Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Problems with Moral Relativism

Moral Relativism begins with the proposition that there are no objectively definable absolutes and no absolute truths, within any moral premise. Thus, the assumption is that everything is potentially relative and can be regarded has having potential actuality, as an aspect of mankind's 'moral' character.

Moral Relativism assumes that any moral question can be judged based on socially excepted premises and even the whim of the moment, simply because it is impossible to define a universal moral framework that relates to mankind as a whole and the individual as a unit.

The main claim for Moral Relativism then, is that 'anything goes' because there is nothing to 'go at'. In other words, if Moral Relativism is a true proposition, then any action is potentially moral, because nothing is immoral relative to mankind. Indeed, if everything is considered as relative and there are no universals with regard to morality, then by definition everything becomes relative and nothing can be seen as immoral within that framework.

If it were really true that Moral Relativism was the common standard and one could not identify objective moral universals... then to stab a man with a knife or not stab a man with a knife are both relative positions, because there are no absolutes in the context of Moral Relativism.

For Moral Relativism to have even a grain of truth, one would have to start from the premise that mankind had no capable way of identifying its own individual nature, its physical, psychological and philosophical nature...

But the fact is that mankind can understand the 'atomic' nature of the individual. The individuals physical, psychological and philosophical nature can be understood and indeed is being understood as mankind's knowledge progresses. It is because we can understand our nature more and more and are able to frame that nature within a universal context of morality, that allows us to conclude the Moral Relativism is a false proposition.

If it were genuinely true that we could not identify moral universals, then it would also be true that we could not create moral standards that protect individuals from the initiation of force. It is only because individuals are beings of a certain kind and behave in a certain way; that allows us to define a moral framework based around that behavior.

Coming back to the point of 'whether to stab a man with a knife or not stab a man with a knife' - and why we can identify the moral action as apposed to the immoral one. The reason mankind as a whole can agree on such a moral standard as "the initiation of force against a fellow man is morally wrong" is exactly because of mans nature (of course there are exceptions that would not be seen as initiating force, one may stab another in self-defense for example... maybe in a war situation).

An example of just one aspect of an individuals nature, is the emotion called empathy. We know that serial killers and tyrants are able to kill and even torture because they lack empathy. Empathy is basically the internal feeling or emotion that "I would not like to do to others, that which I would not like done to myself". Thus, if we see a stabbed man or woman in the street we empathize with their predicament... We essentially vicariously put ourselves 'in their shoes' and we have a deep welling up of empathy. The very fact that we are able to identify universal moral standards is because those standards have a real concrete definable attributes such as empathy (we would most likely feel sympathy in the 'stab victim' situation too).

The fact is that, the more civilized a society becomes... The closer that society is to understanding it's own nature and how to incorporate that nature within a moral framework. Indeed, some societies are more civilized than others. Thus, we know that genital mutilation and honor killings are not good strategy for human beings, but in many Muslim countries such actions are being carried out. The moral standard in such countries has not shifted to the same degree that it has in more civilized western societies.

Another real concrete definable attribute is happiness. We recognize happiness as a universally good character trait... A happy individual is a rounded individual. Indeed, above all else... The degree by which an individual is happy is the degree by which one can measure the universal standard of moral stability. The happiest societies are known to be the healthiest societies. Actions such a genital mutilation and honor killings do not lead to happiness and stability. Indeed, ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali a Somali women who escaped from her Muslim past, in which she suffered terrible beatings and genital mutilation. She escaped Somali and a forced arranged marriage, to live in the West and has become a successful author and public speaker... Ask her if she is happier now, I have little doubt of her reply.

yes! Moral Relativism is wrong.

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