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Monday, May 01, 2006

The Big Bad Realists

This entry is part of the War on Relativism.

Apparently we realists are a violent bunch, who seek nothing but to impose our morality on everyone. We want to decide everything for everyone, and we're just generally mean people.

Now, there are a few little problems with this argument. The first problem is that, as I have detailed before, non-coercion is an important virtue. While a realist has no reason to impose anything on anyone, relativists routinely sanction and even try to justify violence. Also, as a market anarchist it would be rather stupid of me to support a religious or statist "moral authority".

This complaint, however, touches to the very nature of the problem - the fact that morality has been co-opted by religion and the state to such an extent that they are now inseparable in most people's minds. Since both promote morality as a means to keep people in line and in agreement, what they propose are really lists of interdictions with no causal basis. Their morality, insofar as there is one at all, is purely negative and repressive.

This is not what morality is about. The purpose of morality is to be a guide to fulfilling one's values rationally. This is accomplished, not by ordering us on what not to do, but rather by showing us what should be done if one wishes to achieve a certain result (with the final result being happiness - a general fulfillment of values). Orders are pointless if they do not have a causal basis - at best they are seen as inconveniences, at worst they destroy lives.

Given this, how can morality be enforced on anyone ? Morality is a tool to aid individual decision, not to impose arbitrary obedience. It is useless without a causal basis. So morality can only propagate by persuasion.

Statements such as "don't kill" or "don't work on Sundays" only qualify as moral statements in the most general and loose sense (i.e. they provide a way to judge some actions). They do not fit any existing value or virtue, and provide no causal basis for rational evaluation.

But most importantly, they are absolutist statements - which is to say that they concern categories of action instead of values. Depending on the context, a category of action may be good or bad, so such categories cannot be good or bad in themselves. For example, "killing" can be vital in cases of self-defense, morally irrelevant in the case of a mosquito, and extremely negative in cases of murder. The terms "self-defense" and "murder" incorporate context in them, but "killing" does not. So there is no way for us to say whether any single instance of killing is "good" or "bad", unless we are made aware of the context.

This, therefore, is the biggest difference. Absolutism tries to enforce obedience, disguised as simplistic orders. Relativism also tries to enforce obedience, disguised as subjective tolerence. While relativists like to portray themselves as "not imposing anything on anyone", they are indeed imposing their own arbitrary constructs on the individual, and they are ready to do so by threat or violence if necessary. Just look at the so-called "anarchists" who take to the streets to promote cultural isolation and are ready to burn down as much as they can to prevent changes to foreign "cultures" (which means : to oppress the natural values of the individual).

It's important to remember that we are the ones with the moral high ground. We're not the ones promoting coercion and violence. Our enemies are. That's why we must fight relativism ideologically - so that it doesn't come back to fight us physically.

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3 Comments:

At 5/01/2006 2:06 PM, Blogger Andrew Greve declaimed...

Great post Franc. I think that drilling in the fact that categories of actions cannot be good or bad in themselves is really important.

Many people love to say things such as "stealing is always wrong" or "lying is always wrong"..but such statements attempt to ascribe morality to a category of action, which is useless. In fact, this type of thinking can become very dangerous, because it may be moral to lie in a given situation, but you might still be punished by a monopolistic law system which requires that no one lie, ever.

 
At 5/02/2006 11:56 AM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

We are big, bad, moral realists because we, like Christians, have identified a standard that cannot be avoided.

The Chritsians have a man who can change his mind. But most relativists don't understand that means Christianity is relativistic. They think it means it is 'objective." In leaving a cult such as Christianity, the relativist sees that standard as oppressive. Some atheists replace the oppressive standard with another oppressive standard, Culture. You can still be counter-culture, they think, while retaining values they see as "belonging" to a culture, which in many cases is Christianity.

Remove God from Christianity, they see, and the moral standard becomes culture. They see themselves as following the moral rules of christianity without believing in God, which makes them more "functional Christians."

Which is ironic, since neither group--functioning Christians, or the Christians--follow Christian morality. The Christians, who believe in God are "functional atheists," because they live as if there were no god. And the atheist lives as if there were such thing as a Christian Morality.

Neat trick, eh? I think I'll post this somehow.

 
At 8/31/2006 4:57 AM, Blogger GooseHenry declaimed...

"This is not what morality is about. The purpose of morality is to be a guide to fulfilling one's values rationally."

There can theoretically be 6 billion different values on this planet. Moreover, if morality is a "tool" for fulfilling them it is reduced mere conventions. In other words, there is no good&evil.

"This is accomplished, not by ordering us on what not to do, but rather by showing us what should be done if one wishes to achieve a certain result (with the final result being happiness - a general fulfillment of values)."

My view of happiness may look entirely different from yours. A rapists happiness is entirely different from that of Mother Teresa. What if happiness isn't the goal for a person then?

Given this, how can morality be enforced on anyone ? Morality is a tool to aid individual decision, not to impose arbitrary obedience. It is useless without a causal basis. So morality can only propagate by persuasion.

Statements such as "don't kill" or "don't work on Sundays" only qualify as moral statements in the most general and loose sense (i.e. they provide a way to judge some actions). They do not fit any existing value or virtue, and provide no causal basis for rational evaluation.

"For example, "killing" can be vital in cases of self-defense, morally irrelevant in the case of a mosquito, and extremely negative in cases of murder."

What if it increases the happiness of someone?

"It's important to remember that we are the ones with the moral high ground. We're not the ones promoting coercion and violence. Our enemies are. That's why we must fight relativism ideologically - so that it doesn't come back to fight us physically."

But what you've written above implies relativism. If happiness is a goal, then everything i do should be seen in light of that. The term happiness can mean anything so in practice you are advocating moral relativism.

 

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