Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why Assumptions Are So Problematic (and often erroneous)

This is a continuation of the discussion I've been having with Red Tulips. Another very interesting person has joined the conversation and devoted an entire post to his assumptions about me. I decided to post my response to it here because I'd love to hear whether anyone else who has read all of this came to the same conclusions as Steven did. This is the message that I left in response to Moral Relativism, Explored. So here it is:


Wow! An entire post inspired by me! I'm pretty flattered to be able to be your muse. :o)

Well, I suppose I should get down to my response to this.

Judaism stands between absolute and relative morality.

Anything other than moral absolutism is moral relativism of some sort.

If he/she actually acts on these ideas and murders an innocent child it would still be wrong.

Right and wrong isn't just determined in terms of morality. There are several other standards of right and wrong that are equally valid and, perhaps, even more valid than using morality as the mearsuring stick.

The Rabbi continued to explain that we all have different "moral levels". That said, we all have a duty to improve our own moral level. There is no point in looking at someone on a lower moral level and thinking "wow, I am so much better than them" and being satisfied.

Who established this duty? What if others established different duties (that were mutually exclusive to this supposed duty) and they state must be carried out by everyone? I think there is a "point" behind looking at others and believing you are at a higher "moral level" than them. The point is it serves (in the minds of those who do this) as a justification for dehumanizing and and engaging in violence against the targeted group or individual.

Even though Person A is still doing wrong (assault), the actual act of improving morally is a great Mitzvah and is better than if he stayed at his natural level like person B did.

The "natural level" of all individuals is the same. The person commits an act of violence is not to be commended for not engaging in even more damaging forms of violence. They have still committed an act of violence which is always less ethical than simply not engaging in assault or murder or any other form of violence against other people.

Aka. Freedom loving people have no right to say that a genocidal terrorist group leading a dangerous indoctrinated population should not have a country to run. Our ideals are no more moral than theirs.

What's the point of this strawman argument? Have I said that any one doesn't have the right to say anything? Please show where I did, if you think you saw that. I haven't even touched on the moral aspects of any of these behaviors. My statements are simply concerning logic, rationality, and ethics. Morality is pointless to discuss because it is a subjective term and we aren't all using the same guidelines.

Bint attempts to make us understand that there is no moral truth.

Boy, you couldn't be more wrong. Perhaps this seemed like an "attempt" because that wasn't even my goal in the first place. If you want to know whether I believe in moral truth, just ask me and I'll tell you what I think.

They think we are morally wrong!

Indeed they do and even if you believe that they are wrong, the point is that you thinking they are wrong and them thinking that you are wrong isn't going to solve anything. All it does is point out differences in opinion.

In Bint's world we just have our own perceptions of morality and the only thing that is wrong is for us to impose our ethnocentric ideas of morality on another culture.

Uh, have you been following me around Steven? ;o) If not, how could you possibly know what things are like in my world? If you want a list of things that I think are wrong, I'll be glad to supply one. Would you like a short version or an extended one? I guarantee there will be a lot more than what you're claiming I think.

It is wrong for me to say that a culture which indoctrinates its youth with hate is immoral. It is wrong for us to say that the PLO's goal of genocide is immoral

Nope. You can say whatever you want. That doesn't have anything to do with what's factual, of course.

all these ideas are, according to Bint's moral relativism, equal.

Wrong again. To me, all of these ideas are just that--ideas. I don't think that policies should be made based on ideas. I think that policies should be based on facts.

This is bordering on insanity.

Of course it is. That's why people make strawman arguments like the ones above. If they were sane, then they'd be as hard to refute as what the person actually said.

Clearly, being human, this is impossible.

It's not impossible. It's just highly, highly unlikely to occur given that we are humans with the same tendencies and desires as all other humans.

What is Bint asking here exactly? Well, she is saying that what would it mean for the world if every nation was perfect.

Oooh! You almost had there but you missed by a mile. I asked a question. A question is not an assertion. If you understand that I was asking something, then why would you then claim that I am asserting something?

So right now Bint wants us to the image of a Utopian world in our minds:

This is pretty funny because you just defined what a strawman argument is and then you proceeded to make another one. If I wanted someone to imagine a Utopian world, then I'd have asked you to do so.


If you're unfamiliar with this spelling of the word, this might help: pre-requisite I hope, however, that this isn't going to turn into one of those pointless grammar police conversations. We could all engage in that activity but it only serves as a distraction from the issues, I think.

There was no proposal of creating a nation where everything is perfect.

Is there anywhere in my supposed strawman argument where I claimed that someone had proposed a "nation where everything is perfect"? Is there anywhere that I said that we should believe in creating a nation like this?

We were proposing a nation that does not support genocidal ambitions or indoctrinate its youth from point blank.

Okay. That's the proposal you've made. I didn't propose any nation at all. I simply stated that there are no nations where all of the inhabitants have, in the words of Red Tulip, given up all desire to genocide, and have turned from hate to love, and have actively apologized for their past.

The Utopia world that nobody was talking about was created simply to be destroyed in an effort to create an argument - but it doesn't work. It is not logical.

You're right. Nobody was talking about a Utopia, not even me. If you think that I was trying to claim that the whole world or even one country in particular should be a Utopia, then please explain where I stated that. Your creation of this idea that I'm looking for a Utopia is simply the result of looking for something that isn't there.

(You don't even need to stop at "which religion". Some of the most moral people I know are agnostic. You do not need to be taught religion to know the difference between right and wrong.)

If someone is discussing sin then they're discussing religion because sin is a religious concept. Right and wrong are not inherently religious concepts ergo the terms "right" and "wrong" are not synonymous with the term "sin". By the way, I think it's great if you have people in your life who have views that you admire. In my "moral code" we should all try to appreciate those around us and especially those who try to treat us well. Egads! Did I just make an absolutist statement? Heaven forbid such a thing! ;o) (Just joking!!)

Trying to answer this question puts the reader in an impossible position by forcing them to personally decide what is the correct moral code.

It's not an impossible position at all. It's a question. It can not force anyone to decide anything. However, it does point out what's problematic when it comes to trying to get people with different moral codes to believe that one in particular is superior to all others. Besides, if this is an "impossible position", then why do so many people claim to know what is the correct moral code? Are they all wrong? If at least one of these individuals in the world managed to decide this, then how could it be impossible? Do you have a moral code that you believe to be correct? If so, then you too are proof that this is not an impossible position to take.

Naturally whatever decision you make it will alienate millions of people who have a different perception to morality than you have.

Every decision that one makes in life could alienate you from millions of other people: whether or not to eat a hot dog, whether or not to wear a mini-skirt, whether or not to shave your underarms and legs, whether or not to engage in pre-marital sex, whether or not one will even get married at all. All of these are decisions that people can make based on their moral code. All of these decisions will set you apart from the decisions and lifestyles of billions of other people on this planet. Does that mean we should be reluctant to make these decisions? I don't see any reason to live my life around what's going to please the whole world but perhaps others do. If you do know of any such reason why we should try to please the entire world population of humans, then please let me know.

Is it fair for you to dictate what is moral and what is immoral?

You know, I remember when I was diagnosed with the cancer on my ribs and spine. I really wondered how could it be fair for me to have this awful disease when there are people like Osamma bin Ladin and Kim Jong Il walking around perfectly healthy. As someone with deist beliefs, it was a bit challenging. However, the oncological psychiatrist at the cancer center where I was told me something I'll never forget. He said that "fair" is nothing we should expect from the world. All that "fair is good for is determining how we'll treat others. I truly believe that.

Do you have the guts to say your perception of morality is right and they have it wrong?

I don't see what's so gutsy about this. If you believe something to be true with all your heart, then wouldn't you want to tell others so that they can benefit from whatever you've gained from your view?

Nobody can properly answer this question - and it is not supposed to be answered. It is supposed to make you think.

Why are you assuming that no one can properly answer this question? Perhaps someone does have some logical answer. I mean, if we should be guided by morals (instead of facts), then I think it's a rather essential question to have answered. I can explain why I think that people should be guided by the principles I've mentioned here.

Bint's moral relativism can be extended to the insane. Maybe our opinion that genocide is wrong is irrational because Adolph Hitler may not agree with it.

Well, I must admit, this strawman argument that you've come up with regarding my beliefs is rather insane.

With this philosophy we will be going around in circles until we die - and that is exactly why the Islamic Fascists love the so-called left so much.

Oh my! There's that illogical "Islamic Fascists" term cropping up again. Well, that's a whole other topic, I suppose. As far as I can see we are going around in circles because people still think that there is some exception when it comes to how they should treat others. As long as people think that their violence against innocent people is justified, we will see many more genocides, homicides, and suicides. Of this I am sure.

The "left" has lost it's morality and can justify the unjustifiable.

I wish that everyone would stop trying to justify the unjustifiable, especially when it comes to violence against others. Even if it happens every century, every decade, every year, every day and every hour, violence against innocent people is just unethical.

That's the same thing I've been saying since I started posting here. So please explain how this is relativistic. Unlike others, I do not believe that certain rules apply to some but not others. That's relativism.

This philosophy will also be the death of our civilisation because it will excuse murderers and weakens our resolve to defend ourselves against a people who would not tolerate this kind of thinking.

Unless you are psychic, your predictions are just conjecture and nothing more. Furthermore, it is relativism that attempts to excuse all those who perpetrate violence against others. However, no matter how much some people try to justify killing in the name of nation-building or ethnocentrism or any other kind of bigotry, my resolve is not weakened and I know that I am not the only one who is still dedicated to not supporting violence.

it impedes our ability to protect basic freedoms because we put ourselves into a position where we have no right to tell someone else that what they are doing is wrong, regardless of what it is they are doing.

This is illogical. No one's moral relativism could possibly impede your ability to tell someone anything. No matter what they believe, you can still say whatever you want.

Bint thinks this is intelligent, the consequences prove this philosophy is most unwise.

Bint thinks you ought to ask her whether she believe in this philosophy before you make erroneous statements like this. Creating some imaginary idea that you would like to assert that I'm carrying around in my head is just illogical.

Let me re-write that for you:

Instead of changing what I wrote, why not respond to what I said? It wouldn't take much more effort to do so, you know.

Here is the philosophy of moral relativism in its purest form.

No, this is logic. Even if we really, really want someone to do something and we think that they should do something and we want others to think that they should do it, the fact is that unless you can get that targeted person to agree with you, they won't even believe that they must do what you want. If what you and Red Tulips stated was something that a particular group must do, then the fact that they aren't doing it (and show no signs of even trying to do it) then it isn't a must. Palestinians are being born, living and dying without ever doing what you are saying they "must" do. So how can your assertion be logical?

Bint views this loophole of morality to be logical. But is it logical?

How is logic a "loophole of morality"?

What I will add is that regardless of how logical it is, this philosophy is blind and dangerous.

Woahh!! What a world we live in when logic is considered "blind and dangerous" and unproven, disputed assertions are believed to be the preferred option.

Bint suggests that she is completely logical, and logic is better than religion.

Where did I suggest that? Did I ever say anything even remotely close to this? Come on, this is just downright silly!

This is her victory. You can't win because...

I didn't realize that this was some sort of competition. I thought it was a discussion. If it is a competition, what is the prize and does it come with a toaster?

whatever you do she will draw you back into the relative moral loophole until you take the bait and say that your moral values are right and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, essentially humiliating yourself in the process.

Wow! You really are imputing me with a lot of power! I figure that everyone here is intelligent enough to decide what they want to talk about. You see, I'm of the opinion that I'm talking to people, not fish.

If someone thinks their views are right and others are wrong, what could be humiliating about voicing that? You certainly haven't had any trouble deciding what you want to say to me. Isn't everyone here just as capable? The other people here seem pretty intelligent to me.

Personally I see this entire philosophy as humiliating for Bint.

Yeah, I would feel humiliated if that was actually my philosophy.

I see her attempts to justify genocide as being immoral because genocide is wrong. No ifs no buts no conditions.

You couldn't be more wrong when it comes to my views. This is a good example of why someone should take the time to read what someone says before they assume what the person thinks. If you actually took the time to read the posts that we've been making, you'd see that from the beginning I've said that ALL GENOCIDE IS WRONG

Since you haven't done that--at least I'd like to believe that you haven't because the alternative is that you either didn't comprehend what you saw or you are purposely telling untruths--I'm going to go back and show you some of what I've said in this discussion. I'd love for you to show me how this is justifying genocide:

If we start saying that those who kill innocent people can be heroes, then how can we also have any grounds for saying that people should stop killing innocent Jews?


I refuse to go along with gross generalization no matter what ethnic or religious group we're talking about, including Jews.


I certainly do not believe that I should be held responsible if ever some Black or Native American or Irish individuals or groups blew up buildings nor would I claim that you should be held responsible every time some Jewish individual or group blows up buildings.


It's still ethnic stereotyping and that just isn't rational or acceptable to me.


Unless you buy into the religious claims of either groups, there is no reason to see one person wishing death and destruction upon an entire population as superior to another person wishing death and destruction upon an entire population.


I would not accept that as an excuse if African-Americans wanted to go to the city of Toronto and set up their own nation where Blacks are given preference over the people who were living in that area already based on the fact that more than TWENTY MILLION Africans lost their life as a result of the Maafa. It simply isn't democratic to apply different rules for people based on their ethnicity or religion.


As much as I love my ethnic traditions and abhor the genocides that slaughtered most Native American nations into oblivion, I just can't condone that sort of thing. I see your life as having just as much value as mine because it is a human life not because we may have similar beliefs or traditions or heritage. I truly hope that you feel the same way.


I do not believe that terrorism is ever justified. The problem with saying that the cause must be "THAT GREAT" is that those who engage in terrorist acts almost always feel that their cause is "THAT GREAT" even though the people who are their victims usually disagree.


I do not see how terrorism saves lives. It simply exchanges one type of atrocity for another. I see nothing ethical about that, especially since the majority of people who are victims of terrorism aren't necessarily guilty of anything.


It's rather scarey to hear that some think that we should judge who lives or dies based on what we think of their religious tenets and traditions. Weren't these the same sort of arguments that the Nazis made about what might happen if Jews were allowed to take over the world?


But even if there was the possibility that an evil Jewish or Muslim world-government might come to power and make the world the sort of place that's uncomfortable for people like me, I still don't think that it would be acceptable for me to kill Jews or Muslims.


I don't see violence as being any more acceptable because it wasn't indiscriminate.


It certainly isn't hard for me to say whether it was justifiable to kill the families of those who supposedly cooperated with Nazis. It was wrong. See, that was easy. See, that was easy. Do you know why it's easy for me to say that? It's because I would say the same thing if someone wanted to kill your family because they didn't like something that you did.


This is the same hypothetical-scenario-making that the Nazis engaged in. I don't accept the idea that killing innocent people was justifiable for them nor do I accept the idea that killing people who have committed no crime is justified for anyone else who just wants to obtain or maintain certain demographics in their particular country.


It doesn't matter what religion you belong to, you have a choice. If you do go out and kill others, then you have made your choice and you are simply being hypocritical if you say that others shouldn't do the same.


Jews and Native Americans were once the "THEY" that people were justifying violence against. I have no desire to see any individual or group go through that. Our offspring deserve better than that.


I have no more affection for those who kill the children of Jews either. My heroes are those who did not choose to become killers of their fellow mankind.

Do I need to go on? If so, I can. These are the quotes I found with a quick glance back. Please show how these statements justify genocide. That is an awful claim for you to make about someone, especially when that person has devoted years of their quite limited life time to advocating peace and doing their best to explain these cultures to those who know nothing about them. I truly hope that if you are a person who believes in morals, then you'll feel some inclination to examine whether or not my statements really reflect the idea that I am okay with genocides. What a disgusting idea!

A world where someone can morally punch you in the face for no reason at all.

In case you haven't noticed, that's the world we live in. Every day there are people who are killed despite the fact that they have committed no crime. All of the innocent lives lost to suicide bombers in Israel/Palestine alone are proof of this. It's certainly not the world that I want for my child.

Bint is Atheist. She can't prove there is no God but she "believes" there is no God - that is why Atheism is like a religion.

Okay, you're really talking out of the side of your neck now. If you'd bothered to read this thread at all, you'd know that I stated up front that I am a theist. If you'd even a good bit of my blog posts you'd know that I'm quite religious.

Being Atheist, Bint naturally believes and asserts that all moral law is man-made.

What can I say? You're just wrong.

As it is impossible to convince everyone of any set moral truths Bint concludes that there are no set moral truths.

How could I conclude that when I'm not even an atheist. Hello? Red Tulips is the one whose the atheist here--and that's perfectly okay with me--but I certainly see no reason to give up my religious beliefs. My faith plays a huge role in how I deal with my health. It provides meaning for me and gives me hope for the future even when there are no statistics that can prove what will happen to me. I'm more than a bit saddened that someone would make all of these assumptions about me without even taking the time to talk to me about my views. That is a courtesy that I would extend even to a random stranger. I wish you did too because, from your writing, you don't seem like the sort of person who'd just enjoy telling untruths about someone.

Even if 99% of the world say that genocide is wrong, her philosophy dictates that they are just being ethnocentric.

My philosophy dictates that someone actually read what a person says before they attempt to play mind reader.


I am actually more comfortable with this sort of format than I am with essays. I find it much easier to show exactly what I'm addressing when I write something. So, please do not feel alone in using this sort of format instead of strict essay-writing. We aren't in grade-school any more, so there's no one to rap you on the fingers if you don't put a comma or a paragraph in the "proper" place.


Steven said...

LoL O_o

:) Thanks for taking the time to reply, and so extensively.

I have enough to say simply from your response to write a new entry.

When I have time to write it and post it I will include a link in the "updates" section.

Steven said...

This is quite fun. ;)

Bint Alshamsa said...

Okay, I'll try to check back every day or so.

I'm glad you view our conversations as fun. I hope you know that I truly do enjoy them as well but at the same time, I want it to remain something enjoyable for all involved. If you find something I say to be personally offensive or a bit confusing, please don't hesitate to question me about it. I do try to act in good-faith even when I'm hashing out a hearty debate with a fellow lover of this activity.

It keeps my brains from turning into mush while I'm sitting in front of the computer. ;o)

Bint Alshamsa said...

Oh yes, I didn't publish the post with your e-mail address in it because I'm not sure you wanted that one put here. I do still have it though.

A guy who loves ME debates and is good at coding? Wow! Now if only you were able to tell me how to win that free toaster, I'd ask you to marry me today. Well, I'd have to wait until after my partner dies because he's a helluva chef and I love our Cajun cooking more than any toaster, that's for sure!

Steven said...

Oh, I might be a while. I am quite behind with my Psychology work.

If you like I will give you another heads up when I reply.

Tc. :)

Steven said...

I am not good with very spicy foods! LoL

A Toaster you say?

The Sandwich or Video variety? ;)