I hear many people argue that ethics would be impossible without there being an objective standard established by god. Does anyone know any good arguements around this?

I don't know why they would assume God=Moral Standard, but I don't have a really good argument against it.

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Very hard to follow the discussions here, but I think you referred to me. If you indeed believe yes, there are certain moral values to be applied to all existing human societies I would conclude you are a universialist instead of a relativist, but in the light of things, do these morals really apply to everyone?

It will only work properly if every human in every society would somehow seemingly agree on this issue, otherwise you are still pushing your moral values upon others, such as with the example of UN national rights. Who really made up these rights? Certainly not the starving Africans or the war-torn people living in the Middle-East, Westerners did. If asking these people what they really believe in, they might not agree with the national rights at all, we push it upon people for our own agenda (particularly issues regarding equality between men and women f ex).

This is what I really wanted to highlight. I don't think there is any universal moral or ethic, because it will differ so much even between individuals in the same society (just look at atheists and Christians).
It will only work properly if every human in every society would somehow seemingly agree on this issue,
The fallacy of universal agreement, a classic red herring. What is your argument that this applies here. Where else does it apply?
LeaT wrote on 10 March 2009 - "Deborah, how else are we going to judge moral or immoral actions? Don't we consider it immoral by certain African tribes to mutilate women's genitalia but not those of men (ie removing the foreskin)? "

It would be an inadequate justification to say that the mutilation of women's genitalia is wrong simply because it is against the dominant norm of my society. I would try to justify my position by appealing to values or principles (we all are human after all).

I would try to understand why it is practiced and then try to deal with the justifications for it. Is it aimed at reducing unfaithfulness? If so, is it effective at achieving this. If it isn't effective, then it should be discontinued as it is needlessly hurting women and denying them from pleasure in the future. If it is effective, why are men's genitals not mutilated as well? This is not to advocate that men's genitals should be mutilated but is rather an appeal to the principle of fairness. If it is it wrong to hurt men and deny them from pleasure in the future why is it right to do so for women. And so on and so forth. Exactly how I put the argument depends on the context in which the argument is being made, who I am arguing with and how the argument proceeds but as you can see, I am explicitly or implicitly appealing to values and principles.

Maybe I will be successful in causing some who believe in the practice to start questioning it and maybe I won't. But at least I am putting forth arguments that can be responded to in a meaningful way.

LeaT continued on 10 March 2009 -"Don't also a huge amount of americans consider personal liberation to be better than living in a collective, ie say, a society formed after a kinship structure?"

You may not necessarily think that either ways of living are immoral so the issue of ethics may not arise. If you do think that one of these ways of living is immoral, then you should provide an adequate justification as to why you think so.
The thing is, very few women who have been mutilated actually see it as the big thing we Westerners do. This is why I don't think it's fair to judge our moral values upon them at all, and basically tell them they should be angry about it. Sure, there are biological implications about it, but that's different. Point is that many women don't see it as such a big deal when it's practiced, and the women themselves uphold the ideal, not the men.

Well, when it comes to personal rights whether you live in a kinship based society or not does matter, down to how to even eat, with who, why, who to marry and so on.

But now you are basically saying that universal morals do not apply, but morals should be judged in a given context. Doesn't this contradict your previous statements?
Leat said on 13 March 2009 : "But now you are basically saying that universal morals do not apply, but morals should be judged in a given context."

Could you explain why you make this statement?
I honestly don't see any other way to answer your question as I don't believe in a metaphysical moral which would somehow be universal.
This whole thread seems to be full of unreasonable and unjustified expectations of what a objective approach in ethics entails. We have no need for metaphysical hypotheses such as god in other empirical endeavours, what is your argument that one must be requierd here in order to be objective?
Deborah wrote: Are you saying that you believe that a person should be judged moral or immoral only with respect to the norms of that person's society?

Moral relativism or universalism? Universalism is tempting, but I can see anything considered infallible to become corrupted into a godhead sooner or later.
Nano replied on 11 March - "Since morality is not a descriptive law like the speed of light or the boiling point on water at sea level, but a prescriptive one arrived at by consensus. It is only as universal as that consensus."

I think that the criminalisation of sodomy is wrong. Some people in my society, however, think that the criminalisation of sodomy is right but I still hold that the criminalisation of sodomy is wrong notwithstanding the lack of consensus on the issue. So I don't agree with you.

Regarding your query about whether I think I am infallible:- No, I don't think I am infallible. Your query surprises me.
I don't understand where you're coming from. What in your view is a complete objectivist?
I would disagree with a relativist that there are no grounds for criticizing or evaluating other cultural practices. So would you, not so?
I understand that the position of moral relativism is that an action is right or wrong only relative to the norms of particular groups. I disagree with this position. I prefer my position. If my position is an objectivist position, as you say it is, then I think relativism is a weaker position than objectivism. I am not contending that what you refer to as my "complete objectivist" position is a complete ethical theory in and of itself that will tell you whether an action is right or wrong. If you criticise other cultural practices, then obviously you must justify why you do so. In setting out my position (which you indicate you agree with) I was trying to make the point that not being a moral relativist does not mean that you are compelled to ignore context, as is sometimes stated to be the case. I hope this answers your question. If it doesn't, please let me know what you would like clarified.

My position that I put forth - i.e. that if an action is wrong for a person in one society it will also be wrong for another person in relevantly similar circumstances in another society, - doesn't mean that I don't recognise that there may be competing values which may make it difficult to decide which action is the right action. Also, when for example a court needs to balance two competing values (eg freedom of speech and protection against defamation), different courts may strike different balances. It is quite possible that I might find that two somewhat different balances are both supportable. But this issue still does not compel me to accept that a law is right just because it is in accordance with a social norm.

So I don't think I am a relativist but quite frankly I am more interested in positions than I am in labels.

I am still mystified by your criticisms of me. Could you please clarify, what, if anything, do you find offensive about my position as stated in this or in my previous posts?
It's hard for me to understand how one can provide a reasonable justification for a moral position without an appeal to universalistic / objectivist standards. In this respect I think I am in agreement with Sean's religious opponents but I don't agree that such universalistic /objectivist standards need to be establshed by a god. So I don't think that as an atheist I am obliged to be a relativist or a perspectivist and I am therefore interested in why other atheists subscribe to perspectivist or relativist positions.

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