The Problems with Moral Relativism
by Robin Schumacher
Moral relativism is a philosophy that asserts there is no global, absolute moral law that applies to all people, for all time, and in all places. Instead of an objective moral law, it espouses a qualified view where morals are concerned, especially in the areas of individual moral practice where personal and situational encounters supposedly dictate the correct moral position.
Summing up the relative moral philosophy, Frederick Nietzsche wrote, “You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, it does not exist.”
In modern times, the espousal of moral relativism has been closely linked to the theory of evolution. The argument is, in the same way that humanity has evolved from lesser to greater biological organisms, the same process is in play in the area of morals and ethics. Therefore, all that can be ascertained at present (and forever) is that there is no absolute or fixed certainty in the area of morality.
Following this argument to its logical end conclusion, however, causes consternation among many, even those who espouse moral relativism. Paul Kurtz, in the book The Humanist Alternative, sums up the end result this way: “If man is a product of evolution, one species among others, in a universe without purpose, then man’s option is to live for himself”.
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A grand example of this philosophy in action can be seen in the 2007-2008 meltdown that occurred in the American financial and banking industry. Those taught relative morality in their philosophy and business ethics college courses proceeded to live out those teachings on Wall Street and in other corporate avenues, with the outcome being devastating for those who were on the receiving end of their relative morality.
Oddly enough, many who believe in relative morality at that time were outraged and absolutely sure that those who engaged in deceptive business practices ought to be punished for their unethical moral behavior. This type of reaction speaks loudly to an important truth: moral relativists have a rather dim view of moral relativism when it negatively impacts them.
Let the moral relativist be lied to, be the victim of false advertising, uncover the fact that their spouse has been relatively faithful to them, and they instantly become a moral absolutist. A person’s reaction to what they consider unfair ethical treatment always betrays their true feelings on the matter of relative vs. objective moral laws…
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