|This is the monologue for the most recent episode of Why? Radio: "An Argument for Moral Relativism" with guest David B. Wong|
Click here to listen to the episode.
There’s a long-standing philosophical debate as to whether ethical claims are the same type of statements as others kinds or claims—whether or not, for example, “thou shalt not kill” is the same kind of thing as “2+2=4.” Some philosophers argue that they are the same—that they both report a fundamental truth—but their opponents argue that “thou shalt not kill” is really just “I don’t like killing” or “I believe killing is wrong” in fancied-up language.
On the surface, this may seem dry. But, in fact, it is an incredibly important controversy with massive consequences for our day-to-day life. When the president appoints a new Supreme Court justice, for example, Congress grills the candidate on his or her position on this very debate. There they call it natural law: the idea that rights are written into nature in just the same way math is. If the candidate believes in natural law, he or she thinks that rights don’t come from the constitution but from God, nature, or logic. These rights then, should never ever be taken away, even if we change the constitution. Maybe there is a right to work, or a right to freedom of worship, but the point is, anytime the US does something against these rights, it’s wrong to do so, no matter what.