To the philosopher, few things hold as much danger, promise, or beauty as an idea. There is a creative paradox between our enthusiasm for our own convictions (which can risk arrogance) and our thirst for new information that might challenge our convictions (which can risk indifference). We should subject our thoughts to self-examination and cross-examination by others. The magazine provides a platform to share such inquiries in sincerity and joy.
Moral Relativism Magazine does not have a credo. The magazine publishes diverse viewpoints with an emphasis on those that explicate or defend less well understood moral theories that may be loosely classed as "relativist." The urge to collaboratively hammer out at least one good, plausible relativist theory is part of what drives this magazine.
The long entry for "Moral Relativism" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (entry published 2004, revised 2008) cites the work of contemporary philosophers Gilbert Harman and David B. Wong and says:
"The term ‘moral relativism’ is understood in a variety of ways. Most often it is associated with an empirical thesis that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements and a metaethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons. Sometimes ‘moral relativism’ is connected with a normative position about how we ought to think about or act towards those with whom we morally disagree, most commonly that we should tolerate them."
In the popular lexicon, "moral relativism" sometimes refers to hypocrisy, inconsistency, arbitrariness, extreme individualism or collectivism, collectivism, nihilism, atheism, the rejection of "self-evident truths" or "natural laws," the rejection of the idea of good and evil, the unwillingness to punish evil harshly enough or at all, the belief that everything is permitted, the belief that might makes right, the obedience to authority, a change of opinion over time, the recommendation of different standards for different groups of people, the consideration of the details of a situation to differentiate it from another similar situation, the drawing of a moral equivalence between two different situations, the attempt to understand one's enemies, the attempt to appease one's enemies, tolerance or politeness, the deception of oneself or others to justify what is wrong, or simply an excuse for one's own selfish behavior. Sometimes "moral relativism" is used to brand anything whatsoever with which the speaker disagrees. These definitions seem simplistic and misleading. Why would "relativism" have been invented as a redundant term for things we can already easily identify and explain? Furthermore, some of these popular definitions contradict each other, so they cannot all be correct.
Past contributors to Moral Relativism Magazine have weighed in:
"Saying that moral values are relative simply means that the worth of moral values is derived in relation to a certain pre-established purpose....Outside moral discussions, we are perfectly content with goodness being relative. A good chair is one that serves its pre-defined purpose; its goodness is relative to its purpose and we never talk about what a good chair in absolute terms would be....That relative value is factual is important for cleaning moral relativism’s bad name because it confronts the criticism that relative values are arbitrary."
- Francisco Mejia Uribe, "Pragmatic Moral Relativism," Issue 3, January 2012
"Put simply, moral relativism is the values neutral assertion that morality is relative to one or all of the following: time, space, culture and the individual. It holds that there are no universal objective moral truths. * * * Rather than enabling hedonism or any moral turpitude, it condemns us to constantly assess not only the rightness of our actions, but the rightness of our morality itself. Even so, moral relativism also provides the most important liberty we can possess, the liberty of knowing that we are doing what is right because we believe it is right – rather than because someone or something tells us we should."
- DuWayne Brayton, "Moral Relativism and Responsibility," Issue 3, January 2012
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