Supplement to Part One and Part Two: The Justified Use of Violence/Power

All those previous posts, the ones with the Grinch in the title and the last two, part one and two, will continue to be fundamentally misunderstood unless one understands the differences between MMR and DMR types of relativism.  From the Stanford source already given:
“Descriptive Moral Relativism (DMR). As a matter of empirical fact, there are deep and widespread moral disagreements across different societies…which we might add is theminimalist claim that to assert that S is true is simply to assert S…”  The New York Times essay (from Part Two) gave us an example of this:
“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.”
The above (DMR) is not disputed and goes to nothing in my post(s) whatsoever.  And yet, it is the only way any of those commenting have been speaking of moral relativity, which is descriptively.  It tells us absolutely nothing except “to assert that S is true is simply to assert S…”
The type of moral relativism I am speaking to, the type I believe reduces to power is MMR:
“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.”
“Metaethical moral relativist positions are typically contrasted with moral objectivism [my position]. Let us say that moral objectivism maintains that moral judgments are ordinarily true or false in an absolute or universal sense, that some of them are true, and that people sometimes are justified in accepting true moral judgments (and rejecting false ones) on the basis of evidence available to any reasonable and well-informed person.”
So, these views are contrasts—they cannot both be true or correct.  I would also add, as a postmodern Christian, that the above should be modified to note “on the basis of [interpreted] evidence” and that “reasonable” and “well-informed” are terms that would have to be qualified and defined, but the above is a generally acceptable definition of the differences (I just needed to head that off before anyone worked himself into a lather about empiricism being the only way to know if something were true or not).
Underneath the umbrella of MMR, we can then go to the specific type relativist I am most interested in as far as my post(s), and these would be the skeptic and nihilist.  These are not cut and tried terms by the way.  The bleed over into each other and many would say a nihilist was first a skeptic, or that there is relatively little difference between the two.  Further, the New York Times essayist notes, and I agree, that the MMR relativist, to remain consistent, should either:
“…decide whether his view grants the existence of some absolute moral facts, or whether it is to be a pure relativism, free of any commitment to absolutes.  The latter position, I have argued, is mere nihilism; whereas the former leads us straight out of relativism and back into the quest for the moral absolutes.”
So, as far as I’m concerned, the MMR position is one of skepticism and nihilism, or a mixture such as to make one come to this conclusion: Morality by referent, does not exist because the referents do not exist.
“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).”
The moral skeptic, nihilist, asserts that morality and ethics, historically, have been based upon objective referents, whether transcendental myth, platonic, Aristotelian virtue, or religious belief/narrative (God), etc.  However, they do not believe any of these objective sources point to true existing entities or persons, universal abstract principles, natural laws, or even true historical events.  They do not think any of these are really objective at all as to any ultimate referent.  They believe, rather, these are the subjective, personal, and relative projections of various cultures over time.  The objectivity was used as a mask to gain power and authority, either knowingly or ignorantly.
Therefore, once the objective referents have ceased to exist, the morality resting upon them we now know were simply the desires and wants of the people who had the power, masked as objective and authoritative.  So, in this sense, morality does no longer exist.  Nature, people, are amoral.  There are no “oughts” there is only the “is”.  Morality is now code for: What we want and desire.  So, does morality go on?  Of course.  Does everyone have a morality?  Of course.  Is there a hierarchy of desires?  Sure.  But no longer in the sense it has, until recent times, meant to be understood, which is in an objective sense—grounded in these various referents.  That is what we need to talk about.  Not the irrelevant observation that people still assert various things are right or wrong or have desires stronger than others.  Such tells us absolutely nothing as to the issues here presented.
And just as an aside, if one is only a DMR type relativist, join the club.  So am I.  So are most reasonable people.  Most reasonable people would agree that “As a matter of empirical fact, there are deep and widespread moral disagreements across different societies…”  And, they would agree that “‘Eating beef is wrong relative to the moral code of the Hindus’ is just a descriptive remark that carries no normative import whatsoever.”
I am only speaking to that which goes to the idea of a “normative” import, in the sense it is normative for everyone, not just me or my culture.  Such is what the word “normative” means and implies.  I am speaking to the idea of what morality actually consists of, not what it describes or merely defines as to an individual or culture.  Clearly then, every example given me of why a certain type escapes my critique failed because they were merely descriptive and told us nothing about a normative import.  And if there is no normative import, then just say so (which would be agreeing with my relativist) and we are back to where my critique does hold.
What I am arguing then, if we take the relativist logically, is that changes in the adoption of moral codes, at the point of conflict, is not about a true “good” (in the sense just noted—an actual objective good—a true North) but about who has the power to enforce their desires and wants, to name it true North, or the good, thus the reduction to power.
I think the relativist would agree with me, that such reduces to power.  He would say the same even if one side, or both, asserted their morality was objective.  He would say they are mistaken; no referents actually exist, so it still reduces to power.  If one of the players is a relativist, then they already know the conflict isn’t about a true North, but who will get to call their direction true North.  If it is not about a true North, it is about power then—the power to name, to call my direction North.
Notice, one must first believe none of the referents exist, such as God.  Therefore, while it is a statement of belief, what the relativists believes, as far as an argument goes, to just assert such is what’s really happening, it is question-begging.  It begs the question of God’s existence.  “If” God does exist, then morality is objective—there is a true North.  “If” morality is objective, then the adoption of one moral code over another is not a reduction to power, but possibly the adoption of a true good, or the turning to a true North.
Second, notice that “if” God exists and “if” morality is objective, then we cannot logically come to the conclusion there is a reduction to power whether or not we believe morality to be relative or objective.  We can only assert such if we take the relativist’s perspective that such is what’s always happening, regardless of what we believe, because objectivity is just as mask.  That, of course, begs the very question.  The question is: Is that is what’s truly happening?
The analogy of a true North explains why they both cannot reduce to power.  As before, imagine a world that comes to the conclusion there is no true North, although there is in the collective memory, an understanding of a truth North.  Direction is the way this world talks about morality.  However, since the loss of the memory, now true North just means, “whatever direction I desire or want.”  One day, someone finds that there is, indeed, truthfully, and objectively, a true North.  What people use to talk about as true North, was true.  It exists.  Thus, when someone now claims, “This is what I think is moral or ethical, this is true North”, we can now say, “No, actually, that is West.”  Or, we might say when someone asserts, “Ethnic cleansing is ethical”, we might respond, “No, according to true North (Fill in an objective referent), it is not.
The point is that one cannot say that with, or without, true North (an objective reference point), all the decisions being made regarding direction (or morality) are the same and that if two people disagree as to direction and there is conflict, both reduce to power.  Such is logically impossible.
The above is what no one has addressed thus far.  If one agrees with the relativist (as noted), then all reduces to power.  If one disagrees with the relativist, and thinks there is a true North (or an objective morality), then there is not a reduction to power, but an appeal to a true “good” or “north”.  In other words, even if we lose, North is still North.  That does not change.  So this doesn’t reduce to power.  The “winners” may say that west is north, but they are wrong regardless.  If the relativist is correct, and there is no true North to begin with, then whichever direction we end up going, it is not about a true North, but about the power of those involved who end up having their direction called “north”.  They get to name what “north” is now.  This is what it means then to be able to name who the “criminal” is and who the law-abiding citizen is, but power could reverse these and such would become the new “north”.  However, “if” there is a true North, then this all looks different and it becomes about something more than just power; it becomes about seeking true North, a true good, a true justice.
Agree or disagree with either the relativist or objectivist, this seems like a straightforward matter of logic to me.  Remember, we don’t care who is correct here, whether the relativist or objectivist.  This is not an argument for either.  We are trying to tease out what some of the logical conclusions might be if we were to adopt one or the other’s position as to the justified use of violence and power.
Now I will move on to some specific objections.  Bernard hasn’t made it clear whether he agrees with my relativist or not.  He claims that whether morality is objective or relative, both reduce to power and violence is “justified” relative to each.  This is the claim of my relativist, because my relativist doesn’t care what the objectivist might be claiming.  He thinks him wrong.  That is how he sees both reducing to power.
Now, Bernard must be making some other point because he can’t know or believe as an agnostic that morality is relative or objective.  So, for him to suggest that regardless of what we believe both still reduce to power must mean one of two things as far as I can tell.  First, that he has simply made an error of logic.  The error noted by the true North analogy.  Or, he is still making the simple error of noting an irrelevant and trivial point that in each case (court of law or criminal gang, Nazis death camp or Allied prison) someone died—that in each case there was a death.  If so, then Bernard has not only not been listening (because I have noted this error over and over) but is not following and addressing the argument.  If such is all he’s pointing out, then the entire conversation has been lost on him.
He will have to tell us which it is or provide an alternative answer. 
That was my preface to understanding the objection he seemed to finally land on, because we must first understand he is making a case, like the relativist, that both reduce to power.  How as an agnostic one does that is another problem, but whatever—he will have to square that.  He claims that whether we say this is what I desire or what I believe, we have the reduction to power.  He thinks I am asserting that the relativist says: “This is what I desire” while the objectivist says: “This is what I believe.”  This would be incorrect.
I addressed this several times and he chose not to respond.  Perhaps he will now.  I made very clear that both the relativist and objectivist are “believers”.  We don’t have one asserting something out of desire and the other out of belief.  They are both asserting out of belief, one out of the belief that morality is relative and one out of the belief that morality is objective.  Desire comes into play for both but in different ways.  What the relativist believes about morality puts his desires as the moral framework from which he proceeds.  What the objectivist believes about morality puts his desires in check to a moral framework that is objective, outside his desires.  He may not always heed or follow that check, but there it is anyway.  The relativist has nothing outside himself and his desires, nothing objective, to act as a check against his desires, to even give his desires a hierarchy.  A hierarchy assumes a “higher” and “lower”, but how could we know which was which without an objective standard?  Otherwise, if we are just falling back on DMR and noting that this one guy believes some desires should be followed over others, but this tells us nothing about a normative understanding of desires.
Once we acknowledge these differences, we see that both then cannot reduce to power.  Again, this is a fairly straightforward logical connection.
Frankly, Bernard has me totally baffled here.  He either fundamentally misunderstands these posts, the questions being put forth, and the issues at hand, or he is simply agreeing with my relativist.  That is fine, but it would certainly call into question his agnosticism.  It is also question begging, because the question has never been, do we agree with the conclusion of the relativist—is he right in that sense.  But, rather, is it a logical to conclude that given the premises of the relativist, morality reduces to power.  Bernard seems to be answering in the affirmative and throws in the “you too” as well, like the relativist does making the complete argument, when we were just speculating as to “what if” the relativist is correct.  I think Bernard may have proven himself too clever by half here.
Also, I will not be addressing the desire/belief issue again if not addressed here.  And just to note that it was indeed addressed by me, but never responded to, just brought up again later, we have the following:
“- For the relativist, one might choose to impose one’s view on another based purely upon personal preference.
– For the objectivist, one might choose to impose one’s view on another based purely upon personal belief.”-Bernard
“This is not the same thing, at all. See the same point—the very same thing I had to note for Burk and JP as well. That we all have to subjectively believe what we do is not disputed, nor the point. The court of law has to personally believe in the rule of law. The gang member has to personally believe it is right to kill his rival. Such has absolutely nothing to do with the conversation, the problems noted, nor does it mean that both actions reduce to power.”
Here is more:
“Morality is now just code for: What I will or desire. Thus, the reduction to power.”-Darrell
“Why not,
“Morality is now just code for: what I believe is right. Thus, the reduction to power.”-Bernard
“Because I have already told you why. See paragraph 3 of the Part One post.”-Darrell
And, when Bernard did go to that paragraph he told us it said nothing about reduction to power, but that wasn’t his question.  His question was regarding any difference if we say “I desire” over “I believe”.  That paragraph notes the fact that we are all believers, we all have to subjectively believe what we do, whether a relativist or objectivist.  Therefore, his point about belief and desire does not hold.  I am not asserting if we say “I believe” as opposed to saying “I desire” there is no reduction to power.  How silly.
I am however saying that if we believe our desires, relative to us only, are the defining feature of our moral framework, then such does reduce to power.  Belief is operative for both the relativist and objectivist.  It is not just the aspect of desire or belief, by themselves, which reduces to power.  It is the content of our beliefs about our desires and morality in general that will tell us if what we believe reduces to power or not when in action or theoretically. 
Notice too that the two statements above are really just the relativist assertion stated differently.  Bernard is not contrasting a relativist assertion against an objectivist one.  They are both relativist assertions.
Here is more:
“To which you responded, see paragraph three on the first post. So I looked. And it does not in any sense address why one of these would reduce to power, but not the other.”-Bernard.
“Again, that one single paragraph wasn’t meant to. The entire post was. I referenced that paragraph to address the other mistakes you were making regarding your “I believe” over your “I desire” choices. Subjective belief is in play for each side. Such has nothing to do with what I’m asking in the post or whether or not morality is relative or objective.”-Darrell
Anyone is welcome to go to that paragraph and not see if it doesn’t address the “desire” over “belief” issue in the context of subjectivity and in the context of Bernard’s question (whether one agrees with me or not, it is addressed).  We are all believers.  We have beliefs about our desires and their relation to morality.  Are they (our desires) our morality, regardless the content or direction of our desires?  Or, are they factors we take into consideration when talking about morality in reference to an objective bar that helps us know what direction our desires should point, or whether we should ignore them?  It is only when we go further that we can see whether there is a reduction to power or not.

Anyway, I hope this clarified some issues and addressed some objections (or addressed them again, and again…).
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244 Responses to Supplement to Part One and Part Two: The Justified Use of Violence/Power

  1. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    If you ask about your conclusion, no, it does not follow at all from your premises, any differently than if the premises were opposite. The missing ingredient is what I added to the end, that conflict is only avoided (differntiation only happens) when the putative referent and consequent morality is clearly demonstrable (and acceptable) to all. I understand that from your perspective, that goes without saying, and is implicit, but I of course would differ.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “…that conflict is only avoided…”

    But that isn’t even the point. We know there is conflict either way. This has nothing to do with avoiding conflict. We are simply asking if the conclusion follows that what the dispute is really about is the power to name and choose, rather than an actual good (objective referent), a name and good that already exists.

    Doesn’t that logically follow, regardless of what we personally believe here?

    Or, consider:

    Two people hear a story about a treasure hidden in a faraway land. Upon further investigation, they find two maps that supposedly tell where the treasure is hidden. The problem is that each map is different. Based upon how one man heard the story, he thinks Map A is correct. Based upon how the other man heard the story, he thinks Map B is correct. According to the maps, either way, it will take their life-times to get to either place so they can only go to one or the other spot, not both. They begin to fight over which play to go.

    There is an observer to all this—let’s call him our treasure relativist. He knows something neither man does. He knows that both maps are wrong because no treasure exists. He knows that the fight was really over one man getting to call his map the correct one.

    Does our observer reach a logical conclusion? Is this story a tautology in any way?

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  3. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    An interesting analogy. You grant too much to the observer to know of the non-existence of something. But we'll grant that. The people have differing interpretations of the evidence and fight over that, not their power per se. Whether a conflict arises from ignorance, or from differing philosophies, or from frankly conflicting interests, there are many routes to resolution. Here, only if one party has a convincing argument (to all concerned) by way of some kind of proof of the map's falsity (or the referent's objectivity) does that demonstration become a route to conflict resolution.

    That is great, but there were other routes as well- drawing lots, going by seniority, bidding in money terms, third party arbitrartion, etc. This fixation you have on “power” being the first resort in every doubtful case is misleading.

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  4. Hi Darrell

    “But this fundamentally misrepresents what is being suggested in the inference. No one disputes there is a struggle, either way. Again, that has nothing to do with the inference.”

    I wonder if this is fair. You actually wrote:

    “He sees a power struggle over the right to name, to choose, what will be called the “good”.”

    This seems to suggest that you think, the power struggle is over the right to name the good in one case, but not the other. I am pointing out this doesn't hold. If two factions seek to change abortion laws they are surely struggling for the power to name the good. You need to be able to show the thing that is happening under one scenario, but not he other, with regard to power.

    “Here is the conclusion: What is being fought over is the power to choose, the power to name, not an actual “good”. Reduction to power.

    Where in the conclusion do you see a repeating of the premise?”

    If I am right, and the fight is over the power to name in both cases, then the only aspect of your conclusion that properly flows from your premise is the dispute is not over 'an actual good'. And by this you do not mean the people observed do not think they are fighting over an actual good (the observed might be objectivists) but only that the actual good is not sitting in the background.

    So, we get, if the relativist observes a conflict, they do not believe there is an actual moral truth in the background. But this is the definition of a relativist, hence tautology.So, you would need to show how two groups, battling over abortion legislation, are fighting for the power to name in one case, but not another. What would this mean?

    And yes, having moved off the idea of having the power to choose (where the reasoning flaw was exposed by counter examples) we are now back to a tautological framing.

    Bernard

    Bernard

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  5. Hi Darrell

    I'm not sure this is a fair reading:

    “But this fundamentally misrepresents what is being suggested in the inference. No one disputes there is a struggle, either way. Again, that has nothing to do with the inference.”

    Your inference was as follows:

    “He sees a power struggle over the right to name, to choose, what will be called the “good”. “

    If this is what not only the relativist, but also the objectivist sees, as I'm claiming, then this goes to the heart of your inference, as you can no longer infer it from the relativist's point of view. It holds no matter whose point of view we take. As I say, consider the two groups struggling to have their view on abortion validated by the law. Is there any sense in which this is not a struggle for the power to name the good, whether or not a true good exists?

    “Here is the conclusion: What is being fought over is the power to choose, the power to name, not an actual “good”. Reduction to power.

    Where in the conclusion do you see a repeating of the premise?”

    This flows directly from the prior point. If the power to name or choose what to call the good is the struggle in either case, then all that is left that flows naturally from your premise is the 'not an actual good' component.

    So we have premise: The relativist views the action as having no objective moral backdrop.
    Conclusion: They see there is not an actual good sitting behind the argument.

    Hence the claim of tautology.

    Bernard

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  6. Sorry, missed the extra page and hence repeated myself.

    Apologies

    Bernard

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  7. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “…there are many routes to resolution.”

    What we are talking about has nothing, whatsoever, to do with resolution. Zero. This was something JP was getting sidetracked with as well. These posts, this topic, have nothing to do with conflict resolution, but the justified use of violence.

    I will ask again: Is the man’s conclusion illogical based upon his belief no treasure exists? Is the story a tautology?

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  8. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “He sees a power struggle over the right to name, to choose, what will be called the “good”.” -Darrell

    “If two factions seek to change abortion laws they are surely struggling for the power to name the good.”

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding and a simple assertion of the relativist’s position—in one fell swoop. Two objectivist’s, in their minds, are not struggling to name the good, but struggling to align laws to that which has already been named good. If I give you a child and say, he has no name, what would you like to call him, you can call him whatever you wish, that is the naming the relativist sees. However, if I give you a child and tell you his name is Bill, he is already named, that option in not open to you. And if people begin calling the child Steve, you then try and align their naming to the correct name that already existed. So the “you too” does not work here. Saying the power to name is the same is to make the very argument of the relativist–it begs the question.

    “Here is the conclusion: What is being fought over is the power to choose, the power to name, not an actual “good”. Reduction to power. Where in the conclusion do you see a repeating of the premise?”-Darrell

    “If I am right, and the fight is over the power to name in both cases…”

    You are not. That is only the relativist perspective and the conclusion is about what is going on at the point of conflict, which is not a re-statement of the premise by any stretch of the imagination. The premise doesn’t even mention a conflict. You are just wrong here.

    I think you are absolutely incorrect about this being a tautology. There is no way the LA examples are not tautologies, but somehow this one is. Please. But clearly we are not getting anywhere with this example as I’m sure you will continue to “find” some technical aspect you think a problem.

    So, let’s do this in story form (the very same point is being made). Take the story I provided Burk. Is our relativist’s conclusion a logical one based upon his belief (of course he doesn’t know, no one knows, but we believe one way or the other or we are agnostic)? Is the story a tautology in any way?

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  9. Hi Darrell

    I wrote:

    “If two factions seek to change abortion laws they are surely struggling for the power to name the good.”

    You reply

    “This is a fundamental misunderstanding and a simple assertion of the relativist’s position—in one fell swoop. Two objectivist’s, in their minds, are not struggling to name the good, but struggling to align laws to that which has already been named good.”

    You are right, the objectivists are, in their mind, struggling to align the laws with what they believe is the true good. Of course. By definition. The interesting point is in what sense your comment contradicts mine rather than restates it. Any difference we can find will be the sense in which relativism reduces to power. So let's examine this more closely.

    Remember, both sides in the abortion debate, if objectivists, believe they are fighting to align society's naming with true good, so one of them is wrong. They both believe it is the other in error. Hence we can rewrite your statement as:

    “Two objectivist’s, in their minds, are not struggling to name the good, but struggling to align laws to that which they believe has already been named good.”

    We now have a direct comparison.

    – Two people struggling over what they would prefer society to name good, because it matches their subjective moral system.
    – Two people struggling over what they would prefer society to name good, because it matches their subjective belief regarding the true moral system.

    So, in both cases we struggle for power. In both cases we wish to use that power to have society align its naming with our subjective view or belief. What is the difference with respect to power? Only that, in the background, in one case there is a true moral good, and in another there isn't.

    So, look at how your argument now expresses.

    – If there exists an objective referent, then in any conflict over naming rights, there will exist an objective referent.

    Is this really all you've been trying to say?

    Bernard

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  10. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “This is a fundamental misunderstanding and a simple assertion of the relativist’s position—in one fell swoop. Two objectivist’s, in their minds, are not struggling to name the good, but struggling to align laws to that which has already been named good.”-Darrell

    “You are right, the objectivists are, in their mind, struggling to align the laws with what they believe is the true good. Of course. By definition.”

    So you agree, you were simply re-stating the relativist’s view of what is happening? If so, then is his conclusion a logical one?

    And, can you address my story/analogy?

    Here it is again:

    Two people hear a story about a treasure hidden in a faraway land. Upon further investigation, they find two maps that supposedly tell where the treasure is hidden. The problem is that each map is different. Based upon how one man heard the story, he thinks Map A is correct. Based upon how the other man heard the story, he thinks Map B is correct. According to the maps, either way, it will take their life-times to get to either place so they can only go to one or the other spot, not both. They begin to fight over which place to go.

    There is an observer to all this—let’s call him our treasure relativist. He knows something neither man does. He knows that both maps are wrong because no treasure exists (he believes). He knows that the fight was really over one man getting to call his map the correct one. Based upon his view, his belief no treasure exists, is it a logical conclusion to make? And is the story a tautology?

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  11. Darrell says:

    By the way…

    “So, look at how your argument now expresses.

    – If there exists an objective referent, then in any conflict over naming rights, there will exist an objective referent.”

    This is not accurate in the least. You are simply re-wording to fit your scheme.

    If there exists an objective referent, then a conflict is over calling it by its right name. It’s not an argument for its existence—or a re-stating that it exists. This is obvious. It is a conclusion regarding the philosophical nature of what is happening in a conflict, “if” we have such and such belief.

    There is no tautology here at all. But please move on to my story.

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  12. Hi Darrell

    Let's move beyond accusation to analysis. You write:

    “This is not accurate in the least. You are simply re-wording to fit your scheme.”

    Well, let's look at how I got there, and then you can show me where the putative inaccuracy lies. Is this a fair representation of your view:

    “Two objectivist’s, in their minds, are not struggling to name the good, but struggling to align laws to that which they believe has already been named good.”

    If so, can we not move to this comparison:

    – Two people struggling over what they would prefer society to name good, because it matches their subjective moral system.
    – Two people struggling over what they would prefer society to name good, because it matches their subjective belief regarding the true moral system.

    And if so, can we not conclude the only difference is the existence of the reference?

    And does this not therefore give us the very statement you claim is not accurate in the least?

    So, where along this line of reasoning does the error lie?

    Or, to look at your re-expressing:

    “If there exists an objective referent, then a conflict is over calling it by its right name. It’s not an argument for its existence—or a re-stating that it exists. “

    What do we mean to say the conflict is over calling its by its right name? Surely nothing more than we are fighting over what to call good (which happens even if the referent doesn't exist) plus the extra observation that in this case there is a right name. And this observation, the only one unique to the objectivist world, is a restating of its existence. Tautology.

    Bernard

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  13. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “- Two people struggling over what they would prefer society to name good, because it matches their subjective moral system.
    – Two people struggling over what they would prefer society to name good, because it matches their subjective belief regarding the true moral system.”

    Is it two people struggling over what they think is the correct name? (The baby already has a name)

    Or,

    Is it two people struggling over who gets to name the baby, since any name will do. (The baby has no name)

    What does our relativist see happening here at the point of conflict?

    No tautology, either way. And your comparisons above do not capture, at all, what I am describing but simply re-state the relativist’s view and thus, we get “you too” both reducing to power.

    Care to address the other story?

    Like

  14. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    If this is the crux of your objection, that in either case it is about the power of naming, then you are simply telling us what the relativist already believes. We know what he believes. You are stating my inference, thus, in all respects agreeing with me. What you need to address is why then, would it not be logical for our relativist to reach the conclusion I do? Do you think he believes it is about naming an actual “good”? Or course you don’t. Do you think he believes it is about simply the power to name then? What other logical conclusions can we draw?

    Like

  15. Hi Darrell

    “If this is the crux of your objection, that in either case it is about the power of naming, then you are simply telling us what the relativist already believes. We know what he believes.”

    No, this is not what the relativist believes,. The relativists believes there really is no objective truth. Whereas I argue that in either case (even if there is an objective truth) we still get the two groups struggling for the power to have society name, or sanction, a particular moral stance on abortion.

    In your examples, you continue to muddle two different premises. Are you holding the existence of the referent as your conditional premise (if the relativist is correct…) or the opinions of the antagonists (if people believe there is no objective referent…)

    So, in your baby name example in case one you have both the people believing in the objective referent, and it existing, and in case two people believing there is no referent, and it not actually existing. And so your case remains muddled. What's more, you cheat by changing the wording in the baby example. If people can't agree on what the true name is, it's still two people fighting over the right to name the baby. This is my point.

    If you were ever to go back on show which of the twelve options I offered constitutes a reduction to power, we could solve this. Your reluctance puzzles me.

    Meanwhile, if we focus on the belief as the premise (which is where you seem to be tending now, but who knows?) then why are these not the two cases on offer?

    – Two people struggling over what they would prefer society to name good, because it matches their subjective moral system.
    – Two people struggling over what they would prefer society to name good, because it matches their subjective belief regarding the true moral system.

    If they are, the tautology holds. If not, show why not.

    Bernard

    Like

  16. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “If this is the crux of your objection, that in either case it is about the power of naming, then you are simply telling us what the relativist already believes. We know what he believes.”-Darrell

    “No, this is not what the relativist believes,. The relativists believes there really is no objective truth. Whereas I argue that in either case (even if there is an objective truth) we still get the two groups struggling for the power to have society name, or sanction, a particular moral stance on abortion.”

    That is merely descriptive as to the struggle. We are asking what is happening metaethically. I hope you realize that. You might as well assert that in either case, whether the court of law or criminal execution, someone died. If you are saying something more than that, if you are addressing the question, then they are not the same thing. So, which are you saying?

    “In your examples, you continue to muddle two different premises. Are you holding the existence of the referent as your conditional premise (if the relativist is correct…) or the opinions of the antagonists (if people believe there is no objective referent…)”

    I have asserted over and over that we don’t care or know who is correct. We are simply taking his view, of what he sees happening in the conflict and then asking if our conclusion follows.

    What puzzles me is your reluctance to address my questions or points. Here they are again:

    Is it two people struggling over what they think is the correct name? (The baby already has a name)

    Or,

    Is it two people struggling over who gets to name the baby, since any name will do. (The baby has no name)

    What does our relativist see happening here at the point of conflict? I don’t care right now what you see happening.

    And please address the story. That alone would address your questions.

    Like

  17. Hi Darrell

    This is precisely why I do wish you'd taken the time to read the 12 options and said which constitute a reduction to power for you. Because again we are talking past one another.

    I wrote:

    “In your examples, you continue to muddle two different premises. Are you holding the existence of the referent as your conditional premise (if the relativist is correct…) or the opinions of the antagonists (if people believe there is no objective referent…)”

    and you replied:

    “I have asserted over and over that we don’t care or know who is correct. We are simply taking his view, of what he sees happening in the conflict and then asking if our conclusion follows.”

    Well, this is my point. If we are taking the relativist's view, the premise is 'there is no objective truth' and what the individuals being observed believe should be irrelevant. Yet, you continue to tweak their beliefs within your examples, so confusing two quite different premises. Go back to the twelve LA examples, and it will become clear if you attempt to categorise them.

    So, if all that matters is the observer (in other words, what follows if their assumptions are true) then we contrast two observers, one a relativist, one an objectivist. And, for clarity, we hold the conditions being observed identical, apart from the existence of the real name.

    So, we observe a world where two people both believe they know what the actual name is, but can not convince the other, and there is no way of verifying their opinions. They fight for the power for their name to be adopted as the official name.

    The relativist says, there's no real name, so whoever wins gets to name the child.
    The objectivist says, there is a real name, but as they can't agree on what it is, whoever wins gets to name the child.

    So, what is the only difference? In the background, unverified and unverifiable, is a real name.

    Hence, your argument must simply reduce to:
    If the relativist is right and there is no real name, then there is no real name. Tautology.

    What you can not do is add in a condition that is true to both the objectivist an relativist observer, namely that whoever wins the power struggle will get to attribute a name to the child, and this is the name the child will be known by.

    This is your great problem. That part of your conclusion that shows any power play will be concluded by both objectivist and relativist observer: it is not a result of your premise. That which is a valid conclusion, that there does not exist a background true name, is tautological, as it is exactly what the relativist assumes.

    Be it abortion, true north, LA or baby names, the problem remains. The existence of an objective truth implies nothing with regard to power.

    Bernard

    Like

  18. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Nothing to do with resolution? If all you posit is conflict and violence, then all you get out is power. That is perhaps what the others mention as your tautology. If you dress up your motivations for that violence with an appeal to objective morals which others do not agree with, for whatever reason, you have not accomplished anything in the way of justification or anything else. You would be playing mind games of self-justification and righteousness, which are more destructive of effective morality than conducive.

    Like

  19. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    Two people hear a story about a treasure hidden in a faraway land. Upon further investigation, they find two maps that supposedly tell where the treasure is hidden. The problem is that each map is different. Based upon how one man heard the story, he thinks Map A is correct. Based upon how the other man heard the story, he thinks Map B is correct. According to the maps, either way, it will take their life-times to get to either place so they can only go to one or the other spot, not both, and they need each other’s help to get to either. They begin to fight over which place to go.

    There is an observer to all this—let’s call him our treasure relativist. He believes he knows something neither man does. He knows that both maps are wrong because no treasure exists (he believes). He believes the fight was really over one man getting to call his map the correct one.

    Is his conclusion a logical one—does it follow given his belief no treasure exists? Is there anything in this story that is tautological?

    Like

  20. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    Is the conclusion of the treasure relativist a logical one given his belief no treasure exists? Is there anything about the story that is tautological?

    Like

  21. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    I take it that the conclusion of the treasure relativist is actually not that the other two are reducing to power, but that they are fighting over their respective interpretations of whatever evidence they have. This is true whether the evidence is good, or bad, or non-existant. If one or both have objective (or subjective) models of their map's correctness, unless they can convince the other of that, or of its utility and desirability, they have conflict, rather than no conflict.

    But it is not clear why you lead them to fight over it- there is no necessity for that. Ignorance is no excuse for belligerance. Thus I would not agree with your conclusion here.

    The real issue is whether the map relativist looks on and is able to, as you claim, judge that the fight (stipulated) is about pure power, rather than other things. And I think on the internal evidence, it can't be about power. Neither combatant gains anything if her chosen map is wrong. So the fight is all about the correctness of the maps, not whether one person can impose her will over the other. The fact that they are dealing with little. wrong, or no evidence is tragic, but does not change the basic logic.

    Like

  22. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “I take it that the conclusion of the treasure relativist is actually not that the other two are reducing to power…”

    That is not what I asked, nor is that how the relativist puts it. He simply concludes they are not fighting over an actual treasure that exists, but the naming of which map, and therefore which location, is the correct or true one.

    Is that a logical conclusion for him to reach based upon his belief no treasure exists? Is there anything about how he arrives at that conclusion that is tautological?

    Like

  23. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    If you want me to dissect your analogy all over again, the question is what you mean by “He believes the fight was really over one man getting to call his map the correct one.” No need to use the word “really” here. Each person has some belief, believes they are correct, and seeks to convince others of the correctness or appropriateness of that belief. In that respect you do not put the relativist in a special position. The only consequence of the relativist's belief is that he isn't going to get into this pointless fight at all.

    His view of the other parties, as you portray his conclusion, is, as I mentioned before, slightly mistaken, since the other contestants have no interest in being wrong. They will bow before better evidence, if any turns up, that either map is correct, or that both are wrong. So the relativist would not be right in concluding that the conflict is about “naming which map is correct”, by force majure or something similar. Rather it is about figuring out which map is *really* correct, based on whatever scraps of evidence they could turn up. So it has the context of both cooperation as well as conflict.

    The relativist would do best by sharing his knowledge or evidence with the others so that they can all save themselves a lot of time. And as to a tautology, the logic of your stated conclusion is so weak that it hardly makes any difference.

    In the context of morality, the right to name the tune is far more consequential, and the subjectivist does not dispute the fact that tunes exist to which we all dance. The question is whether those tunes are composed by god, (and whose god!), or by ourselves. So the analogy has completely broken down there- the subjectivist is in the boat, not an observer. And the fight is on the same terms for everyone.

    Like

  24. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    Two people hear a story about a treasure […]

    You have our relativist friend believe that the fight was really over one man getting to call his map the correct one.

    I submit to you that the last thing a relativist will do is to claim that a situation is really about this or that – hinting at some essential fact about it.

    Two players meet at the chess board. What are they “really” doing? Trying to win? Trying to prove they're the better player? Trying to show off to their friends? Trying to increase their rating? Trying to have a good time? Enjoying a friendly game? Improving their strength? Well, all of the above? None? Something else? In fact, there is not one thing they are “really” doing, as opposed to all the other ones. They may be doing all of this, or some of it.

    The thing is that there are many different ways of looking at a situation, different points of view. And none of them is “really” the right one.

    Even if there is no treasure it's perfectly legitimate to say the two guys are arguing about how the best way to find it – this is indeed what they are doing.

    You may also say, sure, that they are arguing about which map is correct. Fine.

    They might also be trying to prove that their map is the right one, but this would be silly. They don't really care to call any map right or wrong – any one of them will yield to the other given sufficient evidence. The map is just a means to an end.

    Suppose a group of astronomers form the belief, based on observation and mathematical arguments, that there an hitherto unknown planet in orbit around the sun at some approximate location. And then they spend years trying to observe it and confirm their hypothesis. Suppose it turns out there is no such planet: there is another explanation for their initial observations. In your view, what have they been doing all this time if not looking for a planet? What would an observer knowing there is no such planet have said if not exactly that? It's the same for the treasure seekers.

    Like

  25. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “If you want me to dissect your analogy all over again…”

    No, just address the questions.

    “His view of the other parties, as you portray his conclusion, is, as I mentioned before, slightly mistaken, since the other contestants have no interest in being wrong.”

    What does that have to do with his conclusion?

    Anyway, I will ask again: Is his conclusion a logical one—does it follow—given his belief no treasure exists? And I’m assuming you don’t find a tautology, so we can let that go.

    Like

  26. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “The thing is that there are many different ways of looking at a situation, different points of view. And none of them is “really” the right one.”

    Yes, this is what our relativist tells us, which goes right along with the analogy. That is another question however and begs the question. The objectivist disagrees. But that isn’t the point. We are only interested in our relativist here.

    “Even if there is no treasure it's perfectly legitimate to say the two guys are arguing about how the best way to find it – this is indeed what they are doing.”

    No one said they could not and that has nothing to do with his conclusion.

    So, I will just keep asking: Is his conclusion a logical one given his belief no treasure exists? And, is there a tautology here somewhere?

    Like

  27. Hi Darrell

    ” He believes the fight was really over one man getting to call his map the correct one.

    Is his conclusion a logical one—does it follow given his belief no treasure exists? Is there anything in this story that is tautological? “

    This depends upon what you mean by 'is really over…'

    If it means that the two people are fighting because each wants their view to be called the correct one, then this does not follow insomuch as the objectivist would conclude the same thing, even though they believe there is a true treasure. So, it does not flow from the premise, but is independent of the premise.

    If 'is really over…' means simply that there is no real treasure in the background, then it follows but is tautological:

    If a person believes there is no treasure
    Then they will conclude that underpinning the fight is the fact there is no treasure.

    Here is your problem. In order to make your case flow logically, you are forced into a conclusion that is empty.

    Bernard

    Like

  28. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    Is his conclusion a logical one given his belief no treasure exists?

    What you present as a conclusion (the fight was really over one man getting to call his map the correct one) is ambiguous until you have explained what is meant by “really over”, as Bernard points out.

    Clearly there are many ways of looking at the situation and, for the sake of argument, I will grant that one of them is to see it as a fight over calling a map the correct one – although this is stretching things quite a bit. In this case, this is not a conclusion to anything but only another (very peculiar) way to look at the situation.

    Underlying your question is the assumption that, among all different points of view, there is one that is (objectively?) the “real” one. This is not an assumption your relativist will share.

    Therefore, to answer your question: no, this is not a logical conclusion for a relativist. In fact, this is not a conclusion at all: simply the expression of how things can be looked at from a different perspective.

    Like

  29. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “This depends upon what you mean by 'is really over…'”

    That is clear from the context. We know what he means.

    “If a person believes there is no treasure
    Then they will conclude that underpinning the fight is the fact there is no treasure.”

    Here is the fundamental problem with your formulation. No one is asking if the treasure really exists. No one is trying to prove it exists or doesn’t exist. So what underpins the fight isn’t that premise, that there is no treasure, in the least. In fact, our two men believe it exists.

    The relativist doesn’t conclude there is no treasure based upon the conflict. What are you talking about? He concludes, given there is no treasure, that they are fighting over something else without knowing it. And that is not a tautology.

    So, I’m assuming you agree his conclusion logically follows from his belief? Or, do you perhaps think relativists are coming to illogical conclusions when they believe morality to not exist by referent?

    Like

  30. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “Clearly there are many ways of looking at the situation and, for the sake of argument, I will grant that one of them is to see it as a fight over calling a map the correct one…

    No one is suggesting there are no other ways to look at the situation. My goodness. That is granted and irrelevant. I don’t look at it the way the relativist does, so I probably know there are other ways to look at this, right?

    The question is, given his belief the treasure does not exist, is it a logical conclusion to draw? I think it is. And I guess you are telling us, yes, it is one logical conclusion to draw.

    “Underlying your question is the assumption that, among all different points of view, there is one that is (objectively?) the “real” one.”

    Here, again, is where you miss-read and are trying to look for some agenda rather than converse. My view has nothing to do with what I’m asking. I’m asking what happens when we take the MMR relativist view, specific to the area of conflict and the use of violence.

    “Therefore, to answer your question: no, this is not a logical conclusion for a relativist.”

    Well, this contradicts what you just told us above. So let me get this clear: If a relativist sees a situation where two people are fighting over two different, what they believe to be objective referents, and his view is that they are both wrong, because in his view, no such thing exists, then you think he reaches an illogical conclusion?

    If so, then do you believe Burk is being illogical all these times he has told us the very thing above? Are all these MMR relativists coming to illogical conclusions then?

    “In fact, this is not a conclusion at all: simply the expression of how things can be looked at from a different perspective.”

    Well, you are just wrong as to the conclusion part. Of course he is coming to a conclusion, whether right or wrong (and we don’t care), it is a conclusion. Further, of course it is an expression of how things can be looked at, just as is the objectivist point of view. So what? Who said otherwise? That tells us nothing and is not disputed.

    Clearly you contradict yourself here at those points you are following the argument. You need to square that before you give us a final answer as to his conclusion be illogical or if the story contains a tautology.

    Like

  31. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    So let me get this clear: If a relativist sees a situation where two people are fighting over two different, what they believe to be objective referents, and his view is that they are both wrong, because in his view, no such thing exists

    Of course he can conclude that they are wrong.

    But this is not what your scenario says. Here it is: He believes the fight was really over one man getting to call his map the correct one.

    If you wanted the conclusion to be as you write above (that they are wrong), why not simply say so instead of this weird thing about fighting about calling a map a correct one?

    Like

  32. Hi Darrell

    “He concludes, given there is no treasure, that they are fighting over something else without knowing it.”

    Not quite. The phrase 'over something else is misleading.' What is this something else you wish to sneak into the conversation? Name it. They are fighting over there to go hunting for the treasure. All the relativist can logically conclude is that the thing they are fighting over doesn't exist. Which is their premise. Hence the conclusion. Tautology.

    To say a person is fighting over something without knowing it is an odd phrase, and requires that we define what the something else is, and what it means to fight over something without knowing it. They know they are fighting. What is the thing they do not know? They know the winner will get to choose where to hunt. Do they have some unconscious motivation that is hidden to their conscious self? No. Their motivation is clear to them, they want the other to come their way on the treasure search. If the phrase can be meaningful at all, it can only mean that the thing they are fighting over does not really exist.

    No matter what you wrap this one in, your premise matches your conclusion. This whole argument really is an empty one. Its heft comes only from the emotional element, your very great desire for this to be a meaningful distinction between a world where objective good exists, and one where it doesn't.

    Bernard

    Like

  33. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “Of course he can conclude that they are wrong.”

    Well, if they are wrong, then in his mind, they are fighting over something else, right? You agree then, it is logical conclusion for him to reach, based upon his belief?

    You just told us it wasn’t a logical conclusion. Which is it?

    Like

  34. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “He concludes, given there is no treasure, that they are fighting over something else without knowing it.”-Darrell

    “Not quite. The phrase 'over something else is misleading.' What is this something else you wish to sneak into the conversation? Name it.”

    Nothing misleading here at all. Nothing snuck in except what logic demands. That is the question, isn’t it: What are we fighting over if the treasure doesn’t exist? Feel free to answer. But first, you need to address the questions. Is his conclusion a logical one given his belief and is there something in the story that is tautological?

    “All the relativist can logically conclude is that the thing they are fighting over doesn't exist. Which is their premise. Hence the conclusion. Tautology.”

    It would only be a tautology if he were trying to prove his premise. He is not doing that. You are clearly, just flat out wrong in that regard. Sorry, you just are.

    So, what he is doing is making an observation based upon his belief. Is his observation a logical one given his belief no treasure exists?

    Why will no one answer this question?

    Like

  35. Hi Darrell

    His observation is logical precisely because it is empty. All he observes is the prior belief he brings to the party, that there exists no treasure. And this is, therefore, tautological.

    “What are we fighting over if the treasure doesn’t exist? Feel free to answer. “

    We are fighting over exactly the same thing we would be fighting over if it did exist, the right to force the other to come along on our journey of exploration. This is what the relativist sees. It is what the objectivist sees. Two people fighting over the right to bring the other along with them, against their will. They know the outcome of the fight can not change the nature of the truth, or even whether or not a truth exists. The fight can only change the behaviour forced upon the loser. This is the case whether or not the treasure really exists.

    The only difference is the existence of the treasure. Nothing about the conflict can be inferred about the conflict, beyond the treasure's existence (this is all your 'aboutness' refers to). And so your relativist makes an empty observation: 'because I believe there is no treasure, I believe their fight does not reference the true position of the treasure.'

    Bernard

    Like

  36. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “His observation is logical precisely because it is empty. All he observes is the prior belief he brings to the party, that there exists no treasure. And this is, therefore, tautological.”

    Okay, so it is logical. Very good. That is step one. We will place the charge it is “empty” on hold for now. Next: So every belief we bring to our observations makes them tautological, when we are not even saying anything about our belief?

    That is a rather amazing claim. Anyway, that is not what he observes. You are purposely changing the story. He sees the two men and their conflict—that is what he observes.

    Can you unpack your claim that bringing our beliefs to what we see is tautological when we are not trying to prove or say anything about the belief to anyone? And I assume you think that applies to yourself and everyone? In other words, when we are not trying to prove anything, when we are simply noting that because of this belief I see such and such as happening, you think that is tautological?

    An atheist for instance. He is not trying prove God doesn't exist, but someone asks him why he is an atheist. He gives them his reasons, which include his beliefs that only that which can be proved empirically and scientifically can be said to exist. He doesn't think “God” meets that test. Are you telling us this is tautological?

    Like

  37. Darrell says:

    Also Bernard, just as an aside,

    “His observation is logical precisely because it is empty.”

    No need to respond now, we will keep the “empty” charge on hold, but you seem to be suggesting that if one is a relativist, and believes that the objective referent for morality many people believe exists (God for instance), doesn’t in fact exist, that such is an empty observation. Really? Interesting. Again, that is an amazing claim. One those who spend time writing books, teaching, speaking, and addressing the ramifications of such question would be, I’m sure, quite shocked to hear. I can imagine the student in freshman philosophy spouting off that these are “empty” observations. Awkward silence.

    And I would imagine that Burk might be getting a little concerned at this point. He (or any MMR relativist/atheist) is being told his observation is (JP) logical…but, no, wait, it’s not…or (Bernard) is it logical but empty and a tautology. Wow. Burk, at one point you noted how entertaining this was. I couldn’t agree more.

    Like

  38. Hi Darrell

    No, you're leaping a little ahead of yourself. I'm responding specifically to the relativist watching two people fighting over who gets to lead the treasure hunt, and her saying

    'actually, there's no real treasure (my assumption) and hence they're fighting over something else without knowing it.'

    And I'm urging you to think what this 'fighting over something else' might mean.

    What does it mean to fight over a particular thing?
    Sometimes, we mean, this is the explicit motivation.
    Sometimes we mean, it is an subconscious motivation.
    Sometimes we mean it is the trigger of the fight.
    Sometimes we mean it is the reward of the fight. What the winner gets.

    Now, by any such definition, can we say they are fighting over something different from an objectivist or subjectivist's point of view?

    Both see them fighting for the same reward – the right to force the other to follow them.
    Both see them fighting for the same reason, because they believe it maximises their chance of finding the treasure.
    Whatever implicit motivation there might be, it is the same viewed through either lens.
    And the reward, in each case, is the same, the right to lead the hunt.

    What changes is only the ultimate outcome either way. No matter who wins, there will be no treasure. The relativist might say, the fight is futile (see, less fighting under relativism, less reduction to power in this sense) but that is all.

    So, premise and conclusion from the relativist's point of view, when we unpack this 'really fighting over something else' business
    is simply:

    Relativist assumes there is no treasure.
    Relativist concludes the power struggle can not lead them to the treasure.

    That strikes me as a remarkable empty employment of reasoning. Because there is no treasure, no treasure will be found. Who knew?

    Apply this to morality, let's say abortion, and the relativist's stance becomes:
    Relativist assumes there is no true moral good.
    Relativist concludes the outcome will not lead either party to a true moral good.

    I'm not pulling this tautology claim out of thin air. When we take the time to carefully define your terms, your claims are empty.

    Bernard

    Like

  39. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    You must have missed this:

    Bernard,

    “His observation is logical precisely because it is empty. All he observes is the prior belief he brings to the party, that there exists no treasure. And this is, therefore, tautological.”

    Okay, so it is logical. Next: So every belief we bring to our observations makes them tautological, when we are not even saying anything about our belief?

    That is a rather amazing claim. Anyway, that is not what he observes. You are purposely changing the story. He sees the two men and their conflict—that is what he observes.

    Can you unpack your claim that bringing our beliefs to what we see is tautological when we are not trying to prove or say anything about the belief to anyone? And I assume you think that applies to yourself and everyone? In other words, when we are not trying to prove anything, when we are simply noting that because of this belief I see such and such as happening, you think that is tautological?

    An atheist for instance. He is not trying prove God doesn't exist, but someone asks him why he is an atheist. He gives them his reasons, which include his beliefs that only that which can be proved empirically and scientifically can be said to exist. He doesn't think “God” meets that test. Are you telling us this is tautological?

    Like

  40. Darrell says:

    Also Bernard,

    How can my claims be empty when I’m not making any? I am asking a question about what a relativist sees happening in a conflict. We have put it that he doesn’t see people fighting over a treasure that actually exists; We've said nothing more, nothing less, than that. He is not telling us that his observation proves anything about the treasure not existing.

    Are you telling us his claim (that the treasure does not exist) is empty? It is not my claim.

    Like

  41. Hi Darrell

    “Are you telling us his claim (that the treasure does not exist) is empty?”

    No, of course not. It is the relativist's assumption, their starting premise. If one then attempts to run an argument with the same observation (the treasure does not exist) as its conclusion, then it's an empty argument. And this is the form all your arguments regarding morality and reduction to power ultimately take. Look at the abortion example. You wan to make a case that if there is no objective moral truth, then there is a reduction to power. How have you tried this?

    Your current method, using the treasure metaphor, is to have the relativist looking on and saying 'there is no moral truth of the matter, therefore they are really fighting over something else.' Presumably you then hope to be able to show that this something else constitutes a reduction to power.

    What I'm arguing is that this 'really fighting over something else' has no substance. For example, whether or not there is a true moral compass, they really are fighting to have their society adopt their moral belief as its own. There is a battle of power on this, and it happens whether or not the referent exists. Similarly, they will believe they are fighting in the name of true values (if both a objectivists) irrespective of what truth actually exists. The only difference we can establish, with regard to the fight, is that in one case, no matter who wins, it will lead them no closer to an objective truth, because the objective truth does not exist.

    Now, I accept that conclusion as entirely valid, but it is vacuous. To argue that because there is no true moral compass with regard to abortion, fights over abortion law can not deliver us to a true moral good, surely teeters on the edge of tautology.

    It is not tautological to argue from belief. It is a tautology if the conclusion you draw has nothing substantial to say beyond the original premise.

    Bernard

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  42. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “No, of course not. It is the relativist's assumption, their starting premise.”

    This is what’s empty, his belief? What is empty, exactly? You said my claim was empty. I am not making the claim the treasure doesn't exist, nor am I making any claim about the two men fighting. We are simply following the story and asking questions.

    “If one then attempts to run an argument with the same observation…”

    He is not running an argument. He is not trying to prove anything. He is simply making an observation based upon his belief.

    “It is not tautological to argue from belief.”

    Then there can be no tautology here. He is not making an argument; he is making an observation. He concludes something from that observation, but you just told us it was a logical conclusion (but empty?). He doesn't think it proves no treasure exists. Do you see the difference? Go ahead and respond, I will close this out afterwards, and then bring it over to a new post. Thanks.

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  43. Hi Darrell

    I understand the relativist doesn't think it proves no treasure exists. What you have been doing throughout this conversation is to attempt to show there is some implication that flows through from the relativist's assumption. In particular, your case has been:

    If the relativist is right (there is no objective referent)
    Then conflicts over morality reduce to power.

    So, you've been running an if then case. And, if the then component, the conclusion, contains nothing substantive that is new, and simply restates the premise, then the claim is an empty one. Formally, there is a definitional tautology in play.

    All the various ways you've attempted to define reduces to power (the dispute isn't really about the objective referent, the actors have choice as to what the call the good etc) have been shown either not to follow from the premise (choice is not a function of the existence of a background truth, but rather of the belief of the observed players, the players are fighting over the right to align the societies views with their own either way) or have been empty (if the relativist believes there is no treasure, then he observes two people fighting and concludes the treasure they're not fighting over doesn't exist).

    All of this trouble has flowed directly from your reluctance to ever define the terms you're using, one suspects because as soon as you did, you would make the emptiness of the case too apparent to defend. Most telling for me has been your refusal to even acknowledge the existence of the twelve scenarios I offered, as a way of teasing out the precise conditions under which you saw reductions to power operating. If your intention was to enhance mutual understanding, you would surely have engaged at this point.

    I do have one suggestion going forward, How about we drop the tortuous analogies (North, LA, Buried treasure) and simply argue the case – morality. Abortion is a good example, as we do see groups diametrically opposed and each convinced the other is out of step with the true moral imperative. In what sense is this more a case of power if God has an opinion on this matter, than if He doesn't? That's your challenge.

    Bernard

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  44. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “I understand the relativist doesn't think it proves no treasure exists.”

    Then a tautology cannot be built around the idea he is saying the two men are fighting over something that doesn’t exist, therefore it doesn’t exist. No one cares right now if it does or doesn’t. The relativist is not trying to make that point—it is simply something he believes and he is making an observation, specific to these two men fighting, that flows from that belief.

    So, let’s put that to rest. You have agreed his observation/conclusion is logical given his premise and it would appear you agree it is not a tautology. That would leave your objection you think it an “empty” observation/conclusion, do I have that right?

    If so, the challenge for you is to tell us what is empty exactly and why. You still haven’t made it clear what is “empty” here in the story. But let’s hold off on that for now. You can address this response in the next post. We close this out now. Please do not respond to this comment here. Thank you.

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