The Justified Use of Violence/Power, Part Two

Now, with the context set in place with my last post (Part 1), let’s look closer at the question: What justifies the use of violence when two parties cannot reach a peaceful resolution?  I am asking this whether it is two people disputing a parking space, or two countries considering war against the other.  Most people clearly believe the use of violence is justified in some cases and not in others.  How do we determine whether it is justified or not?
I think the relativist has the greater difficulty justifying the use of violence than the objectivist.  Most rational (which assumes quite a bit, I know—what does it mean to be “rational”?) people, in the west, do not believe violence is justified if it involves one’s personal, private, subjective, relative opinions or thoughts about things.  For instance, we would never consider violence justified if we learned a fellow hit another fellow on the head because he disagreed with him over which wine was best to pair with steak.  And yet, when it comes to values and morality, the relativist tells us they are really in the same category of one’s personal, private, subjective, relative opinions and preferences.  The only difference is we “feel” emotionally stronger about one over the other.  Now, why is that?  Why should I feel emotionally stronger about one (I don’t like to see theft) over another (a wine preference)?
Is it the harm factor?  If someone disagrees with my wine preferences, no harm is done.  However, if someone steals from me, I am harmed.  This bothers me.  The problem here is that “Do no harm” or “Do unto others” then becomes more than a personal preference, but something I think the other person should observe as well.  It is only when we think the other person should respect my “do no harm” ideal that we feel justified in using violence either to protect ourselves, another innocent party, or imposing our values on others (ironically by harming them) because they do not share those values.  In other words, it becomes extremely difficult to predicate one’s view of morality upon a relative basis.  We are almost forced to consider some values as objective and universal, therefore expecting others to respect them, and respect them to the point, if they do not—we feel violence against them is justified.  We would never do this, have this expectation of respect or sharing, if we were only talking about our personal subjective preferences we thought true, good, or better, but only relative to us.  The bottom line is that the harm factor becomes a universal bar and cannot be invoked by the moral relativist.
We simply do not feel violence is justified if someone does not share our personal, private, subjective, and relative preferences and choices.  Thus, to claim morality and ethics falls into that same category (which the relativist must), but that violence is now justified if other people do not share my values in some area, doesn’t seem to be a logical progression in my mind.  If they are personal, private, and relative, like one’s wine preferences, then why is violence justified just because we have moved from wine choices to choices of whether or not to steal from someone?  If the other person feels, relative to them, that their “theft” is the better and “good” choice for their community (perhaps a gang) or family (perhaps they feel they are “stealing” back what should be theirs), then how are the choices here any different than those of the wine preferences?
I don’t think the relativist has any good responses to these conundrums.  I think it may be one of the reasons we do not see civilizations or cultures build their morality/ethics upon a relativist view of such things.  We simply do not see this historically or even presently.  The relativist has no precedent for a greater community, culture, or civilization taking his view of morality/ethics.  This should give any true relativist pause.  If one’s view of ethics (that they are relative) has never been adopted by a notable community or civilization (even if one thinks such is what is “really” going on—that objectivity is just a mask for power), why is that?  What does that tell us?
And we must not think that moving from two individuals to a community changes anything.  Is there a fundamental difference between a state and a criminal gang or organization?  We do not believe the violence used by criminals to be justified.  We do however believe states, under certain circumstances, are justified in using violence.  Why is that?  Why is it “immoral” to take the law into our own hands?  The “criminal” doesn’t see it that way.  Is it relative to each then?  Again, is there a fundamental difference between a state and a criminal organization?
For the moral relativist, there is no fundamental difference between a “lawful”, so-called, state and a criminal gang or between private personal morality and that which is shared.  The fact it is shared changes nothing about its relativity.  Whoever ended up in the position to call the “other” person a criminal is now the “law-abiding” party.  How they ended up in that position the relativist normally sees as a function of power or advantages of some sort the losing side did not have. 
Again, this all leads me to the conclusion that if one believes morality to be intrinsically relative, subjective, personal, and private—then any dispute resolution, if no peaceful resolution could be reached, reduces to power.  The appeal can never be to a correct, truthful, right, or better morality (a true good) as there is none, there is such only relative to me and even then I am saying nothing more than: “This is what I/we want.”  As was noted in this essay, when we stopped believing in witches, we did not then think we could each still believe in our own personal and subjective witch, relative to each.  If no witch exists, then they don’t exist for anyone.  For the relativist, we name our desires and actions either moral or immoral, because we can, not because we ought to or should.  If over time a certain conception of ethics exists, it is because of power or the accidents and vagaries of history, it isn’t because one group, in one moment of history, found the true “good”.  There is no such thing, just like there are no witches.  If the exact opposite conception of ethics were in place, it would make no difference as to finding an actual “good” just like a witch relative to us (my witch) doesn’t escape the fact witches don’t exist to begin with.
Now, how is it any different if one believes in an objective referent to morality?  The difference is fundamental and significant (as Nietzsche understood).  If a state believes their laws find their final referent in either a tradition (Judeo-Christian for instance) or abstract principle (Nature and nature’s God), then one is not asking another person to abide by the first person’s personal, private, subjective, and relative preferences, but by something outside all those categories, something we expect each person to abide by, not because of a more powerful “because I say so”, but because this other “God” “Nature” or some universal principle compels us.  And because we think that source so compelling, so “right” “good” or “true”, we will ask you to abide by such under threat of violence and the use of power, even taking into consideration the possibility we may not understand completely or interpret this objective source correctly, just like we know a judge can mistakenly interpret a law.  We would never abandon the rule of law simply because we knew judges sometimes will interpret laws incorrectly or unethically.
We would never consider violence if we thought we were only enforcing our own private, personal, subjective, and relative preferences.  Such would be the opposite of fairness or justice.  An objective referent allows us to temper our unhealthy emotional responses/desires (anger and revenge), biases, and prejudices (completely? of course not, such is impossible, but this allows us to minimize them or keep them in check) and such is the best environment for fairness and keeping power in check, from becoming a bully.  This is a significant difference from a relativist view.
Another very simple way to see this is comparing a legal court based action predicated upon written laws and mob based actions predicated upon immediate emotions.  Is there a difference?  For the relativist, there is no fundamental difference between the two.  A law was first just a private, subjective, relative emotion/view of things that was shared by enough people, over time, who at some point had the power to write it down and enforce it as the “law”.  A mob then, is just that same function and process in real time, before whatever action they take can be written down and called the “law”.  It is the same process, just shorten.  We see this in revolutions.  A mob (and let’s assume this mob is the majority in the community—there is consensus) may begin to drag those in power from their homes and hang them in the streets (these people were given a chance to consent but would not and in the mob’s mind, had been harming others and would not change—thus the mob meets all of Bernard’s criteria).  The mob soon becomes the “legitimate” government, writes and passes laws which makes “criminals” of those originally dragged from their homes and executed and are used now to then round up any who escaped the “mob” violence to now face the “state”, “lawful”, violence or imprisonment, show-trial, and execution.  For the relativist, there is no fundamental difference here between the “legitimate” government and the original mob—they are just different moments in time.
For the objectivist, there is a huge difference between the two but the difference lies entirely with the question of whether or not an objective referent truly exists and its nature/content.  “If” it does, then the court of law is not simply expressing its will or expressing the fact it has the power to call its will “law”, but actually exercising justice, regardless of its personal preferences or emotions.  The mob is not exercising justice, but simply enforcing its private, relative, subjective will, thus the reduction to power.
Now, perhaps the mob was appealing to an objective referent.  Would such make their actions ethical?  Of course not.  We still need to know something about the content of the referent—not just that its objective.  But such doesn’t change the fact there are two different things happening depending upon the relative or objective nature of the values under discussion, regardless of whether it is a state or rioting mob.  Remember, no one is arguing an objectivist view is always moral.  Objectivist views differ all the time.  That is completely irrelevant to what is being asked here—a complete diversion.  Can one see a difference, a fundamental one, between the court of law and the mob or not?
Here is the critical point.  If we take the view of the *moral relativist as he looks upon two states, or groups, or two persons, where all attempts at a peaceful resolution have failed, or even where one side has attacked the other—no matter what either side believes about their ethics, whether they believe them to be objective or relative, and no matter what form the ethics take (insert any model you wish), he does not see the outcome as having anything to do with one side’s ethics being better, more true, more ethical, than the other’s because such is impossible to say—they are only those things from each side’s perspective—they are relative to each.  In fact, those terms, like the term “witch” describe things that don’t exist for either side.  They are place-holder terms for: This is what we desire.  Thus, the outcome reduces to power alone.  An objectivist on the other hand, no matter the outcome, can say that either the good has prevailed, or the good has lost (not sides, mind you).  The relativist can only say this is the “good” now.  Why?  Because they (those who prevailed) say it is.  Ironically, this is exactly what I have heard both Burk and Bernard say: Because it just “is” or we say so.  That is an appeal to power.
Now, one may disagree with the objectivist, but if we take his view for a moment, there is a clear difference.  Remember, I am not asking who is right here or taking the truthful view.  I am asking is there a difference between the two.  I’m asking if violence is justified in either case.  I think violence is only justified if an objective referent is appealed to (we can then possibly dispute the referent, but at least the first test is met) not when the appeal is to- because we say so, or it just “is” moral because we think so. 
So, one can disagree with either side here, but I think the logic remains and is correct “if” we take the “ifs” to each side seriously.  In other words, “if” morality is relative and subjective, (which is a derivative result of the prior belief there is no God, gods, platonic, or transcendental space) then this is what is happening (reduction to power).  Conversely, “if” morality has an ultimate objective referent, this is what is happening (no reduction—a true “good” or justice is at issue and appealed to).  That has been my point all along and where the discussion should focus.  We are speaking to the ramifications of each vision of morality, not to which is true (something we can never know with certainty, only hold by faith), nor to the trivial, irrelevant, point that violence occurs either way.  We are asking, given that neither can be proven in any final sense, in any empirical, scientific sense, given that each is held by faith (whether the relativist or objectivist), which world would we rather live in?  Which would we rather pursue and strive to inhabit, in other words, to live as “if” this vision or understanding of morality was true or the path we should seek?  Do we want to live in a world where there is no fundamental difference between a criminal gang and a state?  Do we want to live in a world where if the Nazis or ISIS “win” then their vision of morality becomes the “truth”, the “good”, the “ethical” and decent way to live, even if the ways of living were the exact opposite prior to the “win”?  Those are the questions here. 
Again, “if” there is an objective referent to morality (God for instance), then the resolution of differences does not reduce to power, but to an appeal to an actual objective “good” or “truth”.  “If” there is no objective referent to morality, if like witches, “good”  does not exist, and such is relative to each party (as descriptive only), then the resolution of differences does reduce to power.  Any responses to this post will need to address these “ifs”.  I’m not interested right now in anyone’s personal views; I’m asking them to assume the “ifs” and then respond.

If the comments do not address the point of the post and these “ifs”, or if they go to points already covered in the post, I will simply respond: See post.  Sorry, but I’m not going to re-write the post in the comment section.  Please take directly from the post that to which you are responding or commenting.

I will finish up this series on ethics with a post that asks what the difference is between legality and justice, because that question is bound up in this conversation regarding ethics, power, and violence.

****

*Metaethical Moral Relativism (MMR). The truth or falsity of moral judgments, or their justification, is not absolute or universal, but is relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of persons. See here. (Also see the New York Times essay for the relativist I am describing)
To be even more specific, the Stanford link goes on to note with more clarity the relativist I am speaking of:
“Moral skepticism says that we are never justified in accepting or rejecting moral judgments. Other views—variously called moral non-cognitivism, expressivism, anti-realism, nihilism, etc.—contend that moral judgments lack truth-value, at least beyond the truth-value implied by the minimalist claim that to assert that S is true is simply to assert S (a related view, the error theory, claims that moral judgments are always false).”
Thus, hardly a straw-man—but a recognized view from the literature.  Anyone care to address these views?  Because these are the only ones I am concerned with at the moment, not any alternatives.
The Stanford link notes that MMR is often distinguished from these views, but leaves open the question as to whether those who try and do so are successful.  Such is still debated and I am asserting they end up not being fundamentally any different, especially as to the reduction to power.  Putting that aside, the bottom line is that this is the relativist I am speaking of and it will do no good to bring up some other type.
MMR is different from descriptive moral relativism, which is all Bernard has really been putting forth.  He makes the minimalist claim noted above: “that to assert S is true is simply to assert S”.  The same mistake is noted in the New York Times essay:
“The trouble is that while “Eating beef is wrong” is clearly a normative statement, “Eating beef is wrong relative to the moral code of the Hindus” is just a descriptive remark that carries no normative import whatsoever.  It’s just a way of characterizing what is claimed by a particular moral code, that of the Hindus.  We can see this from the fact that anyone, regardless of their views about eating beef, can agree that eating beef is wrong relative to the moral code of the Hindus.”
Thus, every example offered by Bernard, whether regarding euthanasia or rape (insert S anywhere you like) fell under this same problem.  These examples are disputed by no one.  They address nothing of import to the questions being asked here, because all they do is describe.  It would be like asking someone about love and them looking up the word in the dictionary.
Of course the huge difficulty for Bernard, and any agnostic, is that they cannot adopt the MMR view.  MMR assumes there is no God or universal/absolute objective referent to ground any moral values.  To those questions, an agnostic must remain silent or reply, “I don’t know.”  
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116 Responses to The Justified Use of Violence/Power, Part Two

  1. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “For the relativist, his moral framework reduces to: What I desire or want.”-Darrell

    “This is becoming a mantra but this is not correct, as has been pointed out many times.”

    And I have pointed out that I believe it is correct. Whether it is a hierarchy of desires or an appeal to something telling us we should desire one thing over another, these are objective referents. A hierarchy implies a standard, a “better” or a “good”. And if any hierarchy is relative to each, then it still doesn’t evade the reduction to power. The MMR relativist does not allow for these. If you can give an example of an appeal to something outside of one’s desires and preferences, that doesn’t reduce to either someone else’s desires and preferences or a community’s, please do. Otherwise, the point stands.

    “(1) A real-life relativist has preferences and desires as to how what societal moral norms should be. These will be part of his moral framework.

    (2) At the same time, in particular circumstances, he might have short term desire that go against this framework. This happens all the time. This is being human.”

    “I just wanted to note you have never brought it up with them.”-Darrell

    “They're talking about (1).”

    I don’t know what a “real-life” relativist is. But the MMR relativist makes his preferences and desires his moral framework—they are the framework—thus the relative part. There are no societal norms in such a scheme other than in a descriptive way and I’ve already noted the difference. A difference you never addressed.

    In the context of this conversation and the description of my relativist, both Bernard and Burk have basically said that desires and preferences are indeed what morality consists of or reduces to.

    Again, if you wish to address the main points of the post, please do. Otherwise…

    Like

  2. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “This appears to be the crux of your argument. So, let's now reproduce that argument with the word believe in place of desire:”

    I’ve already noted the why belief and desire do not make the argument you think they do. Again, if you wish to go back and address that finally, please do.

    Bernard, first you told us there were differences between a state and a criminal gang. You tried to show the differences but I maintain everything you noted could be applied to the other. You never responded. You simply asserted that, either way, both reduce to power.

    Again, such is logically impossible. So, do you still maintain there are differences? If so, what are they? If there are significant differences, then both cannot reduce to power. Or, are you simply agreeing with my relativist that since objectivity is a mask, a mistake, incorrect, that of course both reduce to power?

    “It is backed up by logic alone. Imagine a world without a true north. Everyone believes that true north is the direction to go, but it turns out that “north” is just what everyone calls the direction they are going (regardless of where it might actually take them). These directions are relative to each. But then, a true north is discovered. Thus, when someone says they are going north, people can now say, “No, you are actually headed east.” If we are presented the two scenarios, no one would logically claim they are the same in any way. That is what you are doing if you claim both are the same but still reduce to power.”-Darrell

    “Well, first I don't claim they're both the same, but do claim they both reduce to power in the same way. In other words, their difference (that in one case there exists an objective star by which to navigate) plays no role in the implementation nor effect of power.”

    They are the same in principle as representing what an objectivist means—that is clear—whether one agrees or not they exist. That should be easy to see. Are you telling us it doesn’t represent what an objectivist means (the only difference being the metaphysical aspect? Agree or not with the objectivist, you do agree such is what he means, right? That is all we need for the analogy to work. My goodness, even Burk could sees this.

    “There is another interesting point to note here, which makes the analogy inapt. In your example, everybody believes true north is the direction to go.”

    No, go back and read carefully. I do not write that. To address the analogy, you first have to read it correctly. Slow down.

    Also, you do not, other than bare assertion, show us why “if” there is a true North discovered, travel would be the same as before when no one knew it existed. How is that possible? Please unpack that for us.

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  3. Hi Darrell

    This is getting ever so silly. I can find nowhere in this conversation where you have addressed the simple question of why we can not substitute belief for desire and still get the same reduction to power. In other words, why does this formulation of your own argument:

    “”…if we are simply saying this is what I believe – then the implementation of that belief and will reduces to who is the more powerful. Power (rather than the “good” or “just”) then decides what is “good” or “bad”, as the two parties have nothing outside of either’s belief, to resolve any dispute.””

    not work?

    And they we get to this:

    “No, go back and read carefully. I do not write that.”

    Well, I offered it as one of two options. Either they do want to go to true north, or they don't. And I explained why, under either scenario, your analogy fails.

    “show us why “if” there is a true North discovered, travel would be the same as before when no one knew it existed. “

    If you did not write, as you say above, that people do not want to travel to true north, then why would the discovery of true north affect travel?

    As for the criminal gang and the state, there are loads of differences. Here's one. One's the state, the other isn't. Here's another. One's a gang, the other isn't. Not sure what your point is. You seem to be asking what's the difference in the morality of their actions, and I say, that depends upon their actions. So, the state that summarily executes dissidents is unethical, is it not? We agree on this.

    So, how about you answer the question. Why can't I substitute belief for power into your claim? Specifically, what is wrong with the formulation of your argument offered above?

    Bernard

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  4. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “…I can find nowhere in this conversation where you have addressed the simple question of why we can not substitute belief for desire and still get the same reduction to power. In other words, why does this formulation of your own argument:

    “”…if we are simply saying this is what I believe – then the implementation of that belief and will reduces to who is the more powerful. Power (rather than the “good” or “just”) then decides what is “good” or “bad”, as the two parties have nothing outside of either’s belief, to resolve any dispute.””

    not work?”

    Well, I have addressed it several time as to why and I get tired of doing your work for you. You need to start responding in the stream of the conversation and not well down the road.

    “show us why “if” there is a true North discovered, travel would be the same as before when no one knew it existed. “

    “If you did not write, as you say above, that people do not want to travel to true north, then why would the discovery of true north affect travel?”

    Please address the analogy in context. Yes, I did write: “Everyone believes that true north is the direction to go…” And then there is the all-important “but”. Please tell us, first, why the analogy doesn’t apply. Second, please tell us how both can reduce to power if a true North does in fact exist? Put yourself in the objectivist position and ask yourself “if”. Otherwise, you are telling us that nothing changed—even though there is a true North, it makes no difference in a dispute over direction. Please unpack that for us how that is possible.

    “As for the criminal gang and the state, there are loads of differences. Here's one. One's the state, the other isn't. Here's another. One's a gang, the other isn't. Not sure what your point is.”

    Bernard, please. Come on. This is beneath you. You know exactly what my point is. Anyone reading the post, whether they agree with me or not, knows why I contrast the two. All of your initial differences could be applied to the other.

    Again, can you give us a significant difference as to why the use of power/violence is justified in one case (the state) and not the other (criminal gang) that is not simply descriptive (in other words, tells us nothing)? You have yet to do this.

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  5. Darrell says:

    Guys, we are past 100 comments. I will allow one more comment from each if they wish to make one before we move on. Before I do my next post on justice and legality I will post a supplement to this one to clarify and address (re-address) some specific objections.

    By the way Bernard,

    “I can find nowhere in this conversation where you have addressed the simple question of why we can not substitute belief for desire and still get the same reduction to power…”

    That they both reduce to power, whether relative or objective, whether we are quibbling over desires and beliefs, is the very thing disputed here. It is the very question we are asking. Do they both reduce to power—is that what is always really going on? The relativist (MMR) says, “Yes”. I disagree. So, when you say we get the “same” reduction to power, you are agreeing with my relativist, correct?

    If so, I find that very hard to believe because an agnostic doesn’t know if morality is relative or objective, because those areas are completely bound up in the question of God’s existence, a platonic space and so on. If we don’t know which they are, then we can only speculate as to the reduction of power. If we place ourselves in the relativist’s shoes and then the objectivist’s, one would think we come to different conclusions as to the reduction to power. Thus, you should be very careful how you proceed as it might call into to question your supposed agnosticism.

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  6. Darrell says:

    Also JP,

    I just came across this exchange. I don't think you understand what Bernard or Burk have been saying as to desire:

    “You say moral language becomes code for 'what I desire'. I agree…”-Bernard

    “No, I say that is what happens if we take the view of the relativist. You cannot agree with such a claim and still be agnostic. The agnostic doesn't know if morality is relative or based upon an objective referent. The objectivist believes there has to be an “ought” to the questions of desires, or they could be a desire for anything, whether good or evil.”-Darrell

    The above was not in the context of a discussion regarding differing desires, but as to what morality truly consists of.

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  7. Darrell says:

    JP,

    Found this one too:

    “For the relativist, there is no ethical test.”-Darrell

    “Ah, but there is. The ethical test is what is desired.”-Burk

    Again, the context (check yourself) had nothing to do with differing desires, but moral frameworks of the way a person views morality to begin with.

    I think you have both Bernard and Burk wrong, or, neither of them were following my argument but noting the irrelevant point that people have different desires and feel strongly about some over others, which no one disputes.

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  8. Hi Darrell

    “That they both reduce to power, whether relative or objective, whether we are quibbling over desires and beliefs, is the very thing disputed here. It is the very question we are asking. Do they both reduce to power—is that what is always really going on? The relativist (MMR) says, “Yes”. I disagree.”

    You misunderstand. I am not offering the relativist's argument, that both reduce to power because there is no objective referent. Rather, I am arguing, that even if there is an objective referent, the reduction to power is the same.

    I've shown this by pointing out the way your argument for relativism reducing to power still works if you substitute belief for desire. Hence, this is not question begging. You have yet to offer an answer to this, and clearly don't wish to, offering your standard 'already addressed it' defence.

    Now you simply say, I disagree. Yes. But why?

    As for the other questions, they all revolve around the same issue. You ask:

    “can you give us a significant difference as to why the use of power/violence is justified in one case (the state) and not the other (criminal gang) that is not simply descriptive (in other words, tells us nothing)?”

    Obviously, this must depend upon the notion of the state, gang and their actions. But let's contrast a legal arrest with an assault, both involving physical force. Why is one justified? Well, remember that all relativists have their own moral systems to reference (the point of relativism) so there is no answer for relativists, only for an individual relativist. In my case, the crucial difference is that the state has the assent of the people (let's imagine a perfect form of participatory democracy) so the arrested are themselves subjected to the rules they helped formulate. So, it is justified, in my view (but not in the view of every relativist. A utilitarian would need to no more about the results of the arrests, for example, a committed socialist might reach a different conclusion). Justified, and globally justified, are importantly different. For a relativist, globally justified makes no sense.

    With regard to true north, the “all important but” makes it ambiguous. Do they want to go true north, if only they could find it, or have they simply come to use the phrase 'true north' to literally mean, “where I want to go.” You won't clarify, fair enough, but it doesn't matter because these are the only two options. I laid out under either case why the analogy fails. In the first case, because the relativist doesn't want to find the true moral imperative (bombing example) and in the second, because then the term true north is used for completely different concepts, and the discovery of the latter has no effect on the former.

    The power relationship in the true north example is identical, whether or not a true north exists or is simply a marker for personal journey preference. In the former case, if we can't agree where true north is, power comes into play if we try to force others to follow our path. in the case of personal preference, power comes into play if we try to force others to take our path.

    A difference would only exist if it were possible to show those with alternative beliefs why they are wrong. And here, you'd been to believe there is more chance of this happening than the relativists convincing others theirs is a more desirable path. One might argue that because relativist's views are inherently more malleable, there is less reduction to power in the relativist's case.

    Anyway, you don't want to address this problem. That's your choice. Thanks for the conversation.

    Bernard

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  9. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    Well, OK. Let's try this:

    Here's a relativist who disagrees with stealing. It's against his moral code. He strongly desires that everybody abides by this principle.

    But then, you see, he goes to a store, pays cash and sees that the cashier has given him too much money, say an extra $20. Keeping it would be stealing, right? He feels this is morally wrong (according to his moral framework). But it so happens he's very short on money, looks at this bounty and forms the desire to keep it. Perhaps he does, perhaps he doesn't but at this particular moment, his desire goes contrary to his morals.

    This kind of conflict between values and desire happens all the time – to objectivists and relativists alike.

    What's so difficult to understand about this?

    Like

  10. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    I will address the first part of your response in the supplemental post I will put out soon.

    I will address the rest here in the comment section, however please hold your response and incorporate it with your other comments that I’m sure we can expect will be made in the supplemental post. Thank you.

    “can you give us a significant difference as to why the use of power/violence is justified in one case (the state) and not the other (criminal gang) that is not simply descriptive (in other words, tells us nothing)?”-Darrell

    “…But let's contrast a legal arrest with an assault, both involving physical force. Why is one justified? Well, remember that all relativists have their own moral systems to reference (the point of relativism) so there is no answer for relativists…”

    I know I am asking you if there is a difference, but I am really asking (see post) if my relativist is correct that there isn’t a difference. He does answer. He says there is no fundamental difference or any beyond mere description. Is he correct? We are not asking if it is justified in each person’s view—we know that already. We are asking if the relativist is correct regardless of their reasons for justification. He will tell us if their reasons are based upon some objective referent, such doesn’t really exist and is a mask, and that their reasons are really about getting what they desire and want. Is he correct?

    “…In my case, the crucial difference is that the state has the assent of the people (let's imagine a perfect form of participatory democracy) so the arrested are themselves subjected to the rules they helped formulate.”

    Just as an aside, if you are using “assent” and democracy in descriptive ways only, you are not addressing the questions or the problem.

    “…Justified, and globally justified, are importantly different. For a relativist, globally justified makes no sense.”

    Well, they are not different for our purposes and, in fact, go to the very problems we are discussing as we’ve brought up actors like ISIS and the Nazis. But I agree, it does make no sense to a relativist.

    “With regard to true north, the “all important but” makes it ambiguous. Do they want to go true north, if only they could find it, or have they simply come to use the phrase 'true north' to literally mean, “where I want to go.””

    Yes. Since that is exactly what I write, I’m not sure how it’s ambiguous.

    “…I laid out under either case why the analogy fails. In the first case, because the relativist doesn't want to find the true moral imperative…”

    What? That is not true at all, or at least not as far as my relativist. It has nothing to do with “wanting”. It has to do with the fact he doesn’t believe a true North exists any more than he does witches. If you gave someone the option of actually finding true North or just going on their way imagining it was, even if they were actually going south, most people would actually like knowing which was which. It is not that any relativist wouldn’t want to know “if” such existed, it is only that they don’t believe such exists to begin with. So, your first case fails.

    (Continued)

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  11. Darrell says:

    (Continued)

    “…and in the second, because then the term true north is used for completely different concepts, and the discovery of the latter has no effect on the former.”

    Again, how are the different other than the metaphysical aspect? It represents perfectly what objectivists mean when they speak of an objective morality. Do you disagree that such is that they mean? The concept matches perfectly. A true objective morality; a true North. We are not asking you to agree morality is objective, we are asking you does the analogy capture what an objectivist means as to an objective morality. Does it? If so, such is all we need for it to work.

    “The power relationship in the true north example is identical, whether or not a true north exists or is simply a marker for personal journey preference. In the former case, if we can't agree where true north is, power comes into play if we try to force others to follow our path. in the case of personal preference, power comes into play if we try to force others to take our path.”

    You are not saying anything here except that in both cases, violence might ensue. As I’ve pointed out, about a thousand times now, such tells us nothing and goes to nothing in my argument or the problems here presented. So, the second case fails as well.

    I will now move on to the supplemental post. JP and Burk should feel free to make any final remarks as to my last responses to them and they can then take it up in the next post as well.

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  12. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    To this:

    but I am really asking (see post) if my relativist is correct that there isn’t a difference. He does answer. He says there is no fundamental difference or any beyond mere description.

    This is somewhat puzzling as you seem to have this backward.

    As far as the differences between any two external parties go (state vs gang or whatever), the objectivist and the relativist (the observers) have access to exactly the same information. There is no difference that are intrinsic to the parties that the objectivist can see that the relativist cannot.

    The differences are only between the objectivist and the relativist themselves. Perhaps the objectivist will say that one of the two is objectively right and the other not – but this is not a difference between the two parties, only between the differing opinions of the two observers.

    Or, said otherwise: differing opinions about the moral standings of the two parties are not intrinsic to the parties themselves. These differences are between the minds of the two observers.

    Or again, strictly speaking, the objectivist cannot say “there is this fundamental difference between the two parties because one is objectively right”. He can only state that it is his opinion that this is so.

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  13. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “This kind of conflict between values and desire happens all the time – to objectivists and relativists alike.”

    “What's so difficult to understand about this?”

    Nothing at all. It just doesn’t tell us anything about the issues under discussion. What do you think it proves or shows?

    If you are pointing out that, whether a relativist or objectivist, we all act sometimes contrary to our beliefs and desires, well, it is not disputed. However, if you are going to try and unpack that to “mean” a certain thing or show something pertinent to this discussion and my post, you will have to deal with the differences between MMR and DMR, which you have still never done.

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  14. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “Or again, strictly speaking, the objectivist cannot say “there is this fundamental difference between the two parties because one is objectively right”. He can only state that it is his opinion that this is so.”

    Right, as is true for the relativist. Your point? We are asking but what “if” the objectivist is correct—what if there is a true North? And conversely, we are asking what “if” the relativist is correct, that there is no truth North—north is just what we say it is—what we desire and want?

    What I seem to hear in response is I don’t have the relativist correctly, but I showed you several places where even Bernard and Burk agree that such is what morality actually “is”. I also have given you the Stanford link and the New York Times essay (there are tons of other sources) that confirms such is what the MMR relativist is asserting.

    Or, the other thing I seem to hear is that I am posing belief against desire, which I am not. Both the relativist and objectivist are “believers”—they have beliefs about what morality actually “is” beyond mere description or dictionary definitions. If a MMR relativist has desires that seem to contradict his relativism, he needs to sort that out. If the objectivist has desires that seem to contradict his objectivism, he needs to sort that out, but either way, it goes to nothing in my post and the question of justified violence and reduction to power.

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  15. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “In other words, you are arguing nothing more interesting than, if there exists an external moral referent, then in violent clashes about morality, an external referent will exist.”

    That is not, at all, what I am stating. I am stating, if there exists an external referent, then there is no reduction to power.

    “Reduce to power means that power is the only deciding factor in the resolution of the conflict (there is no appeal to anything outside ourselves, like natural law, abstract principles, God, gods, platonic space, those things believed to be universally true); and power could be actual violence, or economic power, over-powering resources, etc.”-Darrell

    “If, by only deciding factor, you mean, as your brackets suggest that no external referent exists, then your argument really is just 'if there is no external referent, then no external referent exists. This is the implication inherent in every definition of 'reduce to power' you have offered.”

    Again, the above is a definition (how many time will I have to point this out?) not the argument. Even though I have noted the above or implied it throughout this entire conversation, both you and JP asked for a definition and I gave you one. Now, being confused, you think the definition is the argument. The above should read: “If there is not external referent, then there is no reduction to power.” That is my argument. If you want to believe it is the above or read it that way, there is nothing I can do about that. However, any reasonable person would see you are reading it as you wish and not as I am presenting it.

    “If true north really exists then, in conflicts about true north, true north will exist.”

    Again wrong for the same reasons. It should read: “If true North exists, then in conflicts about true North, there is no reduction to power.”

    Why you are purposefully leaving out my conclusion is anyone’s guess at this point.

    “Remember, you have ruled out knowledge of or even belief in true north being factors in reduction to power, so this is all you have left.”

    No, we have my conclusion, either the reduction to power or not. And you never addressed my points about this not being about who is right or how we would know who is right in any final sense, so you have yet to show how that even pertains.

    (Continued)

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  16. Darrell says:

    (Continued)

    “Wrong. The argument or premise is: There is no objective referent/true North does not exist (if you want the argument for that premise—see most of Burk’s responses). My conclusion (reduction to power) does not assume the premise, at all.”-Darrell

    “Well, because your definition of reduction to power is your premise, that's exactly what it does do.”

    No, it absolutely is not my premise. My goodness, have we all forgotten how to read and comprehend here? My premise is about the existence of something. My conclusion is the logical link to how we answer that question regarding existence.

    Again, this is very simple. Please show where a tautology exists or what is empty about the following:

    Premise: Los Angeles is south of my location and is a city that exists.
    Inference: If I drive south I am likely to get closer to LA.
    Conclusion: I should drive south.

    Premise: I will call Los Angeles the first town I drive to, because LA doesn’t exist.
    Inference: I can drive to any town.
    Conclusion: I should drive any direction I wish.

    Also, please explain how the direction we should or should not drive (the conclusion) is the exact same thing as the premise, which is what you are telling us I am doing. Please unpack this for us—this is fascinating to me because I have never seen someone so butcher what another person’s argument is.

    “If there exists no objective moral truth, then there is no objective moral truth to refer to, and the conflict doesn't in fact refer to an objective moral truth.”

    Again, wow. The above is a complete miss-representation of my argument. The above is nowhere in anything I have written specifically or even implied.

    The above should be: If no objective moral referent exists, then a conflict reduces to power.” We have a premise and a conclusion. The conclusion is not a re-stating of the premise. Anyone can see this. Any reasonable and rational person can see, my goodness, any freshman in High School could see, you are purposely leaving out my conclusion. Why are you doing this?

    You do not get to completely mishandle, twist out of shape, my argument. Okay. I take your arguments as presented, whether I agree with them or not. I would ask you grant me the same courtesy. Do you think you can do that, or not?

    If you can, then take my argument, my premises and conclusions, and try to show where they are tautologies. Please take the LA example and “my” true North analogy (as I present it) and show a tautology if you can. But do not again completely re-write my argument and then try and tell us you found a tautology. I hope you have more respect for me than that.

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