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Against Moral Relativism

Jesse Ogden

Note: On the subject of moral relativism, if someone dismisses the kind of evidence presented by this website because, in their words, there is no 'absolute truth', then simply ask them the question....Do you ABSOLUTELY believe that?

Despite the constant bombardment of socialistic philosophies, beliefs, and ideas that I receive at my state-subsidized school, I have grown adept at brushing off these very silly concepts. The struggle for my individualism – as well as the struggle for the individualism of those who also get browbeaten and demoralized by the bureaucratic educational system – against the natural collective tendencies of my peers and the hardhanded reprimanding I receive from my teachers has been a long one, so by now I am barely fazed by whatever they throw at me. Recently though I have found my thoughts disconcerted by a disturbing trend that has taken its hold upon people, especially among my school’s intelligentsia; the philosophy of moral relativism.

Pure moral relativism has always been an easily refuted and fallible philosophy. Moral relativism, in its purest state, would condone all behavior, no matter how many rights are violated or what the consequences are. To believe in pure moral relativism, one would have to be able to stand back and say, "it is ok for another person to kill me, even if they have absolutely no pretense to do so," something that anyone is very unlikely to do since human beings, along with all living creatures, strive to preserve themselves, first and foremost.

Moral relativism was embraced by Marx and Engels who believed that "men, consciously or unconsciously, derive their ethical ideas in the last resort from the practical relations on which their class position is based," so it is not surprising that their tyrannical "offspring" – the revolutionaries and the socialistic totalitarian rulers of the 20th century – latched onto this idea strongly when they embraced communism and socialism; indeed, it is difficult to justify the slaying of many if they have rights. By accepting the doctrine of moral relativism, those who could obtain power could justify state-sponsored murder and plunder by pointing out that since morals don’t really exist and are merely a product of one’s class or upbringing, there is no moral argument against the state version of murder and plunder. And with no moral argument, it could be argued that natural rights don’t really exist since to defend natural rights one would have to say that it’s unethical to violate natural rights, but since there is no morality there can be no ethics – except when it’s modeled under the pretense of "the ends justify the means" – thus, the concept of natural rights becomes moot.

Moral relativism still persists in society and politics today – albeit in weaker degrees. The most obvious example of it is in the abortion debate when certain individuals will say that they are personally against abortion – meaning that they find the idea of stamping out a life before it’s even begun to be repulsive in some aspect – but do not wish to interfere with a woman’s right to choose. While a little moral relativism in one’s life is not bad – indeed it would be morally reprehensible to go around, imposing all aspects of your life upon others – there are very few, if any, instances where moral relativism is good in political matters. There is a serious problem with ignoring a discussion over whether a natural right is violated or not for the sake of not imposing on another person’s "lifestyle."

In fact, one could argue that the whole problem of widespread plunder by governments today is due, in some part, to moral relativism. Welfare-statists, except for the truly nutty ones, will all agree that stealing another man’s wallet is wrong. However, they’ll believe it’s not only morally ok to steal A’s wallet just as long as it is done by the government and for the benefit of B, who feels that he is more entitled to that money than A is, but that it’s actually the moral thing to do.

Moral relativism continues to thrive mostly due to its appeal; it’s the easy way out. In a discussion with a friend of mine on the morally relativistic behavior of some of my classmates, my friend gave me some insightful words on the subject. He told me "it's easy to defend moral relativism because it essentially says there's nothing. Of course it’s a lot easier to defend nothing than defending something else. There's a god. Prove it! There's right and wrong. Prove it! It's a very hard thing to do. Just because something is easy to defend probably makes it the least right as far as I'm concerned." There’s a lot of truth in those words. It’s easy to defend moral relativism, whether for good or for opportunistic reasons, since it makes it easy to condone all kinds of behavior. It’s much harder to defend something like natural law and natural rights since it imposes a universal standard – "you may not, no matter the pretense, violate another person’s rights if they have not committed aggressive acts against you" – and protects individuals against the tyranny of "good intentions."
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