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Moral relativism

We have recently been having a bit of a discussion on a couple of threads with a bloke calling himself Locke. Now this gentleman comes across as a moral relativist, he doesn’t seen willing to take a stance on anything other than sticking to “Well mustn’t criticise, it’s their kulcha, innit?”

To me, an unwillingness to take a stand is tantamount to condoning. Refusal to condemn a contemptible practice is to allow it to flourish.

An example of his line, and no, I’m not taking it out of context. It means what it says:

we can’t in all honesty claim that our ideas are inherently superior to any other means of organising society.

To which my response is: I most certainly can, and I do.

I found this today, a little news item from Saudi, and I see similar time and again. As must anyone who actually takes note of the world around them:

A 10-year-old bride was returned last Sunday to her 80-year-old husband by her father who discovered her at the home of her aunt with whom she has been hiding for around 10 days.

(…)

My marriage is not against Shariah. It included the elements of acceptance and response by the father of the bride,” he said.

Well, yes. I am well aware that elderly men fucking ten year old girls is not against shariah, which is one of the many many reasons shariah is repugnant. Jesus, it isn’t even that it is isn’t against it. If you live your life by the Sunnah it is almost a sacrament, emulating the murderous old kiddie fucker himself.

Ah the hell with it, this isn’t just repugnant, it’s evil, and I really don’t give a toss whether you, or Locke, or the sodding Archwhatsit of Canterbury agree or disagree. If you can’t find it in your heart to call this, and the culture which spawns it, repulsive, then the hell with you too.

Moral relativism really is an evil philosophy. The racism of low expectations.

35 Comments

  1. Ian B says:

    The problem is Nick, you haven’t actually proved your position to be correct or superior. You’ve simply stated a belief that your moral values are superior, and used an emotive example as justification; it is circular reasoning. Another moral absolutist may say that his disapproval of homosexuality is right, and anybody who lets homosexuality happen is a depraved moral coward, and then talk a bit about disgusting homosexual practices to create a sense of repugnance in his audience and so on. It’s all very well to say, “I am right and people who disagree are wrong” but that is all you are saying. Or to use another example, you are often very bullish about military matters; but there are other people who find the taking of human life repugnant and would think your position depraved.

    So the issue is, how are you going to prove your moral value system is objectively superior to another moral value system without circularly starting from a position that you are already correct? What calculus can you use, for instance, to objectively mathematically derive, say, a minimum marriage age or a maximum marriage differential?

  2. Ian B says:

    Er, for some reason I thought Nick had posted this article. Oops. Sorry :)

    Replace “Nick” with “Cats” in above comment as appropriate…

  3. CountingCats says:

    Ian,

    Yes. I agree.

  4. CountingCats says:

    Well, actually, I could give a better answer than that, but it is getting late (here), I am tired, and I am going to bed instead.

  5. Nick M says:

    Ian,
    I disagree with diagreement with the self you think I am. If you see what I mean. I do not think it emotive of Cats to say that an 80 yr old bloke doinking a pre-teen is repulsive. It is. I don’t think any of us have to summon up a logical argument there because we do not need to because it is just awful.

    I am 35 and married to a 30 year old. If anyone cares to argue the moral equivalence of that with Grandpa fucking a girl who probably doesn’t even have pubic hair or knows what a tampon are then bring it on!

    I mean we can argue the exact details of age of consent stuff and I certainly would not be in favour of jailing 15 year olds for giving oral sex to 14 year olds but… 80 and 10?

    The man is clearly an emotional cripple and social inadequate who can’t form a relationship with an adult woman (or man) and instead chooses to have a sort of grand-daughter to screw rather a proper wife, girlfriend or boyfriend.

    It is truly pathetic. Pathetic more than disgusting.

    Ian, I think your comparison with chutney-ferretting is wrong. For a very simple reason. This is different. If I got myself a 20 year-old boyf then he would be able to give informed consent in a way a 10 year old kid could not. And that makes a world of difference. As to the “repugnance” of what gays do… Well that might work on some but not me. If it works on them then I pity them for their tight-arsed morals. They have missed out on much afterall. Basically they can fuck off as far as I am concerned.

    And if Locke is lurking… Don’t play “gotcha!” because there is a hell of a difference between actions in private between consenting adults and stuff done in public.

    But, basically, my view is that an 80 year old screwing a 10 year old doesn’t need a logical refutation. It needs a lynch-mob.

  6. Ian B says:

    But, basically, my view is that an 80 year old screwing a 10 year old doesn’t need a logical refutation. It needs a lynch-mob.

    That’s the problem. You haven’t won the argument, just stated a personal preference. I’m not arguing in favour of 80 year olds marrying 10 year olds. I’m just saying that personal disgust isn’t an objective proof of moral absolutism. As I said, a person who dislikes gheyness will use the same personal disgust to justify their position. They don’t need a logical refutation either; men fucking each other up the bum is in their view sufficiently disgusting to be its own justification. They may well argue that it is abnormal, which being a minority interest it is, that it is a mental disorder, that homosexuals cannot lead a normal family life and their open presence in society may well pervert youngsters to become like them, which is probably true.

    All of us are to some degree absolutists and to some degree relativists. Your own opinions aren’t proof that those opinions are right.

    “The man is clearly an emotional cripple and social inadequate who can’t form a relationship with an adult woman (or man) and instead chooses to have a sort of grand-daughter to screw rather a proper wife, girlfriend or boyfriend.”

    What about,

    “A homosexual is clearly an emotional cripple and social inadequate who can’t form a relationship with a woman and instead chooses to have a sort of feminised man to screw rather than a proper wife or girlfriend”.

    See?

    It so happens at the moment that our society is very focussed on the matter of age. It wasn’t always so. The female marriage age in Britain was 12 until 1929. Queen somebody or other married Edward the whatsit when she was 12. Most societies in history have allowed younger marriage than ours currently does- indeed the deification of the age of majority at 16 (which they’re now slowly trying to push up to 18) is pretty much a Victorian invention. And come to that, homosexuality was closed aligned to pederasty for most of human history; people forget that “the love that dare not speak its name” that Oscar Wilde referred to wasn’t homosexuality as currently promoted, it was the love of an older for a younger man. Him and his mates used to cruise for adolescents, and he’d go to prison now for pederasty.

    So anyway, point is, it’s all very well fulminatiing about “moral relativists” and citing personal disgust, but it doesn’t get us anywhere philosophically. It’s circular reasoning.

  7. Kevin B says:

    What ‘Cats appears to be saying is that a culture that condones – in effect encourages – an 80 year old man fucking a 10 year old girl is sick. Much sicker that our culture. Sick to the point of needing some sort of action. Particularly so when the father of the child in question drags her back from her aunt’s – where she has presumably sought refuge – and presents her to her rapist again. And that anyone who seeks to justify that culture in terms of moral relativism – especially when castigating our own culture for its relatively minor failings – is perverse.

    Yes ‘Cats. I can certainly agree with that.

  8. Locke says:

    I`m with Ian B.

    I`d also like to point out that moral relativism doesn`t equal amorality.

    “Is it really your position that in that case someone else has rights to that table I have built? On what basis? On what possible morality could anyone else have rights to the fruits of my labour? In what way is my ownership and exclusive use of that table unfair?”

    They would argue that the initial distribution of resources that gave you possession of the tree was based upon violence and therefore unfair – if someone else punches you in the face, steals your watch and then gives it to me – should I be allowed to keep the watch?
    It`d also be perfectly reasonable to suggest that you *do* owe others some of the fruits of your labour – plenty of people say exactly that and it`s probably the default position throughout history. You owe the king, the church, the village, your family — you might not like it, you might disagree with it but there is no particular reason why your position is right and their position is wrong.

  9. Kevin B says:

    As for the argument that we once used to sell children into slavery… Well, yes we did but we seem to have progressed a bit since then and, while parents are perhaps too circumscribed in their dealings with their children these days, at least they aren’t legally able to contract dynastic marriages or send those children up chimneys.

  10. Locke says:

    In the UK children find their own mates at 12.

    So much more civilised.

  11. HSLD says:

    It’s exactly this sort of angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff that keeps me from developing a case full blown libertarianism :)

    It’s something I usually associate with the left, who are given to thinking too much.

    Don’t make me reprise the dicks, pussies and assholes speech from Team America :)

  12. Nick M says:

    Yes it is Locke. Childhood experimentation with other kids is not the same as some randy old goat fucking a pre-teen girl.

  13. Ian B says:

    Would a forced marriage be okay if she were eighteen? Isn’t this an issue of coercion rather than age?

  14. Daphne says:

    Ian, apologies in advance, but screw that mess in your first comment. You’re getting way too objectivist on this simple issue.

    It is, as Cats so clearly stated, dead wrong and absolutely repugnant. A culture that condones and nourishes that sort of depraved indifference to a small child’s welfare is inherently inferior from any rational standpoint. I’ll keep morality out of the debate, but I have no problem introducing empathy as an argument. There is not a ten year old alive who wants to have their orifices ripped apart by a horny old goat and I would bet solid money that the adults involved in these third world barbaric transactions know this to be true and do not give a good damn, which reflects the inherent inferiority of their cultural cesspool.

    As Nick said, get some rope.

  15. Daphne says:

    Locke, your mind is a repugnant sewer of dissociative thought.

  16. Nick M says:

    Kevin,
    Exactly. I am of the age where I could easily have a ten year old child and I would move mountains to get her away from a geriatric pervert. This guy did the opposite. Great bloke. This girl was essentially sold as meat in the same way Tesco has been known to sell me a steak.

    Ian,
    It is both. Age comes into it. Age informs consent. It’s not the whole deal but it is part of it.

    Daphne,
    I didn’t so much mean rope for the opportunistic chancer who got it “nice and tight, just like prom night” (except tighter – not that I wanna think of that – I find it nauseating, frankly) but for the family who let this happen. This is a society were young couples are flogged for holding hands in public, where women are covered because every man is a rapist* but where it’s fine and dandy for ten year olds to be sold as sex-toys to elderly perverts.

    And they think we are sexually immoral?

    At times we might be but we can’t hold a candle to that.

    *Not that that has anything to do with the violation of the individual – much more some deranged concept of “family honour”.

  17. jameshigham says:

    Well, yes. I am well aware that elderly men fucking ten year old girls is not against shariah, which is one of the many many reasons shariah is repugnant.

    And a poll over my way had almost 100% against any form of Sharia Law or Muslim schools in Britain.

  18. Daphne says:

    I meant hang the filthy bastards.

    Literally.

    All of them.

    I don’t see why this a discussion, we are talking about the selling and raping of children. What’s to debate? It’s wrong on every conceivable level of cognitive thought.

    Rope is an appropriate response. I’ll stand by that.

  19. Daphne says:

    Locke said, “we can’t in all honesty claim that our ideas are inherently superior to any other means of organising society.”

    Cats responded, “To which my response is: I most certainly can, and I do.”

    Absolutely, Cats!

  20. CountingCats says:

    I`d also like to point out that moral relativism doesn`t equal amorality.

    You can point it out all you like, doesn’t make it true.

    Locke, you have demonstrated amorality throughout these discussions.

  21. Ian B says:

    I have to say the level of philosophical analysis from our morally absolutist brigade here is rather poor. The basic argument is “moral relativism is wrong because an old man married a little girl”.

    Now the thing is, you’re quite entitled to hold your moral view (I share it, as it goes), but that isn’t the same as proving that it is objectively correct. As I tried to show with the homosexuality example, the exact same argument is used by anybody who opposes something on moral grounds; indeed conservative muslims would use it against us; that our society is morally corrupt because we allow pooves.

    So, the apparent intention of the posting; to answer moral relativism, hasn’t been achieved. It’s just a statement that we don’t like old men marrying little girls, which is fair enough, but does not in any way address how one proves that moral preference to be objectively superior. And if you haven’t done that, you haven’t vanquished moral relativism. Get on board the FAILboat.

    And this is the dark secret really; morality is arbitrary. A century ago in our society, girls could marry at 12, women were forced to go swimming in evening dresses to avoid inflaming male passions, and we sent gays to the gallows, or at least Reading Jail. HSLD had a right old go at me for pointing this out once before- indeed, accusing me of being a moral relativist- but our own moral conservatism is strikingly similar to Sharia, except we got rid of the ultra-violent punishments a longer time ago. Sharia is not a very alien moral code. It is in many ways our own past, alive before our eyes in the present day, but with minarets. Conservative christian groups in the twentieth century in America complained mightily about mixed bathing, and girls riding in men’s cars unchaperoned. The irony of I felt about HSLD calling me a “relativist” when I pointed that out was that I was actually pointing out the close similarity. And let us not forget that child brides were still an issue in the American south just a few decades ago.

    We are particularly appalled by chiid brides these days because of relatively recent moral innovations in our culture, largely since the progressive era. Equal rights for women is a very recent idea, unique in human history. Gay rights have absolutely no precedent, anywhere in the history of civilisation. On that basis, we’re the oddballs.

    That doesn’t make us wrong, nor should it make us doubt our values. But it doesn’t make much of a case for moral absolutism. If the absolutists had won a century ago, Daphne wouldn’t be allowed in the sea unless via a bathing machine and swathed in ten yards of black burlap.

  22. Daphne says:

    Well, that would be a damn shame Ian! I look quite fetching in a bikini.

    Ian, there has never been anything moral about fucking children. We are not dithering about the appropriate age for sexual activity of menstruating girls, we are talking about hairless girls. Titless children a few years past toilet training for christ’s sake.

    Twitch it all you want, I don’t see any excuse for a moral relativism/cultural dynamic discussion on this topic. They are wrong, I am right.

    Period.

  23. Locke says:

    Counting Cats – I`m not amoral. I`m certainly not going to marry my ten year old to an 80 year old, have a wank on a bus or do anything else particuarly unpleasent or strange. But given the evidence it seems likely to me that had I been born in Aztec Mexico, I`d have supported human sacrifices – if born in Ancient Greece, boy buggery. Basically, I`m not so arrogant to believe that special little Locky has a magic brain that has somehow developed a code of behaviour independant of the society in which I live.

    The idea that in the West we base our morals on certain fundamental principles such as freedom, non-violence etc. doesn`t really stand up to close scrutiny either. It`s in your mind only – further even in your imaginary society in which morality is based upon these principles, it can simply be seen as a maintainance of the status quo, which some people will obviously disagree with.

    ******************************************************************

    You guys want to slaughter people from a different culture – and that`s fine. But given that there is no base level rational culture that all people accept, it`s probably the only way you`re going to manage to enforce your moral vision on everyone else. Might is right.

    Good luck.

  24. It seems to me that the key issue is consent, and the ability of a party to such a situation to give meaningful consent. That is why this issue resonates.

    I dunno whether this Locke character is amoral, but for someone who has emphatically denied the right of property, which is an extension of the principle of self-ownership, his comments are incoherent. To repeat Murray Rothbard’s point, the concept of freedom is intertwined with the notion of self ownership, and as Man acts in the world, with the ownership of things.

  25. Nick M says:

    Ian,

    What we did in the past is not really that relevent. There was a time in the past when all off us couldn’t use a toilet. That does not justify us shitting ourselves now.

    There is an absolute here. A ten year old cannot give informed consent to sex. A ten year old is almost certainly not someone with sexual desires. Twelve / thirteen maybe. That is a best guess on the evidence. But… It’s a bloody good one.

    And if you or me were to walk-in on the ageing playground lothario having his wicked way with Lolita you or I wouldn’t be pondering the eternal verities we’d be lamping the fucker.

    A culture in which that sort of sexual preversion is allowed and enshrined in law is very clear morally inferior to ours. There is no subjectivism here. There is child-rape. Pure and simple. In order to consent to sex that kid has to have the knowledge of what it is and ten year olds don’t really in the same way dogs can’t do calculus. And not just the knowledge but the desire and do you honestly think that girl’s hormones are firing on all cylinders yet? She probably wouldn’t even be lying in bed and touching herself “down there” whilst thinking of members of the latest boy-band.

    It is not just immoral. It is absurd. That is a girl the twinkly old git ought to be buying sweeties or dollies for and not giving a pearl necklace to. Tops she ought to be doing a bit of “I’ll show up mine if you’ll show you yours” with boys from her school round the back of the bike-sheds and going “Eeww!!” and running away.

  26. Current says:

    Has anyone here read “Ender’s Game”? If so they may be able to appreciate the humour of someone calling themselves “Locke” in an online debate. I’ll resist the urge to call myself Demosthenes.

    The position Locke is taking is that of a Marxist Postmodernist. He cites G.A. Cohen’s argument against the right of ownership of property. Since all property comes to us from primitive times it is all based upon theft. Certainly that is right as far as history goes. However, it does far less damage to the idea of property than Marxists believe. Because, the best way of looking at these things is the consequentialist one. The question that should be asked is “what are the consequences of holding property laws versus those of removing them?” The problem then moves to political economy, and here the Marxists lose according to utilitarian criteria.

    Locke says: “Basically, I`m not so arrogant to believe that special little Locky has a magic brain that has somehow developed a code of behaviour independant of the society in which I live.”

    Nobody said that moral codes are independent of society. I don’t claim in any way to have invented my own. However, the consequences of moral codes can be examined.

    What really is a question of taste is what outcomes are seen as desirable. Whether utilitarianism of some form is seen as desirable, for example. Here there are really unbridgeable problems.

    Suppose Locke rejects utilitarianism. Suppose he says that cultures really do vary in what are considered desirable ends, and as such can’t judge each other. If that is the case then he must say honestly “You guys want to slaughter people from a different culture – and that`s fine.”

  27. Current says:

    The last point I made can probably be made more clearly. In “Dirty Harry” Harry says “Opinions are like arseholes, everybody’s got one.” What “Locke” seems to be saying is “Opinions and morals are like arseholes, everybody’s got one.” Now, this is all fair enough, but it says nothing to those of us who share opinions about what good outcomes are.

    I should add, that I don’t think that opinions upon outcomes are actually very different. Most other cultures don’t have ill will towards humanity in general. Rather they have different ideas about what would be best for humanity.

  28. HSLD says:

    IanB :- ” HSLD had a right old go at me ”

    I didn’t really, that’s me when I’m very slightly peeved. If I’d had a go at you, you would know about it :)

    But I’m not here to have a go and I don’t want to cause offence, so in future I’ll simply take it down a notch. If we had been face to face for that discussion I think it would have been fairly obvious I didn’t intend to be rude, but with a text based discussion medium and all that….

  29. Ian B says:

    I wasn’t objecting. Really, robust debate is the lifeblood of something or other, really. Feel free to throw as many buns as you like :)

  30. NB. says:

    IanB, you are a patient and impressive guy (when you’re not talking about Mondrian ; )

  31. Paddy says:

    Very interesting debate here.

    Most of us here in the Occident would be disgusted at the idea of this marriage, and at the father’s complicity. We would therefore condemn this society and in our view we would be wrong to criticise it.

    However, here we have outrage at what is an anecdotal example and where the extremes of the ages make the difference as large as possible. What would be more important to digest is the average of

    1) What is normal “over there”
    2) What do the people think about these newsworthy examples?

    This would constitute data about the divergence in opinions between “us” and “them”.

    1) can be answered using statistics.

    2) Cannot be answered because while Saudi remains “medaevil” in outlook (or as Ian rightly points out, Scotland 20th century) it remains an ultra-modern police state with harsh rule of law imposed to the letter.

    In our society popular opinion can alter the law if it is perceived as unacceptable(no matter how important or assinine or emotive the issue is – take for example the ban on Fox Hunting in Great Britain).

    That is not possible there.

    So what about the majority islamic states that are in fact secularised like France in an effort to provide liberty of conscience? Turkey has imposed this system and 99% of their population remains muslim, on paper. The marriage age is set to a minimum of 15 for girls and 17 for boys (a quick check on my part could be wrong) which brings them in line with the west.

    This brings up the questions,

    a) why do we prop up Saudi Arabia? (OBVIOUS!)
    b) is is worth ceasing to do so?

    These are the big questions and in fact they are very much of our time.

    Wars have been fought recently and presently that were specifically to change regimes and popular opinion seems to be very much against that option right now.

    We cannot DO anything about this – we are just left to despise it and write to the foreign office in the feint hope that they may mention it.

  32. Paddy says:

    Very sorry, please read:

    “Most of us here in the Occident would be disgusted at the idea of this marriage, and at the father’s complicity. We would therefore condemn this society and in our view we WOULDN’T be wrong to criticise it.”

    !

  33. Locke says:

    Current -

    “Nobody said that moral codes are independent of society. I don’t claim in any way to have invented my own. However, the consequences of moral codes can be examined.”

    Actually, I think that is what Cats is claiming – he was implicating that I was some kind of bugger for even suggesting that I might not have built up my own moral code from a purely rational foundation.

    “I should add, that I don’t think that opinions upon outcomes are actually very different. Most other cultures don’t have ill will towards humanity in general. Rather they have different ideas about what would be best for humanity.”

    I think that most people have supreme abilvalence towards humanity in general, but feel incredibly antagonistic to geographically close “others”. That`s why this is a significant issue – not because we want things which are particuarly different on the large scale, but because we`ll hate each other for differences that are actualy rather small.

  34. Current says:

    Locke: “Actually, I think that is what Cats is claiming – he was implicating that I was some kind of bugger for even suggesting that I might not have built up my own moral code from a purely rational foundation.”

    If he said that I didn’t notice, I don’t think he did.

    CountingCats, if that’s what you mean then read “The Constitution of Liberty” especially chapter 4 “Freedom, Reason and Tradition”.

    Locke: “I think that most people have supreme abilvalence towards humanity in general, but feel incredibly antagonistic to geographically close “others”. That`s why this is a significant issue – not because we want things which are particuarly different on the large scale, but because we`ll hate each other for differences that are actualy rather small.”

    Fair enough, I’d mostly agree. I don’t really see what this has to do with the rest of your posts though. I think the recent post about Scousers demonstrates what you’re saying.

    If your just going to attack the folks here for being bigots then that’s fine. But why the postmodernist rubbish?

  35. Paul Marks says:

    Some reading of “Common Sense” philosphy might be of help here.

    Indeed reading it before it was even called “Common Sense” (say reading Ralph Cudworth) whilst it was called Common Sence (forward to 18th century with Thomas Reid and the others) and after it was called Common Sense – the times of 20th century philiosiphers like Harold Prichard (Prichard is perhaps my favourate) and Sir William David Ross – of course with Ross the Aristotle connection comes back (Aristotelianism being a different tradition of moral philosophy to Common Sense but comming to the same conclusions).

    There is a still an Aristotelian tradition in both Britain and the United States – and not all of them are Catholics (after all the Randian Objectivists are Aristotelians).

    And for Americans interested in Common Sense philosophy (which dominated the United States before the rise of the relativists Pragmatists) see the works of Noah Porter of Yale and James McCosh of Princeton.

    By the way McCosh was also the first philosopher to explain (in detail) why evolution was no threat to traditional Christian beliefs – his (19th century) works should be given to every American Creationist who (mistakenly) thinks he has to make a choice between evolution and Christianity – and therefore rejects evolution.

    Ian B. might prefer the Aristotelians – as they seek to PROVE morality.

    I am more inclined to the Common Sense school – who hold that morality is the foundation (there is not something else under it that is the foundation) and that people who pretend that child rape and murder are not evil are just arseholes.

    However, (as I said above) both schools come the same conclusions as regarding what good and evil, right and wrong actually are.

    And they are NOT relative – not “matters of opinion”.

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