Monday, September 27, 2010

A letter from Aphonia to Poetic Justice

Dear PJ,

The second sex is feeling very inspired by your (obiter)dictum, but don't be deluded yourself as if you've spawned some aphorism. Oppression, inequality, serfdom and injustice are stare decisis with all other instances where aphonia has prevailed. My domain expands verily, just as your universe.

Yours sincerely,

Poetic Justice

Mulatto's, Quadroon's and Octaroon's: vindicated, empowered, victorious, free.

-there are no more entries-
Please check back soon.
Yours sincerely,
Poetic Justice in 2010.

Mr Quagmire on Sleep

Fajr rings in my ear as the obedient dash to prayer mats,
My hour eratic, theirs: an expedition of faith,
Censured for inebriation I become a quagmire,
Intoxicated I reiterate: sleep is free but I'm done for now.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Distinction Between Morality and Ethics (Part 3)

In my previous post, I discussed one metaethical theory of ethics- Relativism- in greater detail . The following post will be dedicated to discussing another metaethical theory: "Subjectivism" that is also known as "Individual Subjectivism (Expressivism)".

Individual Subjectivism (Expressivism):

SUBJECTIVISTS believe that moral beliefs and judgements are the expressions of the individual's feelings, attitudes, desires or preferences- what makes a belief or judgement morally right or wrong, good or evil, is the subjective approval or disapproval of the individual - what is right for me or wrong for me.

If I say, 'The honour killing of women is a grave moral evil', I really mean, 'I disapprove of the honour killing of women', or 'I hate honour killing of women', or 'I wish people would stop such killing', or 'Boo to honour killing'. This is why the simplest form of Subjectivism is called Emotivism which is sometimes called the 'Boo-Hooray' theory.  

The initial plausibility of Subjectivism arrives from three realizations:

1) Morality is clearly connected with strong feelings as the example of the sexual abuse of children would show us.

2)  If moral beliefs are expressions of feelings then we can easily explain moral motivation e.g: Ali doesn't care if his future bride is a virgin or not because he himself isn't and he hates nothing more than double standards.

3) The moral life has this essential subjective aspect. I must finally make my own judgements as to what is the right thing to do, and I must make my own decision based on that judgement. We regard those who say about a moral issue they face, 'You decide for me', as having failed in their moral responsibility.

Problems with Subjectivism:

1) As with relativism , there appears to be no grounds for rational argument about moral matters and no place for the idea that anyone could be wrong or mistaken in their moral beliefs and judgements- how could I be wrong in my feeling that trance music is abhorrent any more than I could be wrong in my judgement that  biryani is delicious? Morality seems to be reduced to a question of taste. So again: what sense can we make of moral argument?

2) Our everyday moral language does not appear to be about my individual expressions of feelings or my interests or preferences. If I say, 'The Holocaust was a terrible evil', this seems to be a straightforward statement that is true. And when I say so-and-so is cruel and spiteful, or arrogant and pompous, or a coward and a traitor, am I speaking about my feelings or preferences? Or am I appealing to the common moral meanings and shared moral understanding- to something objective?

3) Can matters of justice be subjective? Would a racist judge be justified in putting a minority member of society in prison because they feel better about doing that?

4) Can't we always ask of any feeling or preference: Is this feeling appropriate? Is this preference justified? A person may express the same outrage about nose-picking in public as they do about rape- does that mean that both are equally bad? Aren't our moral feelings ( what we care about and praise, what we find outrageous and condemn) always subject to critical judgements? - 'Are you serious?!' 'You are just being sentimental."

Part 4 of this post will look at Humean Subjectivism or Universalism for further understanding of Subjectivism.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Attic Wit

The intrusions
in the mind of all emotions,
opinions come to plead
Its must be
the bitter and the fallen
who face the mirror
Into reflections stare
Ultimatums and imaginations
of us,

As ones who possess
and ones
who become possessions
We drift further along
Shelving thoughts
in rooms unkempt

in words explain
the soulful journey as
tales of and the aftermath
of perceptions self involved

In the army
of words and visions
we become
Parallels of comparisons
Of the happy to happiness
Sad to the miserable
Staring into oblivion
of our own solitary qualms

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Distinction Between Morality and Ethics (Part 2)

The widespread disagreement between different cultures on ethical matters and the fact that moral norms change over time even within the one community indicates that moral judgements are conventional rather than objective judgements. However, we can argue all we want about moral questions but finally when we are faced with moral choices we are guided by our feelings. Does this provide a good reason for us to accept individual subjectivism as the nature of moral judgements? It seems now that it is only pertinent that we discuss metaethics in greater detail, so I will invest some time towards the cause of elaborating on the theories of the nature of moral judgements.

In daily discussions about moral issues, we say things like "I think public lynching is a bad thing", or "the honour killing of women is a terrible evil", or "There is nothing morally wrong with homosexuality"; making these statements sound similar to factual judgements like "Water is composed of H2O", or "Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan", or "The Baadshahi Masjid is in Lahore", or "Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist". However, factual statements are always universally true- true for everyone and anyone regardless of their cultural background or what their feelings about that matter are, but obviously we cannot test the truth of moral judgements in a similar manner. So what is the nature of moral judgements? Are they in any sense factual? Can they be universally true or false? or are they simply social conventions or perhaps expressions of subjective feelings or desires or preferences?

The Socratic view that moral benefit and harm can be distinguished from natural benefit and harm does not help us with these questions. For even if we accept the Socratic view, we still have to ask whether there are any universal standards of moral right and wrong- any moral truths or facts. There are three basic views about this issue- Ethical Relativism, Ethical Subjectivism and Ethical Objectivism. Relativism and Subjectivism (at least in its most common form) both say that moral beliefs and judgements are nothing like factual judgements and so there can be no moral truths and no universal standards of right and wrong. Objectivism says that moral beliefs and judgements are like factual judgements in important ways and so there can be moral truths and universal standards.

Metaethical theories of Ethics:

A) Relativism: moral beliefs and judgements are social conventions and the product of a particular community's history: what makes a belief or judgement morally right or wrong, good or evil, is the approval or disapproval of the community- what is right for us or wrong for us.

The initial plausibility of Relativism arrives from two realizations:
Firstly, the widespread differences between the moral beliefs and practices of particular societies and secondly, the changes in moral beliefs in the same society over time- the rejection of slavery in America for example.

Problems with Relativism:

1) There are no grounds for arguing against the perceived evils of other societies such as, South African Apartheid, tribal female circumcision, or against the perceived evils of our own community- how can a convention be mistaken? Does relativism take account of moral argument?

2) Morality according to relativism seems to be reduced to a majority view- the majority might is right; alternatively, at least in modern societies, morality is splintered into the conflicting beliefs of the many sub-groups that compose our community (how widespread does a belief have to be before it is a convention?)

3) If a relativist says that we should tolerate the moral conventions of other societies or groups, there is the danger of self-contradiction- is tolerance a universal moral principle or irself only a convention of the Relativist community? Also, what of the view that Relativism is incorrect, should we tolerate that view or not?

4) If the Relativist goes on to claim that all forms of judgement and belief, factual and scientific as well as moral, are merely social conventions, then we can ask whether this judgement- that all judgements are conventional- is itself only a social convention. And if it is, why should we accept it as true?

...more later