He’s so nonjudgemental it’s unbelievable.

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Discussion (52)¬

  1. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Another form of insanity
    This time call it “moral relevancy”
    What does it mean?
    Nothing relevant seen
    Words to fill a conversational cavity.

  2. Robert Andrews says:

    A way to slide out of that would be to say “I don’t know!”. Or “are you about to judge me for any answer”? Best I could do.

  3. Matt says:

    Neatly summarises the problem for those namby pampy relativists. Alternatively one could say that moral relativism is itself an absolutist judgement.

    Me? Well I suppose I’m a relativist. I think that religious people who lived hundreds of years ago, or who live in the modern world, but have very limited access to information, are not necessarily complete morons.

  4. Someone says:

    This reminds me of a line from Terry Pratchett’s Pyramids:
    “The trouble with you, Ibid, is that you think you’re the biggest bloody authority on everything.”

  5. machigai says:

    I waited and waited.
    But no blink.

  6. WalterWalcarpit says:

    I’m still giggling at this one.

    Machigai, it would have been worth the wait. Those eyes look do look so ready to blink – but if they had done would it not have belied the final pane?

  7. Robert Andrews says:

    One could also shine a light on their bible. And ask them what they think of the ‘word of God’, in reference to the passages below. You could get the retort “that’s meant for another time”-I have! So I guess the word of God is relative too?

    For example:
    Leviticus 20:13, says the adulterers and gay should be killed.
    Exodus 22:18, says “don’t allow sorcerers to live”.

  8. mpsi says:

    Another form of hypocrisy exposed! Thank you, author!

    (On second thought, this comic feels almost Zen-like if you try to find a correct answer.)

  9. Ford Prefect says:

    You misspelled JUDGMENTAL πŸ™

  10. FreeFox says:

    Don’t judge him, Ford Prefect.

  11. Fun seeing Jesus and Mo making a good argument point.
    Am I a moral relativist? I guess so. I think the correct moral position takes the consequences into account. And this makes me much better than all those moral absolutists of the kind who would banish a child for coming out as gay. Definitely better than them.
    But who says a moral relativist can’t be judgmental? Any moral relativist who says they don’t judge people is actually a moral absolutist. Absolutely.

    Freefox, I envy your ability to be witty in a pithy way. That’s a judgement, eh.

  12. DC Toronto says:

    Darwin, I was perusing the “randon oldie” button yesterday and came across a comment where you referenced a site with 50 proofs that god is imaginary. What a great site! I spent an hour enjoying some of the proofs and wanted to thank you for pointing it out. I’d gladly buy you a pint to say thanks … alas likely just at the cock and bull … but cheers anyway.

  13. DC Toronto, you’re welcome. And a virtual pint serves just fine.

  14. Some Dude says:

    @Ford Perfect Actually, both ways of spelling that word are correct. Author used the British one, unsurprisingly.

    Check it out:

  15. Son of Glenner says:

    As Some Dude points out, J&M is of UK origin. So, why is it, when I go to Patreon to try to make a small donation by way of financial support, everything is expressed in $? Perhaps Author could enlighten me. BTW, I am not passing judgement/judgment on Patreon – just saying.

  16. Author says:

    Son of Glenner, I’m not sure why that is. I’m guessing it’s because Patreon is an American company with an American bank account, and accepting other currencies would be too expensive and/or complicated. I like dollars at the moment, as the exchange rate is favourable. But I can see why it’s off-putting for foreign currency Patrons, as the amount they give each month will vary with their currency’s value against the dollar.

  17. Son of Glenner says:

    Thanks, Author. So, is there any way to make a small contribution in Β£, without going through/thru Patreon?

  18. Author says:

    Not really, but it doesn’t matter. Just keep reading and sharing and commenting!

  19. “Judgment” is supposed to be the preferred US spelling but I hate it, myself. (Look how judgy I am.) The g needs an e so that it’s not the g in dog or leg or Zog!

  20. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I think Judge Mental used to sit at the High Court. Some of the verdicts handed down there over the years certainly don’t rule out the possibility.

  21. jb says:

    If you aren’t making judgements, you aren’t thinking.

  22. Someone says:

    @jb, absolutely. It goes hand-in-hand with how we form our personalities.
    Whenever people tell me I’m too judgemental, I shrug it off because I have every right to be. As do we all.

    How you behave after making said judgements, of course, is critical in displaying to the world what kind of person you really are. Which is why I’d prefer people think I’m picky rather than vacuous.

  23. pink squirrel says:

    Moral relativism -a strange idea -so if I murder 1 person does that make me more moral than someone who kills 2

  24. dr John de Wipper says:

    That answer was already given by Joseph Stalin:
    “One kill is murder; one million kills is just a statistic.”

  25. pink squirrel, the number of murders has nothing to do with moral relativism, at least in my understanding of the term. Murdering one person for personal gain is as immoral as murdering ten people for personal gain.
    Moral relativism comes in when somebody murders in a situation where murder could be justified. I’m not sure what circumstance might qualify, since going back in time to murder Hitler is just a fantasy. But we do have the concept of justifiable homicide.

  26. jb says:

    DH — Here’s is a situation I’ve sometimes used as an example of where a killing might be considered both murder and justified. Imagine you are living in a place and time where the rule of law is ineffectual or nonexistent. For one reason or another a bad man is threatening to kill you and your family, and you have good reason to believe he isn’t bluffing. So you resolve the situation by finding a way to sneak up behind him when he thinks he’s safe and putting a couple of bullets in his back.

    This sure looks like murder to me. A moral absolutist might argue that such an act is always wrong, while a relativist might argue that in this particular instance it is justified. I know what my answer would be, but it’s not something I see much point in arguing, because I see no way to prove to anyone else that my position is right or wrong. Which I guess makes me a relativist. I can prove (or at least provide evidence) that my physics is right by pointing to an airplane that is actually flying. But how does one prove that one’s morality is right?

  27. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    An odd thing, this morality. jb, I’d find it hard to morally justify your example because I think that the action of shooting someone in the back is – at the risk of sounding terribly British – unfair; just not cricket, old man, and all that. It’s a purely visceral reaction on my part, but it is, I believe, the same feeling that is behind a lot of soldiers’ dislike of snipers – even those on their own side.
    However, I wouldn’t hesitate to accept the morality behind killing the enemy in response to an immediate threat to your own safety. Either way, the enemy is dead, so why should it matter if he died in a pre-emptive ‘hit’ or in a direct confrontation, when both could be successfully argued to be justified self-defence (morally, if not legally)? I don’t know, I suppose our morals are a personal thing.

  28. Donn says:

    I think you might agree that morals as much a cultural thing, as personal. Your ideas about shooting a man in the back – that really makes no sense, am I right? Unless as a necessary part of a larger whole that does make sense, in the way that cultures make sense.

  29. Someone says:

    I believe Dexter covered the morality of killing murderers pretty well (despite becoming tonally chaotic in the last few seasons).
    If they truly deserve it, then it’s justified. That doesn’t mean however that there won’t be consequences for someone who takes the law into their own hands, especially when they know how to circumvent it.
    Funny how the morality of a sociopath was portrayed as more clear cut (no pun intended) than those of a regular, law-abiding individual.

  30. Graham ASH-PORTER says:

    Consequences of Judging are horrendous!

  31. Jim Baerg says:

    AoS: “unfair; just not cricket, old man”
    I suppose I regard ‘fair’ as now people treat each other so as not to get into violent confrontations in the 1st place. One a fight has started ‘fair’ is gone.

  32. FreeFox says:

    Fuck. I sometimes wish the Cock and Bull had a more private back room. Sometimes there are topics I wouldn’t mind talking a bit more in depth about with you guys. I have a bit to say – and actually more to ask – about this week’s “moral quandry”, but not in the front room where anyone can walk in and listen. Ah well, I guess no matter how many pints you have, a pub remains a public place, eh? 6~6

    But maybe this much, jb: There is more to moral action than moral thought. Whether you think some absolute code prohibts murder in all cases, or moral pragmatism convinces you, that murder is the best solution, in either case you are forced to look either the future victims of the perp in the eye if you let him continue unhindered, or the man himself if you decide to confront him. You have to hear the wails of relatives, and feel the recoil of a gun or warm blood on your hands. You have to see them when you close your own eyes at night. You have to wonder what might have been had you chosen differently. In reality, you have to deal with feelings and consequences just as much as with principles and actions. I say, anyone who can still claim to be either a moral absolutist or a moral relativist hasn’t actually been in a situation where he had to make that choice.

  33. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Shame there’s no after hours ‘lock-in’ here, FreeFox, that’s a conversation I’d be interested in having.

  34. Son of Glenner says:

    SPOILER ALERT – MAY CONTAIN PEDANTRY: AoS: Re after hours “lock-in”: As the regulars here in the C&B are based in many different longitudes, at least as far East as Netherlands and at least as far West as Vancouver, there is no real closing hour for the pub. So drJdW’s sundowner is knocked back about the same time as DH’s breakfast snifter! Please all have a virtual pint/nip/glass of wine on me, at whatever local time suits you. Here’s to you!

  35. Ah, Freefox, you are such an eloquent writer. I do enjoy discussions with you.

    I’m not sure how anybody can get to my rather advanced age without encountering situations involving a decision whether to be a moral absolutist or a moral relativist. We always leap to the extreme position on this issue, and talk of murders and murderers. “You have to hear the wails of relatives, and feel the recoil of a gun or warm blood on your hands,” as you put it. But there are countless decisions we make which are far less gore drenched.

    Take honesty as an example. I think we can all agree that honesty is a virtue we would like to embody. But then there’s the phrase “brutally honest”. That’s a bridge too far for me. I try to be honest when it serves a worthy purpose, or when presenting my authentic self. But at the funeral of a teenager who died by snow boarded down a tree hole, and faced with the grieving devout Catholic parents, I’m not about to tell them that he’s definitely not with Jesus now. That just didn’t seem like the appropriate place for an honest expression of my beliefs.

    So, Freefox, I have no doubt that I have “actually been in a situation where (I) had to make that choice”. In a far more trivial way than pulling the trigger on somebody, to be sure. But I have no doubt in my mind that I am a moral relativist. I know myself well enough to know that in a more serious situation, a life and death situation, I would make the morally relative decision. Watching my mother die, and considering whether to relieve her suffering, but shorten her life, or make her hang on to existence to the bitter end and postpone the inevitable, is another example that comes to mind. I have no regrets.

  36. FreeFox says:

    So you would say that you would never stick to a principle just out of principle? There is no definitive line you’d draw in the sand. Practicality and compromise are the only rule you live by? The end justifies the means in all cases? And you are never plagued by doubts about past decisions, you are always certain that you found the best course, or at least that there is no point crying over spilt milk, so you rise and greet every day with new resolve to soldier on to the next practical compromise…? Somehow I find that hard to believe, mate. ^_^

  37. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, to re-hash an old saying, there’s no point in being the most principled body in the graveyard.

  38. dr John de Wipper says:

    On principles:
    I once heard someone say “my basic principle is not to be too strict on principles”.
    I agreed enough to make it mine too.

  39. LD50 says:

    Technical problem here: I’ve been going through the comics from the beginning (including the comments!) using the ‘next’ button.

    But, at “used” (23.7.14) I get stuck. It just links to a list of years (2005 – 2017). These aren’t active links (at least, for me). I’m using an iPhone.

    I could go backwards from this strip, but I’d prefer to go through chronologically.

    Anyone have a link to a strip slightly later in 2014?

    For LISP programmers: linked lists suck! πŸ™‚

    PS. I know CL has arrays and I like LISP
    PPS. xkcd has numbered strips. J&Mo will run out of words one day. Just saying…

  40. LD50 says:

    Solved. I just tried and it works! πŸ™‚

  41. Author says:

    Thanks for letting me know about this glitch, LD50. I think I’ve fixed it now – something to do with the comic after “used” having only numerical characters in the URL, rather than its actual name.

  42. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    LD50 said “J&Mo will run out of words one day. Just saying…”
    Well, it’s been 2000 years for J, a few hundred less for Mo, and the buggers are still going strong.

  43. Donn says:

    The line in the sand is a favorite of writers, because it’s so interesting when you draw it, and then find you’re on the wrong side of it. DH seems to trust himself to do the right thing, to achieve the right end. “The end justifies the means” has a nasty ring to it because you know so many of the ends aren’t going to be counted in the equation. I’m not saying there’s always a good answer, when there’s an honest accounting of the outcomes, but then we’ve got those moral codes to fall back on too.

    Don’t know how much that has to do with moral relativism, though. Isn’t that where we excuse the horrors of some society because of their honor-based ideas of virtue, for example? As opposed to holding everyone to universal standards (fine idea as long as they’re our standards!)

  44. Freefox: “Somehow I find that hard to believe, mate. ^_^” Well, I’m a rather unusual person, Freefox. Believe whatever you want to about me.

    Donn says, I think you are confusing moral relativism with cultural relativity, two different things. Cultural relativity says that we can’t make judgements about a culture we don’t belong to, which is bollocks on steroids. My theory is that the idea was invented by anthropologists to counter the missionaries trying to make all the heathen fuck in the missionary position. But then it got taken over by those trying to justify FGM and other horrors.
    Moral relativism, on the other hand, says that there are no hard and fast moral rules, especially not those written in some ancient book and given to us by an invisible sky daddy. Morality has to consider the results of actions, and the results of inaction. We can’t make hard and fast rules about it, besides saying that anything that harms people is bad and anything that helps people is good.

    Yes, Freefox is pulling my chain by extrapolating my position to “the end justifies the means”. Thanks for noticing. Not something I believe in at all. In fact, it’s the kind of thing that leads to a very high body count when taken to heart by Nazis or Communists. No, my moral relativism has to do with considering the outcome, and the kind of world in which I want to live, and acting to maximize human fulfillment and minimize suffering. Freefox and I go way back.

  45. FreeFox says:

    My point, Darwin, is that in the real world nobody but sociopaths or psychopaths is either absolutely absolut or absolutely relative. Some values are sacrosanct to each of us. You may consider your own lines in the sand, those means that cannot justify any ends, too obvious to count, but they are there. Of that I am certain. Just as even the most devout believer in what ever -ism or -ity will be willing to compromise for the right end. Maybe you tend more towards a utilitarian end of the spectrum and others more towards the principle-over-consequences end, but actually sticking to either end without budging for anything is metally ill. And for all our differences, that is not what I percieve you to be. ^_^

  46. And I’m sure you are correct, Freefox. I’m always surprised when I discover the inconsistencies in my positions. And they are there. Somebody said (not about me, about themself), “I’m a big person. I hold many contradictions.” Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes it’s a drag.

  47. DC Toronto says:

    There’s a saying … “first world problems” and I think some of that sentiment can inform your discussion.
    It’s all fine and good to have your moral positions while living in North America or Europe. These countries have ample resources, ample opportunities for virtually all citizens, the rule of law and fairly generous social safety nets. It is a rare occasion that one must really get to the root of where their morals lie. Live in Africa as a poor person, or even the USA as a poor person from a visible minority. What morals would you forsake in the pursuit of your safety and your families success? It’s really a rhetorical question as none of us can know if we are not truly faced with such a decision. But sometimes I look at others and think it’s possible I would make similar decisions that are generally against my moral principals.
    I also believe such an idea could be at the root of many earlier religious beliefs. Even 100 years ago there was very little known (or even hypothesized) about the origins of the universe. Einsteins work was about 70-80 years ago and much was only recently proven. Prior to that superstitions were the best that people could do.

  48. DC Toronto, you are very correct that any problems I have are definitely first world problems. I don’t want to test my morality against a harsher reality. Oddly enough, the cliche “poor but honest” generally seems true in my experience. I spent a few years in China, and it seemed to me that the peasants and workers, who were generally very poor indeed, were the ones you could trust with your wallet. Maybe this is because being known to be honest is more important if you are poor. Obviously it’s not very important if you are rich, as the current POTUS has proven time and again.

  49. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Darwin, as well as honesty there seems to be a correlation between a lack of wealth and generosity. I recall reading once that as a percentage of income, the less affluent in society give more to charity.
    I have two anecdotes from my youth that also suggest that the less well off are prone to rewarding the honesty of others too. Obviously these are personal anecdotes so can’t be taken as representitive of people as a whole but they are still, I think, quite telling.
    These events occurred within about six months of each other and were when I had an after-school paper round, delivering the local Evening Post to houses in two areas, one a pretty rough council estate and the other a private, very affluent area.
    Whilst delivering on the council estate I saw a purse in some long grass by the kerb, so I picked it up and looked for an address inside, which I found and which was close to where I was. There was not a lot of money in there, maybe ten pound notes and a bit of change, but when I got to the address the owner of the purse, a woman in her forties who was clearly not at all well off, insisted I took a pound from her as a reward.
    A few months later I found a handbag on the pavement alongside the cemetery, and there was an address on a letter which was visible through the clear window of a pocket, so I had no need to open the bag. The address was about a mile out of my way but still closer than the police station, so I cycled to the house (this was on a cold and very wet January evening) and knocked on the door of a very large house on the most exclusive street in town. The woman who answered the door confirmed that she had lost her bag so I pulled it from my newspaper bag and handed it over. As I turned to leave she told me to wait a moment, went into the bag and pulled out a purse which when opened was literally bulging with notes. She very carefully counted the money, including coins – some two hundred pounds plus change – then simply said “Good, it’s all there” and shut the door in my face!
    I didn’t return either item to their owners in expectation of a reward, my actions were from a simple sense of honesty* and doing the right thing, but I thought that the contrast in the way the owners responded was quite telling.
    I did also notice that come Christmas, I always received more tips from my customers on the council estate, both in financial value and the percentage of households. I’d estimate now that, around 80% of customers on the rough estate gave me what was known around the area as a ‘Christmas box’ at an average two pounds per house (quite a lot back then) compared to around 30% of my richer customers who gave an average of fifty pence.

    *I guess I was also poor but honest.

  50. DC Toronto says:

    Money can’t buy happiness. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.
    It’s always interesting how the conversation develops ’round here.
    Accumulation of things can become a major stress in a persons life. I recall a huge sense of freedom when I divorced and moved out with virtually nothing. It wasn’t just the relationship change, but not having to worry about all the stuff I had accumulated over the years. (I was rather sad about the wine cellar – but some of it did eventually make its way to me)
    A few years ago I toured several Frank Lloyd Wright houses. At Kentuck Knob the tour guide mentioned the fight Wright had with the owner who wanted a basement in the house. Wright refused because he felt that it would only accumulate stuff and would clutter their life. He finally compromised with a bit of extra room in the garage for Christmas (can I say that here πŸ˜‰ decorations. I always found that idea interesting.

  51. Acolyte, perhaps that’s why the wealthy are wealthy. They value money more than they value…the things I value.

  52. Bones'sDog says:

    Author, I’ve just slowly, intermittently gone through the entire archive up to this one and encountered no issue with the “next” button, not even on or around 23/7/14 so I guess the glitch is well and truly fixed.
    Or it never happened with Firefox on a Mac. Or something else different between my setup and LD50’s was in play. Or something else was different.

    Science, don’t you just love it when seven thousand variables all change in the one experimental retry?


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