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A Discussion with My Professor

Updated on August 28, 2011

I was pleasantly surprised today when I visited my Political Theory professor to discuss my essay due within the next few days. The essay I asked him to review concerned Plato's The Trial and Death of Socrates, which warns against the dangerous moral relativism of democracy. In turn this led to a discussion between my professor and I about the general dangers of moral relativism. This surprised me because on a college campus, the breeding ground of relativism, my professor was an objectivist. As you may have noticed I used objectvist with the small "o" not the big "O" Objectivist because I am not sure if he understands truth in the Ayn Rand sense. However, regardless of whether or not he was an Objectivist it was refreshing to find someone at college who was not an amoral relativist. Furthermore, I got the sense that he was not a religious objectivist, but an objectivist through the use of human reason, which is even more refreshing seeing as how I went to a Catholic high school.

Before I continue let me clarify what I mean be refreshing. Some people may interpret refreshing as comforting meaning that I felt more security or safety in my own beliefs by discovering someone else who thought similarly to me. This is absolutely not the case. I do not need other people to affirm my thoughts. If I did have that dependence then my thoughts could not be that close to the truth. If one's thoughts are correct, then he should be sure of it without the affirmation of other people. I know my understanding of truth is solid. My professor provided me with no affirmation of my own thoughts because my own reason did that for me. What I mean by refreshing is that I found it enjoying to speaking with someone who had a similar understanding of truth. Speaking with a relativist is just disturbing and disappointing, there is no pleasure in it at all. I have had to deal with this on a few occasions in the past few months, but I rarely speak to people, mostly because they are relativists, so I have not had to endure any real ordeal.

In any event my professor and I discussed a few issues.
Firstly, I explained my frustration in not being able to understand why people choose to be relativists. The only consolation I could ever offer myself is that actually using reason requires work; therefore, by choosing to be ignorant, choosing to be relativist, is much easier. In other words, relativists are just lazy. I still think this is part of the case. However, my professor pointed out that relativists also believe that their amorality is tolerant, or more correctly appears to be tolerant. I would have to agree this is true because relativists often argue that in order to be a good person one must understand, value, and respect all cultures. Clearly, this is hypocritical because a relativist cannot believe in good and bad people since good and bad do not exist in their minds. However, that is what they say and in order to analyze the rest of what they are saying I will let it slide. Understanding cultures is fine. It is like history. If one understands history and/or culture one can see good and bad in action, and then quickly identify good and bad in the future. For example Nazi culture thought it was virtuous to kill Jews and many other minorities. Understanding that, and knowing that it is bad, one can identify a future Hitler immediately. In actuality though understanding cultures is not important, for if one uses his reason he can still identify good and bad immediately. The last part of the relativists' statement is fantastic. Valuing and respecting all cultures is ridiculous. Nazi culture is not valuable and not respectable. This also applies to several tribal cultures, slavery, Islamo-fascism, communism, oh the list goes on. However, relativists do not see this glaring problem. The reason returns to my first point, they are lazy thus ignorant. By being ignorant they also misunderstand tolerance, which actually means not to initiate force against those that may have different ideas. For example relativists and I differ; however, I tolerate them by not beating them for how ignorant they are. It is their right to choose to be ignorant; therefore, I tolerate it. I would also tolerate someone who argues all Jews must killed; however, I would stop tolerating him once he initiates force against a Jew.

Secondly, my professor explained how disturbed he was that moral relativism appeared so prevalent. He stated that he had only been working at the college I am going to for the past year and he was surprised to see how many relativists were actually at college. I have long accepted college to be a breeding ground for relativism, but my professor explained that I should question any relativist as to why he was at college. I immediately saw the contradiction between the purpose of college and the fact that it was a breeding ground for relativism. Someone who is a relativist does not believe in truth, there is no right and wrong, there is no ignorance and intelligence. My professor was exactly right. There is no reason a relativist should be at college because college is supposed to be a placed of continued learning, primarily the search for truth. A college should go directly against the beliefs of a relativists; however, they are the stereotypical modern day college student. These blatant contradictions in relativist behavior just indicates how little they actually think.

As a side note I am currently reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and one of the several themes in the story is that there is no such thing as a contradiction, if one finds a contradiction he should check his premises. I am not sure if this is a proper explanation for all the relativists contradictions, but it may simply be the theme I have beat home in this blog: relativists do not think. Since relativists do not think they cannot avoid making contradictions. Of course I need to consider this point more to properly address it.

As a final point this conversation with my professor was far better the conversation I had with my Academic Writing professor last semester. I had written an essay on politics that opened with the line, "Neither Democrats nor Republicans know how to manage the government." My Academic Writing professor explained the whole essay was too belligerent, especially the first line, which anyone can see is not belligerent at all. My Academic Writing professor explained that I needed to value and respect all sides of the argument. Once again the relativist call to arms enters the college class room. I explained that did not make sense because then no one would be wrong. She replied by saying as she gets older she believes less in right and wrong, and now sees the world more as better and less better. The statement is chilling. No relativist, except her, that I have met has made that final jump. The speak as relativists but once they are questioned as to whether or not they believe in right and wrong they stop as deer in the headlights. It is as if they see their own fatal flaw. I cannot say my former professor unconsciously or subconsciously sees the fatal flaw with her statement; therefore, she is even more detached from reason than student relativists. It is as if she has decayed over time. I believe it is statements like that, which capture a serious evil people are not aware of. I can clearly imagine some other student, an ignorant relativist, hearing my professor's claim of no right and wrong but only better and less better, and actually nodding his head in approval as if he was just graced with some pearl of wisdom. This is what I am most afraid of.


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