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A counterblast to moral relativism
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Apr 3, 2013, 10:35 AM
 
The notion that because some moral precepts are culturally relative all moral precepts are meaningless is frequently encountered. Its typical promulgator is usually still at a subcritical point in his reading: He has read only enough books to have become confident and not enough to have become cautious [1 A footnote, if you please] Sometimes he denies morality with regret. At other times he professes his ethical nihilism with a sort of morbid glee.

“What about murdering a child?” you may ask in desperation. But no dice. He will inform you that the Kakapau people of Micronesia are obligated by their religion to sacrifice every child born after midnight during the Year of the Goat—and what right do you have to impose your enculturated moral objection to infanticide upon that ancient custom?

Most forms of ethical nihilism rest on the false assumption that demonstrating the relative applicability of a moral precept is tantamount to demonstrating its ultimate invalidity. It is easier to feel that this must be fallacious than to point out where the fallacy lies but I find it helpful to draw an analogy to science.

The laws of motion and the inverse square law of gravity formulated by Isaac Newton are (to paraphrase Sagan) among the crowning achievements of the human species. But when applied to objects travelling at or near the speed of light, they simply do not give the correct answer. In these instances scientists invoke the general and special theories of relativity formulated by Einstein—but these theories in turn are an inadequate description of the universe at the quantum level.

Sagan’s purpose is to show that the developmental trajectory of science is an asymptote that forever approaches and never reaches a final Truth. But each set of laws is still a description of reality that is completely true and valid within its particular frame of reference. Using Newtonian equations, for example, scientists are able to predict a solar eclipse to the minute a millennium in advance. These facts raise an insurmountable problem for the moral relativist. He must either declare that the laws of physics, because they cannot be universally applied, are invalid (which is absurd) or else admit that his assumption, Precepts of only relative validity are ultimately invalid is itself only relatively valid and therefore self-negating.

The consequence of true moral relativism would be a repugnant apathy to every possible atrocity. But its most salient attribute is its extravagant stupidity and anyone who finds themselves in the position of having to defend an objection to killing children is either responding with naive sincerity to a disingenuous provocation or else indulging an fool.

I wonder what the Political Lounge thinks.

[1] The promised footnote: A professor of medieval history once confessed to Ernest Becker that the more he learned about the period the less he was prepared to say: The subject was so complex that no general statement could safely be made about it. This recalls Darwin’s observation that, “ignorance more often begets confidence than does knowledge.”
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 12:46 PM
 
Re: your footnote.

I never really understood "get medieval", until I took a dip into the religious philosophy of the day.
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 01:31 PM
 
This is what I say: everyone is a moral relativist. People who claim otherwise are lying to themselves.

Politically, people who moan most about "moral relativism" are the most likely to advocate vociferously for it. Everyone who accepts that police should be allowed to lie to suspects in order to trigger a confession is a moral relativist. Everyone who accepts that collateral damage is an acceptable cost of war is a moral relativist. Everyone who defends the right to kill in self-defence is a moral relativist.
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 03:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by lpkmckenna View Post
This is what I say: everyone is a moral relativist. People who claim otherwise are lying to themselves.
Yeah man. Everyone SUCKS. Especially catholics.

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Apr 3, 2013, 03:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by pooka View Post
Yeah man. Everyone SUCKS. Especially catholics.
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Apr 3, 2013, 03:56 PM
 
Originally Posted by Snow-i View Post
Death to whitey!
Typical White american male, thinks everyone = whitey.

yes that's a joke
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 03:57 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Typical White american male, thinks everyone = whitey.

yes that's a joke
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Apr 3, 2013, 05:11 PM
 
Gosh, I guess my comment has russled a few jimmies.
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 05:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by lpkmckenna View Post
Gosh, I guess my comment has russled a few jimmies.

I just wanted to post that
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 08:41 PM
 
Right, but a moral relativist is not simply someone whose morals are inconsistent or who uses rationalisations to demonstrate the morality or the immorality of the same act to suit his or her purposes.

That is simply a human being.

A true moral relativist is an ethical nihilist who says, "Human morality is relative. We just sort of make it up. Therefore there are no universal moral truths, no right or wrong."

In the words of Hassan-i Sabbah: "Nothing is true; everything is permitted."

I have a moral and philosophical beef with that view.
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 09:17 PM
 
A "true moral relativist" is like a True Scotsman. I've never met either, and I doubt you have either.

I think of myself as a moral relativist, but I wouldn't characterize my morals as "inconsistent" or who someone who "uses rationalizations to suit his purposes."

I don't think killing or lying is inherently wrong, but that the reason we might lie or kill is more important than the act itself.
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 09:42 PM
 
Actually, I met someone who professed ethical nihilism as a result of a relativistic view of morality.

He was sitting at a bar and we struck up a conversation.

Somehow we got onto morality.

He had a shaved head and was covered in tattoos but was unexpectedly well spoken.

Turns out he was pretty well-educated, with a degree in history, and very well-read.

But before long he began to annoy me intensely, which is the reason for this post.

At the time I hadn't organised my thoughts on the subject and wasn't able to make a very strong objection.

To test the limits of his nihilism, I asked him if, in his view, killing a child was no worse than squashing a mosquito.

He said something to the effect that there was no way to prove that one act was worse than the other without resorting to relative (and therefore invalid) moral precepts; in short, yes.

As a father, I found the smirk accompanying this statement especially repugnant.

But I kept my cool and took a utilitarian approach: The immorality of an act is proportional to the amount of suffering it causes. A human child has a far more sophisticated nervous system than a mosquito and therefore a greater capacity for pain. In a like case, the potential for life experience denied the child as a result of its murder is richer and more valuable than that of a mosquito. Therefore it is worse to murder a child.

His reply: "How do you know that a mosquito suffers less than a child?"

At this point I gave a hearty laugh and raised my glass.

"To ethical nihilism," I said. And then went on my way.

As I stated above, I realised I was either about to respond to a waggish provocation with sincere and therefore ridiculous "moral indignation" or else I was talking to a fool.

In short, I agree that I probably haven't met a true ethical nihilist. But I have met at least two other people spouting the same nonsense as the guy I just described.
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 11:00 PM
 
So you were both drinking, but you're sure that neither one of you was simply misinterpreting the other at any point?
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 11:07 PM
 
Well, I'd say a mosquito suffers less than a child, for starters.
     
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Apr 3, 2013, 11:33 PM
 
Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton View Post
So you were both drinking, but you're sure that neither one of you was simply misinterpreting the other at any point?
Quite sure.

I've met him a couple of times after that at the same bar.

The second time I introduced him to an acquaintance by saying, "This man an ethical nihilist! Ha ha!"

The man smiled and said, "It's true" and the three of us talked about it.

He held to his position despite fierce opposition from my acquaintance whose rebuttal consisted of saying, "You can't be serious!" over and over again.
     
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Apr 4, 2013, 05:21 AM
 
Originally Posted by Tiresias View Post
Right, but a moral relativist is not simply someone whose morals are inconsistent or who uses rationalisations to demonstrate the morality or the immorality of the same act to suit his or her purposes.

That is simply a human being.
I think that's a cop-out to be honest: I think moral relativists do have a good argument when they remark that people are acting in accordance with moral relativist principles whenever it suits them, and they just take this to the logical conclusion.
Originally Posted by Tiresias View Post
A true moral relativist is an ethical nihilist who says, "Human morality is relative. We just sort of make it up. Therefore there are no universal moral truths, no right or wrong." [...] I have a moral and philosophical beef with that view.
With which part, the first part that it is us who makes up what is and isn't moral or the conclusion that there are no universal moral truths?
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Apr 4, 2013, 02:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by Tiresias View Post
I asked him if, in his view, killing a child was no worse than squashing a mosquito.

He said that there was no way to prove that one act was worse than the other without resorting to relative (and therefore invalid) moral precepts; in short, yes.

The immorality of an act is proportional to the amount of suffering it causes. A human child has a far more sophisticated nervous system than a mosquito and therefore a greater capacity for pain.
So if I could find a way to kill a child so that it felt no pain could we remove this argument from the equation? I think if we killed a child at the speed of we do mosquitoes it would feel no pain.
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Apr 4, 2013, 08:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by Tiresias View Post
The consequence of true moral relativism would be a repugnant apathy to every possible atrocity.
this could be true
But its most salient attribute is its extravagant stupidity and anyone who finds themselves in the position of having to defend an objection to killing children is either responding with naive sincerity to a disingenuous provocation or else indulging an fool.

I wonder what the Political Lounge thinks.
I think this is kind of a copout as well. There are real life situations where one would have to defend this.
In a like case, the potential for life experience denied the child as a result of its murder is richer and more valuable than that of a mosquito. Therefore it is worse to murder a child.
youve slid the bar to an extreme to make your oponents logic look silly. Lets slide it back up a little. Using the same logic; replace the mosquito with a mentally handicapped adult, and then a mentally handicapped child.

Replace mosquito with one of the last 50 blue whales on the planet; or perhaps some other animal you like; and pretend you had to pick between the two.
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Apr 4, 2013, 11:09 PM
 
Abandon morality and embrace ethics.
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Apr 5, 2013, 09:24 AM
 
It is completely invalid to evaluate the behavior of people in the past in their own contemporary context without taking that context into account. The trap most self-styled moral relativists fall into is to extrapolate that historic behavior as acceptable in a modern context. By noting "they didn't know any better" or other stupid excuse, an historian gives the Spanish Inquisition a pass on morality, since the "auto de fe" was indeed NOT an act of faith at the top but an edict with motives more political than theological. They let the early North American colonists/invaders off with "that was how they thought then" instead of investigating the contemporary cognitive dissonance employed by those colonists/invaders to be able to live with themselves.

None of that was right, and the actors in those situations should have known better even in their own contexts. This is the real lesson of moral relativism; self delusion to support profit or power is everywhere in history, and we should learn from both these issues and how tenaciously those self deluders clung to their delusions...and why.

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Apr 5, 2013, 04:03 PM
 
Speaking of counterblasts to moral relativism....It's Friday. I'm definitely going to be counterblasting some moral relativisms tonight if you know what i mean.
     
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Apr 6, 2013, 05:44 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I think that's a cop-out to be honest: I think moral relativists do have a good argument when they remark that people are acting in accordance with moral relativist principles whenever it suits them, and they just take this to the logical conclusion.

With which part, the first part that it is us who makes up what is and isn't moral or the conclusion that there are no universal moral truths?
In my first post I used the example of the relative applicability of the laws of physics to establish that moral precepts, while relative, are still completely true and valid within their frame of reference.

I believe you have missed this nuance of my argument and billed me as, "The guy who pooh-poohs moral relativity."

In fact, my argument accepts, even corroborates, moral relativity while emphatically denying ethical nihilism is its inevitable conclusion.

I hope this answers your question.

Originally Posted by el chupacabra View Post
So if I could find a way to kill a child so that it felt no pain could we remove this argument from the equation? I think if we killed a child at the speed of we do mosquitoes it would feel no pain.
As I said, I used this example simply to test the limits of his nihilism. I did not claim it was a definitive rebuttal of the relativist position.
And of course it is not.

Originally Posted by el chupacabra View Post
I think this is kind of a copout as well. There are real life situations where one would have to defend this.
Agreed. An abortion to protect the life of the mother is the most obvious example.

But the context of my statement makes it clear that I am referring to dilettantish philosophical discussions in which one tries to deny the immorality of killing a child for no other reason than to assert their ethical nihilism.

Originally Posted by el chupacabra View Post
youve slid the bar to an extreme to make your oponents logic look silly. Lets slide it back up a little. Using the same logic; replace the mosquito with a mentally handicapped adult, and then a mentally handicapped child.

Replace mosquito with one of the last 50 blue whales on the planet; or perhaps some other animal you like; and pretend you had to pick between the two.
As I said just a moment ago, the importance of the mosquito in my counter argument is the same size as a mosquito.

But your question reminds me of the famous Trolley problem - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If you are asking me what I would do in a scenario in which one had a choice between saving the life of the last pod of blue whales and saving the life of a human child I do not know what my answer is.

But it has no bearing on the question of ethical nihilism unless you are asserting that, "Whichever decision you make has zero moral implications because morality is a meaningless construct of the human brain."

And I don't think you are saying that.

I started this thread to test a simple proposition:

Demonstrating the relative applicability of a moral precept is not tantamount to demonstrating its ultimate invalidity.

I am convinced of the truth of this statement.

How about you?
( Last edited by Tiresias; Apr 6, 2013 at 05:59 AM. )
     
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Apr 7, 2013, 10:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by Tiresias View Post
In my first post I used the example of the relative applicability of the laws of physics to establish that moral precepts, while relative, are still completely true and valid within their frame of reference.

I believe you have missed this nuance of my argument and billed me as, "The guy who pooh-poohs moral relativity."

In fact, my argument accepts, even corroborates, moral relativity while emphatically denying ethical nihilism is its inevitable conclusion.
No, I understand that, in fact, as a physicist, the argument in your OP resonates with me rather well. But I still think these counterarguments that you brought forth are relatively weak and can easily be turned into arguments for the opposite position, supporting nihilism.

I don't think it is merely helpful to expound your argument on morality in analogy to science, in my opinion, you can make it a science to find out which choices are more morally correct than others. (Listen to the talk by Sam Harris on fora.tv, for instance.)
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Apr 7, 2013, 11:56 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
But I still think these counterarguments that you brought forth are relatively weak and can easily be turned into arguments for the opposite position, supporting nihilism.
I disagree, of course.

But there are no counterarguments. I have only given one counterargument. And it is a starting point for a discussion about what a universal moral precept might be.

I agree with you that science will play a role in the definition. There are already some plausible arguments from evolutionary psychology and group selection theory, for example.

The discussion hasn't got that far, however, because no one accepted (or satisfactorily debunked) my starting premise.

I'd be interested in hearing an example. How can the premise,

Demonstrating the relative applicability of a moral precept is not tantamount to demonstrating its ultimate invalidity.


be turned around to support nihilism?
     
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Apr 8, 2013, 12:55 AM
 
Originally Posted by Tiresias View Post
But there are no counterarguments. I have only given one counterargument. And it is a starting point for a discussion about what a universal moral precept might be.
I did not say the arguments I've quoted are counterarguments of yours, I stated they're very weak arguments for your case and can easily be turned into counterarguments. Put succinctly, I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just saying that these arguments don't make a very good case in your favor.
Originally Posted by Tiresias View Post
How can the premise,
Demonstrating the relative applicability of a moral precept is not tantamount to demonstrating its ultimate invalidity.
be turned around to support nihilism?
You should go back to my original reply: I was quoting a particular argument you brought forth and all my comments up to now pertain to that, not your premise.


Regarding your premise, I don't quite understand how you want to demonstrate the validity or invalidity, absolute or relative, of a moral precept.
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Apr 8, 2013, 12:59 AM
 
Sorry for the long post. But instead of doing 20 back and forth posts I'll just say everything in 1 or 2.

Most forms of ethical nihilism rest on the false assumption that demonstrating the relative applicability of a moral precept is tantamount to demonstrating its ultimate invalidity. It is easier to feel that this must be fallacious than to point out where the fallacy lies but I find it helpful to draw an analogy to science.

The laws of motion and the inverse square law of gravity formulated by Isaac Newton are (to paraphrase Sagan) among the crowning achievements of the human species. But when applied to objects travelling at or near the speed of light, they do not give the correct answer. In these instances scientists invoke the general and special theories of relativity —but these theories in turn are an inadequate description of the universe at the quantum level.

Sagan’s purpose is to show that the developmental trajectory of science is an asymptote that forever approaches and never reaches a final Truth. But each set of laws is still a description of reality that is completely true and valid within its particular frame of reference. Using Newtonian equations, for example, scientists are able to predict a solar eclipse to the minute a millennium in advance. These facts raise an insurmountable problem for the moral relativist. He must either declare that the laws of physics, because they cannot be universally applied, are invalid (which is absurd) or else admit that his assumption, Precepts of only relative validity are ultimately invalid is itself only relatively valid and therefore self-negating.
Whether the developmental trajectory of science is to asymptoticly approach a final truth or whether there's one equation to rule them all or not has yet to be determined. You can't use theories to prove concepts. Sagan speaks of quantum physics, relativity, and Newtonian equations; but fails since situations in ALL frames of reference arguably morality itself can be explained with essentially these 3 undebatable math problems. Can we pigeon hole all frames of reference into roughly 3 moral precepts? Apples to bananas comparison the whole thing is; quantum mech isn't used within a frame of references anyway, the study of quantum particles is practicality in another universe since the particles move between dimensions we don't even know about yet... Thats beyond frames of reference.

And could we use those moral precepts to calculate or figure anything out? As if I measured a tree's height and branch length and said "OK 30 ft high, 6 ft branch length, therefore its a 5:1 ratio and here is the equation to calculate branch length and height on THIS tree; if someone said they came up with a different equation for a different tree I'd say “different tree = different frame of reference, my equation is valid withing its frame of reference”.

One fallacy lies in the fact that the logic is reversed in the comparison. Can moral precepts themselves be used to explain the applicability? Or as you stated, is applicability often used to explain the precepts? Physical precepts can be used to explain the applicability and sometimes, frame of reference. The laws of physics do not need applicability to explain them. I.E. We don't say, “Van der waals precepts exist because they provide many benefits such as allowing geckos to climb anything, and are essential for all life to exist since they cause H20 to stick to itself” (to associate such meaningfulness to laws of physics, ourselves or morals, is religion). Instead we say “Van der waals forces can be used to calculate how geckos climb walls”. You see the problem now? We never use moral precepts to calculate or predict anything (because there is no standard morals), instead we do calculations to explain why the moral precept exists.

Statement 1
Originally Posted by Tiresias View Post
In my first post I used the example of the relative applicability of the laws of physics to establish [that moral precepts, while relative, are still completely true and valid within their frame of reference.
Statement 2
In fact, my argument accepts, even corroborates, moral relativity while emphatically denying ethical nihilism is its inevitable conclusion.
Statement 1, and the bold part of statement 2 are mutually exclusive beliefs. So if someone believed statement 1 they cannot believe nihilism is its inevitable conclusion. You might think "of course". My point is you have covered yourself too well with statement 1 to allow much room for debate. You could replace the term "moral precepts" with just about anything and the statement can usually be at least somewhat true within a frame of reference. It's too obvious. What do we mean by frame of reference anyway? Within a species, culture, nation, colony, family, planet? Or within a situation/circumstance? It can be anything and each one is very open. For the sake of debate, I'll mostly talk about this trying to ignore the "within frame of reference" part and focus on whether or not there is a universal standard for moral precepts, because I believe universal supersedes frames of reference anyway.
As I said, I used this example simply to test the limits of his nihilism. I did not claim it was a definitive rebuttal of the relativist position.
And of course it is not.
I doubt he'd actually struggle with choosing the child over the mosquito. Maybe that's what you meant when you said you haven't met a true nihilist. Is a true nihilist someone who would struggle with the decision between saving a mosquito or child in real life?

But it has no bearing on the question of ethical nihilism unless you are asserting that, "Whichever decision you make has zero moral implications because morality is a meaningless construct of the human brain."
From a universal frame of reference (which supersedes all frames of reference) that's what I'm saying. If our lives are meaningless and have 0 implication morals must too. The fact is though, we are in a particular frame of reference of feeling pain, and we don't like that... so for practicality purposes to us there is moral implications... But of course no one would argue that right? This is all just for debate on the logic of morals. I do think though that you underestimate to the extent people will change their morals with the wind to unspeakable beliefs; and that's why this is important.

I started this thread to test a simple proposition:

Demonstrating the relative applicability of a moral precept is not tantamount to demonstrating its ultimate invalidity.
I am convinced of the truth of this statement.
How about you?
I don't think it demonstrates its invalidity or validity since what we call morals are just rules for actions to take based on how those actions make us feel. Makes majority of localized people feel good = right thing to do; Makes majority of localized people feel bad = wrong thing to do. It demonstrates its ultimate invalidity if I can demonstrate as relative applicability changes so does the moral precept that goes along with it. And this is sort of how I view the world. From my perspective as applicability changes people change to whatever makes them feel gooder... with absolutely no regrets about it. I.e if the majority within a tribe benefits greatly from eating/conquering another tribe then that's the right thing to do within the frame of reference of cannibalistic tribe. We say “thats horrible” but thats only because we haven't been starving for so many generations that cannibalism has become part of our culture.

If we truly wanted to look at morality objectively/logically, we would have to approach ourselves from outside our personal frame of reference like we do animals. No 2 species are the same, and yet we approach our study of them the same. When we study humans the rules change and our interpretation of environment, life and feelings is interpreted in a more meaningful sense. Which I don't have a problem with; it's just the logic can be inconsistent at times.

We don't say elephants band together to protect another's young out of some moral code. We only explain it in terms of applicability because that's all that matters.

You see a reef full of coral; some colonies are trying to kill each other with chemical warfare. We don't say "wow those corals are genocidal... those yellow coral are racist against grey coral they needs to be more tolerant... those coral are being greedy why cant they just stay in their space?... those coral eating up the other's babies are morally wrong..." We say "what a beautiful reef phenomena". We dont say; “Wow those coral have really great moral precepts to be able to get along and coordinate forming a colony like that....... so that they can gang up on and suppress other colonies.... like us humans do...

If aliens were observing us they would not necessarily associate our acts as moral or immoral; just what actions we did which led to higher replication rates; that would then be right to us only assuming survival which leads to procreation was the goal. But survival & procreation would be a frame of reference wouldn't it? And from a purely evolutionary point of view us humans would just be interpreted as natural phenomena with no goal or purpose; we simply exist and react like any other group of chemicals. An alien might look at us and see something as simple as a rock. He might say to his ship mates " Well... no life here, just some complex chemical reactions stomping around, fighting, eating, and pondering their own existence... so primitive... maybe in another billion years it will evolve to be life". The alien might find a cure to alien cancer in the malaria of a mosquito and decide to farm malaria mosquitoes on human children to harvest the compound. Their planet would be overjoyed that now millions of alien children would be saved and all they'd have to do is the morally just thing which is farm a bunch of chemical phenomena from earth. Those aliens would come back as heroes with badges of honor for their good deeds.

When we think of ourselves as just, natural phenomenon, like an animal or rock, and observe ourselves from a universal perspective looking into the fish bowl; there is no right or wrong; even for us... Because what we interpret as negative feelings from doing morally wrong deeds is just chemical reactions in our bodies; that only exist because they existed in the entity that replicated to form us and the entity before that; and if such reactions hadn't of existed we wouldn't exist today since those reactions all aid replication.

Along the path of evolution where and when do we draw the line and say that certain life started conducting moral actions?

I understand my whole argument is somewhat impractical. From our frame of reference we aren't aliens looking to farm us; we are human and have to do whats right for our comfort. But my point is if I could establish that it was ok for aliens or some other species to harvest us then why not us harvest us? If it aids in the survival and replication of our nation/tribe?

If you are asking me what I would do in a scenario in which one had a choice between saving the life of the last pod of blue whales and saving the life of a human child I do not know what my answer is.
I created several frames of reference to work in here; and yet it seems the moral precept is unclear. perhaps there aren't as many standard precepts within as many frames of reference as you might think (which can lead to some great problems within our society); Of which you already kinda addressed in your first line below...
The notion that because some moral precepts are culturally relative all moral precepts are meaningless is frequently encountered. Its typical promulgator is usually still at a subcritical point in his reading:
Because the meaning is just whatever meaning you assign to them based on comparing value to you; and I can take any precept and slide the bar back and forth to change what is morally correct action to whatever I want as well as fabricate any frame of reference I want that may be make believe. If you are saying there are some species wide morals, I agree; they would be natural instincts. We could establish that as a standard and then say they aren't meaningless, but it does require the 'within our species' frame of reference. Which as I said before really does protect your whole argument. I do believe that human species wide moral precepts aren't as prominent or hard coded as you might think. History has shown that protecting our young, close family, and close community/tribe members is about the extent of our moral precepts, and even in that frame of reference our morals can be swayed. We're willing to bend on just about anything else. Just like coral colonies; we're just and moral to other members of our colony; but only so we can have the efficiency and power to be unjust to our neighbor colony by fighting, ruling, exploiting, enslaving, or stealing from. We tell ourselves it's wrong on one hand while the sum of our actions supports such atrocities; the only reason we tell ourselves it's wrong is because we happen to have the ability to think about it, and we dont want it done to us.

Why did I write all this? Back to that practicality thing... It may not be practical to worry about aliens, rocks, or whether the average American couldn't decide if presented between saving a mosquito or child. But there is real world practicality in a brainwashing marketing sense. I honestly believe most people can be brainwashed into doing/believing anything no matter how awful simply by using change of frame of reference to change moral precept. Well.... maybe with the exception of harming people very, very, close to them... and their very immediate tribe; scratch that; after re-looking at your first example, I mean, harming a large number of people very very close to them in their immediate tribe. In other words people will do anything to a minority of other people or animals who dont have the power to avenge.
( Last edited by el chupacabra; Apr 8, 2013 at 01:28 AM. )
     
   
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