December 8, 2010

A Musing On Relativism of Morality

I recently found out that Haris, my 18-year-old brother wrote this.. Boy, he's grown up.. To think that I always looked at him as my dear younger sibling, a child who still needs to be protected.. I just hope he isn't as opinionated as me.. as I've learned that this trait is sometimes troublesome and tiring *sigh..

"All things are relative" - common saying

As we grow more and more modern and open in our thinking, many of us now espouse the idea that everything is relative. And by extension, so is morality. In this multicultural world, this is seen to be a natural progression to the rigid and outdated moral systems of the less enlightened times. Its tenets include "don't judge", "as long as it makes you happy", or "what is true for you isn't necessarily true for me". But the main phrase associated with this new ethical shift is "Everything is relative".

Immediately after writing this statement, I realized one fundamental error in it. It makes an absolute claim that everything is relative. If the statement is true, then shouldn't everything, including this statement, be relative? And therefore it is absolute that everything is relative, which refutes itself. It is like saying "the only truth is that there is no truth". While this may sound very Zen, I cannot quite grasp the logic and reasoning behind this. Besides, it is self evident that not everything is relative. 1+1=2, independent of any observer. There is always an absolute. I like to call it "Truth".

This faulty statement is used frequently concerning modern morality, especially in the more developed countries. For example, according to this new creed, we may not condemn others when they rob someone, because they may operate on different moral codes than us. Who are we to say they are wrong? On what grounds? Human decency? But is it not relative? The logical extreme of this is that Mother Teresa is just as good (or evil) as Hitler. I find this to be a chilling thought. The fact that this is just a logical extreme is no consolation. An extreme it may be, but it is still the logical conclusion of this thought. The fact is that nobody lives as though everything is relative. The end result of moral relativism seems to be the abolition of the notion "right" and "wrong". And when there is no right or wrong, "might makes right" often prevails. Food for thought.

This is just a slightly philosophical rambling inspired when I first thought about how 1+1 has only one true answer but infinite false answers. From the conclusion that "truth, by definition, is always absolute" to "moral relativism". Hmm, maybe I have too much time to waste.

Disclaimer: This note is by no means error-free. It is, after all, just a musing

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