MORAL ABSOLUTISM – Tuesday January 14 th
Author: W.T Stace
Part One: THE METAPHYSIS OF RELATIVISM
• The Presocratics and Anaximander thought the earth was drumshaped
• The Ptolemaics thought the earth was spherical
• The medievals thought the earth was flat like a leaf
Three different and contradictory beliefs
a) the Ptolemaic belief is right and the other beliefs are wrong
b) EVEN if we are wrong to believe that the Ptolemaic theory is right, still, there is a
We think we know the truth about the shape of the earth;
But we also think that – even if we are wrong about the shape of the earth – the earth still has
About the shape of the earth, some people are right, and some people are wrong.
People disagree about what the truth is, but they do agree that THERE IS A TRUTH.
The shape of the issue is a factual issue. There is a fact of the matter (a truth).
QUESTION: Is it the same with moral issues?
EX one: 2 contradicting moral views:
Some people think that slavery is a natural, right, and morally good human institution.
Other people think that slavery is an abomination.
EX two: Some people think that adolescent boys should have an older homosexual lover:
that is the ideal education.
Other people think that pederasty is a moral crime (seen as abuse in some cultures).
EX three: Some people think that a brother or father should kill a sexually wayward sister or
daughter, to preserve the family honour.
Other people think that such family killings are wrong.
CONCLUSION: In each of these cases, we have our own moral preference. We call our
opinions or moral views: the better view or the right view.
Q: But, do we think that it is objectively right?
A: A moral relativist believes that there is no objective or absolute moral truth. Truth, in
morals, is quite unlike truth in matters of fact like cosmology.
A moral relativist believes that moral beliefs are true or false only relatively to cultures or
peoples: Slavery was good and right for:
o Ancient Athenians
o 18 c. Americans
o 17 c. Quebecois
But wrong for:
o Modern Europeans
o 20 c. Americans
o 19 c. Quebecois
A moral relativist would believe that pederasty was morally just fine for ancient Athenians.