Post Author: Darrell
Re-post from Aug 2, 2010
Moral Relativists hold to the position that morals, i.e., that which is right versus that which is wrong, are not absolute or objective in nature. Instead, they are dependent upon what an individual believes and/or a community deems appropriate. As a result, an action can be morally wrong for person “x” and morally right for person “y” at one and the same time and in the same sense simply due to the fact that they hold different beliefs or their community deems different things to be appropriate. To the relativist, moral principles are not transcendent in nature, and as a result, they do not apply universally to all people at all times.
In Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air , Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl cite seven fatal flaws of Moral Relativism. In the next few posts, I will list and explain these flaws in an effort to demonstrate the challenges inherent in the philosophy of Moral Relativism.
Flaw Number One: Moral Relativists are logically incapable of accusing others of doing wrong. Many moral relativists take the position that morals are a matter of personal definition, i.e., something is only wrong if it is deemed to be so by that particular individual. This places relativists in quite an untenable position, for then an individual who believes murder to be morally acceptable would be morally appropriate in murdering. The moral relativist may personally believe that murder is wrong, but this is of no effect when defining what is morally wrong for the murderer. The murderer’s actions are only wrong if the murderer himself believes them to be wrong.
Some moral relativists believe that morals are not defined by an individual, but are instead defined by one’s community. However, this position is equally untenable, for if morals are defined by ones community, Hitler and Germany were acting in a morally appropriate manner when they slaughtered millions of Jews. After all, their community deemed these actions morally acceptable. In fact, one might even say that the Allied forces were morally wrong in forcing Germany to stop, for they were forcing their community’s moral beliefs upon Germany.
Obviously, next to no one is willing to say that murder is acceptable or that the holocaust was morally appropriate, yet both of these positions are a logical consequence of moral relativism. Consequently, moral relativists are in the position of affirming the moral acceptability of these horrific actions or are forced to maintain the belief that at least some actions (murder and genocide) are morally wrong despite what an individual or community believes.
In the next post we will look at a few more flaws inherent in Moral Relativism. Stick around.