“Moral Relativism or Absolute Truth,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
Moral relativism, so called, has gained in the United States and many Western nations and societies, currency, if not widespread acceptance. The idea behind moral relativism is that there are no set or absolute moral or ethical rules and, as a result, it follows there is no absolute truth or truths. Moral choice is apprehended not as an absolute, but, as an individual choice, from person to person, and from age to age.
Thus, for example, adultery, once codified as a crime, has subsequently come to carry nothing more than a severe societal stigma. Adultery has now gained a degree of tolerance, if not outright acceptance. Casual sexual liaisons, also, conducted outside of the marriage bond, once stigmatized, have gained widespread societal acceptance. Consensual homosexual relations, once known as consensual sodomy, also in the past regarded and codified as illegal have, as well, gained toleration.
At this point in time in most Western societies, we do not tolerate, and have
stopped short of tolerating and accepting, incest or adult/child sex, but appear to be moving toward total acceptance of same-sex or homosexual marriage.
Moral relativism as an idea, implies if not states that ''you can do what you want" and gain toleration, if not approval, as long as you harm no one outright, and break no laws.
Absolute truth posits there are fixed ethical and moral norms, the deviation from which constitutes some sort of wrongdoing or moral error, which should not be tolerated or accepted and which deserve to be stigmatized, if not made illegal and punished.
Moral relativism has its roots in a number of misleading and erroneous thought sources. The moral relativist says that as long as what you do in some sense makes you feel good and does not constitute a bother or irritation to anyone in your vicinity, it is seen as ok. This idea has its source in the media, where television, computers, and, of course, the Internet present deviate and illicit sexual behavior as fine and implicitly, if not explicitly, encourage it. A glance at Internet chat rooms and personal advertisements shows this to be true, as well as the widespread dissemination of pornographic material at all newsstands and places we can buy things.
The media, as a source of moral and ethical truth is, charitably put, faintly if not actually, ridiculous, since the promotion of these purported lifestyles and images has its source in the desire of its purveyors to obtain for themselves wealth and financial gain. This desire to make money, as a source of these ideas, constitutes a kind of corruption with the result that what the media presents as the image and desideratum of what we as men and women should do and be, is nothing more than an outright bald-faced lie, emanating from the desire for personal enrichment on the part of its creators and purveyors.
The second source of error in the concept and principle of oral relativism is a misinterpretation, or rather misapprehension, of what is meant by democracy. In a democracy, there is a belief that all men's and women's opinions have equal value and validity in the free and open market place of ideas that constitutes a free society. In sum, we are led to believe that since everyone has an equal vote that therefore what they may happen to say constitutes some sort of truth. This is a misconstruction and misinterpretation, I think, of democracy. What everyone happens to say does not have equal intellectual validity or truth, and should not, therefore, be given equal credence. The idea that this should be so stems from the mistaken idea that all men and women are actually equal in their talents, intelligence, and ability.
A democracy is nothing more than a system of political equality, giving all its citizens an equal voice in the electoral process and voting franchise. Rich and poor, intellectual and worker, disabled and healthy, are all given an equal role in the governing process, insofar as they all have the same vote.
Let me add that democracy is the best of all systems, since it distributes power among all its citizens, with the result that any tendency on the part of one or more individuals to obtaining absolute power is checked and limited. Democracy, however, does not mean that all of us are equal. I may be a good lawyer, but I will never be a professional tennis player, a concert pianist, or even a rock star.
It follows from this that not all opinions and ideas should be given the same
toleration and given the same sort of respect. Thus, this misinterpretation of democracy, which is nothing more than a political system, leads to the mistaken view that morality is solely an individual matter and has no reference to any form of absolute truth.
The third source of the error of moral relativism is what has come to be called "political correctness." We, all of us, want to fit in and not publicly oppose what I hesitate, but must call, the current propaganda and jargon that is constantly and continuously inflicted on us all. We fall in with whatever, as it were, is in the air. All of us know that greed and the worship of material goods and money as a final end is not only wrong, but absurd.
Political correctness forces us publicly to say otherwise. What then can we say? Is it better to apprehend truth on the basis of what each person regards as personally appropriate for their particular situation or put it another way, what the particular age or Zeitgeist recommends at any particular time.
I admit that so-called fixed moral rules can and do lead to great human suffering if they are not carefully examined from age to age and from generation to generation.
Since human beings and human nature are in some sense corrupt, that corruption will operate in the name of a fixed morality to bring about and create wrong and moral errors, such as slavery, the oppression of women, or any other form of injustice. Corrupt human beings and their leaders will use morality and moral rules for whatever corrupt political purpose they may have, whether to gain power for themselves over less powerful and unfavored groups, or simply to get more money.
The sources of moral relativism—the media, greed, and misleading political thinking—mean that, as an idea, it has little or no value. Political correctness, the forces of greed, and corrupt political leadership say to us that adultery and casual sexual liaisons are perfectly fine. We all know within our hearts and spirits that they are not. The media says through bombarding us with pornographic images that that is ok. We all know within our hearts it is not. We all know that the single minded desire for material goods and wealth as a value system is totally bereft of any intellectual validity. We are told by our corporate and political leaders that this should be our lodestar.
In short, we, within our deepest levels of consciousness as human beings, do believe that there are absolute moral norms and absolute truth. We call this natural law, for want of a better word. We all agree that we should be nice to the people around us. Christianity tells us to love our neighbor. In some sense, there is a universal thought system of moral law that informs and permeates our entire society. I am not convinced that what is purveyed by the media, what is in the air, or what is mistaken as tolerance constitutes any sort of truth. Some things are true, and others are not. I am not prepared to have the source of my thinking and life principles, molded by whatever happens to be faddish or fashionable, imposed on me and all of us for reasons of personal financial gain on the part of its makers, who inflict these corrupt ideas on us, solely for the purpose of attaining power.