Friday, August 10, 2007

What's Wrong with I.E.R. (6)

We've already discussed a number of significant problems with the view known as moral relativism. Relativists can't accuse others of wrong-doing. They can't appeal to the problem of evil as a complaint against God. They can neither place blame nor accept praise. They cannot label anything as just or fair or unjust or unfair. And they cannot improve their morality.

Another thing that is utterly inconsistent for someone espousing moral relativism is to engage in moral discussions. Meaningful discourse about ethical issues can only be undertaken by people who believe in moral objectivism. Ethical discussions (which includes most political discussions) are all about weighing moral alternatives, attempting to decide which view is more ethical. But if--as the moral relativist believes--all views are equally valid, then there's no point in speaking or listening.

Now it seems that there is a great deal of interest in discussing such things as the war in Iraq. Should we have invaded Iraq? Was there good justification for doing so, or was our President misguided, wrong, or even deceitful? Should we withdraw immediately, or is there still good to be done there? Are Iraqis capable of self-government without tyranny? Can democracy even be expected to work in that culture? Are the lives of American men and women more valuable than the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis who suffered and died under Hussein?

These seem to be important questions, questions about which almost everyone in America has some opinion. But the one group who--if consistent--disqualifies itself from the discussion is those who espouse moral relativism. As the rest of us (those who believe in moral objectivism) carry out our heated discussions, we would be right to ignore any opinion or argument offered by a relativist, and that because we understand the relativist's larger claim. To the relativist, a person's moral view is nothing more than a personal preference, like a favorite flavor of ice cream. I should listen carefully and seriously to the arguments given against my own position by someone who accepts that right and wrong are objective sorts of things. But when someone I know to be a relativist interjects that (for example) "All war is wrong" or "Bush lied about WMDs," I should give that no more consideration than if she had said "I don't like brussel sprouts."

But moral relativists tend not to be consistent. Because they live in the real world, they do have opinions about ethical issues, and they like to share those opinions as much as the next fellow. You see, the only way to be utterly consistent to a stance of moral relativism is to remain completely silent on any issue that remotely involves concepts like good and bad, right and wrong, justice and fairness. That's why nobody lives consistently as a moral relativist.

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