[ExI] The mosque at Ground Zero.

Jebadiah Moore jebdm at jebdm.net
Tue Aug 17 05:11:34 UTC 2010

2010/8/16 samantha <sjatkins at mac.com>

>  John Clark wrote:
>  On Aug 14, 2010, at 2:12 PM, Jebadiah Moore wrote:
> There is a form of relativism that doesn't posit that relativism itself is
> objectively good,
>   Relativism - relative to what exactly?  What objective facts are used to
> judge the relative merits of one course of action as opposed to another in a
> particular situation?

"Morality" seems to mean not only judging the value of a course of action,
but the "goodness", which seems to be some sort of evolved mechanism
designed to make us cooperate.

And in my formulation thereof (and most others), the judgement is made
relative to your background, so that people vary in their judgements, but
none of the judgments are "correct", because they are statements of value.

>  Then forget about good or bad, is relativism objectively true?
>  only that objectivity doesn't exist.
> That is as an objective a claim as I have seen.

Again, I apologize for not-being sufficiently clear; I only meant that
moral objectivity (a.k.a, moral absolutism, a.k.a the belief that acts are
objectively and absolutely right or wrong) doesn't exist if some sort of
supernatural something doesn't exist (because otherwise there is no source
of judgment, and because physical laws don't exist at the level of humans,
and because if there was a physical law it'd have to manifest itself in some
observable way).

Similarly, "good" and "bad" are super-generalized terms of value, with
> "good" and "bad" usually being relative to some value of "normal" and with
> "better" and "worse" being used comparatively. [...]
>   Really?  What is your definition of "value" then?  On what basis do you
> determine what is "better" or "worse"?

I'm not going to go into detail with my own personal value system, since it
is detailed and boring and I don't explicitly know most of it ;)

But "value" is different from "moral".  Values are quite general; you
"value" anything which you have a preference for, be it sex or chocolate
pudding.  They are determined by genetic and social evolution, but they are
arbitrary in the sense that your particular set of values very well could be
completely different from what they actually are, and they'd still be

Morals are a specific type of values, which (as I mentioned above) seem to
be mainly oriented toward making our monkey brains work together instead of
killing each other.

"This ice cream is good because it is vanilla" is a value judgment; "this
person is bad because he killed my mom" is a moral judgment AND a value
judgment (since a moral judgment IS A type of value judgment).

> Value is judged according to some standard; there isn't a universal
> standard of value, obviously, because different entities have different
> values due to their different goals, positions, and domains of interaction.
>  I am not concerned with universal.  I am concerned with rational ethical
> standards in the realm of human beings first and foremost.   So you are
> saying their are no commonalities based on the nature of human beings to
> root values in?

Of course there are commonalities.  But not as many as people seem to think,
particularly when it comes to edge cases.  "Ethical dilemmas" are
enlightening in this department.

I do have hope that someone will design an ethical standard optimized in a
sort of utilitarian way, so as to please the most people.  This would at
least be interesting.  Though I am afraid of this, since a claim to
"optimization" might spurn acceptance, and since a lot of people seem to
think that atheists/agnostics are evil.

The problem is, that because there isn't a universal ethical standard, and
because there are many different standards held by many different
people/groups which are often conflicting, any particular standard is going
to be either incomplete or will judge some things to be bad that many think
are not and visa versa.  If it's incomplete, it will be rather like our
common law (though of course you could probably improve it).  If it's
complete, then there are Big Problems, since there's no good way to decide
which people to favor.  Even utilitarianism doesn't cut it for me at least,
since (for instance) it'd be rather probable for something like atheism to
be considered evil.  And I'd be willing to bet if you actually made a
utilitarian judgment, almost everyone would disagree with the system you
came up with in some way, and people don't like to follow systems they
disagree with even if they agree with a lot of it.

False.  In the context of beings with an objective set of characteristics
> there is an objective basis for what is the "good" regarding the behavior of
> those beings toward one another.

Simple counterexample: the prisoner's dilemma.  And that's with both parties
sharing an objective value system.

And, like I think I pretty clearly explained, people seem to have lots of
conflicting points of view on what is good and evil (as well as good and bad
in general).  If there isn't an outside universal, and half the people
believe thing A is good but B is evil, and half the people believe thing B
is good but A is evil, and you can only have A or B... what's the objective

Instead of merely asserting your thesis, argue it out.  Or point out a flaw
in the opposite argument (in this case, mine).

Jebadiah Moore
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