0103: "Moral Relativity"

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0103: "Moral Relativity"

Postby funwithsporks » Fri Jan 09, 2009 4:55 am UTC

Am I the only one who can't tell if this is a physics joke or a drug joke? Just wondering.

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby sje46 » Fri Jan 09, 2009 5:20 am UTC

Physics. I don't see a drug reference.
Reading the rules and posting in the Intro thread would be a good idea :)
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http://xkcd.com/103/
title text: It's science!
(You have to include a picture, a link and the title text in the post . . .just copy and paste what is in the spoiler into your post)
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Unspoilered.
Last edited by sje46 on Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:56 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby GodShapedBullet » Fri Jan 09, 2009 5:34 am UTC

The drug reference would be that the more speed you are on, the less bad things might seem to be.

But no, it's a physics reference. The connection with relativity wouldn't have been as special if the comic was just saying "why you are on drugs your judgment is compromised" or something like that. It means speed in the physics sense.

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby rnh » Fri Jan 09, 2009 8:42 pm UTC

I always thought the speed was a pun. How does this make sense without thinking drugs?

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby ConMan » Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:31 am UTC

rnh wrote:I always thought the speed was a pun. How does this make sense without thinking drugs?


Because it's mixing the real concept of moral relativism, the philosophy that whether something is morally right or wrong is not absolute but depends on social and cultural factors, with the concept of special relativity, the physical theory that predicts that observations depend on velocity relative to the observer.
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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby GodShapedBullet » Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:57 am UTC

Very well put, ConMan.

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby rnh » Mon Jan 12, 2009 7:22 am UTC

ConMan wrote:
rnh wrote:I always thought the speed was a pun. How does this make sense without thinking drugs?


Because it's mixing the real concept of moral relativism, the philosophy that whether something is morally right or wrong is not absolute but depends on social and cultural factors, with the concept of special relativity, the physical theory that predicts that observations depend on velocity relative to the observer.


I was asking why shoving those two together would make sense in a "whole picture" frame.
It seems to me that you're saying something like this:

1. Let R be a function that depends on one variable, R=R(f) where scalar f = social and cultural factors, a number. (wtf?).
2. Arbitrarily rename "social and cultural factors" to "speed," and draw an asymptote at c, as shown (wtf?!)
It is easy to see that the function R (rationalization) looks a lot like the momentum of an object plotted versus its speed. (WTF!)
So the *bigger* the social and cultural factor is, the more someone would rationalize. Ummm. I don't get it.

If we are allowed the pun it'd be something like this.
Let rationalization R be a function that depends on how much speed one has taken. (This is literally just a number with a unit.)
For a lot of people, the more speed they take, the more fucked up shit they do. And their brain is working faster than baseline. So it's easier for them to rationalize things that they normally wouldn't. If they take enough, it is conceivable that they rationalize nearly everything they could possibly do. There is a magic number of how many grams (or whatever) it takes for them to reach this point. Call it c.
Now the pun goes from grams of meth to velocity relative to an observer, and we laugh.

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby sje46 » Mon Jan 12, 2009 12:12 pm UTC

rnh wrote:
ConMan wrote:
rnh wrote:I always thought the speed was a pun. How does this make sense without thinking drugs?


Because it's mixing the real concept of moral relativism, the philosophy that whether something is morally right or wrong is not absolute but depends on social and cultural factors, with the concept of special relativity, the physical theory that predicts that observations depend on velocity relative to the observer.


I was asking why shoving those two together would make sense in a "whole picture" frame.
It seems to me that you're saying something like this:

1. Let R be a function that depends on one variable, R=R(f) where scalar f = social and cultural factors, a number. (wtf?).
2. Arbitrarily rename "social and cultural factors" to "speed," and draw an asymptote at c, as shown (wtf?!)
It is easy to see that the function R (rationalization) looks a lot like the momentum of an object plotted versus its speed. (WTF!)
So the *bigger* the social and cultural factor is, the more someone would rationalize. Ummm. I don't get it.

If we are allowed the pun it'd be something like this.
Let rationalization R be a function that depends on how much speed one has taken. (This is literally just a number with a unit.)
For a lot of people, the more speed they take, the more fucked up shit they do. And their brain is working faster than baseline. So it's easier for them to rationalize things that they normally wouldn't. If they take enough, it is conceivable that they rationalize nearly everything they could possibly do. There is a magic number of how many grams (or whatever) it takes for them to reach this point. Call it c.
Now the pun goes from grams of meth to velocity relative to an observer, and we laugh.

No . . .no drugs, rnh. It's not how much speed you take, but how fast you go (because that fits in with Einstein's theory: the faster you go, the more time slows down). But instead, with this theory, the faster you go, the more morals become subjective.
The asymptote is the speed of light.
Basically it's just taking the two theories (moral relativism(ethics) and theory of special relativity(physics)) and turning them into Moral Relativity, which explains ethics through physics, which is ridiculous (and thus the humor). I can see how it is tempting to think that "speed" refers to drugs, but the joke is much better if it is actual physics speed.

c is the constant for the speed of light, like in E=Mc2.
I hope that makes sense. I am not good at math, so I really didn't understand your post, but I'm pretty positive I'm right.
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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby dennisw » Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:49 pm UTC

Another analog to help understand the relationship between speed (of movement - not as a drug) and morality is the speed component of a continuum between "measure twice - cut once" and "shoot first - ask questions later".
Try the Printifier for xkcd. You can now scale the comic between 50 and 150%.

I find these very useful: Common Errors in English Usage (web site) and Eats, Shoots & Leaves (book). You may, too.

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby rnh » Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:33 pm UTC

dennisw wrote:Another analog to help understand the relationship between speed (of movement - not as a drug) and morality is the speed component of a continuum between "measure twice - cut once" and "shoot first - ask questions later".


That's a pretty good argument. But I still find meth funnier.
Is it the stigma that makes people skittish about invoking meth in a joke?
Is it time to agree to disagree?

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby sje46 » Mon Jan 12, 2009 4:28 pm UTC

rnh wrote:
dennisw wrote:Another analog to help understand the relationship between speed (of movement - not as a drug) and morality is the speed component of a continuum between "measure twice - cut once" and "shoot first - ask questions later".


That's a pretty good argument. But I still find meth funnier.
Is it the stigma that makes people skittish about invoking meth in a joke?
Is it time to agree to disagree?

I don't think the joke works with meth.

It depends on the person and the circumstance. I don't think that this was the case here; I doubt Randall would be afraid to have a meth joke here; he just didn't want to. ?That was not the joke he set out to do.
We can agree to disagree :)
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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby GodShapedBullet » Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:58 pm UTC

I guess we can all agree to disagree if you find meth funnier, but I don't see how you can think that it is the correct interpretation.

Did you read any of the text under the graph? It's talking about the speed of light, going really fast, and going 90 miles per hour down the highway. Those all have to do with physical speed, not the drug.

I guess if you stretch, you can rationalize the other interpretation, but it seems next to impossible that this was what Randall Munroe was going for.

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby rnh » Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:29 pm UTC

GodShapedBullet wrote:Did you read any of the text under the graph? It's talking about the speed of light, going really fast, and going 90 miles per hour down the highway. Those all have to do with physical speed, not the drug.


Not necessarily. We need both physical speed and the drug speed. Why does rap sound better when you're going 90mph? It's because of your state of mind when you're in a car that's going really fast. Randall could just as easily have said "90mph in a video game." And if we can assume the presence of a lot of physicists, I don't think it would be unfair to bring up inertial frames.

As I see it, going really fast in a car is relevant to the joke because it releases adrenaline. Sounds similar to what meth does. What group takes the cake for routinely going really fast in a car? How about speed-freaks (i.e. meth addicts)?

See? It all makes sense!

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby ConMan » Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:58 am UTC

rnh wrote:
GodShapedBullet wrote:Did you read any of the text under the graph? It's talking about the speed of light, going really fast, and going 90 miles per hour down the highway. Those all have to do with physical speed, not the drug.


Not necessarily. We need both physical speed and the drug speed. Why does rap sound better when you're going 90mph? It's because of your state of mind when you're in a car that's going really fast. Randall could just as easily have said "90mph in a video game." And if we can assume the presence of a lot of physicists, I don't think it would be unfair to bring up inertial frames.

As I see it, going really fast in a car is relevant to the joke because it releases adrenaline. Sounds similar to what meth does. What group takes the cake for routinely going really fast in a car? How about speed-freaks (i.e. meth addicts)?

See? It all makes sense!


I think at this point we can safely say that you may freely assume that your interpretation is the valid one, while most other people will freely assume that you are really stretching to keep it relevant.
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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby The Mad Scientist » Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:25 am UTC

I think that this thread should be stickied as a tutorial on how to over-analyze a joke.

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby ConMan » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:58 pm UTC

The Mad Scientist wrote:I think that this thread should be stickied as a tutorial on how to over-analyze a joke.


No, for that you have Ryan North's Jokes Explained. Explained. Explained. Explained.
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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby rnh » Thu Jan 15, 2009 1:52 am UTC

My interpretation is flawless. It explains everything. Y'all are the crazy ones.

sje46 wrote:it's just taking the two theories (moral relativism(ethics) and theory of special relativity(physics)) and turning them into Moral Relativity, which explains ethics through physics, which is ridiculous (and thus the humor).

This is just too absurd for me to find any humor in it.

dennisw wrote:... the relationship between speed (of movement - not as a drug) and morality is the speed component of a continuum between "measure twice - cut once" and "shoot first - ask questions later".

This provided a glimmer of hope to my conversion, but alas it wasn't enough. And it does not square with the caption (like mine does).

GodShapedBullet wrote:I don't see how you can think that it is the correct interpretation.

Is there no one that agrees with me? :cry:

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Re: "Moral Relativity" discussion

Postby MehPlusRawr » Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:15 pm UTC

I was thinking that this was just an attack on the stupidity of Moral Relativism.... It seems that some people are very much overanalyzing this.


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