Cultural Relativism


#1

As science progresses, our knowledge of the universe has increased. We realize that there are certain fundamental laws that are absolute; there is no way around them. No matter how hard we try, we can’t break them (a good example, quantum mechanics). However, this theory of absolutes can not be applied to society. Everyone believes this or that, and changes one’s beliefs on a whim. The fundamental laws that govern the way that we a humans are to act and be for everyone is relative; it works for me, so I’ll do it. Why a discrepancy? Why did God create absolute laws to govern inanimate matter but, supposedly, we can do what ever we want. I know this is free will, but cultural relativism is not free will. It is that the fundamental laws that govern how one is to be (for humans, it’s the Ten Commandments) are different for different people and our society has somehow accepted that. Great example: abortion. How it can it be “right” to some people and “wrong” to others?

Just some thoughts.


#2

[quote=Andrew Larkoski]As science progresses, our knowledge of the universe has increased. We realize that there are certain fundamental laws that are absolute; there is no way around them. No matter how hard we try, we can’t break them (a good example, quantum mechanics). However, this theory of absolutes can not be applied to society. Everyone believes this or that, and changes one’s beliefs on a whim. The fundamental laws that govern the way that we a humans are to act and be for everyone is relative; it works for me, so I’ll do it. Why a discrepancy? Why did God create absolute laws to govern inanimate matter but, supposedly, we can do what ever we want. I know this is free will, but cultural relativism is not free will. It is that the fundamental laws that govern how one is to be (for humans, it’s the Ten Commandments) are different for different people and our society has somehow accepted that. Great example: abortion. How it can it be “right” to some people and “wrong” to others?

Just some thoughts.
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ok, i’m intrigued (if not throughly confused) can you be a little more specific as to what your asking, or just postulating looking for like-kind thoughts or did i miss it altogether (my guess is the latter)… :confused:


#3

[quote=space ghost]ok, i’m intrigued (if not throughly confused) can you be a little more specific as to what your asking, or just postulating looking for like-kind thoughts or did i miss it altogether (my guess is the latter)… :confused:
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I’m confused too.

What I think Andrew is talking about how there are so many people who seem not to believe in absolute moral truths. They are willing to take it on faith that atoms and molecules exist (natural law), but reject the idea that moral absolutes also exist (God’s law). Anyhow, just taking a stab here at your original meaning Andrew. :slight_smile:


#4

Why did God create absolute laws to govern inanimate matter but, supposedly, we can do what ever we want. I know this is free will, but cultural relativism is not free will.

Why are you so convinced that cultural relativism is not a manifestation of free will?

Great example: abortion. How it can it be “right” to some people and “wrong” to others?

Because some people are “wrong” and some people are “right.”:smiley:


#5

@space ghost
@ktm

I am not confused. The posting makes perfect sense.
There are natural laws, and the 10 commandments are obviously not among them. Cultural behaviour is an outcome of social evolution, no wonder there are mutations and changes over time. Free will has nothing to do with it.

Even greater example: Why is it “right” to eat pork to some people and “wrong” to others? Even, if they get their morals from the same book.


#6

The whole question centres on the epistemological status of knowledge. Developments in the status of knowledge, especially since the Enlightenment, of the Kantian ethic of cognition, place a primacy on this particular way of understanding the world. It develops as a knowledge beyond culture and does in effect query, question and destabilise other cultures, religions and faiths because it does not allow a priori substantive truths, no special messengers, no revelations, no privileged positions in this regard, no sacred texts or books. It looks to cause/effect and mechanistic explanations for what goes on in this world. This perspective of scientific and technological rationality does not allow of relativism and it is predisposed to look or rather frown upon the claims of religion with whom it is often pictured in rivalry.

If there is then this knowledge beyond culture, is morality ever beyond culture or does it always rely for its legitimisation on circular, self-justifying systems of reasoning? People are still arguing this one out, and ever will. Religious Fundamentalism bases its command upon revelation; morality is ‘revealed’. Science cannot destabilise it, so it claims.

Cultural relativism becomes fashionable, especially with postmodernism where all cultures are said to be equal and valid; one does not judge the other. All of them are legitimate forms of life that bestow meaning (a la Wittgenstein) and it is a profound error to think that religion or science for that matter are superior to any other form of knowledge. This stance is happy (and probably silly) relativism. All are welcome; all are valid; all are true ‘forms of life’. The influence of this today is profound. This perspective too can destabilise the claims of universal command in monist moral systems based on revelation, and it does so. Religion and science look upon it with horror and it does not always understand why its welcoming hand is so coldly received. It’s not so much ‘Idols in India etc.’, as everybody’s worship, everybody’s culture true everywhere. (New Age spirituality is by some seen as a reflection of this).

DEM


#7

[quote=AnAtheist]@space ghost
@ktm

I am not confused. The posting makes perfect sense.
There are natural laws, and the 10 commandments are obviously not among them. Cultural behaviour is an outcome of social evolution, no wonder there are mutations and changes over time. Free will has nothing to do with it.

Even greater example: Why is it “right” to eat pork to some people and “wrong” to others? Even, if they get their morals from the same book.
[/quote]

An interesting idea. Prohibitions against murder, rape, etc. are not indigenous to the human race and are mere cultural notions? Perhaps you could cite for me a few civilizations that do not believe murder is wrong.

Once you admit there is “right” and “wrong” you find yourself asking where it comes from. You can’t say that the idea of “murder is wrong” is a mere cultural or social precept since this idea goes across all cultures, from the most technologically advanced to the most primitive. There is something built-in to the human psyche that tells us, unequivocally, that certain actions are wrong. That something is a conscience and it comes from God.


#8

Goodness gracious, I just read through some of your other posts, AnAthiest, on the board here. At least be respectful of the faith of other posters here. I don’t appreciate your referring to our beliefs as “fiction” or a “fairy tale.”

Are you an ex-Christian or what?


#9

[quote=ktm]Goodness gracious, I just read through some of your other posts, AnAthiest, on the board here. At least be respectful of the faith of other posters here. I don’t appreciate your referring to our beliefs as “fiction” or a “fairy tale.”

Are you an ex-Christian or what?
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It was not my intention to be disrespectful, if that is your impression, I am sorry and apologise.

The post you refer to was an answer to a discussion on how to interpret the Genesis story. I am not subject to authority of the church, as much as you are not to the Dalai Lama for example, so it is understandable that I interpret it differently, isn’t it? If you are not a young earth creationist (which I boldly assume now), you interpret it differently than some other christians I know.

I am what my handle says, and I don’t appreciate to be labled as an immoral, evil, satan-worshipping lunatic in company with historical mass-murderers, which brought me here in the first place.


#10

I find it interesting that you and a few other athiests have joined the forums. What “brought you here”? In your reply to me there is an implication, perhaps unconscious on your part, of feeling drawn here (to enter the discussions). Do you just enjoy the dialog? Looking to convert people away from Catholicism? What’s the deal?


#11

[quote=ktm]I find it interesting that you and a few other athiests have joined the forums. What “brought you here”? In your reply to me there is an implication, perhaps unconscious on your part, of feeling drawn here (to enter the discussions). Do you just enjoy the dialog? Looking to convert people away from Catholicism? What’s the deal?
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I can’t speak for AnAtheist but I am here to correct wrong things people say about Atheism. Much like a catholic might go to a fudamentalist board to combat misconceptions about Mary, etc…

Do I wish to de-convert people? No. I could care less what you believe as long as it doesn’t interfere with my rights (That’s why I believe things in government should be religiouly neutral (no under god, or in god we trust, etc…)). But when I see blatant lies or distortions about atheism, I have to correct them.


#12

[quote=AnAtheist]It was not my intention to be disrespectful, if that is your impression, I am sorry and apologise.
[/quote]

Let me put it this way: Der Ton macht die Musik.

I am tired, to put it mildly, about the theists that commonly descend upon the atheist forums I frequent. While theists willing to discuss their point of view in a respectful manner are always very welcome, they are few and far in between. And for this very reason, I’m unhappy about atheists on theist forums that exhibit substandard manners.

My life experience is that unless you’re spoiling for a fight, opening a conversation with a slap to the face doesn’t yield favorable results. If you strongly disagree with an opposing opinion, it is possible to express yourself forcefully, yet in a non-derogatory way.

[quote=ktm]Do you just enjoy the dialog? Looking to convert people away from Catholicism? What’s the deal?
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I myself enjoy a critical dialog and I’ll pass on the conversions.


#13

[quote=ktm] Do you just enjoy the dialog? Looking to convert people away from Catholicism? What’s the deal?
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No offense, ktm, but dialogue is a means to an end, that is truth. As Aristotle stated, all humans seek the truth. Atheists as well as theists are searching for the truth, although in my opinion atheists ought not to search for this, as Nieztsche so insanely put it, because without a concept of God to be the center of truth, there is not real truth. Which does lead into a confusing pattern of contradictions but these didn’t bother that anti-rational Nieztsche. In my opinion, Nieztsche takes atheism to its most logical conclusions.


#14

[quote=ktm]I find it interesting that you and a few other athiests have joined the forums. What “brought you here”? In your reply to me there is an implication, perhaps unconscious on your part, of feeling drawn here (to enter the discussions). Do you just enjoy the dialog? Looking to convert people away from Catholicism? What’s the deal?
[/quote]

Yes I enjoy a decent debate.
No, I don’t want to deconvert anybody. You are happy with your beliefs - good for you and fine with me.

But when I read something that concerns me, I feel compelled to answer. There are some things theists and atheists must be aware of in order to peacefully live together. The crutial word here is understanding of (not complying to) the other one’s worldview. That can only be achieved through dialogue, don’t you think?


#15

[quote=ktm]An interesting idea. Prohibitions against murder, rape, etc. are not indigenous to the human race and are mere cultural notions? Perhaps you could cite for me a few civilizations that do not believe murder is wrong.

[/quote]

Sorry I neglected your question over the meaningless little “dispute” we had down below.
I can cite some civilisation he consider certain types of killing as right, which we today would classify as murder. Those societies did not of course:

  • Japan in the Tokugawa period. It was ok for a Samurai to kill any non-Samurai without a particular reason.
  • Rome in the 1st to 3rd century. Gladiators were killing each other off for sports. That was considered to be entertainment.

I already explained that in a thread that was unfortunately censored, so I could have posted a link now. Anyway as an abstract: Noone wants to get murdered. It is logical for a group of people to prohibit murder as nobody wants that anyway and to keep the group functioning, i.e. undisturbed by murders. Thus laws against murder have evolved.
I agree with you that abhorrence of murder is build in into us. It is an instinct. I don’t know the exact English expression, the German one is Tötungshemmung, i.e. “Killing inhibition” towards members of the own species. It can be observed in almost any species. You say, it comes from God, I say, it has evolved.


#16

Relativism is not logical.

Premise: Relativism says that there is no absolute truth.
Premise: Relativism is an absolute truth.
Conclusion: Since this is a contradiction, it cannot be true.


#17

[quote=BobCatholic]Relativism is not logical.

Premise: Relativism says that there is no absolute truth.
Premise: Relativism is an absolute truth.
Conclusion: Since this is a contradiction, it cannot be true.

[/quote]

You have stumbled into the most intruiging area of self-refering systems, which are either incomplete or contradicting. I suggest reading Hofstadter’s “Gödel, Escher, Bach”. That book has some insights on this topic.

What cannot be true, Premise #1 or Premise #2 or Relativism itself?

Or is Relativism perhaps the only absolute truth from which to derive all other non-absolute truths?


#18

[quote=AnAtheist]Noone wants to get murdered. It is logical for a group of people to prohibit murder as nobody wants that anyway and to keep the group functioning, i.e. undisturbed by murders. Thus laws against murder have evolved.

[/quote]

What’s your take on free will, then? We have none since we’re just evolving against our will?

Re your Japanese and Roman examples. These examples are rather weak. I specifically asked for a civilization that permitted murder (killing, whatever you want to call it) as a general rule, by which I mean people have license to kill anyone, anytime, anywhere. As you indicated, though, there really aren’t any. Yet, you claim an aversion to killing is instinctive, that it’s evolved. To me the notion of evolution (as scientists teach it) requires more faith that to say God created/creates the universe, but evolution is for another thread.

You also say that it’s logical for people to get together and establish laws against certain activity. I would counter it’s not logical to care what other people tell you to do if 1) there is no God and 2) you therefore you have nothing to worry about in the afterlife. Sure, those who enforce laws will come after you when you rape/murder/steal, but if you can defend yourself from them, why not go ahead and do what you wish? What I’m getting at is that as an athiest, how can you view human life as having any value if we are no better than animals? If you have something I want, why shouldn’t I just take it, especially if I can steal it without your knowledge? If I can rape your wife/mother/sister and get away with it, why shouldn’t I?

These get to more fundamental questions of whether you believe that life has value, whether you believe there is something like human dignity to consider. And if you do, one must ask why you believe in such ideas. If you see a homeless person living on the street, surely you don’t think to yourself, “Wow, my DNA and evolved brain are telling me to feel compassion for him.” The idea that we are merely automatons being told what to do by evolution just doesn’t make any sense to me.


#19

[quote=Tanais]No offense, ktm, but dialogue is a means to an end, that is truth. As Aristotle stated, all humans seek the truth. Atheists as well as theists are searching for the truth, although in my opinion atheists ought not to search for this, as Nieztsche so insanely put it, because without a concept of God to be the center of truth, there is not real truth. Which does lead into a confusing pattern of contradictions but these didn’t bother that anti-rational Nieztsche. In my opinion, Nieztsche takes atheism to its most logical conclusions.
[/quote]

This is true of most people, of normal people. One needs to look at the list of banned and suspended people to see, however, that there are trolls who have joined this forum only to cause trouble.

Looks like a need a spell-checker. I’ve been misspelling “atheist” it seems.


#20

[quote=ktm]What’s your take on free will, then? We have none since we’re just evolving against our will?

Re your Japanese and Roman examples. These examples are rather weak. I specifically asked for a civilization that permitted murder (killing, whatever you want to call it) as a general rule, by which I mean people have license to kill anyone, anytime, anywhere. As you indicated, though, there really aren’t any. Yet, you claim an aversion to killing is instinctive, that it’s evolved. To me the notion of evolution (as scientists teach it) requires more faith that to say God created/creates the universe, but evolution is for another thread.

You also say that it’s logical for people to get together and establish laws against certain activity. I would counter it’s not logical to care what other people tell you to do if 1) there is no God and 2) you therefore you have nothing to worry about in the afterlife. Sure, those who enforce laws will come after you when you rape/murder/steal, but if you can defend yourself from them, why not go ahead and do what you wish? What I’m getting at is that as an atheist, how can you view human life as having any value if we are no better than animals? If you have something I want, why shouldn’t I just take it, especially if I can steal it without your knowledge? If I can rape your wife/mother/sister and get away with it, why shouldn’t I?

These get to more fundamental questions of whether you believe that life has value, whether you believe there is something like human dignity to consider. And if you do, one must ask why you believe in such ideas. If you see a homeless person living on the street, surely you don’t think to yourself, “Wow, my DNA and evolved brain are telling me to feel compassion for him.” The idea that we are merely automatons being told what to do by evolution just doesn’t make any sense to me.
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