Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Nature of Good and Evil

Many times in my English classes here in São Paulo, a student will make a comment that seems to me to strike right at the heart of a fundamental misunderstanding. The comment will go something like, “But who’s to say what’s right and wrong? What’s bad for you might be good for me. Everyone has their truth, after all.”

This is the essence of relativism, isn’t it? Right and wrong? Well, that depends on your point of view ...

These types of comments sound scholarly and learned. After all, we must learn to appreciate all points of view in our increasingly globalized world. In Canada, where I’m from, we’ve taken this on as a national initiative, making a great effort to absorb all differences into our malleable and ever expanding national heritage.

But philosophical relativity is deeply flawed. In actual fact, we don’t live our lives by it either. If someone tells you a lie, you don’t say, “Well, maybe he needed to sleep with that other woman and not tell me about it.”

Further, we can say unequivocally that slavery is ALWAYS wrong, lies are never welcomed, goodness is better than evil. We may have opinions about these truths; those can be relative. But the absolutes are … well, absolute.

With all that in mind, let's explore it a little further.

Click here to download this episode.
Click here to read the transcript.


Fathairybastard said...

Moral relativism is a playground for those who ether don't own anything and have nothing to lose, or those who don't really know enough about anything to be able to tell right from wrong, or those who don't have the moral courage to stick with the right thing when the going gets rough and complicated.

We know so much about the mistakes of the past, the inexcusable motivations of some in the past, the abuses that many in the world have had to endure, we compensate by assuming that every side has an equally valid motivation. No one wants to be told what to do or how to live by someone else, so we say live and let live, or so long as it feels good, do it. No one wants to be the cop, or the dad. Thing is, someone's got to be the cop, or the robbers will run the place. The robbers may have their own point of view, but if you don't want them to take all yer shit, you need a cop. The world is like that.

Richard Lloyd Jones said...

Well said, sir. And of course the whole relativistic worldview originates from an unwillingness to acknowledge that there is a reality that exists outside human belief and theory, but we've lost contact with it. Truth exists. So does goodness. We avoid that at our peril, and see the enormous destruction of society we are perpetrating as a consequence.

Richard Lloyd Jones said...

By the way, I'll be posting a podcast about this very soon. Stay tuned!