Moral relativism

I agree with the book’s distinction between cultural moral relativism and individual moral
relativism. I do think there is such a thing as “ontological relativism”, where two people may
disagree yet both still be right. Both parties had their own upbringing and different social
structures and influences on things such as religion, politics, and general views on economy and
social mannerisms that shapes their beliefs on a certain topic. For example, when looking at
topics such as gun control from a standard orthodox Christian perspective, one could say we
need stricter gun control to no guns at all (assuming your stance is one in which Christianity
represents peace and nonviolence). Your feelings on the matter could be different if you were to
be say Muslim or Atheist. Now how do the feelings change when the person advocating for or
against gun control is a Christian yet also a victim of rape? Our idea of morality is dependent on
our religion and past experiences which shape our views on the world around us as we are trying
to survive. This desire for survival triggers our fear response and we advocate negatively for
such things when something has been negatively reinforced in our mind.
I am on the fence on the idea of a moral universe that incorporates a “common sense”
mentality. This is comparable to grammar and language. How was it decided that a certain way
of speaking was the correct or proper way? A general consensus had to have been achieved but
where I am on the fence is how this can also translate into mob mentality. What is considered the
facts of how language should be presented is still objective because if we were to speak
differently, then we would obtain different facts. Many of us base our moral compass off of the
teachings of our parents as they were the ones to set rules for us and be our explanation as to why
those rules were in place.
I do not agree with idea of socially constructed moral norms that come to us by way of
the moral universe. Many people demand that the norms answer all moral questions in a
unanimous way. There is no such thing as a set of moral facts as people change their morality to
fit their social situation. We can use the morality a person adheres to, to criticize their actions
when they are at a variance. If everyone performed a similar action that would typically go
against conventional ideas of morality it would then become the new norm and the new moral.
This why we sometimes actually condone bad behavior like riots for things we are actually not in
favor of because we want to agree with the vast majority. In these situations, we often times find
ourselves asking our self later on why we were so hyped up about a situation we didn’t really
care for in the first place. “Common sense” is a malleable thing because of many people’s desire
to conform.
I do not agree with the notion of a moral obligation to always obey the law. Who wrote
these laws and how did they base their moral compass? Just because it is proper to do things in a
certain way does not mean that we should necessarily do it that way. I a certain action is legally
prescribed, economically advantageous, and so forth, it does not mean we ought to perform it
(pg. 10). Look at the right to die under life threatening medical illness. If your religious beliefs
do not coincide with what the law states you will act in a way other might consider to be
criminal. In order to not be so criminal, it does need to be supported to some extent by others and
at least be seen as a controversial issue. Just as there are different dialects and languages in the
world, there are also different moralities existing in different societies. There are many common
sense moralities and everyone is right in their own mind.
I do not agree with the notion of the moral realist of Moore or Sidgwick’s variety in that
there is always another question to be asked as to who is right of the two competing claims
(pg.13). Everyone translates the idea of right and wrong in their own way. Some people pass
moral judgements from their conventional perspective and never ponder the idea of absolute
rightness and if it exists. There will always be a drive to somehow solve the conflict. Even if the
moral realist does believe that there is a one true unique morality out there to be found, presently
it is safe to say that ontological relativism is true and accurate for the time being. The moral
realist need not reject relativism and vice versa, only add a realistic element. Both philosophies
are valid.
I am on the fence with some aspects of moral relativism as certain thigs do feel like a
universal truth to me such compassion being a virtue and that people should not be tortured
(rape, murder, racism). As a moral relativist you would have to reject these claims, which by
many is a very undesirable and possibly dangerous position to take. Even if many disagree, that
does not mean that there is no truth about that subject. Even if we never reach an agreement, that
does not mean that there is no absolute truth to be found. Looking at the case of abortion, some
people would consider those to be torturous practices yet if you look at things like life
circumstances, volatile family relationships, and limited amount of resources, it is unrealistic to
assume that everyone could keep every infant whether that means going through an abortion or
adoption. This idea may be morally wrong to some people but what happens when basic survival
is in play and there is no way you could realistically give the child a decent life? What
constitutes a decent life though some may ask? Every question we ask ourselves can be further
built upon as some might say that there are people that have been able to come out of abusive
families and are still able to be successful and of healthy mind. Being pro life when the
circumstances are negative as described above boils down to almost a “just because” philosophy
which is “just because it’s a life”. When we began to just say “just because” we are now
subconsciously making our decision based off of other factors such as religious beliefs and a
subconscious understanding of how our parents felt about the issue. But is that morally wrong?
I am on the fence about subjectivism (pg.16) because then we are unable to condemn
anyone for their behaviors, even someone as unethical as Adolf Hitler. You would not be able to
even condemn the racists as they acted within their subjective view of the world even if it is
disliked by many. Adolf Hitler could be considered as moral as Gandhi as each lived by their
own standards. If a professor gives one student an F and another student an A for the same paper,
who’s to say the professor is wrong for that if justice is not one of his chosen principles or if his
idea of justice is different from yours. One could say that subjectivism is immoral under the
grounds that morality should aim to properly resolve interpersonal conflict and promote
I agree with the idea of conventionalism in that some moral truths can be made on the
common virtues of a society or culture. Subjectivism is subject to too many absurd consequences
(pg.17). The conventionalist beliefs that it is the choice of the group or vast majority wins
philosophy. Many would agree with this philosophy otherwise why do we have a democracy
here in the United States as opposed to a dictatorship? Should we be giving such authority to a
society. I do believe that sometimes having a conformist attitude can be beneficial if conformity
means doing what many believe is for the common good of its people.
I agree that all moral principles derive their validity from cultural acceptance (pg.18). As
the saying goes “people are who they are around” and “people are a product of their
environment”. I believe the best thing we can do is acclimate ourselves into a culture that best
fits our ethical needs. We should be apart of a culture that believes in sustainability and bases its
principles and virtues on helping the vast majority of the present without compromising the
needs of the future. I believe that morality is dependent versus inherent since we do not know
what absolute rightness is yet.