Second Supplement to Part One and Part Two

If anyone has been following these posts and conversation, and if they are still in their right mind, then welcome.  It became clear that either the form of my argument, wording, phrasing, concepts, or some combination thereof was confusing.  My fault.  Do I agree the objections were accurate as to form?  No.  But if a certain path to getting one’s point across is causing (and allowing) more confusion than clarity, it is time to come at it in a different way.  So, I decided to simply put it in a story or analogy form that basically presents the very same set of circumstances and context for my original inquiry, which has to do with how we justify violence and the use of power.
Here is the story/analogy, which has been slightly changed for clarity:
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 believes both maps are wrong because he also believes no treasure exists. Another observer who knows the relativist believes this, asks him, given your belief no treasure exists, what do you see them fighting over from your perspective?  He responds:  “My perception is they are fighting over who gets to call his false map the “correct” one regarding finding something, a treasure, that doesn’t exist.” 
Now, my first question is: Given his belief, is our relativist’s observation/conclusion a logical one to make?  Second?  Is there anything about his coming to that conclusion that is tautological?  He is not making an argument for his belief morality is relative and the non-existence of objective referents. He is simply making an observation, i.e., “This is what I see happening…”
Now, it would appear my intrepid interlocutors have agreed his observation/conclusion is a logical one given his belief no treasure exists.  It would also appear that since he is not making an argument for the fact no treasure exists, that his observation/conclusion is not then a tautology.
The only remaining objection I have seen is that “yes” it is a logical observation/conclusion given his belief, and “yes” it’s not a tautology because he is not trying to make an argument to prove the treasure does not exist, “however”, his observation/conclusion is an “empty” one.
So, I think this is where we are, but I could be wrong and perhaps I’ve misunderstood everyone (a very likely possibility).  And, again, I’m not trying to say anything about the question “Is morality relative or objective?”  I don’t care about that right now.  I’m trying to address the question of what justifies violence and the use of power.  Further, I’m trying to tease out the implications, specific to those questions, of how they are addressed/perceived from a relativist perspective.  Again, we don’t care if he is right or wrong—we are simply trying to view this from his perspective.  And, as we remember, we are not speaking of the DMR (descriptive moral relativist), but of the MMR (metaethical moral relativist), which is that morality existing by objective referent (God for instance) is false, morality does not exist that way, but rather is relative to each person.  Morality is the projection of our subjective will and desires, and nothing more than that.
Just such a view is the one held by our treasure relativist.  An actual, objective, treasure does not exist.  Rather, we each find our own treasure within, not without.  The men, he might surmise, should tear up these false maps, quit looking for something that doesn’t exist, and realize the treasure has been within them all along.  What they sought in far off places was with them all the time.

So, I will throw this out to anyone as a continuation of this ongoing conversation.
This entry was posted in morality, power, relativism, Violence. Bookmark the permalink.

133 Responses to Second Supplement to Part One and Part Two

  1. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “.and tell us what you would call this difference—the difference we all know exists. Will you do that or not?”-Darrell

    “I don't know what this difference you are referring to is. You are being tremendously vague.”

    Well it was clear enough for JP to answer. Please Bernard, this is getting old. We both know that the relativist and the objectivist do not see morality as existing in the same way. They differ. Obviously. You are not stupid. We are taking the relativist view. He sees a freedom to name actions and events as “moral” that is not open to the objectivist. The relativist knows this and so does the objectivist. You know it and I know.

    That difference JP described as a power to name and I have called it a reduction. That is the difference we are talking about and you know that. There is nothing vague here. If you don’t care to answer then just say so and we can move on.

    “And so I name the differences I can see…”

    We don’t care what you see. We care about what our relativist sees.

    “The type we are addressing is the MMR, the nihilist, who doesn’t believe morality exists by referent. You have no idea whether it does or not.”-Darrell

    “No, I am much more than a descriptive relativist. In practical terms, the person who believes we have no knowledge of objective truths…”

    But you don’t believe we have no knowledge of objective truths. You know we have knowledge of them, (Plato, the Bible, the Koran, abstract philosophical truths, etc.), you just don’t know if this knowledge is true or accurate. But regardless, you told us yourself you are not the nihilist type of relativist, the MMR type. Are you or not?

    “What we have is you telling us that both the relativist and objectivist are wrong. That neither sees nor perceives morality any differently, which is just absolute nonsense. “-Darrell

    “I'm not telling you this at all.”

    Of course you are—you told us there is no difference—that you can see no difference. If there is no difference, something both believe exists, then you are telling us they are both wrong. You can’t keep telling us you see no difference, but that there is one. Logic.

    “With regard to the existence of a referent, one of them is most definitely right.”

    Then let’s assume the relativist is right and we have the ability, the power to name our desire and will as “moral”. Let’s talk about that difference.

    And, again, you are no idiot so you know the difference we are talking about is the ramifications of the beliefs, specific to morality and the use of violence and not the beliefs themselves.

    So, are you going to address this difference or not? I’m tired of noting the “last chance”.

    If you choose not to, that is fine. We will move on. Please remember however that to any point of view you give us in the future, any opinion, any assertion, anything that logically follows from the belief (premise) of agnosticism I will simply respond that you are simply telling us you are agnostic and speaking tautologically and not address any actual point you may be trying to show us. Very well.

    Like

  2. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “What you did though was describe the difference the same way I do; I simply go further and call a reduction. In that sense, you did agree—you noted a difference and recognized it was a “power” a freedom, different than that of an objectivist.”

    “You misunderstand me. I do not recognize the difference you claim there is between the objectivist and the relativist.”

    Well, when you told us you would call this difference the power to name, you did recognize it. Otherwise, you would have told us, “I don’t see any difference.” However, we know there is a difference between how the relativist views morality as opposed the objectivist. No one disputes that. What is the difference? Well, the relativist has the freedom to name his will and desire as “moral”. The objectivist doesn’t believe he has that same freedom or power. Who disputes this? No one. So, that power the relativist thinks he has—that is what we are talking about. You noted the difference and you noted it was a power to name.

    “You asked: how do you call “X”? I answered: if such a thing exists, I would name it “X” – meaning there is no need for another name.”

    And I answered, of course it exists—the relativist believes it exists and so does the objectivist.

    “But I don't agree that this is what the relativist does.”

    You don’t believe the relativist believes we decide what moral is and what isn’t—that it is relative to each?

    “And you told us: It leads us to concluding we have the “power to name” our will and desire as “moral”.”

    “This totally misrepresents my views. In fact, I have said the opposite.”

    But we don’t care what your view is. It is the view of the relativist we care about right now. Are you telling us the relativist doesn’t believe that when we call something “moral” we are simply naming our will and desires and not something outside of us, something objective?

    Like

  3. Hi Darrell

    What you are in effect doing is asking me fisrt to agree with your conclusion, and then give it any name I want. But, like JP, I don't agree with your conclusion. So that's what we need to discuss, the bit we disagree on.

    You write:

    “Then let’s assume the relativist is right and we have the ability, the power to name our desire and will as “moral”.”

    This is the very thing under dispute, whether we can move from:

    The relativist is right

    to:

    We have the ability to name our desire and will as moral.

    In the form you put it here, it is most definitely wrong. For here you have as the premise, not the relativist's perspective, but rather her rightness. In other words you express as your premise the existence of the referent.

    Now consider an example that is consistent with your premise, a world where the relativist is right, a referent doe snot exist, but everybody in the society is both objectivist in their beliefs, and of a fundamentalist persuasion. in this case, nobody has the ability to name their desire or will as moral (they're all fundamentalist objectivists).

    “You can’t keep telling us you see no difference, but that there is one. Logic.”

    It will help if you stop simply misreading the arguments JP and I are making. JP never wrote he could see a difference, rather he wrote 'if such a difference exists…' and the distinction here is not a subtle one. I do not say I can see no difference. I say I can see no difference with respect to power.

    In a philosophical discussion, it helps greatly if we can clear up definitions. We are many hundreds of comment sin now, and as yet you haven't even committed to your premise. Sometimes it's, as above, the existence of the referent. Sometimes, as in the treasure case, its the beliefs of the observer. Other times, as per when you describe the inability of the objectivist to do other than that they are compelled to consider right, your premise is clearly the belief of the combatant.

    These are three different arguments, none of which get you across the line. We've refuted all of them, and so you now say 'well, until you agree with me, we can't continue.'

    How about, just once, you engage with what we are saying? Again, three options:

    The premise is the referent. the difference is its existence, and nothing more.
    The premise is the belief of the observer, the difference is the emotional response of that observer.
    The premise is the belief of the participant in the conflict. The difference is their putative motivation, but not their power.

    A good next step for you to identify first which of the cases you are trying to make, and then we can discuss whether my take on the difference is valid.

    Bernard

    Like

  4. Darrell says:

    Bernard and JP,

    I’m going to try this one more time and then we will move on.

    A relativist and an objectivist walk into a bar (No, it’s not a joke) to discuss morality and how we justify violence. We are eavesdropping on their conversation. We will call them R and O.

    O says to R, I think the difference in how you view morality and the use of violence, as opposed to me, is that my freedom or power to choose what I call “moral” or “just” is limited in a way it is not for you. I have come to believe that there is a platonic reality and that part of that reality are pure forms or absolute and universal forms of the “good” and the “just”. Now, I may misinterpret those and even ignore them, but I believe they are there, they exist. I think they are distilled, as far as knowing what they are, in the writings of the ancient Greek philosophers and are also reflected in the teachings of many religions. So, when it comes to a moral issue or the use of violence, this belief and these teachings, constrain or limit my freedom and choices. I cannot call any action or circumstance “good” or “just” simply because I will it or desire to. In fact, my will and desire might be the opposite, but I then have to choose whether or not I’m going to follow this objective standard or my own will and desire.

    R replies to O, I agree. I think each person who is a relativist has the freedom and power not to simply accept whatever moral framework was hoisted upon them from family, culture, and education but to actually choose what they will call “moral” and “just”. In fact, this is what people are really doing anyway. The objectivist only thinks he is not free—he is, I believe, constrained by a false belief. They like to cover over or make it look like they are following some objective standard, but we created all these so-called standards. People wrote the Bible, the Koran, and other such writings. The Greek philosophers were people who might have come up with some wise understandings, but they were not Gods. We decide what is moral and just. We have the freedom and power to do so. It is only limited by the same freedom and power of others to do the same. Here we negotiate. But this freedom and power is not limited in any other outward objective fashion.

    O replies to R, I agree.

    Now, as we hear this, do I misrepresent either of their views? Do I have either wrong as to what they believe regarding morality and the use of violence, in general?

    If I do, what am I getting wrong? Please tell us what the real difference is.

    If I do not, then they both see a difference that flows from two different beliefs. Neither is simply making the point that they believe differently—we know that already—that would be a dumb observation or conclusion after hearing their discussion. We might as well observe: they were two men who had beliefs. And, neither is trying to prove anything to the other (thus no tautology). They are noting the difference in what each sees as to what morality is and how it functions, given their differing beliefs.

    This difference revolves around this power, this freedom to name as “good” or “just” that which they will or desire, or the lack thereof. I call this a reduction because, as noted, it is not limited in any metaphysical/ontological way, but is pure will and desire. It is only limited by other people, but that is more a practical matter and not a metaphysical one.

    Did this help? Can we talk about this difference?

    Like

  5. Hi Darrell

    Yes, you have this wrong. While your views may fairly represent some relativists and objectivists, they are no the necessary beliefs of the two. In other words, their beliefs do not require this stance. We can have relativists who feel entirely constrained by their culture/biology etc. On many moral issues I am one such. I couldn't murder my children, no matter how I rationalised it, as the biological and cultural imperative is too strong. Now I might name the urge to protect my children biological and cultural, whereas the objectivist might name it God's will, but either way we are equally constrained.

    Equally, we can easily imagine the objectivist who is deeply uncertain about what the moral good actually is, and thanks to this uncertainty is largely unconstrained by their background and culture when it comes to making the final choices.

    The relativist can not call anything they desire good, because their innate sense of the morally desirable overrides. As it does for the objectivist. it is the naming of the moral drive, but not its force, that differs.

    Bernard

    Like

  6. Hi Darrell

    I should make two further quick points.

    First, thank you for the above, as it clarifies your key variable/premise – the beliefs of those involved in the conflict.

    Second, although iI have described the constraints in naturalist terms (culture/biology) the argument is not question begging, as it works well for a divine constrain too. If the reason I wish to protect my children is actually divine will I remain constrained, despite having no objectivist beliefs.

    It may be worth noting that while the relativist have the same degree of freedom regarding the naming of the good (while meaning different things by this) the nihilist has no such power, as they can name nothing the good, not believing the concept coherent.

    With regard to moral action, it is the psychopath with the most power, but we fid them on both sides of your divide.

    Bernard

    Like

  7. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    I agree with Bernard above. Instead of simply repeating what he says, let me instead suggest an analogy.

    Let's consider an aesthetic relativist, someone who believes that things (a landscape, a painting, a piece of music, whatever) are not beautiful in themselves (the hypothetical view of an aesthetic objectivist) but that any aesthetic judgment is dependent on the subject looking at them. One could say that beauty “occurs”, or “happens” when the right subject is facing the right object.

    This does not mean that beauty judgments are arbitrary as they are certainly constrained by our biology and culture. Furthermore, they are not like simple preferences in the sense that these aesthetic reactions are somehow forced upon us. We cannot willingly decide to find something beautiful (or not) even if we desire to do so (although, of course, judgments may change with time).

    I suggest that, for a relativist, morality is more like this than it is, as you like to say, another name for our will and desires. Moral judgments, like aesthetic judgments, cannot be controlled or modified at will and are severely constrained, in many different ways.

    Like

  8. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “Yes, you have this wrong. While your views may fairly represent some relativists and objectivists, they are no the necessary beliefs of the two.”

    It is a description, not my view. So then, let’s assume this fairly represents these two and that for them- these are the necessary beliefs of the two. Can you do that or not?

    And I’m not sure how I am wrong then, simply because these two don’t represent the beliefs of every relativist and objectivist, which is frankly impossible. Further, I don’t care about the beliefs and different shades of grey of any other. If we had to do that before we ever discussed difference beliefs, we could never discuss anything. In the literature, there are two types of relativist. The MMR and the DMR, as noted already. We are looking that the MMR type, the nihilist. We need posit nothing further than that.

    “It may be worth noting that while the relativist have the same degree of freedom regarding the naming of the good (while meaning different things by this) the nihilist has no such power, as they can name nothing the good, not believing the concept coherent.”

    Well, he does have a concept of the “good” it is simply what he names his will and desire for communicative purposes, to tell it apart from that which he has decided he does not desire or will. Any relativist that falls into the MMR type, by definition, is doing this if we take their belief seriously and follow it logically. No serious person disputes this.

    So, as to “this” relativist in the bar, do I describe “his” views fairly and correctly? And do I describe “this” objectivist’s views fairly and correctly?

    Like

  9. Darrell says:

    JP,

    So basically you are both telling me you will not consider the view of the relativist I propose, one that is recognized in the literature and in real life (not that you are telling me I have his views wrong, just that there are other views—the DMR type, which no one disputes)?

    That is fine. If you don’t want to have this conversation under the parameters I set, parameters that exist in the literature, then don’t. That hardly then addresses my assertion regarding a reduction to power however. It leaves it completely unaddressed. Cheers and thanks for the engagement.

    Do you plan to address my previous questions—I have asked several times?

    They are the only thing that is relevant—their beliefs about morality are metaphysical. I thought that would be clear from my last answer. If one is viewing a pile of bodies in front of the Nazi crematoriums and one is viewing the bodies of soldiers strewn about a battlefield, unless one introduces some metaphysical comment, all he can tell us is that people died in each case—we saw bodies. Is that not clear from all my previous answers? Why do you keep asking? Do you agree here that unless we introduce some metaphysical comment, all we can say is descriptive, that people died in each case?

    Like

  10. Hi Darrell

    “And I’m not sure how I am wrong then, simply because these two don’t represent the beliefs of every relativist and objectivist, which is frankly impossible.”

    I'm happy that these are the beliefs of your imaginary people at the bar. however, if these are not beliefs that flow necessarily from their being relativist or objectivist (that is, if we can conjure up other imaginary relativists or objectivists with conflicting beliefs) then your scene tells us nothing a about relativism or objectivism.

    Your argument would no longer be 'for the relativist there is a reduction to power' but rather 'for one relativist I have invented, there is a reduction to power', and who could argue?

    Bernard

    Like

  11. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    The MMR relativist defined in the Stanford article is not a nihilist.

    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.

    Elsewhere in the article:

    Other views—variously called moral non-cognitivism, expressivism, anti-realism, nihilism, etc.—contend that moral judgments lack truth-value […]. MMR is often distinguished from all of these views: Instead of denying truth-value or justification, it affirms relative forms of these.

    From Wikipedia:

    Moral nihilism is distinct from moral relativism, which does allow for actions to be right or wrong relative to a particular culture or individual, and moral universalism, which holds actions to be right or wrong in the same way for everyone everywhere.

    Like

  12. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “And I’m not sure how I am wrong then, simply because these two don’t represent the beliefs of every relativist and objectivist, which is frankly impossible.”-Darrell

    “…if these are not beliefs that flow necessarily from their being relativist or objectivist…”

    But they may be, right? You are not disputing that, right? Are you telling us that what they propose are not logical, reasonable conclusions for each to draw, given their beliefs? And that they are different? If you are not, then why not address them?

    “Your argument would no longer be 'for the relativist there is a reduction to power' but rather 'for one relativist I have invented, there is a reduction to power', and who could argue?”

    But I didn’t invent this relativist. This relativist is spoken of often in the literature and elsewhere (See the New York Times essay linked in the prior post—see the Stanford discussion). So, you’re not telling me I have this relativist wrong or unfairly, either in belief or in how he views this freedom or naming, you are just telling me you will not address or talk about this specific relativist view?

    Like

  13. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “…MMR is often distinguished from all of these views: Instead of denying truth-value or justification, it affirms relative forms of these.”

    And often it is not distinguished from all those views. I am mostly noting the difference to set it off against the DMR type, as clearly that is what you are Bernard have mostly been referring to and I don’t see a reduction with that type. If you need a specific type relativist, see the type spoken of in the New York Times essay. Regardless, I am not distinguishing the two, but if you would rather I simply say moral nihilist, fine. That is the type I have in my bar scenario. Care to address that relativist—it is the only type I’ve been talking about, since day one.

    Should I just assume you are not going to address my other questions?

    Like

  14. Darrell says:

    Bernard and JP,

    Are you both telling me that nowhere in this world, does a relativist or objectivist exist, wherein the conversation I created between the two of them does not in fact describe their views and differences? You know that for a fact?

    And you think this even though the very differences I describe are a part of the literature and even noted in sources like the New York Times essay? In fact, these conversations only happen and are possible, because there are these differences? Really?

    Like

  15. Hi Darrell

    No, I am not telling you there are no relativists who fit this description. Unfortunately there are objectivists who do, too. Hence, the reduction to power you note can not be a function of relativism.

    Now, to clarify, if you wish to reference nihilists, and not relativists, then the description you give does indeed fit no nihilist, as it is clearly not an expression of nihilism.

    Bernard

    Like

  16. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “No, I am not telling you there are no relativists who fit this description.”

    Then lets talk about this one, the one that does. Can you do that?

    “Unfortunately there are objectivists who do, too.”

    There are objectivists who believe there is no objective referent to morality and they actually agree with the relativist as to what morality is metaphysically? There are objectivists who believe morality is relative due to its non-existence? There are objectivists who believe they have the freedom to name as “moral” whatever they will or desire? Really? Name one.

    And it doesn't matter what you want to call the relativist in the bar at this point, please address the views I describe in the conversation–views that are normally noted under the category of MMR and certainly not DMR. Further, those views were not invented by me, but are widely agreed upon as to what the MMR relativist claims. Since you have yet to dispute that, since you claim I do not misrepresent either, why not address the differences noted?

    Like

  17. Hi Darrell

    Yes, I am entirely happy with the idea that some people feel more constrained in their moral choices than others. So, you relativist in the bar, or an objectivist with the same experience (one who believes in moral truths, but is very uncertain about what they are) experiences more freedom when it comes to naming actions moral than a fundamentalist (be they relativist or objectivist) who does not.

    I would be happy to agree that:

    Fundamentalists have less power when it comes to moral discernment.

    Bernard

    Like

  18. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    I gather you adhere to the views of the author of the times article – that it's either belief in some absolute or nihilism.

    If so, we disagree on this. Do I get you right?

    Like

  19. Hi Darrell

    It may help if I am more explicit regarding your bar visitor. here is what you write of her:

    “I think each person who is a relativist has the freedom and power not to simply accept whatever moral framework was hoisted upon them from family, culture, and education but to actually choose what they will call “moral” and “just”.”

    Two things to note. This person is not nihilist in any classical sense. You have them describing morality as a subjective thing, which they name by choice, rather than something that does not exist at all. This confusion is understandable, as nihilism itself may collapse under close inspection. I think it does, but that can be another conversation.

    When your representative says every relative has the freedom to choose what they will call moral, they are denying the existence of the moral instinct, which takes away, or at least constrains, this choice. Now, it is incorrect to describe relativists as not believing in moral instincts. If that were the requirement, we would have no relativists, for moral instincts clearly exist.

    The belief that my instinct reads the platonic realm accurately is not itself required for this constraint to be in play. Furthermore, being an objectivist is not a guarantee this constraint will be particularly strong. Rather, in all people, our moral instinct in a particular circumstance, which will often contradict our immediate will or desire, will vary in terms of its strength. Some objectivists, for example, have no moral instinct when it comes to eating meat or baring their arms in public or whatever. The objectivist in the west is free to call a wide range of clothes morally acceptable, or good, whereas the relativist in some middle eastern countries is still likely to have serious qualms about certain styles of dress because of different social conditioning.

    So your relativist misdescribes the relativist experience.

    Bernard

    Bernard

    Like

  20. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “Yes, I am entirely happy with the idea that some people feel more constrained in their moral choices than others.”

    Then what was the problem? Wow. Slight correction: It is not simply that they “feel” that way. It is that in their view, reality is such that the constraint is objective and exists. And the relativist agrees with them—that if such is what the objectivist believes—he is indeed constrained or has less power or freedom, the relativist would tell us.

    “I would be happy to agree that: Fundamentalists have less power when it comes to moral discernment.”

    At this point in the conversation, it has nothing to do with fundamentalism. It has to do with a standard objectivist and an MMR relativist. And only the objectivist has less power here or freedom to choose (he believes). The MMR relativist is unconstrained in any metaphysical fashion—he is only constrained by the freedom and power of others.

    “Two things to note. This person is not nihilist in any classical sense. You have them describing morality as a subjective thing, which they name by choice, rather than something that does not exist at all.”

    No, I do not. It is given that an MMR relativist does not believe that morality is simply subjective. If you stick with my relativist (MMR) you will not keep making these mistakes. You are confusing yourself.

    “When your representative says every relative has the freedom to choose what they will call moral, they are denying the existence of the moral instinct, which takes away, or at least constrains, this choice.”

    Not so. Our relativist simply believes we have instincts for survival or instincts in general. Whether we decide to call any of them “moral” is up to us, again, we have this power or freedom. He believes instincts are amoral just as nature is too.

    “Now, it is incorrect to describe relativists as not believing in moral instincts.”

    It isn’t if you keep in mind the type relativist we are addressing.

    According to the literature, I miss-describe nothing. Clearly you are not going to accept my view of the relativist—you want to talk about some other. Well, I don’t. You are free to do that on your own blog. If you want to talk about my relativist, the one the literature talks about, then please do. If not, move on.

    (Continued)

    Like

  21. Darrell says:

    (Continued)

    Bernard and JP,

    Since nothing I’m saying is taken as accepted or without objection, perhaps I should just note what is written in the literature to try and get to the point of even talking about something here (Imagine that!). I maintain that the MMR relativist and objectivist do not agree, have differences of belief, and therefore arrive at different conclusions regarding what morality “is” metaphysically. I am trying to talk about those differences and the possible ramifications of those differences (you do believe there are different ramifications don’t you? Or do you believe that whether an agnostic or Christian, it doesn’t matter what each believes, the ramifications are the same as to how each thinks about morality?) I’m guessing not. So, from our Stanford link:

    “Metaethical moral relativist positions are typically contrasted with moral objectivism. 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…”

    The above is the view of our objectivist in the bar (and every objectivist I’ve noted a hundred different ways, our two men looking for treasure and so on). And here below is the view of his relativist friend (the same relativist I’ve noted a hundred different ways, the one who believes the two men are fighting over something that doesn’t exist) in the bar:

    “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).”

    So, our objectivist’s friend is a moral skeptic, an anti-realist, a nihilist, as noted above.

    Now, the MMR type is “often distinguished from all of these views [the moral skeptic, anti-realist, nihilist]: Instead of denying truth-value or justification, it affirms relative forms of these [I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS TYPE OF RELATIVIST]. However, [NOTE THIS BIG HOWEVER- JP] metaethical moral relativist views are sometimes regarded as connected with positions [THE ONES NOTED ABOVE] that say moral judgments lack truth-value, since the relativist views contend that moral judgments lack truth-value in an absolute or universal sense.”

    So, our objectivist’s friend in the bar is this type relativist, the MMR type connected to the positions just noted, that of the skeptic, the anti-realist, and the nihilist (the same I have noted all along—nothing has changed).

    (Continued)

    Like

  22. Darrell says:

    (Continued)

    Now, inherent in this difference (which every serious person agrees exists, so JP I don’t know how in the world you can be unsure it does?!) is a power or ability to name, which the relativist has that is not open to the objectivist. If moral judgments lack truth-value, then I have a freedom to name my judgements as “true” for me. If the statement, “stealing is wrong” lacks truth-value, then I have a freedom to judge if stealing is moral or not. Such is a freedom or power an objectivist who believes a statement “stealing is wrong” to have truth-value, for everyone, does not have. This is obvious. Who even disputes this? This is accepted and agreed upon by both relativists and objectivists. I have stated nothing new or controversial here. This was all a preamble to discuss this difference in the context of justifying violence and, further, what justice is. The fact you guys have spent this much time objecting to something so patently obvious is probably the greatest indicator of a person’s insecurity in their beliefs I have ever seen. This need to object to every single point, every piece of bark, every leaf, and forget the forest is almost comical.

    Bernard, you seemed to finally agree there was a difference here, a power or freedom the objectivist does not have (he believes) that the relativist does have (What I call a reduction to power).

    Do you want to talk about this difference or not?

    Like

  23. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “…If one is viewing a pile of bodies in front of the Nazi crematoriums and one is viewing the bodies of soldiers strewn about a battlefield, unless one introduces some metaphysical comment, all he can tell us is that people died in each case—we saw bodies. Is that not clear from all my previous answers? Why do you keep asking? Do you agree here that unless we introduce some metaphysical comment, all we can say is descriptive, that people died in each case?”

    And,

    You know I agree with the Times’ essayist—that is why I’ve referenced it many times and linked to it in the post. You've known that from the first. You guys want to talk about every relativist under the sun except the one noted in the essay, the literature, and the only one I am addressing. Why is that?

    Like

  24. Hi Darrell

    I note you do not wish to talk about the type of MMR contrasted with the nihilist in your source. Fair enough. Let's call the relativist you do not want to talk about a subjectivist, to keep a distinction, whereas your kind is the nihilist.

    So we have, broadly, these categories:
    Objectivist
    Subjectivist
    Nihilist

    Now, you think the nihilist faces no constraints when it come sot naming what is good. I argue two problems, even with this:
    Nihilists don't name anything good or bad.
    Nihilists are still constrained in their behavioural choices by their moral instincts (even if this is not what they would call them).

    Further, if we now contrast the objectivist with the nihilist, we are missing the whole other category of belief, that of the subjectivist, which your source would call the MMR, but you do not.

    “Bernard, you seemed to finally agree there was a difference here, a power or freedom the objectivist does not have (he believes) that the relativist does have (What I call a reduction to power).”

    No, sadly. I agree that the psychopath, unconstrained by pesky matters like social conditioning and empathy, has a great deal of choice in terms of moral behaviour. That is the only distinction I can find. It seems to me one can be an objectivist and a psychopath, so even here your distinction falls down.

    Bernard

    Like

  25. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “I note you do not wish to talk about the type of MMR contrasted with the nihilist in your source. Fair enough.”

    Gee, thanks for allowing me to talk about what I want to on my own blog. Right, I’m talking about this one:

    The MMR type is “often distinguished from all of these views [the moral skeptic, anti-realist, nihilist]: Instead of denying truth-value or justification, it affirms relative forms of these [I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS TYPE OF RELATIVIST]. However, [NOTE THIS BIG HOWEVER- JP] metaethical moral relativist views are sometimes regarded as connected with positions [moral skepticism, anti-realism, nihilism] that say moral judgments lack truth-value, since the relativist views contend that moral judgments lack truth-value in an absolute or universal sense.”

    “Bernard, you seemed to finally agree there was a difference here, a power or freedom the objectivist does not have (he believes) that the relativist does have (What I call a reduction to power).”-Darrell

    “No, sadly.”

    Fair enough. How interesting to note there is a difference but that one doesn’t want to talk about it.

    “I agree that the psychopath, unconstrained…”

    Where in the Stanford source did it say anything about psychopaths? Right, nowhere. Notice you can’t even bring yourself to designate these beliefs as the Stanford source does, but have to introduce an imagined designation. There are philosophers presently teaching, writing, and lecturing on a regular basis who claim to be just these types of relativists. They might not take too well to being called psychopaths. So, nope, the Stanford source simply addressed the MMR type, the same type I am as well. When one cannot even have a conversation about and use the types noted in the literature, it should give one pause.

    Anyway, if you ever want to address the difference, the ones clearly noted in the literature, let me know. Always interesting. Thanks for the engagement and cheers.

    PS. In the future, you could save us all a lot of time simply by noting up front you plan not to address the main point of the post, but want to talk about other things. I will then happily direct you back to your own blog where you can knock yourself out—write like crazy and it will save us all much time. Thanks.

    Like

  26. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    You are contradicting yourself:

    Here you say you're talking of the MMR relativist: the Stanford source simply addressed the MMR type, the same type I am as well.

    And here that you are not: The MMR type is “often distinguished from all of these views [the moral skeptic, anti-realist, nihilist]: Instead of denying truth-value or justification, it affirms relative forms of these [I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS TYPE OF RELATIVIST]

    The MMR relativist is definitely not a nihilist.

    Like

  27. Hi Darrell

    Because your particular relativist bears no relation to that described in your source, I'm looking for a way to create designations that work for you and your argument.

    I absolutely can see differences between all sorts of categories, and would like to talk about them. But, we need to clarify what you're saying.

    We now seem to have:

    Nihilists (your group)
    Subjectivists
    Objectivists

    Nihilists have a difference with respect to power to choose that others do not have, namely they have no power to call anything good, because they don't believe the term is meaningful.

    You have your nihilist say:

    “I think each person who is a relativist(nihilist) has the freedom and power not to simply accept whatever moral framework was hoisted upon them from family, culture, and education but to actually choose what they will call “moral” and “just”.

    This suggest the nihilist has the power to override their moral instincts (I understand they wouldn't call them moral, but I speak here of empathy, social conditioning etc). Now, some people can more easily turn off these instincts than others, but can we be sure this is m ore true of the nihilist. Does the intellectual belief that there is no good (either subjective or objective) make it easier to turn off one's love for one's child? I doubt that. Not sure how one would establish it, but it's an empirical claim for which evidence is needed. It is observable that people do tend to conform to their society's behavioural norms, suggesting behavioural instincts are very strong indeed)

    There is also a difficult question your nihilist faces, which is what does it mean to deny the existence of subjective good? It seems impossible to deny the existence of subjective taste in movies, for example. It would make no sense to be an aesthetic nihilist. Does the rejection of subjective morality make any more sense? I don't think it does, so I'm not sure your nihilist can exist, in practice.

    Bernard

    Like

  28. Darrell says:

    JP,

    You need to read it again. No contradiction as long as you read the whole thing.

    “…metaethical moral relativist [MMR] views are sometimes regarded as connected with positions [moral skepticism, anti-realism, nihilism] that say moral judgments lack truth-value, since the relativist views contend that moral judgments lack truth-value in an absolute or universal sense.”

    So, I am connecting them just as it is “sometimes” done for the very logical reason noted.

    Moot at this point. Thanks for addressing my questions too.

    Like

  29. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “Because your particular relativist bears no relation to that described in your source…”

    Of course it does—totally related. Lacking truth-value is exactly what is described in the relativist I present( and have been presenting). If such doesn’t exist, then we have the power and freedom to “give” it “truth” value for us—each person does. No one disputes this. But since you plan on not even addressing this difference (the objectivist does not have this power or freedom), a difference everyone recognizes and isn't even disputed, this is moot and a waste of time.

    Cheers. Please don’t make me bid you “cheers” again. Move on if you are not going to address the difference I describe as noted in the Stanford source and all others. If all you have is calling people you don’t understand “psychopaths” you need to move on.

    Like

  30. Hi Darrell

    ” If such doesn’t exist, then we have the power and freedom to “give” it “truth” value for us—each person does. No one disputes this.

    I dispute this. It is a very muddled concept you are attempting to present here.

    If no truth value exists, but we believe it does and believe we know what it is, we have no choice.

    If no truth value exists, but our moral instincts are compelling, even though we believe i no objective moral truth, we have no freedom.

    Two counter examples is surely adequate.

    Bernard

    Like

  31. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    The contradiction is between your own statements, one in which you say that you are not talking of MMR relativists and others in which you say you are. But this may not be important, it may just be you wrote this particular statement too quickly.

    What is important however is the distinction between MMR and nihilism, which you appear to deny.

    Your source mentions nihilism only once and this is to explicitly say that MMR is different: Instead of denying truth-value or justification [nihilism], it affirms relative forms of these.

    The other sentence you quote simply states that MMR is sometimes connected to these other models, in the sense that all contend that moral judgments lack truth-value in an absolute or universal sense. Yes, they sure do – but that doesn't make them identical. MMR accepts relative truth-values while nihilism denies them. That MMR accepts them is clearly stated in the definition given in the Stanford source.

    The text from Wikipedia I quoted previously explains the differences very clearly:

    Moral nihilism is distinct from moral relativism, which does allow for actions to be right or wrong relative to a particular culture or individual, and moral universalism, which holds actions to be right or wrong in the same way for everyone everywhere.

    Like

  32. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “If such doesn’t exist, then we have the power and freedom to “give” it “truth” value for us—each person does. No one disputes this.”-Darrell

    “I dispute this. It is a very muddled concept you are attempting to present here.”

    Well, no one else does. I guess you are the only one. I present nothing more than the conventional and accepted understanding of these obvious differences. It isn’t muddled if we simply follow the Stanford source and every other one out there. I am simply calling this difference a reduction to power. Call it what you like, but it exists. But, since you refuse to even do that, it is rather moot. There is nothing to discuss then.

    If you ever want to address these differences, let me know. I plan one more post in this series. However, please do not plan to participate unless you are willing to address the differences upfront. I will not respond to any comment that doesn’t at the very least do that.

    Cheers.

    Like

  33. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “The contradiction is between your own statements, one in which you say that you are not talking of MMR relativists…”

    I’ve made it clear from day one which type I was addressing, the MMR type. I’ve further clarified it my noting the New York Times essay.

    “The other sentence you quote simply states that MMR is sometimes connected to these other models, in the sense that all contend that moral judgments lack truth-value in an absolute or universal sense. Yes, they sure do – but that doesn't make them identical.”

    If you want to quibble over “connected” and “identical” you go right ahead. Since you know what type I am speaking of, this is moot and missing the forest for the trees.

    And again, thanks for addressing all my questions and points (the differences between deaths).

    Like

Comments are closed.