Monday, August 13, 2007

Relativism and Tolerance

If, after all I've shared this past week about the obvious problems with moral relativism, you still have some inclination toward that view, it's likely because you believe that tolerance is a worthy goal. It is, after all, a virtue that's riding an all-time high; indeed, for some (including, especially, moral relativists) tolerance is the 'boom shiggety,' the highest of all virtues.

I'll save it for another post to discuss how tolerance is misunderstood in today's culture. But for now, let's grant (and that willingly, since I believe it) that there exists a virtue known as tolerance and that people should exhibit this virtue in their dealings with others.

Here again we run into a huge problem for the moral relativist. Because while I--as a moral objectivist--can say that people should be tolerant--the relativist cannot. Words like 'should' and 'ought' are terms of moral obligation, and moral obligation is exactly what relativists deny. If there are no objective moral absolutes--as the relativist claims--then tolerance is not one either. Put another way, if every individual has the right to make up his own ethical principles, then there is no way of judging or blaming the individual who chooses to make intolerance the core of his morality.

You see, one cannot make a case for moral relativism on the basis of tolerance, nor can one make the case for tolerance from a position of moral relativism.

If tolerance is a virtue, then moral objectivism must be true.


Anonymous said...

If tolerance is the chief virtue and intolerance the chief failure, then anyone who shows intolerance towards the intolerant has made the ultimate failure.Moral relativists build their homes on sandy ground with the high tide about to rush in and demolish the building. Do you think that moral relativists are just trying to escape from the consequences of their faillures?

Rick Gerhardt said...


Thanks for reading. I hesitate to generalize, but I think most see moral relativism as the easiest way to justify pet sins, especially in the sexual realm. Can you think of any other way that a society could justify the killing of millions of unborn human persons than with the mantra "every women has the right to choose for herself"? So yes, if by failures you mean moral failures, I agree that relativists are trying to escape the consequences of theirs.