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ColoradoBlogger



Joined: 03 Aug 2005
Posts: 8
Location: The Denver Area

PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2005 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Suzen,

Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I appreciate them!

You make some very solid points, and state your "case" well. I do have a couple of points of contention, however.

Quote:
**I believe that what we assume or believe determines our responses. Offense or acceptance taken depends on whether the action violates or conforms to our assumptions. If a woman views the collection of developing cells within her uterus to be just that, then she will probably find abortion morally neutral. If a woman views the collection of developing cells with her uterus to be a complete human, then she will probably find abortion morally negative. The term "unborn child," to me, is really only accurate if the fetus is fully developed and about to be "birthed" (is that a word?).

...**Mistakes and errors are only meaningful within a context of belief and assumption. It is a relative world out there. Religious worldviews vary. To be fair, the "us" and "we" are only those who share your worldview.


"Birthed" works for me!

We tend to see this as a relative world - true - but only when it suits us. In matters concerning life and death, or other fundamental human rights, we seem to agree very quickly that there are objective standards of right and wrong. "Relativism" all too often is simply a cover for allowing us to gratify ourselves, and still feel justified. For instance, no matter how strongly someone feels that it's their right to murder another person, we, as a society, have agreed that outright murder violates our shared sense of values: it crosses a line of objective moral violation. Pure relativism is utterly unworkable from a societal point of view, as, if it's followed to its logical conclusion, it ends with simple anarchy, with each person deciding for him/herself what is right or wrong for each and every situation. In this type of scenario, your right to moral relativism will almost certainly begin to infringe on my rights, and as such, things go downhill from there rather quickly. Relativism is certainly appealing in many ways, in that it allows us a great deal of self-determination and independence. It is, however, largely illusory. It is of little good, if, in fact there does exist an objective standard of right and wrong. Whether or not we choose to agree with or live in accordance to this standard has no impact on that standard's validity. Moral truths, of course, exist outside of our acceptance or recognition of them. Where the disagreements come in is in the identification of those moral truths. That's the tricky part...


Quote:
**I think the consensus is that abortions performed before the third month are "safe" due to the developmental state of the fetus. I cannot comment on partial-birth abortions other than to wonder whether this is a misnomer. I think most women who have had abortions are relieved. They regret having gotten pregnant. Abortion is a right, just like owning a gun (which kills more?). It's about self-determination and ownership. If the fetus were to develop and be born, the resultant child would be hers. Hence the fetus is hers.


A couple of things, here. Partial-birth abortions (or dilation and extraction abortions, to use the medical terminology) are very real procedures, carried out anywhere from 2,000 to more than 5,000 times per year (depending on whose numbers you use), wherein the child (which may be fully developed, BTW. These procedures are often used on healthy third trimester babies) is delivered feet first, with only the head remaining inside of the birth canal. Hence, the term "partial birth" abortion. I won't describe the procedure in detail, as it's rather disturbing. The Mirriam-Webster Medical Dictionary describes the procedure thusly: an abortion in the second or third trimester of pregnancy in which the death of the fetus is induced after it has passed partway through the birth canal. Ron Fitzsimmons, the Executive Director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers has testified that "in the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along."

I'd hasten to add that, though I'm more than certain that there are many women who feel releived following their abortions, there is also a massive percentage of women who feel deep pain and trauma following these procedures. It's not so cut-and-dried. There is precious little done to prepare these women for the decision they're making, or for the ramifications of that decision. The advent of newer and more advanced ultrasound technologies has given us the ability to learn far more than we ever have regarding the development of unborn children. The new 4-D scanners have revealed heretofore unexpected levels of activity, brain function, and pain sensitivity in these babies - even in the earliest stages of the second trimester.

I don't think that the matter of gun ownership is analogous. My ownership of a firearm (or multiple firearms) in and of itself does nothing to impact the life of another human being. Guns are inanimate objects with no moral "weight" inherent in them - a gun has, by itself, never killed anyone. They can be used for either good, or evil (and the evil is already against the law). They can be used to take lives, certainly, but in contrast, the taking of life is the sole purpose, technically speaking, of abortion. By its very nature, it involves another human being who has no opportunity to either lend consent or opposition to the taking of its life.

Lastly, I'm afraid I'd have to challenge your statement regarding ownership and self-determination. Of course, once the child is born, the responsibility for that child's protection, provision, and nurturing falls to the parent. At no time, however, does that child's life belong to the parent. Otherwise, infanticide would be perfectly acceptable. While it's my right and responsibility to determine where my daughter will go to school, it's not my right to determine that she no longer has a right to live. So then, where do we draw the line with abortion? Though the child develops inside of its mother, its life is, in fact, its own. Many people automatically say that the third trimester should be off-limits. Why, if the unborn child is merely a collection of cells? Isn't this just a subjective decision based more on our own comfort levels than on solid moral or scientific reasoning? Similarly, how does this "fetus" suddenly transform into a "child" upon total evacuation from the birth canal? Does this extra three inches of distance (the length of the head) provide legitimacy that didn't exist mere seconds before? If it's a child - an independent human being with a life of its own - immediately after birth, how can we be remotely consistent - morally, scientifically, or philosophically - if we assign some random date when this living, thinking being attains full personhood, and dictate that a heretofore undiscovered Constitutional right gives us the near-Divine ability to discern when it's OK to snuff out the life of someone with no voice? The cold reality would seem to me to be that the unborn child is either just that - a child - or it's not. We, as a society, seek to soothe the discomfort in the back of our heads that surrounds the procedure by assuring ourselves that, at some point, somehow, this child is less than human, and therefore, no actual death is taking place. We apply a salve of denial to our consciences, but I'm not sure that such a thing can hold fast forever. My own hunch is that sooner or later, medical technology will force our hand, and cause us to confront the visceral realities of abortion. At that point, we will have a monumental decision to make. We will have to determine whether or not we, as a society, can continue to endorse the procedure - in all its brutal reality - or not. There are some, of course, who readily describe the process as murder, and yet support it wholeheartedly. They would simply describe it as natural selection of a sort (Princeton's Peter Singer comes to mind...). I, for one, find this chilling.


Quote:
**The moral questions will perhaps never be agreed upon as long as there are differing points of view. Tolerance is the best we can do.


On this, we agree, to an extent (with recognition that "tolerance" is a bit misleading here, in that the status quo is acceptable to those who support abortion rights, but flies in the face of those who believe abortion to be murder. "Tolerance" might therefore be a bit more simple a matter for the pro-choice group, yes?). Screaming, and shaking fists at one another is, in my experience, never a good option - for any argument. Instead, we need to hash through these things as best we can, as I'm gratified to have the opportunity to do here. Thanks again for your responses, Suzen. They reveal thoughtfulness and graciousness, and it's a pleasure to think through what you've said (forgive my blasted longwindedness).

Thanks for entertaining my blatherings.
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suzen



Joined: 02 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 04, 2005 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello ColoradoBlogger,

The reasoning in your response to my previous post is both elegant and enlightening. It would be difficult for me to provide refutation without further re-readings.

Till then...
suzen
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Bermudagirl



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Location: Austria

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 3:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="Bermudagirl"]Man, I never would have thought, that a topic could bring up such emotions in me!

1. I would like to know, how law in USA rules the abortion issue. Here in Austria it is legal in the first 3 months of pregnancy. How about other countries? Do you have something like "The pill afterwards", as we call it?

Sorry to interrupt, but can anyone please answer my question?
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suzen



Joined: 02 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 3:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi ColoradoBlogger,

I'm going to begin by examining in more depth just this paragraph below:

Quote:
We tend to see this as a relative world - true - but only when it suits us. In matters concerning life and death, or other fundamental human rights, we seem to agree very quickly that there are objective standards of right and wrong. "Relativism" all too often is simply a cover for allowing us to gratify ourselves, and still feel justified. For instance, no matter how strongly someone feels that it's their right to murder another person, we, as a society, have agreed that outright murder violates our shared sense of values: it crosses a line of objective moral violation. Pure relativism is utterly unworkable from a societal point of view, as, if it's followed to its logical conclusion, it ends with simple anarchy, with each person deciding for him/herself what is right or wrong for each and every situation. In this type of scenario, your right to moral relativism will almost certainly begin to infringe on my rights, and as such, things go downhill from there rather quickly. Relativism is certainly appealing in many ways, in that it allows us a great deal of self-determination and independence. It is, however, largely illusory. It is of little good, if, in fact there does exist an objective standard of right and wrong. Whether or not we choose to agree with or live in accordance to this standard has no impact on that standard's validity. Moral truths, of course, exist outside of our acceptance or recognition of them. Where the disagreements come in is in the identification of those moral truths. That's the tricky part...



I'd like to show that relativism really is the way of the world. Here's an argument. I hope it makes sense:

There is an abundance of ideologies out there, in the world: political, economic, religious, social, cultural…

Every ideology, whether it be political, economic, religious, social, cultural…has its own moral truths.

The moral truths that provide the foundation of the ideology are presuppositions. Everything derivative follows from these assumptions.

If our ideologies are different, it is possible that some or all of our moral truths will be different (and possibly even conflicting).

To have different moral truths means that moral truths are relative.

Not everyone adheres to the same ideology.

It really is a relative world.
_____


One more thing I'll comment on:

Quote:
In matters concerning life and death, or other fundamental human rights, we seem to agree very quickly that there are objective standards of right and wrong.


I'm not so sure. I suppose most people, no matter where they live, agree that taking the life of another is wrong. Yet what is happening? The taking of life is advocated by the powers that be in the name of who-knows-what. Oddly, some people have now changed their minds. Maybe there's even a consensus. It depends on your ideology.
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ColoradoBlogger



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Suzen,

Great stuff, as always.

I'll try not submit you to another coma-inducing rant (and there was much rejoicing...), but must say this, in response to your point regarding relativism:

You've made my point for me, in a way. In dealing with the question of relativism vs. objective morality, we're both dealing with hypotheticals, and with hypotheses. Mine would state that there does exist - independent from each and every person's personal interpretation thereof, an objective truth (right & wrong, etc.). Truth is truth, no matter whether we believe it to be, or not. Its validity in no more determined by our observance of it as truth than are the laws of Thermodynamics, or the priciple of mass conservation. It simply is. If, then, I'm right (certainly up for debate), there are certain things that are wrong across the board - whether this belief is held, or not. Such a belief, of course, is largely predicated on the existence and involvement of God, who, in this model, is the establisher and judge of moral standards for all of humanity - not merely those who choose to follow Him. Those who don't share in this belief (as well as those who adhere to a more Buddhist or Pagan mode of belief), of course, will likely find a more relativistic point of view to be consistent with their own worldviews. The stakes are rather higher for them, should the worldview to which I adhere be the more accurate model, though! Wink

Your hypothetical (assuming that I'm interpreting your view of relativism correctly. PLEASE correct me if I'm not. I can't stand it when people presume to tell me what I believe, so I certainly don't wish to do that to you) would state that moral truth is determined on an independent basis, and that it varies (even if only slightly) from person to person, and is dependent on cultural, ideological, and social factors.

On this matter, we will likely continue to disagree, as frankly, our two worldviews are rather incompatible, no? No biggie. At least we are clearly able to see where each of us "sits" before discovering where we "stand". Much benefit to be had in this.

The problem with the relativistic approach, in terms of societal governance, is that it doesn't lend itself to the formulation of a rule of law. The law must be consistent across the entire spectrum of society - regardless of one's own personal ethos. As such, we formulate rules of behavior, conduct, and treatment that apply to the most broad consensus of people as is possible. Whether one is Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist in belief, it is generally agreed upon that murder is immoral. As such, we have formulated laws to enforce society's judgement of it as such. This, then, is what I'm referring to in describing the realistic limits of relativism.


Lastly, in regard to the immorality of killing -

It is necessary to make a distinction between killing, and murder (murder - not simple "killing" - for example, is what is specifically outlawed in the Ten Commandments). Morally speaking, they are simply not the same. The man who shoots and kills an intruder in his home, who has been threatening his wife and children is certainly not the moral equal of the serial killer who stalks his innocent victim, and seeks to derive pleasure from his/her death. In one case, the intent is the defense of the helpless, and in the other, it is the death of such. Similarly, though there are certainly extremely valid reasons to oppose the death penalty, there is a moral distinction to be made between the government that offers a fair trial, and then executes a legitimately convicted murderer within the confines of the law, and the murderer himself. Murder, by definition, would be a killing that is committed for reasons other than self-defense, war, or punishment for a crime. Killing, in and of itself - while always regretable - is not always immoral. Murder - the taking of an innocent life by specific design to do so - is.


BermudaGirl,

Sorry to have missed your question the first time! Here in the States, abortion is (generally) legal through all three trimesters. Some doctors will not perform an abortion in the later stages of development, while others will. There is currently no legal prohibition on any form of abortion, at any stage in the pregnancy, however.

Doctors here may prescribe RU-486 (known as "the morning after pill") in order to induce abortion immediately following conception. There are, however, safety concerns popping up regarding this particular pill, and it is undergoing rather close scrutiny, due to several recent deaths.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 6:28 pm    Post subject: Kids Reply with quote

While I love kids, we must have the law as Pro Choice and the actions as Pro Life. The law as it stands allows for abortions when the woman requests it except for some issues and hostilities. We do need to be careful about those choices.

Yes, Tim, I think we have some choices and you are looking at a good start to that issue.

The choice women face to abort or not follow for most an already deliberate, agonizing and even torturous internal debate that has likely spanned more than a few days. Probably for those since the 70's even months and years. "What would I do?" Pro Choice allows us to believe that women have some amount of intelligence. LG said something like we cannot imagine the scenarios that could exist for that woman at that time.

One woman I talked to stated an emphatic Pro Life stance. I gave her an extreme scenario that the child would be born premature and have serious congenital anomalies. She would not abort. Reminding her of the anomalies meaning the child would be in the neonatal ICU frequently or not get out, be in pain and probably die before age one finally gave her pause. So I asked, Where would you think the burden falls? You believe abortion is bad for you but putting a child in this situation is not?" How far do we extend this burden?

Allow that the woman making the decision understands best that particular situation and what it means to the child. Experience has shown me that few used abortion as a birth control method. There was reverence for the child.

Children are a very wonderful gift. They should not, however, pay for it. Spend time getting the situations for the children that already exist become better so that the choice is easy. Help the children’s homes and foster care. Do what you can to help the children with medical issues. Help make the good choices possible, then they get wonderful. You know the rest.

ColoradoBlogger: your daughter’s syndrome is Down not Down’s.

Thanks for your time.
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suzen



Joined: 02 Aug 2005
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 3:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi ColoradoBlogger,

It appears that we are not in agreement on the relative nature of the world:

Quote:
Your hypothetical (assuming that I'm interpreting your view of relativism correctly. PLEASE correct me if I'm not. I can't stand it when people presume to tell me what I believe, so I certainly don't wish to do that to you) would state that moral truth is determined on an independent basis, and that it varies (even if only slightly) from person to person, and is dependent on cultural, ideological, and social factors.

On this matter, we will likely continue to disagree, as frankly, our two worldviews are rather incompatible, no?


Yet I believe I have presented a valid logical argument:

Quote:
There is an abundance of ideologies out there, in the world: political, economic, religious, social, cultural…

Every ideology, whether it be political, economic, religious, social, cultural…has its own moral truths.

The moral truths that provide the foundation of the ideology are presuppositions. Everything derivative follows from these assumptions.

If our ideologies are different, it is possible that some or all of our moral truths will be different (and possibly even conflicting).

To have different moral truths means that moral truths are relative.

Not everyone adheres to the same ideology.

It really is a relative world.


For this reasoning to not be accurate, there would need to be inconsistancies or contradictions. I would appreciate if you would address this issue, within the context of my argument above. Thanks!

suzen
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lg
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 12:52 pm    Post subject: response Reply with quote

The reasons, as have been highlighted in this forum, are as varied as each individual.

All I am thinking is: Though sex may be fun, it is not 'safe' (outside of marriage), in MANY different ways. When we play with fire, we usually get burned. EDUCATE. Then this topic would be nearly antiquated, save the usual...

And: I do not think it is okay for anyone...ANYONE...to tell me what I can and cannot do, concerning my body. It is the one thing on this earth that is only mine, and it is my vehicle through this life. I would never assume I could dictate what any one of you can or cannot do with your own bodies.

The one point I haven't seen in here is the humanity of the pregnant woman...(that) it is assumed abortions are just 'done', without soul searching and heart wrenching concern on the females' part. That may be so for some, but not the majority. And if its made illegal, all those old dark places will just pop back up. Prohibition has been proven unworkable. Why repeat history?

I bet you guys think I've had 'personal' experience with this. Not so. But I have dealt with children trying to decide what to do, as well as women. Sometimes, carrying a child cannot be done, for so many different reasons, they don't need print. Put yourself in their shoes. That's all I'm saying. Religious beliefs can decide individual lives, but they aren't to decide laws.

There is no living individual who can absolutely say Never.
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ColoradoBlogger



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Suzen,

I think that, to a certain extent, what we're dealing with here is a matter of semantics - i.e., your definition of moral truth, versus mine. Which one of us is correct? I guess that's the central issue, in reality.

My position (and, as I said before, it's my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less) is this: a moral "truth", if it can be accurately described as true, must, by definition, be outside of individual interpretation. Murder, for example, is either wrong, or it isn't. An individual's personal views - no matter how heartfelt or passionate - have no bearing on the validity of a moral truth. In one model, there exists - independent from our own beliefs, biases, and temptations - a standard of right and wrong. This standard applies to all of humanity - not merely those who would choose to observe it. In another, humanity itself is the arbiter of its own standards, and the judge who decides the validity of those standards. One model is built upon a view of humanity as a wondrous, but flawed and, if left to its own devices, self-seeking creation. The other sees humanity as inherently good, and fully capable of divining for itself what is good, noble, and just; we are our own judge.

Truth cannot, by its very definition, be ultimately relative. There can be varying perceptions of that truth, certainly, but the truth itself is unaffected by our own views of it. It exists as set apart from individual interpretation. Different religions, cultures, and societies have differing social mores, and differeing standards for certain behaviors. Of that, there can be no doubt. Where there certainly is room for debate, however, is in the acceptance of an assertion that, simply because one culture views a matter in a certain way, that belief must be assigned validity that is equal to that of another belief system. Here, of course, I risk opening another can of worms (that of cultural relativism), so I'll back away from that particular precepice, lest I pull this whole thread into the abyss...

We are speaking different languages (which, I suppose, is fairly representational of the divide in the nation). As such, I suppose that this debate is, in the long run, rather senseless, as our worldviews will likely never allow us to see things in the same light ("full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"). One of those "agree to disagree" moments, I guess. I'm grateful to have had the discussion, though. Thanks very much for your time, and for your thoughtfulness, which has been so evident throughout.


lg,

I don't believe that anyone here has suggested that the matter of a woman's decision to abort is ever an easy one. I know I've never said such a thing. The fact that a decision is arrived at through a great deal of pain and anguish, however, does not mitigate the effects of making the wrong decision. Is such a person owed sympathy and compassion? Absolutely.

The humanity of the pregnant woman doesn't seem (to me, at least), to be under fire in the way that the humanity of the unborn child is. Would that the unborn child were indeed wholly inseparable from its mother, the notion of "telling a woman what to do with her body" would certainly be germane. The complication to this whole matter, however, comes in the fact that each and every human being is a unique individual with a life of his or her own (as such, it's not only the mother's body that must be considered here). This life is separate and distinct from its mother and father, and as such, we must tread very carefully when throwing around declarations of an unborn child's lack of personhood. The fact that another human being is reliant upon you or I for its care is in no way indicative of our ownership of that person's life. What we are dealing with in this question is separate from any cultural or religious belief. The matter at hand is in the foundational subject of our respect for the value of human life.
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suzen



Joined: 02 Aug 2005
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi ColoradoBlogger,

I am glad we are wrestling with this issue.

Quote:
I think that, to a certain extent, what we're dealing with here is a matter of semantics - i.e., your definition of moral truth, versus mine. Which one of us is correct? I guess that's the central issue, in reality.


It appears to me that you are addressing the definition of moral truth through the filter of your paradigm, some kind of Christianity.

What I have presented in the previous logical argument (which, for some reason, you chose to ignore) is based on "metaphysics," which means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "philosophy concerned with abstract concepts such as the nature of existence or of truth and knowledge."

Which one of us is correct? I.e., is truth absolute, or relative? I gave you a valid (logical) argument.


Quote:
My position (and, as I said before, it's my opinion. Nothing more, nothing less) is this: a moral "truth", if it can be accurately described as true, must, by definition, be outside of individual interpretation. Murder, for example, is either wrong, or it isn't. An individual's personal views - no matter how heartfelt or passionate - have no bearing on the validity of a moral truth. In one model, there exists - independent from our own beliefs, biases, and temptations - a standard of right and wrong. This standard applies to all of humanity - not merely those who would choose to observe it. In another, humanity itself is the arbiter of its own standards, and the judge who decides the validity of those standards. One model is built upon a view of humanity as a wondrous, but flawed and, if left to its own devices, self-seeking creation. The other sees humanity as inherently good, and fully capable of divining for itself what is good, noble, and just; we are our own judge.


Stating that your position is your opinion (first sentence) implies an admission that truth is relative. And yet your opinion is that you believe your truth is absolute and valid for all of humanity.

That's how it is for a lot of people; they believe that their beliefs are absolute and valid for all of humanity.

Quote:
Truth cannot, by its very definition, be ultimately relative. There can be varying perceptions of that truth, certainly, but the truth itself is unaffected by our own views of it. It exists as set apart from individual interpretation. Different religions, cultures, and societies have differing social mores, and differeing standards for certain behaviors. Of that, there can be no doubt. Where there certainly is room for debate, however, is in the acceptance of an assertion that, simply because one culture views a matter in a certain way, that belief must be assigned validity that is equal to that of another belief system. Here, of course, I risk opening another can of worms (that of cultural relativism), so I'll back away from that particular precepice, lest I pull this whole thread into the abyss...


Go to the dictionaries and look up truth. If you can find a definition of truth that states what you claim it to be, please, pass it along. (The fact that there are multiple dictionaries is another indication that there are no absolutes.)

Not only is truth relative, but it evolves in time, can contradict other truths, and is a creation of the human mind. It's probably lots of other things too. But absolute...only if you believe it.


Quote:
We are speaking different languages (which, I suppose, is fairly representational of the divide in the nation). As such, I suppose that this debate is, in the long run, rather senseless, as our worldviews will likely never allow us to see things in the same light ("full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"). One of those "agree to disagree" moments, I guess. I'm grateful to have had the discussion, though. Thanks very much for your time, and for your thoughtfulness, which has been so evident throughout.


No, it's not senseless. The issue of abortion depends very much on one's perspective of truth and absolutes.
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Canadienne



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 3:00 pm    Post subject: Lack of family planning... Reply with quote

Poor K.C.! I've heard the odd person say that they are so glad their mom never terminated her pregnancy. but I've never heard anyone say she wished her mother had! Best of luck!
Shocked
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ColoradoBlogger



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Suzen,

By Oxford's definition of metaphysics, I'm playing in the same "pool" you are; you've asserted that your position is based on a logical argument, and as such, I, too, am using logic. I have addressed your argument. You're presenting a classical Metaethical Moral Relativist (MMR) worldview, and I'm taking what would likely be considered a Moral Objectivist (MO) position.

From the Stanford Philosophical Dictionary:
Quote:
It might be thought that MMR, with respect to truth-value, would have the result that a moral judgment such as “suicide is morally right” (S) could be both true and false — true when valid for one group and false when invalid for another. But this appears to be an untenable position: Nothing can be both true and false. Of course, some persons could be justified in affirming S and other persons justified in denying it, since the two groups could have different evidence. But it is another matter to say S is both true and false.

The standard relativist response is to say that moral truth is relative in some sense. On this view, S is not true or false absolutely speaking, but it may be true-relative-to-X and false-relative-to-Y (where X and Y refer to different societies and their respective standards). This means that suicide is right for persons in X, but it is not right for persons in Y; and, the relativist may contend, there is no inconsistency in this conjunction properly understood.

Once this position is taken, another objection arises. Relativism usually presents itself as an interpretation of moral disagreements: It is said to be the best explanation of rationally irresolvable moral disagreements. However, once moral truth is regarded as relative, the disagreements seem to disappear. Someone in X who affirms S is saying suicide is right for persons in X, while someone in Y who denies S is saying suicide is not right for persons in Y. It might well be that they are both correct and hence that they are not disagreeing with one another (rather as two people in different places might both be correct when one says the sun is shining and the other says it is not). The relativist explanation dissolves the disagreement. But, then, why did it appear as a disagreement in the first place? An objectivist might say this is because people assume that moral truth is absolute rather than relative. If this were correct, the relativist could not maintain that MMR captures what people already believe.


My point is that the statement "there are no absolutes" is self-refuting. Just as you've rightly pointed out that I am viewing the issue through a lens of Christianity (you are correct), you are doing so through a lens of postmodernism. Your perspective affects you just as does mine, but that in no way means that each of us is correct, depending on the circumstances, as would be the case within a relativistic construct.

Again, the central issue here is the conflict of worldviews - absolute relativism vs. fixed moral truth. Which is more consistent with the world around us? Are the laws of science relative? Do we construct policy and laws concerning behavior based on a framework of relativism? The foundation of the rule of law is a reliance on fixed standards. Murder is wrong, theft is wrong, assault is wrong, rape is wrong, etc. Society simply cannot function within the framework of relativism. I would most certainly disagree with you when you state that this is, in fact, a "relative" world. Differing opinions and differing interpretations have no bearing on a matter's truth, or lack thereof; they are simply indicative of our own frailties, biases, and weaknesses.

If you wish to have external definitions or discussion brought in, I can certainly provide them for you:

Quote:
Relativism can be a useful way to interpret some aspects of the world, e.g. sociological and psychological differences, and at the very least it promotes tolerance and respect for others. However, extreme relativism, while it may initially sound plausible is in fact a kind of nonsense.

Why? because the relativism cannot be applied to itself. The claim that everything is relative, or that "there is no absolute truth" has to be either objective or relative. But it cannot be objective since then it would be false, and it cannot be relative for then it would not rule out the possibility of there being any objective truths, including the claim that the statement "everything is relative" is objectively and absolutely false.

Perhaps the relativist may reject this argument, claiming that my logic is only relative to my culture and not in any position to criticise him, but then he is open to the same objection, for what privileged position does the relativist hold that enables him to make such general and all-encompassing statements?

This is a pretty simple argument and it is surprising how often it needs repeating, but not everything is relative, although trying to draw the line that demarcates the objective from the subjective is one of the hardest problems we have got. - Brian Tee, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Sheffield (UK)


As for dictionary definitions?

Mirriam-Webster:

Quote:
Truth: a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality.


You've said:
Quote:
Stating that your position is your opinion (first sentence) implies an admission that truth is relative. And yet your opinion is that you believe your truth is absolute and valid for all of humanity.


No, stating that my assertion is my opinion is a simple acknowledgement of the fact that I'm not perfect, omnipotent, or omniscient. To say that I hold an opinion (and recognize that I'm not the author or arbiter of morality) in no way indicates the accuracy of some construct of relativism. Again, I have said that I believe in THE truth - not MY truth. To describe my belief as a reliance on my own truth is once again following the relativst schema. I don't believe in "my" truth, or "your" truth. I simply believe that there exists - whether or not we always discern it correctly - an objective truth, set apart from our own interpretations and desires.

Quote:
Not only is truth relative, but it evolves in time, can contradict other truths, and is a creation of the human mind. It's probably lots of other things too. But absolute...only if you believe it.


This just doesn't hold up, rationally. Our opinions change, our biases change, our mores change, but isn't it saying a bit much to assert that we - as human beings - are the sole arbiters of truth in the world? Whether or not I choose to believe a specific truth in terms of science, law, or any number of other fields has no bearing on the truths contained therein. If I should leap from a rooftop, I will plummet - whether or not I believe that I will. If I commit a murder, I will be arrested, charged, and sentenced, whether or not I believe in the existence of a law against murder.

To try and steer the conversation back toward the specific issue of abortion: I simply maintain that, given the fact that we, as a society, have adopted any number of laws concerning the manner in which we, as individuals, are to treat one another, we must look at the matter of abortion through this same prism - an issue that involves not merely the mother's body, but also that of another distinct human being. This may mean significant compromises on both sides (those in the pro-life camp - like myself - would likely have to live with the continued legality of first trimester abortions, while those in the pro-choice group would have to allow for the elimination of partial-birth procedures, and the use of second- and third-trimester abortions as a means of birth control), and would leave further questions to be asked as our ability to understand fetal development accelerates, but it might be a start to something constructive.


Last edited by ColoradoBlogger on Tue Aug 09, 2005 10:50 am; edited 1 time in total
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ColoradoBlogger



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guest,

Sorry I missed your comment back there. Thanks for catching that - it is Down Syndrome, not "Down's". This is in regard to my niece, however...not my daughter.
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suzen



Joined: 02 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2005 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi ColoradoBlogger,

Thank you for passing along "The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy." This is a fantastic resource, one that I was not aware of, but am happy to see that it's available online. I hope they will expand their entries...I'd be interested to read what they have to say about moral objectivism.

Quote:
From the Stanford Philosophical Dictionary:
It might be thought that MMR, with respect to truth-value, would have the result that a moral judgment such as “suicide is morally right” (S) could be both true and false — true when valid for one group and false when invalid for another. But this appears to be an untenable position: Nothing can be both true and false. Of course, some persons could be justified in affirming S and other persons justified in denying it, since the two groups could have different evidence. But it is another matter to say S is both true and false.


I like Chris Gowen's conjecture that "Nothing can be both true and false." It reminds me of the following statements:

"The following statement is true."
"The preceeding statement is false."

I just threw that in because it's fun to think about...

Anyway, Kurt Godel had some interesting things to say about logical systems. His theorem goes something like this:

"Logical systems either contain contradictions or they are incomplete."

In a nutshell, whenever we use logic to define a working paradigm, that paradigm will create statements that are both true and false, or we have statements that are true within the paradigm but that cannot be derived from it.

Whether or not this helps in our discussion, you should check out Godel and his theorem. It's cool to think about even if the relevance to this topic isn't convincing.


Quote:
My point is that the statement "there are no absolutes" is self-refuting. Just as you've rightly pointed out that I am viewing the issue through a lens of Christianity (you are correct), you are doing so through a lens of postmodernism. Your perspective affects you just as does mine, but that in no way means that each of us is correct, depending on the circumstances, as would be the case within a relativistic construct.


It's true what you say: ""...there are no absolutes" is self-refuting." But does that count in the metaphysical context?

ColoradoBlogger, philosophically, I have no idea what postmoderism means (and sadly, there's no link yet on SEP: plato.stanford.edu/contents.html#p). It's one of those terms, along with "deconstruction" that I just never really "got." Oh well.

I agree with you that my perspective affects me just as yours does you.

Quote:
Again, the central issue here is the conflict of worldviews - absolute relativism vs. fixed moral truth. Which is more consistent with the world around us? Are the laws of science relative? Do we construct policy and laws concerning behavior based on a framework of relativism? The foundation of the rule of law is a reliance on fixed standards. Murder is wrong, theft is wrong, assault is wrong, rape is wrong, etc. Society simply cannot function within the framework of relativism. I would most certainly disagree with you when you state that this is, in fact, a "relative" world. Differing opinions and differing interpretations have no bearing on a matter's truth, or lack thereof; they are simply indicative of our own frailties, biases, and weaknesses.


C.B., I think that the fact that there are so many different cultures and beliefs around the world would lend support to my conjecture that truths are relative. And moral relativism, at least from my perspective, does not involve the laws of science. A moral relativist purist might think so, but not me. The laws of science are very different from the laws of ethics or morality. Things like gravity and photosynthesis are measureable and predictable, at least here on earth. Things like homosexuality and monogamy are not...i.e., some people/cultures are accepting, some are not. Policy and laws are, in a way, created in relativistic manner. You know the saying "When in Rome..." The law of the land is determined, in some cases, by majority rule. In other places it is by "fiat." Elsewhere, by who "wins the silent auction" (I'm cynical too).

[Aside: just so you know, I may "believe" in moral and cultural relativism, but I subscribe to ethical behaviour. A Libertarian, in some ways, but basically, I'm just your run-of-the-mill do-gooder (more like "does not do bad-er").]

Quote:
Mirriam-Webster:

Quote:
Truth: a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality.


But what does this really mean? That it "stands the test of time"? Something is true if its meaning remains unaltered throughout the ages?

If so, something is "true" only if it can be witnessed through infinity by the same observers. Even that might not be good enough.

What about things that were thought to be "true" but later turned out to be false. Does that mean it was always "false"?


Quote:
Quote:
Not only is truth relative, but it evolves in time, can contradict other truths, and is a creation of the human mind. It's probably lots of other things too. But absolute...only if you believe it.


This just doesn't hold up, rationally. Our opinions change, our biases change, our mores change, but isn't it saying a bit much to assert that we - as human beings - are the sole arbiters of truth in the world? Whether or not I choose to believe a specific truth in terms of science, law, or any number of other fields has no bearing on the truths contained therein. If I should leap from a rooftop, I will plummet - whether or not I believe that I will. If I commit a murder, I will be arrested, charged, and sentenced, whether or not I believe in the existence of a law against murder.


There is a theory that humans are the sole arbiters of truth. You should check out "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle" by John Wheeler et. al. It's like the "esse est percipi" theory of David Hume. Sort of.


Quote:
To try and steer the conversation back toward the specific issue of abortion: I simply maintain that, given the fact that we, as a society, have adopted any number of laws concerning the manner in which we, as individuals, are to treat one another, we must look at the matter of abortion through this same prism - an issue that involves not merely the mother's body, but also that of another distinct human being. This may mean significant compromises on both sides (those in the pro-life camp - like myself - would likely have to live with the continued legality of first trimester abortions, while those in the pro-choice group would have to allow for the elimination of partial-birth procedures, and the use of second- and third-trimester abortions as a means of birth control), and would leave further questions to be asked as our ability to understand fetal development accelerates, but it might be a start to something constructive.


Thank you for steering me back to our original discussion. And I agree with you.
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ColoradoBlogger



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2005 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Suzen,

Thanks again for a thoughtful reply.

I'm no great fan of Hume's but I will check out the Wheeler book you described. It sounds like a good read.

In general, I see no reason why the same principles that apply throughout other structures - science, law, etc. - would not also apply to metaphysics. Doesn't mean it does, of course, but it's certainly within the bounds of consistency.

Quote:
What about things that were thought to be "true" but later turned out to be false. Does that mean it was always "false"?


No - not according to a moral objectivist position. I would maintain that the principle (or truth, as it were) existed unchanged all along - we simply hadn't yet discovered it, or viewed it accurately.

Quote:
But what does this really mean? That it "stands the test of time"? Something is true if its meaning remains unaltered throughout the ages?


To my understanding, the inclusion of the word "transcendent" would indicate a position outside of the influence of time or culture.

Thanks again, Suzen - it's been a blast. I wish we could have more of this - substantive discussion, rather than screaming fits. It's refreshing.
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