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Daily Maverick Morality Religion

Moral debate and the problem of relativism

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Moral debate

Originally published in The Daily Maverick

It is not only because of the privileged status we accord to our ideas that we are reluctant to unsettle them, or that others are wary of challenging them. In some areas of knowledge – or potential knowledge – some of us think that no truths can in fact be known, and that we therefore need to find other ways of resolving disputes. Or sometimes, the claim is that we should not even bother trying to resolve disputes, because they are in principle not resolvable.

One area where this can be observed is in the debate between naturalism, broadly defined as the view that everything can potentially be explained by reference to empirically verifiable data, and supernaturalism, where objects like deities play a significant role in explaining our lives and our physical surrounds. Another is aesthetics, where some claim that beauty only exists in the eye of the beholder. And of course there is morality, where according to a certain school of thought, there are no objective grounds on which to judge one moral viewpoint as superior to another.