Are right and wrong and the related duties possible without absolutes

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This topic contains 161 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Davis 1 week, 4 days ago.

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  • #39851

    Unseen
    Participant

    Circumstances are often so nuanced and complex that absolutes are absolutely inapposite. It is fine to have cherished principles that are an aid to solving issues. But to have absolutes defeats the purpose of ethics/morality.

    No, no, no. It is the notion that no choice is really right or wrong except to the person making the choice that allows anything and everything. How, for example, could one have a judicial system if one actually believes such a thing?

    #39852

    _Robert_
    Participant

    I agree that it’s situational, but it has, surely, to have some kind of absolute authority.

    We rarely agree, but here we do: a situational ethic may result in one person making choice A and another making choice not-A due to their diverse interests. Situational ethics aren’t ethics at all.

    Every ethical decision is situational and may have different results based on hierarchical impact. Should I steal to feed my child? I would like someone to list an absolute ethical rule that applies to every situation and then inform us who is the appointed authority?

    #39853

    Unseen
    Participant

    I would argue, as Reg is…that any system that deals with pure absolute moral rules is awful, useless, toxic, dangerous, harmful and garbage.

    So, are duties awful, useless, toxic, dangerous, harmful, and garbage?

    Is there any such then, then, as a duty or obligation outside the practical consideration of having to act as if? Am I bound to a contract? If so, why? If not, why not?

    Let’s take a less abstract situation. Imagine you are a highly competent swimmer, well-trained in water rescue techniques. You are walking toward the Apple store hopeful of being near the front of the line to purchase the limited supply of the first shipment of the latest iteration of the Apple Watch. However, on your way you pass a lake and notice a person drowning. Do you situationally do what you want to do (buy a watch) or do you save the drowning person? And if you decide you must save the drowning person, how does one justify it relativistically situationally? Or does one justify saving the other person because it is right and a duty based on an absolute: The Good?

    #39854

    Unseen
    Participant

    By the way, don’t get the idea I’m here for any other purpose than to spark a thoughtful discussion. I’m not here to argue one side or the other, though it’s in my nature to play the devil’s advocate and defend the position that largely being argued against or which I think isn’t being taken seriously enough.

    #39855

    Unseen
    Participant

    I agree that it’s situational, but it has, surely, to have some kind of absolute authority.

    We rarely agree, but here we do: a situational ethic may result in one person making choice A and another making choice not-A due to their diverse interests. Situational ethics aren’t ethics at all.

    Every ethical decision is situational and may have different results based on hierarchical impact. Should I steal to feed my child? I would like someone to list an absolute ethical rule that applies to every situation and then inform us who is the appointed authority?

    Ethics can only apply to situations, so your first statement is kind of circular. Should you steal to feed your child? Is theft okay of it benefits one’s family? You’re overlooking the possibility that one can do what’s literally wrong for practical reasons.

    At the same time, I would assume that someone stealing food for their children must think it’s right beyond the mere practicality of it.

    The moment one justifies an action, are they not appealing to a principle and don’t all ethical principles themselves boil down to The Good which is an absolute?

    #39856

    _Robert_
    Participant

    There is no “the good”. You can only say that a person thought or felt like they were doing good and therefore are ‘ethical’. Every action is relative. Morality and ethics don’t exist in a vacuum. There must be a brain.

    #39857

    Are decisions in “situational ethics” not also relativistic? I am asking myself that question as I cannot describe the difference between “situational” and “relative” to myself. Time for a walk.

    #39858

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Are decisions in “situational ethics” not also relativistic? I am asking myself that question as I cannot describe the difference between “situational” and “relative” to myself. Time for a walk.

    Agreed, enjoy (I just had my jog, nice and cool today.)

    #39860

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    So, are duties awful, useless, toxic, dangerous, harmful, and garbage?

    A duty is ideal performance that we owe to others and ourselves – in other words, to “us”.  Morality is a shared social enterprise, so necessarily, it is absolutely true that morality involves duties.  A duty has a three-fold structure I believe: 1) the need for instrumental success – I must achieve this goal because it is required; 2) what I owe to others; 3) what others require from me, and make known to me through discipline or protest.

    Why do I feel that I owe to others, ideal performance of my role (duty)?  Because 1) when I make the commitment and join the team, I relinquish some personal control to the team and its goal; 2) the team is made up of myself and others; 3) I owe it to myself and others to do a good job; 4) that means I owe it to others.

    #39861

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    There are no absolute moral principles, although there are absolute, abstract features of morality, like duty.

    Situational ethics doesn’t mean that anything goes.  It means that there are many different moral principles, and which ones apply or are useful depends on the situation.

    Moral relativism is a strange one.  As far as I know, it means that any morality is as “good” as any other.  But of course, that implies an external standard of good, which defeats moral relativism.

    #39862

    Unseen
    Participant

    Are decisions in “situational ethics” not also relativistic? I am asking myself that question as I cannot describe the difference between “situational” and “relative” to myself. Time for a walk.

    I think most philosophers would equate situationalism and relativism and use them largely interchangeably.

    #39863

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    The moment one justifies an action, are they not appealing to a principle and don’t all ethical principles themselves boil down to The Good which is an absolute?

    I agree that we justifiy our actions using shared norms – so that in doing so, we reaffirm ourselves to be part of the moral community.  The moral community has its shared moral and cultural norms that belong to it.

    Does all of ethics boil down to The Good, singular?  That would be the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to all concerned.  It treats benefit and harm as the primary virtue.  It could depend on how you define ethics – if it’s about maximum personal benefit and minimum personal harm, or if other things are maximised, like the good of one’s social matrix, group or team.  It could also be about maximising sacred values, whatever they might be.  Perhaps ethics is about maximising the good (benefit/harm), but in these three domains.

    But there are other values like deference to authority, fair distribution of goods, sexual politics, whatever.  The Good could be sexual faithfulness, or it could be respecting a sacred cow.

    #39864

    Unseen
    Participant

    Why do I feel that I owe to others, ideal performance of my role (duty)?  Because 1) when I make the commitment and join the team, I relinquish some personal control to the team and its goal; 2) the team is made up of myself and others; 3) I owe it to myself and others to do a good job; 4) that means I owe it to others.

    I’m getting a Kant vibe out of your points here. Are you familiar with Kant’s “categorical imperative.” In a nutshell, it is this:

    Don’t choose to do anything unless you can affirm that any other person in sufficiently similar circumstance should act in much the same way. Thus, every ethical choice involves the propounding of a maxim.

    According to Kant, any choice with ethical implications must be univeralizable, chosen for all mankind. This is a principle and any ethical principle involving a duty, it seems to me,  is justified in terms of an absolute, namely The Good.

    #39865

    Unseen
    Participant

    Does all of ethics boil down to The Good, singular?  That would be the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to all concerned.  It treats benefit and harm as the primary virtue.

    Now, you’ve morphed into a “the greatest good for the greatest number” utilitarian.

    #39866

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    any ethical principle involving a duty, it seems to me, is justified in terms of an absolute, namely The Good.

    You’re right, the entire point of doing anything is to benefit from it.  But whose benefit?  The self?  One’s team-mates or group?  There are different classes of values depending on which one it is.  There’s also sacredness, so sometimes being ethical means to maximise sacred values of any kind.

    “the greatest good for the greatest number”

    I’m not advocating the greatest good for the greatest number, because, that’s pointless, useless, cruel and unkind.  It causes misery for the ones left without.  I’m advocating the maximum benefit and minimum harm for each and every person concerned in the situation.  Each person is an individual whole world, not a statistic.

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