I didn’t get a single question, not one since the last post. I guess this just means you all decided to see what I would come up with on my own, or there is no “you all” in the first place. Nevertheless, I cannot let this stop me, so I have used my horribly limited creativity to decide that this…
Very Interesting, Nick, but I have a few problems with what you say, as well as some agreements. First off, if you believe in relativist theory, there technically aren’t any objective statements. Every “objective” statement is relative to some frame of reference. The problem of your logic is that the relativist admitted that there could be one objective statement. This is false. There is no such thing as an objective statement that is outside a reference point. Now, this may be taking an engineering point of view to the question, but if you define a relative reference point, many statements suddenly seem to become objective. This has effectively merged the philosophies by just realizing that if we realize that everything we can state is relative to whatever reference point we ourselves see things from, we can treat any statement as either objective or subjective based on that reference point. Just like there are really no concrete statements in physics or engineering, and everything is defined by your reference point, what everything in your system is relative to, so it goes in philosophy. Everything about your philosophy is defined relative to your reference point (which consists of your views, thoughts, experiences, etc. Basically how you look at the world).
I do completely agree with your point about poetry. I completely detest post-modern poetry and most post-modern prose. It’s either inane and silly or obnoxiously dark, and after a semester of creative writing I absolutely can stand no more dark angsty writing. I wrote a post modern poem for an english journal this year, and it was a blank piece of paper. They are so open to interpretation it would have been better had they not written anything at all. If you are trying to get a message out, why would you write something so stupid? Of course, my view is taken from my point of reference, and everyone else is entitled to their opinion. But they are wrong.
With your point about the constitution, where was the jefferson quote taken from? I won’t accept it as evidence unless it’s put in context. But I do agree that parts of the Constitution should stay the same and some should be developed for the times. But who is to say which part? We each have a unique view of the world, how can we definitively say what is the right or the wrong way to interpret it. None of us see the whole picture, or even through the same lens. it becomes a question of personal beliefs. Personally, I would stay as true to the original Constitution as possible, were I a supreme court justice. I would take a look a the case, look at the letter of the law, and decide on that and not on my personal views of the subject (though you could say my personal view is that the letter of the law should be obeyed at all times). This would lead to a lot of conflict with the silly view that “we should change the constitution because it’s three hundred years in the future”. Why should non time specific laws be changed just because the times have? There is no rhyme or reason for it.
First I will respond to the note on Relativism. I tried to simplify my argument last time against it for the sake of keeping my post of a readable length, but I’ll develop it a little more here for the sake of showing that my logic still holds. The first qualification is that there are obviously some relatives in this world. For example, the world does not always look the same. In some places you will see seasons changing and a variation of colors, all of which are subjective to your environment and time. In other places, all you’ll see is white, ice, and more ice. It will snow, and you will hardly notice seasons. Clearly, the observable world is not one giant absolute, it varies by environment. At the same time, there are absolutes. Objects of mass will exert forces of gravitation attraction with each other. This is true regardless of where you are in the universe. This is an absolute. The disagreement of Objectivism and Relativism is a disagreement about morals, not a disagreement about statements of fact or observation. A Relativist would say that there are no absolute morals, or there are no statements of right and wrong that apply universally. An objectivist would say that there are certain absolute morals that hold true for all people, regardless of their circumstances.
Before I go on, I will refute the first anti-objectivism argument everyone uses. People will say that simply looking at history, we can see that some cultures said that all murder was wrong, while others regularly allowed it for the sake of sacrifices to the gods (Aztecs). For that reason, “thou shalt not murder” cannot be an objective moral truth (or there cannot be any objective moral truths for that matter) because clearly there is a discrepancy here. The problem with that argument is simply that it misquotes objectivism. Objectivism does not say that all people hold the same morals. Objectivism says that there are certain moral truths that apply to all people, but just becuase it applies to you does not mean you necessarily follow it.
Moving on, you brought up the point of “if you believe in relativist theory, there technically aren’t any objective statements.” That is true, and that is how my logic disproved Relativism. I forced a Relativist argument into a statement of Objectivism.
Then you say that “every ‘objective’ statement is relative to some frame of reference.” This needs clarification. In the way you stated it, you assumed Relativism, that you have to look at everything as relative. On the other hand, you might have meant “relative” in a different sense of the word, as in every “objective” is from a given reference frame. In that case, you are correct, we do observe objective morals from a given reference frame, but the point of an objective moral is that it will be the same regardless of a reference frame. That is simply its definition, so you have done nothing to disprove it, merely misunderstood it. I move on.
Then you say, “There is no such thing as an objective statement that is outside a reference point.” The problem with that is once again that you assumed a Relativism opinion. In order to discuss the relative accuracy or correctness of Relativism and Objectivism, you cannot assume either of the ideologies, only refer to what they state.
You went on to speak about reference frames and how everything we see is from a particular perspective, no one disagrees with that. The disagreement is that Objectivists will say that regardless of you reference frame, this set of morals will always be true, while Relativists will say that you will never find a moral that is true in all cases. Your point about things being outside of your reference frame would be true if humans were the ones defining the morals. If we were the only ones who could set morals, obviously they could never supersede a given reference frame. However, Objectivists assume that those morals which are absolute are set out by a being greater than humans, thus God, so they are inherently designed to be outside of a reference frame.
So in that sense, I feel that nothing I said in my original post was factually or logically incorrect, per my elaborations and explanations in this post. Therefore, my conclusion that Objectivism is logical while Relativism is not still holds.
The poetry we clearly agree on.
Now on to the quote. Looking back to my source, I now see that I associated the quote with the name below it, whereas it belonged to the name above it. That quote was given by Noah Webster, another Founding Father, so I see no reason why this would change its impact or relevance in the slightest. In regard to its context, it merely addresses the idea of misinterpretation, with a particular emphasis on original intent. It is often used to point out the danger in how the Supreme Court has reinterpreted the First Amendment. Therefore, it seems the context is simply a general interpretation of what an author meant, though clearly he knew that what he said was applicable to legal documents such as the Constitution.
You went on to discuss which parts should stay absolute and which parts should change with the times, and I believe that question is simpler to answer than you assumed. You stated that there are some portions that supersede time. Those are the ones that should stay indefinitely. Other statements that are relative to the Founders’ specific circumstances (three-fifths compromise, dealing with militias, etc.) are subject to change as necessary. Therefore, you seem to have answered your own question. The parts that must stay as accurate to the original intent as possible are the parts that are timeless. Ideas laid out in the Preamble and the Declaration are great examples. Now, at this point you might say, what if people disagree on which are timeless? And they do. However, there are definitely some we can agree on, and that is why our government has succeeded so well throughout history compared to other governments. As for others, when you ask who is to decide what must stay the same, that is the power of the Supreme Court. As for what should stay the same, the answer is the objective morals, which builds off of the first topic of this post. If you can agree with me that Relativism is an illogical view and the Objectivism is true, then there must be some objective moral truths (all men are created equal, unjustified murder is wrong). Those ought to remain constant, those are timeless, and those, I pray, will remain part of our country’s legal code for as long as our God allows us to endure.
There are problems inherent in both of the philosophies being discussed here. The problem with objectivism is that it fails to take into account other points of view. What if there were some alien society where what we would consider a murder was necessary to propel the murderee into a the next, better stage of life (if you get the reference, good on you, I’m sure George will)? How can we project our set of values onto another culture that we don’t even understand, because all we can see is a brutal murder, when in fact it is the best thing that could be happening to the “victim”? We have no right to say that is wrong. Our “objective” moral values come completely to naught. Do I believe the Aztecs were right to do that? Of course not. Did they? Obviously the overwhelming majority of society accepted this in Central and South America at the time (as did our European ancestors a long time ago). For their society it was the perfectly natural and right thing to do, and we have no right to force that viewpoint on someone else. So here we see an example of Objectivism’s inherently incorrect status. Morality is defined by society. God may believe certain things are right, and certain things are wrong, but he gave us free will to decide what those are. And the morals and ethics that society decides are best for the survival of the society become what that society believes in and enforces with laws and religious texts such as the bible.
The premise of your logic is still flawed. There is no way a Objectivist could get a Relativist to admit that their is a single objective fact. This runs counter to the philosophy itself, and if you convince a Relativist to say this they have changed philosophies and are no longer Relativist. The second one admits there is an objective fact, one falls into the philosophy of an Objectivist. And if this is true, there is no logical reason to have the argument, because one has already convinced one’s opponent that the argument is true. Also, your argument of concrete scientific facts proving the objectivity of certain statements is false. Scientists themselves admit that all of their Laws and Theories could be wrong. We simply do not know how to describe the universe in any better way. Some scientist tomorrow could make the discovery that would reform the Laws of Physics as we know them. No fact is truly absolute.
This leads directly into the problem with Relativism. Simply put, pure Relativism is useless. If we refuse to accept any fact as objective, we become mired in a sea of indecision. Our minds would simply go blank with all the possibilities and nothing would get done. Pure relativism is dangerous. Therefore, we take into account all of our experiences and stimulus from the outside world, such stimulus being given to us by either people/animals who are doing the same thing (and receiving stimulus from us) or non-living (from our point of view) natural forces. Having taken these factors into account, we assemble a set of statements and thoughts and reactions which we define as objective to our point of view. We base our morals on the examples we receive as we live our lives. We base our actions on what the people we respect would do (or not do, as the case may be). In our personal system, those unique statements are true. This can be applied for any living creature. Who is wrong? I would define this in two ways. First, there are the people who the great majority of society consider to be evil, and from that point of view we get a set of people who do the “wrong” thing. But in this set their are two people: the people who believe what they are doing is right, from their point of view, and the people who have a view of what is right, again from their point of view, but deliberately go against that for some reason or another. The latter I would say are truly wrong, because they are wrong in both the point of view of society and the point of view of themselves. the former are unfortunately lumped by society into the “wrong” category, but if society took the time to understand, they would realize that the former person believed they were doing the right thing. These people should be helped to understand what society believes to be right and why what he/she was doing was “wrong”. Am I right about any of this? Many would say I was wrong, many would say I was right. But from my point of view, I believe I have made the best conclusion based on my own logic and frame of reference.
But while pure relativism causes paralysis, pure objectivism leads to destruction. We become so enamored by the fact that we believe our personal beliefs to be right that we force those beliefs on other people. This cuts both ways, liberal and conservative. The conservatives attempt to force their own views, whatever they may be, onto people without those views. The liberals attempt to force onto the conservatives the fact that everyone should be allowed to believe what they want. In the context I would like to think of it, both of these situations are wrong. People should be allowed to think whatever they want to think. We can’t force them to think one way or another.
And your quote was from jefferson, or so you said in the post. Here is the quote again: “Don’t just take it from me. Here’s what Jefferson said:
‘In the lapse of two or three centuries, changes have taken place which in particular passages… obscure the sense of the original languages…. The effect of these changes is that some words are… being now used in a sense different from that which they had… [and thus] present wrong signification or false ideas. Whenever words are understood in a sense different from that which they had when introduced…. mistakes may be very injurious.’”
While this does mean that reinterpretation is inevitable, it is wrong to say whether individual interpretations are “wrong” or not. If you believe something is wrong about the interpretation, the only way to change it is to convince the people who believe it is right that it is wrong with reasonable argument. That way the system in which that particular viewpoint is “right” has been increased. The more people you convince, the large that system becomes, and once it hits a majority of society, that can be changed. Simply forcing our views on other people or cultures (like we did with the American Indians, the Vietnamese, etc.) is a brute force method that can only lead to increased resistance. Were I to become Supreme Court Justice, I would have convinced the majority of the people involved in the decision that my views were correct. In this context I could operate to change the society in the way I thought best, because I would be safe in the knowledge that many would accept these changes and society would move in what I thought to be a better direction. This corresponds to anyone else who came into an elected position of power.
The end result of this is that the correct, from my point of view, philosophy is a melding of relativism and objectionism, in that neither can exist without the other and swinging purely one way or the other only leads to disaster.
First of all, the if-then condition you proposed with aliens, or any if-then conditional for that matter, brings the end of all rational conversation. When we start bringing in ridiculous hypotheticals of “what if…” we will never get anywhere.
I got your reference to Crime and Punishment, but if you remember the story, Dostoevsky demonstrates the danger of that theory and vividly shows that it is not a plausible theory. I’m never projecting my morals onto a culture I don’t understand, I’m simply proposing that there are objective morals designed to apply to everyone, where everyone includes all humans living on earth, an earth which I understand just as well as anyone. So there is nothing wrong with projecting those ideas.
The main problem you will find if you re-read your last post is that you say everything from an inherently Relativist perspective. Though you claim to combine Objectivism and Relativism, the problem is they cannot combine at all, and your attempts to combine them ignore their actual definitions. As you said, once a Relativist accepts an objective, he is now an Objectivist and not a Relativist. You also tried to say that things are objective on a relative scale, but that is simply overcomplicating to the point of incorrect logic. Once you assume a certain perspective, you can make statements about that situation, those statements are called relative because they are from a given perspective, and relativists assume a different perspective would see a different set of morals. However, within a fixed reference frame, of course everything appears objective, if you must use that word, that is simply a consequence of making a coherent statement. However, the fact that you assume you would make a different set of statements in a different perspective makes it relativist. By their strict definitions, it is impossible for objectivism and relativism to mix.
You say morals are defined by society. If that is true, then Relativism must be true. But this turns into circular logic because it is the Relativists that say morals are defined by society. Objectivists say certain morals supersede society. Therefore, as I said last time, you cannot make a valid argument on this topic as long as you are assuming a position of either Relativism or Objectivism. To make a valid argument, you must assume neither perspective.
You say, “Your argument of concrete scientific facts proving the objectivity of certain statements is false.” You would be correct if I had used that argument, but I didn’t. I was making the clarification that though we make statements of absolute fact, we should not confuse this with Objectivism because Objectivism deals with morals, not facts. It is for this reason that Relativists can make certain absolute statements: when I drop something it will fall toward the earth (obviously oversimplified but you get my point). However, that is not a moral so that does not violate Relativism. By extension, when we discuss Relativism v. Objectivism we can only make statements of fact, observation, and logic. As soon as we make statements that are the assumptions of either side or statements of morality, we violate our own arguments. That is the flaw of your argument. You have failed to recognize that you are approaching the argument already under the constraints of one of the worldviews.
With that in mind, my logic is not flawed. You are correct that as soon as a Relativist assumes and absolute he is no longer Relativist, that is the premise of the refutation. The point is, the basis of relativism makes an absolute statement. Saying, “There are no absolute morals and you ought not to assume that your morals from one perspective apply to someone in a different perspective” is making an absolute statement on what you should do, a moral. This is called self-refutation.
You go on to say, “Pure objectivism leads to destruction. We become so enamored by the fact that we believe our personal beliefs to be right that we force those beliefs on other people. ” Keep in mind that Objectivism states that there are certain morals that are true for everyone. It’s not that we should take the morals we believe and force them onto everyone else, it’s that we should discover (by exploration, analysis, or possibly even religion) what morals are absolute and try to show others the same. We do not need to persecute others for not following these morals (unless it is demanded for society’s continuation), but we should try to help others see that there are objective truths. So you are right, we can’t force people to think a certain way, but we should try to arrive at a better understanding of truth through good discussion. If we know someone to be in error, we should try to help them realize their error.
My quote was from Webster, as I clarified in my last post, I misattributed it to Jefferson. You said afterward, “It is wrong to say whether individual interpretations are ‘wrong’ or not.” First of all, re-read what you said. You refuted yourself. Secondly, you assumed Relativism in this statement. And thirdly, by associative property, Relativism refutes itself. Let me demonstrate. You said it is wrong to say an interpretation is “wrong.” I said a particular interpretation was wrong, so you are telling me I’m wrong for that, but that is entirely hypocritical. You are doing exactly what you are telling me not to do in the process of telling me what not to do. Secondly, the idea that we cannot say anything is wrong assumes that it could be right from a different perspective, an entirely Relativist opinion. Finally, the associative rule is self-explanatory, so thank you for helping me demonstrate the self-refutation of Relativism.
Now, before you reply again, please be sure not to write from either a Relativist or an Objectivist perspective, or else your arguments are all void. In order to critically analyze the two, you need to be independent of the two for the duration of this conversation. Also, if you re-read what you wrote, much of what I didn’t address in this reply comes from assumptions of Relativism, so that is why I left it alone, it is null and void if we are comparing Relativism and Objectivism.