DSM: Moral absolutes

Jeanne Pickering (pickeringjeanne@hotmail.com)
Thu, 21 Dec 2000 10:52:54 -0000


Such big questions we have wandered into! As one of those wishy-washy
pragmatists and part-time moral relativists, I'm awed by the willingness of
others to go where I fear to tread.

The problem is that I have seldom seen discussions of absolute moral
judgments not eventually work their way into:

a) rival claims of authority for the absolute value ("God said...",
"Rationalism tells us...", "Nature tells us..", "Science tells us.."),

b) arguments about what exactly the moral authority actually said,

c) arguments about how and whether the judgment should be applied to the
case at hand ("You don't know all the facts about...", "That's irrelevant",
"That isn't a fact, that's an opinion..."),

d) what action the moral judgment calls for: "Just keep telling them they're
wrong", "Pass a law to make them...", "Repeal a law and stop making
them...", "Chop off a body part", "Blow it up").

Then, there are so many examples of moral judgments that make us moral
relativists sigh and say: "Yeah, I gotta agree with that..." and so many
examples that make us say: "There, you see, a moral judgment that went bad!"

And, of course, moral relativism doesn't make for many successful
revolutions. We are certainly at risk of being buffeted by the winds of
absolute moralists sweeping through disturbing our peaceful, slow, piecemeal
attempts at making life a little bit better. And when the dust has settled,
we're back at it again, chipping away at the hard, sharp edges of absolutism
with our annoying little "Just this time..." and "In this particular
case..." and "But it won't do any harm if..." requests.

Sometimes we need you moral absolutists to shake us up, call us to action,
get the blood boiling and make vital changes swiftly. Just try not to get so
frustrated with us that you break our stiff-necks before we get around to
loosening them up so we can turn them.

Happy Holidays everyone,

Jeane PIckering

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