Moral Relativism: Wrong for me but not for you?

08 Feb

A story is told of an argument over moral relativism that took place in a dorm room at the University of Vermont.

The student began to espouse… “What is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me. If something works for you because you believe it, that’s great. But no one should force his or her views on other people since everything is relative.”

. . . I picked up his small stereo and started out the door with it. “Hey, what are you doing?” he shouted.

“What’s wrong with you?” I queried. “Are you having problems with your eyes? I am leaving your room with your stereo.”

“You can’t do that,” he gushed.

“Well,” I replied, “since I lift weights and jog regularly, I think I can in fact do it without any help. But maybe you meant to say, ‘You ought not do that because you are stealing my stereo.’ Of course, I know from our previous conversation that this is not what you mean. I happen to think it is permissible to steal stereos if it will help a person’s religious devotions, and I myself could use a stereo to listen to Christian music in my morning devotions. Now I would never try to force you to accept my moral beliefs in this regard because, as you said, everything is relative and we shouldn’t force our ideas on others. But surely you aren’t going to force on me your belief that it is wrong to steal your stereo, are you? You know what I think? I think that you espouse relativism in areas of your life where it’s convenient, say in sexual morality, or in areas about which you do not care, but when it comes to someone stealing your stereo or criticizing your own moral hobbyhorses, I suspect you become a moral absolutist pretty quickly, don’t you?”

From J.P. Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 153.


Posted by on February 8, 2018 in moral relativism


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6 responses to “Moral Relativism: Wrong for me but not for you?

  1. Robert

    February 8, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Of course you are free to think you can get away with stealing the stereo, and you are free to deny that you are sitting in a jail cell afterwards! The belief system will correct itself in time!

    • Dr. Larry Dixon

      February 8, 2018 at 11:12 am

      Excellent point, Robert. People still have to live in God’s reality, right? Blessings. Dr. D.

      • Robert

        February 8, 2018 at 11:38 am

        They have to live in reality and putting an Anthropic spin doesn’t help!

  2. john

    February 21, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    I like the story about the Moral Relativity. It teaches two fundamental facts.
    1) Moral is relative
    2) If you are good with words, you will succeed in making the most unbelieving things believing.

    But all the rhetoric aside, one sentence stands out for its moral value: “No one should force his or her views on other people since everything is relative”.

    • Dr. Larry Dixon

      February 22, 2018 at 4:54 am

      John, do you mean your sentence “No one should force his or her views on other people since everything is relative” to be understood in a relative sense? Or do you mean more than that? Larry

  3. john

    February 22, 2018 at 8:54 am

    I quoted verbatim. Your reply proves the old wisdom that ideas are best conveyed with a minimum of words.
    So let’s rephrase: “No one should force his or her views on other people”. Does this help you to understand the meaning?


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