Well... ultimately, where is all this debating getting us? I don't think we can be accused of changing any policies with all these posts going back and forth. It doesn't ever really seem like any of us are changing our minds about anything we discuss here. So if anything I choose to post here is ever really taken seriously, and succeeds in altering anyone's views on ANYTHING I would be truly, truly surprised.
But I'll make an attempt...
OK... Here goes then. I'll try to remember everything I typed out the other night... plus now I have a few other new things to address at the same time. (I'm doing this all offline this time, however.
(My gut feeling is that I won't be able to address everything tonight, since I'm such a slow typist, so I may have to break it up into multiple parts and finish tomorrow.)
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
So anything is acceptable according to you, as long as you don't do it yourself. You'd let people murder others, even though you think it's a sin. The only thing that matters is what they believe is the truth. If they thought they were doing good by killing innocents, well, good for them! We should encourage that behavior, yes?No, I think you're wrong. Moral relativism is absolutely useless making objective value judgments, and it shows in your apathy. If it's wrong for you, why is it not wrong for other people under the same physical circumstances? Opinion? Then you accept that, if someone believes something is morally right, then it is right, regardless of any other consideration. For instance, would you stand by and do nothing if a robber violently mugged a woman right next to you, provided the robber thought he was doing the right thing - the right thing for himself? Keep in mind that the woman cannot defend herself, because that would be projecting her own subjective sense of right and wrong on the robber and that's just not acceptable behavior according to relativism.If you answered yes, then any opinion of yours is irrelevant because you would be unable to render judgment on anything. If you did interfere in any way, however, you are not practicing what you preach, and you're just pretending to be morally relative; perhaps to feel or come across as more tolerant. You can't pick both, however; they're mutually exclusive.
Meh... works for me.
There are many stances that if you ask a thousand people about their position, you will get pretty much the same answer a thousand times. The murder of a fully formed and aware human being is one of those subjects. Everybody will most likely give you the same position on it, in that they feel it is always wrong. Your mugging scenario will most likely garner the same response. These are things that have been ingrained in us since the very earliest days of civilization, and seem to be a universal ethical code that is practiced around the world, despite drastic differences in culture and religion.
But there are obviously some topics that there will cause debate over. The one we currently are having shows that not every human, even those born and raised in the nearly identical cultures and moral/ religious/ ethical backgrounds will share the same point of view on what equates to a moral judgment over it. The Terri Schiavo case is another potential case for review. So is assisted suicide. No two people you ask will have precisely the same position on any these subjects.
The fact that we can debate these issues is evidence enough for me that the world is nothing but a mottled shade of grey. Some darker spots, some lighter... but no pure white or black anywhere. And depending on your point of view, where you stand on the issue, what seems the darkest grey to another person can seem just off-white to you. The circumstances the debate is framed in is often the deciding factor.
I was also taught from a very young age to never judge the actions of another person since I can never see into their heart. Just because something I see someone doing seems wrong to me, how can I ever truly be sure of their motivations for doing it. The hypothetical situations I propose later in this post may give you some idea of the way I believe that 2 people can see the same situation from completely different perspectives. (By the way: If you believe my grey-scale philosophy on life is dishonest... well, all I can say is that it will take probably some 30-odd years of convincing me to turn that perspective around. Good luck with that
Does someone who commits what I call evil always do so with truly evil intentions? Or do some commit evil believing
they do good? Did Saul (later the Apostle Paul,) of the New Testament believe he was committing greats acts of evil by slaughtering the early Christians? Did the average Nazi foot soldier really think he was bringing horrific evil on the world? Did the 9/11 terrorists believe what they were doing was a truly evil act?
Or did their backgrounds. upbringings, and/ or conditioning lead them to believe that what they were doing was for the greater good? Could we be causing evil to others right now, believing we are doing what's best for the people of the world? How about in the past? How do the Japanese view our decisions to use the A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Could that be a case where we believe we were truly doing good where those on the receiving end see the act as evil?
So... I personally feel abortion is wrong. If I ever found myself in a position that the subject of abortion came up as something that seriously needed to be considered in my life, I would do everything in my power in lobbying against it. BUT THAT'S JUST ME. I cannot force you to think differently if you don't, and I would never try. If the female I found myself in this situation with determined that abortion was the better choice for her at that point in her life, and she didn't carry the same moral objection that I have about it with her, how do you propose that I force her to see it my way? It's her body and future as well. She would have to face far more circumstances out of the situation than I would ever have to go through.
But then: If all morality was truly absolute, she could see it no other way... right? Obviously there would be no discussion. But that's clearly not the case in real life. She might have been raised differently from me. Just because she disagrees, is her point of view always totally invalid? I cannot see how it is... even if the law of the land states otherwise. I am not her, and I can never see the world from exactly her viewpoint. I could never understand fully the motivations that might drive her to that painful and difficult decision. Could I? Could you?
At that point, then all I could hope for that the procedure was as safe for her as possible. (That is, if I truly cared for her in any way.)
Outlawing abortion is from my point of view, trying to use the government to legislate personal morality. If not everybody sees it the same way as I do, can I pass a law to force them into compliance? Does that really change their mind on the matter, or does it just force them to be more cautious about expressing their opinions, and taking their outlawed behavior underground? Can a law passed by the state ever truly change hearts and minds?
There are a great many issues that I feel very strongly about, that I would love to see disappear of the face of the earth forever. However, I am either far too much of a realist or have far too strong a libertarian streak in me to believe that legislating these things out of existence in our country will ever make people change their behavior. All it will is cause many otherwise law abiding folks to suddenly be forced to go underground. And I personally don't believe these would be useful or productive things for our government and law enforcement to be spending their time and resources on. For example:
I despise guns. I personally will never own one. I would love to see them all go away forever. But I am totally against over-restrictive gun control laws. I honestly don't think they work. The old NRA saying about "only outlaws having guns..." is trite, but for the most part accurate. There is a huge culture in this country that will fight any attempt to take their guns away from them, or even attempt to limit their access to them from this point on. My dad happens to be an avid gun collector... and I don't think he's a bad person for it. But I know enough about him that he would not take it kindly if a bunch of government agents show up at his door demanding he hand over all the guns in his collection that were outlawed in a recent ban. Even if all the guns were outlawed from conscientious, lawful folks... the bad guys will still manage to get them. And if even they couldn't, then they'd just have to find other ways to kill each other. OJ 'allegedly' did what he did with a knife... and that was pretty effective.
So there's an example of something I'm morally opposed to, that I don't think the government should get into the business of regulating out of all existence.
Also: I don't smoke. I think it's a filthy habit. Does that mean that I want to see the law make it illegal? Nope. Just because I don't like it, does that mean that nobody else should have the option of choosing that for themselves? I would hope that education would steer them away from making that choice... but if they really want to kill themselves slowly by inhaling poisons everyday... then that should be up to them.
I don't drink. My family has a serious history of alcoholism, and addictive personalities. Both of my parents, 3 of my grandparents, I don't know how many of my great grandparents, and 2 of my 3 siblings have, or have had serious problems with alcohol. Several of my relatives have dies as a direct cause of alcohol (drinking themselves to death,) and many more have died as a result of indirect causes (accidents, diseases caused by the drinking.) I know that many people don't have a problem with it, but personally, if you ask me, alcohol is one of the biggest evils on the planet. I would love to see the day when it wasn't made anymore. But I'm too much a realist to know that will never happen. It's been tried, with predictable results: The law-abiding folks that didn't have a drinking problem were punished; the folks that really wanted to drink had no problems obtaining it; a whole seedy underclass of violent folks got very, very wealthy on providing it; and many folks who might never wish to use it when it was legal and available, were drawn to it by the very 'forbidden' aspect about it. (Same thing goes for marijuana. Everybody who really wants it, can already get it.) Just because I hate it, does that mean that nobody else should ever have access to it... even if they end up killing themselves, or other while using it?
You mentioned several times murder as something that we can all agree is bad. How exactly do you define murder? How about 'the deliberate killing another human being in any circumstance other than self defense'? That's pretty much how I define it. So, if an American soldier in Iraq kills an innocent civilian in the course of following orders, someone who never had any violent intentions towards America, or even the soldiers over there, is that murder? Well, since the soldier is following orders, we don't normally consider that murder, except under special circumstances. But it is the killing of someone who never meant the soldier, or any of us any harm. So if the soldier isn't guilty of murder, who is? The ones who gave the order? The government that put them over there in the first place? The American public, who in who's name the killing is taking place? Me? Am I guilty of the sin of murder? Are you? Or is it possible that some killings are NOT
murder? We have made that exception in war from the very beginning of recorded history. Is that a moral black or white?
Are there some circumstances where you can kill, in passion, or even in cold blood, that might not be a murder? That question brings me to your hypothetical mugging. I also have a few of my own, if you don't mind:
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
... would you stand by and do nothing if a robber violently mugged a woman right next to you, provided the robber thought he was doing the right thing - the right thing for himself? Keep in mind that the woman cannot defend herself, because that would be projecting her own subjective sense of right and wrong on the robber and that's just not acceptable behavior according to relativism.If you answered yes, then any opinion of yours is irrelevant because you would be unable to render judgment on anything. If you did interfere in any way, however, you are not practicing what you preach, and you're just pretending to be morally relative; perhaps to feel or come across as more tolerant. You can't pick both, however; they're mutually exclusive.
I don't know how I would react in that situation. I've thankfully never been placed in that situation. I like to think I'd be the hero, and try to defend the woman. Do I think that's a violation of my relativistic stance? No, not really. Standing idly by while someone is injured really has nothing to do with whether I believe the mugger might have valid motives that I can see. Even if he believes he has perfectly valid motives himself (I'll get to those possibly be in a moment...) I couldn't defend his actions. There's no reason for violence in most circumstances. I also cannot know his personal motivations in that moment: whether they are simple greed or laziness, or feeding an addiction; or if he has been forced down another road that he never intended to take, and this is the only way he sees to make it. More than 999 times out 1000 it's probably a bad motivation driving him, and that's something I'm sure I couldn't be brought to defend.
There's also the possibility that I will react in fear for myself. A selfish reaction, perhaps, but one that's perfectly in keeping with the ancient ingrained survival instinct. It's not something that I would be particularly proud of, but if he was particularly aggressive, or was brandishing a deadly weapon in an aggressive manner... Or maybe the thought would cross my mind: Would I find it to be better to take off and try to find appropriate help, or better to be brave but foolish and take him on and wind up seriously injured or dead for my efforts... with the woman still harmed and mugged anyway? I simply don't know. I cannot answer that in the comfortable circumstances I currently find myself in. From an outside view though, my motives for running could be brought into question. Everything ALWAYS depends on the circumstances of the situation.
But let's try a hypothetical situation or two from the other side now. Some of these are pretty far fetched, but please stick with me. (And I warned you that this would get pretty far afield of the abortion topic. Personally I think this could use it's own thread.)
Let's say this time YOU are the mugger.
Somehow, for whatever reason, you have fallen afoul of a gangster. You owe him money. He wants it by this afternoon. You don't have it. If you don't produce it, he will kill your wife and child that he has in his custody. He will kill them immediately if you dare to go to the authorities. You are thinking things over and seeing no way to get the money you need to save them when an obviously wealthy woman walks by alone. You could probably mug her quickly, and get away without being seen, and get the money to the gangster, and start your life over again. You don't wish to break the law, but your loved ones will die if you don't. What do you do? Is committing a violent crime justified by getting out of the circumstances you find yourself in?
Same situation, except that your wife and/or child (or for the ultimate in pathos: your pregnant wife) is very ill. There's a good chance she/ they might not make it through the night if you don't get them the medicine needed. You are far too poor to afford it, and you have tried every legal avenue that you could think of to obtain it. In desperation do you decide to wait for them to die, seeing as that must be God's will? Or perhaps you could mug someone for the money to buy it? Or do you just rob the pharmacist directly to get the medicine? What if the pharmacist or muggee puts up a fight? Do you resort to violence to overpower them to save your loved ones? What if you are forced into a situation where you would need to kill to get away to get the meds back to your family? Would you just then give up and allow yourself to be sent to jail, (with the knowledge that your family will be dead before you can get out) or do you resort to murder of a stranger to save those you love? Knowing that witnesses have seen you, and that there is little chance that you won't go to jail at this point, what would you do to get back to your family in the brief time you have before you get caught? Is it more moral to fail in your duty as a husband/ father and let your family die by your inaction if you have the ability to save them... or is it more moral to break the law, and even your own personal moral code in an attempt to do anything you can to give them more life?
Here's another one: Would you commit one cold-blooded murder to save millions of people from the same fate? Say you have a friend who invents the first machine that can send you anywhere in the world, back in time. The time window is only open for a few minutes at a time, and where and when it sends you is largely unpredictable. You volunteer to go through, but your friend, always the cautious one, hands you a gun as a weapon, just in case you find yourself in a hostile situation. Your first trip through you find yourself in the Germany of the late 20's, early 30's. You are facing a man who is clearly Adolf Hitler, just before his rise to power. You are alone with him. Nobody could see the 2 of you. You could, in this one moment, stop all the horrors of World War 2 in one fell swoop. (Please don't bring up all the time paradoxes/ changing the future stuff... this is a morality question, not a physics one.) You don't have time or the means to talk to him to try to change his path... or the means to start a non-violent movement to defeat Nazism before it starts. The only realistic choice you have is to kill him to stop him and save the lives of millions in the future. Would you do it? Could you do it? What if instead of an adult Hitler, you are faced with an adolescent? An infant? His mother, currently pregnant with him?
How do you feel about torture? Like most people do, I suspect. Take the situation that has bantered about quite a lot lately: Could you torture someone guilty of planting a nuke and planning on destroying a city in the next couple of hours for information if you thought it could save several millions? How about one million? One hundred? What if it were only one person (your pregnant wife again? Being held under threat of execution in the next couple of hours.) What if the person that you had in your custody wasn't one who was guilty... but a relative of the one who abducted and currently holding your wife who refuses to talk out of fear of reprisal. Someone who knows where she is, but won't talk. Could you torture someone in that situation if you believed you had a good chance of finding your loved one(s) before it was too late?
I could do morality hypotheticals all day. But since none of us will ever face exactly those situations, can we ever really come up with meaningful answers?
The discussion of "Absolute Morality" truly disturbs me. I don't think any 2 humans can ever decide of what is "Absolute." If they do, it tends to degenerate into extremist thought patterns. The Sharia Law practicing Islamic regimes of the mid-east tend to frame things in absolutes. I fear the using the powers of our government to enforce what you, or anyone, consider "Absolute" morality could lead us down paths no American would ever wish to travel. And how could their morality be so "Absolute" when it disagrees with ours so,.. well... absolutely?
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
I will tell you right now that I have not performed any of those acts and I intend not to. I will not blame my actions on something I cannot control because it's convenient. I can control myself, and I expect others to do the same with themselves.
Do you truly believe that you are incapable of committing acts such as these under the right circumstances? I am not so certain that I am. That potential clearly exists in each and every one of us, and this is proven every day by even the most casual perusal of the paper and TV news.
If you can convince me that you are totally in control of all of your emotional reactions all the time, then I will admit that you are truly a far more advanced and evolved human than I.
I have much, much more to say on these subjects, but I'm out of time for tonight. Like I said: I'll have to break it up and cover all the things I wish to talk about in more than one post.
I hope this posts...