Credit to Paul Lee


Note: I know this is a bit long, but I promise it will be an interesting read. Very insightful. Only a taste of a larger, much more elaborate argument Majority of these excerpts are from the book Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Francis J. Beckwith & Gregory Koukl. Excellent Book. Needless to Say.

Moral Relativism

Subjective vs. Objective Truth

“When one says, Haagen-Daz butter pecan ice cream is absolutely delicious, I have said something true, because this statement accurately reflects my personal tastes. Notice, however, that what I have said is not really about ice cream. I have not made a claim about an object outside of me, a half-eaten pint of frozen dessert sitting on my counter. Rather I have said something about the subject, me.

My statement about the taste of Haagen-Dazs ice cream is a subjective truth. It is true for me, the subject, but not for the object, the ice cream itself. The ice cream doesn’t “taste”; I taste it. Subjective, not objective.

Tastes are personal. They’re private. If you didn’t like butter pecan and favored chocolate, it would be strange to say that you were wrong. You should not be faulted for having different subjective tastes about desserts than someone else.

What if my claim was not about flavors, but numbers. If I say 2+2=4, I am making a different sort of claim. As a subject, I’m communicating a belief that I hold about an external, objective truth.

If you say 2+2=5, I can claim you were wrong without being accused of impropriety. Mathematical equations are true or false, having one right answer.

Subjective truths are based on internal preferences and change according to our whims. Objective truth are realities in the external world that we discover and cannot be changed by our internal feelings.”

Moral Relativism

Moral relativism is a type of subjectivism. It holds that our moral truths are preferences much like our taste in ice cream. The validity of these truths depends entirely on the one who says, “It’s true for me [the subject] if I believe it.”

Moral relativism teaches that when it comes to morals, that which is ethically right or wrong, people do “their own” thing. Ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups who hold them. No universal rules apply to everyone.

Moral Relativism does not even qualify as an ethical system.

No Real Difference:

What’s the difference between a relativist and a person who admits she has no morality at all? There seems to be none.

How does a relativist make a moral decision? He decides for himself whatever he thinks is best. How does someone with no morality know how to act? She decides for herself whatever she thinks is best.

Even those people with no scruples whatsoever can be said to have their own morality. This illustrates the problem precisely. How can we make sense of an alleged morality that functions the same as not having any morality at all? If a thing cannot be distinguished from its opposite, then the distinction between the two is meaningless.

Thus the first reason relativism does not qualify as an ethical viewpoint is that the morality of relativism is no different than have no morality at all.

Relativism’s Moral Hero:

Another way to assess the validity of a moral system is to see what kind of person it produces. Given a particular standard of morality, the person who is most moral is the one who practices the specific system’s key moral rule consistently.

To assess the value of the moral rule, Love your neighbor as yourself, you see it produces someone like Mother Teresa who was thoroughly selfless and always gave to others. The moral system is validated by the kind of moral heroes that result.

Consistent practice of morality of nonviolent passive resistance results in Mahatma Gandhi. Moral principle requiring perfect obedience to the Father in heaven found its most sublime expression in Jesus of Nazareth. In each case, the quality of the moral hero- the one who most closely lives the ideal indicates the quality of the moral system.

What kind of moral champion does relativism produce? What is the best they can offer? What do we call those who thoroughly apply the principles of relativism, caring nothing for others’ ideas of right or wrong, those who are unmoved by others notions of ethical standards and instead consistently follow the beat of their own moral drum?

In our society, we have a name for these people; they are a homicides detective’s worst nightmare. The quintessential relativist is a sociopath, one with no conscious. That is what relativism produces. Something is terribly wrong with an alleged moral point of view that produces a sociopath as its brightest star. This is another reason relativism does not qualify as an ethical viewpoint.

In moral tradition, relativism has been universally rejected by all moral teachers in all of time.

Some people will object to this because they wish to keep the label “moral,” regardless of their ethics. “How dare you say I have no morality!” they protest. “I have a morality. I do whatever I please.”

That’s our point. Those who are relativist do whatever they want, and doing whatever one wants is not morality. Morality is doing what’s right not necessarily what’s pleasant.

It is Self-Refuting:

If you were to tell a moral relativist that morality is absolute or that what they are doing is wrong and they answer, “Who are you to judge?” or perhaps “You may think it is wrong, but for me it is ok”, or even “You have no right to inflict your views on me”, their answer is faulty and self-refuting from the get go.

With this statement, immediately the person is imposing her own absolute on you! The statement “Morality is Relative” is an absolute on its own. It is a claim about morality that he holds to be true and is claiming to be truth and that your claim that morality is absolute is wrong. It is self contradicting.

Take the statements “Who are you to judge” or “you have no right to inflict your views on me” — the statement itself is a judgment. Once again self-refuting.

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