Should We Be Moral Relativists?

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INTRODUCTION

This is a short introductory essay to defend objective moral values. In philosophy, the term ‘objective,’ is defined as the existence of an object independent of human mind (mind-independency); “the object would “be there,” as it is, even if no subject perceived it.”1 In contrast, the term ‘relative’ refers to the perception of an object by the subject (mind-dependency).

Ethics Relativism Morality

‘Relativism’ espouses true or false moral judgments relative to language, culture or biological makeup.For instance, relativism need not consider polygamy as crime, for cultures or people can justify polygamy relative to their thought paradigm. Relativism denies objectivity and appeals to man’s mind.

Alternatively, ‘Objectivism’ espouses truth and falsity as independent of mind, so to claim and appeal to the reality of objective moral facts. Therefore, objectivism will rule polygamy to be a crime by appealing to the existence of objective moral laws (which is discovered and not invented by humans). This is similar to objectivism affirming the objective reality that sun is more massive than the earth.

THESIS

I – A Case for Objective Moral Values:

‘Objectivism’ or ‘we should not be moral relativists’ could be reasonably defended by positing the presence of ‘objective moral values.’ Moral relativism opposes ‘objectivism’ by negating the presence of objective realities.3 But if objective moral values can be postulated to exist, then moral relativism could be reasonably debunked.

 (1) Objective Reality is Factual

There are objective realities. The fact that sun is more massive than earth is an objective reality. This fact does not depend on anyone affirming or negating it.

(2) Objective Moral Values are a Reality

It’s morally wrong to not assist a person in need when we are able to. Similarly genocide is morally wrong; it is morally wrong to deliberately and systematically eliminate a group of people. These are universally affirmed objective moral values and do not depend on people’s mind (whether anyone believes or accepts, it is morally wrong to not assist a person and to commit genocide). Thus there are universally affirmed objective moral values.

(3) An Objective Basis is Necessary for Objective Moral Values to Exist

The “objectivism” proposed by Ayn Rand (1905-1982) posits man’s selfishness or man’s survival as the objective foundation to objective moral values.4 But human selfishness cannot be sustained as an objective foundation against an argument that a certain human subjectivity ought to be involved in deciding opposing values of human selfishness.

Would it be objectively true if the Nazi’s argued that it was morally right for them to eliminate the entire Jewish population because the Jews were an economic burden to Germany? The human selfishness of the Nazis was predicated upon the economic crisis in Germany, but in stark contrast, the human selfishness of the Jews was predicated on protecting their own life. So the Randian objectivism would crumble when two opposing cases of human selfishness collide with each other. Thus one ought to subjectively decide between the opposing objective moral values espoused by the two groups.

But ‘God’ can be reasonably posited as the sole objective source for moral values. God, as the greatest conceivable being, transcends humanity and the space-time coordinates. Hence God is an objective reality and the sole objective basis for objective moral laws.

However, proof of God’s existence ought to be reasonably provided, if not, God cannot be posited as the basis of mind-independent objective moral laws. Many arguments for God’s existence have been reasonably and plausibly posited, such as the Teleological Argument,5 Cosmological Argument,6 Moral Argument7 etc.

Since objectivity, objective moral values, and an objective moral value giver (God) can be posited, a reasonable conclusion is that there are objective moral values. Hence, we should not be moral relativists.

II – A Case for an Immoral World:

Moral relativism would stimulate an immoral world without any restraint whatsoever. When moral values are predicated on human mind, morality would be a slave of the dogma that controls that human mind. If one’s dogma is cannibalism, he would appeal to moral relativism to justify his devouring of his neighbor. Since moral relativism promotes an immoral world, we should not be moral relativists.

CONCLUSION

Two mutually contradicting statements cannot be true within the same context, at the same time and for all people. So objective and relative moral values cannot both be true for they contradict each other. The presence of objective moral values and the case for an immoral world portrays that moral relativism exists by ignoring or suppressing the truth of objective moral values. Therefore, we should not be moral relativists.

END NOTES:

1http://www.iep.utm.edu/objectiv/#SH2a

2http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/

3http://www.iep.utm.edu/moral-re/#H3

4http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ayn-rand/

5 J.P Moreland, Scaling the Secular City – A Defense of Christianity, (Michigan: Baker Academic, 1987), p43-76.

6 Ibid, p15-42.

7http://www.reasonablefaith.org/moral-argument#ixzz2mPz3C86b

This article was posted at http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2013/12/should-we-be-moral-relativists_28.html

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2th89GR


 

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8 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    “These are universally affirmed objective moral values and do not depend on people’s mind”

    You seem to contradict yourself in the same sentence. You claim these values don’t depend on people’s minds, but your evidence for these values is that they are universally affirmed, ie people agree on them.

    So what’s your test for objective moral values that doesn’t rely on consensus or opinion? Just declaring something to be immoral isn’t enough, neither does pointing to general agreement on a value. What objective test can be performed to demonstrate an objective moral value?

    Reply
    • KR says:

      I agree. These moral positions rely on compassion, which obviously requires a mind. There are plausible models – supported by evolutionary biology and mathematics (game theory in particular) that show how compassion and co-operative behaviour could develop through natural processes that don’t require any deity.

      Rajkumar Richard wrote: “So the Randian objectivism would crumble when two opposing cases of human selfishness collide with each other.”

      But how does objective morality solve this problem? I’ve been asking this before on this forum but have so far received no reply. Can you provide an example of a moral disagreement that was resolved by one side demonstrating that their position was the objectively correct one? The complete lack of such cases tells me that even if objective moral values exist (which I see no evidence of), they’re apparently powerless to resolve moral conflicts. This means that they can’t serve as guides for our behaviour and are, essentially, irrelevant to our lives.

      “But ‘God’ can be reasonably posited as the sole objective source for moral values.”

      It’s been pointed out many times before but bears repeating: God cannot be the source of moral values that are independent of mind – that is, unless you’re claiming that God doesn’t have a mind. The whole idea of moral values independent of mind makes very little sense to me. In my experience, when we assess the morality of an action, we always do so by considering the effect this action has on other humans (or other sentient beings). If there are no minds around that could perform the action or be affected by it, what does morality even mean?

      “Moral relativism would stimulate an immoral world without any restraint whatsoever.”

      Observable reality would tend to disagree. Every modern society has moral guidelines in the form of laws that were arrived at through a political system which is entirely subjective. If you think democracy will inevitably result in an immoral society without any restraint, what do you base this on – and what would you like to replace it with?

      “So objective and relative moral values cannot both be true for they contradict each other.”

      I would say that moral values can have an objective grounding (like our shared human biology) but that we will still in many cases end up with different subjective views on specific issues. The best method we seem to have come up with for resolving these differences is a democratic system where the topic is debated and finally voted on by our elected representatives. It’s a thoroughly subjective system which may not be perfect but still seems far preferable to any of the alternatives.

      Reply
  2. Andy Ryan says:

    Out of interest, are the people running this site such as Frank Turek all still on the Trump train?
    Still think the president is doing God’s work, still think he’s a stand up honest guy who always tells the truth, still think he has America’s best interest at heart?
    I’d love to hear an update on everyone’s thoughts, because before the election the site was giving the guy a big thumbs up and I’m wondering if it still stands by the endorsement.

    Reply
  3. Bob Seidensticker says:

    “It’s morally wrong to not assist a person in need when we are able to. Similarly genocide is morally wrong; it is morally wrong to deliberately and systematically eliminate a group of people.”

    And I agree, but that simply means that they’re widely accepted. That doesn’t mean that they’re objective in the Wm. Lane Craig sense of “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”

    Reply
  4. Luke says:

    The author wrote: “It’s morally wrong to not assist a person in need when we are able to… These are universally affirmed objective moral values.”
    ..
    I don’t believe this. I certainly don’t believe that this is universal (or even common), but I also have serious doubts that even conceptually it is morally wrong, even if we could convince people it was.
    ..
    I. I often see people ignore those in need, whom they could easily help. If people actually believed it was wrong to do this (really truly believed it, not believed it sounded nice) you’d see people helping others all the time. You’d never see a person in need go without help. Sure we see people helping sometimes, but we see indifference just as much (if not more).
    ..
    If you ask me, I would say that I basically believe this. Do I live by it? No. I do selfish things all the time! I have possessions (Luke 14:33)! I have things that make me happy, that I could easily sell to help one of the thousands who die of simple diarrhea everyday. It’s a cruel joke to say that I believe “it is morally wrong to not assist a person in need”. I’d like to believe it, but my choices show I don’t… not really.
    ..
    Actions speak louder than words. Look around. Most people do not believe this.
    ..
    ..
    II. I am far less convinced of my view on this one, but I am not sure this the moral imperative proposed here is actually right. I very much hold Luke 14:33 as a goal for myself, but with some reticence. (It is certainly a good goal, but I’m not sure it’s best.) I was blessed with many abilities, and I can generate an income in the economic system where I live. By living a life where I allow myself some pleasure, I think I may be able to give more over my lifetime. But this cannot be done without turning down assistance to some who need it now. There is a difference in behavior between “help as many as possible over your lifetime” and “help anyone you see before you when you can”.
    ..
    I think the former may actually be the right imperative.
    ..
    You can argue it’s subtle, but it’s actually significant when you really dig into it. (I really recommend reading David Parfit, but also Peter Singer, probably the most vocal advocate of serious altruism, as well as the classic thoughts of Bentham and Mill. Also, see how I know those names? I chose to learn things instead of helping people. I really struggle with how wrong that is — honestly — but my choices betray my true beliefs, I think. Just more proof for Part I.)
    ..
    Thanks,
    ..
    Luke

    Reply
  5. Luke says:

    To comment a bit on my first point. I know one might say “just because we believe something, doesn’t mean we won’t fail sometimes”.
    ..
    I wanted to clarify with an example. I believe it is wrong for me to eat animal flesh. Therefore, I do not eat animal flesh.
    ..
    I don’t sometimes eat animal flesh, then feel kind of bad about it later.
    ..
    I just don’t eat animal flesh.
    ..
    I sometimes think about how badly someone would have to torture me to get me to eat it. I think I would do it for $1,000,000 because that money could do incredible good for many people, but the thought, even with easing the suffering of many in mind makes me a little physically ill.

    Yet, I ignore the suffering of others pretty regularly. Just typing this is spending time that could be used to help someone.
    ..
    It’s just not right to say I believe it is wrong to not help someone when I could. (To be clear, I do believe that I should truly believe that.)
    ..
    I truly do believe one (it is wrong to eat animal flesh). I aspire to believe the other (it is wrong to not help someone in need).
    ..
    It’s a mistake to conflate true belief with aspiration. (And while it pains me to say this, I think many people lack even the aspiration to believe the thing you claim we all believe universally.)
    ..
    Thanks,
    ..
    Luke

    Reply
    • Susan says:

      What if while you are sharing your thoughts you are helping someone?

      The Bible is God conveying spiritual ideas to people and ideas are powerful. They even enable people sometimes.

      I don’t study the objective and subjective of moral relativism at all.

      But that is probably because I think it is the thought processes of weak minded people.

      Everyone in this world passes from dependency to independency while in this world. As a well known pastor once said everyone comes into this world helpless and exits it helpless but somewhere in the middle they start to entertain the illusion in their mind that they are independent and don’t need anyone else.

      But no man is an island like John Donne said.

      You can also be raised right in this world or be raised wrong but some people some how managed to get re-raised in this lifetime. That is what being born again is. Being spiritually born so you can set out on a journey of self discovery and growth along a certain planned route predetermined by God.

      Why getting on this route is so hard for some people I have no idea. Perhaps they like playing in the sand box too long.

      But like they say “there are no atheists in foxholes” because at death every person no matter how strong willed or independently they lived will come face to face with death and wouldn’t it be better to face it with equanimity?

      The more virtues you possess the more you can face evil with equanimity.

      Some battles with evil you are going to win in this world and some you may lose but at least you didn’t morally relativistically rationalize your way into taking the cowardly route of not calling something evil which is evil.

      But most people can’t know they are operating from evil heart motives at times without consulting God in His Holy Book.

      Google Freewill vs. Predestination on becomingone.org and read it.

      I think a lot of unbelievers struggle with understanding God’s position in the scriptures because they devote all their time to making an argument against God instead of involving themselves in doctrinal research.

      When you realize how absolutely God is your friend then that is a real eye opener.

      But in all thenpsychological self indivuation process of growing up we tend to miss subjectives pieces about ourselves and about God.

      People are God’s subject and it says He first loved us. Don’t mistake brokenness for a lack of love. What if brokenness is a stage of re-creation necessary to success.

      Some people are just going to realize they are broken by sin and need help in this world earlier than others. Some are going to realize it in the foxhole.

      I was reading about Steve Jobs lately and it says he was a Christian as a youth but switched to Buddhism later but he still seemed to lean a bit towards Christianity because of his attitude towards the afterlife.

      When he died his last words were “Wow oh wow. Wow” or something to that effect so maybe he ran into something better like God when exiting this world.

      Reply
  6. Susan Tan says:

    When I read apologetics blogs and forums I realize how far people have gotten away from simple term usage.
    To participate in some apologetics debates you have to learn a whole new language of logic and philosophy and that is just worldly to me now.
    At one time I was very interested in philosophy but I discarded my respect for it now and just try to meditate on God’s Word and compare it to the world so I can unlock His true meanings…to make sense for myself.
    But apologetics is a foreign language you have to learn to try to give the world an adjustment to see things God’s way.
    But a whole new language isn’t the way to go about it.

    Most of the world needs an attitude adjustment to see things God’s way.

    I don’t know why anyone settles for being masters of the world’s way when God’s ways are higher.

    I would rather spend all my time learning God’s ways then a single moment trying to understand Nietzsche or Plato, etc.

    Because it is just better to study godly principles then compare notes with the minds of men.

    Christianity is difficult to comprehend enough because interpretations pass through the minds of men and people make mistakes. Of course, using the word “men” I mean that as ” men and women”. Men and women both make mistakes.

    And I don’t know why we there is so much arguing. I think it suits certain personality types. There are intuitive minded people and logical minded people in this world and shades in between of these two mind types and it always seems to me that the people that insist on logical are driving these discussions trying to validate their own views.

    I used to like to argue because I used to like to use my mind and I could convey evangelical ideas that way but you always run into battles of the will arguing.

    If I were an atheist I would do what Derek Prince did. Derek Prince is an atheist who converted to Christianity and went on to become a worldwide evangelist. At one time Prince was deep into philosophy and he was in Wittgenstein’s circle but he finally found the key after seeking that converted him.

    He writes about it in his book called “Gifts of the Spirit”. I saw his point clearly and I had to agree with him. Prince is quite a good clear teacher. Of course, I never had any trouble believing in God but due to brain types and reinforcement of wrong ideas by society and education and ignorant teachers some people like Prince could have quite a struggle coming to believe in God.

    A mind struggle is hard enough but add a will reinforcement. Reinforcing error and that is terribly hard.

    I am so glad Prince wasn’t too proud to follow God’s reasoning in the Bible because it gave him his faith. He must have intellectually accepted the fact that God was more rational and greater than he was in spite of his belief problem but maybe not everyone is as intuitive as Prince was.

    People don’t logically rationalize every belief they hold. Some things we just know. Like me. I always knew God existed. I was a born believer and I have private reasons that verify that that an outsider’s argument isn’t going to dispel though some people try to convert Christians to unbelief like Richard Dawkins or to reconvert them to wrong belief systems like the Jehovah Witnesses do.

    Some atheists claim believers can’t be born believers but Justin Barrett’s research into the human brain exposes that is an erroneous conclusion.

    So I may be a fish out of water on this blog. But sometimes you can learn the most by comparing opposites. I know I always seem to learn a lot from it.

    I definitely am a contrarian because I see how philosophizing too much has damaged Christianity but the problem may also be the solution.

    When the philosophers entered early Christianity then the Church made a hierarchy out of itself trying to control the masses a lot of God’s purity of ideas was lost and the world is still reeling from that.

    You really do want to get the purest ideas from God if possible.

    Contrast the Old Testament people with the New Testament people. One is a pre-gift of the Holy Spirit age and one is the gift-of the Holy Spirit Age but unbelievers never realize the profound difference that implies between the Passover and the Pentecostal Age. Some Christians never even think to break these down as two distinct ages. They simply call them the Old and the New Testament periods.

    Reply

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