Judging the morality of the past by today's standards. - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it. Note: nostalgia *is* allowed.
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#13995472
Is it legitimate to condemn the actions of people in the past when their actions were fully consistent with accepted practices of the time?

People condemn Mohammad for having a child bride -but that was normal then.

Slavery was accepted practice and only started to be challenged in the second half of the 18th century.

I think such condemnations are pointless.
#13995483
Every historical action and event (such as historical morality) is the product of time- and location-specific influences that we as people with imperfect information cannot ever hope to begin understanding. Trying to condone or condemn historical ideas of morality is pointless.
#13995504
Morality is a social construct - in fact, it's what makes human society itself possible - and as such it tends to change as society itself changes. This means that the behaviour of people from the past often strikes us now as having been thoroughly immoral, despite the fact that their contemporaries may have regarded that same behaviour as decent and laudable. The same thing works in reverse of course - if an average contemporary person were to travel back in time several hundred years, and behave then as they behave now, they would likely be regarded as cynical, depraved bastards and would probably end up in the stocks or with their neck on the executioner's chopping block.
#13995510
Yes it is, the laws of morality stay the same no matter what cultural values exist in your society at the time and you should be judged according to these rules, not whether the people around you are more or less evil.
Mohammed could reason and think also, I am sure if he had been intelligent he would have figured out that fucking 9 year old girls is probably not so healthy for said girl.
#13995523
I find myself in between the positions of moral relativism and moral absolutism(expressed, respectively, in the two posts above me). I suppose I would define my position as moral evolutionism, or moral progressivism. I think there is such a thing as moral progress, and that this is a product of social progress itself. But it's no use blaming previous generations for adhering to the morality of their time when they had never been presented with an alternative.
#13995524
But imo "lots of pepole do it" does not excuse a crime.


'Crimes' are illegal actions. If there is no law to make something illegal in a particular time and place then such acions are not 'crimes'.

Morality is a social construct - in fact, it's what makes human society itself possible - and as such it tends to change as society itself changes.

Yup
This means that the behaviour of people from the past often strikes us now as having been thoroughly immoral, despite the fact that their contemporaries may have regarded that same behaviour as decent and laudable.



suppose I would define my position as moral evolutionism,


I like that. I think morality evolves just as technology evolves. We have been constantly widening the circle of who we think that rights apply to and who are 'other' that can be killed/ robbed at will, the most progressive of us are widening the circle to all sentient beings.

Yes

The same thing works in reverse of course - if an average contemporary person were to travel back in time several hundred years, and behave then as they behave now, they would likely be regarded as cynical, depraved bastards and would probably end up in the stocks or with their neck on the executioner's chopping block.


What with all their swearing, immodest behavior, not making proper religious observance, demonic practices (such as mathematics beyiond simple equations).



Yes it is, the laws of morality stay the same no matter what cultural values exist in your society at the time and you should be judged according to these rules


What laws of morality are these? I studied Philosophy at university to Bachelor level and never once came accross anyone who claimed that there were 'laws of morality'. Please link to where these 'laws of morality' are enshrined.
#13995526
houndred wrote:What laws of morality are these? I studied Philosophy at university to Bachelor level and never once came accross anyone who claimed that there were 'laws of morality'. Please link to where these 'laws of morality' are enshrined.


Well I am not surprised since most university philosophers suck dick at their profession, the laws of morality are figured out by thinking for yourself and figuring out whether your actions are hurting others.
#13995531
It probably depends what you hope to achieve from your study of history.

If all you hope to do is try and understand what happened, why, what it was like etc. then making moral judgements based on the morality of your day is actually counter-productive. It would be like studying a general, and attempting to understand the decisions they made, by assuming that they were exactly like you.

On the other hand if you were hoping to draw some kind of lesson from history (which may or may not be a valid exercise, that's another debate really), judging what occurred by todays standards is to be expected.


Kman wrote:Well I am not surprised since most university philosophers suck dick at their profession, the laws of morality are figured out by thinking for yourself and figuring out whether your actions are hurting others.

... I don't even know where to start with this. Your comment is at once naive, simplistic and arrogant.
#13995534
Well I am not surprised since most university philosophers suck dick at their profession, the laws of morality are figured out by thinking for yourself and figuring out whether your actions are hurting others.


And how would you know this? This seems to be your subjective opinion which you have enshrined as a universal law. Morality is an entirely manufactured concept and does not exist on an a priori basis. You also clearly haven;t a clue what the study of philosophy entails.

WHilst you may not be an ignoramus in real life that post is typical of one which an utter moron might make.
Last edited by houndred on 29 Jun 2012 11:28, edited 1 time in total.
#13995547
I think such condemnations are pointless.

Not at all.

The issue is equally relevant for judging actions considered legitimate in the context of particular societies today, not just in making historic comparisons.

I think it can be fairly easy to identify certain moral standards ("it is wrong to murder innocents") that can be broadly applied across both space and time.

When an action is immoral, it is immoral, regardless of:
1. Positive law in effect
2. Customs and traditions in the society within which it takes place
3. My ability or inability to provide "proof" that the action is immoral.

My only compromise to relativism is in drawing inference from an immoral action to the character and nature of the acting person. I think people who act immorally, but within the norms of their immediate societies can still be good people.

There is an analogy to acting in an effective manner to cure disease. Appeasing the God of the Mountain is ineffective in curing disease, regardless of the beliefs and expectations of the tribe which attempts such appeasement. However, a member of such tribe can still be rational and of sound mind while making attempt at such appeasement with an expectation of positive result, even while it is much harder to consider a modern American as being of sound mind while making a similar attempt.
#13995564
Purely utilitarian thinking, killing humans can backfire on you, killing animals doesnt however since they are not smart enough to harm the master race IE humans.


So let me get this right. It is OK to kill sentient beings who are not smart enough to harm you?

I thought you believed in moral laws and yet you have now become 'utilitarian'(by your defintion)



I think it can be fairly easy to identify certain moral standards ("it is wrong to murder innocents") that can be broadly applied across both space and time.


Then please demonstrate these moral standards that have applied to all places and at all times. I can
immediately see problems with your above example, for instance.

When an action is immoral, it is immoral, regardless of:


Except you haven't demonstrated what that morality is, there is no objective defintion of an immoral act. I have my own moral standards based on primary axioms whilst most people's morality is just a poor attempt to justify their own praxis. Kman is a prime example.
#13995571
houndred wrote:So let me get this right. It is OK to kill sentient beings who are not smart enough to harm you?


Only if they are not human beings.

houndred wrote:I thought you believed in moral laws and yet you have now become 'utilitarian'(by your defintion)


The two things are not mutually exclusive.
#13995572
Then please demonstrate these moral standards that have applied to all places and at all times.

I don't need to.

I am advocating a moral standard that views murder of innocents as wrong. That moral standard inherently applies to all times and places. In other words, the standard is "it is always wrong to murder innocents", rather than "it is wrong to murder innocents when such murder is considered wrong by prevailing society".

You can logically reject my standard. Most human societies have indeed done just that. In practice, most human societies (selectively) reject that standard even today.

But just because some people (here and elsewhere, now or in the past) fail to acknowledge that standard doesn't exempt them (in my eyes, or the eyes of people who share my moral sentiments) from compliance with it. We can argue whether such people are evil (i.e. purposefully and knowingly doing that which is wrong) or merely [u[mistaken[/u] (i.e. conforming with standards that they erroneously feel are appropriate). Either way, what those people are doing (e.g. murdering innocents) is wrong.

Except you haven't demonstrated what that morality is, there is no objective definition of an immoral act.

I'd be happy to articulate what I consider to be the minimal standards of morality (namely to avoidance, with the possible exception of emergencies, of aggression against others). I fully acknowledge my inability to "demonstrate" that my standards must apply universally at the standard of mathematical or scientific proof. I can (and do) try to motivate others to adopt those standards. Depending on circumstances, I could try both consequentialist ("we will all be better off") or principled ("it is wrong to initiate aggression") arguments.

Here in PoFo, byw, my record of success has been abysmal.

I have my own moral standards based on primary axioms

I'd be interested to learn more about them (both the standards and the axioms).
#13995692
Only if they are not human beings.


So why is it OK to kill non human beings but not humans (lets see if you can show any sort of consistency- my bet is that you can't)

The two things are not mutually exclusive.


Actually they pretty much are, espcially how you phrase them .You have not thought out any sort of moral framework.

Try harder.



Eran

I am advocating a moral standard that views murder of innocents as wrong. That moral standard inherently applies to all times and places. In other words, the standard is "it is always wrong to murder innocents", rather than "it is wrong to murder innocents when such murder is considered wrong by prevailing society".


Except that some people think human fetuses are innocents and other people think that they aren't. Then there is the utiltarian (using the proper meaning of the word) that the sacrifice of a few innocents for the greater good is morally acceptable. For example (true story) the SOE in world war two killed several people who knew the exact date and place of D-Day when SOE knew that most if not all of them were almost certainly no risk at all. The risk of teh germans finding out the details would have put tens of thousands at risk. This was accepted by both the UK and US governments of the time as being unpleasant but necessary.

You can logically reject my standard. Most human societies have indeed done just that. In practice, most human societies (selectively) reject that standard even today.


So essentially you refute your own claim that there is a universal moral standard. All you are really claiming is that YOU have a baseline moral standard. I have baseline standards too just as Kman has no baseline standards- he just justifies his own previously held praxis....indeed this is what most people do.

But just because some people (here and elsewhere, now or in the past) fail to acknowledge that standard doesn't exempt them (in my eyes, or the eyes of people who share my moral sentiments) from compliance with it.


But this moral standard of yours is entirely subjective. I am not subject to your moral whims as you ,no doubt, reject the moral whims of a Marxist or a Salafist Islamist.


I'd be happy to articulate what I consider to be the minimal standards of morality (namely to avoidance, with the possible exception of emergencies, of aggression against others).


Lots of people have their own moral standards. Some actually rationally think them through, most ,like Kman, don't

I fully acknowledge my inability to "demonstrate" that my standards must apply universally at the standard of mathematical or scientific proof


No one has ever been able to do that because morality is utterly subjective. If like Kman you are a meat eater then you are morally corrupt in my eyes. I extend the no harm save in self defence to all sentient beings I don't award myself a incompatible get out clause just because I like eating meat.

Here in PoFo, byw, my record of success has been abysmal.


I respect you said that. We are both from the same dirction of the political spectrum (ie pointing at half past four) (just noted that 'tea time' is libertarian) so I sympathisewith your position but I have to accept that it is just a position.


I'd be interested to learn more about them (both the standards and the axioms).


My primary axiom isa rule constrained reverse utilitarianism aka painism. That 'the good' is that we should take actions that minimise suffering(rather than maximising pleasure) within a framework of basic human rights.

Essentially that means that you only have a duty to respect the boundaries of others, not steal from them, attack them, defraud them. If someone is drowning then you have no duty to aid them although it is "good' were you to aid them. I extend that to all sentient beings on thenasis that if you feel pain then you have an interest in not doing so. I do not give myself easy get out clauses,
#13995710
So essentially you refute your own claim that there is a universal moral standard.

I think we are confusing two meanings of "universal". The moral standard I cited is universal in its applicability, but not universal in its acceptance.

In other words, the standard, as cited, applies universally. However, not all people accept it.

There is no refutation or contradiction.

All you are really claiming is that YOU have a baseline moral standard.

Sure. And with some luck, some of my friends to. Who knows - one day perhaps even large fractions of society will adopt that standard. In my opinion, what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong, even if nobody alive on Earth agrees.

But this moral standard of yours is entirely subjective.

Yes, I am a moral subjectivist.

I am not subject to your moral whims as you ,no doubt, reject the moral whims of a Marxist or a Salafist Islamist.

You are subject to my moral views ("whim" doesn't sound respectful). You may reject them, but in my opinion (as well as the opinion of all those who agree with me), you are still subject to those views.

I disagree with the moral values of Marxists and Salafist Ismalist. True. But in their view, I am still subject to their values, and in my view, they are still subject to mine.

No one has ever been able to do that because morality is utterly subjective.

Agreed. So when you asserted that my moral values are entirely subjective, you said nothing new.


Essentially that means that you only have a duty to respect the boundaries of others, not steal from them, attack them, defraud them.

Earlier you stated that the good is that "we should take actions that minimise suffering". Don't I have a duty to help alleviate the visible pain of another person, rather than merely respect their boundaries?

How to you rationalize the line between what is "good" (helping a drowning person) and what is obligatory (merely respecting other people's boundaries)?
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