[lit-ideas] Re: Tittles--a change of title

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2008 12:43:29 -0230

Quoting John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>:

> On Fri, Jun 13, 2008 at 3:24 AM, <wokshevs@xxxxxx> wrote:

> >
> > Of course, some will
> > claim that "morality" is culture-specific and hence, that moral judgements
> > cannot but be culturally relative. That transcendental claim I believe to
> > be
> > false. (If you make the relativist claim, are you not also claiming the
> > truth
> > of that claim?)

To which John McC goes:

> To me, this argument smells of the straw man. There is no necessary
> contradiction between the claim that moral judgments cannot but be
> culturally relative and the transcendental claim that, for example, all
> moral judgments involve human dignity and what is owing to it.

In reply, WO goes: Let's chase this one down first. Both claims are
transcendental claims. The claims are contradictory claims, as per the Square
of Opposition. Hence they cannot both be true (or false). The matter of
cultural and historical variability in understandings of "human" or "dignity"
that John McC addresses below is not relevant, as far as I can see, to
resolving the putative smell of straw here. But I do detect a whiff of red
herring in the air. (Ouch, I know. Sorry.) 

With Denmark on his mind,

Walter O.


> Consider, for example, John W's statement that
> At some point, after sufficiently competent and careful analysis, we have to
> decide if the taboo against "incest" is good or bad.
> Yes, this is a judgment that we will have to make. Note, however, his
> qualification.
>  (Often this takes the form of deciding what is or is not "incest." We
> decide that second cousins marrying really isn't "incest," meaning it's OK,
> but that parent/child marriages are incest, meaning not OK.)
> How to we decide that? By appeal to some culturally specific rule, e.g., sex
> with parallel cousins (cousins related through all male or all female ties)
>   is incest, but sex with cross-cousins (cousins related through a mixture
> of male and female ties) is OK.
> The same sort of qualification applies with equal force to "human dignity."
> Nothing is more common in the ethnographic record than variation in local
> rules concerning who is human and who is not. A simple test case is what
> counts as murder? To kill one of us, the humans, is murder. To kill one of
> them, the others, is not murder; it isn't even homocide. It is no more
> reprehensible than killing an animal, for food, the thrill of the hunt, or
> simply to get rid of a pest. Even those of us who embrace the notion of
> universal human rights may find it acceptable to kill an enemy or even
> someone who happens to get in the way and become "collateral damage" in the
> course of a just war.  We can assert with pure intention that human beings
> are, as such, deserving of a respect that protects life and limb. But in
> practical situations, we decide who is or is not "human" based on local
> criteria. The universal moral principle, treat human beings with dignity,
> only becomes moral action through decisions on who counts as human, and that
> may be debatable.
> John
> -- 
> John McCreery
> The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
> Tel. +81-45-314-9324
> http://www.wordworks.jp/

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