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Pluralistic societies bumble toward universal moral principles

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  • Pluralistic societies bumble toward universal moral principles

    This is something I've been thinking about lately...

    Let us say there exists some sort of core universal moral principles / views / ideas that are shared by all cultures everywhere. But each culture, individually, adds some / many arbitrary moral claims in addition to the underlying universal morality. The sources of these distinctive claims might be the local religion, the local authorities, the local environment, or by happenstance some idea gets incorporated into the local culture and passed on from generation to generation.

    When people from different cultural backgrounds meet in a pluralistic society, lots of conversations start to happen where one person tries to convince the other person that something is right or wrong. In these conversations, if the people from different cultural backgrounds want to convince the other person to change their minds on a particular issue, they have to resort to reasoning that that other person will accept as valid. They have to search for, and find, commonalities.

    If the Indian wants to convince the Christian that widows shouldn't eat fish, they can't just say "well it's in my religious text so you should agree it's immoral", because the Christian doesn't accept the Hindu religious texts as a moral authority. So the Indian has to start looking for reasons that the Christian might accept. In this instance, they probably wouldn't find any compelling reasons and are likely to fail to convince the Christian that widows shouldn't eat fish.

    Gradually in pluralistic societies, people have lots of these types of conversations, and gradually from their experiences, get an idea of what kinds of moral arguments do and don't get accepted by others. They start to learn from experience what kinds of moral principles and ideas they have to use as their jumping-off points in order to make their arguments.

    In the case where you've got two very culturally similar viewpoints (e.g. Catholics and Protestants) they might be able to make types of moral arguments that they both accept as valid (e.g. God commands it in the Bible), but which wouldn't be agreed on by a 3rd party (e.g. by an atheist or a Hindu). So as society expands toward being more pluralistic and include people of more different cultural backgrounds and more different religious viewpoints, the society pushes people more and more toward using universal moral reasoning principles only.

    The people in these pluralistic societies may well not be consciously aware of all this, or any of this. They might not have any clue what universal morality is. But if you asked them "how would you go about trying to convince the person down the road from you who's from a different culture and religion that X is right or wrong?" they would have a decently approximate idea of where to start. They would be vaguely aware of what kinds of moral principles are thought to be convincing moral reasoning within their society because they have seen others use them, though they may have no clue whatsoever as to why those principles and not others are thought by their society to be convincing and no clue where those principles came from.

    So I suggest that the product of all these individual conversations about morality occurring between people of different cultural and religious backgrounds in the wider pluralistic society, is that the people within the pluralistic society tend towards increasingly articulating more universalistic moral principles in the public space without necessarily understanding the origins of what they are articulating. This is because they learn over time and from experience what kinds of arguments do and don't convince others, and gradually get better at making the arguments that others do find convincing. So within public discourse within these societies, types of arguments and types of principles that have universal acceptance and speak to people from all backgrounds and cultures and moral codes, increasingly come to the fore. The next generation in these pluralistic societies then grows up in a society where the public discourse is dominated by those universal moral reasoning principles, and that generation imbibes them as its morality and gets better at articulating them and making those arguments.

    As a result, pluralistic societies bumble their way toward the increasing articulation of universal moral principles as a product of the discussion everyone in society is having. The people in these societies get better and better at articulating these universal principles, better at discarding moral views that are cultural or conditional or historical, and better and better at cutting to the core of the universal moral ideas shared by all cultures and peoples. They may well not understand that this is what they're doing. They may falsely assume that the principles they are articulating are just their own culture's morality and that it's no more or less accurate that any other. But they would be wrong because the gradual product of their pluralist society is that the principles they have been pushed towards espousing are more universalistic on average than the principles espoused by people from non-pluralist cultures.

    I think that progression is somewhat evident in Western society (although some Western countries are farther along the path than others). As Western society placed Catholics and Protestants on equal footing, then in the 20th century, atheists and Christians on equal footing, and immigrant cultures on equal footing, this pluralism caused an evolution of Western morality. It bumbled its way from the morality of medieval Catholicism toward more and more universalistic ideas, with subsequent generations refining the principles they were articulating to be increasingly universal in scope.

  • #2
    So a universal moral principle is one that the majority happens to agree with. Isn't appealing to the majority a logical fallacy?
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

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    • #3
      Originally posted by seer View Post
      So a universal moral principle is one that the majority happens to agree with. Isn't appealing to the majority a logical fallacy?
      I would say that the answer will be:

      yes, it is a logical fallacy, but the rules get applied differently when we're talking about the survival of the species. I think it's always going to be answered through an evolutionary lens. Appealing to the majority is a logical fallacy, but only relatively.

      Or something to this effect.
      Last edited by Machinist; 02-08-2021, 07:53 AM.

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      • #4
        Starlight, could you give a specific example of these moral ideas and principles and how they progress?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by seer View Post
          So a universal moral principle is one that the majority happens to agree with.
          No, a universally held moral principle is one that everyone agrees on. i.e. it is the common denominator of the morality of all cultures in history, hence universal.

          Perhaps the argument you would want to make is that there are zero such universal principles, i.e. that the common denominator is zero between human cultures in history. But that would require proof on your part which I don't believe you can provide.

          Note that I am talking about principles, not specific moral acts. Two cultures may share the underlying principle that "it is generally a moral good to be nice to other people" or "it is generally a moral good that punishments are proportional to crimes committed", and people from both cultures might agree with both those statements of general moral principles. But one of the two cultures might also believe that "it is morally okay to kill a man if you catch him sleeping with your wife", and a person from the second culture might not agree with that statement. So when the two people begin a discussion, with one trying to convince the other that it's okay to kill someone caught in adultery, they will have to resort to reasoning shared by the other person in order to convince that other person. In this process they search for underlying principles that are common to both of them and use those general principles to try and convince the other person that their specific beliefs on the topic of adultery are the logically correct outworkings of those general principles.
          Last edited by Starlight; 02-08-2021, 04:47 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Machinist View Post
            Starlight, could you give a specific example of these moral ideas and principles and how they progress?
            Not necessarily because my point is that the process occurs, not the that people involved in the process can explain it.

            However, one commonly suggested candidate for a universal moral principle is the 'golden rule' - "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". This principle occurs in many different cultures and religions.

            A specific example of a cultural shift on moral issues would be when Americans went from having slavery to not having slavery. The non-slave owners might have said to the slave owners during this period: "Hey, we both agree with the golden rule principle, don't we? Yes, we do. But can you see that the practice of slavery is not compatible with the golden rule principle because you would not want others to make you a slave?" That is an argument that makes appeal to a shared moral principle that attempts to show that the specific moral position one person holds on a specific issue is inconsistent with one of the shared moral principles.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Machinist View Post

              I would say that the answer will be:

              yes, it is a logical fallacy, but the rules get applied differently when we're talking about the survival of the species. I think it's always going to be answered through an evolutionary lens. Appealing to the majority is a logical fallacy, but only relatively.

              Or something to this effect.
              That is an interesting point.

              In a paradigm where science is the foundation/definition of ascertaining the "real/"reality", evolution becomes the cause of morality and therefore survival.
              What if we change that assumption?.....What if we premise that morality is the cause of survival and thus "evolution"/progress. As a social species--rules of morality (right/wrong) are essential in group cohesion and therefore its survival.
              This paradigm means we cannot premise morality on the basis that the basic unity of humanity is the individual---but rather that a social construct (family/group...etc...) is the basic unit....?....

              In an era of covid lockdowns....it might be interesting to pursue such a premise?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                No, a universally held moral principle is one that everyone agrees on. i.e. it is the common denominator of the morality of all cultures in history, hence universal.

                Perhaps the argument you would want to make is that there are zero such universal principles, i.e. that the common denominator is zero between human cultures in history. But that would require proof on your part which I don't believe you can provide.

                Note that I am talking about principles, not specific moral acts. Two cultures may share the underlying principle that "it is generally a moral good to be nice to other people" or "it is generally a moral good that punishments are proportional to crimes committed", and people from both cultures might agree with both those statements of general moral principles. But one of the two cultures might also believe that "it is morally okay to kill a man if you catch him sleeping with your wife", and a person from the second culture might not agree with that statement. So when the two people begin a discussion, with one trying to convince the other that it's okay to kill someone caught in adultery, they will have to resort to reasoning shared by the other person in order to convince that other person. In this process they search for underlying principles that are common to both of them and use those general principles to try and convince the other person that their specific beliefs on the topic of adultery are the logically correct outworkings of those general principles.
                Well wouldn't you have the burden of proof if you claim such principle exists? Can you name one?
                Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbnueb2OI4o&t=3s

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by seer View Post
                  Well wouldn't you have the burden of proof if you claim such principle exists?
                  I have a different thread planned where I will discuss what they might be. Here I am not making a claim that they exist, merely observing that pluralistic societies will tend towards a moral common denominator.

                  Though I note that plenty of Christians throughout history have believed that the moral common denominator is non-zero as they believed that God gave to all men everywhere through their conscience some sort of knowledge of morality. Anyone who believes in objective morality, surely believes that morality to be universal in scope, and it seems reasonable to suppose that all cultures would have a level of awareness of that morality. There are plenty of people who believe in objective rather than subjective morality and think there are universal moral principles common among all cultures and people.

                  Can you name one?
                  As I mentioned earlier in this thread, the most famous candidate would be the Golden Rule. It was certainly expressed independently by a lot of different writers and philosophers throughout history from a variety of cultures and religions. As I said, I don't intend to make any argument in this thread as to whether it is universal or not.

                  Rather, the point of this thread is that pluralistic societies will tend to discard the principles that each culture has added, and move towards a 'common core' of morality. That core might be zero, but it might not. But the pluralistic will tend to move toward the principles that have widespread agreement cross-culturally, and discard the arbitrary rules that individual cultures have formulated.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                    I have a different thread planned where I will discuss what they might be. Here I am not making a claim that they exist, merely observing that pluralistic societies will tend towards a moral common denominator.

                    Though I note that plenty of Christians throughout history have believed that the moral common denominator is non-zero as they believed that God gave to all men everywhere through their conscience some sort of knowledge of morality. Anyone who believes in objective morality, surely believes that morality to be universal in scope, and it seems reasonable to suppose that all cultures would have a level of awareness of that morality. There are plenty of people who believe in objective rather than subjective morality and think there are universal moral principles common among all cultures and people.

                    As I mentioned earlier in this thread, the most famous candidate would be the Golden Rule. It was certainly expressed independently by a lot of different writers and philosophers throughout history from a variety of cultures and religions. As I said, I don't intend to make any argument in this thread as to whether it is universal or not.

                    Rather, the point of this thread is that pluralistic societies will tend to discard the principles that each culture has added, and move towards a 'common core' of morality. That core might be zero, but it might not. But the pluralistic will tend to move toward the principles that have widespread agreement cross-culturally, and discard the arbitrary rules that individual cultures have formulated.
                    It seems to be a reasonable/logical assumption...and I think the point of secularism was to create a "neutral space" that would allow such "agreement" to occur?

                    Yet....Islamic history and todays reality show different---in many countries the demographics are changing so that there are no clear "majority" populations and this is creating identity-crises (based on "values") so that groups such as the Christian fundamentalists, Hindu nationalists, Buddhist nationalists, Islamic Purists and ultra-secularists are all (loudly and violently) complaining that their "values" and therefore their identities are being compromised.

                    Islam has 4/5 major schools of law that have their own range of ethico-moral "values" and because moral diversity is part of God's plan, the right to one's own groups moral integrity is a God-given right (freedom of religion=freedom to follow ones chosen groups ethico-moral principles) This does not negate that humanity has core basic ethico-moral "laws"/principles that are broadly in common, but such commonality cannot make diversity disappear. Diversity creates the environment for creative solutions to human problems---without this diversity of thought human adaptability and progress might be compromised?

                    So, a pluralistic society is not one where everyone is a thought-clone ---rather, one that respects diversity of the "other" as much as oneself---as the golden rule advises....
                    Last edited by siam; 02-09-2021, 11:27 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                      Gradually in pluralistic societies, people have lots of these types of conversations, and gradually from their experiences, get an idea of what kinds of moral arguments do and don't get accepted by others. They start to learn from experience what kinds of moral principles and ideas they have to use as their jumping-off points in order to make their arguments.
                      I really doubt this. In practice, it's largely a matter of power. As societies industerialise and urbanise, the conflicts only increase. Slavery only became a major point of tension when the West industrialise and slavery was no longer economically necessary. The contention during the Civil War was, ultimately, a tension between an industrial society and an agrarian society.

                      In the case where you've got two very culturally similar viewpoints (e.g. Catholics and Protestants)
                      AHAHAHAHAHA...oh man, the hatred between those two groups are huge, up to the point of Father James Coyle being assassinated by the KKK.

                      they might be able to make types of moral arguments that they both accept as valid (e.g. God commands it in the Bible),
                      Catholics tend to make Lutherans have a catechism Natural Law arguments more than just "God commands it".

                      but which wouldn't be agreed on by a 3rd party (e.g. by an atheist or a Hindu). So as society expands toward being more pluralistic and include people of more different cultural backgrounds and more different religious viewpoints, the society pushes people more and more toward using universal moral reasoning principles only.
                      In reality, the Hindu or atheist has to just deal with being in the minority and accept the viewpoint of the majority.

                      The people in these pluralistic societies may well not be consciously aware of all this, or any of this. They might not have any clue what universal morality is. But if you asked them "how would you go about trying to convince the person down the road from you who's from a different culture and religion that X is right or wrong?" they would have a decently approximate idea of where to start. They would be vaguely aware of what kinds of moral principles are thought to be convincing moral reasoning within their society because they have seen others use them, though they may have no clue whatsoever as to why those principles and not others are thought by their society to be convincing and no clue where those principles came from.
                      The primary force behind the change would be an increase in non-majority morality and the increase in social tension to the point people have to find a way to resolve the tension. So, it's not a universal morality as much as it's different cultures trying to cohabitate peacefully.

                      I think that progression is somewhat evident in Western society (although some Western countries are farther along the path than others). As Western society placed Catholics and Protestants on equal footing
                      Which took centuries and bloodshed.

                      then in the 20th century, atheists and Christians on equal footing,
                      Which took political power via the courts.

                      and immigrant cultures on equal footing,
                      Immigrant cultures are largely pushed into enclaves.

                      this pluralism caused an evolution of Western morality.
                      I don't think that the Christian undergirding of Western morality has evolved much. It's lost the religious trappings, but the dignitas of the human introduced by the Imago Dei is still a deep, driving current in Western morality.

                      It bumbled its way from the morality of medieval Catholicism toward more and more universalistic ideas, with subsequent generations refining the principles they were articulating to be increasingly universal in scope.
                      Only to due the pressure of Western development.

                      “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

                      -Ghandi (Disputed)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Diogenes View Post
                        In practice, it's largely a matter of power.
                        I've got no issue noting that power conflicts play a big role. As you noted there's been a lot of bloodshed over the years.

                        My point is merely that the more pluralistic a society truly becomes, i.e. the more the power does truly become equally distributed and not held by a single group who enacts their will, the more society will gradually settle toward the common denominators - toward the moral principles that have universal (or at least majority) agreement among the cultures that contributed to the pluralistic society.

                        I don't think that the Christian undergirding of Western morality has evolved much. It's lost the religious trappings, but the dignitas of the human introduced by the Imago Dei is still a deep, driving current in Western morality.
                        I would say that the value of humanity is a universal moral concept that you would find in all cultures. You find it Christianity too, but it is not a uniquely Christian concept, and its retention within a pluralistic society is thus not an indication that that society has insufficiently thrown off its Christian roots, but rather a reflection of the universality of that moral concept.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Diogenes View Post

                          I really doubt this. In practice, it's largely a matter of power. As societies industerialise and urbanise, the conflicts only increase. Slavery only became a major point of tension when the West industrialise and slavery was no longer economically necessary. The contention during the Civil War was, ultimately, a tension between an industrial society and an agrarian society.

                          AHAHAHAHAHA...oh man, the hatred between those two groups are huge, up to the point of Father James Coyle being assassinated by the KKK.

                          Catholics tend to make Lutherans have a catechism Natural Law arguments more than just "God commands it".

                          In reality, the Hindu or atheist has to just deal with being in the minority and accept the viewpoint of the majority.

                          The primary force behind the change would be an increase in non-majority morality and the increase in social tension to the point people have to find a way to resolve the tension. So, it's not a universal morality as much as it's different cultures trying to cohabitate peacefully.

                          Which took centuries and bloodshed.

                          Which took political power via the courts.

                          Immigrant cultures are largely pushed into enclaves.

                          I don't think that the Christian undergirding of Western morality has evolved much. It's lost the religious trappings, but the dignitas of the human introduced by the Imago Dei is still a deep, driving current in Western morality.



                          Only to due the pressure of Western development.
                          I agree with some of the points....a set of moral values imposed by the "majority: are not "universal". And...in demographics were there is no longer a clear majority....tensions arise when determining whose moral values should be imposed.
                          A system where only a single set of ethico/moral values is accepted---is one that either encourages hypocrisy (as opposed to integrity) or oppression.
                          Values/morality needs "myths" in order to make sense---mandate of heaven, ...God, ...Nature...etc. These (abstract) myths/stories (starting premises) determine the reasoning of particular values---for example the Christian concept of Imago Dei comes from a particular Christian myth/story. But not everyone can give assent to this story...because they are not Christian...they have their own stories that promote their version of ethico-moral values.



                          Imago Dei might be abused---evolving into a toxic concept?....In the West, the image of God is white male...promoting the idea of "white mans burden" and other such notions that the White race is more civilized and therefore has the duty to colonize others and bring "civilization"/Christianity to them.....

                          https://www.justfacts.com/racialissues.asp
                          In an 1871 book entitled The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin claimed:
                          At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.

                          Thomas Huxley was a British biologist who gave lectures to promote the acceptance of evolution and was called “Darwin’s bulldog.”[35] In a book published in 1872, he claimed:
                          It may be quite true that some negroes are better than some white men; but no rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the average white man.


                          In an 1868 book entitled The History of Creation: Or the Development of the Earth and Its Inhabitants by the Action of Natural Causes, Haeckel claimed:
                          The Caucasian, or Mediterranean man (Homo-Mediterraneus), has from time immemorial been placed at the head of races of men, as the most highly developed and perfect. … In bodily as well as in mental qualities, no other human species can equal the Mediterranean.


                          lest we forget...these (myths) were accepted "scientific" ideas of the time...therefore understood to be "reasonable" and "factual".
                          These "myths" conveniently forget that "civilization" in Africa, Middle East and Far East was far more advanced and sophisticated for a far longer period of time than in Europe which was languishing in primitive hunter gatherer groups fighting each other....



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