Saturday, December 28, 2013

Should We Be Moral Relativists?


The position, “We should not be moral relativists” will be defended in this essay. In philosophy, the term ‘objective,’ is defined as the existence of an object independent of human mind (mind-independency); “the object would “be there,” as it is, even if no subject perceived it.”1 In contrast, the term ‘relative’ refers to the perception of an object by the subject (mind-dependency).

‘Relativism’ espouses true or false moral judgments relative to language, culture or biological makeup.2 For instance, relativism need not consider polygamy as crime, for cultures or people can justify polygamy relative to their thought paradigm. Relativism denies objectivity and appeals to man’s mind.

Alternatively, ‘Objectivism’ espouses truth and falsity as independent of mind, so to claim and appeal to the reality of objective moral facts. Therefore, objectivism will rule polygamy to be a crime by appealing to the existence of objective moral laws (which is discovered and not invented by humans). This is similar to objectivism affirming the objective reality that sun is more massive than the earth. 


I – A Case for Objective Moral Values:

‘Objectivism’ or ‘we should not be moral relativists’ could be reasonably defended by positing the presence of ‘objective moral values.’ Moral relativism opposes ‘objectivism’ by negating the presence of objective realities.3 But if objective moral values can be reasonably postulated to exist, then moral relativism can be reasonably debunked.  

 (1) Objective Reality is Factual

There are objective realities. The fact that Sun is more massive than earth is an objective reality. This fact does not depend on anyone affirming or negating it.

(2) Objective Moral Values are a Reality

It’s morally wrong to not assist a person in need when we are able to. Similarly genocide is morally wrong; it is morally wrong to deliberately and systematically eliminate a group of people. These are universally affirmed objective moral values and do not depend on people’s mind (whether anyone believes or accepts, it is morally wrong to not assist a person and to commit genocide). Thus there are universally affirmed objective moral values.

(3) An Objective Basis is Necessary for Objective Moral Values to Exist

The “objectivism” proposed by Ayn Rand (1905-1982) posits man’s selfishness or man’s survival as the objective foundation to objective moral values.4 But human selfishness cannot be sustained as an objective foundation against an argument that a certain human subjectivity ought to be involved in deciding opposing human selfishness.

Would it be objectively true if the Nazi’s argued that it was morally right for them to eliminate the entire Jewish population because the Jews were an economic burden to Germany? The human selfishness of the Nazis was predicated upon the economic crisis in Germany, but in stark contrast, the human selfishness of the Jews was predicated on protecting their own life. Thus the Randian objectivism would crumble when two opposing cases of human selfishness collide with each other. Thus one ought to subjectively decide between the opposing objective moral values espoused by the two groups.   

But ‘God’ can be reasonably posited as the sole objective source for moral values. God, as the greatest conceivable being, transcends humanity and the space-time coordinates. Hence God is an objective reality and the sole objective basis for objective moral laws.

But proof of God’s existence ought to be reasonably provided, if not, God cannot be posited as the basis of mind-independent objective moral laws. Many arguments for God’s existence have been reasonably and plausibly posited, such as the Teleological Argument,5 Cosmological Argument,6 Moral Argument7 etc.

Since objectivity, objective moral values, and an objective moral value giver (God) can be reasonably and plausibly posited, a reasonable conclusion is that there are objective moral values. Hence, we should not be moral relativists.

II – A Case for an Immoral World:

      Moral relativism would stimulate an immoral world without any restraint whatsoever. When moral values are predicated on human mind then morality would be a slave of the dogma that controls a human mind. If one’s dogma is cannibalism, he would appeal to moral relativism to justify his devouring of his neighbor. Since moral relativism promotes an immoral world, we should not be moral relativists. 

Two mutually contradicting statements cannot be true within the same context, at the same time and for all people. So objective and relative moral values cannot both be true for they contradict each other. The presence of objective moral values and the case for an immoral world portrays that moral relativism exists by ignoring or suppressing the truth of objective moral values. Therefore, we should not be moral relativists.


5 J.P Moreland, Scaling the Secular City - A Defense of Christianity, (Michigan: Baker Academic, 1987), p43-76.
6 Ibid, p15-42.

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