Tuesday, June 24, 2008

P.1 What's Wrong with Moral Relativism

I'm not sure I entirely see the issue here.

What's wrong with moral relativism? It seems to me that an arguement against moral relativity is an argument for a universal morality, i.e. God/religion. Surely this is a stretch, but what's the alternative?

Might, seems to be the opposition here. Where might is always the moral right.

On an episode of "Star Treck the Next Generation", Picard and crew came upon a civilization of people who euthanized they're old people when they reached a certain age. It was looked at by these people as a celebrated occasion, a taking the next step. A party was held in the person's honor the evening before the euthanization, there were drinks, music, dancing and laughter.
Now as you'd imagine this whole idea didn't sit well with the enterprise crew, what with they're western American ideals and vision of life. The main character of the story was an old man who became highly respected by the crew, (for reasons that are not important here). When they learn that in just a few days he will be "PUT TO DEATH", they are appaled. Understanding that this is they're cultures way, they nonetheless try to reason with the old man and his family that he doesn't have to die. However the western spin eventaully falls upon deaf ears and the crew looses the battle.
With respect to the euthanizing culture, the story played on the logic that, at one point they simply took to this course of action due to the issues that came about in caring for the elderly. The practice had become so much a part of they're culture that no one saw anything wrong with it, and in fact looked forward to some respect to the occasion.
Certainly if a homogenous society is our goal, then pockets of differing moral ideas is a bad thing. But I find it damaging intellectualy to suggest that there is a moral right.
And what is good, Phædrus,And what is not good...Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? (Pirsig, ZMM)


  1. "A saved comment of mine from the celtic chimp for later notation"

    It seems to me you have 3 things:


    There's what the body wants, what society wants, and the dynamic intellect of man towards evolutionary change. 3 should necessaraly trump 1 & 2, 2 should necessaraly trump 1.

    So if your exessive masturbation and sexual debauchery somehow gets in the way of society, it's morally wrong. And if your fascist society gets in the way of dynamic intellect, then that's morally wrong.

    The bottom line is, we're brutes and animals, but those insticts shouldn't be allowed to get in the way of our social solidarity.
    We're also social creatures, but we shouldn't allow custom to stagnate to the point where we're stuck in the forest for the sake of traditional views. Let our thinkers think.

    It's an ebb and flow like the body. If your body remains static (traditional/republican) and doesn't adapt to change it dies from the cold (the outside world is changing without you). On the other hand if it's adaptations are too dynamic (democratic/liberal) it drops everything for something new and again dies from the cold, but perhaps doesn't get cancer.

    The white man destroyed the idians, what a moral tragety. But I disagree with that because the result was a much more evolved society and a freer intellect.The cromagnon man destroyed that neadrathol (how ever you spell that), tragic, or an intellectual leap. Something always dies to give way to something else.

    I'm not saying the idians were not as smart, or somehow less evolved as a human, but certainly they were culturaly having been isolated from the world of change. The bottom line is, they were not as equiped to deal with change so as a result they're culture was dissolved / destroyed.

    andy b. (hows that for spelling 101)

  2. You are confusing morality with justification of morality and introducing the assumption that we can have a justified morality. There is no inconsistency in either the Enterprise crew or the euthanizing civilisation being wrong or, most likely, both being wrong.

    Moral Absolutism is not, of itself, an argument for God/religion. It becomes so with an insistence that we can justify morality and that it is God/religion that justifies this morality. Indeed the idea that God/religion justifies moral judgements is one of the main causes of moral relativism. Given a religion (say Roman Catholicism) and allowing that it is a source of justification for morals we know that the use of artificial contraception is wrong. Given another religion (most other religions) we know that artificial contraception is not wrong. “Religion justifies moral judgements” forces us to the belief that contraception is wrong and contraception is not wrong, which we cannot do as it is a flat out contradiction. Unless we allow that contraception is wrong or not wrong relative to religious belief (or we plump for one religion and force everyone into that one).

  3. You Stated:
    "I'm consusing morality with justification of morality".
    I did muddy that up a bit, but it wasn't intentional, I'm simply asking questions at this point.

    The euthanizing society was not itself justifying it's actions until of course it came into question (they justified it in the begining of the practice, but of course it became so much a part of they're culture they no longer looked at it as being moraly wrong). Neither was the enterprise crew, until of course they came upon something that seemed peculiar to them, and wrong. The direction I want to go with this is - who is right? Are either of them right? Are they both right? And why? To your point on justification - is that simply a word used when moral relativeism comes into play and someone sees it another way. If you use the word universal morality what's that based on, what justifies it?

    Is moral right as relative as your taste in food? Certainly chocolate lovers don’t bash vanilla lovers, we like what we like and it doesn’t hurt anybody. And hurt is the key I suppose. So here you might fall into Mill’s utilitarianism and simply say right is what’s good for the most amount of people, which is fine, but it doesn’t answer any questions.

    I have much to say on this topic, this was just my intro to the thought. Bottom line is, what’s wrong with moral relativism? Time is relative, so is your pallet, your taste in women, athletics, literature, sensitivity to cold, your vacation choices, so on and so on. But somehow morality is universal?