Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivism Through the Lens of Psychology

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According to the Oxford Living dictionary, morals are standards of behavior; principles of right and wrong. (Press, 2019) These principles and standards that are made up by societies act as guidelines for the people within those societies to follow. However, what happens when a said person from a certain society ups and moves to a new society with a totally different set of principles which might even contradict with what he has known to be true? How then does he act in a way that is morally ‘right’? This is where moral objectivism comes into play.

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Moral objectivism which is also known as moral realism is the metaethical view that moral truths exist independently from opinion. That is to say that there are objective, universal principles that apply to everyone independent on societal views and individual opinions. A perfect example of such a principle given by Louis Pojman is: “It is morally wrong to torture people just for the fun of it.” (Pojman, 2011) Such a principle affords little to no room for a logical argument. Torturing anyone solely for one’s sadistic pleasure is absolutely and totally wrong and there is no way around that despite the fact that there are people who hold different opinions on the matter. Hence the subject of moral relativism. It would be almost impossible to talk about moral objectivism without talking about moral relativism.

Moral relativism says that there are no objective, universal principles that are applicable to everyone. In other words, it is the idea that morals are not absolute but rather they are molded by social customs and personal beliefs. So this means that according to a moral relativist if person A says two plus two equals six, he is right because that is what he believes to be true and if person B says two plus two equals one, then he is also right because that is what he believes to be true. People hide behind the relativists view in order to justify their actions and due to their lack of knowledge although somewhere deep down in them if they choose to look closely they would see that they are wrong. At the end of the day, the absolute truth of the matter is that they are both wrong as two plus two equals four. `1

September 11, 2001. A day that changed the lives of nearly every American. Nineteen militants hijacked four airplanes to carry out suicide attacks on targets in America killing two thousand nine hundred and ninety six people (2,996) (Editors, 2019). The terrorists that perpetuated this horrendous acts believed that they were doing what was right by their own belief but the victims and the rest of the world thought it to be morally wrong and unacceptable. Almost every single person who has heard about or witnessed the attack would tell you that it was an evil act. They could say so because they know that killing of innocent people for whatever reason is an infringement on their human rights and whatever infringes ones human right is wrong. Moral objectivism gives one the right to reason like this because it has the advantage in so that it allows the ordinary rules of logic to be applied to moral statement so that one can say a moral belief is true or false.

However, if the moral relativism theory were to be applied, the terrorist would have been said to have done only what they thought was right and that their actions were justifiable. It would mean that no one can pass judgement on their actions and everyone would just have to accept it and move on with their lives. However, from their actions it can be said without doubt that not all societal or individual morals and principles can be right or such an incidence would have never occurred. This can be further proved by the law of non-contradiction which states that it is not possible that something can be both true and not true at the same time. (Gottlieb, 2019).

In the paragraphs above, the word truth has been mentioned quite a number of times but what really is ‘truth’? How does one define what is true and what is false Truth according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the property of being in accord with fact or reality. (Webster, 1828) One should note that there are two different kinds of truth; the subjective truth and the objective truth. Subjective truths deal with individual preferences and likes. It could change at any given time much like the weather. An example of a subjective truth is “The Titanic is the greatest movie ever.” This truth could become obsolete the moment one watches something more interesting. Objective truth on the other hand deals with truth that can be proven by science and it is universally accepted.

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