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What is Moral Relativism?


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This presentation examines the issues with relative morality.

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What is Moral Relativism?

  1. 1. MORALWhat is R E LAT I V I S M ? Examining the Claims of Moral Relativism
  2. 2. A Definition of Moral RelativismMoral relativism is a philosophy thatasserts there is no global, absolutemoral law that applies to all people,for all time, and in all places. Insteadof an objective moral law, it espousesa qualified view where morals areconcerned, especially in the areas ofindividual moral practice wherepersonal and situational encounterssupposedly dictate the correct moralposition.
  3. 3. From Nietzsche“You have your way, I havemy way. As for the rightway, it does not exist.” - Frederick Nietzsche
  4. 4. Morality from Evolution?In modern times, the espousal of moral relativism has been closely linked to thetheory of evolution. The argument is, in the same way that humanity has evolvedfrom lesser to greater biological organisms, the same process is in play in thearea of morals and ethics. Therefore, all that can be ascertained at present (andforever) is that there is no absolute or fixed certainty in the area of morality.
  5. 5. Evolution’s Logical Conclusion“If man is a product ofevolution, one speciesamong others, in a universewithout purpose, then man‟soption is to live for himself”. - Paul Kurtz The Humanist Alternative
  6. 6. Moral Relativism In ActionA grand example of this philosophy in action can be seen in the 2007-2008meltdown that occurred in the American financial and banking industry.Those taught relative morality in their philosophy and business ethicscollege courses proceeded to live out those teachings on Wall Street and inother corporate avenues, with the outcome being devastating for those whowere on the receiving end of their relative morality.
  7. 7. The Public ResponseOddly enough, many who believed in relative morality at that timewere outraged and absolutely sure that those who engaged indeceptive business practices ought to be punished for their unethicalmoral behavior.
  8. 8. An Important Truth RevealedMoral relativists have a rather dim view of moralrelativism when it negatively impacts them.
  9. 9. An Important Truth RevealedLet the moral relativist be lied to, be thevictim of false advertising, uncover thefact that their spouse has beenrelatively faithful to them, and theyinstantly become a moral absolutist. Aperson‟s reaction to what they considerunfair ethical treatment always betraystheir true feelings on the matter ofrelative vs. objective moral laws.
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  11. 11. The Important QuestionThe problem for the moral relativist (who is most times a secular humanistthat rejects God) is they have no good answer to the two-part question: Is there anything wrong with anything? (and why?)
  12. 12. Answering the QuestionTwo things are necessary to answer thequestion:1. An unchanging standard that can be turned to2. An absolute authority that has the right to impose moral obligationAbsent these two things, morals/ethics simplybecomes emotive. Rape, for example, cannever be deemed wrong; the strongeststatement that can be made about rape is “Idon‟t like it.”
  13. 13. Available Options for Moral RelativistsThe only options available to the secular humanist wherea standard and authority are concerned are: (1) thenatural universe; (2) culture; (3) the individual.
  14. 14. Morals from the Universe?The natural universe isn‟t an option as amoral matter cannotproduce moral beings nor prescribe moral behavior.
  15. 15. Morals from Culture?Culture cannot be appealed to as thereare many cultures throughout the world,all with different moral standards andpractices; there is no way to ascertainwhich culture is „correct‟. Culture merelydisplays what “is” with respect tomorality, and even the famous skepticand antagonist of religion David Humestated that humanity cannot derive an“ought” from an “is” where morals areconcerned.
  16. 16. Morals from Each Individual?Lastly, if each individual is used as a standard/authority formorals, the problem seen in using cultures as a moral compassis suddenly compounded exponentially. Who serves as judge?
  17. 17. Science to the Rescue?Seeing this dilemma, some tryto say that science can be usedto dictate ethics, but evensecular scientists admit thatscience is a descriptivediscipline and not a prescriptiveone. In addition, its empiricalmethods are impotent to answersuch moral questions such as ifthe Nazi‟s were evil.
  18. 18. Scientists Say No“You are right in speaking of themoral foundations of science,but you cannot turn round andspeak of the scientificfoundations of morality.” - Albert Einstein
  19. 19. Nowhere to TurnIn the end, the moral relativist has no satisfying answer in his/her attempt torespond to the question of if there is anything wrong with anything, and why.There is no standard to turn to and no authority to recognize and respect.
  20. 20. Another AlternativeIn contrast to the moral relativistwhose worldview is secularhumanism, the Christian worldviewprovides a solid standard andauthority that can be confidentlyreferenced and followed. TheCreator God, Who has revealedHimself in His Word is both thestandard and authority for morals.From God‟s nature comes pure goodthat serves as the straight line bywhich all crooked lines can bemeasured.
  21. 21. Moral Grounding in TranscendenceGod‟s image has been impressed upon humanity (cf. Gen. 1:26-27)so that human beings instinctively know God‟s moral law and what isright and wrong (cf. Rom. 2:14-15). People don‟t have to believe inGod to know His moral law, but in denying Him, they lose the ability toground an objective moral law in something than transcends thephysical universe. Without that transcendent God, as Dostoevskyfamously observed, everything is permissible.
  22. 22. No God, No Morals = ExistentialismOddly enough, Dostoevsky‟s statement waschosen by the existentialist Jean Paul Sartreas the beginning of his existentialistphilosophy: “Nowhere is it written that theGod exists, that we must be honest, that wemust not lie; because the fact is we are on aplain where there are only men. Dostoevskysaid if God didn‟t exist, everything would bepossible. That is the very starting point ofexistentialism. Indeed, everything ispermissible if God does not exist”.
  23. 23. ConclusionsThe tragic truth for existentialists like Sartre and all moral relativists is this:when you hold God‟s funeral and bury His moral law along with Him,something will take His place. That something will be an individual or groupof individuals who take power and, in authoritarian fashion, impose their ownmoral framework on everyone else. The world has already seen such thingsin the regimes of Stalin and Pol Pot.
  24. 24. ConclusionsThe far better course of action isto thankfully acknowledge Godas the true source of good andHis objective moral law, whichGod established only for the wellbeing of His creation.
  25. 25. For More Information
  26. 26. MORALWhat is R E LAT I V I S M ? Examining the Claims of Moral Relativism