Teresa Miller- Honorbound
Who am I to judge? This is perhaps the most common question I have heard yet, one which exemplifies moral relativism. It implies that the truth is subjective, that there is no moral absolute. Today, relativism seems fairly attractive because almost everyone thinks this way. We desire to please everyone, and we want to offend no one. Moral relativism is largely exemplified through the mainstream media. More surprisingly, one study suggests that “75% of American college professors currently teach that there is no such thing as right and wrong.” [i] What would the true experts have to say about this? Should we live our lives in denial of the absolute truth? Let us examine what the well-known Greek philosopher, Aristotle would believe.
In his famous work, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle addresses how man can best live his life and concludes that happiness is the ultimate good. Some may argue that Aristotle agrees with moral relativism because he states that “the good is the final end, and happiness is this.” [ii] So, in theory he suggests that we should do whatever makes us happy, right? Yes, however, we should not to confuse happiness with amusement. Aristotle states that amusement could never possibly be the end because “it is absurd to suppose that…we toil and moil all our life long for the sake of amusing ourselves.” [iii] Contrary to amusement, Aristotle mentions that happiness is achieved when we exercise reason to know the truth and to rule our actions, that happiness is a part of our human nature. Therefore, because natural law is a part of human nature, Aristotle contradicts moral relativism. By using reason to know the truth and to rule our actions, one would be complying with a universal truth.
Additionally, Aristotle combats moral relativism when he speaks of virtue. He suggests that the “virtue of a man…makes a man good and makes him perform his function well,” that we are “called good or bad in respect…of our virtues or vices.” [iv] By implying that virtues make man good and vices make man bad, he suggests there is a right and a wrong, further supporting the existence of an absolute truth.
Therefore, we must be careful not to be easily swayed by what society urges us to think. We must consider that no one really lives in accordance with moral relativism; we all expect one another to live to a certain standard and to treat us with respect. But why does this matter? Moral relativism offers no basis to argue against unjust laws, which could eventually lead to the oppression of a society. I believe most of us would agree with Sproul’s words: “I do not want to drive across a bridge designed by an engineer who believed the numbers in structural stress models are relative truths.” [v]
[ii] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (Edited by Bernardo Aparicio, Dallas, TX: Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2016), 3.
[iii] Ibid., 17.
[iv] Ibid., 13.