Moral Relativism vs. Moral Absolutism
Moral relativism and moral absolutism are two controversial concepts with conflicting propositions. Moral relativism implies that there are no moral principles that are valid universally and that are applicable everywhere at all times. Moral relativists have strong convictions that individuals should not dispense any judgment concerning the actions of other people. This is because every person has a justification for the actions they take. Proponents of moral relativism require individuals to have a moral justification to whatever they deem correct for themselves (Sommers, 1998, KSS, p. 392). This is because of the difference in cultural orientations among different societies. It rests on the principle of non-judgmentalism where the individual cannot dictate any moral judgment in the behavior of other members of the society. Proponents of moral relativism hold the opinion that the individual is always right in their actions because they have the right to exercise their judgment regardless of whether others might perceive the actions to be wrong (Sommers, 1991, KSS, p. 397).
On the contrary, moral absolutism stipulates what is right or what is wrong in the societal coexistence. Also, it identifies certain universal principles of morality that are applicable in various social cultural contexts at any particular time or space. What determine whether the conduct or action is right or wrong are the moral absolute and the extent to which individuals can identify certain actions with good and others with bad. It makes a clear distinction between what is morally right and what contradicts fundamental moral principles (Plato, 370 BC, KSS, p. 364). Proponents of moral absolutism agree to the existence of an objective moral absolute or law that should govern the conduct and actions of all individuals regardless of their cultural or social orientations. Consistent with the absolutist position is the belief that values of morality are inherent in the universe itself and in the nature of humans and life in general.
I believe that moral absolutism is the correct principle that the society should abide to. This is because it gives clear guidelines to the individuals on the right actions to follow and hence helps to bring law and order not only to the individual but also to the society. By not judging the moral behavior and conduct, as the relativists seem to advocate, the society will soon end up in complete chaos and disorder. This is because everybody will have the justification for performing whatever they deem right for themselves. Individuals will be able to justify naturally bad things such as murder, rape, assault, robberies and prostitution, all of which contribute to negative development of the society and deprive individuals of their rights and freedoms (Emerson, 1841, KSS, p. 376). This will also manifest problems of disorder in familial ties, contribute to uncourth behavior, and compromise the fragment of the society and the ruling authorities.
Anthropologists who ardently conform to moral relativism often assert that they subscribe to this proposition in order to inspire inter-cultural tolerance and empathy for the plurality of values. However, moral relativism, with its strict emphasis on non-judgmental, has not provided any meaningful solution to these problems. In stead, it has exacerbated them by allowing for violation and deprivation of human rights across the globe. It has failed to foster the intercultural tolerance and contravened on the plurality of values, which has hindered personal and societal development (Krauthammer, 1993, KSS, p. 385). In contrast, moral absolutism strives to harmonize the laws, beliefs and morals to suit the universal standards, protect violation of human rights and encourage equality among all individuals. Therefore, moral absolutism safeguards individual liberty, promotes societal development and assists the republican government in maintaining law and order in the society, all of which are ideals of peaceful coexistence.
As the absolutes have put it, morality is universal, unconditional and objective, all of which are vital to bring tolerance in the society. It is worth noting that contrary to what the relativists believe, notions of right and wrong do not emanate from human constructions. Morality exists independently of human existence. Therefore, there is no way that its existence is relative to humans (Plato, 370 BC, KSS, p. 365). The arguments presented by proponents of relativism are thus lame, invalid and do not foster the development of the individual, family, society, education or government. Moral relativism approves any moral behavior and principle within all cultures by its refusal to take into consideration the trans-cultural ethical judgments, which allows for perversion of political and personal power and blatant violation of individual rights. Only by conforming to moral absolutism can the society break away from such predicaments (Aristotle, 350 BC, KSS, p. 367).
In addition, moral relativists fail to provide a credible explanation for individuals from certain societies who reject the prevailing ethical practices and principles in their cultures, a feat that demonstrates the existence of universal moral principles that transcend cultural boundaries. Indeed, moral relativists do not provide a moral account of the determinants of these cultural divides. Moral relativism strives at the removal of moral deterrents to bad behavior. When individuals are allowed to undertake whatever they feel is ‘good’ in their lives; the consequences are at many instances very devastating. It leads to chaos and disorder in the society and jeopardizes the existing governance structures (Aristotle, 350 BC, KSS, p. 368).
Moral relativism contradicts with the fundamentals of natural rights and goes against the natural law, which guides all cultures and societies regardless of their cultural or linguistic affiliations. The moral relativists justify acts that contravene the natural law such as the murder of innocent victims in the society. This is achieved by making the individual the foundation of all moral authority (Sommers, 1998, KSS, p. 393). The murder of half dozen million Jews by Hitler, for example, is justifiable to the moral relativist. However, in the real sense, it is in complete contradiction of the natural laws. Even in committing the crime, Hitler was under the constriction from various international treaties and obligations, which guide the conduct of war sand treatment of civilians and prisoners of war during the war period. Therefore, the moral relativist’s arguments lack a strong foundation for stipulating the conduct of the society, and hence it is logically sound to assert that moral absolutism is the right form of moral authority that should guide individuals in the society.
In conclusion, making a moral judgment is imperative for all individuals, and no person can survive without making a moral judgment. Choosing to be morally relative and non-judgmental over acting on or believing in moral absolutes is in itself a moral judgment. Choosing to oppose moral absolutists is in itself a moral judgment by the ‘moral relativist’. Therefore, there is no way that the relativists can validate that making judgment is bad, while their actions to become relativists are based on the notion of moral judgment. Moral absolutism, with its recognition of universal morals and standards of truth, is the precise philosophy that can guide the society and help in the individual, familial, societal, educational and governmental development.