Ethical vacuum

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Moral collapse
Moral relativism
Dependence on ethical decay
Moral pollution
Moral chaos
Decayed moral environment
Moral illiteracy
Moral vacuum
Moral uncertainty
Moral ambiguity
Moral myopia
Ethical relativism
Moral relativism considers that something, such as abortion, can only be right or wrong in relation to one or another moral framework. Morality is then a human invention. The relevant moral principles are thus nothing but conventions that result from a process of tacit moral bargaining through which some groups can exert pressure on others in an effort to change the current moral conventions. This encourages the view that "anything goes" and that morality is just a matter of opinion. Relativism makes dialogue pointless, assuming that there is no binding truth or that partners in the dialogue are saying the same thing in different ways.
1. Breakdown in traditional beliefs and a decline in respect for traditional authority, customs, and moral standards has led to a decay in conventional ethical values (often with nothing replacing them) and contributes to the emergence of new ideologies which are destructive and seek violent and simplistic solutions to problems. Concern for others, humility, hard work, and an unselfish outlook are lost as a sense of desperation fills people's minds and governments adopt militarist and hawkish ideologies.

2. The moral vacuum into which modern society has fallen through unbridled individualism carries the greatest danger since the only alternatives to shoring up moral values are authoritarianism or anarchy.

3. The shared confusion over values and standards, in the form of a self-serving insouciance, is a contemptible form of moral relativism. It extends from the corridors of power in the major countries to the meanest streets in their slum areas. It affects both the powerful and the ordinary. And through their common irresponsibility they infect one another. This contagion spreads most damagingly to the young.

4. It is true that history has known cases where crimes have been committed in the name of "truth". But equally grave crimes and radical denials of freedom have also been committed and are still being committed in the name of "ethical relativism". When a parliamentary or social majority decrees that it is legal, at least under certain conditions, to kill unborn human life, is it not really making a "tyrannical" decision with regard to the weakest and most defenceless of human beings? Everyone's conscience rightly rejects those crimes against humanity of which our century has had such sad experience. But would these crimes cease to be crimes if, instead of being committed by unscrupulous tyrants, they were legitimated by popular consensus? (Papal Encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, 25 March 1995).

5. More and more of the world is being sucked into a desolate moral vacuum. This is a space devoid of the most basic human values; a space in which children are slaughtered, raped and maimed; a space in which children are exploted as soldiers; a space in which children are starved and exposed to extreme brutality. Such unregulated terror and violence speak of deliberate victimization. There are few further depths to which humanity can sink. (N/A/51/306, para. 3).

Counter Claim:
1. Every one has and operates out of a system of ethical beliefs, even the absolute relativist or the most self-centred hedonist. It is not the decline of morality but whether or not the morality, or more accurately, moralities of today's society assists in the physical, social and spiritual growth of the individual and of society as a whole.

2. Fears that a moral revival, with a redefinition of values to repair the concept of community, would entail a resurgence of puritanism and oppressive curbs on intellectual freedom, are unfounded.

Broader Problems:
Behavioural deterioration
Problem Type:
A: Abstract Fundamental Problems
Date of last update
27.01.2000 – 00:00 CET
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