Rahul on relativism and moral phil -Reply

Lisa Rogers EQDOMAIN.EQWQ.LROGERS at email.state.ut.us
Mon Apr 17 10:20:16 MDT 1995

I like your questions, John.  I've wondered something similar - If I
don't have religion or some organized moral theory, how do I know
what is right or wrong?  (My father asked me this question when I
left "The Church".)

Well, I know what I like and I know what I want.  I prefer
emancipation to degradation, honesty to deceit, etc.  Maybe I don't
even know why, but I figure my desires and my conscience are probably
just as good as anybody else's.

Each of us is as worthy of / has as much right to asserting a voice
and will into political/economic activity as any capitalist, pauper,
priestess, politician, professor, welder, student, whatever.  Except
I'd like us to be starting from a position of equal power.  (Maybe
I'm some kind of democratic idealist.)

I'd like to expand the mainstream US concept of "inalienable" rights,
and maybe the constitutional bill of rights, or order to include
better education and health care, participatory democracy brought to
bear on the economy, laws to not favor the rich, etc.

So, how shall we take a step toward a better, socialist society?
It seems to me to just come down to fighting it out politically.  The
more people will ally into a larger force, the more successful we
will be.

If appeals to morals to which the audience can relate are helpful in
this effort, okay.  There are a lot of different ways to come to the
same or similar conclusion; emancipation is good, or beneficial (for
those who are emancipated) or attractive to some of us bleeding
hearts who are doing well for ourselves already, but would like to
see a "kinder, gentler" world.

But I don't expect morality talk to work very well on the ruling
class, or on anyone who stands to lose much in the short run by
supporting the revolution.  Because I've seen people use morality and
the constitution and concepts of "rights" very flexibly indeed, about
anything can be bent to support or rationalize one's own interests
(however broadly defined).  "Human rights" means property rights,
"freedom" means free to profit, "emancipation" means freedom from
environmental and labor regulations, "social responsibility" means
the oppressed are responsible for harming society, etc.

It just seems to come back to the fact that we are going to have to
fight for what we want.  I'm all for education, it's had an effect on
me, but we probably can't talk the powerful into handing over some of
the reigns [spelling intentional].

How do relativists think that others "ought" to do the same?  I don't
know.  I wish and hope that others will see the value of the
socialist vision.  I may try to talk them into it.  I point out
oppression and suffering, and try to help someone see that it is a
result of capitalism, poorism, sexism, and I suggest that it doesn't
have to be that way.  But I can't make them care.  Luckily they often
do care, at least a bit, and that is where I find a toehold, a chink,
through which some education may penetrate.

Lisa Rogers

John Walker posted:

This makes me wonder something that a recent post by Lisa also
sparked,  namely: how can you be a relativist and advocate socialist
revolution?   Or think exploitation is wrong and should be stopped?
Or any of the  things that most people on this list would very likely
assent to?  (Of  course as a relativist you can _say_ whatever you
want.  What I wonder is  how you can think others ought to do what
you advocate.)

John Walker

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