Blame Grim

Howdy All,

First I'd like to say that you can blame this post partly on Grim. I'm taking a course on ethics and he mentioned in the comments section some time ago that philosophical papers would be nice to see.

I find myself wondering if this is Hall material and if it's worth reading without a knowledge of the texts I used (Elements of Moral Philosophy - James Rachels); of course those musings are likely because I am nervous about posting it up for review. Although I would ask that y'all take as many whacks as you feel necessary at it.

Moral Skepticism
The scope of this paper is to explain moral skepticism, provide two arguments supporting it, provide a major objection to each argument, and discuss if one should believe in moral skepticism. Moral skepticism, as defined by Rachels, is the doctrine that there is no such thing as objective moral truth. It is not that we cannot know truth, it is the idea that moral truth simply does not exist.

My first argument for moral skepticism is centered on the idea that if there were any such thing as an objective moral truth in ethics, that we should be able to prove all moral decisions as either good or bad. We cannot prove all moral decisions as either good or bad; therefore, it is impossible to have objective moral truth.
A major objection to this argument would be to attack its soundness. The premise that we cannot prove all moral decisions as either good or bad may not be true.
Regarding goodness, nowhere in Rachels, or this course, has ‘definite proof’ of goodness been defined. If I could find a majority of people who believed that torturing children for fun was morally good, is that a proof? Most of the arguments for what is ‘good’ that Rachels makes can be reduced to the idea that the societal majority defines the goodness and that should be accepted as the logical proof, i.e. the used car-salesman is a shady character who cheats his customers. Nowhere does he provide a logical proof of the good, he merely relies on the outrage of his audience to support his logic.

My final argument for moral skepticism is centered on the idea that it is morally permissible to break many of the already established objective moral standards. Homicide is universally condoned as an immoral act, yet there are instances where homicide is morally justified. Since many of our established moral standards have exceptions, it stands to reason that they all have exceptions and are not objective moral standards.
A major objection to this argument is to attack its validity. I’m not sure that the conclusion follows from the premises, as it discusses an objective moral standard whereas the premises allude to an absolute moral code.

Finally, should we believe in moral skepticism? Frankly, I don’t know. I believe that Rachels makes many good points, but I feel that some of them are flawed. I think that moral skepticism may allow an ‘anything goes’ type of mentality and I see the intuitive truth that we need some objective moral standards to provide social cohesion. However, I find myself leaning towards the Cultural Relativists argument as I don’t feel Rachels has done a good job attacking that argument. His attacks are:
1) We could no longer say that the customs of other societies are morally inferior to our own. I disagree as there is no logical reason why a Cultural Relativist could not practice cultural elitism. Just because he admits they hold there own truth, is no reason to say that allows them to retain and practice those truths. I believe that Rachels may be confusing tolerance and acceptance.

2) We could decide whether our actions are right or wrong just by consulting the standards of our society.
I don’t feel he has proven anything other than his disdain for a Traditional society, traditional in the vein of Mircea Eliade, Julius Evola, Alain de Benoist, etc. Further he overlooks that people consult their society daily as regards moral questions in order to determine if they are in fact good or bad. That Rachels is uncomfortable with the traditional Indian caste system is not enough reason to discount it.

3) The idea of moral progress is called into doubt.
I simply do not agree. Traditional society knows that cultural progress must be approached with some trepidation, but it must also be grown from the cultural traditions itself. Moral progress is not hampered or placed in doubt, it is championed by the Traditional culture albeit slowly and carefully.

So for these reasons, I have left Cultural Relativism as a possibility; but I do not believe that we should follow the path of a true moral skeptic.

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