get to vote for wealth redistribution if they want, and there's really nothing more I can do about it than if they voted in drug legalization or eliminating the FDA or any of the other policies the Libertarians embrace.

Even judicial appeal and (dare I say) military intervention would just be a quick-fix, until the politicians began promising to appoint judges or implement policy that would overturn the ruling in line with the will of the people, and then we'd be right back where we started.

The toughest part of any such might-makes-right action is the subsequent convincing of the masses that what happened was "right," otherwise the action won't stick. Reconstruction was far more vital to shaping the future of the nation than the war itself was. George W. Bush is having the enjoyable ride he is in the polls right now because he's not doing a good enough job of convicing the people why the Iraq war was necessary for them, despite the actual correctness of the action.

Ultimately, all you can do is enlighten.

(In an update, he says I think it is "okay" for the government to steal from the masses, that I agree with HRC. Where did I say this? I said it was morally reprehensible and theft. How are those synonymous with "okay"? That's like me saying that he thinks alcoholism is a neat just because he wouldn't reimpliment prohibition.

In fact, that analogy's not even perfect, because I would be actively working against welfare reform, while he'd be working for freedom to drink.)


RezinLife said...

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Erik said...

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, carefully review my opinion, and then offer such a thoughtful and measured response to my line of dialogue. I find myself persuaded by your logic, and am more inclined to follow your line of reasoning than I was previously.

Thank you for your time and attention.



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Anonymous said...

couldnt figure out my password, that last one and this one is RezinLife