stand for something

Français : Courage
Français : Courage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every so often I get into philosophical debates over “moral relativism”, the philosophized notion that right and wrong are not absolute values, but are personalized according to the individual and his or her circumstances or cultural orientation. My belief is that as a philosophy for living, relativism is simply an easy excuse to avoid taking a stand on anything at best and a rationalization for evil at worst. I just found this quote that sums up the idea that relativism is simply a thought game that leaves one with nothing to lay a hold of to help one to live a life of value.

“But the new rebel is a Skeptic and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic  is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

Orthodoxy – G. K. Chesterton.

2 thoughts on “stand for something”

  1. We have to be careful not to confuse ‘moral relativism’ with ‘religious relativism’; and what G.K. is talking about here is more accurately described as ‘cognitive dissonance’.
    Protect the children, don’t murder people, stealing is bad. In that order.
    Every human (aside from sociopaths) can understand these concepts, and support them. Practically all other arguments are moot; people can do as they please, or as their laws allow.

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