Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Is morality relative?

It may be that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people think that Chagall's paintings are masterpieces while others don't see what all the fuss is about. Some find Wagner to be a marvelous composer while others prefer to listen to 50 cent. (Woody Allen once joked that he couldn't listen to Wagner for longer than a few minutes since he'd start to develop the urge to invade Poland. I wonder how he feels about 50 cent.) Perhaps, then, one ought to conclude that there is no objective truth about whether something is beautiful. Rather, it may be that what counts as beautiful is simply a matter of opinion or personal preference. And, of course, it may also be that one's culture contributes a great deal to what one finds beautiful.

Plenty of things are thought to be matters of taste or opinion. Taste is a trite example. Some people like coffee and some don't. Etiquette is clearly relative to culture. In some places bowing is an appropriate greeting and in others it's considered rather odd behavior.

One might be tempted by the idea that morality is relative. But is morality a matter of taste? Does morality depend upon personal opinions or cultural context? Could it be that there aren't any objective moral truths that hold independently of one's beliefs or culture? Are there no moral "truths" at all? Is each person's (or culture's) set of moral attitudes equally valid? If you answer in the affirmative to these questions, you're a moral relativist. If you answer in the negative, you're a moral objectivist.

One can be an objectivist about, for example, humor. One might think that Anchorman is a funny movie and that anyone who thinks otherwise is just wrong. According to this sort of person, it's a fact that it's a funny movie and even though there might be room to dispute this fact, it nevertheless remains a fact. Many philosophers say something similar about morality.

This is a podcast with a contemporary moral philosopher named Simon Blackburn. He discusses whether morality is a matter of opinion and he offers a number of reasons against moral relativism. What do you think about his arguments? Are you convinced by his position that there are universal moral principles that bind us all, no matter where we're from or what our personal beliefs might be? More generally, what sorts of reasons do you find persuasive in settling this dispute between moral relativists and moral objectivists?

47 comments:

James said...

This (morality) is something that I get really interested in. I would honestly like to take a class on morality as a whole.

I loved the Blackburn interview about relativity and realism. It got me thinking about the possibility that morality is in a state of evolution based on the world operating around it.

I'm having a hard time coming up with a solid example, but we'll just go with murder. The farther back into history you go, the more acceptable it was for certain people to get away with killing. Contrast that with where we are at now, and you can see the difference. I know that's a shaky example, but I'm just wondering if we're still slowly evolving our morality to reach that "reality" that the moral realist thinks about. I do think that Blackburn's position is the a lot more intellectually responsible than the relativist's position.

Jesse Steinberg said...

James: Thanks for the interesting comment.

There's some really fascinating work on "evolutionary ethics" and whether morlaity is a product of evolution (much like our penchant for sweets or being bipedal). But you seem to have something slightly different in mind. You seem to think that what counts as moral is changing as socieities change over time. And you seem to think that there's some ultimate, correct set of moral principles at which we are aiming and slowly progressing toward. In defense of this view, you say that certain cases of killing went unpunished that would now be punished. But I'm not sure what this shows. Does it show that morality is changing/evolving? Does it, alternatively, show that the moral principles that get codified and enforced have changed? If it's the latter, then MORALITY may not really be evolving. Maybe it's just that societies are just getting better at law-making and enforcement. What's moral or immoral remains the same and it's just our ability to catch wrong-doers and punish them that has changed.

Could you say more about what you mean by "morality evolving"?

Joe Burns said...

I am fascinated by the way that philosopher Simon Blackburn views moral relativism. He describes his ideas very well and is quite convincing. For example, he basically states that conflict is unavoidable, and that simple disagreements such as "I like this tooth paste," "I like that tooth paste" can be accepted by everyone and let go, but the "live and let live" approach simply can't be used in moral disagreements. This makes sense because if this were to occur, progression wouldn't be made toward a solution or an answer. Another very convincing example of his view of moral relativism is when he questions the importance or effectiveness of a contribution from an individual with a relativistic view. The Rosey the relativist example is very effective of getting his point across and I must say that I do agree with him. It seems to me, from what Blackburn explained, that a relativist's contribution to a moral disagreement is nothing more than comment of little significance that doesn't provide any useful information or progress/improve a moral disagreement.

Joe Burns

Anonymous said...

I think there has to be something objective about morality. As you said, it's just wrong to have slaves. So I'm a morality objectivist.

Torrey Johnson said...

I believe Simon did a very good job of presenting his argument. He had a very solidly backed radio interview. I found it interesting that so much thought is put into how to look at moral problems and not how to solve them. I also found the more I learn about how to do this, the easier a solution comes to mind. This helps me to agree with Simon on his position of moral relativism. I believe that moral relativism gets people no where. Although people will have their own beliefs, it is important to come to a solution that best fits so that people can make positive progress towards a goal. Doing nothing but arguing the subject will not get it anywhere. Moral relativism seems to be very impractical. Moral objectivism is needed to make practical, well thought out decisions that will benefit society.

Torrey Johnson

Jesse Steinberg said...

Thanks for commenting, Anon. If you're in one of my classes, please leave your name so that you get credit for commenting. Also, if you desire a good grade for the blog comments portion of the course, you'll have to say a bit more than stating your opinion. Why do you think objectivism is true? What reasons do you find persuasive? What about the slavery example is compelling to you and why do think the relativist's take on the matter is implausible?

Jesse Steinberg said...

Joe B., Thanks for commenting.

I think many, many people find those points convincing. Surely the relativists out there would disagree, however, about your point that they do not provide "any useful information or progress/improve a moral disagreement" They simply don't think that there's an objective answer to a questions like: Is X moral? So they think there's no progress to be made in finding an objective answer. But I'll leave it to the relativists to defend their theory against your charge.

Hannah Anderson said...

Morality is a touchy topic in today's society. Because we are continually changing, view-points, and morals are also changing. While Blackburn has a good point when he describes one person liking fox hunting and another man not agreeing with that, and then throwing Rosy the relativist in the mix saying, it doesn't matter if they disagree just move on its relative, the relativist isn't solving anything. But where I stand is more on the relativist side. I'm a non-conflict person. So what "Rosy the relativists" did is how I normally approach things. I have my morals which I live by but I know it's farfetched to expect everyone to share the same. So then that goes into what was said about being to tolerant. Am I to tolerant of the unmoral things that are in our society?

Sherry Troutman said...

I don't take one side or the other all the time. I'm a registered democrat which would make me a relativist. But I like the choice of independence, but you never see an independent in office so I side on the lesser of two evils. I would say I'm morally objective on some things, on others I can see both sides I'm morally objective about slavery, no one should ever be beaten if they don't produce enough money for their master. No one should be contracted to perform labor for very little to no money just because of their status ever and not get equal treatment because of their race. But on borh sides of the fence like abortion if the mother or child dies I think the mother should have the choice. But if someone was careless and didn't use protection there are always adoption services available and it would be morally wrong to deny the innocent happiness. At first I didn't quite understand what the two terms were. And never heard of them before. But this is my first ever philosophy class. In terms of euthenasia, I'm a relativist. I think that if the person is conscious enough to make the decision, and they don't want to suffer any more then they should be able to make that decision. It's not about wheather or not a person has a soul or not, but I think they do. What really should matter is happiness and quality of life. All energy is transferable. Life has to go somewhere when the body dies. And on the subject of murder, it didn't really have to deal with what was realtive or objective at the time, but more on who was more powerful than the next person. If you were good with the cops and they knew you did it, they would let it slide and you would get away with it.

Jesse Steinberg said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone. You've made some interesting points and I'm really delighted by the way the discussion is going.

This is worth clarifying: All that is required for being an objectivist is that one believe that there are universal moral truths. It is not necessary that we all agree about what these truths are. (Think about objectivism about the shape of the Earth--Not long ago, people disagreed about it. But it's a sphere and it's always been a sphere. This is true independently of whether there is a consensus about the matter.)

Sherry-one's political affiliation doesn't always map onto one's position on relativism/objectivism. There are certainly many democrats that are objectivists. And republicans that are relativists and libertarians that are... you get the idea. So be careful about the assumptions you make about one's political leanings and one's leanings regarding the nature of morality.

Anonymous said...

At the beginning of class I thought I was morally relativism until you explained the if I believe in even one moral truth then Im an objectitivist. For example the slavery example. Its wrong everywhere. But there are some issues that I dont hold a certain position on. It was a very interesting class discussion. I consider myself tolerant to everyones ideas and dont try to argue one side or the other with the exception of a few topics. SO with me being tolerant i stil believe i must be an objectitivist because i believe there are moral truths. this society should go back to the foundations of morality. Morality makes us who we are. unfortunately everyone has a different set of morals which is where we run into legality issues. Im a criminal justice major so I clearly see there is a difference between morality and legality. Nicki Kellogg.

Anonymous said...

Blackburns views on relativism are intelligently spoken but to me unpersuasive. If the whole world believes in moral relativism than there may as well be no morals at all. and while this society isnt perfect I believe it could be worse if no of us believed in social objectitivsm. there is so moral truths. without them the world would have absolute free reign without any sort of boundaries. Nicki Kellogg.

Jesse Steinberg said...

Nicki-Your second comment seems like an apt one, especially in light of the comic that I posted on the blog. You and the author of the comic think that relativists are "capable of anything." I wonder how a relativist might respond to this attack against his/her theory.

Megan Hall said...

Prior to listening to the radio interview, I was fairly certain I knew where I stood on my morals however that is not the case now. I do believe there are certain underlying characteristics of a moral that make it a "moral truth" despite various views and cultural influences on one's morals. Burns was convincing but I think if everyone was a moral relativist the entire world society would be in shambles. Most organizations have some moral influence; it's natural for us to place our beliefs and values into each situation we face. I may not agree with how one culture, group, or individual interprets their moral values however as a member of society I am tolerant to it.

Anonymous said...

I guess you could call me a moral objectivist because I have my own beliefs on many controversial subjects and I believe that they are true. However, if someone else doesn't believe the same thing, I am not going to try to change their mind, even if I think they are wrong for having that particular viewpoint. Casey Hoffman

Anonymous said...

After listening to our discussion in class and Simon Blackburn’s comments, I consider myself a moral objectivist. With that being said, I think Simon Blackburn makes a very valid point when he says that moral relativism gives “no justice to disagreement or conflict.” I agree with him because if you would take the laws that the government establishes and say that everyone is a relativist, no one would follow all the laws, all the time. A popular question that comes to mind is that if a grandparent was having a heart attack in your car, do you obey the law and sit at the red light and go the speed limit, or do you run the red light and get to the hospital as fast as you can? I would say most, if not everyone, would choose to run the red light and try and save their family. This leads me to believe that morals play a crucial role in everyone’s life and if everyone is allowed to act on whatever they see as morally right, laws would have little to no effect. If an individual is a relativist, I think they are a bit hypocritical. How can a person say that they don’t think it is morally okay for them to have an abortion, but that it is morally okay for another person to an abortion? What makes that person so much different then you that suddenly it is okay for them or what did that child do that they deserved to die, but yours deserved to live?

Audrey Wenger

Jesse Steinberg said...

Audrey- You supplied some interesting examples. (Thanks!) I'm curious what others think about them...

Casey- You are indeed an objectivist if you think that there are universal moral truths. I'm a little puzzled by what you say about not wanting to change other people's minds. If you were in a grocery store and a man was severely beating his child for no good reason, would you do anything to stop him (e.g., get the manager of the store or call the police)? Would you hope that he takes anger management courses and that he undergo behavioral therapy to correct his immoral treatment of his child? If so, then you do (sometimes) think it's appropriate to try to change people's minds and their behavior.

I think there's an admirable, strong desire to be open-minded and respectful of other people's attitudes, traditions, etc. But moral objectivists like yourself can be respectful while still claiming that certain acts--such as severely beating a child for no good reason--are immoral and should not be done. Further, someone like you could also say that we are entitled to PUNISH those that commit such an act; that we can try to CORRECT such behavior; that we can JUDGE such people as immoral; etc.

A NOTE FOR MY STUDENTS: It's easier for me to track which of you are commenting if you sign in or manually enter your name for the heading of your comments. This can be done by either signing in using a google account or by clicking on the "Name/URL" tab just below the comment box. You can then enter your name and it will appear at the top of your comment rather than in the text. Thanks.

Desiree` Lamer said...

After the discussion in class and listening to Blackburn speak I consider myself a moral objectivist. One thing that stuck in my head was the comment that was made that if a person is a moral realativist then they want to bargain and compromise and to me morals are not about bargaining and compromising. If something is wrong then it is wrong there is no compromising about it. I think that there are clearing moral truths like stated in the radio interview abusing children is wrong no matter where a person is from. I believe that in some situations it is ok to disagree with others and have differences in opinions about topics but there are certainly moral truths about certain situations. Also if there were no moral truths and everyone were a moral relativist than a person could do whatever they want to and have no reprecussions as there would be no moral truths and no one could judge that person for what they did as they may have believed what they did was right.

Brittany Gehman said...

After thinking about our disscussions in class and listening to Simon Blackburn's interview I have determined that I am a moral objectivist. Simon states towards the end of the interview that we have no right to interfere with other cultural beliefs. I agree with this statement because while I have my beliefs and morals I would not want someone to press their beliefs on me and I would never force my beliefs on someone else. We are all entitled to our own opinions.
I also believe that there needs to be a healthy mix of both moral relativists and moral objectivists. If the entire world were relativists than there would be no order in the world. We could do whatever we want and have no consequences for our actions. If the entire world were objectivists than there would be too many laws and no one would be entitled to an opinion of their own.
- Brittany Gehman

Christopher Salerno said...

Blackburn's interview was very convincing I thought. He makes great points when referring to how morality is a matter of opinion. The main argument he was trying to get across that I liked was how there are two types of ways of looking at morality. When looking at it from the relativist side that really doesn't help. He believes as do I that there should be that conflict in the world, otherwise what is the point of bringing up something that bothers you if in the end of a realist view it will end with that specific situation being good for him and not for me. Nothing was settled in that act. I feel as does Blackburn that we need that conflict to make a balance of things in the world, peopling giving their views. As he says though some things are just facts and you can't change that. With having the arguments you might and the other person might realize some things about the act at hand that either of you have never thought about and that could change the entire argument to a compromise in it self.
-Christopher Salerno

Kelsey Milliron said...

I find everything that Simon Blackburn said pretty appropriate and true. I respect his position and his questioning of whether or not morality is objective or relative, but I myself am a relativist. In his first paragraph he talks about different things that make be considered acceptable somewhere but are strange in other areas. I completely agree with this. I like to think that I am a very open minded person and I like to look at all points of view and typically when I do so, I understand why one chose the viewpoint that he or she has. Also, when I think about things I can honestly say that there is not one thing that I can think of that would make me be an objectivist. Yes, I do disagree with people and have different thoughts or beliefs, but i still think that there are two sides to everything. I have always considered myself, and been told by others that I am a very wishy washy person and I feel that because of that I could never be and objectivist or find anything like morals objective.

Kelcey Schaum said...

After the class discussion and reading the article I still go with my first decision of being a moral objectivist. I do not think no matter what the situation is that it is right for slavery or things like the Holocaust. Also, when Jesse said if his family was poor and they needed food that is was "alright to steal," I still disagree. No matter what the situation is it is not okay to steal, there are other means of obtaining food. Although I am an objectivist, I do have some relativist views. Blackburn was right when he said "plenty of things are thought to be matters of taste or opinion." If we did not have moral objectivists and relativists or opinions and taste the world would be a very boring place. I do not think that there is a way to settle the dispute because no matter what this debate will never be resolved. Kelcey Schaum

Jesse Steinberg said...

Kelcey--I wonder if you're really prepared to stick to your claim that it's NEVER morally permissible to steal. What if a terrorist were to threaten to set off a series of nuclear explosions unless you stole something. (Perhaps he's insane and is making some sort of bizarre request.) Do you think it's immoral to steal in that case? It seems to many folks--Blackburn included--that there are some circumstances that warrant doing something that might ordinarily be thought to be immoral. It might generally be wrong to steal, but is it really true to say that it's always wrong? (We'll consider this issues in some depth once we start talking about Kant's theory of ethics... so you don't have to make up your mind just yet.)

There's a general lesson here that we should all note. We should be careful with our choice of words and with what we say. Not much hinges on making a blog comment; but when it comes to writing a paper, this is much more important. Be as precise as you possibly can and be sure to take care in advancing your position as clearly as possible. This is a really important skill and will help in writing papers not just for my class but for other classes and after you graduate.

Shannell Wise said...

I really enjoyed listening to Blackburn's views. His ideas and standpoints on the subject really make me think. Although I am relativist on some subjects, I do consider myself an objectivist. With the bible as my guide to life, I have certain beliefs that I completely believe and will not sway on. For example, the 10 commandments. I believe that noone, nomatter what, has a good enough reason or excuse to break any of these rules (even though we do).

I think this is what Kelcey Schaum is getting at. There IS a definite right and wrong in some cases. If a terrorist threatens to set off a series of explosions unless you stole something (as Jesse says) that still doesn't make it morally correct to steal. You might do it... but it does not make it okay. It was still breaking a moral law. I might lie to my best friend and tell her she doesn't look fat but it still isn't the RIGHT thing to do.. even if it makes it easier.

I do not understand how we can run a country on relativism. If everyone agreed on the relativist thoughts, we would have no order. Someone could say "I think murdering someone just because you don't like them is wrong" and someone else could say "Well I think it's perfectly okay." If everyone though relatively they would simply agree to disagree and everyone would follow their own opinions. The world would be in complete chaos. We need objectivists, we need a right and wrong, if we are going to keep the world in order.

Shannell Wise

Kristy Fithian said...

I found the Blackburn interview to be very interesting and helpful in explaining a bit more about the distinction between moral objectivists and relativists. I did feel though many of the previous comments as well as some of Blackburn’s views discount many of the moral relativist's viewpoints.
I don’t think a moral relativist would see the personal resolve they get in accepting that others have different moral standards than their own as “silly” and “impractical” as Blackburn said. They may be morally against fox hunting, but understand they could never change everyone’s mind on the issue, nor want to try. I think moral relativist would also argue in certain cases, say with fox hunting, they don’t see the logic in the desire moral objectivist have to come to a resolution of the conflict or to reach an unanimous consensus. Why does someone have to be right and someone have to be wrong in this case.
I did agree with Brittany in her thought that a balance of moral objectivists and relativists is crucial to a functioning society. After reading some of the other comments though, I felt others viewed moral relativists as being completely immoral. If a society were strictly made up of moral relativists I guess I would just hate to think we only obey our moral obligations because laws enforce them.

Alyssa McQuirns said...

Before class the class began I considered myself to be a moral objectivist, by hearing the lecture in class and now the interview I am even more firm in my stance. I find it hard that there is no universal moral truths in our world. There has to be some guiding morality that helps to shape the way people live their lives. One example would be murder done just for fun. Even though killing someone is wrong there can be some exceptions. One example may include self defense or saving another's life but when it is done for just the sake of killing someone that is when it goes against morality. This is one why I consider myself to be a moral objectivist.

Michael Eiswerth said...

I found the interview with Simon to be very interesting and that after listening to the interview and the discussion in the first class that I believe I am a moral objectivist. To me, there just seems that for certain arguments there have to be some kind of moral truth behind it. I don’t believe this to be true in all cases, but I believe that many may have a moral truth behind them.

To me I think objectivists have much stronger cases than relativists. A moral truth of an objectivist can provide debates, answers, and even benefits, especially if there are good arguments and ideas to back up the moral truth. My main problem with relativism is that a relativist can just come along and say what they think and then that’s it, end of conversation. For example, like in the interview with fox hunting and Rosie the relativist comes along says it’s good for one group and bad for another. That doesn’t solve the controversy; the argument between the two groups is still there so really what good was her statement?

Basically, from what I understand of relativism, is that there are no absolute truths and every judgment is then relative. Now, I thought an important part of the interview was when they brought up the fact that because relativists believe every judgment is relative, this makes them inconsistent. Saying every judgment is relative, when the judgment, “every judgment is relative”, is true, so really it’s not relative. To me, this just proves relativist don’t have the arguments and details to back up their judgments. Michael Eiswerth

Erica Lathrop said...

Blackburn made me really think about the different stand points that he has and I compared them to what I would believe or what others would believe. I personally consider myself to be an objectavist, but I do believe that I can be relativist on some topics.

After listening to Blackburn's views, and ideas that he has, I can see now that by running on relativism rather than objectivism, people can't get anywhere or resolve conflicts they have with each other with their different stands and views on things.
Not everyone will agree with you and you won't agree with others, but on some subjects you may both agree, it's just how people work.

Tyler Crozier said...

I think the fact that we are having this discussion shows that morality is overall a relative thing, but that doesn't make certain things right. What I mean by this is that culture A might think that seal clubbing or whaling is a great stress reliever they have a right to do this. But if culture B thinks that this is wrong then they have a right to stop culture A from doing those things as long as culture B's methods stays within their own morals.

Scott.Pollock91 said...

I like many others agree with the arguments that Blackburn discussed. i liked how he acknowledges the relativists argument, the live and let live method. Blackburn stats that anybody can see the other side of things and maybe understand the others persons moral, but it comes down to core ideas/truth that each person holds. One can argue with someone and see how the feel that way but still think that they are completely wrong. If a person believes in relativism, they are basically saying i know your wrong, but your also right.
He then goes on to talk about how the "live and let live" method can work for people arguing about different toothpaste. That is a topic that is easy to agree to disagree on. But when it comes to moral views on religious disagreements, the whole agree to disagree is not going to solve squat and before you know it you are in an even worse conflict.
Its easy to see why a person thinks, acts, or feels the way they do, but your still going to think that they are wrong. Blackburn made it clear if it ever was unclear that i am a moral objectivist.

Roland Cross said...

I don't think morality is relative. Everybody has different morals, but I do believe that most people can come to a consensus that some things are wrong or right. If you can find a flaw in one moral subject then you are not relative. This is one of the reasons why I do not think morality is relative. A group of people from different cultures can get together and come to an agreement in any situation. If they were all relativist this would never be possible.

Anonymous said...

I believe in the moral relativism theory. I think that since there are many different cultures in the world that the definition of morality depends on how they were raised. Some people may look at a certain subject as completely wrong, while another group of people that were raised differently could feel as though it is right. I feel as though in every situation there is going to be a wrong and a right, and you have to consider other people's opinions as well as your own when making a decision on something being right or wrong. Ashlie Weidenhoff

Kayla Swartz said...

When we first discussed the difference between moral relativism and objectivism in class, I called myself a relativist. After listening to classmates and you (Jesse) talk , it helped me to better understand the difference, and I consider myself to be an objectivist; I believe there are some moral truths that are universal, but not all. I really enjoyed the Blackburn interview. He was great a providing information and could definitely put up a good argument. One thing he said that really captured my attention is that moral relativism "doesn't do justice to disagreement and conflict." If everyone were a relativist, no disagreement would ever be had. Each person would have their opinion and others another, and that's that. But Blackburn suggests that that's not the end of the story. There's more to come from situations from an objectivist's point of view. I also read what you (Jesse) wrote to Casey Hoffman about some moral objectivists being respectful but still thinking that certain acts are immoral. I think that is the type of objectivist I am. I'm not trying to force my beliefs on anyone, but I'm also not afraid to stand up for what I believe in.

chris zaffino said...

I still don't fully understand the difference or know which one I am. I listened to the radio conversation and read the article. The fox hunting situation no one will ever come to a direct one way or another because people believe just in general that hunting is wrong. I personally believe that is far from the truth maybe that is because I am a hunter. Over there in England it is a tradition that was started a long time ago so to help keep that tradition alive you have to have people go out fox hunting just like we have people over here in the states that hunt. Also with hunting it helps control the population of the animal so its healthy for them to be hunted so they don't over populate, and become sick which could wipe out the whole heard.

Heather Costello said...

Relative beliefs are nice in a sense. When I think of relative people I think of the Hippies from the 60's and 70's. Everyone was great, everything was beautiful all was excepted as his or her personal path. This included but was not limited to free love, peace on earth, and extreme drug use. Go with the flow man. BUT in this world not everything can be "ok." There is and must be objective choices made sometimes by hard moral decisions that can not be generalized. Coincidentally, most of the objective "rules or insights" pertain to life, how life itself is effected even harmed. I do believe that we need to be BOTH objective and relative in our diverse world very few situations call for a black and white answer.

BHFoster said...

In todays world most people would most likely be what we consider a moral relativist. Though when further researching this are as Simon Blackburn has we notice that we actually may not be moral relativists at all. While Blackburn describes moral relativism and then compares it to abortion, euthanasia, and if we can find a single truth or can we not. Though there are good examples said by Blackburn, I myself am still a moral relativist. I approach things in my everyday life in this manner. I have my rights and wrongs, which I will follow, and someone else may have their rights and wrongs too live by. I don’t expect anyone too follow my path neither should someone expect too follow theirs. A good example is what I think is how parents raise their kids. Everyone does it differently based on what they feel just like a moral relativist.

Bryce H. Foster

BHFoster said...

In todays world most people would most likely be what we consider a moral relativist. Though when further researching this are as Simon Blackburn has we notice that we actually may not be moral relativists at all. While Blackburn describes moral relativism and then compares it to abortion, euthanasia, and if we can find a single truth or can we not. Though there are good examples said by Blackburn, I myself am still a moral relativist. I approach things in my everyday life in this manner. I have my rights and wrongs, which I will follow, and someone else may have their rights and wrongs too live by. I don’t expect anyone too follow my path neither should someone expect too follow theirs. A good example is what I think is how parents raise their kids. Everyone does it differently based on what they feel just like a moral relativist.

Bryce H. Foster

Jacob Klock said...

Morality is a touchy subject in today's society. In different cultures different things are viewed as being okay when in the United States it would be viewed as wrong. I believe that just because something is considered right in one country doesn't necessarily mean that it actually is. I certainly have my own moral views on topics which are based on how I was raised and what I was taught throughout my educational process thus far, but that does not mean for certain that they are right. I have the feeling that even though I may have strong opinions on a topic that is all they are. I think that objectivists have stronger arguments. They back up their arguments with answers behind them rather than just saying that since somebody else thinks a certain way that is alright. They try to prove an argument or a debate. If I would have to choose what I am I would have to say I'm an objectivist.

Tyler Winner said...

From listening to Blackburn’s speech and looking back at our class discussion, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a moral objectivist. I also agree that we have no right to interfere with other’s cultural beliefs, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But, in many situations when I find something to be morally incorrect, I don’t believe there is a compromise. The slavery example is a perfect example of this. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, slavery is wrong. Agreeing to disagree is okay, but there are definitely moral truths when it comes to certain situations. Also, I think that for the system to work there needs to be a balance between moral relativists and moral objectivists. Without a balance of the two, things would get out of hand. Too many moral relativists are a bad thing. Likewise, too many moral objectivists are a bad thing.

Tyler Winner said...

From listening to Blackburn’s speech and looking back at our class discussion, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a moral objectivist. I also agree that we have no right to interfere with other’s cultural beliefs, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But, in many situations when I find something to be morally incorrect, I don’t believe there is a compromise. The slavery example is a perfect example of this. No matter who you are, or where you’re from, slavery is wrong. Agreeing to disagree is okay, but there are definitely moral truths when it comes to certain situations. Also, I think that for the system to work there needs to be a balance between moral relativists and moral objectivists. Without a balance of the two, things would get out of hand. Too many moral relativists are a bad thing. Likewise, too many moral objectivists are a bad thing.

Drea CUnningham said...

Andrea Cunningham

I do think that morality is relative to some extent. Because I believe it is a matter of taste culture and just how one views something through their own eyes. Culture plays a very large roll in morality because every culture is so different, one culture may think that it is alright to make eye contact with one another and another culture may see that as a threat or being extremely rude. With taste people are in to all different kinds of things. Some may think that modern art work is amazing and others make find it very vulgar. It all depends on how one was brought up.

Kevin Morgan said...

Regarding the Blackburn interview, I agree with what he has to say. There are certain things that should be accepted as immoral within all cultures. I am a moral objectivist after learning what it was. As for a particular case where objectivism works, the example from class works the best, where you described a situation where it was okay to punt puppies. Another example, in my opinion, is killing. Because of my beliefs, I don't think there is ever a justifiable reason to kill someone, however, since there are people out there who do think otherwise, self defense and such would be acceptable.

Zoe Allen said...

If there weren't such things as moral truths, the world would be an entirely different place because history as we know it today would be drastically different. For example, if the universal moral truth that genocide is heinous and morally impermissable didn't stand, the Nuremburg trials would have never taken place because there would be no basis upon which to judge the Nazi leaders. The very fact that things exist such as Interpol (international police forces) and the UN (nations joined together for the common cause of peace and development), "war crimes," and human rights proves that morality is objective. Though these objective moral truths stand, there are still practices that occur every day that go against them. I think the world is, in fact, growing increasingly "moral" as eras pass. Today is much less violent than ages past. Modern, industrialized societies, or "Great Power nations," have been proven to be less violent with each other since WWII, and underdeveloped countries are still battling with each other. This shows that as nations become more civilized and interconnected, vested interests keep them from warring, and thus, progression toward morality is evident. A moral relativist would say that vicious actions committed by people in underdeveloped nations are not "morally wrong" because they occurred in societies in which they are common; however, a moral objectivist could recognize that maybe these people haven't been exposed to modern, civilized society, but that is not to say that the actions were morally permissable. Just because animosity toward Jews was common throughout Europe during WWII does NOT mean that racial intolerance is ever OK. Therefore, moral truths do exist, and they are universal.

Rachel Diehl said...

Rachel Diehl

I agree with what Zoe has stated. As the years go on, I believe that the world is becoming more moral. But that doesnt mean that there are not things that arent objective. Being objective means that you believe that there are things that are morally right and wrong. It doesnt matter where or how you were raised, there are just certain things that a person should not do. A relativist would say however that it is all how and where you were raised. Zoe is right, the world would be a lot different place if it werent for moral truths

Sherry Troutman said...

I'm not sure if I fully understand.
I understand relativism as everything is merely relative and you shouldn't judge other's cultural belifes. I understand that objectivism is there is at least one moral truth that holds true across cultures no matter what. I think Simon Blackburn is trying to say that objectivism doesn't always hold true--but is merely real based on different situations--So Maybe I'm more along the lines of a moral realist like Simon is also. I think that objectivism and relativism are each vaild--but it really depends on the situation as to which one is valid. If I'm confused Dr. Steinberg, give me some of your insight.

Sherry Troutman

Sherry Troutman said...

I watched the simon blackburn interview again. I'm not so sure what a quazi realist is. I know I'm not a moral realist because I don't believe that one or the other holds true all the time.
I guess moral realists to me
would be okay in deciding which flavor you like. But in ethical
decissions would not be okay because like relativism would lead to conflicts not being resolved.

Take Gay Marriage and Abortion rights. I'm for gay marriage because I don't believe that it
can be universalized as a universal
truth as wrong all the time. I'm for Abortion rights as long as someone is in danger--when you willed the child here--I'm more like Kant and think that it is your duty to see that it doesn't suffer whether you raise it or give it up. You shouldn't kill something you willed here because you wouldn't be giving it equal respect. I'm morally an objectivist, but I don't think all objectives hold true.

Sherry Troutman

Danielle Krigbaum said...

I don't think morality is relative, nor do I think it is a matter of taste. If I like coffee, it doesn't make someone who doesn't like coffee immoral. The fact that I like coffee and the fact that you don't can't be compared to moral issues. For instance, the fact that some people support capital punishment and some don't isn't as simple as hot drink preferences. I believe that there must be some moral principle that can maybe be deciphered with enough discussion on moral issues, such as capital punishment in this example. While a relativist might say that "I like coffee, you don't, and we're both right because taste is a matter of preference" can compare to "I support capital punishment, you don't, and we're both right because morality is a matter of preference," I disagree. Furthermore, while I understand the Cultural Differences Argument, I still believe that there is something there, maybe not at the surface, but some moral principle that ties into, let's say, greeting someone. As mentioned in the blog post, bowing may be a polite greeting in some cultures, and shaking hands in another. Both are the correct way to greet someone in different cultures. This is true. However, I don't think it stops there. I think the objectivist can take it further, and suggest that maybe, while the greetings are different, the moral principle is the same: it is morally acceptable to greet someone in a respect/friendly/polite way.