A lot of people seem to be enmeshed in post modernist thought which tells them everything is a narrative rooted in a culture that surrounds it, and therefore there is nothing objective from which we can judge the rightness or wrongness of another culture.

Into this void a lot of christian apologists have found roots, they say god is the objective narrative and the bible can be used to judge right and wrong and claim they are the measure stick. They seem to get away with this because pomo(post modern) thinkers tend to offer arguments of subtly against an argument of brute force.

What I am interested in is whether or not you subscribe to a pomo view of the world, and if you do, how do you counter the religionist who claims their narrative is foundation without judging them or the context in which they bring their argument forth.

If you do not subscribe to the pomo view of things, what is your position? Can we judge other cultures? If so by what measure?

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Nice conundrum!

My answer would be to let nature take it's course. If I believe in following the "prime directive," I accept that religious evangelism is caught in the net of acceptance and that the evolution of humanity will follow it's natural course.

If I believe "good " and "evil" are culturally defined, then the behaviors of other humans are neutral phenomenon.
All moral codes, ethical systems, and religions are tools. We use these tools to help us understand our existence. It is important to keep in mind that all of these systems are models of reality. They are not "real" in themselves. Since they are models of reality they are necessarily wrong to some extent. Some of these models (such as Scientology) are such flawed constructs that they serve little purpose and have no quality or value. Others (such as value ethics) are quite useful, while obviously not perfect.


Love this idea. Very useful.

I have a similar paradox in my belief system (for lack of a better word).

I am philosophically apathetic to human outcomes (the Dancing Bear thing), but spend a great deal of time and energy actively working to open others (students/friends/family/co-workers) to free thinking.

I'm not sure if my philosophical apathy is due to laziness or because it frees me from the stress of wanting to change the world.

I have preferences toward human outcomes (peace, love and happiness), but to some extent, consider investing emotional energy in them a fool's errand. I can't even say that I believe peace, love and happiness are "good" outcomes, as much of what I appreciate in my own character was born of exposure to anger, frustration, depression, hatred and fear.

That said, I get a kick out of turning others on to that mental stretching we were talking about on the other thread. I'm pretty good at it too. And, I feel like I am making a positive contribution (to what?).

Bottom line, my "helping" others become better critical thinkers is fun and rewarding for me. However, I invest precious little psychic energy into caring about the ultimate or long term effects of this "helping" on humanity at large. Because each human has to start from scratch in the process of maturing, each generation seems to be forever learning the same life lessons anew.

At any rate, my paradoxical take results in a good deal of peace and contentment on my end ;-) And, maybe some subjective benefit to folks with whom I interact.
Well, the best thing to do would be to brush up on critical thinking by becoming familar with various fallacies. From there you can judge whether or not a particular idea is worth endorsing.

From there I would suggest googling things such as, Hume, Problem of Evil, Euthyphro, or check our iron chariots, trying to think of more.
Reading up on logical fallicies and critical thinking is a great start. I'm not very well read on philosophy either, but being a good critical thinker helps keep me in the game here.

I have never encountered a smarter group of people in my life than the folks on A/N. This is a fantastic place to sharpen the intellectual blade ;-)
I tend to favor the 'Harm' paradigm of morality as it relates to various cultures and is often proffered by Sam Harris and others.

However, I see the problem as one of axiomatic principals that, for most people, are never really looked into.

First, and paramount, is the idealization or fetishization of the 'Truth', which I see as a modern extension of the Platonic ideals that exist as uncorrupted, never changing, transcendent 'things'. It seems that the current camps of thought hold that there is no objective definable Truth, and the other holds there is an objective Truth that is based on god.

I would have to say neither can be or is entirely correct. The idea of an objective truth based on god can be and should be easily dismissed via the Euthyphro (IS god good because good is aligned with god, or is god good because good is something god aspires too; in either case, good and good are both shown to be subjective and deleterious). That said, it is clear to me that some variation of an 'objective goal post' must exist as civilizations cannot function in a relativistic mire. This is clearly demonstrated in the increasing conflicts between modern civilizations like Britain who are struggling under the banner of multiculturalism and relativism and the iron age disciples of Islam who remain largely tribal in their identity and who exploit the wishy-washy values of the modern community to further isolate and embolden their own cultural enclave.

Secondly we have this notion, or some of us do, that morality itself, is something other than natural. That some how, morality isn't based on instict, that is is seperate in some Cartesian sense. Which, to my mind, is nonsensical since the advent of nuerology and the soft sciences of phycharity clearly show that morality is embedded in the natural mind. This is one area where we cannot afford to simply cave on and one which we need to highlight with some consistany. We now know that moral behavoir exists in other species, much as chimps. Claiming moral behavoir is divine on one order of things and base instinct in another is simply arguing a difference where none exists.

And lastly, there is the case, especially in existentialist circles, that since there is no ultimate sense of good or evil, that none exist. This, again, is outright false, since we do not live, base or judge ourselves against the backdrop of the ultimate but against the now. To deny that things can be evil, in the simplest sense of the word, is to deny suffering and pain - which are too prominent to be dismissed. It also lessons the Problem of Evil, and minimizes the day-to-day suffering we all must endure 3 seconds at a time, and a lifetime in reflection.

Herein comes the idea that morality should be based on whether or not an action or idea harms another. Of course there are arguments as to what is harm, and whether or not all harm is equal (of course not). I find however, that those who oppose the Harm Model, are the same who would assert the objective god model. Often times they will try to argue that god operates within the Harm Model.

So in my opinion you can judge others, and other cultures by the degree of harm their paradigms cause directly and indirectly. We can quantify harm caused, I think, fairly easily if we set out by clearly defining areas of direct comparison. For example, life expectancy, literacy, childhood poverty, incidence of single motherhood, std's, prevalence of mutilation and so on. There is no reason why we should merely shrug and say female mutilation is 'cultural' and therefore we cannot judge those who do it. Clearly this is wrong because it devalues the person and reduces them to their genitals, it destroys thier ability to enjoy sex as an adult, and it stigmatizes those who don't do it or those who do and have pre-marital sex. Not only is this wrong, so is circumcision using much of the same argument, but even more so when evaluating the Judaic practice where by the mohel sucks on the wound. In NY, NY one mohel with herpes infected many newborn males. Such practice cause far more harm than any good.

In addition to this, we need to seriously evaluate the benefits of religion. If religion is really good for us, there has to be a correlation between belief and some kind of measurable real world benefit. You can't take their word for it , you would have to look at actual practices and what their texts actually say.

This is the short answer though.
So in my opinion you can judge others, and other cultures by the degree of harm their paradigms cause directly and indirectly.

I think harm is a good meaure of morality. However, not so simple as it seems. I think we are pretty terrible at predicting the ultimate moral nature of an event. The events that have caused me the most suffering are also the events that facilitated character development and personal growth. I would even go as far as to say that individuals who have never been the victims of harm are highly likely to have arrested moral development. I appreciate the suffering of others, because I can relate it to my own suffering (empathy).

That said, harm is still the best litmus I can think of as a moral compass.
Oh I agree completely with the idea that suffering helps us develop. The issue really is not so much whether or not harm is the basis for a morality or any morality (in my mind at least), but to what degree.

In many cases, the moral thing is to cause harm. A perfect and often used example, are vaccines. We expose our children to the immediate pain of the injection and accept the possible side effects as a moral as well as civic duty. We do so because the potential harm of not doing so is far greater.

In much the same way, events in our lives can vaccinate (prepare us) for events to come later, that, without the inoculating effect of having suffered already, would crush us. The whole affect is much like a child with their untested skin. The slightest variation in water temperature from tepid is a trial in its own right. But, without varying the temperature, their skin can never get used to colder or hotter temperatures, which in the long run works against the child rather than helps them.

So we are forced to look at what amount of suffering is necessary and what amount is unnecessary. In the examples above, we would (I hope) both agree a proactive shot in the arm with a dead virus is better than contracting the virus down the road. In the same vein, we would both agree (again I hope) that exposing the same child to the live virus would constitute unnecessary harm, since that child will then feel the full force of the illness and might possibly die, or might experience some form of morbidity.

Exposing a child to slight variations in tempeture might prolong their discomfort, but not doing so would lead to poor hygeine that could comprise the health of others and themselves. However, scalding the child would be wholly egregious and uncalled for.

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