April 26, 2005


I should be doing my project report right now, but my mind is full of thoughts after staying up into the wee hours last night and reflecting on life and the election.

I don't think there can be many people on earth who truly believe that they are an evil person, simply because then many of them would cease to function, everyone thinks that their own actions are justified.

This justification though is really just a matter of perspective, one man's justification is anothers insanity or calculated malice. We see this all the time in courts of law.

It ties into the free will vs determinism debate I guess in that in a completely determined system every action is predicated by the totality of external factors preceeding it and is thus inevitable.

On a lesser level many people are happy to accept that there are somethings that we have little or no control over such as our emotions and primative drives, which somehow leads me back to my project report… really should get on to that.

To bring it back to earth, there seem to have been many situations in my life when I have percieved actions one way only to find out later that someone else sees them in a completely different light. People are very attached to their own perspectives and I expect this is where the origin of most long running disputes lies. One man looks at the sky spitting lightning and see's an angry vengeful god punishing him, another see's an angry god punishing his neighbour and still others see a force of nature entirely explainable by science.

Often perspectives seem to me more emotionally based than rational, for example taking your friends side in an argument. Occasionally I think its fruitful to sit back and consider even your most strongly held opinions from another perspective. Think without bias why someone else might feel differently about a situation, there are probably a lot less purely evil people out there than one might expect, just people trying to get along in life.

The man who steals your wallet might be trying to feed a family of four kids, the guy who abuses you at work might have recently suffered some kind of family bereavement and the conservative candidate may really believe that his tax lowering policy is for the good of everyone.

I think that I'm going to put this under PDP since I think is a valuable life lesson in tolerance, something that I used to be accused once of having very little of. A change in me if you like.

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  1. Gordon R

    Sorry, I am anonymous. But – moral relativism. Always an interesting debate.

    26 Apr 2005, 15:52

  2. Perhaps, but this relativism is not just reserved for morality and also most people don't see their opinions/perspectives as relative they see them as the right absolute one.

    26 Apr 2005, 16:08

  3. I hate relativism almost as much as Prof Trigg himself. In a way, however, I'm inclined to agree with a lot of what you've said Mr Lawrence, as ever. As regards your personal life, I have no idea, given that my encounters of you have been scarce, albeit highly enjoyable and, undoubtedly, spiritually profitable. Even open-minded people can be very narrow-minded about particular issues that they hold passionately.

    However, more often than not, there is an arbiter to determine which, if any, of the perspectives on either side of a certain issue is correct. There are objective facts – I may argue that Reading are better than Chelsea at football, but a run through all the various facts (inferior skill, smaller squad size, worse coaches etc.) will show me that I am wrong. Some issues are unresolvable, but often it is better to consult an external, indifferent judge in order to acquire a more rounded perspective on events. I know I've needed to do that on many occasions, and 99 times out of 4, it has proved hugely beneficial. Fortunately for me, I am notoriously right, so I rarely need anybody's help for anything.

    26 Apr 2005, 16:41

  4. Gordon R

    There are indeed many forms of relativism. And indeed it is a tricky subject, so paradoxical and incoherent. And if absolute moral relativism was the higher order then we'd never get anywhere. A paradox already, it could never be the higher order as absolute relativism wouldn't allow it (well that's malign relativism – ie no agreement on anything or is it benign – agreement on everything, confused). Re the determining arbiter I think it was Brecht who said "only someone inside a situation can judge it, and he's (sic) the last person who can judge". But then Brecht was a modernist, relativism can just get too wacky and postmodern.

    26 Apr 2005, 16:55

  5. Carly B

    A very good blog. And I am a fan of relativism, I've had many an argument with Simon Lucas about this.

    26 Apr 2005, 18:52

  6. m

    your little island is awsome. however this entry was far too moral for my liking, and since you're at it; you feel it was too moral for you as well.

    /wedding guest only in it for the cake. yum.

    26 Apr 2005, 22:38

  7. I recently had an experience where I realised I'd not considered something from the other perspective, and how it made a lot of sense from their side.

    I've forgotten what else I had to say. Oh well, cool post.

    27 Apr 2005, 17:37

  8. Warren

    James, the trouble with open minded people is that they're very closed minded when it comes to narrow minded people…

    Many a time have I bemoaned comrades that refuse to see an issue from more than one angle. I usually then go on to write them off as intellectually 2-dimensional.

    27 Apr 2005, 22:29

  9. Francesca@nethere.com

    Notice one cannot put forth relativism without using absolutes?! While life is certainly grey and a thoughtful person does not make snap judgments, thinking involves the hard and sensitive work of unscrambling the black from the white and revising one's position if new information is presented. (moral objectivism, not absolutism)
    However, the institutions that many made great sacrifices to reach, at one point existed to feed and free the mind not indoctirnate the once opem minded and conscientious into hard left dogma-of which the relativism of major universities is the greatest blow hard. In a zero sum game, critical thinking has become conflated with mean spirited bad manners. Now confused with therapy, discussion is merely a pointless exploration of one's feelings (which unlike thoughts can fluctuate with your blood sugar and are the least likely to be truest to ones self-that's O.K. because as with cultic induction, so much of this indoctrination is about permanently beating down the individual.) or solipsistic emotional mastrubation. Meanwhile the ironies and hypocrasies of political correctness rear their entitled little heads as those who are appointed authenticly wronged are granted an unlimited stage for badgering and branding their views upon others.

    01 Sep 2005, 21:05

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