Monday, April 18, 2016

Moral relativism is no longer a thing

Moral relativism has been a conservative boogeyman since at least the Cold War. ... But the prevailing thought of the second decade of the 21st century is not like the mid-to late-20th century. Law, virtue, and a shame culture have risen to prominence in recent years, signaling that moral relativism may be going the way of the buggy whip. ...

Thoughtful conservatives who are less concerned with waging culture wars have begun to admit that such a shift is occurring. In The New York Times last week, David Brooks argued that while American college campuses were “awash in moral relativism” as late as the 1980s, a “shame culture” has now taken its place. The subjective morality of yesterday has been replaced by an ethical code that, if violated, results in unmerciful moral crusades on social media.

A culture of shame cannot be a culture of total relativism. One must have some moral criteria for which to decide if someone is worth shaming. ...

Although this new code is moral, it is not always designated as such. As Brooks (echoing Andy Crouch of Christianity Today) said, “Talk of good and bad has to defer to talk about respect and recognition.” No wonder many God-and-family conservatives dislike this new moral code as much as the relativism it replaced.
--Jonathan Merritt, The Atlantic, on a philosophical foundation of the new shaming culture