The author tries to give too much credit to today’s judgmental people. The relativism isn’t well thought out or consistent. It’s assigned by which team you root for, and the fans are lazy about comparisons.
The hinge points are time vs geography:
Leftists are relativist to a fault about people of different cultures today, rationalizing horrific norms. But they’re also extremely harsh on our ancestors (or even people who tweeted two years ago), holding them to this afternoon’s most stringent woke standards.
The right wing hive mind is the reverse. Transgressions of the past are absolved, even the clearly awful, but their ears perk up like a desert fox for anything off about another culture.
Can you make an actual point by comparing overgeneralized “hive minds”? I don’t know but I haven’t left my house for a year so it’s all I’ve got, thanks internet
I agree for the most part, at least insofar as I agree that liberalism doesn’t necessarily mean moral relativism, even if it seems to judge cultures very differently in many aspects. However, I disagree somewhat that the following:
>finding nothing morally wrong in most consensual private acts
is an accurate description of liberalism vs. conservativism. If the “acts” there are economic and not lifestyle related, you could essentially flip who it applies to on the political spectrum.
I recently had this debate with a very leftwing person. She said something about Islamist countries should be left alone and it’s arrogant imperialism that makes westerners think we can say what’s right and wrong. I brought up the consequences of being gay and how women are treated, she doubled down: “that’s their culture, who are you to say?”. I could not get her to commit to anything being universally unethical until I brought up rape. She said that should be squashed everywhere. Then I said, “by your logic, who are you to say a culture that allows rape is unethical?”. My jaw hit the floor when she said “well…I mean I guess if that’s their culture I can’t really say it’s wrong”.
While I’m temperamentally a liberal person and I do believe in some pretty left ideas, I’m consistently frustrated at the lack of consistency I hear from liberals. I don’t see how Hurka arrived at his conclusion here.
This article suffers towards the end when it tries to understand why there’s even a perception of liberals as moral relativists, and this largely comes down to the author’s equation of liberals with leftists. His use of the term ‘progressives’ as a kind of synonym with ‘liberals’ is a bit of a giveaway.
If he hadn’t obscured the fact that liberals and leftists are different political groups, then he might have been able to ask whether the same perception exists for leftists, to which I think the answer is a clear ‘no’. Leftists are often portrayed as overly preachy, ideologically rigid and doctrinaire- the polar opposite of popular conceptions of moral relativists.
What explains this difference? Well, leftists are best defined as a (very heterogeneous) group by a shared opposition to capitalism. Liberals, however, take capitalism for granted, and think within its confines when trying to make political change.
Now, if you think that capitalism is not responsible for the overwhelming majority of evil in the world, you’re going to disagree right here:
Because capitalism is responsible for the overwhelming majority of moral evil in the world, including gross transgressions against the foundational principles of liberalism, liberals are thus hamstrung when trying to launch systemic moral critique of the overwhelming majority of moral evil in the world.
For instance, Bush, and Obama both engaged in extensive overseas military action that had large numbers of civilian casualties. The leftist explains and condemns this on the same basis in both cases: our globalized economic system values the profit of petrochemical and weapons companies over the lives of Pakistani civilians. But the liberal is stuck, because Obama, as a liberal himself, gives lip service global peace and valuing human life. They want to condemn Bush, as a political opponent, but elevate Obama, as a political ally, yet in this (deeply important) case, they’re identical.
The various attempt to explain the difference in their political behavior tend to be tepid, weak, and often outright hypocritical. And, while moral relativism and hypocrisy aren’t identical concepts, they are closely related, especially in the kinds of political uses they’re put to.
So tl;dr: liberals are easy targets for accusations of moral relativism because their ideology contains a fundamental contradiction, and that cognitive dissonance often leads to hypocritical behavior.
Liberalism has done a good job of convincing people it’s a social philosophy and not an economic one. Liberalism was invented to hide the class contradictions between the rich and the poor. Old liberal propaganda posters for example would have a two people on a tandem bike showing an owner and a worker peddalingn together, to sell the idea of class collaborationism. It’s not a moral framework, and in fact is quite frankly immoral at it’s core, as it accepts poverty, hunger, pollution, etc all as problems stemming from individuals and not systematic, man-made, solvable problems.