Moral relativism dilemma


I am in college taking an ethics course, we have been discusing moral relativism. The textbook im noticing is like really anti catholic. The whole point of this is I don’t agree with moral relativism but for the class I will have to conform to the book. What should I do?


Either drop the class or do what the class requires. You don’t have to believe what is being taught, just learn it. Learning anti-Catholic rhetoric can actually better prepare you to better defend The Faith. They say a good debater is someone who could argue both sides equally well and I think that is true.


Yes, you learn the topic for the class. You write the papers and answer the exam questions according to the parameters the professor asks for. You don’t have to believe in moral relativism or apply it to your life.

Studying it thoroughly can help you understand better how nonsensical it is.

Your only other option is to drop the class and find a traditional Catholic university, because you’ll be hard-pressed finding any classes that are Catholic-friendly at most colleges and universities.


I don’t think I ever absolutely had to agree with the underlying assumptions of a text, just understand the theory as presented. I took a lot of classes from professors who loved it if I could successfully argue against the text, because it showed critical thinking and rhetorical skill. Ethics is a controversial field - blind obedience would be a very strange expectation and any professor worth their salt should know that.


If you were in my class, I would love it if you defended your own beliefs provided you presented a cogent argument. Maybe your professor thinks the same way. Most professors realize that the majority of textbooks are notoriously inaccurate, incomplete, and biased in one way or another.


Pope Benedict:

The Holy Father says:

"If we cannot have common values, common truths, sufficient communication on the essentials of human life–how to live how to respond to the great challenges of human life–then true society becomes impossible."

Commentary by The Practical Catholic

How true this is. Where there is no communication, no culture, no shared experience, there is no society; because there is no people. There remains only a vast and foreboding, unforgiving sea of individuals ready to crash upon each other and the world with the slightest wind. Without a common basis, we have not the vaulted pluralism we’re taught to embrace, but Babel, in all the confusion and madness of a society with no binding forces. Already we are seeing the tensions of this fragmentation breaking out across cultures.

Without common values and truths, such as in the socieites we find ourselves in, we find the fabric of society torn like Joseph’s cloak, by a great many tribes which would like to lay claim to the title of favored. Leftists, conservatives, anarchists, nihilists, secularists, objectivists, the shallow, the entertainers, the entertained, all vying for control against each other. Tribalism can indeed spawn differentiation, but without some common ground, and in the face of increasing jargon not only in the academies but in the cultures; we shall be left with madness. In the end this tribalism can only result in the decline of all their claims, and the alienation of one from the other. Babel is the happenstance when society tries to become God.

Pope Benedict XVI goes on to say:

"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires. The church must defend itself against threats such as “radical individualism” and “vague religious mysticism”. [emphasis added]


Commentary by The Practical Catholic

Pope Benedict does not play language games, he is unconcerned with the postmodernist’s corner on untruth. Neither should we be. Notice how he calls relativism a “dictatorship” instead of agreeing that no values and no Truth are the way forward for society. What many fail to recognize is that imposing nihilism and arbitrary tribalism is a form of dictatorship. Where untruth or half truth is the common order, there can only be oppression. Political correctness has asked us to abandon our value-laden language and to pick up a new language proper to the secular forum. However, this secular newspeak is value-laden against the traditional claims of the Western world and as such, is a poison rather than a new order. We can and should bring our own conviction laden language to the table, if we’re going to have any sort of real dialogue at all. Misinformation and restrained convictions are not the proper building blocks for a democracy.


I had an ethics professor who was pushing moral relativism. I asked him this question: “Since, as you say, morality is always relative, then was there a time slavery was moral?” He said, “No.” I responded, “So, the immorality of slavery is an objective moral truth?” He refused to answer me and continued with his lecture.


Form a cogent argument and present it. That’s why you are there.


YES! Even more, one thing that higher education does is offer us a chance to understand something and to be able to present a reasoned response, either in support or contrary to the text/lecture/etc.

The professor does not want little robots who parrot back what is on the page. Engage in true debate.


That’s great advice if you are not interested in passing the class.

I notice open-minded love and tolerance for orthodox or conservative thought from all of the moral relativists here at CAF. Just imagine the fun they would have seeing the other side of issues like the US/Mexico border when they are in complete control of the class and the future of the students.

Does anyone you know resemble this remark?


(I’ve moved this to Moral Theology; it has nothing to do with Traditional Catholicism)

The best (and easiest) way to a good grade in a theology class is usually well-reasoned arguing against the professor’s position (which may or may not be his actual position . . .)



One person I know quite well resembles this remark, and that person is me. I know other faculty who also are interested in students’ own views and do not want their students to merely parrot the opinions of the professor. Of course, not all professors are this way, so you do have to be careful and figure out what kind of professor you have.


Strangely enough, I went to a public university, and the ethics classes I took there had more respect for Catholicism than moral relativism. For one (environmental ethics), we actually read excerpts from a Catholic (specifically Pope John Paul II), Muslim, and Buddhist, but the professor, who was himself not religious, said, “Moral relativism is illogical.” The other two classes actually told us pretty much from day one that moral relativism was unsuitable for discussion, even taking time to explain why it was separate from tolerating people’s viewpoints.

Granted, my university also treated Divine Command Theory as being illogical. Students were generally OK with that, though the professors gave a lot of disclaimers to avoid upsetting religious students. However, there was always at least one student arguing in favor of the other two forbidden standards (ethical egoism and moral relativism), and that generally didn’t end well for them. One kid even dropped the class. It was a required class, and it was supposed to be his last semester.


That’s cool. He sounds a lot more reasonable than my ethics professor. To quote Forrest Gump, I guess you never know what type of professor you’re gonna get. :wink:


Yeah, I was surprised. I was told growing up I’d have to deal with a lot of relativism once I got to college unless I went to a Christian one. Imagine my surprise when that professor dropped the, “Moral relativism is illogical” line! He even took time to explain it.

He did pull a “problem of evil” analysis in one class, but that was the most anti-religious he got, and even then, he wasn’t really argumentative when dealing with students who objected. I couldn’t complain. A church in the area was offering a lecture on that topic that night (mere coincidence/providence), and that convinced me I needed to go. That lecture was important in both bringing me back to Christianity and bringing me into Reformed Protestantism, which oddly tore down a lot of barriers I had to Catholicism.


What an awesome story. :+1:

Totally different than my philosophy professor. I mentioned my experience on a different thread recently.

I basically lived through the scenario in the God’s Not Dead movie, only my professor was a shaved-head, leather-jacket-wearing, motorcycle-riding sadist who put me on the spot. I couldn’t even watch the movie because it brought back all the memories. :scream:

Aw, well, c’est la vie.


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