Försvar av moralisk relativism

Professorn i filosofi Jesse Prinz försvarar i ”Morality Is a Culturally Conditioned Response” moralisk relativism. Bl.a. bemöter han några vanliga invändningar:

Allegation: Relativism entails that anything goes.
Response: Relativists concede that if you were to inculcate any given set of values, those values would be true for those who possessed them. But we have little incentive to inculcate values arbitrarily. If we trained our children to be ruthless killers, they might kill us or get killed. Values that are completely self-destructive can’t last.

Allegation: Relativism entails that we have no way to criticize Hitler.
Response: First of all, Hitler’s actions were partially based on false beliefs, rather than values (‘scientific’ racism, moral absolutism, the likelihood of world domination). Second, the problem with Hitler was not that his values were false, but that they were pernicious. Relativism does not entail that we should tolerate murderous tyranny. When someone threatens us or our way of life, we are strongly motivated to protect ourselves.

Allegation: Relativism entails that moral debates are senseless, since everyone is right.
Response: This is a major misconception. Many people have overlapping moral values, and one can settle debates by appeal to moral common ground. We can also have substantive debates about how to apply and extend our basic values. Some debates are senseless, however. Committed liberals and conservatives rarely persuade each other, but public debates over policy can rally the base and sway the undecided.

Allegation: Relativism doesn’t allow moral progress.
Response: In one sense this is correct; moral values do not become more true. But they can become better by other criteria. For example, some sets of values are more consistent and more conducive to social stability. If moral relativism is true, morality can be regarded as a tool, and we can think about what we’d like that tool to do for us and revise morality accordingly.

One might summarize these points by saying that relativism does not undermine the capacity to criticize others or to improve one’s own values. Relativism does tell us, however, that we are mistaken when we think we are in possession of the one true morality.

Jag finner denna argumentation helt korrekt, och den stämmer även väl överens med Axel Hägerströms sätt att resonera om och utifrån sin värdenihilism. Att förkasta ”objektiv moral” innebär inte att man inte är moraliskt engagerad.

Se även inlägget ”Känslor som grund för estetik”.