Recently I’ve been thinking about how I view the world. Specifically, how do my morals and thoughts about how things should be relate to my underlying beliefs? After some good discussions and some introspection, I think I fall closer to an absolutist view of the world than a relativist one.
Let’s better define some terms:
an absolutist would look at a situation and the context surrounding the situation would have no sway on their opinion. For example, if a person believed it was absolutely wrong to take action that results in the death of an innocent person no matter what, they would never be ok with an innocent person dying by another’s hand, even if this meant that many other people would be saved as a result.
A relativist who looked at this issue of killing an innocent person would probably agree in 99.9999 percent of situations with the absolutist. However, there may be some situations where they would say that a greater good will be served by the death of an innocent person.
You can demonstrate these differing views with moral trolley dilemmas, other hypothetical situations, or even very real situations if you want to figure out where you fall on the spectrum.
The problem I have with a relativist perspective, is that if you bend your moral rules once, it gets easier and easier to do so as more situations present themselves.
Another example: if you feel it is completely objectionable to wear white after labor day, and you are an absolutist, you will not do it. Ever.
On the other hand, if you are a relativist, you may see an incredibly cute white muumuu that you just have to wear to the parent teacher conference. It matches your blue Chuck Taylor’s perfectly!
And then the next week, you see a white art smock that would look totally grunge-tastic for an upcoming concert where the Nirvana tribute band that also likes to make very meta references to how much older they are than most of their fans: Smells Like Teen, Can You Hear It? is playing. And slowly but surely, you stray from your code of honor and before you know it, you’re making exceptions more often than you’re adhering to your original morals.
When it comes to “white clothes after labor day”, who cares, right?
But when it comes to something serious like murder or torture…the conversation gets very real, very quickly.
So, I self-identify as more of an absolutist. What about you?