On Virtue and Moral Relativism
By Thomas Nash
On the heels of the Restoring Honor rally held on 8/28/2010 at the Lincoln Memorial, we as citizens of the most blessed nation on earth must commit to being the best and most virtuous us that we can be. Our ability to be virtuous stems from our uniquely human characteristic-reason. It is the ability that humans have to use reason in order to determine a set of values which provides for the least amount of harm done to the fewest amount of people and the most amount of benefit. Restorationaries believe, as our Founders believed, that “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom” (Benjamin Franklin).
Today virtue, morals, right from wrong, are all deemed subjective or relative. Determining the “goodness” or “badness” of a particular thing has almost become inherently immoral. As philosophers, scholars, sociologists and nearly anyone with common sense have been repeating for centuries: This way of thinking, this fear of offending by passing judgment on the harm/benefit of a particular thing, leads to the very thing which it believes it prevents-hate, violence, chaos.
We believe that people are good. We believe this way because we believe that people want to be good. A world where no morals exist or worse where morals are shunned, is a world where excuses are made for harmful behavior.
This brings us to another and perhaps equally important uniquely human trait, and that is our conscience. Our conscience is what weighs on reasonable people when we’ve done something harmful toward another. It is what often prevents us from inflicting that harm in the first place. Virtue, reason and conscience all work together to define a human’s morals. Each needs the other in order to prevent a person from causing harm. If a person is reasonable and can hear the call of his/her conscience, but is not virtuous,
that person may indeed harm another despite the existence of the first two traits. The formula can be tried in any combination and the result will be the same. It is only when a person possesses all three simultaneously, that there can be as near a guarantee as can be expected of a human that he/she will inflict no harm.
Where there is no clearly defined virtue, it can be argued that there is NO virtue at all. Many who subscribe to a “moral relativism” still themselves claim to be “good” people or “moral/virtuous” people. How then can they claim to be something which doesn’t exist? You would not be able to contain your laughter at the straightness of their faces and seriousness of their tone when they tell you as much. But imagine that they are telling you something of equal logic. Perhaps they would say with all the seriousness they can muster, that they are the owners of a string of pink unicorns. The logic is the same. They claim to be the possessor of something which they would freely admit does not exist. Yet, we accept this as a legitimate intellectual and philosophical notion.
The second part of the quote by Benjamin Franklin, cited in the opening of this article, is “As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” In the society the “moral relativists” wish to live in, capitalism visa vie self-government would necessarily fail. No one, including the most patriotic, pro-freedom American, could honestly argue that a society which has melted morality down to a fluid state whose form is indeterminable, could sustain a system which relies on the benevolence of one man to another. The “melted morals” society needs and what’s more, it deserves government control. This was never the society that our founders intended for us.
Like so many fathers before him and following him-including the Father of us all- George Washington the father of our country, imparted the wisdom and advice that says virtue is necessary for human survival and the survival of freedom. In his farewell address Washington says, “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government.” He goes on to say, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable.” Washington continues on religion and its important role in virtue; A topic that we can address in another post, however from wherever you may draw your virtues/morals, those being such that no harm is ever intended and the most amount of benefit to others is affected, understand that those morals are shared by all “good” people and that those historical ideas of harm and benefit are unchanged, objective and necessary for the perpetuation of a free society.