This week we look at moral relativism, or the belief that morals are individual and/or cultural and not something shared by all people.
Here’s a one-minute video giving a quick but accurate explanation of individual and cultural moral relativism: LINK (Links to an external site.).
And here is a quick video by Audiopedia that accurately explains moral absolutism as compared to moral relativism and moral objectivism: LINK (Links to an external site.).
In 2013, Pope Francis said that moral relativism “endangers the coexistence of peoples.” He said what we need for peaceful coexistence is “a common ethics based on human nature.” He called moral relativism a kind of “dictatorship” that endangers the world (Catherine Harmon, 2013; for source click link (Links to an external site.)).
In her 2014 book called Plato at the Googleplex, Rebecca Goldstien wrote: “There used to be things that everybody thought were okay, and then just about everybody changed their minds about them, and could see that they were flat-out wrong.” And then she asked: “So how did that happen?” (Goldstein, Pantheon Books, NY, p.113).
So, let’s talk about it. Answer the first question and then your choice of either question 2 or question 3:
1. Speak with a friend, fellow worker, or family member about today’s moral values. Do they think we have a problem with moral decay today and what examples would they give to show it’s a fact? Explain what moral relativism is and ask them if they see it as dangerous, beneficial, or neither and why.
2. Consider the quote above from Rebecca Goldstein and answer the following: What would you give as an example of what she says everyone used to think was okay but now we don’t? Does this view of moral history support the idea of moral relativism or not? In other words, if we believe we’ve made some moral progress in history, would that suggest we are moral relativists or that we believe in some objective moral values?
3. Without getting into politics and without being disrespectful of others, would you describe President Donald Trump as a moral relativist, moral absolutist, or something else morally? And why? This is simply trying to describe what we see as factual and not trying to judge whether it’s good or bad at this point.