4.23.2008

moral relativism-and the pope.

I think it is funny and interesting how the Pope's big message is about the dangers of Moral Relativism.
Because, although it is true morally relative language has become more common, I really don't know if I have ever known any true moral relativist, and would be surprised if actual more relativism were on the rise.
While not uncommon one speak like a moral relativist, even Bill O'Reilly surprised me when I watched his interview with Richard Dawkins by saying of his Catholicism that it is true for him while Athiesism may be true for Dawkins, the actual practice or moral relativism or even genuine belief seems almost non-existant.
Typically when I hear it expressed it is in reference to something like the above example, something like religion that is very difficult to show anything conclusive one way or the other.
But I haven't experienced anyone, no matter how strongly they may speak in language of, 'everyone is different so what is right and wrong for everyone is different' who if forced to would not realize they draw some line. Say, The Holocaust. Despite how different each person is, they would not say, well, for some people the holocaust may be good. (which isn't to say some people don't think the holocaust wasn't a good thing, but those who tend to feel that way do for morally absolute reasons). While my example was extreme, if there is even one example it makes someone not morally relative. And from that one thing many more things could be deduced.
The most far left people, those who most likely to be perceived as morally relative, tend to hold very strongly to certain ideals of right and wrong. Just as much as any religious person. While their reasons for holding it may not because they believe in an outside absolute standard, it doesn't mean they don't hold some things to be clearly immoral.
Generally, those things they may not see as immoral, or right for some but for others, are things they would not regard as moral issues at all. Not that they are relative about the morality, but that morality does not apply to those particular situations.
While a Conservative may think it right for some and not for others to adopt a child, it isn't because they believe in moral relativism, but that adoptions isn't necessarily a moral issue and circumstance may dictate when it is appropriate. Just as a left leaning person may think Christianity is right for some and not for others, not because they are morally relative, but because they don't see religious choice as a moral issue but dependent on circumstance.
As a side note, I think one may also be hard pressed, though perhaps less so, to find real moral absolutists. Those who believe that some actions, regardless of the circumstances are always wrong.
It is an interesting and strange concept to imagine some outside notion of right and wrong. Independendant of circumstance and people. What would that even mean or be? Since morality is a judgement of actions by agents what would it mean for it to be independent of those? Like having a movie rating system independent of movies.

2 comments:

paul maurice martin said...

That's a good point - I haven't known any real "moral relativists" either. I'm not even sure I could cite one in history. People who have committed the greatest wrongs seem to do so based on some warped idea they have of the right - take Hitler's view of "the master race."

Seems like moral relativism is long on theory but short on practice.

Vincent said...

Well argued!