Are You A Garbled Relativist?

Ray Prebble argues that moral relativism is both incoherent and immoral.

Are you a relativist? A relativist is someone who says things like “There are many truths, many ways of seeing things.” Compare this with the non-relativist, or absolutist, who says, “This is how things are, and there are no two ways about it.” What’s your reaction to these opposing viewpoints? If the relativist sounds decent, non-judgemental, and understanding – someone you feel a connection with – whereas the absolutist sounds biased, unforgiving, and unthinking – someone you would avoid – then you are just the audience I’m aiming at.

Of course one can unproblematically be a relativist about taste in art, or in gardening, or anything involving only purely subjective evaluations. But the philosophically interesting kind of relativism is cultural relativism, also known as (or is at least a substantial subdivision of) moral relativism. (From now on in this article, ‘relativists’ will refer specifically to moral relativists.) The fact that different cultures do things differently is still unproblematic if you’re deciding where to have dinner; but accepting the differences can get tricky when you’re making decisions about moral issues. How ought one to think and act when cultures clash morally or moral systems collide? Whose rules should be followed; yours or theirs? How can we decide? What should a nice relativist do?

From “Philosophy Now” – read the piece.

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