Moral relativism is a critical element in postmodern thinking. Moral relativism is the belief that there is a lack of absolute or objective right or wrong in the context or question of morality. The assumption for moral relativists is that their thinking is more tolerant, inclusive, and non-judgmental. The supposed politically correct viewpointis seen as more open-minded. Moral relativism tends to be more descriptive and less prescriptive. The basis of this thought is found in the fact that it reduces choices to preferences. The subjective grounding of relativism puts moral thought solely on each individual. Moral relativism ignores any thought of an objective moral standard that relates to all individuals.
As moral relativism relates to abortion, many would say “Don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” As previously stated, this reduces a complex, intricate, moral topic to a simple personal preference. One could apply that to other items; ice cream flavor, living environment, or hair color. Abortion should be accepted by all because some choose to have them is the base of the argument before the personhood of the unborn is defined. Moral relativism, as it applies to abortion, states the unborn are defined however an individual chooses to define it. If one believes the unborn is a person with rights, then that person can choose to not have an abortion. If one believes the unborn is not a person with rights, then that person can choose to have an abortion. Either can be right for any person, but neither can be wrong for any person.
Moral relativism has two main arguments for support: cultural and individual differences and tolerance. The main argument for the cultural and individual differences states we cannot in society as a whole unite moral standards with so many unique cultural influences. Cultures express their own morals, thus it is not right to go into a culture and suppress their moral traditions. There are four problems with this argument. First, relativism does not follow from disagreement. Simply put, difference of belief does not mean truth cannot be obtained and known. In actuality, it is the fact that we have differences in moral thought that expose the potentiality of objective moral norms. Second, disagreement counts against relativism. It is an objective statement to say there are no objective moral norms. This makes relativism self-refuting, it has to contradict itself to try to prove itself. Third, disagreement is overrated. There are plenty of moral issues that most would agree on. For instance most believe that people have a right to life. The disagreement comes in when that right has limits or restrictions. Some cultures kill people that kill others, claiming they gave up their right to life by taking it from someone else. Some cultures say a parent has the right to take the life of a child that dishonors them. Pro-abortion places the rights in the hands of the mother of the unborn, while pro-life places the right to life in the unborn. Fourth, absurd consequences come from moral relativism. If there are no moral standards, one cannot honestly say express moral value on anybody. A missionary cannot be deemed a “great saint” and a militaristic dictator causing genocide cannot be deemed “horribly evil”. Moral relativism gives no room for the conflict of individual beliefs. One person may believe it is morally acceptable to kill a neighbor, the neighbor believes that is not morally acceptable. As previously stated, relativism is self-refuting. If there are no moral norms, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King are wrongfully applauded for their fight for equality of all people.
Tolerance is another point for moral relativism. In postmodernity tolerance is an overly used term. The moral relativism argument states that one should tolerate the moral expressions of others. There are at least four problems with this argument. Tolerance actual promotes objective standard. The demand of tolerance is to set an objective trait to be adopted by all. Next, relativism is a closed-minded and intolerant position. If each individual carries their own truth, there is no reason to be open-minded and tolerant of another’s truth. For an individual, the only truth that matters is their own. Next, relativism is judgmental, exclusivist, and partisan. Relativism says you have to be tolerant or you’re wrong. That is an intolerant, judgmental, and exclusive statement. Lastly, tolerance promotes barbarism or is self-refuting. As previously stated, relativism continues to contradict itself. Tolerance has to allow genocide, slavery, rape, murder, etc. to hold true to its claims or contradict itself and place moral judgment on those acts.