The Narrative of Relative Morality
“What is strong wins: that is the universal law.” – Nietzche, Notes
“There are no facts, only interpretations” – Nietzche, Notebooks
In the 21st century, it is doubtful that there are any who have not encountered the idea of non-absolute morality. Non-absolute, or relative, morality is a system of right and wrong, which is not based on objective truths. Relative moral systems can and do change depending on the variables involved in a given situation; i.e., what is right for person a in situation x may or may not be right for person b in situation y. Culture tells us that these non-absolute morals allow us to celebrate diversity, and should themselves be celebrated. We are told that these systems necessarily promote love and unity, and should therefore be adopted by everyone. But is this always the case? Are there really no negative implications to abandoning objective morality?
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche certainly had a different understanding of non-absolute morality, but before discussing his views, let us first dive a little deeper into the narrative currently being told about non-absolute morality.
Relativity means that no one is wrong! Or so we are told. It’s 2016 and the notion of one idea being right over another is flat out offensive. Furthermore, to hold to absolute truth is to be an uneducated Cro-Magnon at best, and a spiteful misanthrope at worst. Indeed, absolute truth and morality are often pegged as catalysts for atrocities like the recent Orlando shooting. The thought process goes something like this:
- Absolute truth leads to absolute beliefs.
- Absolute beliefs lead to radical and ostracizing mindsets.
- Radical mindsets do not allow their adherents to cope or interact with differing beliefs.
- Unable to cope, those with non-relative mindsets resort to xenophobia and violent attempts of eradicating opposing ideas.
We can see this thought process illustrated by the prominent atheistic biologist Richard Dawkins. When asked about atheism’s lack of absolute morality, Professor Dawkins replied with the following:
“The absolute morality that a religious person might possess would include what? Stoning people for adultery? Death for apostasy? Punishment for breaking the Sabbath? These are all things which are religiously-based absolute moralities. I don’t think I want an absolute morality…If you actually look at the moralities accepted among modern people, among 21st century people, we don’t believe in slavery anymore, we believe in equality of women, um, we believe in being gentle, we believe in being kind to animals…”
We see hear that the idea of an absolute morality, in Dawkins’ eyes, is intrinsically and irrevocably linked with oppression and atrocity. So it would appear, to popular culture anyways, that the only way one can avoid pathological misanthropy is by ditching absolute morality completely.
If this is the case, why doesn’t everyone just abandon steadfast moral systems and embrace the peace and prosperity that non-absolute morality brings? The next post will seek to answer this question by looking at Nietzsche’s understanding of non-absolute morality and the massive societal implications it brings.
○ Why Moralism Is Not the Gospel: And Why So Many Christians Think It Is – Albert Mohler
○ The Bible For The Post Modern World – N.T. Wright
○ Our World Belongs To God – CRC
○ How To Be An Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough – by Mitch Stokes