Re: Ethics in a void (Re: meaning of life (RE: (repost) ))

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 22:08:37 MST

Charlie Stross wrote:

> I pointed out that a view of rights rooted in human nature can't deal
> with non-human entities, therefore we need a broader-based system.
> I think the onus is on you to demonstrate how a natural rights viewpoint
> can extend to situations where the participants are non-human.

For the sake of an argument about "natural rights" based on human nature
not being an absurdity, there is no onus on me to say anything about the
rights of non-humans.

> And why are you insisting on judging other people by some objective
> criterion? Can't you just admit that your own views of their behaviour
> are subjective, and don't have any intrinsic merit or demerit?

If it is all utterly subjective then disapproving of even a society
committing the worse atrocities becomes utterly subjective. On a more
personal level my opinion that person X should not kill me just because
they wish to has no justice claims at all and is merely and only my
preference. Would you agree with such notions? If not then why not?

> > Well, you haven't given a better paradigm yet nor has anyone else which
> > is part of why the world is awash in a sea of cultural relativism.
> You appear hostile to cultural relativism -- which, as far as I'm
> concerned, is a vitally important viewpoint that needs to be nurtured
> and cherished. (It's the best way of distinguishing fanatics from
> people who you can negotiate with: the presence of relativism is an
> indicator of flexibility.)

Really? So you believe the opinions of primitive witch doctors on the
causes and cures of diseases say are every bit as good as the latest
from scientific medicine? So it doesn't matter to you at all in
practice which is used to treat you if you fall ill? What do you mean
by "nourished and cherished"? If it means that you can't judge one as
more valid than the other in any aspects at all without being
un-nourishing then I have a problem. Flexibility in matters of what
does and doesn't work or is and isn't true is not always desirable.
Such flexibility would lead to teaching creation science as being just
as valid as evolution in our schools. Would you consider that a good
thing? If not, why not and and on what basis?

My opposition to relativism (or not) depends hugely on what is and is
not meant by that term in real situations.

- samantha

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