Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Moral Relativism IV - and more

Tonight, an installment in our series on moral relativism, and more. I've been developing a moderate form of cultural relativism. But one important point needs to be made about the falsehood of extreme cultural relativism (the 'anything goes' form).

Some cultures are better than others. The better cultures produce more people who live good lives: people who flourish, are happy and fulfilled and who are not liable to oppress or abuse others. There is a human nature that provides constraints on what sorts of activities human beings will find fulfilling and most deeply pleasing. Happiness and unhappiness are largely determined by values, habits, ways of life, religion, literature, rituals, etc.: culture. You can peruse the globe mentally to take some surmise of this dependency. While unhappiness sometimes is found to be caused tragically by bad luck, rather than culture, often it is culture that is to blame.

None of this means that there may not be two different, incompatible cultures that both yield good lives. Perhaps one may be slightly better than the other, in some instances, but the point is that both are within the reasonable constraints by which they count as "good life producing". (Pre-communist) Chinese culture and American culture may be examples. Hence, moderate relativism is warranted.

There is a practical connection in all this. If you have a culture that is within these constraints and that you love, you should protect it. What is exceedingly important at this juncture in history is that Americans recognize that their Western heritage is better than many alternatives and that they endeavor to protect and sustain it. Liberty isn't everything. Value is.

What does this mean? It means that we should limit immigration to digestible levels. It means that each American should apply himself diligently to the tasks of (1.) educating himself and his children about Western history, literature, political philosophy, music, art, and science (probably in that decreasing order of importance); (2.) discussing this heritage in the public forum in order to elucidate its worth to other Americans and to discover any bad points it may have; and (3.) finding in its wealth a set of values and ways of life that particularly suits his particular personality and promises to bring him the most happiness.