103: Moral Relativity

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Moral Relativity
It's science!
Title text: It's science!


This comic plays on the similar sounding terms relativity and relativism.

Moral relativism is a position in the philosophical field of ethics that holds that moral judgments are not absolute, but vary depending on the circumstances involved and the person (or people) making them. Philosophers who hold this kind of position are often mischaracterised as believing that 'it's OK to be self-serving, steal, and murder.'

The scientific theory of relativity predicts (among other things) that measurements of an object change the closer to the speed of light it travels: length contracts, observed time slows down, the notion of separated simultaneous events is relative, and so on.

Randall claims to have created a new philosophy called "Moral Relativity," which appears to be a mash-up of the two ideas, where things that are typically considered unethical become more acceptable as the subject's speed increases. This supposed theory of ethics is cited to explain why rap music, perhaps particularly Gangsta rap, which often has lyrics describing rape, murder, and substance abuse, is better when traveling at speed. Music videos for Gangsta Rap also frequently feature cars speeding on the highway. The graph is a parody on that of the Lorentz factor, which is the factor by which time is dilated and length contracted.

Note that relativity in the Theory of Relativity (in physics) came from the principle of relativity: the idea that equations describing the laws of physics have the same form in all admissible frames of reference (as opposed to moral relativity).


[A graph, rationalization as a function of speed, increasing asymptotically at c.]
Related to moral relativism, it states that ethics become subjective only when you approach the speed of light.
That is, it's okay to be self-serving, steal, and murder as long as you're going really, really fast.
(Note: This is why rap sounds better on the highway at 90 mph)

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The issue date might be off. All files since #101 have been created on April 11th, 2006. Anyone with an actual issue date?

I've verified that the date is now correct. lcarsos (talk) 21:42, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Guys, there is actually such a thing as Moral relativism, which is "the positive or descriptive position that there exist, in fact, fundamental disagreements about the right course of action even when the same facts hold true and the same consequences seem likely to arise". e.g. oh... maybe whether a government should pay a ransom to some group for a kidnapped citizen? There's probably a far better example.

But, anyway, this also maps well to the whole "two observers moving in differing frames of reference cannot agree on various facts" form of the Space-Time relativism. (As referenced in 265 and 514, amongst others.) 21:56, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

I think that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem is also related to Moral Relativity, and it happens to involve moving trolley. So you kinda can see it the way that the speed of the trolley affects moral choices.