Have you ever heard these words: ‘What is true for you is not true for me’ -- ‘Don’t impose your values on me’ -- ‘You have no right to tell me what to do’? Sure you have. These words are very popular. Unfortunately, they have been taught in schools. How many teachers have you heard say, “Come on guys, don’t be scared. There is no right or wrongopinion.”
This is from the idea called relativism. Relativism is the philosophy that denies absolutes or what is really true. There are four kinds of relativism: metaphysical, epistemological, moral, and religious. The metaphysical relativism is the claim that there are no absolutes in reality; epistemological is that there are no absolutes in knowledge; morality is the denial of moral absolutes; andreligious is the clam that there is no true religion. We are going to deal mostly with moral relativism in this essay. But first, I must refute the propositions ‘what is true for you is not true for me’ and ‘there is no right or wrong opinion.’
The first proposition, what is true for you is not true for me, is self-contradictory since it asserts an absolute, which is, what is true for you is not truefor me. In other words, is it absolutely true that what is true for you is not true for me? Again, it asserts an absolute, making it self-contradictory.
The second proposition, that there is no right or wrong opinions, is a wrong proposition too. Let me give an example of an opinion that can either be right or wrong. If someone says, ‘In my opinion, Osama Bin Laden is dead,’ can he be right orwrong? If Osama is dead, then he is right, if not, then he is wrong. He might not know if he is right or wrong, but he is either right or wrong. Both cannot be true at the same time. Therefore the proposition that there is no right or wrong opinion is false.
Let us start with moral relativism. Moral relativism is the belief that there are no moral absolutes; that morality is relative to something(i.e. individual or society). The other philosophy is called moral objectivism, that there are moral absolutes. Moral means what we ought to do and ought not to do. The question is whether they are absolute or relative. They cannot be both right at the same time, so one must be true. Here are some arguments for relativism.
Argument #1 Values differ from culture to culture. What is right in oneculture is not right for another. Since they differ from culture to culture, we can conclude that values are relative.
Response: This argument assumes what it is supposed to be proving; that is, values differ from culture to culture. It doesn’t. What they differ about is what they think value is or their opinions on values. As I have shown before, opinions can be wrong. If one culture believes thatmurdering six million Jews is morally right, it doesn’t make it so. Also, if this is true, then how can we condemn the Nazis? If there is no objective standard to apply to, then we ought not to condemn them because it would be meaningless. The only reason why we can condemn some things such as the holocaust is that we presuppose an objective or absolute standard that everyone ought to apply to.Second, this argument presupposes that one should always obey the culture in which he lives in. If my culture says that slavery is okay, does it make it so? Slavery was once permitted by the Supreme Court in the United States. However, we all know that slavery is wrong. So what made us overturn that decision? The answer is that there is a higher law than the civil law, which the government ought toapply to. This is what we call the natural law or moral law. Morality is not dependent on the government, but the government is dependent on morality.
Argument #2 People have different values. Some believe for example that the death penalty is right and some don’t. Therefore values are relative.
Response: This is pretty much the same thing with the first argument. People can be wrong on...