Does Postmodernism Mean Moral Relativism?
Saturday, September 12, 2009 -- 5:00 PM
Guest Contributor

posted by Gary Aylesworth

Toward the end of last Sunday’s broadcast of Philosophy Talk, a caller asked whether the “moral relativism” supposedly rampant in our time was part of postmodernism. While I would certainly agree that the current hysteria over moral relativism is a postmodern phenomenon, I don’t agree that postmodern thought takes an “anything goes” view of politics or ethics, or that it prevents us from saying that the terrorists of 9/11 committed mass murder. Instead, I see postmodern thought as a kind of moral humility, a humility that prevents us from assuming that the world divides neatly into “us” and “them” or that “others” are simply evil while “we,” by mere opposition, are assured to be in the right. Such absolutism, after all, has the same structure as the ideology of the terrorists. Several figures associated with philosophical postmodernism emphasize our obligation to the other as an other, that is, not as “one of us” but as one who marks the limit of our own identity or community. It is an obligation to receive the other as such and not to silence or eliminate her. We can agree that the 9/11 terrorists violated this obligation and that they are responsible for their actions, but it also forces us to examine our own sense of victimization. Nietzsche warned us against the moral righteousness of the victim; it is dangerous because it seeks to annihilate the other and tolerates no dissent.

The alarms against moral relativism we hear around us are, I think, the latest bellowings of the morality of ressentiment, a morality that looks for someone or something to blame for the insecurities and uncertainties of our age. Postmodern thought did not create this situation, but tries to explore its structures and its limits. It also upholds certain Enlightenment values, such as the freedom to dissent, social and political emancipation, the rights of individuals and minorities, etc., but it does so without claiming to know, once and for all, who individuals are or what ultimately constitutes a right. That these identities must remain open is itself a moral imperative, and one that obliges us to be humble in our judgments. Moral humility, not moral relativism, is the lesson of postmodern thinking.

Comments (23)


Guest

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Perhaps it?s just me, but I don?t find this po

Perhaps it?s just me, but I don?t find this post clarifying.
It may be that the author espouses a flavor of postmodernism that is less relativist than others, but does that mean it is incorrect to associate postmodernism with relativism? During my college days a philosophy faculty member wrote copiously on what he characterized as postmodernism?s critique of the Enlightenment?s assertion of a ?view from nowhere.? The argument was that since all views are culturally conditioned, so was the Enlightenment one, and so are all views. This faculty member?s position (which I think he drew at least in part from Richard Rorty) was to affirm his own culture despite his awareness that it was culturally specific and not based on culturally transcendent truth. I believe he said that some sense of irony was required to sustain this position, since his culture affirmed a concept of culturally transcendent truth.
Since the professor?s posture was voluntary and essentially based on emotion, others were certainly free to reject their own culture and to claim, on the strength of the professor?s own arguments, that there was no rational basis for preferring one cultural or ethical view over another. Thus, surely, postmodernism can be, at least sometimes, the basis of moral and ethical relativism.
Surely relativism (moral and cultural) is very widespread, and surely one can note that this is so without being ?hysterical.? (Of course one can be hysterical about it too.) To claim the superiority of one culture over another, even if only with regard to some particular, raises eyebrows in polite socieety. In order to pull off any such critique without causing consternation, one must add qualifications, employ euphemisms and protest fidelity to open-mindedness, pluralism, multiculturalism or some such commitment to the value of all cultures. Allan Bloom claimed that being ?non-judgmental? was the characteristic virtue of the campus environment in ?The Closing of the American Mind.? I was a student when I read that (shortly after the book was published) and didn?t take it to be a controversial assertion.
You speak of moral relativism as being ?supposedly rampant.? I guess we?d have to define ?rampant,? but if it were rampant by your standards, would that be a bad thing or a matter of indifference?
Do we really need postmodern ideas to ?prevent us from assuming that the world divides neatly into ?us? and ?them?? Surely we already had the idea that opposition can exist between parties that might simply be acting out of disagreement rather than because one or the other side was simply ?evil.? At the same time, surely we can also conceive of conflicts where we could correctly say the other side committed evil acts?including our own side. Surely you do just this (or at least authorize it) when you say postmodernism doesn?t prevent accusing terrorists of mass murder.
It seems contrived to cite Nietzsche?s notion of ressentiment here. There are resentful people who assign the properties of evil or naughtiness to others out of a sense of their own inadequacy. My understanding of the concept is that it amounts to passive/aggressive response of the weak toward the strong. They demonize strength because they lack it themselves. But strength in itself is not bad. In calling a terrorist spade a spade (which you suggest is OK), one needn?t be the slightest bit resentful. Certainly repudiation of terrorists is not the resentment of the weak for the strong. In fact, one can detect a massive ressentiment problem in the terrorists themselves, not least in their preference for stealthy attacks against the defensless rather than direct, manful confrontation with their enemies.
It seems to me that the important question is whether there is or is not a rational basis for ethical or cultural criticism. Surely the denial of such a basis has been a salient feature of a great deal of discourse over the last few decades or so. Am I indulging in ?hysteria? for suggesting this?
Whether postmodernism should be identified as the guilty party is not so interesting to me, but it seems that while there may be forms of postmodernism that aren?t relativist, or at least not aggressively so or absolutist in their relativism, so to speak, surely there are influential schools of postmodernism that are aggressively relativistic and hostile to the Enlightenment notions of knowable truth and a rational basis for concepts such as universal rights.

Guest

Friday, August 31, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

"I see postmodern thought as a kind of moral humil

"I see postmodern thought as a kind of moral humility."
A thoroughly Orwellian view of the matter - and no doubt entirely self-serving. Imprisonment in the ego is at the very root of postmodernism's radical subjectivity. We can rightly diagnose the juggling of postmodernists as a collective case of libido dominandi, in which their own egos have been written so large that they must depict history as a story of progress culminating in their own genius. A complete sham.

Guest

Friday, August 31, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Um...i never took a philosophy class...hell i can

Um...i never took a philosophy class...hell i can barely spell the word...but do you guys ever ask yourself exactly what the hell it is your do when you write about these ideas? Why is it that everything in life comes down to semantics or bureaucracy... you are talking about stuff you can't pin down, not because it isn't physical...but because it is ever changing-for better for worse, up down, or because the very ideas are absorbed by others, regurgitated, given preference over other ideas. But while we are talking talking talking....these ever changing ideas never seem to help anyone in a real physical, emotional or spiritual way. :(
not when they are hungry, tired, watching TV....and still this tiny portion of the population manages to stay in their bubble taking about Nietzsche...
Academia sure is great at alienating the people who need to hear their influence the most.

Guest

Friday, August 31, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Coming from one who does consider himself a philos

Coming from one who does consider himself a philosopher - though less academically than many posting here i suppose, I'd just like to say to desiree's comment - Thank you xD
You have just proclaimed the most 'post-modern' (formerly defined as "currently unaware that it is nothing new") thought on this page.
So much philosophy has come from people relying on others thoughts in order to form their own. Also so much philosophy is almost extrovertive and thought-seeding rather than introvertive and thought-inspiring as it should be.
I suppose it's a great way to escape and to somehow find connection outside of the lone minds we are ordained to.
I don't dislike philosophy by any means. Rather, I found your point not only valid, but refreshing. However, posting it 3 times might be slightly hipocrytical ("Academia sure is great at alienating the people who need to hear their influence the most.")
xD

Guest

Friday, August 31, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

The problem with a mentation supposing itself free

The problem with a mentation supposing itself freed from illusion is that, when confronted by ratiocinations garbed in holy rags, it discusses whilst other intellectual idiots conquer.
Cordially, Lawrence Cottrell.

Guest

Saturday, September 1, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Did i really post it three times? @_@ Oops!

Did i really post it three times? @_@ Oops!

Guest

Sunday, September 2, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

beautifully said, clear and precise. couldn't agre

beautifully said, clear and precise. couldn't agree more with this clarification. thank you

Guest

Monday, September 3, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Desiree wrote: Academia sure is great at ali

Desiree wrote:
Academia sure is great at alienating the people who need to hear their influence the most
How exactly are academics alienating people?
But while we are talking talking talking....these ever changing ideas never seem to help anyone in a real physical, emotional or spiritual way.
Do you believe that ideas don't shape the world? Should we all talk more, but just more convincingly or otherwise better somehow?
Where precisely does the author's post fail?
Surely there are many worthwhile esoteric professional discussions and also some that might only seem esoteric to some readers. Perhaps limited comprehension can play a role in the failure of some attempts at communication. Some ideas are unfamiliar to some readers, and some vocabulary that is within the reach of educated laypeople may be beyond the reach of others.

Guest

Wednesday, September 5, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Nietzsche is referenced nowadays as must Matthew,

Nietzsche is referenced nowadays as must Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Aristotle have been in the 14th century, that is, whenever authority is required to buttress the substance of one's notions concerning the really real. Mr. Aylesworth should be cautious re: quotation/paraphrase of Minerva's scripture; Dr. Nietzsche said much, and has been holy writ to both Nazi and secular humanist. Doubtless the last two living men will possess an unabridged cd of The Will to Power lest their lives go unexplained to them.
Dr. Nietzsche mentioned somewhere that man is a cosmic thespian and the more or less happy sum of his self-told fabrications, so, if this, too, is true, to reckon oneself manumitted from human nature, i.e., in possession of an hour rather than owned by it is the hubris of the overly credentialed. To suppose what Dr. Aylesworth appears to believe, that "absolutism" is wrong and similarity of "structure" equals congruence of act, is like arguing that because man and ape share a common genetic arrangement that the 2% of difference is not to be taken seriously. A room is a room, save that one is in the Biltmore mansion and the other holds the whatnots of a Georgia cracker. The principle of each space is egalitarian but that which occupies it reflects the office of he who endowed it.
Let's see. Dr. Aylesworth believes in "the rights of individuals" but confesses that he knows not what either are. Five thousand years of recorded human history behind us, and Philosophy falls to its knees before its anti-altar in its anti-temple, where it decries the "hysteria over moral relativism" to a populace it cannot comprehend.
Ah, gentlemen, there's aught quite like the righteousness of he for whom the latter dare not exist. But then, knowing either oneself or one's comrade is a perilous affair, and one may beget finally the perfect child of Adam if only one refrains from practicing "ressentiment"(is one permitted to be pissed, merely?)vis a vis those who visit Western wisdom with their bombs .
Oh, sophie, one must do more than think to-be; as the lowly bluet, one must assert one's being. Otherwise, fellow pilgrims, other tares shall choke the field. Perchance Philosophy was more germane when 't was less modest, before it believed it had much for which to atone, when it had something to sire or kill.
Cordially, Lawrence Cottrell.

Guest

Thursday, September 6, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Lawrence Cotrell wrote: Let's see. Dr. Ayle

Lawrence Cotrell wrote:
Let's see. Dr. Aylesworth believes in "the rights of individuals" but confesses that he knows not what either are.
Well said!

Guest

Friday, September 7, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

If memory serves, ?Modernism? is the latest re

If memory serves, ?Modernism? is the latest rending of custom's cake respecting art, manners, ideas, faith...traditions, schools of the antique sort, those tablets trundled down Mount Woodstock in 1969, when, as we know, salvation was proclaimed by the edified cadre of twenty two year old devotees to 19th and 20th century magi, the former having been encouraged to defy their parents by schoolmen and other middle class(and often state-employed)revolutionaries.
Of course, when devolution, deconstruction and ?all we need is love? encounters the Edenic wreck called human nature we have a problem(not, alas, an issue); that is, after God is laughed to death by the cognoscenti, which, as a group, finds itself congealing nowadays into a professoriate educating the mob with passionate equivocation, one must get serious anon, and we see this gravitas weeping into reality as the ?moral[and categorical?]imperative? of ?identities? left ?open.? Naturally, men have a nasty and perennial habit of filling such lacunae with the soil of Jerusalem or Sodom, the humble, self-congratulatory and diffidently superior contemplation of the spiritual lint forsaken by a different, and less fair age being uncongenial to the majority of those possessed of a mortal self-awareness(generally, men wish to fornicate, frolic or genuflect before the gods, mammon or political power; often, they manage to achieve all of the preceding simultaneously, which is, to say the least, an economy of being).
To the terminally credentialed Assisi of the Academy, garbed in mendicant rags designed by Versace and purchased presumably in a knocked off version at WalMart(one is then a person of the people), wisdom consists of treating artifacts of the soul(howsoever defined)much as one might examine the flagella of a flagellum. While one is what one is(much like the deity, I AM), those who cannot bear to endure a kind of human life(too much myth, spittle, pus, inconsistency and unsymmetrical unfairness there)ought have sufficiencies of grace to pretend to be unpretentious servants of that civilization within which they prosper.
In the Antonine age, ?the philosophers of antiquity
asserted the independent dignity of reason; but they
resigned their actions to the commands of law and
custom?, concealing ?the sentiments of an Atheist
under...sacerdotal robes.?
Gibbon
Like those quoting him ad nauseum, Nietzsche's sin was public garrulousness in his post modern hour. At least, though, he may have skipped that section of catechism relating to they-have-killed-several-thousand-of-us-but-we-must-remain-emotionally-chaste-and-intellectually-pure-whilst-we-try-to-kill-as-many-of-them-as-we-can-in-the-name-of-Buridan's Ass.
Cordially, Lawrence Cottrell.

Guest

Monday, September 10, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

O you blessed individuals! Read this to see if you

O you blessed individuals! Read this to see if you're really individuals:
http://tinyurl.com/2rj9do

Guest

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

In the grand scheme of this colossal universe we a

In the grand scheme of this colossal universe we are each but a mere spec. Yet, remove that spec and everything changes forever. We are each a distinct entity independant from all others.

Guest

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

Pardon me while I engage in a small amount of bell

Pardon me while I engage in a small amount of bellowing and hysteria, an odd formulation from an "other", the author, who with straight face presumably calls for humility. Why practice what you preach and consistency is most certainly the province of little minds.
The post is a mess; we must stand for individual rights but without knowing what an individual is or for that matter being uncertain what a right is. So we must stand for something we don't know for beings we also don't or can't know. We must "uphold" but uphold in a state of ignorance. Yes, and we must also uphold the Enlightenment, which hopefully we know more about but draw apparently vague lessons from.
While we do these things we must remind ourselves that postmodernism is not to blame for the curses of uncertainty and insecurity, have not even contributed to it.
Well at least we have an admission that the 9/11 mass murderers violated an obligation, but let's not get to judgmental.

Guest

Saturday, October 20, 2007 -- 5:00 PM

NOTE : The following is a fictitious (though it is

NOTE : The following is a fictitious (though it is an appropro portrayal of relativist/postmodernist thinking) story that depicts a young man (age 24) who supports postmodernist/relativist ideology . He is sent back in time from circa 2007 A.D. to 1855 Oneida, New York (by a University sociology department) to engage in discussion with an abolitionist orator. The young man is called in the story : Pomo kid ...'pomo' being an abbreviation for postmodernist . He is sent back into time with a special hidden video and audio device designed to record sound and image of the discussion that he will have with Benjamin Obadiah Whittaker --an abolitionist and former slave, who is scheduled on that June evening to give a speech on the evils of slavery at the Shaker meeting house during a meeting hosted by the Oneida abolitionist society .
The exchange between Pomo Kid and the abolitionist leader is a cautionary tale presented in a format similar to a one-act play designed to reveal the NON-consistent thought and general murkiness of postmodernist/relativist thinking (i.e. sell-out thinking) . It is designed to show the idiocy of the bizarre, postmodernist notion that claims ambivalence is some so-called "humility" . Ambivalence is NOT humility , and using consistent methods of thought is NOT "arrogance" .
PREFACE :Pomo kid has gotten in the time machine and the controls have been set for June 25, 1855 . Since the machine is the first of its kind and time travel with it expected to be slow going on what the scientists back at the lab call it's "maiden voyage" , Pomo Kid has taken some magazines: the UTNE reader (bought for him by his limosine- liberal parents who read it themselves ) and Relevant Magazine .
Pomo Kid --having a short attention span fostered by years of chronic MTV watching --has also taken a specially made CD player and some CDs to keep him amused. When he gets to 1855 Oneida , New York he discovers that miraculously the CD players and CD's work --though he has a hard time getting them to work while riding in the time machine. The CD 's he has taken are as follows : Jewel's Greatest Hits, a CD by the musical band Toad The Wet Sprocket, a CD by Jimmy Eat World, The Dawson's Creek t.v. show soundtrack, a CD from the band Barenaked Ladies, and Rumors by Fleetwood Mac (A CD that he borrowed from his parents) , and a CD from a singer named Dan Hasletine .
The time machine soon arrives in a dairy cattle field in 1855 Oneida,
New York . He steps out of the time machine with his CD head set over his ears --and hidden minature camera recording device cocked and disguised as one of his piercings . As he steps out on to the farm field of Ezra Howell Drummond --no person sees the machine land nor him emerge. The dairy cows give him monentary glances of dull suprise and then return to to crunching and grazing down the vast green verdure . He looks at a minature digital map device and proceeds to walk to the shaker meeting house to hear the speech by Obadiah Whittaker .
He arrives on time and sits down . Some of the abolitionists and interested town folks noticed Pomo kid as he arrives and are somewhat baffled by his odd appearance --as his clothes , hairstyle and general demeanor do not look period, but do not approach him . They are more interested in the speech by Mr. Benjamin Whittaker . Benjamin Whittaker presents a cogent and eloquent indictment of the evils of chattel slavery in the antebellum south. He especially highlights the treatment of slave women by slavemasters, overseers, and their cronies and acquaintances who from time to time rape the slave women on the plantations .
Pomo kid allows his CD headspeakers to droop a little so he can hear the speech ---and gives a skimming of the main elements . As the speech draws to its close Pomo kid hears the anti-slavery orator sum up the directive set before good citizens everywhere in a way that does NOT mince words .
' And so good citizens of Oneida , we can send forth the clear message ...both to posterity , to others who have shared and will share the North American continent, and to all nations and every town and village abroad , that we will no longer accept, nor even partially accept, a wicked commerce of bodies and souls that treats marriage and kinship as makeshift gambits in some sordid game , where transgression of the convenants between man and women is done with impunity . We will stand with the men , women, and children who long to have the stability accorded to man and wife by civilized society. We make no caveat to the forces of darkness and depravity that would settle for anything less! '
There is a roar of applause and even a few Amens from the audience .
Soon the speech is then over and there is time for handshakes and entreties from the audience .
Pomo Kid then approaches the abolitionist orator .
POMO KID : "Hey Mr.Whiitaker , dude . I, like, enjoyed your speech . I can see that feel quite passionate about racial oppression and all , but there's some stuff I'd like to discuss with you . I know that slavery is a bad scene and it's kinda bogus how slaves are treated , but you gotta learn to respect the opinion of those who want to rape their slave women and sell their kids to other plantations too and look at it from their perspective some too . You are like so judgemental, so preachy , dogmatic ...so one-sided towards the opinions of those who want to rape slave women, beat them some, and sell their children downriver . It's like you want to preach instead of discussing...you preach. You got to learn to look at it from other perspectives. What you are doing is the us versus them approach towards people who oppress and exploit slaves . The us versus them approach isn't good . It's fanatical to take the us versus them approach . The us versus them way is, like, so yesterday . Everything is connected . it's all connected. Really the slavowner and the oppressed slaves are really part of the same thing . Making distinctions is so passe /so yesterday . It's all one . It's all how you look at it .
You know there's many sides to every issue. Stuff like slavery is not all black and white there are shades of grey. It's not totally bad being oppressed as a slave . You got to look at it from other points of view . Learn to accept that problems are part of life...a growing experience . You know, getting raped and being sold away from your family just goes to show that life is give and take . If nobody ever got raped or exploited then you wouldn't have give and take ...and so you wouldn't have reality ; it would be all idealistic . We can't have stuff being idealistic all the time. Life is supposed to be a mixture of things . People are a mixture of things. It's all the duality of man . In the time period I come from, we study deconstructionism and post-structuralism at my college and I've been getting into Michel Foucault , and Lyotard, and Richard Rorty. They teach us not to totalize . what your are doing is totalizing ...making people out to be villans if they don't agree with rigid moral constructs . It's all just language games --the divisions of beliefs that people have . There aren't any absolute truths ...or if there are, there aren't very many...or we can't be sure what they are .
You got to learn something Mr.Whittaker: don't be so single-minded ....
(Pomo kid pauses for an extended period of time and fiddles with his CD player and changes the Jewel CD for a Dawson's Creek CD . He turns it down slighly so he can somewhat hear Mr . Benjamin Whittaker speak .)
Benjamin Whittaker stares at Pomo Kid with a look of utter incredulity and disgust at the weirdly pusillanimous , and convoluted statements that have poured forth from the young man's mouth . He then speaks
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : Young man, I scarcely know where to begin to disabuse you of the false , and weirdly ludicrous statements you have put forth here. You claim I must respect the vile opinions of those who support the exploitation and tyrrany which oppresses persons of African descent--and , moreover, exploits women whose virginity has been taken from them by force! What on earth have such opinions done to merit such respect, or to even almost halfway earn such respect .? Young man I can scarcely help wondering if you have fallen in with revelling hooligans in Manhattan that smoke opium in houses of ill repute and, that such riotous living has altered your febrile brain to such an extent that you find it a habit to talk nonsense . Young man, I do not know where you are from ---
(Pomo Kid then interrupts Mr. Whittaker in mid sentence . Pomo kid is, after all, a postmodernist of the MTV generation and considers being fair and waiting till someone is finished talking to be passe and old fashioned communication practice, which he wants nothing to do with . Pomo kid favors a more edgy , open ended approach .)
POMO KID SPEAKS : (Decides to start out with circular thinking ) . Dude, the idea that it's wrong to rape slave women , or brutally beat and exploit slaves and sell their children away from them ...that's wrong to us , but not to the people who support exploiting and raping slaves... Doing that's right to them . Morals and truth are relative and subjective. What's true to you may not be true to them . It's all just different perspectives. If you go and say that its absolutely wrong for people to exploit and rape their slaves instead of saying that it's wrong to us, then ...you're like Hitler. Now you probably aren't familiar with who Hitler is ...but in the 20 Century there's gonna be this guy called Hitler, who takes over and takes away people's rights. And if you say that some belief is totally wrong and another belief is totally right then you're like Hitler . Just like these holocaust survivors that the nazis put into concentration camps and came out being all bitter and one sided and preachy and say what Hitler and the nazis did was wrong and don't respect the nazi point of view a little---well they're like Hitler too ! Just like a person who always stops a bully from bullying people and won't look at it from a bully point of view a little...well that makes that kind of one-sided person who is against bullying, a bully too and just as bad as the real bully . Furthermore, just by saying that some belief or practice is wrong--- just by verbally calling that belief wrong you violate their right to free expression to say that opposite belief...even without any physical violence against them ...without a single shot being fired .
You got to understand also that if somebody says that some belief isn't absolute , then that right there prooves that it isn't . Take the proposition that says that 2+2=4 . Well as long as somebody disagrees with the idea that 2+2=4 then that automatically shows that the idea that 2+2=4 isn't absolute, otherwise every person would have to say they agreed with 2+2 being = 4, otherwise it's not absolute .
In the time period of history that I come from (which is the late 20 th and early 21 Centuries ) there's this show called the Real World . Now since television hasn't been invented yet in 1855, you probably aren't familar with that word. Television in the time I come from is a lot like what plays are on stages in the time you're in . Television is kind of like a play ---only more fun . So in the time I come from there is a show called 'The Real World' ...and people on that show sometimes have different beliefs and so they can come together and get real and talk about the issues that bother them . The show teaches people to come out of their comfort zone (Pomo Kid runs through memory banks to come up with more newspeak words and phrases and finds some) and therefore they can have an impactive, impactful affect on each others lives and give each other feedback about what they think. Now the people who are being raped , beaten , or exploited by masters and overseers down on those slave plantations they got to stop being so one-sided and look at from another perspective and come out of their comfort zone and stop portraying rape and exploitation as something totally bad. They can then get together with the slave owners and overseers and tell them about the way they feel and then get the slave owners and overseers to come out of their comfort zone too , and maybe tone down the rape and exploitation a little . That way you don't have an us versus them .
Some people would say that what I'm saying doesn't make much sense ...that it's inconsistent /ambivalent thinking (which is another way of saying sell- out thinking ) but I don't call it selling out . I call it "looking at it from another perspective" . And about the people claiming that postmodernism like I've been trying to get you to support, doesn't make much sense, well it doesn't have to make sense. Making sense is so passe ...so yesterday . Distinctions are just so passe . I don't bother with rigid distinctions. I 've gotten into a sort of thinking called lateral thinking ...that doen't get all hung up on distinctions . Lateral thinking doesn't have to always make sense.
You Mr. Whittaker are a linear thinker ...that consistent thinking is so out of style....so outmoded . Lateral thinking, that postmodernists such as me go for doesn't bother with having to make sense ...it tolerates ambiguity . You mr. Whittaker are so rigidly consistent /so single-minded ...a fanatical ideologue that goes to extremes of consistent thinking. You aren't conflicted about anything !!!!
In the time period I came from, there was a singer called Moby---who used to be so dogmatic and one-sided about the animal rights cause, but lately he learned not to be so judgemental towards opinions of people who don't support animal rights . He respects the outlook of the people who are against animal rights now --even though he's for animal rights .The same flexibility applies to any social cause. After all, a professor I had once in a classroom, quoted the quote, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds" .I've learned that selling out is not so bad . '
(Pomo kid having temporarily dropped the Dawson's Creek soundtrack picks it up and puts in the Toad The Wet Sprocket CD . He changes CDs about as quickly as a chain smoker replaces cigarettes)
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER : (Still flabbergasted, begins to speak) 'Without consistency of thought human affairs descend into meaninglessness....
POMO KID SPEAKS : Not if you think they have meaning for you . You know, by the way, in 1855, the people who exploit and rape slaves are doing what was thought right at the time. We shouldn't be so chauvanistic as to try to harshly criticize people who own slaves by the morality of later periods. If you say that people who exploit slaves are doing something totally wrong then you're just as bad as they are . Morality is different from one period to another ...some people say that people in different periods might call different actions moral ...and it not be a case of inherently different morals ...but that's all the same anyway ...since I don't bother with hair-splitting distinctions like that .
(Pomo Kid's CD jams and stops playing temporarily. He pauses from speaking and, in so doing, ejects that CD and puts in the machine a CD of music by musician Dan Hasletine) .
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : How are you so sure that people who exploit slaves are unaware that what they are doing is fully wrong ? (The good abolitionist has managed to put aside being shocked by the weirdly insipid statements presented by Pomo Kid long enough to get the composure to ask him that question .)
POMO KID REPLIES : Well if they thought it was wrong to exploit and mistreat slaves then they wouldn't do it .
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : So let me get this straight, young man...you allege that the mere willingness of somebody to do some act is in of itself some ad hoc proof that in every such case they must be sincere in doing so.? Where do you arrive at such a facile conclusion-- if that is what you are alleging ?
(Pomo kid, who does not know a specific response to the question that can save face for how facile the previous statement he has just put forth has been...then searches his memory banks for the word he likes to bandie about whenever somebody presents an argument that is elaborate , doesn't have postmodern cliches, and one which , moreover, he doesn't want to slow down and bother to analyze . He finds that word .... the word "pseudo-intellectual" which he uses to lambast elaborate arguments from people who refuse to sell out and entertain his lazy mind . )
POMO KID SPEAKS : Dude, I realy don't have time for pseudo-intellectual questions and statements like you have been making. Mellow out, Dude . You are so single-minded . You just need to get laid .
(Pomo Kid pauses and then speaks again )
POMO KID SPEAKS : You want to know something ? If you judge a belief or lifestyle that somebody supports ...that's the same as judging them, because an emo-singer I like said so, in an interview I read about in Spin magazine . He later said the same stuff about that on a VH-1 documentary . He said that the beliefs a person supports are the person themself ---so by judging the belief your judging the person . Beliefs are people . (Pomo Kid gets oddly quiet all of a sudden )
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER THEN ASKS : So to take such preposterously silly statement to its conclusion , do you then allege that if someone no longer believes the beliefs they once supported ...they are no longer themselves .?
POMO KID ASKS : Yes , why not say that ?
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : Well young man, I hope that you will reconsider those murky notions you have given a voice to . Slavery is quite ugly and the others here know that .
(Pomo Kid then takes out the Hasletine CD and puts in a CD of Rumors by Fleetwood Mac in his CD player and adjusts the headset .) .
POMO KID SPEAKS : (Takes on the weirdly petulant snippness that young postmodernists sometimes adopt) 'You know what dude, you just don't understand . I'm starting to think that it's just a waste of time explaining this to you ...since you have a close mind. I can see you have a closed mind because you keep having to take everything apart and you keep insisting on consistent distinctions . That's very anal retentive of you Mr. Whittaker . That's also a power play on your part . It shows that you have control issues and will not look at anything a different way . You just don't understand. You got all that deductive reasoning ...but that's a defense mechanism . Since you refuse to come out of your comfort zone and become conflicted about anything there's probably no point in having a discussion .You just don't understand ...all you want to do is be a true believer and stereotype the lifestyle of other people . So, like WHATEVER , dude ...that's not my problem !
(Pomo Kid then speaks again )
You probably don't think I identify with oppressed people but I do . My girlfriend and life partner Jasmine and me have gone to a lot of take back the night rallies . We've protested date rape on campus. I've known oppression and been a victim of oppression myself . The year before last I went to go stay with my aunt Veronica because parents were using their house as a meditation center for married couples and me being kind of high maintence ...we figured I'd get in the way and so I went to go live with Veronica . But my aunt is an old school Mennonite --and so she's like real rigid , dogmatic , and puritanical and so she wouldn't let me and Jasmine's ex boyfriend (he's a real kewl guy who pierced my belly button when we went to Woodstock 94) and her ex boyfiriend 's cat all get together and have group sex games together in her house . She's real dogmatic against sex (if you ask me she has some real issues if she's against group sex games) . Sex is like my identity . Also i understand oppression because people sometimes look at me funny because I have a lot of piercings ...so I know what it's like to be oppressed too . '
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPOKE : 'Young man, I pity someone with such a murky , ridiculous attitude as you have . If you excuse me, now myself and the other people here are going to march to the town hall where we will make the protest of slavery public ... ' (He then turns away and walks toward the others who have gathered at the far door of the Shaker meeting house ) .
POMO KID SPEAKS (Runs up ahead to meet up with them): ' So you guys are going to a protest down town. Kewl ! For shizzle ...that's the shiznic ! I've been to protests with my girlfriend and our boyfriends ...we've been to take back the night ...and we've been to rallies at Lillith Fair too, so I know the routine . I once met Michael Stipe at a protest !
(Mr. Whitakker and the other abolitionists have begun already begun to file out signs en hand . They cast backwards glances of disgust and perplexity at Pomo Kid )
Pomo Kid then runs out after them , "Let's do it . End oppression now. Oppression is f--ked up . The people united will never be defeated ...the people united will never be defeated ! The people united will never be defeated ! '
(He then hearing the onset of a track on the CD playing the Fleetwood Mac song ' Don't stop thinking about tommorrow' then begins to sing in unision to the song ---as if it were a marching chant ...As he runs out into the starlit roads of 1855 Oneida, New York he soon finds he wishes he had a latte to round out the day)

Guest

Friday, July 11, 2008 -- 5:00 PM

Those who would write moral fairy tales should rem

Those who would write moral fairy tales should remember that brevity is the soul of wit.

Guest

Friday, October 2, 2009 -- 5:00 PM

The first thing I noticed in this blog is that you

The first thing I noticed in this blog is that you discount the ideal of moral relativism, considering it as an "anything goes mentality." From what I understand, that is moral nihilism. Not moral relativism. Actually, with the exception of the "special circumstances" clause of moral relativism, what you described was, by classic definition, Moral Relativism.
Moral Relativism sustains the same mentality that you "moral humility" sustains. That absolutes cloud judgment, and that others must be allowed to exist. So I challenge you. Check your premises. You will find that you are a moral relativist as well.
- Paradigm of Thought

Guest

Sunday, November 15, 2009 -- 4:00 PM

I think that moral humility is clearly an improvem

I think that moral humility is clearly an improvement on moral righteousness, assuming that we agree that terrorism, bigotry and war are a bad thing. Our problem is that we (some of us) agree that these are bad things but we cannot satisfactorily explain why. It is obvious to us (the same us as before) that mass murder is bad, but it simply can?t be obvious to everyone or it wouldn?t happen. How could we persuade someone who didn?t think it was bad that it was, by just insisting that it was obvious?
I believe that there is moralism and there is philosophy. The moralist does not question the rules of thought and action he has inherited: he is infinitely morally righteous. The philosopher questions these rules. This does not mean he must abandon a rule before it is questioned; the absence of rules is practically and socially untenable. But neither must he stop and declare ?this far and no further?. This alas, is what moral humility might imply.
The philosopher who questions some morals but not others has simple decided that some rules of thought and action are not morals. After all, the moralist does not think every thought and action is governed by a moral rule. It is possible to question a rule, thereby removing it from canon of morality. To assume that any rules are beyond question is to abandon philosophy for moralism.
Relativism is first to acknowledge that different people have different moral rules, easily done. Then to say that they are all equally valid, which makes no sense. There is no reason why the rules can?t be contradictory: for example, it is wrong to kill a Frenchman; it is right to kill a Frenchman. How do I choose which action to take? Random? Even if I tossed a coin I would be accepting the possibility of the other and would thereby be violating both rules.
Relativism is really amoralism in disguise. Philosophers have always had the problem of how to question morals without provoking the ire of the moralists. Relativism is a sidestep. Moral humility is more of an appeasement. It is an attempt to reassure moralists that questioning morals does not mean justifying terrorism and the like. This is a reasonable thing to do, as long as we don?t stop questioning morals.
P.s. I?m looking for work/help/sponsorship etc, please write to me libphil@gmail.com.

Guest

Monday, November 30, 2009 -- 4:00 PM

Relativism is really amoralism in disguise. Philos

Relativism is really amoralism in disguise. Philosophers have always had the problem of how to question morals without provoking the ire of the moralists. Relativism is a sidestep. Moral humility is more of an appeasement. It is an attempt to reassure moralists that questioning morals does not mean justifying terrorism and the like. This is a reasonable thing to do, as long as we don?t stop questioning morals.

Guest

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

I believe that there is moralism and there is phil

I believe that there is moralism and there is philosophy. The moralist does not question the rules of thought and action he has inherited: he is infinitely morally righteous. The philosopher questions these rules. This does not mean he must abandon a rule before it is questioned; the absence of rules is practically and socially untenable. But neither must he stop and declare ?this far and no further?. This alas, is what moral humility might imply.
The philosopher who questions some morals but not others has simple decided that some rules of thought and action are not morals. After all, the moralist does not think every thought and action is governed by a moral rule. It is possible to question a rule, thereby removing it from canon of morality. To assume that any rules are beyond question is to abandon philosophy for moralism.

Guest

Saturday, July 17, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

Relativism is really amoralism in disguise. Philos

Relativism is really amoralism in disguise. Philosophers have always had the problem of how to question morals without provoking the ire of the moralists. Relativism is a sidestep. Moral humility is more of an appeasement. It is an attempt to reassure moralists that questioning morals does not mean justifying terrorism and the like. This is a reasonable thing to do, as long as we don?t stop questioning morals.

Guest

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 -- 5:00 PM

The term postmodernism, when used pejoratively, de

The term postmodernism, when used pejoratively, describes tendencies perceived as relativist, counter-enlightenment or antimodern, particularly in relation to critiques of rationalism, universalism or science. It is also sometimes used to describe tendencies in a society that are held to be antithetical to traditional systems of morality.

Guest

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

Thank you for sharing the

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