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The Challenge of Moral Relativism

Moral Relativism is not so much the enemy of idealism as it is a good and profitable idea gone bad. Like many well-intentioned philosophies, it took inconclusive observations and transformed them into an absolute.
    Moral Relativism states that there are no objective moral standards that can be applied to all people everywhere, and at all times. It was derived from anthropological studies of various cultures where moral differences were sometimes extreme. This led to the conclusion that there was no experiential evidence for natural law among human beings. Everything was uniquely tied to culture and happenstance. Similarities could be explained by cultural exchanges or integration. This led to something called subjective moral relativism which states that morality does not exist of itself, but is something dependent upon the individual, and therefore means different things to different people. One moral judgment cannot necessarily be deemed better than the other.
    If this is true, it contradicts the idea of innate moral tendencies of natural law, and undercuts the foundation of Chivalry-Now as a unique expression of universal principles.
    While moral differences among various cultures might give us pause in regard to natural law, closer inspection reveals commonalities that actually support it once they are understood. The confusion stems from variant expressions of the same taboos or values.
    Moral relativism has an appeal among some intellectuals, especially those who reject the unchanging and sometimes regressive structures of traditionalism. They see it as less ethnocentric and more tolerant of diversity—which are, in themselves, admirable qualities.
    What they fail to see is that moral relativism has serious drawbacks as well. Just as traditionalism suffers from self-made blind-spots, relativism does the same thing. Just about any "ism," once solidified, builds roadblocks that inhibit sufficient inquiry and the workings of an open mind.
    Moral relativism claims to value diversity, which traditionalism is reluctant to do, but this claim is surface level only. Instead of looking to diversity to find common links that shed light on and celebrate natural law, it considers that too judgmental. So doing, all moral intents are roughly considered equal. So doing, they provide new license for immorality as well. While traditionalism condemns them for that, they are similar in that adherents are being restrained from discovering greater truth.
    Are all beliefs and values equally valid? If this is so, moral relativists should tolerate the very intolerance they condemn in others. What about genocide? Slavery? Injustice? When civil rights are violated, should they not shrug it off as inconsequential? While in some respects everything may indeed be perceived in relative terms, that does not place everything on equal footing.
    Critically disingenuous, subjective moral relativism, taken to its logical conclusion, would undercut the value of social reform. If all values are basically the same, and we should ignore differences, we end up ignoring people as well, and throw progress out the window. Is this what they really want? Probably not. This is just another example of believing something that has not been well thought out. The truth is, relativism degrades our capacity for discernment, leaving us adrift in a malaise of contradiction, with no safe harbor. In the end, this creates a major risk to society. History shows that whenever moral principles are robbed of their influence, societies fall into chaos and violence.
    Natural law, in contrast, proves far more reliable because it goes straight to the subjective truth that we personally experience and can rationalize for ourselves. It explains the source of divergent moralities by uncovering not just their differences, but their shared similarities. It further recognizes the intrinsic freedom that creates these differences as reflective of human nature. Natural law leads back to the definition of our species. Relativism, by itself, leads nowhere at all, just bland, shapeless toleration. Its war against traditionalism offers nothing of substance to replace it. If traditionalism is likened to a whited sepulcher, relativism seeks to replace it with a house of cards. Neither is habitable for authentic living.
    Out of respect for human nature, Chivalry-Now embraces nature's law as part of who we are. We feel its pulse, and try to learn from it. We learn what we can from past traditions, while refusing to surrender to their limitations.
    What can we safely deduce are these natural laws?
    The most basic one of all, from which the others are generated, is that "we should do good and not do bad." From that simple foothold we include the following as reasonable deductions:

  • Parental care for children
  • Care and respect for elders
  • Sibling attachments
  • Pair bonding
  • Tell the truth
  • Do not steal
  • Keeping one's word or at least promises
  • Taboo against incest
  • Taboo against cannibalism
  • Desire for justice
  • Idea of restitution
  • Group identity
  • The tendency for groups to form social contracts
  • Murder is wrong
  • A tendency toward altruism, which crops up even under extreme circumstances
  • Courtesy
  • Respect for others
  • Helping those in need
  • Propagating the species
  • Privacy
  • Liberties of contract
  • Gratitude
  • Freedom

No doubt there are more.
    Relativism would point out how various cultures differ in some of these respects. Examined carefully, this does not negate natural law theory, but adds further proof. The differences we find point back to singular ideas, proving their commonality.
In conclusion, there are valuable lessons to be learn from relativism. Moral and cultural differences should be viewed with an open mind, something that Chivalry-Now encourages also. Where it falls apart is its lack of further judgment that inhibits the open mind from functioning as it should.


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