Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dog-Fighting and Morality

Much of my argument against moral relativism and for moral objectivism has been based on intuition. That is, while moderns may find it easy to say that morality is a personal, subjective thing--and that no objective morality exists--we nonetheless understand intuitively that concepts like right and wrong, justice and fairness, good and evil, and moral improvement, really do have meaning. We cannot avoid using moral language in our everyday speech, and we intuitively live our lives as though moral objectivism is true.

An example of this comes from one of the top news stories of the past week (and one to which, in its earlier stages, I alluded way back when I launched this series on morality with a couple of sports comments).

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has now pled guilty to crimes associated with operating an illegal dog-fighting ring out of his home. He is expected to face prison time for these crimes, which alledgedly include some rather heinous executions (of losing or under-performing dogs) which Vick oversaw or carried out.

The public outcry against these crimes has been enormous (and rightly so). And this would seem to prove my point--that no matter how we talk about morality in guarded conversation, we all recognize when an evil act has been committed.

In the Vick case, all of the human participants were agreed that what was going on was fun and exciting (all were consenting adults, if you will). Until the story leaked, no one was being harmed by what these fun-loving gentlemen were doing in the privacy of Vick's home and grounds. (Indeed, even after the incidents became known, it could be argued that none of us was hurt by the carryings-on.)

But people across the nation are outraged by these acts, with columnists and callers to talk-shows crying for justice. The events themselves and their subsequent revelation have galvanized our collective sense that these things are wrong, that the men involved were behaving cruelly, and that they ought to be punished.

No one is saying--as would be consistent with moral relativism--that these guys were merely following the dictates of their own moral code and thus should be left alone. Moreover, it would be a reach to suggest that our outlawing of such acts is merely for society's benefit, that while such cruelty itself is morally neutral, it is society's good that is somehow affected. No, we all recognize that some things simply are wrong, that people who do those things are acting contrary to an objective standard, and that they ought to be punished and the evil activity stopped.

The outcry against the misdeeds of Michael Vick and the calls that justice be done here only make sense in a world in which there exists an objective moral standard. The incoherent position known as moral relativism has been taking a well-deserved beating as this dog-fighting scandal has unfolded.

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