Moral Relativists Masquerading as Moral Absolutists

Many people mistake multilogical reasoning as moral relativism, and think that monological reasoning is moral absolutism, because multilogical reasoning takes a complex multilayered view of the world coupled with the humility to know there’s always more to learn, while monological reasoning is much more black and white, and appears sure of itself. However, monological reasoning (see definitions further below), which is black and white logic, is often informed by emotionally motivated reasoning and rationalizations, which makes it subject to manipulation, guilt, shame, seduction, fear, etc., making it more subjective, and thus relativistic, while multilogical reasoning, which is reasoning with depth, breadth, precision, clarity, relevance, accuracy, and fairmindedness, is more aligned with moral absolutism, and sees the world through a much more complex lens, where possible solutions must match the complexity of the problems being examined. When the burden of evidence and multilogical reasoning points to something being moral, than you can rest in the absolute certainty that the stance is indeed moral.

Monological (one-dimensional) thinking/reasoning often goes hand in hand with egocentric oversimplification, which is:

Egocentric Oversimplification – the natural tendency to ignore real and important complexities in the world in favor of simplistic notions when consideration of those complexities would require us to modify our beliefs or values. ~Richard Paul & Linda Elder, “The Miniature Guide to the Human Mind

Yesterday, I met a person who claimed to be an occultist and mystic, but he had a bad case of black and white (monological) thinking, which is a manner of thinking connected to psychological enmeshment and codependency, and it is a psychological state that lends itself to collectivism. For instance, his morality was black and white, such as “you do such and such, therefore you’re a satanic piece of trash and a horrible person”. He was judging an entire person (me) on one choice/action that’s debatable anyway, and not judging me on my overall character and level of integration; there was little complexity or nuance to his arguments, it was all just a simplistic black and white judgment to him. 

As mentioned, black and white thinking is a character trait and marker for psychological enmeshment and codependency. There’s very little self-mastery possible in such psychological states of being, therefore any so-called occultist, philosopher, or mystic demonstrating such traits would be so in name only, and are effectively equivalent to a child playing house who’s pretending to be an adult. At the most, they’re larping occultism, philosophy, and mysticism, but to actually achieve even a beginning state of intellectual and mystical attunement, they’d have to go within to work through and examine the complexities of their own Self, heal emotionally, integrate the various lessons and layers being reflected to them by life, and differentiate themselves enough to perceive the complexities and nuances of life.

Moral Absolutism “is an ethical view that particular actions are intrinsically right or wrong. Stealing, for instance, might be considered to be always immoral, even if done for the well-being of others, and even if it does in the end promote such a good. ~Wikipedia

Moral Relativism “may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures.” ~Wikipedia

Here’s another problem, they’ve confused feeling absolutely certain of something’s morality, with it actually being objectively true, but feelings aren’t always integrated in with rationality and objectivity, therefore one’s subjective state of certainty is not synonymous nor always aligned with objective truth. Being absolutely certain of something because one has systematically built a holistic viewpoint based upon multiple points of view and frames of reference, including those that cross multiple disciplines and domains, is far superior to being absolutely certain of something from a one dimensional, theoretical, and often emotionally led point of view; especially when it fails to address the depth and breadth necessary to contain a practical and sustainable solution. Certainty can therefore be well informed by balanced emotional states and reason, or ill informed by only emotion.

Let’s examine some definitions:

Monological (one-dimensional) problems: Problems that can be solved by reasoning exclusively within one point of view or frame of reference. For example, consider the following problems: 1) Ten full crates of walnuts weigh 410 pounds, whereas an empty crate weighs 10 pounds. How much do the walnuts alone weigh?; and 2) In how many days of the week does the third letter of the day’s name immediately follow the first letter of the day’s name in the alphabet? These problems, and the means by which they are solved, are called “monological.” They are settled within one frame of reference with a definite set of logical moves. When the right set of moves is performed, the problem is settled. The answer or solution proposed can be shown by standards implicit in the frame of reference to be the “right” answer or solution.

Most important human problems are multilogical rather than monological — nonatomic problems inextricably joined to other problems — with some conceptual messiness to them and very often with important values lurking in the background. When the problems have an empirical dimension, that dimension tends to have a controversial scope. In multilogical problems, it is often arguable how some facts should be considered and interpreted, and how their significance should be determined. When they have a conceptual dimension, there tend to be arguably different ways to pin the concepts down.

Though life presents us with predominantly multilogical problems, schooling today over-emphasizes monological problems. Worse, and more frequently, present instructional practices treat multilogical problems as though they were monological. The posing of multilogical problems, and their consideration from multiple points of view, play an important role in the cultivation of critical thinking and higher order learning.

Monological (one-dimensional) thinking: Thinking that is conducted exclusively within one point of view or frame of reference: figuring out how much this $67.49 pair of shoes with a 25% discount will cost me; learning what signing this contract obliges me to do; finding out when Kennedy was elected President. A person can think monologically whether or not the question is genuinely monological. (For example, if one considers the question, “Who caused the Civil War?” only from a Northerner’s perspective, one is thinking monologically about a multilogical question.)

The strong sense critical thinker avoids monological thinking when the question is multi-logical. Moreover, higher order learning requires multi-logical thought, even when the problem is monological (for example, learning a concept in chemistry), since students must explore and assess their original beliefs to develop insight into new ideas.

Multilogical (multi-dimensional) problems: Problems that can be analyzed and approached from more than one, often from conflicting, points of view or frames of reference. For example, many ecological problems have a variety of dimensions to them: historical, social, economic, biological, chemical, moral, political, etc. A person comfortable thinking about multilogical problems is comfortable thinking within multiple perspectives, in engaging in dialogical and dialectical thinking, in practicing intellectual empathy, in thinking across disciplines and domains. See monological problems, the logic of questions, the logic of disciplines, intellectual empathy, dialogical instruction.

Multilogical thinking: Thinking that sympathetically enters, considers, and reasons within multiple points of view. See multilogical problems, dialectical thinking, dialogical instruction.

Dialogical thinking [is] thinking that involves a dialogue or extended exchange between different points of view or frames of reference. Students learn best in dialogical situations, in circumstances in which they continually express their views to others and try to fit other’s views into their own.

Dialectical Thinking [is] dialogical thinking (thinking within more than one perspective) conducted to test the strengths and weaknesses of opposing points of view. (Court trials and debates are, in a sense, dialectical.) When thinking dialectically, reasoners pit two or more opposing points of view in competition with each other, developing each by providing support, raising objections, countering those objections, raising further objections, and so on. Dialectical thinking or discussion can be conducted so as to “win” by defeating the positions one disagrees with — using critical insight to support one’s own view and pointing out flaws in other views (associated with critical thinking in the restricted or weak sense), or fairmindedly, by conceding points that don’t stand up to critique, trying to integrate or incorporate strong points found in other views, and using critical insight to develop a fuller and more accurate view (associated with critical thinking in the fuller or strong sense).

The masses have been conditioned by didactic schooling to be monological in their thinking, and then they parrot phrases like “prove it”, “empirical evidence”, “not an argument”, “objective morality”, and “scientific fact” without realizing that they are the intellectual and psychological equivalent of a toddler. It’s important to objectively look at all of the viewpoints without being dismissive, and using dialogical thinking, filter what does and does not work with our discernment, and integrate that which is reasonable into our viewpoints. If we dismiss a viewpoint from the start, we may miss out on some important clues and puzzle pieces that may be required to formulate a more complete reasoned judgment on the subject matter.

Fact, Opinion, and Reasoned Judgment – “When critical thinking is introduced into the classroom — and very often it is not — it is often approached monologically, for example, by having students divide a set of statements into “facts” and “opinions”. Unfortunately, a taxonomy that divides all beliefs into either facts or opinions leaves out the most important category: reasoned judgment. Most important issues are not simply matters of fact, nor are they essentially matters of faith, taste, or preference. They are matters that call for reasoned reflection. They are matters that can be understood from different points of view through different frames of reference. We can, and many different people do, approach them with different assumptions, ideas and concepts, priorities, and ends in view. The tools of critical thinking enable us to grasp genuine strengths and weaknesses in thought only when they are analytically applied to divergent perspectives in dialectical contexts. Dialogical and dialectical experience enables us to develop a sense of what is most reasonable. Monological rules do not.” ~Richard Paul,

As covered earlier, these black and white one dimensional thinkers are posing as moral absolutists, and they often resort to name calling when they run out of reasonable arguments, or maybe as a first response due to their lack of a coherent argument in the first place. In the midst of their moralistic tirade and inquisition, they seem to believe that they are being moral and reasonable in their accusations and judgmentalness.  Unfortunately, they are merely resorting to ad hominems, which is a logical fallacy (error in logic), and this implies that they’re not being objectively moral after all, but rather subjectively moral, because they used an error in logic to justify their desired outcomes.  One cannot be a moral absolutist and resort to name calling, because moral absolutism is based on objective moral principles grounded in reason. Name calling that attacks the personality as a form of argumentation is a logical fallacy and irrational—it is therefore relativistic.

“Observe which side resorts to the most vociferous name-calling and you are likely to have identified the side with the weaker argument and they know it.” ~Charles R. Anderson

It’s Often Machiavellian
Those willing to project shame, guilt, and other manipulative tactics, either through name calling, character assassination and emotionally charged judgments, or other more subtle means, are behaving in a Machiavellian manner, which is one of the three dark character traits associated with the Dark Triad of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy.  Such people believe that the means of attacking the personality of another person is justified due to their humane and Utopian end goals (Machiavellianism = the ends justify the means), unfortunately, this is just another rationalization, and gives them a sense of unearned moral superiority—which is the feeling of being superior without actually working the process necessary to master one’s own thinking and being. After all, one can actually be morally superior to another person, but only if they’ve actually worked the process of self-reflection and psychological integration that would cause them to be morally superior in comparison to another person.

Integral Psychology
From an integral psychology perspective, they’re making what is known as the “pre-trans fallacy“, which is when someone thinks they are more advanced than they actually are, because they act like they think an enlightened person in the trans-personal state of being might act. The problem with those who make this fallacy is that they are 1) self-deluded, and 2) they never actually worked through the rational/personal process needed to achieve self-mastery, in order to move into the trans-personal state of being. Basically, it’s like when children play house and act like mommy and daddy, but they’re just mimicking their parents, as they’re not actually taking personal responsibility a parent must, nor are they mature or old enough to be parents—because they’re still children. At least children typically realize that they’re still children, and know they’re just playing—those making the pre/trans fallacy often do not.

Morality is Objective
According to Ayn Rand and other mystics / philosophers, morality is objective and grounded in reason, also known as natural law or the law of reason.

“A rational process is a moral process. You may make an error at any step of it, with nothing to protect you but your own severity, or you may try to cheat, to fake the evidence and evade the effort of the quest – but if devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” ~Ayn Rand

If reason is connected to morality, then a lack of reason would be connected to a lack of morality; to the degree that one is rational, and has developed rational emotional states, would be the degree to which one is a moral person. Irrationality is synonymous with egocentrism, which is a self-validating form of logic known as rationalization.

“Human rationality is fair-minded and self-developing while irrationality (or egocentrism) is selfish and self-validating. All irrationality presupposes some degree of unconsciousness in order to function self-deceptively. Most rational thought functions consciously. Because irrationality appears to the mind as reasonable, we must develop strategies for disclosing irrational thought.” ~Richard Paul & Linda Elder, “The Miniature Guide to the Human Mind

In conclusion monological black and white thinkers, at least the ones who claim to be moral absolutists, are really just the other side of the morally relativistic coin, in that they think they stand for absolute truth and morality, but in fact stand for a one dimensional facade of truth and morality. Truth is complex and messy, layered with dimensions and viewpoints to explore and integrate; to claim truth is black and white is simple minded, egocentric, irrational, and naive, and worse yet, it could be associated with codependency, enmeshment, and Machiavellian tendencies.  It’s morally relative because it picks one monologically derived viewpoint and accepts it as the whole truth, rather than seeing the big multilogical picture made up of multiple frames of reference, viewpoints, domains, and disciplines.

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