Einstein proved everything is relative.

Morality must also be relative, but relative to what?

I argue our morality is obviously relative to Humans, thus all moral arguments we are able to judge must reference a human mind.

Now that we know morality is relative to humans, how best to comport ourselves?

I argue we must obviously follow the path of least harm. It seems completely obvious to me we all must comport ourselves in a fashion which we exact the least harm on others and the world as possible.

Anything after these rules is up to the individual.


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Universal morality:  all human beings since at least 400,000 years ago (since at least our parent species).  Originated in everyday relations between people cooperating. 

Relative morality:  the cultural morality based on universal morality that belongs to your particular cultural group (usually a large group).  It is said to be relative because the various cultural moralities vary, sometimes drastically, relative to each other. 

Got it. Thanks for the distinction.

I can see the reason to distinguish the two, but IMO every choice is a moral choice regardless of self, small group, large group, national group, humanity group, earth group...

I do my best to make the most moral choice as far as I understand the ripple effect.

I think that empathy is necessary in accurately determining how somebody needs to be treated with respect to our actions.  This assumes that we want to treat them with the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to them.  Benefit and harm take place over the short term and the long term, and I think that is the proper way to classify them.  They are defined as whatever makes us feel good or bad (over the short or long term). 

No.  I'm afraid you don't understand what Einstein discovered.  His work did not touch on anything even close to morality.

The idea of relative morality is a trap.  It enables justification of almost anything by changing the relative surroundings.

Morality by necessity cannot be rigid.  But is not relative, it is situational.  The situation dictates what actions would best accomplish and support a particular set of values.  That set of values (you describe them as least harm)  is arbitary.

The theory of relativity has nothing to do with morality. It is a theory of how the universe works. It has nothing to do with how humans interact.

As for the rest of the OP's post I couldn't care less, I'm not about to be led into a philosophical argument. Various cultures have different ideas about what is or is not moral.

Do you see humans as apart from the universe?

When Einstein proved, "Everything" is relative, he meant it.

This is a very good way of putting it.  Some of the necessary foundations for moral philosophy. 

I want to complain about moral philosophy in general.  It surprises and pleases me to see someone make such a clear and crisp statement of fact as this, in relation to moral philosophy.  Nearly everything I have the misfortune to see is total rubbish in my opinion, and the people who churn it out are wasting their lives.  We've had the ancient Greeks, then pretty much nothing since then except a couple of blips.  What we have had is people's ideas propagating to society.  Just almost nothing on a formal level.  That's any good. 

Peter Singer is a good example of how people go about it the wrong way and end up earnestly talking rubbish.  His famous ethical formula is "the greatest good for the greatest number", which doesn't particularly exist in nature, and cannot actually be used on an everyday level by individuals.  His idea of "personhood" comes from the ancient Roman definition of the word "person".  He proudly states this as a job well done.  These are examples of how false and artificial his philosophy is.  On top of that, I am sure he has psychopathic tendencies, which is just plain worrying.  For example, he "doesn't care" that he's vilified for apparently saying that disabled people should be gassed, or something similar.  He doesn't care that he's seen as a Joseph Mengele figure. 

Instead of sitting in one's armchair and dreaming up strange inhuman theories about what is the right way to behave (you're right, PS's value system is unusual - because he's a psychopath), I believe the correct approach is to see it as an anthropological subject first and foremost, and to study it by observing nature.  That's morality.  Ethics is a matter of observing nature and abstracting out what works best to achieve (like you say) your values. 

When we start doing this, it becomes obvious that the different aspects all link up.  The philosophical constructions can link in to the natural parts.  I've been making an attempt to do all this on my website.  The site is about a year behind my actual thinking and it also needs re-writing to make it clearer and better organised. 

"The situation dictates what actions would best accomplish and support a particular set of values.

- @Walrus T - I think this statement makes a very good framework for "virtue" which Ayn Rand describes as a set of policies for achieving one's values.  Can I quote it on my website?  I think this orientation towards values is the right one, since to achieve a value (e.g. thriving, cooperation) can be seen as the eventual goal. 

I think these clear overarching ideas are very important, and one clear idea can set the tone for others, and understanding is advanced, and people can have a better idea in the moment of what they are doing. 

@Walrus T:  I've quoted you

- is this OK? 

- would you like to be credited? 

I think that this statement, as well as applying to "virtue", is a general-purpose statement that applies to all of morality, as far as I can see. 

Andrew, you've made a common error here, one that post-modernists made when they first latched onto the cosmological sense of relativity and applied it to everything else, as though that made sense. Since then, those who have made no attempt to understand general-relativity and special-relativity continue to make this mistake. This is why no one takes most of post-modernism seriously and why your statement here cannot be taken seriously. Let's look at the difference:

(first, everyone please correct me on what I've explained wrong, I'm quite rusty on this)

Special-relativity and general-relativity are cosmological concepts. In it's most relevant to this discussion... it expresses the relationship between space and time, the lack of any centre or time coordination to the universe, the relationship between two relative moving objects, the galactic speed limit and the funny things that happen at high speed along with some strange cosmological phenomena when you reach the extremes of speed, time and gravitation.

This theory doesn't state that everything in the universe is an individual relative agent that works under different rules. It states that two objects moving at different speeds are both relative to one another. Part of the very theories of general relativity and special relativity are that there are a small set of common laws that apply to the universe (outside of some extreme phenomena we don't understand) without fail. Meaning, the nature of this relativity is not in the laws applied to them but by their relative location and speed. This means that there are, in fact, common rules that apply to everything. How you jump from this...to "there being no common rules" in ethics is extremely puzzling? In fact, what on Earth does cosmology have to do with complex human behavior?


  • Could you please explain what a singularity or the speed limit of the universe has to do with the ethics of life and death?
  • Or try to explain how a small set of physical laws that apply to everything meaning individual agents are relative to one another....mean somehow that there are no moral laws? That makes the least sense.
  • What is the relationship between quantum effects and the judgement of an agents behavior? How do tensor calculations relate to the innate sense of morality (or frame work of morality) written deep into our genetic code through millions of years of evolution?

Just answer one of those questions and maybe we can take this claim of yours seriously.


On a side note, there are several relativistic theories of ethics which are worth a look. While I label them as relative, that doesn't mean it has any connection to cosmology or Einstein in any way. All of these are still based on general principles or axioms that apply to everything (even if we leave each individual moral problem to be analysed under it's relative context).

Deontological ethics (explained in most detail by Kant though given a more minimalist and stronger set of rules in the 20th century). In it's 21st century phase, it means moral principles are strongest when they are more general and applied most consistently over a range of problems including difficult and extreme problems. What makes it relative is that it is up to each agent to work out these categorical axioms (different from Kant), but that doesn't mean that there aren't general rules in the moral framework.

  • Neo-utilitarianism (reborn in various different theories in the 20th/21st century)
  • Neo-virtue ethics (relative to some extent as the agent is responsible for working out the mean rules)
  • Cultural-relativism (a terribly flawed moral principle stating an agent from one moral framework cannot critique or properly analyse another moral framework). This is about as close as it gets to what you are talking about.

Andrew, consider studying the history of moral systems and ethical problems. Any book on the subject or an anthology would do. Oxford has an excelent Very Short introduction to both moral systems and general/special relativity. Let me know and I'll send you links for any of these titles.

"In it's 21st century phase, it means moral principles are strongest when they are more general and applied most consistently over a range of problems including difficult and extreme problems.

- this is an interesting idea.  What does "strongest" mean? 

I feel that compassion and fairness should be the guiding moral principles, and these are understood to be universal, evolving as they did within ancestor species of humans living in small groups - whom all modern humans are descended from.  The reason I think they should be the guiding moral principles is that they take their ethical content from the universal biological pressure to thrive, survive and reproduce, and I take this to be the primary value system for living beings. 

Culture and tradition (another value system), on the other hand, can be cruel.  Tribal politics can also be cruel. 

But "universality" does not equal "proper ethics" in itself, since, the prohibition on homosexuality is almost universal in modern humans, as is the domination of females by males, in most mammals.  Proper ethics equals the proper application of fairness and compassion, which override what will always be cultural [and by definition, only partially accepted] rules regarding homosexuality and women's freedom from mens' domination. 

"and by definition, only partially accepted

- even this is no kind of a justification for behaviour; it is just a statement of fact.  Ethics needs to get its justification from somewhere: as Walrus T points out, "values". 


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