This article was updated 7/19/19.
There is a current popular belief in moral relativity. This belief contains the basic premise that we cannot know the difference between right and wrong. The argument is that all sentences and words can be deconstructed to show that they are contradictory and meaningless. Thus, we can know nothing about nothing.
This basic philosophy has had dysfunctional effects on national and worldwide culture, just like all dysfunctional ideas eventually have dysfunctional effects.
The basic fallacy of this line of thought is, first, they are right. There is no certain and absolute knowledge about anything. The quantum theorists have demonstrated this — beginning with Verner Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty in the early 1900’s. We don’t even know whether a particular atom exists or doesn’t exist in any particular moment. All we know is the probability of its existence at that place and time. It seems as if the whole world is based on laws of probability.
(However, this doesn’t mean that God didn’t create our universe. It just means that perhaps God created the universe based on probability rather than strict laws of cause-and-effect.)
But herein lies the fallacy of deconstructionist thought:
Just because we can’t know anything with certainty that doesn’t mean we can’t know anything! In fact, we can know some things. We can know a lot! And, in fact, we do know a lot — just not with certainty.
For example, we know that kicking an elderly lady in the head is wrong and giving her a seat on the subway is right. We just don’t know the morality of these actions with absolute certainty. And, because of this, bizarre philosophers make a whole career out of “proving” we don’t know anything.
Thus, we know he moral difference between kicking and elderly lady and helping her, not with absolute certainty, but with relative certainty. We can believe that helping her is morally better with, say, 99% certainty. We can know that “helping her is morally good” is more true than nearly all of the moral philosophies that contradict this belief, for example, criminality, nihilism, fascism, psychopathic philosophies, and so on. And we know that helping her is more ethical with 99% certainty. That’s good enough for our lives.
This is life. We don’t know anything with absolute certainty, but we know a lot with relative certainty, and we base our lives on this relative certainty.
For example, in everyday life usually if there is over a 95% certainty that our decision is the right one, it is a go. If we decide to get in the car and go to work and there is over a 95% chance that we will get there, it’s a go. We don’t have to wait until we have absolute certainty that we will get there. We don’t need the proof that deconstructionists demand.
The same is true that if we have a barbaric instinctual instinct to kick an elderly lady in the head, we have over a 95% chance that such an action is immoral and will lead to dysfunctional effects, like her going to the hospital and us going to jail. We can offer her a seat instead.
The same holds true with most areas of life. If there is over a 95% chance that a career choice or a business choice will be successful, go for it. The same with romance. If there is over a 95% chance that your romantic partner loves you and the relationship will be a success, marry her. You will never be absolutely certain that he or she loves you or that the marriage will work.
Life is a one one way street.
Probability is also true with cultural relativity, a philosophy that also came out of deconstructionism. Some cultural patterns work better than other, and we know this with over 95% certainty. For instance democratic, free-enterprise works better than fascism and communism.
We’re not absolutely certain, but relatively certain. It’s a go. So go out and vote.
Finally, the same is true with philosophy and religion. Some philosophical and religious beliefs are better than others and we know this with relative certainty. We can have faith in these superior ideas until proven otherwise.
For instance, reason is better than nihilism and Christianity is better than the Aztec religion (where the Aztecs killed thousands of conquered people and offered them up to their god).
A belief in heaven is better than the belief in extinction at the end of our lives. Even if the belief in a paradise has a low probability of being true — say one out of ten — it is still worth the bet.
We live in the mythology of truth. It’s all that we have. But it’s better than nothing. And what we have isn’t bad. In fact, it’s wonderful. Reason and probability are great, in fact, miraculous. They’re relatively better than deconstructionism — that’s for sure.
RG Martin says
Sorry, I don’t. I have a web designer that takes care of that stuff!