Boghossian on the impossibility of “relative morals”

The normative must be absolute since relative normativity is impossible. If we want to soften the uncompromising absolutism of a claim like “Eating meat is wrong” we usually make it culturally or historically relative, by saying “eating meat is wrong in Hindu culture” or something like this. The problem is that the addition that makes the statement relative also makes its cease to be normative – to say that eating meat is wrong in Hindu culture is an uncontroversial description of how things are and not a commandment or claim about what is good and how things ought to be. And so “relative morality” is not a possible morality. Talking about relative morality is really to cease talking about morals and to shift to talking about something else.

1 Comment

  1. Allen Hazen said,

    November 3, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Nothing special about morals, here, except that people sceptical of moral absolutes can misunderstand the “is wrong in…” form of words. “In” just means, roughly, “according to.” As in
    “The sun revolves around the earth in Ptolemaic astronomy.”


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