Re: Morality is Relative

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sun Aug 26 2001 - 01:53:40 MDT

Mark Walker writes

> Perhaps this is what Russell is talking about. David [McDivitt] seems
> to be speaking about moral relativism, which is a proper subset of
> cultural relativism, e.g., one might be a relativist about moral
> truths but a nonrelativist about scientific truths or vice-versa.

Yes, that does sound right (to be a non-relativist about truth but
to be a relativist about morality (i.e., what one approves of)).

> I think you need to explain this a bit more. Relativists do not generally
> deny that morality exists--indeed, if anything the complaint against
> relativists is that they allow for a superabundance of morality. There are
> thinkers that deny that morality exists. The Aussi philosopher J L Mackie
> famously argued that all moral truths are false because there are no moral
> facts, i.e., morality does not exist. Mackie and other error theorists
> (Nietzsche is sometimes interpreted this way) do not say that moral truths
> are relative to some social group, rather all such claims are false.

That sounds inconsistent to me. In one sentence, Mackie allegedly
argues that there are no moral truths, and then in the next says that
they're false.

> Clearly nonrelativists can allow that morality is not always the
> same or must always be the same. Variability might be a necessary
> condition for moral relativism but it is not a sufficient condition.

This is uselessly confusing IMO. Why not just avoid using the "M"
word, e.g., never say "That's immoral!!", "we much teach morality
in the school", etc.? A quite unnecessary (to me, at least until
you enlighten me) semantic quagmire opens up under us whenever we
try to discuss the "M" word in the abstract, instead of much more
usefully attacking the things we dislike or think are harmful to
people, e.g., adultery, disloyalty, brutality, political correctness,
divisiveness, racism, diversity, separatism, zenophobia, etc.

I guess I have to go along with those who say that m******* is
relative, because that's closer to abandoning the term, and
doesn't allude to something in the universe that no one has
ever seen.


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