Relativism’s Moral Hero Disproves Relativism

In a world that happened to begin, where only dead matter existed at the beginning, and where physical forces happened to bring some of that matter together in a particular way such that it now moves around on its own, the concepts of “right” and “wrong” are meaningless fictions.

Sure, there might be an objective way for the collections of molecules we call “humans” to live that will enable those humans to live longer or maximize their pleasurable feelings, but there is certainly no obligation to do so (and nothing to say that either living longer or having pleasurable feelings is something that ought to be done; they’re merely possibilities). Obligation requires a personal Rule Giver to whom we’re rightly obligated, who will hold us accountable to that obligation. Without obligation, without a higher objective standard of the way things should be, without a mind above us and before us, there isn’t properly a “right” and “wrong.” There are merely things we choose to do or not do because of preference.

In this world, who are you to judge anyone’s preferences?

If one begins with atheistic materialism, relativism is the logical conclusion. And yet, we find that this relativism doesn’t match up with what we apprehend to be true about the moral aspects of reality. From Greg’s book on relativism:

Given a particular standard of morality, the person who is most moral is the one who practices the specific system’s key moral rule consistently…. [T]he quality of the moral hero—the one who most closely lives the ideal—indicates the quality of the moral system.

What kind of moral champion does [individual] relativism produce? What is the best that relativism has to offer? What do we call those who most thoroughly apply the principles of relativism, caring nothing for others’ ideas of right or wrong, those who are unmoved by others’ notions of ethical standards and instead consistently follow the beat of their own moral drum?

In our society, we have a name for these people; they are a homicide detective’s worst nightmare. The quintessential relativist is a sociopath, one with no conscience. This is what relativism produces. 

Something is terribly wrong with an alleged moral point of view that produces a sociopath as its brightest star.

If there are no binding moral facts higher than the individual, then even the sociopath is moral. And placing the standard on society rather than the individual doesn’t get you out of this mess. If there are no binding moral facts higher than a society—if the community is the moral standard—then even Nazi Germany was moral. At least, those who went along with the Nazis were moral. Any German who resisted them was being immoral. And who are you (or any other country) to say Germany was wrong?

Relativism is a mess any way you look at it. Any worldview that lacks the ability to explain what we know to be true—that there are objective moral facts, regardless of whether an individual or an entire society rejects them—is devastatingly deficient.


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Amy K. Hall