Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Moral Relativism

Moral Relativism is not the simple belief that anything goes. Moral relativism is a belief that morality is relative to one's cause.

In Latter Day Liberty, Connor Boyack presents a view of history in which truth and history are relative to the Mormon cause. He then turns and begins attacking people outside his group for moral relativism.

This quote about education on page 205 is quite interesting.

Textbooks and curricula often contain historical revisionism, where influential literature is sanitized to be made "politically correct," important figures from American or world history are denigrated or excluded from lessons altogether, and other, less important individuals are elevated to near demigod status by the arbitrary selection of the textbook publisher.

This quote is in a book that has numerous quotes from LDS Leaders who are simply unknown outside the LDS Church. The book has quotes and recounts experiences of characters from the Book of Mormon. There is no evidence, outside claims of Joseph Smith, that these characters even existed. If Joseph lied, then Mr. Boyack is quoted fictional characters and cited fictional events.

In the next paragraphs, Connor Boyack sets out to denigrate individuals that he dislikes. The individuals are Sigmund Freud, John Dewey, Charles Darwin, and John Maynard Keynes.

Speaking of Freud, one of Freud's favorite topics was projection. Freud saw psychological projection "as a defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects his or her own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world" (Wikipedia drawn 2/2014).

I dislike Sigmund Freud, but I think he hit the nail on the head when he explored psychological project. I've found that projection is extremely common in political discourse. In political projection, pundits attack their opponents for the weaknesses of their own positions while trying to lay claim to their opposition's strengths. It is foolish to assume that the first politician who denounces an opponent of lying is telling the truth. Projecting lies onto others is one of the most common ways to protect one's own lies.

We see political projection regularly. It is common for legislation to bear a title that is opposite of the consequences of the legislation. For example, the "Patient Project and Affordable Care Act" threw many patients into a state of health insecurity while raising the overall cost of health care. That PPACA would increase cost was apparent to anyone who read the bill.

Projection is often effective because many decisions are morally relative to the situation. For example, if you shoot a person who is wielding a knife and trying to stab you, people will call your act self-defense. If you just up and shot another person to see what it feels like, people are likely to see your act as murder.

Common decisions are relative to the situation. If I pulled an apple off a tree and ate it, the morality of my act is based on the ownership of the tree. If I owned the tree or have permission from the owner, then my act is fine. If a farmer owned the tree, then I am stealing from the farmer.

Political correctness is a terrible thing in which people judge an act on whether it advances or impedes a political cause. For the politically correct, the truth value of a statement depends on whether the statement advances a cause or impedes a cause. Many on the left do not see Obama's statement that "you can keep your insurance" as a lie because the truth value of the statement is determined by whether or not the statement advanced the cause. They do not see the truth value of the statement as an objective assessment of whether or not people would get to keep their insurance after the new health care law.

Just as progressives judge the truth value of Obama's statement on whether or not the statement advanced the cause, the truth value of many of Connor's Conundrums are relative to the truth value of the Book of Mormon. Many of Connor's conundrums are only true if the Book of Mormon is true.

Classical thinkers from Socrates onward discovered that many questions of justice are relative to the situation and that we need to understand the circumstances that led to a judgment in our evaluation of a decision. Before we evaluate the decisions of others, we need to research and understand the perspectives and set of ideas that led to the decision.

Personally I believe that there is value in pursuing universal truths. Yes, what we call universal ethics is ethics relative to what one considers to be universal. The pursuit of universal ethics encourages people to look beyond themselves or their own little group.

When we come across ideas that benefit one group at the cost of another, we should question the morality of the ideas. However, we must also be aware that, in our pursuit of universal truths, it is unlikely that we will come across clear absolutes. After all, what may appear to be a universal truth from one perspective may appear differently from another.

As for the moral relativism of the politically correct, the problem here is not that things appear differently from different directions, the problem is that politically correct moral relativists are basing their judgments on political effect. The politically correct, by their very nature, approach the world with a biased version of truth and partisan goals. The moral relativism pushed by the politically correct invariably devolves into a corrupt system with the politically powerful rewarding friends and punishing enemies.

The politically correct often push moral relativism as a way to mask the underhanded nature of their personal philosophy. Such people need to be called out for their corruption and not for the fact that we live in an changing world. The fact that the morality of actions may be relative to conditions should not drive us to distraction. It should inspire us to learn more about the condition of man.

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