Against Moral Relativism

“Again, in a world in which no eternal God – and thus no eternal embodiment of morality – exists, it is not so absurd that therefore no universal basis for moral conduct exists.”

I don’t think at any point Eric’s denying it. That is the honest conclusion of the atheist/agnostic in terms of morality. You must descend into relativism.

He is not far-fetched to call it absurd. The conclusion of a world without an eternal personal good God mentioned in your above quote is the honest conclusion: Moral Relativism.

However Moral Relativism is in fact absurd. To even insert the world ‘moral’ seems fallacious. Let me explain:

(1) For starters, when morality becomes relative, we can no longer have any meaningful exchange on what is in fact ‘moral’. We really simply speak of feelings, experience, and opinion, and thus the whole ‘morality’ portion simply becomes a mask for those terms. We really simply render an opinion or perspective on an issue, not some moral value.

(2) In addition, it’s self refuting. Say we are both relativists. We are discussing the morality of C. You believe C is wrong (opinion A), I believe it is right (opinion B). We come and share opinions which are staunchly different. There is no method to draw a conclusion, and thus we never really know anything about C. A and B contradict, and thus we never really arrive anywhere, contradict each other, and simply conclude with ‘tolerance’.

(3) As seen above, it is then useless. Seeing that it is (1) meaningless, and (2) self-refuting, we come to a conclusion it is then useless. As seen in (2), we can never really say anything about C! This is the central problem about ‘moral relativism’. With it, we can make no OUGHT statements. This is incredibly important. You cannot say someone ought to do something, as they can simply respond that they feel as if they shouldn’t. Being meaningless, self-refuting, and useless, you can no longer say what we OUGHT and NOT OUGHT to do, which is the core of MORALITY. This leads to the final point…

(4) Given (1)-(3), we approach specific situations where we can no longer make OUGHT statements. (a) Is killing a baby for fun wrong? Evil? (b) Was Hitler wrong? Evil? (c) Was Slavery wrong? Evil? You cannot say you ought not to torture babies for fun, Hitler ought not to have killed Jews, and Slavery ought not to have happened. To even say a ‘should’ statement is quite inadequate and useless as well, and it is hardly binding.

Even worse, you cannot say you (A) ought to treat babies with love, (B) you ought to oppose Nazi aggression, and (C) you ought to respect human dignity (see the former premises)!

CONCLUSION:
This is where the absurd nature of ‘moral relativism’ (whatever that is) really reveals its face. It contradicts entirely common sense! If I were to ask you (a) (b) and (c), you would naturally respond that those are all wrong, and that you should instead do (A) (B) and (C). However, a ‘moral relativist’ cannot explain why we ought to do any of this, and thus goes against their common sense. They cannot justify it on the grounds of relativity, because someone could simply ‘feel’ or ‘believe’ the opposite. But we see the significant problem with someone stating “I cannot say whether torturing a baby for fun is absolutely wrong at all times, with all persons, in any place.” That’s absurd! We call that person a monster! I see such a morality as dangerous (you cannot even say you OUGHT to follow laws, etc).

This then truly removes the ‘moral’ out of ‘moral relativity’, as the inability to truly respond to (A)-(C) and (a)-(c) really make it meaningless, self-refuting, useless, and thus, absurd. It’s not morality at all. It’s feelings.

NOTE:
Christians on the other hand, can very well make OUGHT and OUGHT NOT statements [(A)-(C), (a)-(c)].

We can even easily explain why being sensitive to OUGHT and OUGHT NOT questions are found within our common sense: “From the Creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made.” (Romans 1:20)

  1. We are made in the image of God, thus attracting special value. (Gen 1:27).
  2. We are given objective moral absolutes from an All-Knowing Personal Creator (10 Commandments, Exo 20)
  3. God Himself makes perfect OUGHT and OUGHT NOT statements, given his perfection.
  4. We are provided the ultimate OUGHT statement: Love God and Love neighbors (Matt 22:37-40)
  5. God displays the ultimate Moral Good: Grace and the Cross. This spurs a superior morality, as it calls the Christian to sacrifice himself in Loving God and Loving People. How superior to simply talking of feelings and opinions! Praise God!
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2 thoughts on “Against Moral Relativism

  1. I was so stirred by this post, that I spent a lot of time thinking on it. I know this is long, but I had to share my thinking with someone…and since you half inspired it, I thought I’d burden you with it!! Sorry, I didn’t have time to edit. Just a record of ideas, that’s all.

    Kate.

    Christians are not the only ones to make “ought” statements, or even authoritative
    Statements of fact associated with moral/value judgments. Confucius prescriptions
    Were not written as “ought” statements, but as common statements of moral fact.
    As an example, Confucius said things like, “The true gentleman is friendly but not familiar;
    The inferior man is familiar but not friendly.” Or, “The well-bred are dignified but not
    Pompous; the ill-bred are pompous, but not dignified.”

    When we speak of what is important, opinions vary. Most sages seemed to suggest or to
    Say outright that a man’s character was the number one priority in life, period. I have
    Noticed that, although the atheist’s claim that there is no need for morality IF there is
    No god, I counter this claim with a better claim. There is no need for morality IF there is
    No SOCIETY of others outside of the “self.”

    Whether or not one “ought” or “ought not” do something is very much related to two seemingly
    Antithetical realities: individual AND society. To ask, “is killing a baby for fun wrong?” is a
    Value judgment which must be measured against two realities. 1. What will the superfluous
    Killing of infants for pleasure/fun do to an individual man’s character. 2. What will the
    Superfluous killing of infants for pleasure/fun do to the individual’s society. In other words
    What effect will killing a baby just for fun have on both of these things?

    Feelings are not facts. If killing babies for fun is harmful to more than just the unfortunate
    Infants who fall into such hands…if it is harmful or destructive of the killer’s character, and
    Harmful or destructive toward the man’s society, then ALL GOOD MEN would agree that this
    Is not a matter of feeling or opinion; the man ought not kill infant children just because they
    “feel like it.”
    It is like we are sitting in on and manning a machine. Our left hand must control one controller,
    While our right hand must control the other. The one controls our individual interests and
    Impacts the development of our own individual character, the other controls our society’s
    Interests, and impacts the wellbeing of our entire surrounding society. This is why BLACK
    AND WHITE morality CANNOT and never has been a successful prescription telling man how
    He OUGHT to behave in every instance of “x,” or “y” or “z.”

    We are manning a machine which is much more complex than this. The left and right controllers
    Are more like joysticks than they are simple on/off buttons or switches. You may have the
    Left joystick rolled right, pushed “up,” while the right joystick is rolled center and pushed “down.”
    This may be the best possible judgment, depending on the situation that the machine is
    Currently facing and how the man’s action/response will impact his own character and the
    Wellbeing of the others who make up his society.

    Fear, guilt, and egocentrism were probably little heard of in primal/tribal societies. Besides fear
    Of being separated from the tribe, man had fewer fears than today. Tradition was followed
    Unquestioningly, therefore guilt was minimized. Egocentrism was just not something primal
    Man was conscious of the way we are conscious of it today.

    Today, modern man knows what he ought to do, usually. However, man is increasingly
    Coming to deny more and more the source of this innate ability to “man the machine,” so
    To speak. Primal man’s greatest fear was that of being separated from his tribe. Modern
    Man’s greatest fear is that of being separated from his autonomous individuality.
    When he says that morality is “relative,” what he is really saying is that a moral absolute
    Would threaten man’s autonomy to such a degree that compulsory compliance would
    Mean the destruction of his individuality.

    Nietzsche’s “The Will to Power” was mainly a manual for running—not the machine of the
    “whole man,” but merely the isolated left controller/joystick of the man’s individuality. “What
    Is in the best interest of “me,” to the neglect of the well being of the tribe.”

    The atheist has determined that we no longer need God. The theist cannot disprove this, as
    It is not possible to prove that the reality of God is the power source of life, regardless of
    Whether or not a man “believes” this to be true. Therefore, it is being concluded by more
    And more intelligent human’s that god is not necessary; god is a thing we have outgrown and
    No longer need. After all, god nearly always leads to “religion,” and look at what “religion”
    Leads to [morally speaking, always and of course!].

    The very first human tribe is described to us through the myth of a distant place, a garden of
    Eden. The humans decided or were tempted or whatever…to question the long held custom/
    Tradition/ritual/law which he had before never dreamed of questioning. As a result, man
    Was not merely banished from “the original tribe,” but he left it of his own free, autonomous
    Will and desiring.
    He has tried every form of “government” reason can fathom to regain that old comfort
    Of the “original tribe.” He’s returned to a “tribal” form of society. He has tried the mobile or
    Traveling “tribe.” He has settled and tried democracy. He has penned a manifesto for
    Communism.
    Every major world religion has one thing in common. It seeks to get the individual to
    Willingly “surrender” itself to the larger society…in one way or another. The power behind
    Most of them is either law/militia, or will-power, or law/fear of punishment/banishment.
    The only sage who seemed to combine in his prescriptions both the individual and the tribe,
    Was Jesus Christ. He was also the only one to openly admit that something had gone wrong
    With the individual “machines” which man were so fervently trying to run. His prescription not
    Only included a plan for this breakage/corruption in the human machine, but also plans for
    The healthy development of autonomous individuals, which tied into their purpose within
    –not just the “society of God,” but the entire “society of others” around them!

    Close with this. The enzyme is a wonderful thing. The substrate is a wonderful thing.
    Permanently banish the one from the other and they are…what? Of what use is the specifically
    Induced shape an individual substrate takes in relation to its specified enzyme, if that substrate
    Resists being united with it’s enzyme? When the two are united, they both still retain their
    Separate identities, and yet an altogether “other” system is created and set into motion. This
    System is not activated until the two come together.

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