woman and clocks

There are people that have a problem with morality. They see morality and the rules associated with it as just a matter of personal opinion relative to a particular framework such as one’s upbringing or culture. In essence, they see morality as being relative. Relative means that there is no absolute right or wrong in anything. The relativist can move ahead to claim that the morality of a group is an attempt to exercise power over other groups. What then should be done once you realize that your society’s moral values are not absolute but relative? You show tolerance for people who think differently and who come from a background different from yours. The relativist emphasizes tolerance so much that one of the worst character flaws a person can have is to be judgmental. So we don’t know what is good or what is evil, we cannot differentiate between right and wrong, hence, an adult giving a young person advice about how to live properly is totally inappropriate. This is where the relativist lands.

The bible for instance, which is a book that shows the importance of living a moral life, has been around for two millennia. Many things have been lost in that long time but the bible survived for a reason. We should not be quick to dismiss those who regarded (and those who regard) the bible as a guideline for good moral conduct as being foolish. Go back in time across various societies, you will find various ethical codes among them. The point is that for generations, morality has guided our ancestors. There was and is some richness to morality. It will be a great mistake and even foolish on our part to totally disregard morality.

Morality is practical wisdom. Look at families and schools and see how a generation is untutored in this practical wisdom. You may have attended the best schools but if your entire education and upbringing is bereft of morality, you are likely to be suffering from a serious intellect and moral neglect. Knowingly or unknowingly, you may be one of those who devalue thousands of years of human knowledge about how to acquire virtue, dismissing it as not relevant or even going as far as regarding  it as oppressive. Little wonder the word “virtue” sounds out of date and someone using it appears self-righteous. According to Aristotle, virtues are the ways of behaving that are most conducive to happiness in life, and vice, the ways of behaving least conducive to happiness. Regardless of what the relativist may think, cultivating judgment about the difference between virtue and vice is the beginning of wisdom. Virtue can never be out of date.

The relativist wants us to believe that there is no real good, no true virtue, because these are too relative, hence making judgements about how to live is impossible. In place of virtue he advocates tolerance. Tolerance will save us from being at each other’s throat since it will provide social cohesion between different groups. No matter how incoherent or ignorant the other person’s views are, tolerate it because there is no right and wrong. But get a nail and scratch a relativist’s Corolla and see how fast he drops relativism and becomes intolerant.

Take away morality and make everything relative, a vacuum is automatically created. This vacuum is chaotic and people have shown they cannot tolerate it. People cannot live without an ideal at which to aim their lives. People cannot live without a moral compass.

Relativism is a fertile ground for nihilism and despair. No value, no meaning. For life to be meaningful we must have an ideal to aim at. Morality plays a huge role in leading us to that ideal. 

While relativism leads one to despair, morality leads one to interior integration. The idea that the human life can be free of moral concerns is a fantasy.

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