Relativism is described as a philosophical view which states that all points of view have equal value and that the truth depends on the individual (O'Grady, 2002). Morality, on the other hand, is the total belief or recognition that certain behaviors are either good or bad (O'Grady, 2002). An individual with no morals in a society is considered the one who does not uphold the morals of individual societies. However, in today’s society, there is a thin line between what is considered as morally upright because of relativism. One may argue that since he has a different philosophical view, he is entitled to certain behavior even when it pollutes the morals of the society. The philosophy of relativism has promoted pervasiveness in the culture and society in general (O'Grady, 2002). People abandon the absolute truth because they argue that their views are correct from their own point of view, even when it goes against the grain.
In his journal entry, Some Moral Minima, Goodman argues against the case of relativism by clearly presenting the wrongs that the notion of relativism promotes in today’s society. He argues using the cases of genocide, famine, and germ warfare where he states that all human beings make claims to life. The human face screams, ‘do not kill me’, ‘lend a helping hand when you see me in need’ and ‘allow us to create friendship and a community’. He states that murdering is wrong because it takes away the right to life of an individual. However, warfare might be necessary to protect the lives of the same citizens of different states (Goodman, 2010). Therefore, where should we draw the line between murder and necessary war? Should innocent victims of war be maimed, killed, or left homeless just to protect the lives of other people who all have equal rights to life? He states that the difference between genocide and mass murder is the intent.
Genocide, he argues, targets members of a certain group where they seek to destroy, a race, culture, ethnic or linguistic group (Goodman, 2010). He states that the use of genocide to clear out a particular race, ethnic group, or culture is very wrong because it tries to make known the interest of groups of people by expulsion and destruction of the other group. It makes people confuse power with violence. The leaders, therefore, use indiscriminate violence to assert power over helpless citizens believing that their point of view is right. Genocide is wrong because it negates the individuality of its victims and stirs hatred among individuals. It is important that we speak against genocide because it has defenders.
The use of terrorism, hostages, and child warriors by some individuals or groups to assert their power and bring attention towards them is also wrong because it willfully targets non-combatants. Terrorism gets its power by sapping the will to resist from individuals or states considered the enemy. The media and proponents of terrorism try to justify it by stating that it is a way of ensuring that the needs of these desperate people are met. They give them airtime by stating that the root causes of such acts should be addressed instead of condemning the terrorists (Goodman, 2010). However, this relativist view of such organizations is wrong because human beings should not take the lives of others or engage child soldiers to war just to be heard. They should use other channels of airing their grievances instead of taking away the right to life of innocent victims. The use of hostages is morally wrong because it takes the dignity of human beings away. They are used as means to an end, and as objects and not subjects (Goodman, 2010).
Goodman also argues against the case of slavery, polygamy, and incest
He states that slavery deeply exploits and overrides the subject hood of individuals thus making people tools for use. It destroys the agency of the individual while assigning it to other people who do not share in the hopes and dreams of the said slave. Slavery is morally wrong because of the inhuman use of human beings. However, the slave traders’ point of argument is that the slave trade is more profitable and attracts less severe punishment. Polygamy is also considered morally wrong, especially to women because it degrades them and reduces them to displays of wealth and status (Goodman, 2010). The women are also taken as providers of childcare, reproduction, and domestic labor. This is morally wrong because every human being has a right to self-determination. Incest is also morally wrong because it breaks the importance of family integrity, which is fundamental for every stable family.
Rape is morally wrong because it stands at the extreme level of the continuum of sexual acts and violates the individual’s privacy. It violates not only the individual’s body, but also their person-hood. Rape has a way of perverting the trust that people have on natural sexual acts. It is morally wrong because it dehumanizes, humiliates, and demoralizes the individual. The rape victim is left as an empty shell of his or her former self (Goodman, 2010). Clitoridectomy is a morally wrong because it removes the chief organ of the woman’s sexual pleasure. This practice not only lowers the self-esteem of the victim but also reduces the warm relationships available to our relations as human beings.
Relativism is an acceptable concept if it does not pervert the culture and dehumanizes people of all walks. The philosophy of relativism should also ensure that it does not pervert what the majority of humanity considers as morally upright.