[ExI] punishment

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue Mar 31 06:50:47 UTC 2009

Samantha writes

 > [Lee wrote]
>> While we may say, objectively, that some societies are
>> more advanced than others technologically, it's difficult
>> to make the case that some are more advanced than others
>> morally.
> No it isn't.

Well, I *did* say "objectively" and "technically".  :-)

> The society makes most decisions based on secular 
> reasoning and politics versus according to some ancient book interpreted 
> by priestly caste is one first cut.    Individual rights are respected 
> and individuals are at least in principle treated equally by the law is 
> another.  I believe you can make a pretty fair argument that these 
> things grow out of a better morality.

I agree. But alas, what one can only mean without
committing the Naturalistic Fallacy and allowing
the is/ought barrier to be crossed, is that you
and I *approve* of some moralities more than others.
This is because values are not objective.

But let me say as strongly as possible *our modern
Western morality* is infinitely superior to that
of more primitive cultures (not excepting Muslim
dominated cultures). Do we torture children to
death so that the gods will bring rain, the way
that the Aztecs did? Do we use intimidation and
even the law to suppress "incorrect" opinion as
is done in Muslim governed nations?

(Okay---many Western European have made Holocaust
Denial a crime, but nobody is perfect. Climate
denial isn't a crime here yet, but you can be
ostracized by your friends and even have your
funding cut off, so maybe we aren't so far
"behind" the Western Europeans after all.)

> I don't believe for a second that it is all
 > relative when it comes to morality or cultures.
 > I think that is one of the most poisonous
 > notions there is.

Poisonous it may be, and I for one wish it were
otherwise. But, sadly, it's not. This should not,
however, make you or me or any person with good
taste step back even an inch from denouncing and
castigating these more "primitive" value systems
with all the gravity and intensity we can.

>> Of course, *we* embrace---and should embrace---
>> on this score that our values are preferable and "better",
>> but I don't think that these are really scientific claims.
> It is not a matter of science.  So what.  That does not mean it is 
> arbitrary.
>> That is, the Aztec practice of torturing small children to
>> death in order to make it rain can be criticized with 100%
>> objectivity on scientific grounds (it doesn't work),

Hey! That's my example originally. Isn't it?  :-)

Yes, we can criticize it on scientific grounds. But what
if it worked? That is, what if you could torture to death
a few thousand children and make it rain any time you
wanted, and the Aztecs (or we) found it effective. What

Of course---you and I would still shrilly and vociferously
denounce the practice, and so should anyone.


>> and can be seen as primitive and barbaric. Yet our vigorous,
>> unrelenting denunciations of the morality of their solution
>> ---denunciations which should be acerbic, tendentious, loud,
>> and near hysterical---should simply be seen for what they
>> are: our wishes to supplant their morality with ours.
>> Namely, us vs. them.
> Sorry.  You have been tooting this horn a long time and you are dead 
> wrong.  All efforts to debug this meme of yours have failed so I want 
> try again.

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