Sunday, August 10, 2008

Who is the Hero to the Moral Relativist?.

I know I rant and rave about the lack of critical thinking skills and the over abundance of moral judgment in our culture, thus, it may seem
my condemnation of moral relativism might seem contradictory. However, it's equally destructive to assume there are no absolutes, because the act of critical thinking requires the existence of an objective reality, otherwise there isn't any foundation to base our thinking, and without the existence of universal moral truth, there is no foundation to base the value of our life.

Assuming you believe we are here, that life is... some type of objective reality must exist, right? Taking that one-step further, assuming life has inherent value, some type of object morality must also exist, right?

Well, ask people the first question and most will agree, that based on observable phenomena, an objective reality does indeed exist. Ask people the second question, and a good percentage of those who admit to an objective reality, will deny the existence of an objective morality. Why is that?

It could be because we can't see morality as clearly. We walk out our front door and we can see trees, grass, sky, animals, other human beings, etc., so, unless we're waxing philosophical, we don't question objective reality and in order to survive we must establish certain absolutes. For example, from an early age, we learn that fire is hot, that certain animals will devour us if given the chance, that ocean water will not quench our thirst, etc.

What happens if we don't believe that those truths exist? What happens if we decide fire is not hot and walk into a burning building? If we decide all animals are friendly and jump in the lion cage? If we insist on drinking only ocean water? The answers are obvious, however, truth does not always present itself so clearly, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Nevertheless, in the absence of concrete observable phenomenon, many presume there is no moral reality.

Let's take a look at what we can observe about developing a system of right and wrong independent of relativity. One of the things we can observe is the function of law in society and what is law based on? Morality.

Some people say you can’t legislate morality, however if we're not legislating morality, what are we legislating? Law must be based on some concept of the common good or else it is based on an individual's personal preference, and exists only to enforce the will and desire of that person, in other words despotism. In a free society, morality is the only thing we can legislate.

"Law stands upon the necessary foundation of morality" – Aristotle
What about if the law is based on morality but that morality turns out to be tolerance of everything? Eventually, chaos will ensue and it's almost certain that those whose "morality" is limited to survival of the fittest, will grab the power and enforce the law based on what's good for them only thus morality becomes irrelevant and power, the only thing that matters.

Heroes of moral realism can function as another way to observe moral principles in action. Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King etc., are all perfect examples of people who came the closest to living out their lives adhering to moral truth. Just as most of us will fail to consistently meet the requirements necessary (nutrients, exercise etc) to get the most we can from physical reality, even more of us will fail to meet the requirements necessary to get the most from moral reality. Nevertheless, just because we don't live up to those standards, doesn't mean those truths do not exist. Just as we know we must eat, drink and move our bodies even though we may not come close to getting it exactly right, we do it anyway or die. In the same way, just because we understand there is a moral reality does not mean we all will have the integrity or the intelligence to interpret that reality, but we try anyway or face the consequences.

We define a moral relativist as one who claims there are no absolute truths regarding morality, and that a system of right and wrong can only be based on individual preference, and the tolerance of those preferences and most importantly that everyone’s moral beliefs are equally legitimate. "Morality should never be imposed" is their sacred utterance. However, unless they state their belief by prefacing it with "my personal preference is not to impose...", they clearly believe in an objective morality. Tolerance is a form of morality, not imposing your own morality on others is a form of reality, in the same way a tree is a form of life. Declaring the absence of absolute truths, is an absolute truth in itself.

Most moral relativists defend moral relativism with the same intensity that moral realists defend their belief in an objective morality. The very act of defending your belief system implies moral truth, otherwise you would only state your preference, right?

Well, I didn't like what Hitler did but he had every right to do it...I would never participate or look at child pornography but who am I to tell others what to do.
How many of us can utter those words without wincing?

A moral relativist can't say murder is wrong because the word wrong is a moral term. They can declare their dislike of murder or that they themselves would not murder anyone, but they cannot impose that preference on others, otherwise they are admitting to an absolute moral truth, that murder for the sake of murder is wrong. While it's true, not all moral truths are so transparent, it shouldn't be that difficult to comprehend, that whatever it takes to keep you alive, it takes to keep others alive as well. Just as easily as we learn fire is hot, most of us seem to learn killing for the sake of killing is wrong.

So, what can we observe about moral relativism? Who is the hero to the moral relativist? The lack of outward directives and guidelines and the fact that it is based only on the "truth" of the individual makes it very hard to observe much of anything. Moral relativity by its definition is immoral as it rejects morality. Morality is not doing what's right for the individual, it's taking the time to figure out what's right, whether it's best for you, or not, and you cannot do that without some type of moral truth to base your decision. A good night's sleep might be what's best for mother, but when her newborn is starving or crying out for help, the moral decision for mother is to get up and help her child.

Oddly enough, many of those who claim to reject moral relativism are in truth, moral relativists since moral relativism distinguishes between what's right and wrong based on personal preference, instead of let's say the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The only true moral relativist or hero of the moral relativist is the sociopath. A sociopath has no concern for another's idea of right and wrong, only follows his own view of right and wrong and consistently lives his life according to his own desires. Pretty simple if you ask me. Jesus Christ or Ted Bundy? Oxygen or carbon monoxide?

2 comments:

Anonymous,  12:39  

Jesus Christ and oxygen for me, thank you.

Interesting.

bleute 17:36  

Good choice!

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