Moral relativism is an oxymoronAugust 28, 2007
It is impossible to state that something doesn’t exist, when that something only exists by being the opposite of the definition stating it doesn’t exist. Saying that morality is relative is saying that no morality exists. But morality can only exist, by definition, by not being relative.
Therefore, we must assume to know what morality is, namely, a standard void of relativity, before we can make a claim about it, which is that it is relative. But how can we make a claim about something that only exists by being the opposite of the claim made about it? This reduces to a category error. If I say the white wall is black, then the wall I’m describing is agreed to not be black before I describe it to be black. So it is with the claim “morality is relative”.
For real ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ to exist morality cannot be relative, because ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ would be subject to change. If they are subject to change then nothing can ever be ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ for sure. If this is true then one property of morality must be that it is not relative. So to say that that which is not relative (morality) is relative (non-morality) is internally inconsistent.
Therefore, there can only be two logical conclusions for the statement “morality is relative”. First, even if we weed out the category error and agree that morality doesn’t exist, then there ought to be an account as to why that which doesn’t exist is being said to be relative.
“Snoopsnay” is a word I just made up. “Snoopsnay” doesn’t actually exist and I don’t believe it ever will. Yet I don’t go around telling people that “snoopsnay is relative.”, and so it is to say that “morality is relative” if morality isn’t anything. Why are we being told that morality is relative if morality isn’t anything? I would like to know why “snoopsnay” is relative because “snoopsnay” means nothing to me.
Secondly, we could bypass the statements inconsistency and just assume it to be a figure of speech. But it would really be a figure of speech meaning “nothing is good or bad” or “do whatever you want”. It may be said that there are bad consequences to this line of thinking and that a standard of right and wrong does not need to tell us things are bad.
But who’s to say that consequences are bad? I can decide for myself if consequences are good or bad. Maybe I liken shooting people to eating ice-cream, or going to prison to Disney Land. Additionally, if this figure of speech is true, then why do so many people say that killing is is bad? Killing isn’t REALLY bad if morality is relative, it’s just not preferred. But it isn’t that it’s not preferred due to any real reason; it’s just not preferred simply because it’s not.
Just because something is or isn’t preferred doesn’t tell me anything about what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I may prefer the color blue over green. That doesn’t make green evil. But even if it did, then it would only be so to me because preferences in colors are relative from person to person.