[extropy-chat] Moral relativism
bryan.moss at dsl.pipex.com
Sat May 7 20:03:50 UTC 2005
> Here's a hypothetical situation in which decisions need to be made,
> that will be guided by moral considerations:
> Frank and Sue are relatively poor westerners.
> Frank is Sue's stepfather. Sue is 14. She has just discovered she is
> pregnant. She is reasonably intelligent, and could to to college and
> have a chance to improve her life. But a baby would make that
> impossible. Frank is not the father of her baby.
> What should Sue decide to do? What should Frank decide to advise her
> (assume that they have a good relationship, and she would listen to
> his advice)?
Under normal usage, the moral objectivist would claim that there is a
fact of the matter independent of social norms, whereas the moral
relativist would deny this. The two example responses you give are
neither objective nor relativistic, they could in fact be either. A
moral relativist would hold that "abortion is wrong, period" is correct
where that was the prevailing norm and "abortion is okay given x, y, z"
is correct where that was the prevailing norm; they would claim that
there's no method for deciding between these social norms but that they
hold within their respective communities. A moral objectivist would
claim that there is an absolute truth to the matter, that either
"abortion is wrong, period" or "abortion is okay given x, y, z" is
correct, regardless of the fact that there are communities that believe
one, communities that believe the other.
Some people confuse moral scepticism or moral expressivism, the
doctrines that there are no moral truths or that moral statements are
merely emotive or prescriptive, respectively, with moral relativism.
Your question is normative and doesn't have a great deal to do with such
metaethical quibbles as relativism, objectivism, scepticism,
expressivism, etc. If, however, Frank believed "abortion is wrong,
period" and Sue believed "abortion is okay given x, y, z" the moral
relativist might claim that Frank should be tolerant of Sue's belief (or
vice versa), whereas the moral objectivist might claim that one or the
other or neither is correct. Meanwhile the sceptic would shrug his
shoulders and the expressivist would claim that what Frank meant to say
was that he wants her to keep the baby and what Sue meant to say is that
she doesn't want the baby.
More information about the extropy-chat