I am happy to report the release of a new book published by Word on Fire, the Catholic ministry founded by Bishop Robert Barron. Entitled, The New Apologetics: Defending the Faith in a Post-Christian Era, it is edited by Matthew Nelson with a foreword by Cardinal Thomas Collins and an afterword by Bishop Barron. Invited to contribute to the volume, my chapter is entitled “Moral Relativism: Arguments For and Against.” (You can download a pre-publication copy of the chapter on my SSRN page here). In the chapter I make a case against moral relativism. After defining moral relativism, I critique two major arguments for it: (1) the argument from disagreement, and (2) the argument from tolerance. Here’s how the chapter begins:
Here are some moral rules:
- Love your neighbor as yourself
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Do not intentionally kill the innocent
- Do not take what is not yours without permission
- Parents ought to care for their infant children
- Shun ignorance and try to live at peace with your neighbors
- One ought not to rape anyone.
If you believe that these moral rules—and perhaps others not mentioned—ought to be obeyed by everyone regardless of time, place, or culture, then you are a moral objectivist. You believe that morality is real and that it can be known by everyone, that morality is more like mathematics than it is like the rules of etiquette. On other hand, if you believe that morality depends exclusively on one’s time, place, or culture—that there is no universal objective morality that transcends society and circumstance—then you are a moral relativist. You do not deny that there are moral rules, but what you do believe is that these rules are nothing more than your own society’s ethical code, which may be different, but no better or worse, than the ethical code of another society. So, you believe that morality is more like the rules of etiquette than it is like mathematics.
As I have already noted, if you are interested in reading more of the chapter, you can access a pre-publication version on my SSRN page.
Other contributors to the book include Matthew Levering, Eleonore Stump, Stephen Barr, Jennifer Frey, Peter Kreeft, Edward Feser, Holly Ordway, Fr. Michael Ward, Christopher Kaczor, Ryan T. Anderson, Tyler McNabb, Turner C. Nevitt, Archbishop Donald Bolen, Robert C. Koons, Daniel De Haan, Fr. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, OP, and Fr. James Dominic Brent, OP.
You can purchase The New Apologetics here.