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pavelcherepan

There are no universally wrong things in human society

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So I have choices, I can quit my job and slaves didn't have that luxury. Or maybe they did? History know a lot of cases where slaves lived a relatively happy lives and even some cases where slaves went on to become extremely rich and powerful, take Roxolana or Abram Gannibal (personal slave of Peter the Great of Russia). I agree that these are unique cases, but in reality it would depend on the person and on particular slaver society they find themselves in.

 

As Ophiolite has pointed out, slaves were always a valuable commodity and were very expensive. They were also a cornerstone of slave economy and were main producers of goods and services. If a person bought a slave it was generally a pretty hefty investment and they'd want their investment to pay off and ideally several times over. If you make your living off your car and you have a fairly modern car, you can of course fill it with 72 octane petrol (if you can find any) or run it into a tree on purpose, but then you'd be a bloody idiot and I would argue that most businessmen who made money from slaves generally weren't. So a lot of scary pictures of slaves getting killed, tortured and mistreated constantly are more of a product of modern society, because person who goes to see a movie about slavery will accept nothing but the most cruel, most horrible display of what slavery could be, because we all have to be sorry and repent. Yet, probably most of the cases treatment of slaves wasn't that harsh. It wouldn't be pleasant, mind you, but not like you'd see in movies.

 

And slaves would have options. If conditions are absolutely horrible they could commit suicide, incite an slave uprising or run away. All these three options happened a lot in history, but not as much as you'd expect. As a business owner, you'd really want to keep slaves happy enough to not succumb to these three options which are all very bad for business. Other options and less violent included showing your master your skill and proficiency in some task and becoming a supervisor among slaves like yourself, showing knowledge and literacy and becoming personal assistant slave or children's tutor. And there were probably many other options. Really, saying that slaves had no options is really an insult to them, because that is belittling them to the level of bacteria, who really have no choice, but to eat and to reproduce.

Edited by pavelcherepan

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And slaves would have options. If conditions are absolutely horrible they could commit suicide

 

All I can say is "Wow"

 

I think my participation here is done.

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I think we should dispense with the slavery-job-serfdom comparison as it does not serve any purpose. Rather the question is about moral objectivism. The issue is that with the given premise the answer Ophiolite gave is pretty much on point. If we use subjective metrics such as good and bad, obviously we cannot assign these attributes objectively and the whole conversation becomes moot. I.e. OP creates a circular argument by defining morals as subjective ("perceived as wrong") and then conclude that there fore they cannot be objective.

 

However, there are branches in philosophy that deal with this issue. My knowledge is obviously very limited but from what I recall we got deontological theories, much promoted by Kant and his categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law". The second formulation also includes: " Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end but always at the same time as an end."

That, would obviously make slavery non-moral.

 

 

A second large branch of moral objectivism is teleolotical, i.e. the morality of an act is not based on the act itself, but based on the consequences. A general argument is obviously that at one point or another a value judgement is being made. This is a subject that requires more knowledge than I have to fully explore. However, one of the things that I think about is this:

"Is an action that measurably reduces suffering in society moral/immoral?". This is more akin to moral realism, but I would also see whether there is disagreement in the opposite "are actions that measurably increase suffering in society moral/immoral?".

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The absence of error is the absence of society. Society needs division and conflict in order to exist - as it does alienation, overworking, and territorial greed.

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@Charon Y:

""Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law"."

 

Even Sartre resorted to this maxim near the end of B & N where he fishes around for some way to find a solid basis for morality after writing hundreds of pages that tell us that God is dead and that every person is free to decide what is right and wrong without recourse to external moral frames of reference, e.g., tradition, religious creeds, etc. Indeed, Kant is just as much of a hypocrite in that he writes a book in which he tells us that we cannot know what reality is like outside our own filtered perceptions of it, but then does an 'about face' by saying that this does not apply to morality, which in some inexplicable way is innate (i.e., a priori).

 

The problem with this maxim and the one about not treating people as a means to an end (i.e., don't be Machiavellian) do not really escape the limits of subjectivity. Suppose I say that that capital punishment is right and that I wish that it would become a universal law; well then, my neighbor thinks that it is wrong, and wishes to make it a universal law that capital punishment is never to be used...we can't both be morally right if we apply Kant's definition.

 

Furthermore, there are practices that do not seem to be wrong (in the sense of causing harm or imminent harm to others) on a small scale, but that would be destructive on a large scale. An example of this is the hysteria surrounding homosexuality...there was a time when far more people in the U.S., I would suggest, felt that the main problem wrong with homosexuality was that it would spread like the common cold and eventually people (or a dangerously high percentage of people) would stop having babies.....voila, the end of the human race!

 

But hysteria aside, the example of homosexuality illustrates that some things are such that they may have place within a society if practiced by a few, but not by the majority or by everyone; indeed, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists and psychologists point out that homosexuals have a positive role in many societies. Other examples might include abortion, euthanasia, use of certain drugs, lifelong unemployment, etc.

 

As for using others as an end, this happens all the time. Storekeepers, for example, routinely pretend to like customers more than they do in an effort to achieve the end of making a sale. One might argue that the storekeepers also treat the customer as a human being, and sometimes even have customers who are friends. Well sure, but the thrust of the relationship is one of treating the customer as an end, and the more desperate the storekeeper is to make a sell in order to buy food to feed him or herself and family, the more the focus will be on making the sale.

 

People are neither entirely selfish nor entirely altruistic (and indeed, the latter quality is more elusive than the first)...But my point is that, in practice, people treat each other as an ends to a means all the time, and that indeed, many societies would not function unless this were the case. Obviously some writers and philosophers will agree with this more than others. For example, Adam Smith clearly formulated this principle, but someone such as Ayn Rand could perhaps be said to take it to an extreme.

 

One has to be careful to distinguish between absolute morals (can't possibly be any other way), and universal morals (are true only so long as you are referring to a (typically small) society in which all the members agree about something, and even when there is a consensus in a given society about something, that can always change. The more logical meaning of universal ethics or morals is that it refers to a society in which all agree, so that all one can do is list those that have a moral consensus and those that don't....case closed. So yes, there are examples of universal morals, but they are few and far between with respect to large groups. As for absolute morals (things supposedly wrong independent of individual opinion), these only exist if one brings in a nonhuman, viz. a god.

Edited by disarray

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I say you are wrong. There are universal morals. And there are always exceptions.

 

If I go out and kill the mother of a baby elephant, the baby elephant will attack me voraciously. So to some degree it understands killing it's mother is wrong.

 

Even our Paleolithic ancestors had this sense of morals ingrained in us. We wouldn't kill the best hunter gatherer because we needed him for food. We didn't just kill eachother recklessly, we killed people from other tribes but often not one another.

 

There is some universal morals that are just in all of our consciousness. The exceptions often become with those who have mental illness.

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Even our Paleolithic ancestors had this sense of morals ingrained in us. We wouldn't kill the best hunter gatherer because we needed him for food. We didn't just kill eachother recklessly, we killed people from other tribes but often not one another.

 

 

Citation?

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I say you are wrong. There are universal morals. And there are always exceptions.

 

If I go out and kill the mother of a baby elephant, the baby elephant will attack me voraciously. So to some degree it understands killing it's mother is wrong.

 

Even our Paleolithic ancestors had this sense of morals ingrained in us. We wouldn't kill the best hunter gatherer because we needed him for food. We didn't just kill eachother recklessly, we killed people from other tribes but often not one another.

 

There is some universal morals that are just in all of our consciousness. The exceptions often become with those who have mental illness.

 

From a scientific pov, morality, be it on whatever level of 'consciousness', is a combination of the influence of genes/mental hardwiring interacting with the social and physical environment. So while females may instinctively protect their young (to help them survive), male apes will kill the offspring of a female if they are not his own (after the death or defeat of her previous mate), in part to spread his genes and maintain his dominance. Human males have similar instincts, though seldom committing infanticide, with added motivations such as not wanting to provide (or be seen as providing) for the offspring of some other male, either while he is alive or after his death. Indeed, sometimes female apes will preempt the new males killing of the offspring of her previous mate by killing the offspring herself.

 

In general, when it comes to what is 'ingrained in the consciousness' of a species, one finds that behavior based upon emotions such as jealousy, anger, territoriality, possessiveness, greed, lust, hunger, etc. are the most universal, owing to survival/reproductive mechanisms, and things such as passive resistance and universal compassion are exceptions typically based on the less stable foundation of reason. (Of course there are extreme outliers with ab-normal psychological propensities when it comes to basic emotions, e.g., serial killers, but such exceptions do not contradict the general principle that people ultimately act in terms of what is best for them and their immediate social group.)

 

As for other aspects of sexual morality, a study of chimps, gorillas, orangutans, baboons, bonobos, and modern humans will give us a wide array of socially 'acceptable' behaviors.

 

Indeed, from an anthropological standpoint, morality is so varied that any valid generalizations provide little more than tautologies or self-contradictory statements, e.g., 'people tend to do what is good for themselves and/or for others'.

Edited by disarray

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?????????

 

Can you please make your question a little bit more specific?

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On 26/01/2016 at 11:48 PM, kisai said:

I'm trying to think of a society which tolerates hacking up your neighbors with an axe, or burning the village to the ground, or going to the chief's house and taking a crap on the dinner table, but I'm going to fail.

The only truth or falsity; good or bad; right or wrong etc are just those which can be justified or proved or verified objectively or subjectively! Sometimes the subjective conclusion of the above is just convictional(see democracy) and objective conclusion of the above is consistent and complete or incomplete

Edited by universaltheory

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