[quote=AlanFromWichita]This is a cute word game, but not particularly useful. I would add, though, that they are listener dependent at least as much as speaker dependent.
I agree. I think the relativist can use a word game to deflect the self-refenential objection. That is why I don’t think this objection is especially useful. The problem of relativism isn’t all that easily dismissed. The issue of context is just what gives relativism its force. It makes some sense, but like all errors, it exagerates part of the truth at the expense of other parts.
[quote=AlanFromWichita]To say it was “good for the murderer” because the murderer got what it wanted completely misses the point.
The point is that the Church herself has very complicated issues about moral culpability. Christ said, “forgive them for they know not what they do” right after they just hammered an innocent man to the Cross. To say we must not forgive them or fail to judge them is to make Christ’s words relativistic and presumes we may condemn a person for whom Christ died.
If you say that this crime was “absolutely” a mortal sin, then you would presume to read the other person’s mind and heart, because the criteria for mortal sin are themselves subjective and based on the mental state of the alleged sinner.
The Church does have a sophisticated method of determining moral culpability. She distinguishes between the action itself (matter), the intention for which it is done (form) and the circumstances in which it is done. Each of these aspects have a moral character, and if any are deficient (morally bad) then the person’s act as a whole is deficient (morally bad). [Though the person is still to be loved.] It is even more complicated, in that, when determining the action itself, the knowledge of the actor figures in, so that if an actor does not realize that his action is materially wrong (he is invincibly ignorant), he is not culpable. But this subjective judgment about the moral character of the action is different from the intention, which is also subjective.
So, you’re right, subjectivity is really important in assessing the moral worth of a person’s total acting, and a real determination can only be made between God and that person in the stark honesty of his conscience. Since we don’t have access to the subjective elements, charity demands we withhold judment about things like subjective knowledge and intention.
But the Church also insists that actions themselves have a moral character. Some things are always morally wrong no matter what intention a person has when doing them or what the circumstances. Adultery is a classic example; murder, the intentional killing of an innocent person, is another (but this tends to get a bit confused). This is what moral relativists deny. MR’s reduce everything to intention – an action is good always and only insofar as I have a good intention for doing it. MR’s claim that there are no intrinsically immoral actions. Adultery may be acceptible with the right intention or required in the right circumstance.
My point is that the rape and intentional killing of a 4 y.o. girls is always objectively a bad action, whatever the subjective intention/knowledge/mental state of her murderer. Everyone, even MRs, recognize this. Nailing an innocent man to a cross and in order to torture him to death is always a bad thing, even if it is done for an apparently good intention (Caiaphas: that the nation be saved) – and even though the greatest good came from it. It was because the crucifixion was sinful (and included all of our sins) that Jesus could forgive us by it (Father forgive them …). If ignorance was the main issue (…they know not what they do) Jesus would have been excusing his torturers since a person who is invincibly ignorant is not culpable.
[quote=AlanFromWichita]What others often call “absolute” is really just a simplification, trying to remove the “love” stuff and put it back to good old fashioned rules and regulations and surface observations. Really it is a code word for “judgment.”
Maybe. I don’t know what others’ intentions are when they uphold the objectivity of sinful acts. Perhaps they are being judgmental. I can’t say. I am just speaking to the moral character of actions themselves (matter), not the intention or an actor’s knowledge of that objective moral character. MRs seem to say that there is no such thing as sin (objectively), and unless and until they see that there is sin, and they themselves, like I myself, have committed many of them, there is no chance of being transformed, i.e. repenting and being forgiven.