The Instigator
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Winning
17 Points
The Contender
tkubok
Con (against)
Losing
7 Points

Moral Relativism is an erroneous ethical theory.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/9/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,753 times Debate No: 9644
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (4)

 

TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this open debate. I find this to be an interesting topic (ethics in general is interesting; I refused to be bored with it) and I hope a worthy opponent can accept this as I'd desire a hearty exchange.

I noticed that there are some moral relativists on this website, notably Kleptin. I'd like to challenge them on this issue, since I find moral relativism to be unequivocally an incredibly flawed conception.

The reason why I implemented 4 rounds is because of the wide range of moral relativism. Basically, there are many theories that can be called moral relativism but that differ from one another (cultural relativism, individualist ethical subjectivism, etc.). So for my opponent's first round, I want him outline what theory they are defending (that obviously is in accord with moral relativism) and give a defense for it.

That being said, here are the definitions:

[Moral Relativism]
[http://www.moral-relativism.com...]

"Moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person's individual choice."

[Erroneous]
[http://www.thefreedictionary.com...]

"Containing or derived from error; mistaken"
tkubok

Con

Hmm, as this is an interesting argument, i suppose i shall take it.

First, let me say that i accept both definitions. As this is a debate on a neutral stance, i suggest we forgo with the burden of proof nonsense, as both sides should present arguments for, and against why Moral Relativism is an erroneous ethical theory, and go from there.

My argument is the following:
1. It is easy, when we look back in time, to show that morality, ethical standards, have undoubtedly changed. 2000 years ago, it was ethical, and morally correct to stone an unruly child to death.(1) Today, most civilized countries will disagree, as there are laws that prevent us from harming our children, no matter how unruly they may be. So, the question here, is what changed? If you ask any person on the street, as to whether or not they find the morals that were present 2000 years ago, as acceptable moral standards, most, if not all people will answer, "No." Clearly, this means that our individual ethical and moral standards have changed, from those that used to prevail 2000 years ago.

2. I am the ultimate moral judge of my own moral beliefs. Why? Because I control my own actions, and beliefs. Things can affect my judgement, but in the end, it is I who decides whether or not something is moral or ethical.

Sources
1. http://www.blueletterbible.org...
Debate Round No. 1
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this open debate, though I lament at his misguided argument. I agree with my opponent that the burden of proof is equal on both of us, and I'm glad to see that he has accepted my definitions. So now, my arguments:

====================
My opponent's confusion between a descriptive theory and a prescriptive/normative theory
====================

There is a stark difference between descriptive theories and prescriptive theories - they play different roles. Take this explanation by Business Dictionary[1]: A descriptive theory is "that depicts or describes how things actually work, and answers the question, "What is this?" In comparison, normative models are prescriptive and suggest what ought to be done (how things should work) according to an assumption or standard."

As you can see, my definition of moral relativism refers to the NORMATIVE version of it. While there is a descriptive version, it's quite uncontroversial and likely correct (though a little simplistic). Ultimately, my opponent fails to even realize what topic we are debating about, so I haven't much to say. However, I will be generous and supply one main argument:

====================
Prescriptive moral relativism results in a logical contradiction
====================

I will defend this in a simple syllogism:

P1. If prescriptive moral relativism (PMR) is true, then morality is relative.
P2. Morality has truth values.
P3. If morality is relative, and has a truth value, then there is a truth that is relative.
P4. If truth is relative, then this means A =/= A.
P4. A=A
:. Therefore, PMR is incoherent.

====================
Conclusion and a few remarcks
====================

"I am the ultimate moral judge of my own moral beliefs. Why? Because I control my own actions, and beliefs. Things can affect my judgement, but in the end, it is I who decides whether or not something is moral or ethical."

----> There is no reason to believe that moral judgments can only be adequately made from a first-person perspective. Would you say that since Hitler thought the genocide of Jews was justified, then he is correct? Of course not - morality is not subjective and relative but rather objective (assuming it exists, of course).

Since my opponent has failed to capture even the topic of our discussion, I will say no further until he can make a comeback.

---References---
1. http://www.businessdictionary.com...
tkubok

Con

My opponents supposed accusation of my own confusion between descriptive and prescriptive theories
=====================================================================

Well isn't this great.

"As you can see, my definition of moral relativism refers to the NORMATIVE version of it."
No, I don't see anything within your first argument you made in Round 1, or this argument, that points to which version of the theory my opponent wants to discuss.

Infact, when reading the topic of this debate, "Moral Relativism is an erroneous ethical theory", such a debate topic points towards "What is this" rather than the opposing question of "Should be this".

However, my opponent seems to be implying that although moral relativism is likely correct, it should not be correct, which is quite puzzling to me. It's as if one were to say that the world is spherical, but it should be flat. I don't find much use in such an argument, because the physical world is what it is, and is not what it is not. Hypothesizing whether or not the earth should really be flat, or that moral relativism is wrong, despite the fact that reality already functions in a certain way, is quite a waste of time, because the argument is endless.

Which is why I was not aware that you were trying to make such an argument against Moral Relativism, and which is why i chose to debate why Moral relativism, in the descriptive version in the first place.

"Ultimately, my opponent fails to even realize what topic we are debating about, so I haven't much to say."
Perhaps it was my fault for assuming that we were discussing what is, and not what it should be. However, in future debates, it may help if you expand upon what the contentions you wish to debate, are. That, sir, is a failure on your part. If you have a specific debate on your mind, it is not up to your opponent to read your mind and understand what sort of debate you wish to have.

=====================================================================
Prescriptive moral relativism results in a logical contradiction
=====================================================================

Although I have no problem moving this debate to your intended course of arguments, I see now that your argument applies to both the descriptive and prescriptive versions of Moral Relativism. The only conclusion I could possibly bring, is that you simply do not wish to be shot down so early in the debate, and thus resorted to separate the descriptive and prescriptive aspects of Moral Relativism, in order to avoid having to discuss the obvious fact that Moral Relativism is correct.

And now, onto the argument.

I have a problem with P3/P4. Truth values to things that are subjective, which is the case of moral relativism, depends on the perspective. In logic, the truth value can depend on its specific interpretation or logical system. In the case of morality, truth values can change depending on the goal that the specific interpreter wishes to pursue. If my goal is to provide the least amount of suffering to each human being, then obviously my stance on Moral values with questions such as Slavery, will be against. The truth value of such a stance, would be "True" to me, but it will be "false" to someone who wishes to achieve a different goal. Therefore, the statement in P4, of "A != A", is not correct, but rather, "A != B".

=====================================================================
Conclusions and a few remarks(Yes, that is how it is spelled)
=====================================================================

"There is no reason to believe that moral judgments can only be adequately made from a first-person perspective. Would you say that since Hitler thought the genocide of Jews was justified, then he is correct? Of course not - morality is not subjective and relative but rather objective (assuming it exists, of course)."

Sure. You judge that what Hitler did, was not correct, was not justified. However, this is because you are the ultimate moral judge of your own beliefs, as well as beliefs from other people.

Hitler, on the other hand(And those who were under him), believed that what he was doing, was the correct thing, and that his extermination of the Jews was justified. I agree with you. I say that Hitler was wrong. But that is only because I judge Hitler by my own moral standards. I made the decision from my first-person perspective.

The problem here, is that my opponent is claiming that moral judgment can depend on things other than a first-person perspective. Therefore, I ask my opponent what other possible perspective exists for a person to which an adequate decision can be made, that does not rely upon a first-person perspective.

"Since my opponent has failed to capture even the topic of our discussion, I will say no further until he can make a comeback."

As I have already addressed this, I do not want to pick too much on this specific issue. However, I believe that we have adequately moved beyond the issue of "Prescriptive/descriptive", therefore I am looking forward to continuing with this debate.
Debate Round No. 2
TheSkeptic

Pro

It seems my opponent has a profound lack of understanding at what I'm trying to argue for - I'm not sure if it's willful ignorance or something else, but it should be painstakingly clear that this debate was centered in an normative/meta-ethical perspective, not a descriptive one.

====================
Given definition of "moral relativism"
====================

My opponent states that my definition gives no indication of a prescriptive definition, but a simple examination debunks this. To copy-paste, it states that moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person's individual choice.

In other words, what is moral and immoral is culturally based, i.e. subject to factors such as culture, upbringing, environment, etc. This definition is simply stating that ethical standards are determined by culture - not that PEOPLE'S ethical standards are determined by their morality but that ethical standards themselves are determined by culture. After all, everyone can believe action X is immoral when in actuality it is moral.

"Infact, when reading the topic of this debate, "Moral Relativism is an erroneous ethical theory", such a debate topic points towards "What is this" rather than the opposing question of "Should be this"."

----> What a facetiously incorrect way of reading the resolution. The resolution itself is descriptive, but the subject matter is prescriptive. If I wrote a debate entitled "Abortion is wrong", would you claim that this is a debate on descriptive ethics and not normative ethics? Of course not, this would be folly. Likewise, there is no flaw on my part to say that MR is a flawed theory, and show how this is so (by pointing out it's inadequate normative/meta-ethical aspects).

"However, my opponent seems to be implying that although moral relativism is likely correct, it should not be correct, which is quite puzzling to me."

----> Strawman. I stated that while descriptive moral relativism is true, the prescriptive version is not. I'm arguing against the prescriptive version, NOT the descriptive one.

====================
Prescriptive moral relativism results in a logical contradiction
====================

"Although I have no problem moving this debate to your intended course of arguments, I see now that your argument applies to both the descriptive and prescriptive versions of Moral Relativism."

----> Another strawman - you love doing these huh? Not only did I specifically state in this section that it was an argument against PMR, but if you were to understand my argument then you'd see that it no way applies to DMR. DMR states how people hold their values, but it does not say if such values are correct or not - let alone able to be correct or not.

"I have a problem with P3/P4. Truth values to things that are subjective, which is the case of moral relativism, depends on the perspective. In logic, the truth value can depend on its specific interpretation or logical system."

----> I dare you to defend this claim. A = A can change via different logical systems? I hardly think so, this is an extraordinary claim that I beg evidence for.

"In the case of morality, truth values can change depending on the goal that the specific interpreter wishes to pursue. If my goal is to provide the least amount of suffering to each human being, then obviously my stance on Moral values with questions such as Slavery, will be against. The truth value of such a stance, would be "True" to me, but it will be "false" to someone who wishes to achieve a different goal. "

----> It seems you don't even know what truth value means. All statements have a truth value, meaning they can be right or wrong (in the epistemological sense). So no, truth values CAN NOT change depending on the goal of a character. They are objective, and whether or not their true nature is known to human knowledge is irrelevant.

"The only conclusion I could possibly bring, is that you simply do not wish to be shot down so early in the debate, and thus resorted to separate the descriptive and prescriptive aspects of Moral Relativism, in order to avoid having to discuss the obvious fact that Moral Relativism is correct."

----> Sorry if I attempted to show that there is SIGNIFICANTLY IMPORTANT distinction between the two. If you would take a quick Wikipedia search on the topic, you'd realize that talking about descriptive ethics precludes you from a normative ethical discussion, and vice versa.

====================
Conclusion and a few remarks
====================

"Hitler, on the other hand(And those who were under him), believed that what he was doing, was the correct thing, and that his extermination of the Jews was justified. I agree with you. I say that Hitler was wrong. But that is only because I judge Hitler by my own moral standards. I made the decision from my first-person perspective."

----> Just because Hitler thought differently about the ethical aspects of genocide DOES NOT MEAN MORALITY IS RELATIVE. This would be an incredible position to take, to say that the truth value of a claim is thrown away when an opposing opinion arrives. If we are to take this at face value, then this brings us not only to epistemological relativism but also to metaphysical relativism. Since reality is NOT in flux, my opponent can't be more wrong.

On an ending note, I am quite astounded by the brevity of misunderstanding and lack of understanding on my opponent's part. Not only does he fail to grasp what the debate topic is about, he even fails to understand terms such as "truth value". If he can't bother to understand my arguments correctly, how can we hope for a clean, facilitated discussion? Since it's nearing the end, I doubt such a discussion can come about.

I will say that while I could've made the resolution even more specific by including "prescriptive" or "meta-ethical" -- since I'm fine with arguing against either version -- it becomes very clear what I'm arguing against given the definition of moral relativism. It clearly refers to ethical standards being adjudicated by culture, which I take to be false.
tkubok

Con

=========================================
Given definition of Moral relativism
=========================================

I was willing to move past this, yet you seem to have a bone to pick. Which is fine.

"This definition is simply stating that ethical standards are determined by culture - not that PEOPLE'S ethical standards are determined by their morality but that ethical standards themselves are determined by culture."

Pleas read the definition carefully.
Moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore SUBJECT to a PERSON'S INDIVIDUAL CHOICE.

If you didn't know, when something is subject to an individuals choice, then that individual choice IS a standard that APPLIES to that SPECIFIC individual.

"If I wrote a debate entitled "Abortion is wrong", would you claim that this is a debate on descriptive ethics and not normative ethics?'

Are you saying that it is impossible for a debate entitled "abortion is wrong" to ever be about descriptive ethics, and not normative ethics?

"Likewise, there is no flaw on my part to say that MR is a flawed theory, and show how this is so"
I wasn't aware that i accused you of a flaw by claiming that MR is a flawed theory.

"Strawman. I stated that while descriptive moral relativism is true, the prescriptive version is not. I'm arguing against the prescriptive version, NOT the descriptive one."

Not a straw man, and ill explain why, just for you.

I cannot see the difference between your proposed descriptive theory of MR and your proposed prescriptive theory of MR. Why? Because both definitions can be applied to descriptive AND prescriptive ethics.

=========================================
Prescriptive moral relativism results in a logical contradiction
=========================================

"Another strawman - you love doing these huh? Not only did I specifically state in this section that it was an argument against PMR, but if you were to understand my argument then you'd see that it no way applies to DMR. DMR states how people hold their values, but it does not say if such values are correct or not - let alone able to be correct or not."

Another strawman accusation - you love doing these, huh?

First off, the theory of Moral relativism provides both. In other words, the DMR is the same as the PMR. Why? Because the reason why people held their beliefs, is the same reason why the theory is correct. Which is why i invite you to define both PMR and DMR, and ill show you why both are the same.

Secondly, i see no straw man here. I neither misinterpreted your argument, nor presented anything that was not present in your argument to begin with.

"I dare you to defend this claim. A = A can change via different logical systems? I hardly think so, this is an extraordinary claim that I beg evidence for."

Not sure if you read my argument. I said that it is NOT A = A, but rather, A != B. Subjective truth values change.

"So no, truth values CAN NOT change depending on the goal of a character. They are objective, and whether or not their true nature is known to human knowledge is irrelevant."

ReallY?

So what is the truth value of the following statement?

"Star wars was the best movie ever made."

"If you would take a quick Wikipedia search on the topic"

So thats where you get your knowledge about philosophy from?

=========================================
Conclusions and a few remarks
=========================================

"This would be an incredible position to take, to say that the truth value of a claim is thrown away when an opposing opinion arrives."

If i were you, id accuse you of a straw man. But thanks for putting words in my mouth.

I never said that the truth value of a claim is thrown away when an opposing opinion arrives. What I said, was that the truth value of a claim DEPENDS on the perspective, because they are subjective truth values. Different goals, different conclusions lead to different truth values.

The above example, of "Star wars is the greatest movie ever." If the criterion for judging which movie was the greatest movie ever, was ONLY "A sci-fi movie that grossed the most money", what would the truth value of such a statement be?

On an ending note, I am completely astounded by my opponents ability to read my arguments properly and understand what i am talking about. It seems as though my opponents arguments consist of accusations of logical fallacies and a hilarious note at the end:

"since I'm fine with arguing against either version,"
my opponent has done nothing but criticize how he doesnt want to argue the DMR in favor of a PMR discussion. Although i was willing to forgoe our misunderstanding, and concentrate solely on the PMR, my opponent constantly brought the topic up as if he were unable to let it go.
Debate Round No. 3
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for this debate, and though it went completely off track at least a few important issues were touched upon. I suspect the main cause of disagreement is my opponent's failure to conceptually grasp what I mean between the two; it happens a lot and is in fact why prescriptive cultural relativism was popular among liberal college undergraduates a few decades ago (though it's still rampant among social science majors).

====================
Given definition of "moral relativism"
====================

My opponent still doesn't understand. Yes, my definition does state that one's ethical standards are based on culture and therefore subject to their individual choice - this is the subjective aspect of cultural relativism. HOWEVER, he has failed to examine the words ethical standards, morality, etc. of which I looked at in my previous round. This refers to a prescriptive code rather than a descriptive one. In other words, this is how the definition would look like in it's bare form:

Moral relativism is the view that what is good or bad depends on an individual's culture. Moral relativism has a subjective aspect -- which you accurately deduce to be an individuals culture -- in connection to it's prescriptive nature. It is obvious that this definition is not descriptive moral relativism (DMR) but prescriptive moral relativism PMR.

"Are you saying that it is impossible for a debate entitled "abortion is wrong" to ever be about descriptive ethics, and not normative ethics?"

----> YES. Descriptive ethics describes what people believe to be moral; it doesn't purport to argue what should be moral. There is nothing in the resolution "Abortion is wrong" to denote it's talking about human attitudes towards abortion - this is actually more for the fields of social sciences and statistics. The is in "abortion is wrong" implies an obligation, and thus a prescriptive analysis.

"I cannot see the difference between your proposed descriptive theory of MR and your proposed prescriptive theory of MR. Why? Because both definitions can be applied to descriptive AND prescriptive ethics."

----> As I've explained, the definitions usage of abstract terms such as ethical standard in exclusion of any indicator such as "an individual ethical standard" would infer it's referring to prescriptive ethics.

=========================================
Prescriptive moral relativism results in a logical contradiction
=========================================

"First off, the theory of Moral relativism provides both. In other words, the DMR is the same as the PMR. Why? Because the reason why people held their beliefs, is the same reason why the theory is correct. Which is why i invite you to define both PMR and DMR, and ill show you why both are the same."

----> This betrays SERIOUS lack of understanding on your part. It seems you don't understand the fundamental distinction between a descriptive theory and a prescriptive one. Here, I will quote from an informative source that lays bear the important difference between the two - yes, both DMR and PMR can be categorized under moral relativism but I've evidently centered the focus on PMR:

"Descriptive Ethics is a study of human behavior as a consequence of beliefs about what is right or wrong, or good or bad, insofar as that behavior is useful or effective. In a sense, morals is the study of what is thought to be right and what is generally done by a group, society, or a culture. In general, morals correspond to what actually is done in a society...Morals is best studied as psychology, sociology, or anthropology. Different societies have different moral codes. Morals is a descriptive science; it seeks to establish "what is true" in a society or group...This confusion between descriptive and prescriptive ethics occurs quite often by persons untrained in philosophical analysis...Normative Ethics or Prescriptive Ethics: the study of moral problems which seeks to discover how one ought to act, not how one does in fact act or how one thinks one should act.[1]"

"Not sure if you read my argument. I said that it is NOT A = A, but rather, A != B. Subjective truth values change."

----> There is no such thing as a subjective truth value; this would be an oxymoron. If you mean subjective values (such as liking ice cream), then this is true but thus IRRELEVANT TO THIS DISCUSSION. Subjective values =/= truth values, this is such a fundamental distinction I'm not sure how you confuse the two. This can be demonstrated when my opponent asks what is the truth statement of "Star wars was the best movie ever made". This counterexample horribly fails on two accounts - the usage of best is ambiguous and thus the statement can't properly be evaluated, and if it were to be interpreted in terms such as "most entertaining" then this would NOT be a statement and thus NOT have a truth value.

A truth value is "the truth or falsity of a proposition or statement[2]", whereas propositions are "expressions in language or signs of something that can be believed, doubted, or denied or is either true or false; the objective meaning of a proposition[3]." As you can see from these definitions, my opponent can't be more wrong.

Given this fact, my opponent's response to my syllogism crumbles.

====================
Conclusion and a few remarks
====================

I see now the major problem in this debate - my opponent lacks philosophical training, insofar as he has a weak grasp of philosophy to begin with. He makes an amateur mistake of muddling descriptive ethics and prescriptive ethics, misinterprets my definition despite the use of isolated abstract terms, and doesn't even understand the meaning of truth values and statements (again, statements are sentences that have truth values, so "vanilla is the best ice cream flavor" is not a statement).

He scoffs at my advice to take a quick Wikipedia source and states this is where I get my knowledge about philosophy from. This is hilariously ironic of him. Not only is Wikipedia not my only source, but in fact he would know much more if he read from it - you are in no position to scoff at someone else's level of philosophical understanding when yours pales in comparison.

I'm not trying to be intentionally rude here, but that's the matter of the fact - my opponent's strawmen are probably not intentional, but they are born from a lack of understanding. I've given an informative source about the bare distinction between DMR and PMR, and gave definitions fleshing out what truth values are.

It should be obvious - VOTE PRO.

---References---
1. http://philosophy.lander.edu...
2. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
3. http://www.merriam-webster.com...
tkubok

Con

I would also like to thank my opponent for this debate. Although my opponent constantly tried to beat a dead horse, I suppose this argument still went somewhere, at least.

"YES. Descriptive ethics describes what people believe to be moral; it doesn't purport to argue what should be moral. There is nothing in the resolution "Abortion is wrong" to denote it's talking about human attitudes towards abortion - this is actually more for the fields of social sciences and statistics. The is in "abortion is wrong" implies an obligation, and thus a prescriptive analysis."

My opponent fails the realize a vital point. Things that should be moral, CAN have basis in tradition as well as philosophical arguments. For example, since the start of recordable history, most major countries have outlawed murder. Therefore, murder SHOULD NOT be moral BECAUSE every generation before this, and more importantly, every society that has ever THRIVED long enough to do anything has OUTLAWED murder in some form or another. This is the most important aspect of determining whether something is moral or not. Understanding WHY people believed in a certain way leads us to conclude what SHOULD be the norm in our society.

"----> As I've explained, the definitions usage of abstract terms such as ethical standard in exclusion of any indicator such as "an individual ethical standard" would infer it's referring to prescriptive ethics."

As ive explained, the definition can include both because both can be applicable to moral standards.

=========================================
Prescriptive moral relativism results in a logical contradiction
=========================================

"----> This betrays SERIOUS lack of understanding on your part. It seems you don't understand the fundamental distinction between a descriptive theory and a prescriptive one. Here, I will quote from an informative source that lays bear the important difference between the two - yes, both DMR and PMR can be categorized under moral relativism but I've evidently centered the focus on PMR:"

The problem here, is that the paragraph, or the site, discuss nothing as to whether or not a specific ethical theory can or cannot be both prescriptive and descriptive. Nowhere in the paragraph or the website, does it say that one cannot discuss both points of view from the same ethical theory. As you have admitted yourself, the topic alone is descriptive, yet clearly you want to talk about prescriptive ethics.

If my opponent wanted to center his argument around PMR, that is(was, i suppose, now that we are on the last round) fine. Again, this is why my opponent was beating a dead horse.

"----> There is no such thing as a subjective truth value; this would be an oxymoron. If you mean subjective values (such as liking ice cream), then this is true but thus IRRELEVANT TO THIS DISCUSSION. Subjective values =/= truth values, this is such a fundamental distinction I'm not sure how you confuse the two. This can be demonstrated when my opponent asks what is the truth statement of "Star wars was the best movie ever made". This counterexample horribly fails on two accounts - the usage of best is ambiguous and thus the statement can't properly be evaluated, and if it were to be interpreted in terms such as "most entertaining" then this would NOT be a statement and thus NOT have a truth value."

I disagree, and so does these people(1)(2). First, since morality itself cannot have truth values, it is obvious that the things that morality point to, have truth values. Take the moral view of "Murder is wrong". That is something that has a truth value. However, Murder is only wrong, if the goal of society is to coexist peacefully. If the goal of society were to differ, the moral view of "Murder is wrong" could change. What does this mean, in terms of truth values? Clearly something that has conflicting truth values cannot be a truth value, according to my opponent. Therefore, either this completely decimates my opponents original proposition in P2, since Morality no longer has truth values, or things can have subjective truths, and therefore the truth values associated with those subjective truths can change.

"A truth value is "the truth or falsity of a proposition or statement[2]", whereas propositions are "expressions in language or signs of something that can be believed, doubted, or denied or is either true or false; the objective meaning of a proposition[3]." As you can see from these definitions, my opponent can't be more wrong."

No. First, youll notice that the Dictionary separates the two, calling one as "expressions in language or signs of something that can be believed, doubted, or denied or is either true or false", and the second, simply "Objective truths". The reason the dictionary does this, is because there is a clearly distinction between these two. Subjective propositions can and do exist, and this is the point. I shall address this in more detail in the concluding remarks.

=====================
Conclusion and a few remarks
=====================

This is the problem with my opponent. First, he does not understand the existance of subjective propositions, and the truth values associated with said propositions. Second, he fails to realize that morals will be subjective depending on the outcome desired. Although my opponent claims that there is no truth value associated to subjective things, this means that P2 in my opponents argument, fails, because morals by their very definition, have conflicting truth values depending on the desired conclusion.

My opponent, although constantly trying to revive a dead argument despite my claims that i was willing to forgoe any future discussion based on the descriptive ethical theories, also has no understanding of what i was trying to discuss. I am in the position that no such objective morals could exist, and therefore the PMR theory is correct.

It is sad to see that my opponent keeps refering to my arguments as straw men, despite my multiple attempts at asking what exactly I misrepresented to produce the straw man argument in the first place. Although i have not received any rebuttle as to how exactly i misrepresented his arguments, as this is the final round, i suppose I cannot ask anymore.

source:
1. http://blogs.myspace.com...
2. http://johnmacfarlane.net...
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TheSkeptic 7 years ago
TheSkeptic
I'm not sure I get what you mean by the bridge - it simply happens via inference/reasoning/etc. Are you saying there can be no process of detracting normative reasoning? Humes said something similar, but this only applied with ethical theories.

"Moral skepticism I can certainly accept as a subset of moral relativism."
----> No you can't, the moral relativist thinks there are right and wrong, just in a subjective and relative form. A moral skeptic denies any moral knowledge to begin with.
Posted by kalle 8 years ago
kalle
I guess we are mostly agreeing then. There are facts that are statistical analysis of opinions (that would be descriptive moral relativism by your definition), and there are facts that are completely detached from opinions (such as laws of thermodynamics or gravity). The important thing to note, and what I tried to make clear, is that both of these instances have no conceivable bridge between the actual and "what should be". If you don't refute me on this point then I must conclude there can't be such thing as objective moralism. Moral skepticism I can certainly accept as a subset of moral relativism.
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
Sorry for the confusion, I should've made it more explicit. An opinion can be intertwined with science, namely normative analysis. I agree positive analysis of things such as "most people prefer red as a colour of their cars" is not an opinion - however, what I wanted to point out is that there is parts of science that involve opinions, or rather analysis' based on opinion. I agree opinions can be subjective statements (in which truth values are outside the purview), but there are opinions that can be evaluated - namely the evaluation of facts. Many debates involve opposing sides deriving a different conclusion from the same set of facts; in other words, differing opinions. Philosophers do this many times, and such a discussion is indeed veritable.

If you read the resolution of this debate, you will see that it focuses on moral relativism. This means that if I negate said theory, then I have fulfilled my burden - proving moral objectivism isn't necessary, especially given the fact that there is also moral skepticism.
Posted by kalle 8 years ago
kalle
TheSkeptic, It seems like you are now confusing descriptive and prescriptive: For example it is NOT an opinion to say "Most people prefer red as a colour of their cars", but it would be an opinion to say "Red is the right colour for a car". There is a fundamental difference between an opinion and a fact, and that is the facts are irrelevant of opinions. That is the bulk I was getting at my comment, and for clarity I was using "good or bad" instead of "right and wrong" to further note the interchangeability of terms used to describe opinions and morals.

If moral relativism in it's broad sense is clearly wrong then there certainly should be, by means of elimination, moral objectivism for which you didn't make a case for. Just by stating that everything is opinionable doesn't further your point, but makes the discussion more about semantics over substance.

PS. I didn't mean to imply you were a person faith, I just thought it was good point to be underlined in case of someone comes off appealing to a higher power as the source of (objective) morality.
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
@tkubok: I understand you wished to develop the discussion, but your lack of understanding between the very important distinction between PMR and DMR is what impeded it. Even then, I present a logical argument against PMR, which you failed to defend because you misconstrued what a truth value even is.

@kalle: You use the term "opinion" in a loaded way - how can it not be a truth statement? After all, everything we believe are opinions, but some are better than others (in terms of justification). Even science composes of opinions. And the problem of God and morality doesn't apply to me since I'm an atheist :).
Posted by kalle 8 years ago
kalle
I think there's a problem with (prescriptive) morals not being relative.

Even if something is universally acceptable (ie. Suffering is bad, happiness is good) that statement is still an opinion, not a truth statement. What do you base morals objectively on when all you can support your position are ultimately necessarily (sometimes well concealed) opinions? In other words the study dealing with facts (science) can only be descriptive and it is not possible to jump from "what is" to "ought to be" without opinionating in the process.

Also objective morality poses an interesting paradox with the usual view of omnipotent, benevolent God. Is he then, if morals are objective, restrained by a moral code that is higher than him?

Summary in form of a question to TheSkeptic: Is there a logically sound way to form morals from scientific facts as premises without having ANY opinion about whether something is good or bad (as that would be begging the question) ?

Hoping TheSkeptic will have time to answer my question.

PS. My first post. :)
Posted by tkubok 8 years ago
tkubok
Theskeptic,
That is a blatant lie. I was happy to discuss on your terms, and even went into detail why i believe that Morality is infact relative, and if we were to apply a truth value to morals as said in your P2, it would have to be relative as well. It is you who kept bringing the whole "PMR NOT DMR" argument up, which took a whole bunch of my words, restricting my word limit.
Posted by TheSkeptic 8 years ago
TheSkeptic
Thanks for the RFD! And if you're a moral relativist yourself, then I'll be thinking of that the next time I start another moral relativism debate :). I would address the claims you stated, but tkubok prevented any such discussion from lifting off.
Posted by alto2osu 8 years ago
alto2osu
I don't know what to tell you.
Posted by tkubok 8 years ago
tkubok
alto2osu,
Thats impossible. 3 voters. You voted for points. that leaves 13 points. Each voter gets 6 votes. Weve got an extra vote here....
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
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