Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Myth of Morality

This post is inspired by the last fifteen minutes of listening to Matt Drudge on his Sunday night talk show. Here's the setting:

I turn on my radio to listen, as I sometimes do on Sunday nights, to Matt Drudge. I listened for fifteen minutes and in disgust turned the radio off. What set ME off was the content of his program. Matt Drudge is fond of criticizing Hollywood for its skewed perceptions of reality. He also likes ridiculing "liberals" and other "democrats" in American politics for their skewed or "melodramatic" perceptions of reality. This evening, Matt ranted about violence in Hollywood media and played, over the air, a narrated video clip of a mob viciously attacking a prostitute: stripping her naked and beating her to the ground. He bemoaned the "ethos" of the videographer who pleaded with the mob to let him capture the scene on video. Drudge condemned the immoral and sex obsessed mentality of Hollywood media producers... but then he added that the listener might visit his website (@Matt Drudge .com) to view the "pornographic" video clip. Nice touch, Matt.

SO here's my take. Personally, I have no doubt that our American society is FUBAR, as in FUCKED UP BEYOND ALL RECOGNITION. But how dare Drudge condemn "Hollywood" for its sensationalistic posture when he supports a political body that ARBITRARILY MANUFACTURES the excuses for war, sits idly by as short-sighted political policies send thousands of American citizens to their death (not to mention the over 100,000 Iraqis that have left this earth), and maintains a xenophobic and ultimately suicidal platform that supports and promotes the existence of nuclear weapons. In short, the primates that govern our country are ignorant beyond belief, and quite frankly it pisses me off that those who would stand so proudly for "moral standards" simultaneously wallow in a shallow, dogmatic perspectives.

So here it is, folks: Morality is a MYTH: WE subjectively construct the architecture of our beliefs. If anyone doubts this, they need only open their eyes to the raw function of human civilization. "Morality" provides a framework for social integration, but this framework varies from culture to culture and person to person. "Morality" establishes a system of boundaries for cultural behavior, but during times of crisis, i.e. social confict, "morality" is EASILY inverted to accomodate the realities of war and politically driven bloodshed. The point is, ultimately, our "moralities" mean NOTHING when we can so easily distort them to conform to our biased cultural demands. Of course, saying that "morality is a myth" doesn't mean that people can't believe in morality; indeed, humanity's historical "myths" were all once conceived as "sacred" material. Humans have always believed in "myths"; myths are a cultural extension of our creative minds. People believe whatever they need to believe to survive, even if this means taking our most sacred beliefs and (figuratively) RIPPING THEM TO SHREDS for the sake of maintaining the illusions of control and survival.

So, morality is a myth, on par with economic mythology, (i.e. material wealth and capitalism), not to mention race, language, popular icons, religious icons, and even science (although, unlike most myths, science at least exists to DISPROVE its own assertions). Although morality is mythological in nature, this doesn't mean that we shouldn't establish moral boundaries; it only means that we should closely examine WHY we believe what we believe and how this perspective fits into the BIG PICTURE, that is, cosmological existence.

We humans live on ONE Earth. This Earth is a LITERAL island within the extremely hostile environment of space. Some might say that this Earth was given to us by a Creator; I'm partially obliged to accept this as truth. I maintain my own spiritual faith, but I take this faith very seriously. It sickens me when other "believers" corrupt the foundations of faith that I have grown from. It sickens me that within this miraculous journey called "LIFE ON EARTH" we humans get so wrapped up in what we think we NEED that we forget the precious value of what we actually HAVE. War and violence have always been a part of the human experience on Earth. We have within our creative spirit the power to see beyond our misconceptions and to build a world that recognizes the miracles of life itself. For me, the perfect example of how to do this is exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. Yet, often I feel that, although "Christianity" is one of the world's largest religions, most "Christians" exercise an empty and dogmatic faith, especially when the shit hits the fan and terrible things force us to ask questions like, "Why?". When our society so easily discards compassionate faith for survival instinct, I am reminded of the raw holographic nature of cultural belief, and, well, sometimes I just want to be an atheist. Let the primates have their mythological gods.

In conclusion, I've decided to take the themes of this blog to "eleven" (in Spinal Tap terms). More on this later... in the meantime, question everything, combat ignorance with knowledge, communicate experience, and grasp the meaning of life on Earth... because although we are merely human, we are alive, and this is in and of itself a most significant miracle.

20 Comments:

Blogger sourmonkey said...

I don't know if this is spam, or just some poor confused "soul" grasping for attention.

So, if you are a REAL person (and not a "spammer"), then please post another comment (without a link to a nude mail order bride site, please) within the next two days.

Otherwise, the above post is toast...

12:23 AM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

Nevermind.

Those comments are gone...

12:24 AM  
Blogger redhairblueface said...

Two things...

1 - "But how dare Drudge condemn "Hollywood" for its sensationalistic posture when he supports a political body that ARBITRARILY MANUFACTURES the excuses for war..."

This is intellectually lazy. Not only have you not connected the dots between the two items mentioned, but you state the second as though it were mere fact, when according to your relativist viewpoint, such statements of absolution are prohibited.

This carries on to 2 - " Morality is a MYTH"… and your generally applied philosophy that all is subjective and used subjectively to carry out even more subjective means to reach yet more subjective ends.

If morality varies from culture to culture and I adopt your acceptance of them all, am I not undermining any support for having a moral system of my own? Indeed, you throw yourself haphazardly into the liar's paradox when you make such claims as this.

Any vestige of authority you had when you thought the statement, "morality is a subjective system with no real value" you have abandoned with an utterance of the same. You can not say with any authority that it is all relative, because the relativity of it all undercuts any authority you had for saying it.

It would be like saying, "I wish to pursue a doctorate by writing a dissertation about how nothing matters." If nothing matters, neither would the dissertation and the writer would fail to achieve anything.

Other than that, how's Austin?

Oh, and I have a blog for you to visit… Phil Hendrie’s blog is “georgewbushisgod.com”.

12:51 AM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

Hello Red Hair!

Austin is wonderful. I find it densely populated with creative, "liberal" ex-hippies expressing a wide variety of ontological (perhaps spiritual...)opinions. How's Waco?

So, let me get to the crux of this issue: Absolutism. How is it that I can proclaim "it is a myth" and still support a relativist perspective?

Simple. Nothing I say is absolute.

My life will one day come to an end, and the synthetic universe of cultural existence that resides within the confines of my mind with fade away into nothing. I might possess a "spirit", and this spirit might spend eternity communing with God, if she exists. However, NOTHING I SAY, think, feel, or believe is absolute. I might have FAITH in absolute concepts, but I'm not going to trick myself into the delusional thinking that my MORTALLY HUMAN MIND can in anyway understand absolute TRUTH.

Yet, as suggested by the brilliant military leader Donald Rumsfeld, "there are things we can know". For example, by applying a scientific paradigm to the body of human existence it becomes apparent that humans virtually the same everywhere on the planet. What differences we have are only genetically subtle, and it is instead our cultural universe that delineates our world and amplies to a paranoid level humanity's "differences". Having said all that, despite our cultural illusions, we humans have one thing in common: the REALITY of a relativistic pespective. Collectively and individually, our REALITY is filtered by cognitive boundaries. There is much about our existence that we "don't know".

I say what I say in the hopes that this might stirr up conversation. There's plenty I've left out, so please, by all means, keep asking questions.

10:20 AM  
Blogger redhairblueface said...

You have tried to dodge my criticisms with these words: "Simple. Nothing I say is absolute."

Hogwash.

You can write that all you want, but you still mean that thought to be absolutely true. If you didn't mean it to be true, why write it, or worse still, believe it?

If you mean it to be absolutely true, then the statement is by its very nature incorrect. If you mean it not to be absolutely true, I shouldn't believe it.

Listen to even the language you use…. “Nothing” (think of how extreme that concept is), “is” (to be absolutely) and “absolute” (categorically true).

1:52 PM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

"you still mean that thought to be absolutely true." -Red Hair

No, YOU think my statement possesses an absolute meaning. You project the absolute weight of meaning. I believe that my thoughts and words are only temporary. How can anyone believe that an arbitrary arrangement of script symbols and semantic algorithms can in any way fully encompass REALITY? The facets of human culture provide the means by which we humans quantize and codify our world (i.e. language). Yet, culture is a creation of the human imagination. What aspect of language expresses an absolute nature?

Think of it this way. Whenever you stumble upon a paradox, ask yourself how the paradox would be if you take out the element of human perception. Think about quantuum wave/particle duality. Think about the problem of absolute relativism, and let me know what you think.

11:54 PM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

p.s.

if you respond with another HOGWASH, then please don't.

however, I would accept a BULL SHIT! as long as you provide an informed opinion.

12:03 AM  
Blogger redhairblueface said...

You are totally ignoring the core of what I have to say.

Absolute relativism in any kind of moral or ethical sense is an oxymoron; it therefore cannot claim any authority or provide any reason for my adoption of it.

When you say, "Nothing I say is absolute", you remove the base upon which the rest of your argument sits.

Even if I accept this, “I believe that my thoughts and words are only temporary. How can anyone believe that an arbitrary arrangement of script symbols and semantic algorithms can in any way fully encompass REALITY?”, you have still fallen victim to what I predicted you would. You don’t even really believe what you are saying, so how are you going to advocate such an empty value system?

I don’t see any point in continuing this until you answer directly my criticisms.

Until that time, I must cry “BULLSHIT!”

1:29 AM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

I've answered your questions several times over. YOU refuse to see my answers.

You're perplexed by the absolute/relativism paradox. I've given you the means to resolve the paradox. You refuse to understand it.

I don't proclaim to argue from ANY absolute positition, nevermind an absolute/relativistic one. My position is solely relativistic. You supply the "absolute". Your problems with "oxymoronic thinking" are the problems of your own imagination.

I thank you for your contributions to this blog. Feel free to post other comments (please see the post on The War on Drugs... how do you feel about that one?)

12:28 PM  
Blogger Gianpaolo Macerola said...

Okie dokie guys....I have got to cry bullshit!

Sourmonkey, you have bound yourslef with your own argumentation. I think redhari has a good point when he looks at your rhetoric used. "Nothing" is an absolutitst word. The statement "nothing i say is absolute" means that there can be no deviation from relativity. No deviation = absolutism. Thus the sentence proves itself wrong.

You say that the things you believe are only temporary. Very well, but that does not address the fact that you believed them at some point, meaing that at the point that you believed something to be true, all other things were false, thus absolutism.

The point is, if all things considered are relative, then you should not conform to soceities main beliefs without telling us why you believe them. In this case, you claim that Drudge is bad because he comdemms bad things with hollywood, but not with Bush. At the point and time that the crux of your argument is hypocracy, why don't you explain why contradictions are bad. You place yoruself in soceities contraints, hence the shared meaning. You are making normative claims based on what people have said are bad. If anything, by being a hypocrit he adheres more to your relativistic standpoint than you!

1:16 AM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

Hypothetical Conclusion:

REALITY IS SUBJECTIVE

Premise One: Everything we understand about our universe (REALITY) is derived through human culture.

Premise Two: Culture is the product of the human imagination.

Kicker: Every conceivable premise arguing for or against the hypothetical conclusion will inevitably support the hypothetical conclusion.

Go ahead guys, argue this.

Supplemental Knowledge:

absolute (adj)- 1.perfect in quality or nature. 2.Not mixed; pure. 3. Not limited by restrictions or exceptions.
-- The American Heritage Dictionary 4th ed.

culture (n)- 1. the behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought, esp. as expressed in a particular community or period. 2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the worls produced. 3. Developement of the intellect through training or education.

-----

Can you prove to me that you and Redhair are NOT projecting "absolute value" onto the nature of my statements?

I suggest that you are, because I BELIEVE that everything that exists within THIS universe is also BOUND within this ENTROPIC universe, and therefore, nothing that WE HUMANS experience is absolute in nature.

This doesn't mean that people can't believe in "absolute" concepts. But if the recognition and preservation of such "absolute" beliefs are bound with an entropic REALITY, in what way are they "universally" absolute?

10:19 AM  
Blogger Gianpaolo Macerola said...

#1: You are continuing to use absolute statements....yes, you have a hypothetical conclusion....but look at your premises... "everything" "is derrived" "culture is"....these words are absolute....you cannot make any hypothetical conclusions with a subjective veiwpoint because to make a conclusion...you must have concrete premises that are not shifting, hence the fact that you can actually say something about it. Your hyothetical solution of all relativity is based on absolute statements which thus defeats your entire argument.

#2: I find it hilarious that you have taken this argument to a new level. You are defending your argumentation and hypothetical solution with a DICTIONARY! If this isn't the most absolute fucking peice of our culture, then I don't know what is......You form your own constraints, and you let soceity tell YOU what to think. You can't say what something is, so why not use a book that allows you to normalizae people in the "right/wrong" catagory.

***This is such a big pile of BULLSHIT that I can smell it six hours away in Lubbock, Tx.***

11:13 AM  
Blogger redhairblueface said...

If you want to ride into town perched atop an argument that says "I can't say anything absolutely because of entropy and the natural losses its causes in a system," you can, but you still have tried to apply the absolution of entropy. Applying entropy universally cuts the legs off your initical argument that nothing is universal and all is merely subjective experience.

Imagine this... Person A says that looting is bad and person B says that its badness is a subjective social construct with no real value because that construct is based in a deteriorating system. B explains that since the world is deteriorating, placing absolutes on things is flawed thinking; it is like trying to take a picture of an invisible man. While the universe erodes, so does its absoluteness.

Person A then asks B, "Is the entropy you rely on for relativism absolutely true?"

B would have to reply, "Yes, its absolutness is the only thing keeping my relativism alive."

This is a problem you have yet to address, even though you think you have. I am not convinced. You have now dug yourself into a deeper hole.

First, you merely used absolute terms to describe something that negates their use while trying to convince me you have any authority for believing what you believe.

Now you fully rely on absolutism as a premise for relativism.

9:38 PM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

I can't make you guys see that which you are unwilling to see. You are projecting absolute value on my statements, and you are doing this out of shallow ignorance. Educate yourself. Start by systematically examining my statements. Don't give me crap about "well your relatives are absolute, even though you wanna ride into town with absolute relatives, you can't, because your entropy is cutting off your feet and the smell from Austin is so bad I can smell it in Lubbok".

Get real guys. If you want to argue my hypothesis, then so be it, but please try harder and don't waste my time with the infantile "your relative states are actually absolute" after I've told you that NOTHING in THIS universe is absolute. Of course, you CAN believe this if you want to, but you do so apart from reason (and if you wanna debate the nature of "reason" then I'm game, but please bring you thinking caps to the table). And, I know I know, you're gonna bitch about me saying "everything is relative" in a subjectively absolute voice (get over it), but you know what, just because Einstein suggests that motion and time are relative events, this doesn't mean that these forces contradict the "beliefs" of absolute universal function. People believe what they need to believe to survive. Morality is a myth, but I know this is difficult for some to swallow. You don't have to believe me; you can believe I'm wrong, but whether you want to realize it or not, your beliefs (and mine) are subjective, and no matter what you believe, your beliefs are relativistic.

I've asked questions that you guys never answered. Please answer these:

Is there anything that we can know outside of culture?

How does the universe look without using the symbols of culture?

Can you prove that my statements are in fact "absolute"?.. I bet you can't, but please try. Do this, don't just stumble through sloppy "excuses" for why you refuse to see what I'm saying.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Gianpaolo Macerola said...

To answer your first two questions I am going to need your definition of culture.

Yes, I can prove that your statement is absolute.....you said "NOTHING in THIS universe is absolute." At the point and time that there can be no deviance from this statement, as it has the quaIifier NOTHING, then relativism is dead.

Furthermore, don't whine about us not answering your questions when you have not even addressed our statements....

3:06 AM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

Whatever, I've explained myself. You just refuse to see the relevance of my statements.

Your explanation for why "NOTHING" is an absolute statement is insufficient, although I'd at least give you a "C" for trying.

Having said that, there is a plane of existence wherein you are correct. Within the semantic universe of the statement "NOTHING IS ABSOLUTE", the word "NOTHING" is essentially a universal noun. In the universe of "words", then it does bear the weight of absolute implication. However, the semantic universe that displays this absolute quality is itself bound entirely within the humanity's synthetic universe of CULTURE.

As for the definition of "culture", if you hadn't been so quick to dismiss an earlier post of mine you'd realize that I've already given you a socially accepted definition of culture. Just for kicks, here is the definition of culture according to anthropology:

culture: Behavior that is learned and socially transmitted rather than instinctual and genetically transmitted.
-The Human Species by John H Relethford (1994)

of course, there is no specific definition of culture. We can't absolutuely define culture anymore than we can define consciousness because they are symbiotically intertwined). "Culture" as a word represent a literal universe of meaning. EVERYTHING WE CAN KNOW ABOUT THIS UNIVERSE, INCLUDING ALL RELIGIOUS, POLITICAL, PHILOSOPHICAL, ARTISTIC, AND SCIENTIFIC BELIEFS, IS DERIVED THROUGH CULTURE.

Is this an absolute statement? In one degree, yes, however, the very nature of this statement is composed via the facets of culture and it is cultural relativism that renders it a subjective statement. You see, its meaning is not realized UNIVERSALLY, as in rocks, comets, and asteroids don't manifest the facets of culture. Instead, the appearance of "absolute value" is determined within the mortal and entropic brain chemistry of the human mind. The human that exercises "absolutist" beliefs will die and with it all the mechanisms that define absolute value. Of course, these beliefs are perpetuated through culture, and it is easy to arrive at the conclusion that cultural transmission of knowledge implies a certain absolute nature, but do not fall for this. If we humans induce our own extinction, then human culture, and all "absolute" beliefs, will die out.

Your argument is deductive and flawed because your argument fails to acknowledge the subjective nature of human culture, the very fabric upon which we build our beliefs into REALITY. My argument is an inductive argument, and one implicitly supported by the sciences of cosmology, anthropology, and mathematics. I'm not saying it's 100% true, I'm saying there's a high probability that it is true. And when it comes down to universal entropy, probability is all we have.

Now do you see what I'm saying?

10:00 AM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

BTW, thanks for posting, I'm enjoying the debate, but PLEASE respond to my "WAR ON DRUGS" post. Put your analytical mind to work on that issue.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Gianpaolo Macerola said...

With your definition of culture, nothing we know can fall outside of it, and since all individuals are different, yes we all have different cultures, and thus veiwpoints of the world. However....on the point on the word "nothing," I beleive that people share meanings, and that is how we communicate. We share the meaning of the word nothing, to mean "no deviance from." Does this mean that individuals are not relative, no, just that as cultures are intertwined, and we all share the meaning of the word "nothing," than withing that "plane" as you call it....yes it is absolute. I would argue that as I am working in thiis plane of existance that you throw down as not to apply it to you, you too are working in this very same plane. Why? Because you can only justify your argumentation through shared meaning, thus, we are on the same plane. At that point you cannot seperate your arguments from mine and you still have a paradox. I do not know of any other way to show you this.

10:17 AM  
Blogger sourmonkey said...

-"I beleive that people share meanings, and that is how we communicate."

People share analogous meanings, however, because of the individual nature of the human mind, no two meanings are identicle. Essentially, every human mind constructs its on reality. Of course, culture both programs the mind (enculturation) and functions as a glue for social homogeneity (as in economic belief, religious belief, political belief, etc). Every human mind is the center of its own universe. So, meanings can be shared to a certain extent, but there are differences that exist as determined subjectively through perception. A tree may mean one thing to somebody, and something else entirely to another person. The subtle differences in perceived meaning create a world that is highly diverse and dynamic.

Take for example the Navaho beliefs of property ownership and time displacement. The Navaho (traditionally) don't recognize "time" in the same sense that we "westerners" do. They don't break "reality" down into PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE. Many native american societies don't believe in individual property ownership either (afterall , who can truly owner the earth?). As a consequence, when old world populations collided with new world populations, the results were devastating for the indigenous American populations. The point of all this is to suggest that although an indivual culture might share common interpretations of meaning, this just isn't true on a global scale accross a diversity of cultural beliefs. Once more, cultural relativism hits the fan, and alas, we human live in a world of perpetual warfare and violence.

-"Because you can only justify your argumentation through shared meaning, thus, we are on the same plane."

our shared meaning is English, other than that, we are looking at the world from two antithetical perspectives. The world isn't strictly absolute, and neither is it strictly relativistic (a consequence of human belief); perhaps the truth is that our world fluctuates between chaotic ambiguity and dogmatic absolutism. My argument is that when you fuse absolutism with relativity, absolute concepts dissolve, and what is left functions through probablity, as witnessed by quantuum physics, cultural anthropology, and the other arbitrary facets of human culture.

-"At that point you cannot seperate your arguments from mine and you still have a paradox. I do not know of any other way to show you this. "

Again, I posted earlier a resolution of perceived paradoxes: the answer is to take away the element of human perception. When you do this, every paradox resolves itself (including the ambiguities of quantuum physics).

Perhaps we will never agree. However, I believe what I believe because I once believed as you do and realized that it wasn't enough to understand the dynamics of human reality. The things I say now represent my way of examining the nature of REALITY. I appreciate the challenges, but I stand by my statements, and I encourage you to look a bit deeper.

7:38 PM  
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