The argument in favor of moral relativism, therefore, boils down to this:Yet in my travels, I've learned that the number-one source of discomfort for objectors is that moral relativism does not allow one to "claim the moral high ground."
- We are all already relativists in most every aspect of our daily lives.
- Moral relativism is descriptive, not prescriptive; it is not itself a moral system but a condition of moral agents (plural) acting in the world.
- Relativism does not entail moral equality between either acts or viewpoints.
- Moral relativism does not preclude making, legislating, or enforcing moral behavior.
- Relativism enables a necessary flexibility in assessing and evaluating moral acts, and improving moral law.
Get that? Recognize that? They reject moral relativism because it does not give them the result they want: to be right, finally and irrevocably right. Being right--that is, having the moral high ground--is as political a position as there is: the superior vantage justifies imposing and enforcing the One True MoralityTM on absolutely everyone else.
I am not being hypocritical, self-righteous, or mean-spirited with the above comments. We know from the Mercier-Sperber paper that came out in SSRN this year that humans are built for the combat of argumentation, not the end-point of truth:
Abstract:I want to list some of the common objections to moral relativism that I have heard, but I think tThe objections to moral relativism are worth noting, but I won't comment on them because they are easily dispatched:
Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given the exceptional dependence of humans on communication and their vulnerability to misinformation. A wide range of evidence in the psychology of reasoning and decision making can be reinterpreted and better explained in the light of this hypothesis. Poor performance in standard reasoning tasks is explained by the lack of argumentative context. When the same problems are placed in a proper argumentative setting, people turn out to be skilled arguers. Skilled arguers, however, are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views. This explains the notorious confirmation bias. This bias is apparent not only when people are actually arguing but also when they are reasoning proactively from the perspective of having to defend their opinions. Reasoning so motivated can distort evaluations and attitudes and allow erroneous beliefs to persist. Proactively used reasoning also favors decisions that are easy to justify but not necessarily better. In all these instances traditionally described as failures or flaws, reasoning does exactly what can be expected of an argumentative device: Look for arguments that support a given conclusion, and, ceteris paribus, favor conclusions for which arguments can be found. [emphasis added]
- Objection 1: Any and every moral value is A-OK.
- Objection 2: No way to condemn Hitler, Stalin, etc.
- Objection 3: No way to resolve moral debates.
- Objection 4: No way to make moral progress.
Clearly, something more than reason and even more than the moral high ground are at stake.
Here's what I think actually is going on with these folks: What they are really after is sufficient justification for imposing one-world under Christianity. They're looking for the reason, not to use it necessarily but for the security of having it. They are like a nation that trusts only itself with nuclear weapons and doesn't get why that would make everyone else nervous.