no such thing as moral relativism

So says Paul Boghossian in the New York Times, “The Maze of Moral Relativism”. He argues instead that attempts to hold to moral relativism only turns into nihilism, surely an unsatisfactory conclusion. In the end, he says, there have to be moral absolutes. He doesn’t appear to derive this from any revelation, but merely from logic. His column is interesting, regardless whether you agree or disagree with is conclusions.

Relativism about morality has come to play an increasingly important role in contemporary culture.  To many thoughtful people, and especially to those who are unwilling to derive their morality from a religion, it appears unavoidable.  Where would absolute facts about right and wrong come from, they reason, if there is no supreme being to decree them? We should reject moral absolutes, even as we keep our moral convictions, allowing that there can be right and wrong relative to this or that moral code, but no right and wrong per se.


The argument is significant because it shows that we should not rush to give up on absolute moral facts, mysterious as they can sometimes seem, for the world might seem even more mysterious without any normative vocabulary whatsoever.