More Problems with Moral Relativism

The fox shouldn’t be in charge of the henhouse.

(photo: Arek Socha/Pixabay/CC0)

This is Part 2 of a series on moral relativism. The previous article can be found here.


Lack of virtue.

Moral relativism is based on individual preferences. Exactly who would do the nominating who for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, the Man of Peace Award, the Gandhi Peace Prize, the U Thant Peace Award or the Righteous Gentile Award? These honors are awarded not because morality is relative but because it is objective. If there were no standards of good and evil, a lot of people would be recommending Hitler for these awards. Thankfully there’s no chance of that happening because morality is objective.


Right and wrong.

If there were no such a thing as objectively right and wrong, why do moral relativists keep insisting they are right about morality? If they’re right, then they must admit there is an objective right and wrong. C.S. Lewis, at the very beginning of Mere Christianity, pointed out that if morality were indeed subjective, people wouldn’t argue about right and wrong. This means morality is real.

If you want proof that morality is objective, you need go no further than your nearest atheist. They are the first people to insist that anyone is wrong if they disagree with them. You would think that those who insist that morality was subjective would be the first to say, “Oh! Rape and subjection of women? That’s OK… after all, it’s all relative!” But the plain truth is that nobody says silly things like this. Even they realize they’re wrong when it comes to morality relativism.


Moral language is meaningful.

Morality is the air we breathe. It’s the gravity that keep us grounded. It’s the very food that keeps us alive. Our language is replete with moral terms including “demands,” “praise,” “authority,” “scandalous,” “blaming” and “rights.” If relativism is correct, these words would have no meaning whatsoever. However, the words sill have meaning and cachet.


The fox shouldn’t be in charge of the henhouse.

The moral relativist is his own final arbiter… and that’s a bad thing. That’s simply too convenient. Every monster dislikes anyone judging him. We don’t want a society in which the worst monsters get to police themselves. Thus, one has the option of following an objective morality and strive to become a saint or one can embrace moral relativism and hold oneself in the highest esteem without having to actually care about people or help them. Your choice.

Further, a moral relativist can’t possibly be the final arbiter of all morality — because that’s my job. Or maybe yours. But as you can see, the moral relativist’s insistence upon his own moral supremacy is contradicted by every other person int the world. Further, this can’t be a matter of “I have a feeling” as morality is never about what we do alone. Morality is the way in which sane, civilized folk deal with everyone they encounter. If a moral relativist were to come into conflict with someone, the moral relativist, in his own mind, would have to always be correct and that’s just silliness. Morality, not our egos, is what we rely upon when we come into conflict with each other.


Might doesn’t make right. It just makes a bully.

A major problem with moral relativism is that it’s useless to discuss morality with them, especially when two people come into conflict. The only way to win an emotional conflict is to yell louder or get a bigger gun. This is what moral relativism is all about―the rejection of logic, sanity, reasonableness and civility to be replaced by emotional and physical violence.


Morality actually exists for the sane among us.

When Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon in 1980, he plopped down on the sidewalk next to the body. He felt neither guilt nor remorse, let alone fear of being caught by the authorities. This isn’t the same as moral relativism. A criminal of reasonable sanity would run away from the scene of his crime in the hope of not getting caught. The moment he runs, the criminal is acknowledging a moral code which he rejects.


Relativism is itself, relative.

If morality is a matter of feelings, then the moral relativist has no more authority over me than do my “feelings” have over him. I can’t intelligently say to him, “I feel I’m right so you have to do everything I say!”


Not everyone agrees as to what is moral.

Moral relativists will insist, as they do, that some people think cruelty is kindness. This is perfect nonsense. I've never heard anyone argue, “Let’s ask the certifiably crazy people what they think ― after all, their opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s!” The same thing goes for the selfish and anyone else who refuses to believe in objective morality.


Feelings are worthless when making a moral judgment.

The relativist's argument assumes that feelings are the standard for judging morality. But objective morality says the opposite ― we argue that morality is the standard for judging feelings. If the relativist’s argument that self-esteem is better than guilt in determining morality, it logically follows that if murderers, rapists, cannibals, pickpockets, terrorists and tyrants feel good about themselves, they must be acting morally. Logicians call this “crazy talk.”


Cultural relativism.

While it’s true that different cultures have different values, there is no culture in the world that says stealing, lying and murder are good things. Further, most of what distinguishes one culture from another is merely tastes and perceptions. In the West, we bring freshly cut flowers to sick people in the hospital while in Japan, it’s anathema. These are differences in values and understanding but definitely not a matter of moral differences.

Relativists often argue that morality is a matter of one’s cultural values. This is wholly untrue. This rhetorical ploy confuses values with value opinions. There’s no doubt that society conditions our value opinions but it doesn’t follow that society conditions values in us, unless values are nothing but value opinions, which is precisely the point at issue, the conclusion. Just because we learn from our respective societies doesn’t mean that those values are subjective. If so, the same thing can be said of math and logic, and that is definitely not true. It follows that a morality based on logical precepts including the first and most important, the “principle of non-self-contradiction,” must apply in every and all cases.

Aleksander Augustynowicz, “Alleluia,” 1906

Erika Ahern on Safeguarding Your Family From Relativism and Secularism (April 10)

The Easter Season is here, and Catholic families are trying to get the most out of the season, especially as we emerge slowly out of the pandemic. This week on Register Radio, we are joined by Catholic vlogger and Catholic family expert Erika Ahern on her Easter Octave Guide for Catholic Families and her advice for safeguarding families from relativism and secularism. And then, we talk to Register editor Alyssa Murphy who gives a round-up of not-to-miss stories at