January 10th, 2008

Cultural and moral relativism (Part II)

[Part I]

Moral relativism is the idea that there is no absolute good and evil, but that all customs and practices of mankind must be evaluated in terms of their function in the society where they are found. Any attempt to make moral judgments about other cultures merely reflects our own cultural prejudices.

Some tolerance, doubt, and perspective is good. But this is the notion of tolerance taken to its ultimate—and ultimately, absurd and destructive—conclusion. Not only does it handicap our ability to make moral judgments within our own culture by weakening our convictions, but it handicaps our ability to see true evil as well as our ability to fight against it, and paradoxically can lead to the triumph of a very intolerant society.

The principle of moral relativism is often confused with cultural relativism, grounded in anthropology and discussed in Part I, here. But it turns out that moral relativism not only goes against traditional concepts of good and evil, but against the teachings of some anthropologists as well.

For example, back in 1944 the well-known anthropolgist Clyde Kluckhohn stated that:

While breeding a healthy skepticism as to the eternity of any value prized by a particular people, anthropology does not as a matter of theory deny the existence of moral absolutes. Rather, the use of the comparative method provides a scientific means of discovering such absolutes. If all surviving societies have found it necessary to impose some of the same restrictions upon the behavior of their members, this makes a strong argument that these aspects of the moral code are indispensable.

Kluckhohn spent a goodly portion of his career attempting to derive these universal moral rules, although it’s not clear that he was especially successful in doing so. But the idea that there is a universal morality, and that we can ascertain (or receive through divine revelation) its laws, is the basis of most ethics (and of most religions).

The Jews happen to have been one of the first peoples to declare that there are some universal moral codes by which all humans should live. Other religions that came after Judaism also aspired to offer a universal morality, but unlike Judaism these were proselytizing religions (for example, Christianity and Islam) that considered it their destiny to spread their own particular faith throughout humankind as well. Of course, by adopting those religions, a convert would adopt their rules. But Judaism was unique (at least, as far as I know) in being a non-proselytizing religion that nevertheless still endeavored to suggest some basic rules for moral human behavior that would apply to all people.

These rules that Judaism offered to the world were not the Ten Commandments, as some might imagine. No, the Ten Commandments were originally meant for Jews only (in fact, there are supposedly 613 commandments that observant Jews are supposed to fulfill). I’m referring instead to what are known as the Noahide Laws, which according to Talmudic tradition were given to all humankind: Noah’s descendents, survivors of the flood.

These rules are related to but somewhat different than the Ten Commandments. According to the Talmud, not just Jews but “Righteous people of all nations have a share in the world to come,” and righteousness is defined as following these Noahide rules:

1. Prohibition of Idolatry: There is only one God. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
2. Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder.
3. Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
4. Prohibition of Sexual Promiscuity: You shall not commit adultery.
5. Prohibition of Blasphemy: Revere God and do not blaspheme.
6. Prohibition of Cruelty to Animals: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive.
7. Requirement to have just Laws: You shall set up an effective judiciary to fairly judge observance of the preceding six laws.

The details of these laws and how they came to be are less relevant to the subject of this post than the mere fact that Judaism posits that there are such laws for all cultures and all peoples, which of course is not very relativistic of it.

Likewise, the Founding Fathers of the United States believed in certain truths that held for all humankind; just read the words of the Declaration of Independence. Here’s a cogent summary of their point of view on the subject:

…Western civilization is founded on the idea that many Judeo-Christian truths—and the Western values that spring from them—are true for all men and women. This idea is especially important in the United States, a nation founded on a distilled set of Judeo-Christian beliefs and values that were declared to be true for all men.

Those beliefs and values are well known to most Americans: That God created all men, meaning that any legitimate government must recognize the fundamental equality of all men before Him; that the affairs of men are guided by the hand of Providence, meaning that government is not the final authority in the lives of its citizens; that the natural corruption of the human heart behooves us to place checks and balances on governmental power; that it is best for all people, even rulers, to be subject to the rule of law; that government should protect all religions, leaving a man’s conscience free to seek God as he thinks best, rather than constraining the religious urge by tyrannical decree or by force; that the maintenance of justice requires the freedom of the people to assemble and speak freely, even against those in power.

Most importantly, however, America’s Founders believed that these Judeo-Christian truths were not true only for themselves but for all people. This meant that, for the first time in the history of the world, a nation would be built in which citizenship was determined primarily by allegiance to a set of declared truths.

So although the idea of tolerance of different ethnicities and religious beliefs is basic to American thought, the idea of moral relativism is actually antithetical to it, although it grows out of that idea of tolerance. Therein lies a certain inherent contradiction; tolerance has its limits.

The United States is not just a country bound together by a common language or birthplace, as is the case with most other nations. There is something in American thought that is, in a sense, inherently proselytizing, and that is this idea of liberty and equality of opportunity as a great good for all humankind. And indeed, Americans did not hesitate to fight for their own liberty, and have not hesitated—especially since the twentieth century—to use military force at times to protect liberty around the world. This certainly isn’t in line with moral relativism.

To go from the general to the particular, one of the main objections to the war in Iraq is that it was not a war to protect liberty from encroachments by a foreign power (such as occurred during World War II), but rather a war with the goal of bringing it to a part of the world where it had not previously existed (for the purposes of this discussion I will ignore all the other reasons behind the war and concentrate on just this one, but it was certainly not the only one). This particular goal smacked of cultural imperialism, and in a sense that is correct.

One can argue that this impulse to bring liberty to the people of Iraq may have been impossible to accomplish. One can argue that it was not worth it even if successful. We’ll leave those questions aside in this post, as well; they’ve been discussed many times before. The more pertinent point is that, if this was cultural imperialism, it was in the service of something that has been long defined by Americans as a universally desired human good, although moral relativism would declare there are no such things.

[Shrinkwrapped writes on a related theme today.]

59 Responses to “Cultural and moral relativism (Part II)”

  1. Vince P Says:

    Some realms of the Protestant Christian world have the same view of legal morality and it’s scope as the Jews you cited.

    They’re the Dispensionalists. I’m not a religious scholar, so I’m aware that the term is very leaky.. I hold to the least controversal version of it.. that they’re broad eras of time that sort of explain the current paradigm of God’s interactions with man. I know there’s a sordid history to this thing and that some folks take it much further. I’m not one of them.

    Throughout history God institutes an evolving moral economy that governs how He conducts his relationship with mankind as well as what he expects in return from humankind. Each economy ends in the failure of men to uphold their obligations.

    Some of them
    Innocence (Begin: Creation – End: Expulsion from Eden).. simple command.. leave the tree alone. Man fails

    Conscience (Expulsion of Eden – Flood)… The universal morality Neo cites above. Man fails.

    Government (Flood – Abraham).. Humans told to start over and replenish Earth.. Humans form governments to rule them.. Similar to what Neo said about the command to establish justice. Man fails at Babel when he turns government into a system to become like God… language is fractured… people are dispersed around the world.

    The Law (Moses to Jesus).. The Torah Law is revealed to Israel .. it looks forward to the redemption of all mankind by the sacrifice system and atonement which foreshadows Jesus’ death. (Of course Jews would not agree with my ‘spin’… if I were Jewish, I wouldnt agree either)

    Grace (Jesus’ death – Redemption of Israel/2nd Coming) Via the special revelation/convenant God made with Israel and the fullfillment of the Law with the sacrificial Passover death of Jesus, God extends grace to the entire world which the Lamb died in substitution. (The special convenent with Israel is still valid .. the Church does not become Israel)

    In the future the various promises of God to both Jews and Chrisitans will finally come to be. Satan/Antichrist are defeated. The Jewish People will be restored and redeemed and the entire world will come to Israel to worship God.

    1,000 years later, a final unleashing of Satan on the earth will result in the destruction of Earth and Heaven and the Final Judgement.

    I have no idea why i went into this… sorry.. i started to type and couldn’t stop.. i guess i’m avoiding work.

    To tie it back to the point… God certainly doesn’t respect a cultural or moral relativism… he expects the same from Jew/Gentile alike..

    This forms the basis of the American notion of Judeo-Christian Civilization and the universalism of those values

    Likewise, Islam thinks that it has a lock on universal values… the sharia.. and according to Islam, one of the gravest sin is manmade law and government.. which is a form of paganism.

    Of course, one system is fooling itself in thinking it can hold onto the values and dump God and religion… and the other system is absolutely hellbent on fullfilling its earthly escathology.

    The cultural relativists blind themselves to the spirtual force that seeks to destroy them.

  2. Hyman Rosen Says:

    As a moral relativist, I recognize that the moral absolutists hold beliefs to which they are as entitled as I am to mine, even though those beliefs are wrong. Joking aside, a moral relativist understands that morals are a social development. Not only are morals not universal across all time and space, they are seldom even shared by all people living together in the same time and place. But none of that compels anyone to abandon their own notions of how people should live. It merely allows them to step back and have some perspective.

    If nothing else, the arguments over torture committed by agents of our government should give you pause when you start talking about universal notions of good and evil.

  3. expat Says:

    I agree that we are not cultural relativists. We may be cultural proselytizers, but I don’t think imperialist quite fits. We are actually more frequently like someone with a neighbor who requires his help with a plumbing repair. The neighbor uses substandard replacement parts, and a short while later it breaks. After a few such incidents, the person goes out, buys a part that he has found to work well, and installs it. This is prompted by frustration with the repeated request for help and concern that someday the leak might bring your ceiling down. Had this neighbor had a functional plumbing system or been willing to repair it satisfactorally, no intervention would have been needed, nor would he have imposed his favorite brand of part.

    This metaphor doesn’t apply to all of of our exercises of power, but I think it affects our thinking and explains some of our impatience. The more imperialist activities were probably pushing for the Legue of Nations and the UN.

  4. Webutante Says:

    Tolerance gives space and a little wiggle room around rock solid principles, but as you so astutely observe, it has its limits. Thanks for a good essay.

  5. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Morals may be a social development, but reality has a way of culling those with certain sets of morals, and making those with certain other sets of morals more prosperous and powerful.

    I have yet to see any laws of men, even the even the much-ballyhooed international ones, survive a conflict with the laws of nature.

  6. Hyman Rosen Says:

    No amount of culling has yet to put a stop to inter-tribal slaughter, be it Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Congo, Sudan, Kenya, and on and on. But maybe it’s one of those God things, that the bible offers to the world. Here’s a few verses from Numbers 31:

    “The Israelites took captive all the women of Midian and their children. They took as booty all their animals, all their possessions, and all their wealth.
    [The Israelites] also set fire to all their residential cities and fortresses, taking all the booty and plunder, both man and beast. They brought the captives, the plunder, and the spoils to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the entire Israelite community, [who were] in the Western Plains of Moab, on the Jericho Jordan. Moses, Eleazar and all the community princes went out to greet them outside the camp. However, Moses was angry at the generals and captains, who were the officers returning from the military campaign. ‘Why have you kept all the women alive?’ demanded Moses. ‘These are exactly the ones who were involved with the Israelites at Balaam’s instigation, causing them to be unfaithful to God in the Peor incident, and bringing a plague on God’s community. Now kill every male child, as well as every woman who has been involved intimately with a man. However, all the young girls who have not been involved intimately with a man, you may keep alive for yourselves.”

  7. Vince P Says:

    Hyman: When the events described in Numbers happened.. did the Jews of the day have the Book of Numbers to serve as instructions for what they did?

    And also.. can you name any historical event in which this passage of Numbers was used as justification?

    I mean there must be some reason you bring this up… so get to the point.

  8. strcpy Says:

    The problem has mostly been fairly recent and has a large proponent of it to come with the elevation of science to a religion. It started slowly and has worked up to the point where to believe something technical that isn’t supported by the majority of your peers is apostasy.

    Science ask “how”, religion asks “why” – to have either one try and interfere with the other is disaster. We had the dark ages when religion answered the “how” and we are heading towards a different kind of dark ages where science asks “why”.

    Science should *never* take a stance other than 100% technical, observable, and testable. That is the basis of the scientific principle. To attempt to move social ideas into a science one needs to decide that womens rights are no better/worse than allowing random men to rape women whenever they want and keep them all chained up in “rape centers” (not that anyone does this). Science will simply note that the latter society will tend to disintegrate and not add in moral value to it. After all – if light is a particle, wave, or both at the same time has *no* moral equivalence and whatever is reality is the correct answer.

    When science is elevated to the “why” – that is making a valuation on if something is right or wrong you end up with *no* right or wrong. For social issues this leads to accepting things like random raping of females being acceptable and Global Warming being absolute 100% true no matter what (after all, science is the ultimate arbiter of Truth).

    Of course, this would also mean that the coelacanth didn’t exist from 65 million years ago to 1938. But, of course, we are not allowed to mention this little tidbit of when science was wrong – it doesn’t count (for various different reasons – in other places scientific consensus is 100% correct and not to be questioned).

    Meh, this will work for a shorter period of time than the dark ages did – for one thing this is MUCH more easy for a moral absolutist. Like the utopias of socialism and communism it is *really* easy for a ruthless dictator to turn it to their purposes and then one is faced with the truth of mass killings, mass rapes, and all the other really bad things that go with them. In the modern western world it is easy to hold such beliefs for a while.

  9. Hyman Rosen Says:

    Vince, they didn’t need a book – they had a mission from God, delivered by someone to whom God spoke directly. The reason I bring up Midian is that many moral absolutists like to assign their moral positions as coming from the Bible. But since most of them are also against genocide, it becomes clear that they have extracted a set of principles and practices from a much larger one rather than accepting the full set as the way to behave, and so are in fact morally relative.

    As to using this for justification, well, if you can believe this site, that’s being done by none other than our friends in al Qaeda, who find it appealing that infidel nations get eradicated.

  10. Vince P Says:

    >Vince, they didn’t need a book – they had a mission from God, delivered by someone to whom God spoke directly. The reason I bring up Midian is that many moral absolutists like to assign their moral positions as coming from the Bible.

    Duh… so i’m asking you… are the events that you cite that are recorded in Numbers inspired by the Book of Numbers? And can you specify any subsequent violence that was taught and justified using Numbers in the way you you protray it?

    In other words… if you’re going to say the Bible inspires this sort of stuff .. PROVE IT!

  11. Sally Says:

    No amount of culling has yet to put a stop to inter-tribal slaughter

    Do you mean, no amount of culling has yet to put a stop to culling? Well, no, Hyman. Do you expect your relativism to bring world peace? Not likely, is it, since as a relativist you can hardly complain even when some group, be it Old Testament Israelites or modern day Nazis and islamofascists, believes in genocide and acts upon it, now can you? You might, of course, want to change your mind — even (gasp!) convert to a “moral absolutist” — should they (whoever they currently are) come for you and your family, but it might be a little late then. The bleak comedy of the latter-day liberal relativist.

  12. Sergey Says:

    The term “moral” as it used above has some ambiguity in it. It refers both to behavorial norms as they are practiced, and to ideals that are declared in a given society. And due to human perversity and fallability there always some gap between moral ideal or even norm declared and real practice.
    As I can judge from texts on American political philosophy I have read, there are conflicting tendencies in declared goals of US foreign policy: some are openly interventionalist (Jacksonian approach), some are isolationist, with all grades between. And this contradictions go back to the very beginings of US history.

  13. Sergey Says:

    These contradictions (interfere or not interfere) were strong enough to ignite the only Civil War US had had in its history. It worth to mention that moral and cultural relativists of the type now popular among US Left would be (and really were) on the side of slave-holders, that is, of Confederation, not on the side of Union.

  14. Sergey Says:

    This simply is not true that mass culling can not stop or prevent genocide. Exactly this happened in Indonesia when Maoist putch of Chinese minority in 1965 was put down by military under Gen. Sukharto. Almost half of Chinese minority was killed. But if the putch succeeded, these Maoists would have done in Indonesia what they did in Cambodia, only at larger scale. So it was near-genocide that prevented full-blown genocide.

  15. Hyman Rosen Says:

    When I wrote about “culling” I was responding to Tatterdemalian, who said “reality has a way of culling those with certain sets of morals”, seeming to imply that cultures with evil morals get culled. I then pointed out that cultures which value ethnic genocide seem pretty resilient, or at least frequently reappear.

    And Sally, understanding that someone else’s culture has a particular world view that works for them doesn’t mean that you need to allow them to take actions that will harm you. What it does do is make you be cautious and hesitate before stepping into the middle of another culture’s moral actions with an eye towards imposing your own.

  16. Trimegistus Says:

    I disagree about one thing: the trouble today is not moral or cultural relativism. The trouble is that those terms are used to describe something very different: the systematic denigrating and destruction of Western civilization and its Abrahamic/Hellenistic moral code. A true cultural relativist would see the value in all cultures, leading to a synthesis. A true moral relativist would at least be governed by pragmatism.

    Instead, what we have is simply reflexive opposition to America and the West. “All cultures are equally valid — except this one” and “all religions are equally true — except the one Mom and Dad believe in.”

  17. Sergey Says:

    Trim, the attitude you described properly called not relativism, but nihilizm and self-hatred. But, you know, this is a natural end product of any relativist philosophy: it invariably boils down to nihilizm and self-hatred, as example of poor Nietshe demonstrates.

  18. Sally Says:

    Hyman: …seeming to imply that cultures with evil morals get culled. I then pointed out that cultures which value ethnic genocide seem pretty resilient, or at least frequently reappear.

    And so would that mean you think “cultures which value ethnic genocide” are evil? Yes? So much for your relativism. No? So much for doing anything against them — until, of course, they take “actions that will harm you”, and then, well, as I said, it’s a little late to discover that those forever unwilling to “impose” their own morality may still find others quite willing to impose on them, or simply obliterate them. The problem, you see, with moral/cultural relativism is that moral codes are not just fashion statements — they have real consequences in the world, and on those who share the world. Life and death consequences, often enough.

  19. Sergey Says:

    The reason behind this is simple: there is no such thing as non-repressive culture. Any culture by definition is a system of taboo and repressions for transgression of them, which generates internal pressure to get rid of them. When absolute is not absolute any more, these demons get unleashed, rebellion follows, and with it – a civilizational suicide.

  20. Sergey Says:

    Cultures which value ethnic genocide include almost any tribal culture, so the only way out of this vicious cycle of violence is to get rid of tribalism itself. Historically this was accomplished fully only by deep christianization, as every decent antropologist can confirm. Tribal moral is overcome to the extent the universalist, Christian moral had replaced it.

  21. Bugs Says:

    This discussion is really exacerbating my anomie.

  22. Chris White Says:

    A fascinating posting with some interesting twists and turns. Many religions – Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. – each with their own widely various thoughts on morality and approaches to enforcing those views both within the community of the faithful and externally, are conspicuously absent from the discussion. The three Abrahamic faiths have been presented in the post and comments in ways that show the evolution of the monotheistic faiths as developed in the Middle East. Vince P offers as good a synopsis as any of the Judeo-Christian timeline … although another could be offered in which the period of Grace ends with the arrival of the next prophet of the One God, Mohammed. The period from there until now might be presented as the time of Judgment.

    Perhaps one way of expressing the three steps is to see the Jews as accepting and following the Laws of God as they understood them to be revealed by the One God through a series of prophets. Of the seven Noahide rules of the Talmud the first, fifth, and then final injunctions are that one must worship the one God, one must not commit blasphemy, and the faithful must adjudicate transgressions against these injunctions.

    Christians can then be seen as accepting and following the laws of God (with the additions and amendments revealed by further prophets) yet spared from eternal punishment for their past sins through the grace of God in the form of his son. They are also to witness and convert others to share this gift. Followers of Islam must accept and follow the (further amended) laws of God, urge others to convert and eliminate those who fail to do so.

    Since each of these religions continues to grow and change, and as within each there are any number of sects and periodic schisms, there are many interpretations of just exactly how to interpret and follow the revealed word of God.

    Thou Shalt Not Kill. An inaccurate translation of Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder. say most. Now, with that linguisitic change the question arises, what separates “murder” from a justifiable killing?

    And so we arrive at chasm between pacifist Quakers who refuse to take up arms in a “just war” over here and a mob of Islamic zealots calling for the death penalty over the blasphemous naming of a teddy bear over there. On whose authority can one be convicted of blasphemy? Is blasphemy sufficient transgression to justify execution? If not, why not?

    Where are the absolutes? It’s all relative.

  23. Vince P Says:

    Thanks Chris.

    personally I find nothing in common between Bible-based religions and Koran based religion in regards to values.

    I reject the Muslim claim that Allah is Yahweh.

    Islam is submission and enslavement.. Judiasm and Christianity is love.

  24. Sally Says:

    CW: And so we arrive at chasm between pacifist Quakers who refuse to take up arms in a “just war” over here and a mob of Islamic zealots calling for the death penalty over the blasphemous naming of a teddy bear over there. On whose authority can one be convicted of blasphemy? Is blasphemy sufficient transgression to justify execution? If not, why not?

    Where are the absolutes? It’s all relative.

    “It’s all relative.”

    Yeah! Just like the chasm between Jews and Nazis, right!? I mean, is Jewish ethnicity a sufficient transgression to justify execution? If not, why not!? You know, it’s all relative, man — no absolutes! So why are people so down on the Nazis?! Or their Islamic offshoots!?

    (You know, maybe it’s not so much that liberals are fascists but just that they’re too dim to know the difference.)

  25. david foster Says:

    Cultural relativism breaks down when a society contains within it a multiplicity of cultures. Consider a German general in 1944 who is trying to decide whether to participate in the plot against Hitler. Cultures of which he is a member include:

    1)Traditional Prussian military culture, with its emphasis on “honor”
    2)European Enlightenment culture (I have in mind someone like Gen Ludwick Beck)
    3)Protestant or Catholic religious culture
    4)Third Reich Nazi culture

    Which of these cultures should guide him? The answer cannot possibly be found within a culturally-relativist framework. Indeed, such a framework seems to assume closed societies whith cultures which completely dominate all inhabitants.

  26. david foster Says:

    Hyman…when you say “someone else’s culture has a particular world view that works for them” you seem to me to be making the collectivist assumption that people within a society are merely “cells” within it. Maybe the culture works for some and not for others. Third Reich culture “worked” for Goering and Himmler, but not for Beck and Oster and the Scholls. Theocratic Iranian culture works for many inhabitants, but not for the woman who would like to walk around without wearing a burka.

  27. Neo-Neocon on Moral Relativism « The Daily Elephant Says:

    […] out this post over at Neo-Neocon–a fantastic, thought-provoking post on moral relativism, culture, and the […]

  28. R. Kluckhohn Says:

    Sir Winston Churchill said something to the effect of, “A man who is not a Liberal at twenty-four has no heart. A man who is not a Conservative at forty-four has no brain.” The older I gits, the truer that is.

    :B~)

  29. harry9000 Says:

    You know, I dont know that neo-conservatism necessarily equates or embodies the philosophy, of “moral absolutism” or that we need to have “moral absolutism” to counter “moral relativity”. I dont think it works that way and is in fact a construct of the latest modern “liberal” thinking. You know, that there must be an ideological polar opposite. That to me is absolutism.

    Western cultures have adopted from other cultures those things it has admired and rejected what it abhors. Not to mention that historically, societies that place a moral absolutist stance on, say, murder, thrive no mater if derived in western culture or oriental. Seems to me, making judgements and being able to correctly discriminate are universal and worthwhile “absolutes”.

  30. Ymarsakar Says:

    Moral relativism is simply another moral absolute set of beliefs similar to most mainstream religions and philosophies. Unless you are both skilled and competent, trying to fight fire with fire is not recommended.

  31. Ymarsakar Says:

    what separates “murder” from a justifiable killing?

    That is both the question and the divide that separates people that believe the war in Iraq was or was not justified.

    One side simply has a different set of ethical priorities that justify killing or violence if killing is disallowed by ideology as is true for the Left. One can still do violence without killing. While the Left avoids killing directly, their methods of violence, both physical and emotional, are very well developed. However, that pits them against the hardcore killers and violence professionals such as the US military and retroactively American-US history as well.

    A correction for my above comment. It would make more sense if you read it as skilled and wise rather than the two redundant terms.

    Metaphysically speaking, from a philosophical perspective, all things are relative. In that Einsteinian universe of relative velocities and doppler shifts. What appears blue to us may simply be red to another planet in another part of the universe/galaxy. This relativity is only applicable to perspectives, not absolute truths or principles that exist, like doppler shift principle, regardless of the boxed in perspective of any one point in space and time.

    However, when most speak of moral absolutes/relatives, they are speaking of ethics, not metaphysics primarily. Ethics, though, cannot be adequately explored without a solid and agreeable foundation of metaphysics. If you cannot agree with another on what is real, like whether the UN is corrupt and a danger to humanity’s future, then your ethics will always differ from another with a different view of reality.

    This is how conservatives and fake liberals can look at wars, policies, and etc and come to contradictory conclusions on the rightness, wrongness, correctness, and incorrectness of said policies and actions. Their metaphysics and epistemology, nevermind their ethics, are diametrically different. People can live together in the US, with such differences, only because of the enforcement of the rule of law by the military and police as well as the consent of the governed and the punished. What the Left does is break down these societal securities and guarantees in both the long and short term, but primarily the long. Moral relativism to the Left is simply a way of clogging up what should be a functional society. They are like lawyers in this aspect. They will take whatever side they decide to take, regardless of whether it is consistent or “Good”, so long as it achieves their goals. Whatever the goals of a lawyer might be in representing say Saddam. Thus the lawyer exists because of the system, even though the actions of any single lawyer may actually be destroying the system or making it function worse.

    The few protecting and pulling the weight of the rest of the lazy masses, is of course a time tested and timeless quality of human beings. Every society and organism will have their freeloaders and parasites. Too many parasites, however, and the society goes down in flames. Like Cuba and Iran. Too many idiots thinking they know what is best but ultimately without the guns and butter to back it up.

  32. Chris White Says:

    In Science, which strcpy seems to feel is well on the way to becoming a religion, there may well be certain absolutes that can be directly observed or proven – at least to the (nearly) universal satisfaction of those who accept science as objective and fact based – the speed of light, the law of gravitational attraction, that the Earth is round. Neither observable proofs nor objective facts are available to us in the realm of morality and religion. As David Foster points out, the absolutist stance makes “the collectivist assumption that people within a society are merely “cells” within it.” It ignores free will, the differences between individuals and the multiple, specific, and sometimes contradictory moral beliefs that might be held within a family, let alone within a religion or society larger than a small, isolated, tribe.

    The vehemence of Sally’s comments indicates the inherent difficulty with moral absolutes. If we accept moral and religious absolutes and aver that they pertain to whole groups rather than individuals we’ve entered the very realm of thought shared by the Catholic Church of the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazis, Islamic fanatics … the list is long and unfortunately still growing. Here we’ve returned to the sins (and crimes) of blasphemy and idolatry. Some group who are seen as worshiping a false god (or no god) living in too close proximity to a larger community of true believers who believe absolutely in a faith that has determined that the punishment for these sin/crimes should be banishment, enslavement or death acts on those beliefs.

    And, while it has not been directly commented on, the spin applied to The Declaration of Independence … from the essay Do Democrats Really Want Us to Fail in Iraq?
    by Adam G. Mersereau on the American Thinker web site … may be “cogent” but it is far from a universally accepted view of the Founding Fathers’ underlying philosophies taken from a highly partisan source in a far more specific context than the seemingly philosophic discussion of moral and cultural relativism versus absolutism here. Unless it is the case that the unstated goal is making the case that our activities in Iraq are an example of an conflict between opposing moral absolutes of Good (Us) and Evil (Them) – however one defines “Them”.

  33. Ymarsakar Says:

    To simplify things down. Would you trust a fake liberal with the safety of your future generations and of your friends and allies in distant parts of the world? Do you trust fake liberals to make the correct decision and analysis of situations in order to further the progress of humanity?

    If you do not, then you certainly cannot and will not agree with the Left’s epistemological viewpoint concerning what is relative to what. How do you know that they got it right when you don’t trust their wisdom or competency?

    So fundamentally, conservatives don’t disagree with the Left over whether things are relative to another thing. To a conservative, civilian casualties are based upon a relative perspective of what those casualties were for and which side had the intent of killing civilians or avoiding killing civilians. The idea of extenuating circumstances in military Rules of Engagement, is a concept that conservatives should already understand by now. People may disagree about what RoE should be, but they understand the concept. That things change when the facts change. But when the Left says things are “relative”, they are saying things are relative because we just make up the facts as we go.

    That might be unfair in some ways, but it is very applicable to the way people function with a Leftist and fake liberal ideology. They do make things up as they go, therefore conservatives will not really accept a Leftist’s conception of “relativity” or what is relative to what. Because conservatives don’t trust the judgement of fake liberals. Most conservatives don’t even trust the judgement of isolationists either.

    As human beings we all start with about the same tabula rasa and some basic foundations. A left’s brain functions the same way as a conservative’s brain. What differs is in choice. People make choices about changing their methods and ways of thining and acting. We are not bound entirely by instinct and self-preservation.

    So, while the Left uses the same things as we do, like projection or denial or making judgements based upon deductive logic, our conclusions end up to be diametrically dissimilar. When they say “all things are relative”, it may be true as a basic principle from which to start, but the applications of such are totally alien from Left to right.

    For example, on the surface it is seemingly true that both fake liberals and classical liberals to the right wish for universal human harmony, prosperity, and progress. The methods used to achieve such goals, however, could not be anymore different between the two. Same principles, apparently, but entirely different epistemological and metaphysical constructs.

    Neo,

    Moral relativism is the idea that there is no absolute good and evil, but that all customs and practices of mankind must be evaluated in terms of their function in the society where they are found. Any attempt to make moral judgments about other cultures merely reflects our own cultural prejudices.

    The way you define moral relativism makes it very similar to utilitarianism. Which essentially distills down to “what is good for me or my own”. Amoral familism in essence. This is the same issue with reporter bias. If you seek to attempt to pretend that you can become unbiased, you’re going to achieve exactly the opposite result. This is due to the fact that human beings literally cannot be unbiased. They can take the bias of both sides and cancel them out, but you are still making your own decisions based upon your own choices and experiences. Which means your bias.

    Because the Left prefers to Balkanize humanity into disparate warring factions with the Left achieving the “Clean Hands” resolution of a UN funded loot and rapine contest, the Left will never accept a universal concept that some things are good for human beings and some things are not. They will always say that blacks are good as second class citizens and servitors to the rich and white Democrats, and they will always say that poor people need to be patronized and taken care of so that they can’t break out and become part of the rich and powerful like Condi.

    The status quo, in essence, is what fake liberals want and they achieve this by revolution. That may seem contradictory to you, but simply understand that Leftist revolutions always downgrade society and humanity’s progress. This is a useful mechanism to ensure that humanity doesn’t get too far advanced to the point where a global concept of laws and customs and rights apply to everyone. (like what happened with America in the 19=20th century) Course, whenever a power vacuum exists, somebody is going to fill. And if it isn’t Al Gore Savior of the Earth or UNlateral systemic destruction of liberties, then it will be Arab dictators and terrorists that fill the power vacuum. Somebody’s gotta be in control and at the top. If everything is relative to their own situation, who gets to be on top?

    This is all simply extrapolated from basic human nature. The Left can talk about things relative to people’s “society” and “environment” all they want. They will never be able to change human nature, which is the foundamental bedrock from which optimized ethics, societies, and laws can be made from. All the methods of Balkanization is an attempt to create different classes of human beings. Rich people. Poor people. Black people. Native American people. Underdogs from the Middle East people that can’t be profiled cause of racism. Stuff like that. It ignores all that binds humanity together and increases the differences. This fullfills the Leftist need for social revolution in order to stall humanity’s progress. Maybe some Leftists think they are humanity’s rightful future. Maybe some others simply haven’t thought that far.

    No amount of culling has yet to put a stop to inter-tribal slaughter, be it Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Congo, Sudan, Kenya, and on and on.

    Perhaps the Left and their descendants the Nazis will be able to achieve with eugenics and planned parenthood +state indoctrination what they could not when technology was primitive. The fundamental problem is how to change the nature of a man. Until they do or get something similar like mind control, Leftist ideology will be unable to stop what they claim it will stop. Like genocide, wars, famine, etc.

    Here’s a quick tip if you wish for somewhere to start on the road to maximum optimized ethics, law, and civilization standards. There was a reason why Rome conquered her neighbors and why America kept winning wars. It wasn’t about population or technology or all the environmental and situational relative cues the Left talks about all the time. The key to military supremacy is will, resources, and logistics. The logistics of a society changes depending upon what government it has. Serf based governments tend to produce bad soldiers. Empire systems like Persia produced massive amounts of soldiers with little to no elan and esprit de corps. This is why Alexander could conquer Persia from a little place called Makedonia north of Athens and Sparta.

    Republics, like Rome was, produced the best kind of soldiers and probably one of the worst kinds of leaders and generals. Excepting dictatorships like Hitler and Kim John that is.

    Empires develop in order to hold terrain that Republican soldiers have captured, via the use of auxiliaries and non-citizens to fullfill the military requirement that the citizens of a decadent Republic cannot and will not fullfill. America is coming close to that threshold at the moment. Huge territory, the entire world in fact, with only a citizen volunteer military that is being called upon to increase/decrease all the time. The option of dirt cheap soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan is going to look awfully tempting in the next 100 years. Especially as immigration increases and the citizenship of the US is unable to produce enough military volunteers. Which given Leftist strategies, is more probable than not. Remmeber that the Left is kicking out ROTC from universities for a reason.

    It’s better for the people in control when poor people do their fighting for them. That is the ethics of some in power, even though the Left has most of them.

    Empires fall because if the citizens are unwilling to fight and they are the ones where most of the wealth and security is provided for, then you tend to get the decadence of Rome and Praetorian Guards and all that comes with it. Also you get the British model of crapping on loyalists from afar because they aren’t citizens, just subjects. That makes Empires fall even faster.

    Just imagine, America saved Britain in WWII, but it would never have been necessary if Britain had offered America what she had earned and deserved in the 18th century. With the resources and manpower an entire continent could provide, the British would have been far more likely to resist Nazi initial aggression. Of course, they might still be fighting the Nazis up to now, of course, but that’s the price one pays for peace. Even still, the British’s lack of willpower to resist aggression was the chief decider of engagements, not their resources or lack of it. Churchill made do with little because he had the will and the desire. Chamberlain was in a more favorable position ,but didn’t do anything cause he wanted something else.

    To summarize, a civilization’s culture, laws, and customs are tested in the cauldron of war and competition as to its “universal optimization”. Some cultures can’t compete with others and therefore disappear, like extinct species. That is the law of the jungle, that is the human condition, and no Leftist, however greedy, powerful, or messianic, can change that about the world and the universe. Because wars serve this function for us, America by winning so many wars has proven that she is both capable and qualified as the best set of cultural and ethical values around. Might makes right because right makes might.

    If the barbarians are at the gates or flying a plane into a building or driving across France in a Panzer, then you should probably know that you have done something wrong. Very wrong.

  34. Ymarsakar Says:

    Neither observable proofs nor objective facts are available to us in the realm of morality and religion.

    See, that’s where Chris is wrong. And because of that, the Left simply does not have the epistemology in order to correctly determine what is relative to what. They have no reference, because they do not accept either metaphysical solution or an epistemological (concept of knowledge) solution. They say you can’t know.

    That itself makes their ethics completely different and it is also why some support the war while others don’t and so forth. People do not look at the same facts with the same eyes. What that means is that Leftist ideology or moral relativism or whatever you want to call it, can be wrong as well. It is not a one gap utilitarian solution that is a universal ethic or method of judging correctly.

    Not judging is also a judgement.

    Without the concept of what war is for and what can result from it, there’s not much to human progress that can be unlocked. But like all things, not everyone can conduct warfare well. Just look at France and the Arabs for an example. You don’t want them conduct any wars. And Europe has been fighting wars for centuries. That’s why America made them stop. They were using up resources for no gain. As is applicable to war as in all other fields of human endeavours. SOme people are good at it, and some should be kept away from it.

  35. Ymarsakar Says:

    Hey, wasn’t Moses leading a military expedition of his entire clan when he brought down the 10th Commandments? With the siege of Jericho and all the wars they fought in that land between the Meditteranean and Persia, it would have been really hard to survive if they couldn’t “kill”.

  36. Ymarsakar Says:

    Don’t forget to Read Sanity’s post about the alliance between Marxism and Islam

    Concerning Chris White’s association of absolute values with negative ideologies that were a disaster for humanity, it brings up the interesting distinction between classical liberals like us, nihilists, and Islamic Jihadists.

    Like the Islamic war on goodness, we believe that you must both be willing to kill and die for your beliefs. We prefer killing our enemies, while Arab fighters prefer to die in a fatalistic shower of glory. A good match all in all.

    This is totally different from the Left’s adoption of nihilism, which is the belief that nothing is worth dying or killing for. Why? Because obviously moral absolutes have produced Nazism so why even go down that route, is their thinking.

    That is why the Left is allied with their little Satan, the Islamofascists against the Greater Satan, the United States. The ideology of the US can get many many millions or billions of people to fight, kill, and die for such things as liberty. The same is true of Nazism and Communism and similar ideologies.

    The fundamental difference, of course, is that we don’t think Shariah is worth dying for. Arabs do, for the most part. But that’s not a difference if you believe as Chris does, which is that there is no objective method of determining ethics or morality. If there is objective method of determining ethics, then who is to say whether Nazis were wrong and Americans right. So they say “they are all wrong”, because both ideologies produce death and dying in spades. Which is a judgement, but of course it is a judgement the Left will never accept about themselves.

    The vehemence of Sally’s comments indicates the inherent difficulty with moral absolutes. If we accept moral and religious absolutes and aver that they pertain to whole groups rather than individuals we’ve entered the very realm of thought shared by the Catholic Church of the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazis, Islamic fanatics … the list is long and unfortunately still growing. Here we’ve returned to the sins (and crimes) of blasphemy and idolatry.

    The Spanish Inquisition was under the control of secular rulers, rather than the Papal authority of the Catholic Church. That’s for the record.

    There is no choice on the part of a human being in accepting moral absolutes and beliefs about right and wrong. You can choose which belief to ascribe to, but the Left has their own conception of what is right and wrong and what is true regardless of the situation or culture.

    So there is no “if we accept” as part of the available choices.

  37. Vince P Says:

    Here’s a good dose of cultural relativism..

    Sickening

    http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2008/01/muslim-rape-not.html

    A report on the lack of safety in Toronto schools was released yesterday. It was scathing, to say the least. Kids with guns, sexual assaults etc. Within that report was the case of a young Muslim girl who was sexually assaulted in a school washroom by six males. The principal and vice principals were aware of the assault but did not report it, because they feared for the girl’s safety if her family found out.

    “Police have charged the former principal and two vice-principals at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate under Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act with failing to report an alleged sexual assault on a student, the Star has learned.”

    I don’t know if the principal will be able to use the fact that the kid was a Muslim as a defence, but it speaks volumes to the damage that multiculturalism and relativism have done to our society and our children.

    School Officials Face Child Act Charges The Star.com Kristin Rushowy

    Police have charged the former principal and two vice-principals at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate under Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act with failing to report an alleged sexual assault on a student, the Star has learned.

    Principal Charis Newton-Thompson and vice-principals Silvio Tallevi and Stan Gordon face a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted.

    News of the charges comes just prior to the release of a report on safety in Toronto schools by a panel struck after the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Manners inside Jefferys, a 900-student school near Keele St. and Finch Ave. W.

    While investigating conditions at Jefferys, the panel, headed by lawyer Julian Falconer, learned of an alleged sexual assault of a Muslim girl in a school washroom, information that was passed on to Director of Education Gerry Connelly. The board’s lawyer contacted the police. Six males have since been charged with gang sexual assault, forcible confinement and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.

    The alleged assault, in October 2006, has no link to Manners’ murder. At the time, it was alleged that administrators at the school had been made aware of the event, but did not report it to police or the children’s aid society. They were soon after put on home assignment.

    Administrators are required to report any cases of physical and sexual assault to police or the children’s aid society. Those who don’t are also subject to disciplinary action by the Toronto District School Board.

    The trio was put on “home leave” by the TDSB last June. Since then, Tallevi has retired and the other two continue to be paid.

  38. Sally Says:

    CW: The vehemence of Sally’s comments indicates the inherent difficulty with moral absolutes…. Here we’ve returned to the sins (and crimes) of blasphemy and idolatry.

    I don’t expect CW to be any more able to recognize sarcasm than Homer Simpson, so his reference to “vehemence” here is just obtuse, but throw-away. The last sentence, though, is more useful, as an almost humorous illustration of the sort of moral trap such would-be non-absolutists constantly find themselves in — a bit like the guy who says “all generalizations are false”. Why, in talking about a “return” to the “sins” and “crimes” of “blasphemy and idolatry”, you’d almost think that for CW, contrary to his previous inanity, it’s not “all relative” after all, wouldn’t you? “Sins” and “crimes” sounds pretty … absolutist, don’t you think?

    Oh, and by the way, CW, in a fashion entirely typical of him, has misunderstood David Foster’s comments, which were directed against moral relativism, not in favor of it.

  39. Richard Aubrey Says:

    The Toronto educrats were certainly between a rock and a hard place. No wins for them or for the girl.

  40. Chris White Says:

    The sheer amount of projection, assumptions, mis-characterizations and paranoia that gets heaped on “the Left” around here is astounding. As is the seeming inability of so many who comment to view the world in color and four dimensions. Everything is reduced to the stark black and white of polar opposites, Good/Evil unchanged since the beginning of time. All of “Them”, from the Barbarians who sacked Rome to Islamofacists, are lumped together into a singular whole which is then held up as the Evil that must be militarily crushed so that Good can triumph.

    Ymasakar’s lengthy comments with their elegant rhetorical flourishes, erudite historical references, and elegantly constructed logic chains could be streamlined to its pithy conclusion “Might makes right because right makes might. Y believes … absolutely … we (whomever Y is willing to accept as we) are powerful, therefore we are right, because we are right and we are powerful and so we should project our power to bring what is right to those who do not yet see the light. It is the ultimate example of circular logic.

    Any who dare to hold different views, regardless of how small or laarge the differences, are wrong by definition. There are no debatable points, no nuances, no acceptance of the possibility that others can disagree without (supposedly) revealing themselves as leftist/nazi/commie/islamofacistic enemies. Frankly, it makes any sort of reasoned or reasonable discussion or debate virtually useless, no matter how much one might wish to engage in respectful dialogue.

    Oh, and by the way, Sally, it is not that I missed David Foster’s point, rather that I thought it held within it an internal contradiction if used to defend moral absolutism, namely that whatever overarching label one may apply to a given individual (General Beck was a Nazi) they inevitably also belong to other cultural or religious sets and subsets (military, Protestant, etc.) which may have conflicting goals, ideals, truths and beliefs that render adherence to any single group’s absolutes to be problematical if not downright impossible.

  41. Sally Says:

    CW: Oh, and by the way, Sally, it is not that I missed David Foster’s point, rather that I thought it held within it an internal contradiction if used to defend moral absolutism,…

    Which isn’t what you’d said originally:
    ‘As David Foster points out, the absolutist stance makes “the collectivist assumption that people within a society are merely “cells” within it.”’
    Don’t see any mention of “an internal contradiction” in what he points out there, and I don’t think anyone else would either — no, you just missed the point, again. Any your refusal to admit something so obvious says a lot about your predictable and oft-repeated whines about how no one wants to “engage in respectful dialogue” with you — in fact, many people here have tried, only to be ignored or sneered at whenever they make points you’re unable to answer. I’m not one of them, I’ll admit, but that’s because I haven’t had the slightest indication that you’re capable of anything more than the simplest sort of contrarianism, and a dull, trite, pompous repetition of bien pensant banalities.

  42. harry9000 Says:

    CW:
    “Everything is reduced to the stark black and white of polar opposites,”

    That seems to me to be a projection. If you have moral relativists on the left, then the right must be moral absolutists. Blind, unwavering, intolerant, martinet fascist that we are.

    I guess to some degree that must be true in that I see no gray area in a moral code such as Sharia law. I already find it intolerable and morally repugnant without actually having to live under it.

    I guess that makes me a culturally close minded xenophobe.

    I think you better hope we xenophobes come out on top.

  43. Ymarsakar Says:

    Everything is reduced to the stark black and white of polar opposites, Good/Evil unchanged since the beginning of time.

    Are you somehow claiming, Chris, that you or the Left do not see things as being right and wrong? Aren’t you sort of making a judgement that our perspectives, or my perspective, is wrong? Is that judgement in technicolor, somehow different from black and white in your view?

    All of “Them”, from the Barbarians who sacked Rome to Islamofacists, are lumped together into a singular whole which is then held up as the Evil that must be militarily crushed so that Good can triumph.

    You do not recognize the objectivity of principles that apply to all human beings. Why would you then lump one human being as being similar to another group of human beings like I have? I don’t expect that.

    When human behaviors are described to you, Chris, you make the automatic assumption that they are evil simply because you were taught that they were negatives. It simply shows that you are unable to truly determine the ramifications of actions on an ethical plane. Your reflex assumption of events as being “evil” is your own judgement, not mine. The fact that you do not recognize this, simply reinforces my earlier point.

    Human affairs are much more complex than your erroneous and simplistic model of human nature, Chris. Besides, you don’t accept the ethical model of good and evil, so you are not exactly an objective person to talk to concerning what is good or what is evil. You will always project and distort the ethical beliefs of others, not just because you don’t understand them but because you don’t accept them. You don’t accept them as being superior to yours. So you call other people’s beliefs erroneous and simplistic when it is your own that has such qualities.

    because we are right and we are powerful

    You failled to connect the logic chain. That should be “we are powerful because we are right”. That is what right makes might means, just as might makes right means that being powerful makes one right. If only temporarily for the latter. There is a reason why people state that the victors write the history books.

    If you want an example of what I mean by right in terms of American tradition or policy, check out this video from the 50s.

    Link

    Any who dare to hold different views, regardless of how small or laarge the differences, are wrong by definition.

    Is epistemology and metaphysics too much for you to handle, Chris? Is that why you attempt to distill such things due to small differences? It is not my definition of ethics you are going by.

    no acceptance of the possibility that others can disagree

    I don’t disagree with Islamofascists on the fact that the West is weak and decadent or that some things must be fought for. Nor do I disagree with fake liberals on furthering human progress and prosperity. You are the one that seeks to reject any relationship between the Left and Islamofascists and the Vandals of 300 AD.

    Tell me something, Chris.

    If you do not, then you certainly cannot and will not agree with the Left’s epistemological viewpoint concerning what is relative to what. How do you know that they got it right when you don’t trust their wisdom or competency?-Ymar

    When you read things like that, do you automatically come up with the conclusion that no acceptance of disagreement is possible? Does that just pop in from the Source of Leftist ideology?

  44. Ymarsakar Says:

    Let’s jump to the real world of policies and applications, a step away from the theory I’ve written about.

    Belmont Club has a quote from Michael Yon

    Why is fighting a counter-insurgency hard? Because it requires creating a human infrastructure, which in turn requires time and most importantly, exposure. There is probably no idea more destructive to conducting a good counterinsurgency than the idea of a military campaign based on a prescheduled “exit strategy” following a battles in which no casualties will be allowed. Any realistic effort which fits those constraints must realistically resemble one of the cruise missile bombardments so popular with Washington in the 1990s, which is why they were preferred to start with.

    A truly sanitized, rubber gloved, politically correct war can never have produced the cameraderie in arms which Yon describes as having risen between American officers and former al-Qaeda. In one sense, the kinds of wars the Left will allow a national military to engage in (if there are any) are of the sort where everything is fundamentally as phoney and plastic as a United Nations conference. A nonwar, both bloodless and useless at the same time. An event in which there are no years; nor sweat, nor tears. Diplomacy conducted by military theater. Just a programmed experience and a private plane ticket home.

    But the history of war through the ages has never resembled that; and ultimately there’s no way to fight a counterinsurgency without becoming involved in the fate of a country. This is the real cost of all wars that “free men” rather than enslave them. Becoming involved is fraught with danger. But victory has its price.

    -Wretchard

    While we are focused on trying to maintain the standards of civilization so that another Dark Age does not occur, people with your beliefs are busy trying to sow dissension in America with your “small disagreements”.
    You cannot honestly say that you are interested in spreading any kind of civilization or higher standards of living to the rest of the world, Chris, not given your beliefs and not given the actions you have supported.

    You tolerate the world as it is because you don’t know how to make it better so you don’t even try. It’s pointless to your faction precisely because you don’t know how to better man’s circumstance.

    The idea that people are forced to fight together and learn what binds human beings together in warfare, is not an objective standard to you from which we can determine what is truly good and what is truly evil for human beings. That is kind of obvious given your comments. But this explains why you see things as black and white when people speak about good and evil or about what is good and bad for humanity. You don’t know what actions and policies are good for the human race, Chris. So why should you interfere with those that are trying what you will not?

  45. Truth Says:

    In the course of the twentieth century it became abundantly clear that things had gone badly wrong in the Middle East—and, indeed, in all the lands of Islam. Compared with Christendom, its rival for more than a millennium, the world of Islam had become poor, weak, and ignorant. The primacy and therefore the dominance of the West was clear for all to see, invading every aspect of the Muslim’s public and even—more painfully—his private life.

    Many remedies were tried—weapons and factories, schools and parliaments—but none achieved the desired result. Here and there they brought some alleviation and, to limited elements of the population, some benefit. But they failed to remedy or even to halt the increasing imbalance between Islam and the Western world.

    What Went Wrong?

  46. Vince P Says:

    This is a timeline of Time Mag’s reporting on Islam between 1923 and 1967…. they were pretty kick ass magazine back then. people must have known a lot more about islam back then they do now

    http://home.comcast.net/~vincep312/timemagislam.html

  47. Alex Says:

    You might like reading Steven Pinker’s recent NYT Magazine article on a closely related topic:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html

  48. Truth Says:

    Interesting view coming from Turkish guy

    Western Kemalists do not understand Turkey!
    Saturday, December 8, 2007
    By Orhan Kemal Cengiz
    http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=90654

  49. Vince P Says:

    Good article.. it falls in line with my thinking about Turkey.

    I see Turkey forming some sort of partnership with Iran in the short term future, as well as other actions that will serve to increase Turkey’s leadership in the Muslim world.

  50. harry9000 Says:

    So much for the discussion about moral reletivity I take it.

  51. The Sword of Grace | The Doctor Is In Says:

    […] there arose at least a glimpse of the uniqueness of the Christian faith. Christianity is not merely another framework of moral codes by which to live. It is not comprised solely of the teachings of a charismatic leader, urging […]

  52. Jack Black Says:

    The other external support for morality is a feature of rationality itself: that it cannot depend on the egocentric vantage point of the reasoner. If I appeal to you to do anything that affects me — to get off my foot, or tell me the time or not run me over with your car — then I can’t do it in a way that privileges my interests over yours (say, retaining my right to run you over with my car) if I want you to take me seriously. Unless I am Galactic Overlord, I have to state my case in a way that would force me to treat you in kind. I can’t act as if my interests are special just because I’m me and you’re not, any more than I can persuade you that the spot I am standing on is a special place in the universe just because I happen to be standing on it.

    Bravo! Puts paid to the American conservative myth that superior moral intent gives license to immoral behavior.

  53. Sally Says:

    JB: Bravo! Puts paid to the American conservative myth that superior moral intent gives license to immoral behavior.

    Close, but no cigar — that’s actually an American liberal myth you’re talking about. You know, as in the racism, sexism, etc. inherent in such things as “affirmative action”?

  54. harry9000 Says:

    Jack Black:
    “Bravo! Puts paid to the American conservative myth that superior moral intent gives license to immoral behavior.”

    In other words, waterboarding a detainee for what ever reason we may deem necessary is still as wrong as for what ever reason anyone else applies torture.

    I dont know that wouldnt make pacifism the only way anyone could “fight” violent oppression regardless of whether or not this results in your death or enslavement, because in order to be morally perfect, death or enslavement would be the only outcome.

    Jack,

    If someone is standing on your foot, most people will express surprise, apologize sheepishly, and step off your foot. You dont have to explain anything to them about why they should do so. Then maybe there might be those one or two guys that are standing on your foot on purpose. Those are them guys who understand full well that you dont like the idea of having anyone stand on your foot. Those people you are most likely going to have to use force in order to remove them from your foot. It doesn’t make you as bad as they are because you had to do it.

  55. Richard Aubrey Says:

    True multiculturalists would put their money in a Nigerian bank.
    Or insist that all new hires for the LAPD come from the Mexico City police academy.
    If they don’t, they’re theme-park multiculturalists, restaurant multiculturalists.
    And, of course, none of them do.
    The same is true of cultural relativists and moral relativists.
    What is good for other people is not going to be inflicted on the ‘ists of any sort.
    Their pose is solely a matter of preening faux superiority.
    But, fit hits shan, reality will be their best buddy, including whatever sharp, hard-edged, previously condemned aspects of their own culture which are necessary for their own protection.

  56. DonS Says:

    When I wrote about “culling” I was responding to Tatterdemalian, who said “reality has a way of culling those with certain sets of morals”, seeming to imply that cultures with evil morals get culled. I then pointed out that cultures which value ethnic genocide seem pretty resilient, or at least frequently reappear.

    The “culling” has favored good over evil for quite a while now. The superior moral values of freedom and liberty defeated Napoleon, Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union, just to hit the high points.

  57. Scannig the ’sphere of a Tuesday Morning | The Anchoress Says:

    […] to consider cultural and moral relativism, doesn’t it? Neo-neocon thinks about it here and here, in pieces that strike me as excellent conversation pieces for the workroom lunch area. Or, maybe […]

  58. Moral Relativism - Part 3 « Community of the Risen Says:

    […] study, we looked at the fact that every moral system really is morally relative based on culture. Neo-Neocon has helped define moral relativism as “the idea that there is no absolute good and evil, but […]

  59. Marylou Bunyard Says:

    Sorry for this noob question. Can you tell me what this site template is? I really like it. Or is it custom one, perhaps? I believe it will be a good option for Google ads too. I’d like it if you can tell me about this. Thanks.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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