Moral relativism is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.University of Tennessee at Martin
This thought of philosophy is one that you will hear time and time again. It can really be a butt kicker if you’re not ready to respond.
Relativism really starts to take root in people’s minds as they reach high school, the time when they are able to heavily start making decisions about what they are going to do with their time, resources, and life. The older you get, the more you will hear this theory: all truth is relative. Let’s get into what’s going on here and try to break it down so that we can better have a conversion regarding this topic.
- A Problem for Moral Relativists – Right off the bat, there’s a problem with moral relativism: it’s self-refuting. This means that the statement “all truth is relative” in and of itself must be relative. Well, if “my truth” says that “your truth” is a lie, then how can we know what’s really true. Moral relativism is a philosophy that can quite simply be debased or refuted.
- It doesn’t allow for objective truth – This is a further explanation of the first point. If someone is following this philosophy, they can by no means justify that rape is wrong or torturing people for fun is wrong. To the moral relativist, it is all a matter of opinion. Therefore, these things are only wrong if you think they’re wrong. The moral relativist has no basis for a “right” or a “wrong,” everything is determined by them and their personal convictions.
Moral Realism vs Moral Relativism
Compared to moral relativism, moral realism is a philosophical theory that people are more likely to follow, which says that there are some objective moral truths, such as, “it’s wrong to rape someone,” “compassion is a virtue,” and “It’s right for parents to care for their children.” When people say they follow moral relativism, they are more likely to follow a theory of moral realism in actuality. When pressed on the issue, many people will say that there can be objective truth in moral relativism but by nature this goes against the definition of moral relativism. The premises don’t follow the conclusion. In essence, these people most likely actually support moral realism, the idea that morals can exist.
Where Does Moral Realism Leave US?
Moral Realism leaves us with the ability to say there are objective moral truths, and for most, this would be enough for them. This would be a good enough explanation of a moral theory that they could rock with. Me on the other hand? Nope. Moral realism still has some major issues.
- These “Objective Moral Truths” Still Don’t Have a Moral Giver – Even though this theory allows for objective morality, the moral objectivity that they are referring to still allows for the theory of morality that is held by a person or society to change based on what they may think is morally acceptable.
Why is that?
It is because these claims about what is objective are actually subjective unless you have something to set the standard. Object truth is worthless unless there is authority behind the objective statement. In moral realism, they are missing all authority behind any objective claim. This means that with any objective statement it can simply be refuted with the comment “Says who?” Like Frank Turek says in his book Stealing From God, atheists cannot make their arguments against God without first using premises that God has already constructed. The authority behind morality can only come from God alone. We will dive into this in future blog posts as we talk about other moral theories such as utilitarianism, consequentialism, and virtue theory.
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