Friday, July 15, 2016

Moral Relativism vs. Moral Objectivism

From guest blogger, Alex.

In class we talked about the difference between moral relativism and moral objectivism. Moral relativism is the view that what is morally right or wrong depends on what someone thinks. We discussed two different types of moral relativism; simple subjectivism and cultural relativism. Simple subjectivism states that what is morally right or wrong for you depends on what you think is morally right or wrong, i.e., right or wrong is relative to the individual. Therefore 'moral facts' may alter from person to person. Cultural relativism states that what is morally right or wrong depends on what the society we are dealing with thinks, i.e., morality depends on the conventions of the society we are concerned with. Therefore 'moral facts' may alter from society to society. On the other hand moral objectivism  is the view that what is right or wrong doesn’t depend on what anyone thinks is right or wrong but instead states that the 'moral facts' are like 'physical' facts in that what the facts are does not depend on what anyone thinks they are. We talked about two kinds of moral objectivists in class; Deontologists and Consequentialists. Deontologists claim that what determines whether an act is morally right or wrong is the kind of act it is. Kant thought that all acts should be judged according to a rule he called the Categorical Imperative: "Act only according to that maxim [i.e., rule] whereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law." That is, he thought the only kind of act one should ever commit is one that could be willed to be a universal law. Where Consequentialists claim that what determines whether an act is right or wrong are its consequences. Utilitarianism is the most common kind of Consequentialism. Utilitarianism tells us that, in any situation, the right thing to do is whatever is likely to produce the most happiness overall.

I was reading through some random scholarly journal I found through Google pertaining to the idea of moral relativism versus moral objectivism and it claimed that moral relativism has become an increasingly popular viewpoint in the latter part of the 20th century to the present day. I Thought “Why could this be?” I thought of and put together a couple possible reasons below. Feel free to comment on why you think this may be true, or why you think this statement is false. One reason could be the decline of religion. Religion seems to offer the possibility that morality was independent of us. With a turning away from religion there seems to have come a certain amount of doubt about the possibility of objective morality. But does it make sense to say that if there's no God, there's no such thing as morality? Another reason could come from observing cultural diversity. Most of us are aware that the world contains many different cultures and that some of those cultures engage in practices very different from our own. Maybe given all this diversity, we should conclude that there is no single objective morality and that morality varies with culture. Is this a fair conclusion and a good argument for moral relativism? Again, comments are welcome.

1 comment:

Rachel Cherney said...

I agree with the comment on how the decline of religion, or organized religion, is leading towards more moral relativism vs moral objectivism. I also read an article recently on how americans are more atheist or non-conforming to organized religion than they were in the past. Without this guidance of certain religions and their moral beliefs, a community resulting in moral objectivism, I am not surprised that moral relativism is increasingly becoming more popular.

I think that there can still be morality in the absence of a God; to me it would be moral relativism.