So, I started my Ethics class two weeks ago, and it's getting kinda hairy. There is only 22 of us, and there is already a line in the sand. On one side, there are the "so obviously atheist/agnostic it is not funny" and "The bible says it is the good book so I am going to agree with it.".


The question for Wed. was "are you a relativist or an absolutist?". I, either misreading or just not really explaining myself, stated that I was an absolutist. There are things that I personally believe, hands down, that are just wrong. But there are things I also think that are up for interpretation. An example of this could be either marriage or co-habitation. I see nothing wrong with adults who are gay getting married. Same thing for people who are in a polyamorous relationship(I'm not but hey, it works for some folks).


The example I used was corrective rape(I thought it was wrong. period. No reason whatsoever that it could be used for good.).


Well, some really good responses came. One being someone pointing out where I was wrong(I thanked them) and them talking about the different variations on relavitism(it's mind blowing!).  Even a christian stated that it was, in her words "true".

I honestly thought I was going to be drawn and quartered, because I've just been really really blunt in that class.


For example, we talked about the differences between ethics, religion, ettiquite and law. In the discussion forum for our class, a classmate stated that religious edicts are perfect because they are based on the word of God. I wanted to hit my head on the wall. I told her how i disagreed with her and how religion could actually push immoral agendas. I then did ask her if a religion pushed an immoral agenda, should it be left alone or should it be changed. The answer(to me) seemed obvious. She NEVER responded. I will note that the question I asked was a bit more polished than what I am saying now.


I had to say the same thing to another classmate, who then asked me why the stuff i listed was any different from real life. I wanted to just hit my head repeatedly.


It was as if they didn't want to think. I mean, I do. I know I'm going to get the answers wrong from time to time, but...come on!



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Comment by Jedi Wanderer on March 30, 2011 at 12:40pm
We may of course pick the discussion up in my new group, Ethical Theory, the one you recently joined. Feel free to start a new discussion on relativism there, or anything else you want to talk about, I'll be sure to give you a vigorous response.
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on March 30, 2011 at 12:22pm

I can see why ethics ate your brain, Monica.


JD: Whose greater good you ask.  Well... my greater good of course. This is 1. not what the greater good means at all, and 2. is pure relativism. I agree with much of what you say further on, and I think we could find a lot more to agree upon if we really tried to sort it all out. But I'm about done bogarting Monica's post for our own debate.

Comment by Jedi Wanderer on March 30, 2011 at 11:37am
Well JD, I agree with the spirit if not the letter of your argument. Certainly ethics is complicated, that much is for certain. To boil it all down to a few simple dichotomies is surely to do it a serious injustice. But it can still be useful to engage with such questions. I actually try to point out that when we are asking about whether ethics is absolute or relative, we are actually conflating two separate questions, whether ethics is relative to creatures capable of subjective experience or is true irrespective of who does the expereincing, and whether ethics is something which is completely subjective and up to each individual or whether it is completely objective. I say ethics must be relative to a subjective experiencer (which is why I call myself a relativist), but that there is a great deal we can say objectively about such experiences. This puts me on some middle ground as far as the second question. This position means that I can handle the "changing nature of ethical choices" because I take circumstances into consideration, and I can also say there is some unchanging element which makes something good or bad regardless of one's individual opinion. But saying that what is good is what is in the interests of the greater good is either absolutist or meaningless without further qualification. Whose greater good?
Comment by Jedi Wanderer on March 30, 2011 at 10:30am
@ John D: isn't an ethics based on a precept of "the greater good" absolutist? That is, anything which is for the greater good is good, anything which harms the greater good is bad? I don't follow your argument that there is a false dichotomoy here. I guess that's mostly because you really didn't give one. And are you somehow equating "our social emotions" with the greater good? You seem to be arguing that both are where ethics comes from. So which is it?
Comment by David Anam on March 30, 2011 at 9:27am

It might be a good thing that the religious person didn't respond. That could mean that they hadn't really thought of that and now you've introduced that concept to them.


Just remember that many Christians (especially outspoken ones) have had these beliefs most of their life and it's very hard to face the idea that they have been wrong about so much. They will outwardly defend their position, even if they are beginning to question it on the inside.

Comment by Jedi Wanderer on March 30, 2011 at 6:17am

Uh, did you mean collective rape?


Anyways, ethics is no simple matter. I happen to be a relativist, and it took me up until this point in my life to get to the current level of sophistication in my moral reasoning, and I suspect I have longer still to go (I hope so!). You are it seems in an introductory ethics class, I have taken that and two further classes in ethical theory and disagreed vehemently with all of my professors (who were all atheists). So I have two suggestions for you. First, ignore those dumb religious fucks. You aren't in that class for them, you are there to expand your own mind, get a better understanding of ethics and probably to get a good grade as well. Secondly, get good at ethics! We need a lot of atheists who really understand the deep issues and can speak intelligently about how and why atheists can be good people, even more so than religious people. And if you want, you can track down some of the things I and many other people have written about ethics here on Nexus. There are a lot of well-informed people here on the subject.



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