Last Tuesday, I posted a blog entry that generated a lot of interest among the visitors to my blog. The following is a summary of the debate so far. If you have any further comments, please feel free to post them against this entry, rather than the original.
I started the debate by saying Katy believes in a society wherein there exists one particular set of morals that is correct, and I disagree: every person maintains a set of morals, and if one person's morals differ from another person's morals, that's fine, and nobody can say one set of morals is correct and another is not.
arc followed that by saying he agrees with me, but there exist certain ideas which are universally immoral, such as taking an action that results in harm being done to another person and denying someone equal rights. He also noted the end result of this discussion might not be entirely divergent from Orwellian thought.
Katy then wrote that people can be incorrect in their evaluation of things as moral and immoral. She also noted she does not think there is an objective truth about morality, but a moral code is a system in which there exist no ideas that anybody could reasonably reject as a standard for action. She conceded there is a possibility that two people could have divergent but simultaneously correct morals in a small number of cases, but in most of these cases, the issues at stake are unimportant.
I followed up by stating arc's idea of universal immorality is good but that it still does not necessitate the formation of a standard set of morals; i.e. if something is, indeed, universally immoral, then all people will consider that thing immoral, regardless of whether it's written down anywhere. I also agreed with arc's Orwell observation in a more 1984-ish sense than an Animal Farm-ish sense. I brought up some questions about the ability for a "bad" society (e.g. Nazi Germany) to create moral standards and what the impact of that might be on its citizens.
tlt began her response by saying she is troubled by the idea that absolute sets of morals could exist. She then asserted a moral standard should evolve over time and disagreed with Katy's assertion that a judicial system is based on morals: she believes a judicial system tends to reflect the needs of a society rather than the morals of those who enforce the laws. tlt also said the concept of universal immorality may blind the society that holds those beliefs to their consequences in other societies.
Katy then stated tlt was incorrect in assuming she believed in absolute sets of morals. She said she, instead, believes there is one correct way to judge whether a set of morals is legitimate: namely, if anybody could reasonably reject it, then it is not good.
tlt offered several examples to illustrate the alleged invalidity and possible abuses of an assumption that a group in power must consider all beings which it is morally obligated to consider and related points.
phyzics used a (botched but fixed later) logical argument, based on Quine, to demonstrate that Katy's assertions imply that a moral code is subject to a tribunal of experience. He referred to this as a double-edged sword on the basis of the possible underdetermination of a moral theory based on cultural differences. He then dropped a few more names and concluded it is snobbery to assume a suitable moral code can be created by the careful study of intellectuals.
Katy responded that she could not understand why phyzics was using a logical argument to support a theory that is based on empirical evidence. She also said she believes phyzics is incorrect in his assertion that a culture is unable to create a theory that is valid across all cultures. She went on to say that, because of societal differences, it's OK for standardized morals to be applied differently across societies and thus yield different results, so long as those moral maxims are constant (I'm going to call this theory propagation now.).
phyzics's next argument was based on possibly conflicting definitions of existence and truth by way of examining the logical existential quantifier. He asserted that a group of people can, indeed, define a theory that is true across all cultures (which seems to contradict an earlier argument of his; cf. previous paragraph). He then said the concepts of right, just, and moral are subject to the tribunal of experience.
Katy, in disagreeing with phyzics's formalization of her previous idea about theory propagation, reworded her theory in logical form. She stated disagreements on the definitions of existence and truth are irrelevant to this discussion. She also asserted her theory is eminently applicable, specifically regardless of time and the evolution of human thought.
phyzics responded with a clarification of his goals: he noted a theory based on observations is only correct to within a margin of error. He also reasserted that there exists a disagreement over the definition of "existence."
OK, my head hurts now.