Posted: Apr 14, 2019 11:37 am
by zoon
Rumraket wrote:
willhud9 wrote:
Rumraket wrote:How do I know they do this? Experience. Even some atheists do it, they "excuse" certain biblical passages as just being intended for another time. A strange moral relativism creeps in, where some things no matter how cruel or barbarous can be totally okay just because they happened a long time ago.

Well considering I’m a moral relativist and considering I think absolute morality is bollocks I think you’re hard pressed to convince me that the morals of 100 AD were not just as valid as the morals of 2019.

And presumably every period in between. Prevailing views as the time and place would have been just as valid as any other place and time? Why would the length of times between periods, or the accidents of national borders, determine what is or isn't right or wrong? At what resolution does your relativism break down. Days, weeks, months, decades? Meters, kilometers, border checkpoints? It's wrong for us but not for them, because that's were a fence was placed, or a line drawn on a map?

willhud9 wrote:Different times. Different perspectives. Applying morals anachronistically through the past is fallacious for many reasons. Not least because society progresses. It’s a goal of civilization to adjust and change.

So, in fact, slavery in the united states could have ben morally right, at least for a time. The Holocaust could have been morally right in germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Who are you or me to say what they did is wrong, it was just their culture and religious beliefs. Why should the fact that people outside german borders were more likely to disagree mean they were really morally in the wrong in germany?

willhud9 wrote:
Rumraket wrote:Particularly the topic of slavery will have their heads explode in acrobatic mental contortions. Somehow Gods commands about biblical slavery (who to take as slaves, how to deceive them into indefinite servitute, and when and how to beat them) was morally fine because that was just the culture at the time, but slavery in the united states was bad. Apparently that wasn't "just the culture at the time" too.

Not really :dunno:

Why not? What sets the 1700's apart from 100AD? Why wasn't slavery in the 1700's "just as valid" as it was in 100AD? …

I see morality as an evolved feature of humans as social animals. A functioning human group sets up rules, and individuals who break those rules get sanctioned by the rest of the group acting cooperatively. This enables humans to cooperate in groups far more effectively than any other large animal, which is one of the main reasons why we’ve taken over the planet.

Some moral rules are common to all human groups; for example, no effectively functioning group is going to allow individual members of the group to assault each other randomly, and human groups are usually especially protective of young children. These core moral rules are shared also by some other social animals, though in the form of evolved predispositions, not verbally agreed rules. For example, social animals by definition spend time in each other’s company, this behaviour will not evolve without some inhibitions against attacking each other. Similarly, a number of large social animals, such as chimps, elephants and buffalo, will protect infants of their group which are not necessarily their own. I would perhaps claim that these core moral rules could be regarded as objective, in the sense that any functioning human group will have those rules, and they are reinforced by our evolved predispositions? Those core rules are a feature of our species’ behaviour, like walking bipedally.

By contrast, many moral rules are not shared between groups, or change over time as circumstances change. For example, there is evidence that societies where infectious diseases are prevalent tend to be less individualistic, allowing less freedom from local rules, and this makes sense where continuous hygiene is important. I would say that this capacity for flexible rule-making, outside the core rules, is also a feature of our species, and is, again, important for our success. Moral rules are at least partially relative.

Slavery and genocide are both examples of how out-groups are treated, neither would be remotely acceptable within any human in-group. Slaves were often prisoners of war who would otherwise have been killed. Human groups almost certainly evolved fighting each other, there’s a plausible current hypothesis that our capacity for forming tight-knit groups with strongly enforced rules evolved in the context of warfare. Raiding the next-door group, killing their males and taking over their territory is standard chimp behaviour, and as far as I know was also common among hunter-gatherers who were studied before Europeans took over their land. I would find it difficult to argue that hunter-gatherers “ought” to have followed the rules of 21st century Europe.

In the Bible, as plenty of people here are pointing out, both slavery and genocide are regarded as entirely acceptable, and this is true of other historical sources from that period, such as Egyptian inscriptions or the Iliad. I think circumstances have changed since then; the world has become far more interconnected, and self-governing groups are nation states, often of many millions of ethnically diverse people. I’m not clear why slavery died out in Europe, but it had largely disappeared by the 19th century, so that slavery in colonies or in the US was widely regarded as morally questionable. By the time of the Holocaust, large-scale racial killing was also generally regarded as wrong, the perpetrators went to some trouble to hide what they were doing even from ordinary Germans. In the 21st century, with unprecedented interconnectedness and the threats to the biosphere, I think the outlawing of slavery and as far as possible of racism have become survival tactics, we need to cooperate globally, not to regard any groups of people as wholly “other”.