Burning off the dross

Controlled Burn:Relatively speaking

When it comes to certain objective behavior, it’s nearly impossible to read a comment thread on the Web without running into this kind of exchange:

moralist: I believe (objBehavior) is wrong because I’ve been harmed by (objBehavior).

amoralist: I’ll defend your right to say (objBehavior) is wrong, but saying (objBehavior) applies to everyone is wrong.

What is the amoralist actually saying?

First, the amoralist acknowledges that: the moralist is asserting that (objBehavior) is harmful in all cases and is therefore immoral.

Then the amoralist asserts that: (objBehavior) is not harmful in all cases so the objBehavior is therefore moral.

Can you spot the problem?

The amoralist must be omniscient – all knowing – because he’s trying to prove the negative: no harm in all cases. (The negative, a universal meaning void, zip, zero, nada, nothing.)

And – as if trying to prove the negative wasn’t strong enough, the amoralist has actually declared he knows about universals by using the qualifying phrase “applies to everyone” – which means all humans and every occurrence of this (objBehavior).

Clarify the amoralist assertion like this:

You’re telling me there are one or more cases where (objBehavior) is not harmful.

Chances are he’ll confirm he’s trying to prove the negative. So when you run into one of these situations you could tell him “If I understand you correctly, you’ve got nothing to prove…quite literally.”

The amoralist has encountered an insurmountable problem: he is at odds with objective reality and universal logic.

Warning: Deep thinking ahead!

Moral behavior is not subjective, like opinions. Morality is objectively, universally applicable, because humans are objective. We visibly exist and we are all subject to both good and evil.

Logically, good cannot be evil, there are no other values in between, so what is asserted as a vice cannot be a virtue. Virtue and vice are not interchangeable – that would be nonsense, akin to saying the light is both on and off at the same time. They would negate each other and become meaningless.

Either objective behavior is good for everyone or it’s harmful for everyone. Put another way, if an objective behavior harms one person, it harms all others if they engage in it. That’s a moral statement.

The only way an objective behavior can be proven morally harmless is if no one is ever harmed; not doing so rejects those who’ve been harmed as persons.

Since the amoralist is defending the moralist’s right to say he was harmed, he’s acknowledging the moralist as a person, and since he cannot prove the negative on that objective behavior, the only way for the amoralist to believe he’s correct about such moral relativity is to simply assume he’s correct about morals being relative.

The statement begs the question.

Author: Chris Arsenault

Jesus geek, husband, father. Painter, sculptor, model-maker, author, teacher, designer, artist - these are what former friends used to describe me before I became addicted to the Internet and blogging.

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