Pretty much sums up the frustration of modern academics

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    Simon Paynton

    That’s something you made up.

    It’s called “doing philosophy”, rather than just studying what other philosophers have done (poorly, in the case of moral philosophy).

    How do you know which books I’ve read?


    The study of philosophy is but the introduction to philosophy.




    A Little History of Philosophy is a good starter book. It is also a useful reference book to dip into every so often. Simon – I think I recall you saying you have it or was that the The Quest for a Moral Compass. I previously mentioned both book in Sunday School posts.



    I know Simon which books you haven’t read. That is: the entire canon of works on ethics by even the most remotely notable philosopher. If you had…then I’d recognize anything you said. But you impose your own nonsensical idiosyncratic pseudo-philosophy onto the rest of them. How can you possible judge it bad if you NEVER READ IT!? How can you dismiss it all if you are ignorant of it? No one will ever take you seriously if you just go around (badly) redefining things. But don’t let me stop you from taking the intellectual world by storm. Read it. Critique it. And show us what’s wrong about it and then phrase your own concepts in a common language that at least 50% of people are familiar with. Skimming some magazine articles and wikipedia articles, ignoring 2500 years of the literature and purporting to school philosophers only makes you look like a fool.



    Ethics: A Very Short Introduction – Simon Blackburn – Oxford.

    I’ll send you the ebook for free if you like.

    As for your categories of morality, they are woefully inadequate. Those are just categories that cover praiseworthy actions, a buzzword for justice and duty (which cover mutually incompatible moral systems). That is woefully inadequate and it leaves out dogmatic moral code, arbitrary moral norms that emerge from human culture, common moral dilemmas and difficult life decisions. It says nothing about the framework needed to justify imposing a moral system in the first place. Just pick up a book and read it and tell me if you still thing those three things are adequate.



    Yeah I’d say if you are up for some light reading, indeed pick up any book by Kant (if it isn’t too heavy) and you’ll be asleep in no time. It’s ironic that it is tediously difficult to read and yet the genesis for a family of moral systems of which modern versions I consider the most useful.


    Simon Paynton

    I’m sure that is a very good book, but from looking on, the subject matter is more general philosophy and not really ethics, in the sense that ethics is the “good” or ideal behaviour.

    If not, anyway, I’m not too interested in the existing systems except in passing.  I have consulted “The Elements of Moral Philosophy” by Rachels.

    justice and duty (which cover mutually incompatible moral systems)

    We have a duty to be just.

    it leaves out dogmatic moral code

    I haven’t claimed to describe the entirety of morality in three concepts.  However, I see them as the core of ethics, the good.

    arbitrary moral norms that emerge from human culture

    Are norms really arbitrary?  Each culture lives in a physical place in a political and geographical environment, that has its own pressures on the population.  So, there are norms to cope with local pressures or conditions.  A norm is there to turn a potentially competitive situation into a cooperative one.  On the other hand, like you could say, there are other reasons for introducing norms, such as the dark side of religion.

    It says nothing about the framework needed to justify imposing a moral system in the first place.

    The framework that makes sense is cooperation with interdependence.  These conditions can plausibly be shown to give rise to a modern evolved moral psychology of helping, fairness, obligation, the social contract etc.




    Relative truth.

    Ugh. Gross. Why? That is the starting place of anti-learning. It is for those who are afraid of knowledge.

    Relative truth

    Kinda good

    Sorta beautiful

    Almost passable



    Noam Chomsky on moral relativism and postmodernism



    Simon Paynton

    That’s a very interesting video.  I didn’t realise that “relative” can mean “relatively better or worse”.  This implies, a common standard anyway.  Perhaps “plural” or “various” or something would be a good description without the value judgement.


    Is this article on the scourge of postmodern pedantry pointless?



    I dislike the idea of moral relativism, BUT what’s the alternative? A unrelativistic moral/ethical system needs to be built on firm ground like “God says do this not that.” At the same time, to argue backwards that without God nothing would be really immoral, so we must believe in God is a bad faith argument which any modern philosopher will likely view as special pleading.

    Murder is wrong? Not always, though, is it? Consider a mother, wife of a dangerously violent and abusive man who she fears will ultimately kill her children, and so murders him in his sleep, is a difficult case. Already we’re dealing with relativism. If you want a universal and unrelativistic ethic, you must agree that its precepts must be applied with absolute consistency.

    How does one build a moral/ethical system which isn’t relative, then? What would its characteristics be?

    A moral precept to be unrelativistic doesn’t differ from person-to-person, place-to-place, or time-to-time. It is true everywhere and for all time. (If one argues that “We know child labor is immoral now, but they just didn’t know that then,” that sort of argument leaves us open to the attitudes of future generations, and reveals that if we want to believe moral precepts aren’t relative, they are also unknowable. And an unknowable morality is useless, is it not?)

    Moral precepts must be broad and broadly applicable as well. A precept that makes a broad general statement but then allows and accounts for all sorts of exceptions, including possible future exceptions, is actually a relativism in disguise.

    Finally, a belief in a moral precept, no matter how strongly it be held, does not make it true.

    I think I meandered a bit, but I’ve got to go. So there it is.


    Simon Paynton

    Is this article on the scourge of postmodern pedantry pointless?

    I find it hard to understand the outline of postmodern theory.  I believe they are probably misunderstood if people think they are saying “nothing is true”.  I think there are some good ideas floating around in there.

    Subjective truth is a real thing.  Each of us experiences the world in a unique way, and this experience can be affected by systemic power structures and hierarchies in society.  I don’t think that is controversial.

    Also, what appears or is given as true, has sometimes been determined by those in power.  That seems true as well.


    Simon Paynton

    It is true everywhere and for all time.

    Among the world of people – the human family tree of species.  Animals have their own versions of morality which nevertheless follow the same rules and are related to ours.  Even ants have theory of mind and perspective taking (it is believed, from the white mark mirror test).

    I think a non-relative morality consists of the core of ethics I gave earlier: helping, fairness, and obligation (to follow norms).  All cultures have versions of these, and all cultures have norms.  Norms are arguably a part of a group’s culture.  So, if there was a Venn diagram of all the world’s group’s moralities, you would find these in the overlapping centre.  The way they are applied varies, but always are seen as ethical and therefore their maximisation is desired.

    All groups share the foundations of cooperation and patriarchy, that work together to produce a unique human morality.



    All cultures have versions of these, and all cultures have norms.

    Versions. Relative the the particular cultures. Relativism.

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