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Relativism has never been less understood, especially moral relativism. All scientific knowledge, for example, is relative to the known information -and paradigms- of the moment. And it will vary with the advance of science. It does not logically follow that there is no truth. Or that it is unattainable. But that postulates the present relativism as – paradoxically – absolute. And it is to impose the denial of all possibility of moral certainty.
This is something very dangerous -and precisely for this reason it is propagated by those who propagate it- because the common man is capable of atrocious crimes, without feeling guilt, when he performs them under an authority he learned to trust irrationally.
But we are not incapable of discovering moral imperatives, absolute and true, in our own nature. The common man is as capable of obeying criminal authority as he is of rebelling against oppression. Both of these things have happened again and again in history. But relativism-especially as I understand it today-denies the possibility of such imperatives. And it adopts moral and legal positivism. Morality and law will be today, solely and exclusively, the will of the sovereign. In a moral democracy it will be what the majority desires.
Law is what the legislators decree. Whatever it may be. And that is what all socialists defend, in one form or another – including the influential and ultra elitist diffuse socialist agenda of our times, generally called globalism – because how else could they establish any form of socialism, if their ultimate aim was and will be to create a new man, that is, to change the nature of the human species by force, in one or two generations?
Joseph Ratzinger – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – explained as Cardinal Prefect of the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” in 2004 that:
“Relativism can appear as something positive, insofar as it invites tolerance, facilitates the coexistence between cultures by recognizing the value of others, relativizing oneself. But if it is transformed into an absolute, it becomes contradictory, destroys human action and ends up mutilating reason. Only what is calculable or demonstrable in the field of science is considered reasonable, which thus becomes the only expression of rationality: the rest is subjective. If the essential human questions, the great decisions about life, the family, death, about shared freedom, are left to the sphere of subjectivity, then there are no more criteria. Every man can and must act alone according to his conscience. But “conscience,” in modernity, has been transformed into the divinization of subjectivity.”
And Ratzinger – like it or not – is one of the most respected theologians and philosophers of our times. But it is not necessary to be a believer to understand the dangers of such moral relativism. The pinnacle of rationalist philosophy – whether we like it or not – was reached by a rigorously atheistic realist philosopher with her twentieth-century objectivist philosophy. And Ayn Rand explained that:
“The survival of man requires the guidance of conceptual values obtained from conceptual knowledge. But conceptual knowledge is not obtained automatically”
“(…) A being that does not know automatically what is true and what is false, cannot know automatically what is right and what is wrong, that is, what is good for him, and what is bad. However, he needs this knowledge to be able to live. It is not exempt from laws of reality; it is a specific organism, with a specific nature, which requires specific actions to stay alive.
It cannot achieve its survival by arbitrary means, or by acts made at random or by blind urgencies, or by chance, or by whim. It is its nature that determines what it requires to survive, and this is not left to its discretion. What is subject to his choice is whether he will discover it or not, whether he will choose the right goals and values or not. He is free to make a wrong choice but not to succeed through a wrong choice (…)”
“(…) He is free to evade reality, to unfocus his mind and stumble blindly along any slope he pleases, but he is not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see. Knowledge, for every conscious organism, is a means of survival: for a living consciousness everything is a must. Man is free to choose not to be conscious, but he is not free to escape from the worthiness of the lack of consciousness: destruction. Man is the only living species that has the power to act as his own destroyer (…) and that is the way he has acted throughout most of his history”.
And it’s not without its curiosity that socialism in the broad sense – and neo-Marxism as its main contemporary radical current – is absolutely relativist today, because old Marxism was not relativist in that sense. Its class theory of knowledge seemed to be – and has ended up being – but was not originally so.
Marxism was a class variant of racism, and just as the racists held that the different races had different mental capacities and with it different perceptions of reality itself, some better than others, the Marxists held clearly – and still hold, but in a relativistic and diffuse manner today – that it is membership in a social class that determines the individual’s capacity to understand reality. They always found it problematic to justify that their prophets, intellectuals and politicians were all bourgeois.
But their supposedly deterministic laws of history were intended to be objective and true, in a realistic sense. That they finally adopted an absolute relativism to invent transverse oppressed classes, crossed material dialectics, and infinite relative revolutionary ‘proletariats’ -like rabbits in a magician’s hat- shows how relativism inevitably conceals especially perverse yet covert absolutes.
Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros