"Only the Sith deal in absolutes!" -- So are you a Sith? (Moral absolutism discussion)

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by nate_the_great, May 30, 2007.

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  1. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

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    Oct 25, 1999
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  2. Blue_Jedi33 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2003
    star 5
    Child Abuse by adults is always wrong, and there are no excuses. It doesn't matter if a culture accepts it as ok. Some cultures used to sacrifice there children to false gods too, and the was fine by them. So yes there are some boundries that are absolute. Being absolutely against the rape and murder of children sure doesn't make one Sith like.
  3. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    I think moral absolutism is a dangerous way to go as far as living your life as it allows for no flexibility. The way I see it is that if you live your life in a black-and-white world you tend to miss a lot of things. Especially the beauty of life because everything's always pass or fail. So, it creates demands on the world around you and those that you interact with. Sure, some things can be absolute. Not murdering people is definitely one of those. But it also has a practicality for society in that it leaves more people alive than dead. Although if you want to be harsh about it murder serves the purpose of 'thinning the herd' so to speak. Overall I think you need to see life as shades of gray or color because the world isn't simple and there will be complex situations that people will run across.

    A person cannot go into a situation thinking that they are good and that the other person is evil. It just doesn't work that way. Not everyone is completely one way or the other. We may do 'evil' or bad things, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a side of us that isn't 'good' or right. People are way too complex for that. And seeing the world in black and white misses the wider picture.

    Hopefully that all made sense. If it didn't then just let me know.
  4. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Based on my own views, I simply just say that in some cases, something is outright wrong. It tends to be more likely the more extreme the act though. Like say, blowing up an elementary school full of kids, for example.
  5. Eleventh_Guard Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2005
    star 5
    I believe that there is right and wrong, but that it depends on the situation, so that in almost all cases what is wrong in one context may not be wrong in another - it comes down to motive and the reasonably likely outcome. If one's motive is to maximize benefit and minimize harm (to everyone, including oneself), and the reasonably likely outcome is that a course of action will cause the least possible harm of all options, then it's okay.

    Lying is USUALLY wrong. Killing is USUALLY wrong. But one can't label a particular action to be always bad, because there are situations when these actions are the least harmful of available choices. Yes, child abuse is wrong, but that's because child abuse, by definition, is more violent or psychologically destroying than necessary. It does NOT follow that spanking or other forms of physical correction are always wrong - the word "abuse" implies that the motive was not to minimize harm.

    Oversimplified, I believe that any action is okay if it doesn't cause harm. However, it's an unrealistic standard because anything you do, technically, hurts someone or something. Me getting in line to buy a pack of gum causes a trivial but nonzero amount of trouble to other customers by delaying their transactions by half a minute. But in that instance, the benefit to me and to the employees of the store outweighs the tiny amount of inconvenience caused to others, and as long as my MOTIVE to get in line is to buy my gum and leave - not to intentionally delay someone else because I'm getting revenge on them (and what pathetic revenge it would be...) - then it's fine. A more realistic standard, instead of the do what you want as long as it harms none, is to cause the least amount of trouble possible.
  6. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
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    Philosophy Terminology 101

    Moral absolutism is being misused in this thread. Absolutism is a metaethical position (i.e., it states that it is possible for objective right and wrong to be known), but it does not specify which particular actions are right and wrong. Metaethical absolutism is contrasted with metaethical relativism (which denies that this objective knowledge is possible) and metaethical emotivism (which argues that moral judgments are simply statements of personal preference). Metaethical claims are separate from moral methodologies (i.e., the particular heuristics and algorithms applied to arrive at a moral decision (e.g., natural law, consequentialism, deontology, virtue ethics, narrative ethics, care ethics, etc., etc.), as well as from particular belief sets and judgments (e.g., lying is wrong, stealing is wrong, etc.).

    Moral relativists stop at the metaethical level, and deny both moral methodologies as well as particular claims to objective moral status. All moral methodologies are variants of moral absolutism, and all belief sets follow a particular moral methodology. So let's get the terminology straight before we try to argue on this.

    Is the question metaethical (i.e., do you believe that an objective right and wrong exist and are possible to know)? Is it methodological (i.e., do you believe that certain types of actions are categorically justified or unjustified due to deontological or theological claims)? Or is the question about specific actions, regardless of the methodology employed to get there (i.e., do you believe that moral actions have a priori moral status before context and situation are considered, or are actions amoral until other factors are considered)?
  7. Darth_Overlord Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2001
    star 4
    As far as methodologies go, I found this one that I like: http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y109/KBeckman/ind_for_dummies.jpg
  8. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Obviously, my job tends to lend a rather..black & white view of the world.

    While I was in Iraq between 2005/2006, I saw the differences between how Saddam & his elite lived, and how regular people lived. Saddam and his government lived in palaces and wanted for nothing; regular folks didn't even have a sewer system.

    So yeah, I think in certain situations moral absolutism is quite applicable. They aren't a regular occurence by any means, but there's places where stark black & white rules do indeed exist.
  9. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Which suggests that application of absolute or objective moral principles can vary from situation to situation, so acting as a halfway house between the two?
  10. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    More or less. In an overlooking view, nothing is absolute..but in individual cases, it may very well be.

    case in point: Allied side during WW2: The good guys.

    US internment of Japanese civilians during WW2: not exactly actions you'd associate with the good guys. :p
  11. SaberGiiett7 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2002
    star 6
    "Evil is a point of view, Anakin."

    That sounds relativistic. Obi-Wan was talking out of his butt.

    <[-]> Saber
  12. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Well, to jump entirely off-topic, I'd say Palpatine is the one talking out of his butt here. "Evil is a point of view"? This coming from a guy who's manipulated a galaxy-devastating war to gain personal political power? Yeah, highly relativistic.

    Although it's been said in the EU that Sidious didn't believe in good/bad, which frankly is the only way I can imagine someone willing to be happy with destroying planets in the name of peace being able to sleep at night. :p
  13. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    I think we all deal in absolutes, knowingly or unknowingly. Fresh air is good for you. Sucking on an exhaust pipe ain't.

    Moreover: I think most folks don't deal in absolutes as much as the people coming to the Senate...
  14. eaglejedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2001
    star 5
    Quix: Thank you. Good luck trying to get people to actually post accordingly.


    I take a position somewhere between complete (or absolute :p ) metaethical absolutism and complete metaethical relativism. I believe there are a few things one can say are absolutely right or wrong, but most things don't fall into those extreme categories. I believe in most, possibly all, situations and contexts, it is possible to know what is right or wrong with a reasonable amount of objectivity, beyond cultural standards. However, until one completely realizes emptiness, one cannot be completely objective or completely certain. And while I believe it is possible, there are many people who are not capable of that reasonable amount of objectivity, or are only capable of it in some situations. Many people mistake the way to know what is right, as being either pure intellect or pure emotion. Emotion can be very neurotic and out of control, while intellect can be used to justify terrible crimes. The imperial wars of expansion in the 19th Century were justified by racist theories, supported by many of the great intellects of the time, that held that Africans and Asians were fundamentally stupider and less civilized than whites. The place in which one can find the answer to whether something is objectively right or wrong is somewhere between pure emotion and pure intellect, representing in some sense neither and in some sense a combination of both.


    Sherilyn: We're talking about what is right and wrong, not the law. Logically speaking, the legality or illegality of a particular action has no bearing on its morality. And appeals to fear or force are irrelevant, a well-known fallacy of argumentation covered in any basic critical thinking course. Furthermore, I would argue that someone who prefers killing someone they disagree with to arguing rationally with them, is not only irrational and uncivilized, but doesn't have a good argument on their side anyway.

    I've got news for you. Iosef Vissarionovich Dzugashvili (who gave himself the name Stalin or "Man of Steel" due to his large ego and desire to appear strong and dominant; possibly also to disguise his Georgian heritage) was a brutal dictator who murdered millions of Soviet citizens, especially non-Russian ethnic groups. He also invaded Poland after the Germans had already attacked it, forced Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia into the Soviet Union, started a war of aggression with Finland, and forced the defeated Finns to accept a humiliating treaty that cost them a large amount of territory and forced former Finnish citizens to either accept Soviet rule or flee their homes. He murdered thousands of Polish officers at Katyn Forest in 1940. He reneged on promises to support self-determination in Eastern Europe, imposing undemocratic Communist governments by fiat. He also murdered thousands of the most competent Soviet officers, including the brilliant Marshall Tuchakhevsky, just a few years before the Second World War, thus contributing to the poor performance of the Soviet armed forces when the Nazis invaded in 1941, and thus to the millions of Soviet military and civilian casualties. Stalin also failed to prevent, and may have encouraged, atrocities against civilians by Soviet forces in Eastern Europe and Germany, atrocities which are by no means absolved or excused by the fact that they were in retaliation for similar actions by German forces in the Soviet Union.
  15. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    I understand that if you put a little hat on it, a snowball can last a long time in hell.
  16. Neo-Paladin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2004
    star 4
    So let me approach this from the wrong way, and perhaps I'll get where I'm going by circumventing the globe. :p

    Considering relativism, to me, it all boils down to being arbitrary. Morality is, if anything, constrained by culture, and so conflict is not only inevitable, but the ultimate decider of right. The only constraint against breaking the normative is fear of repercussions. It's right makes right for the thinking man. Further, the most vile acts imaginable can be applied to any situation and an individual can declare that they found it morally right without rebuttal. The debate of 'what is the best way to live?' dies before it can be begun.

    The problems with absolutism have been noted already, namely those devils in the details are wily. Also, one asks what or who makes the call on, 'what is the best way to live?' If we can agree that some choices are better than others, then I submit there must be some extrema, but I can't answer the question, 'Better according to who?' without making assumptions (assumptions I'm happy to make, but there's the rub).

    Can these two opposites be married? I'd like to think so.

    For my self, I think Morality is absolute, but each situation is unique and has a unique 'best solution' and 'worst solution' and near infinite shades of gray between. The catch is we don't know what any of these extrema are and there is no gage of where the options we are aware of sit on the continuum. However, we can make pretty good approximations that approaches (in the limit of x approaches infinity sense) 'best', which we call 'good'. A few broad, and perhaps clever, maxims can be contemplated and presented as guides, but their application remains limited, and should probably be applied with prudence.

    It's a bit of a dodgy, but it lets me sleep at night.
    And what is philosophy, if not improved rationalizing*? :p

    *with apologies to QS
  17. Blue_Jedi33 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2003
    star 5
    Some things are absolutely wrong and can never be justified they are black and white, for example in the movie Schindler's List when that Nazi Officier is just shooting random Jews in a consentration camp just for fun to amuse himself, those types of things can't be justified under any circumstances. Even it is culturely accepted by the people, in this case the guards at this camp. I don't know how people can use that arguement. If you took 1000 people from around the world from all countries, cultures and religions and showed them this scene from the movie, and then asked them if they thought it was absolutely wrong, I am sure you would have a consenus that it was, and they would be right.
    Thats why there are crimes against humanity, but only the victors get to bring them to trial.
    For example if history was different and the Germans won the war some how, don't you think they would have put the Allied Officiers up on charges for the fire bombing of Dresdan, maybe not, they might have just found them and shot them.
  18. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    [eye_twitch] Curious, is there an instance where you don't bring up Nazis or anything having to do with Nazis? Maybe you could use something like...oh, I know! How about that wacky French revolution? Plenty of atrocities there to exploit and call wrong. Or...that Christian thing...you know, where they were fed to the lions. That was wrong, too. Why does it have to be a repetition of WWII, Nazis, the holocaust, etc? It's like your grasp of history doesn't move beyond the 1930's. Believe it or not WWII and the holocaust are not the be-all-end-all of atrocious events. And yes, some things can be black and white, but it's an exception to the rule and not the rule itself. The rest is a gray area or colorful consequences.

    Yes, murder is wrong but there is a fine line between 'murder' and 'justified killing'. It's not always easy to spot and I'm certain you'll bring up an example of how assassinating Hitler would be the perfect example of a justified killing. But he's an easy target. I suggest looking for more monsters in history I'm sure some have done worse things than Hitler did. Also, why is 'murder' always the gold standard by which we measure all things immoral? I'd think the government trying to force us to abide by their censorship code is more immoral than killing. It hurts humanity more in the long run than a killing ever will.
  19. Blue_Jedi33 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 12, 2003
    star 5
    FID

    I am well aware of those things you mentioned, I simply don't use them because:

    1) The farther back in history an event happened the less it seems to effect people.
    2) There are eye witness accounts of these events from people who are still alive.
    3) We have real TV footage of these events, kind of hard to do with anything before the 20th century.
    4) Some history is now debated, based on what was written at the time, thus producing some inaccuarcy.

    However I will say that burning alive, a branded hertic christian done by other so-called christians(apostate christians) on a stake strikes me as being an absolute wrong too.
    There another historical reference for you.

  20. Fire_Ice_Death Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2001
    star 7
    [face_laugh] Thank you for confirming my assumptions.
  21. thesamman Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 23, 2007
    star 1
    Without turning this into a ROTS discussion, I do think the context of the title quote needs to be looked at. Obi-Wan is a classic relativist: in the same battle he proclaims only sith deal in absolutes, he tells anakin that palpatine is evil. When anakin calls the jedi evil, Obi wan tells him he is lost.

    Wait a second. That sounds like an ultimatum to me; either the chancellor is good and the Jedi are evil as Anakin believes, or Anakin is lost and the Jedi are good and the chancellor is evil. Obi Wan takes sides even though he says only a sith deals in such things.

    That is exactly what the modern day relativist is. He says there are no absolutes, and then contradicts himself the very next breath by warning about the evil and danger created by those who do espouse absolutism. The evil and danger cannot exist in a world where nothing is right independent of what you believe. So what's the point?
  22. LemmingLord Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 28, 2005
    star 4
    I think every action is good for some and bad for others; likely bad and good in different ways to the same beings involved. In a world of moral absolutism, whether or not morality is truly absolute, I think it is important that every person who wants to "do good" come up with some black and white rules to follow to avoid succumbing to changing pressures.

    Boundries are important to long-term happiness.

    From my proto-taoist point of view, first we must discover what is good and what is evil, then we must learn to be aware of our own actions and choices, and then we must learn to conssciously choose good, and then we must unconsciously choose good - happiness will flow from these steps.
  23. Sherylin Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 26, 2005
    star 2
    May be some laws are wrong, or misinterpreted in courts, but generally breaking the law is wrong, and living by the rule (by the law) is right.

    Thank you for teaching me russian language, and russian history. I wonder where you learnt this! But, trust me, "Man of Steel" = "Stalnoj Chelovek", not Stalin. That would be funny if it were not so sad, and so (forgive me) stupid. What kind of non-Russian ethnic groups do you mention here? What do you know in fact about relationship of russians, and "other ethnic groups" from former republics of former Soviet Union?


    That's politics. Stalin didn't do it all himself, there was government and communist party involved, you know. It is easy to critisize our government. You don't live in Russia.
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