The Illogic of Moral Relativism

by walterm on June 17, 2017

Moral relativism, I think, is one of the most illogical and dishonest positions a person could have. Indeed, moral relativists do moralize, but the question is why do they? If morality is relative, there isn’t much of a basis for moralizing at all. What any given moral relativist may have is a particular opinion on a subject, but that cannot place any moral force or imperative on anyone else. Now the moral relativist would argue that “morality” is culturally bound, and thus this drives the impetus for people to fit within a particular moral structure, but we all know culture is continually changing. So if culture is continually changing, and morality is continually changing, how can the moral relativist pinpoint the current state of affairs better than the person they are trying to persuade to their view? And trust me, the moral relativist is just as adamant about advancing their view as the moral objectivist that they criticize for advancing an alternative view.

I think a better grounding for the moral relativist, in order to be logically consistent, is to simply take the position of being amoral, and to not take any moral positions, honestly denying there is such thing as morality, but there are opinions about morality nonetheless, since in essence they are denying objective morality that is advanced by moral objectivists. And since there is nothing objective to ground these “moral” opinions, then people should just be able to do whatever they are able to get away with. For if a person who calls themselves a moral relativist actually advances moral claims, they are implicitly objectifying morality because they are asserting moral force and an imperative whereby someone should follow.

Let’s take a concrete example. Since I’m always one to not back down from controversy, let’s examine same-sex marriage. Moral objectivists of the Christian persuasion believe homosexuality is immoral, based on biblical teachings. Moral relativists who support same-sex marriage claim it is a “right.” Well if morality is relative, there is no objective basis on which to make the claim that anything is a “right.” There are no “rights” if morality is relative, and thus moral relativists, if they are honest, should never, ever, use the phrase that something in particular is a “right,” since that is a necessarily objective claim. The moral relativist can say they support same-sex marriage, but they cannot logically say it is a right.

Not only do moral relativists say same-sex marriage is a right, but they go further and say those who don’t agree are wrong, bigoted, and are homophobes. That is surprisingly strong language by those who claim morality is relative. First, they are asserting that those who disagree are wrong, which is nothing more than stealing a concept from the moral objectivist. Second, they call the moral objectivist bigoted, which is making an objective value judgment. And third, they advance an ad hominem attack by impugning the very motives of the moral objectivist. And let’s not forget that the moral relativist at the same time argues that the moral objectivist is “imposing” their views on others. Well is the moral relativist not “imposing” their views on others and a whole lot more?

Thus, as I stated in the beginning, the position of moral relativists is not only illogical but dishonest. The persons who call themselves moral relativists would be logical and honest if they simply say they support this position or that, make no moral claims, and make absolutely no arguments or charges against others that don’t agree with them. The moral relativist should simply say they have an opinion on a particular matter and what they support. Anything else beyond that is being a moral objectivist while pretending not to be, which they say they are decidedly not.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: