“What is true for you may not be true for me”.
Is an axiom of today’s culture. It plays as a subliminal call for civility, tolerance and understanding. It is also the hallmark of a confused and decaying society, for civility, tolerance and understanding are meaningless in a worldview that forswears objective truth and embraces relativism.
Relativism is the idea that moral truth has no objective or absolute value. Relativism reduces moral truth to a subjective opinion that is variable and contingent on experiences and perspectives. This equivocation makes relativism an existential threat to any civilization that embraces its abnegation of objective truth because it undermines its moral foundation. The absence of objective moral truth subjugates morality to a consensus of opinion at best and at worst to the rule of the mob. In such framework rights are not indelible or universal. They are subjugated to the disposition of a society and subject to change. Thus, under relativism there is no ethical or moral framework upon which to condemn the slave trade or a legal justification to adjudicate crimes against humanity. For relativism disparage the notion that as rational beings, we can discern what is right, proper and just and condemn what is wrong, improper and unjust.
As Professor Peter Kreeft aptly puts it:
“But in fact it is only the believer in the old-fashioned natural moral law who could be a social radical and a progressive. He alone can say to a Hitler, or a Saddam Hussein, “You and your whole social order are wrong and wicked and deserve to be destroyed.” The relativist could only say, “Different strokes for different folks, and I happen to hate your strokes and prefer mine, that’s all.”
A Refutation of Moral Relativism—Transcription
It was precisely the “old-fashioned natural moral law” that afforded the Dominican Friar Bartolomé de las Casas an intellectual framework upon which to argue against the slave trade of the 16-century and for the universality of human rights. He argued that every human being has an intrinsic and objective dignity and thereby should be universally respected. His arguments were not only based on his Christian faith but also on Natural Law. A fundamental principle in classical philosophy that states that there are objective and universal ethical principles that are inherent in all human beings and that these principles can be known through reason.
Moreover, the intellectual and judicial arguments against Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg Trials were firmly grounded on Natural Law:
“When I say that we do not ask for convictions unless we prove crime, I do not mean mere technical or incidental transgression of international conventions. We charge guilt on planned and intended conduct that involves moral as well as legal wrong…It is not because they yielded to the normal frailties of human beings that we accuse them. It is their abnormal and inhuman conduct which brings them to this bar.”
Robert H. Jackson
Opening Statement Nuremberg Trials, 1945
Relativism begs the question whether the outcome of the Nuremberg trial was justifiable if the moral values of the tribunal were conditioned by the experiences and perspective of the Nazis. For under a relativistic intellectual regime, the slave trade and crimes against humanity are just a matter of opinion. The only logical conclusion under relativism is that such atrocities are only atrocity because we view them as atrocities. Not because they are intrinsically evil. They are just a value opinion. This is a devastating thought.
Yet the appeal of relativism is inescapable to a self-centered culture. That is obsessed with denying the nature of sin or wrongdoing. It is no wonder that Relativism is today’s most profitable currency in the economy of progressivism. It gives an effective, albeit intellectually unsustainable, framework upon which to justify anything. Its effectiveness in today’s culture is self-evident in its successful devaluation of human life to a commodity through its rationalization of abortion and euthanasia. The former led to an ongoing holocaust of countless generations of human beings whose life are ended by abortion and the latter provided the means to justify the cleansing of those that society considered to be undesirable, i.e. a burden. Its inhumanity is hidden behind the doors of abortion clinics and exposed behind the gates of Auschwitz.
To be continue…