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Morality discussion – Actions speak louder than words

Letter to the Editor | Monday, November 19, 2007

In his Nov. 19 letter (“Absolute moral code not necessary for moral behavior”), Kevin Sherrin says that he finds “it strange that [Nathan Loyd] believes that moral relativism denies us the ability to decide the morality of certain actions. … By claiming that no universal standard of morality exists, moral relativists … judge the goodness of actions by whatever standard they choose.” I agree with Sherrin that “this stance” does not impair an individual’s ability to make decisions; however, as one who believes that some moral absolutes exist, I argue that “this stance” allows that individual to make underinformed moral judgments. An uninformed moral absolutist – one who believes in the existence of moral absolutes – is also capable of making underinformed decisions.

Sherrin also offers: “I believe that Loyd meant to say that moral relativism questions our ability to reaffirm that extra-marital sex is undoubtedly wrong.” I suggest that instead of undoubtedly, one could try the word universally or absolutely. Surely a relativist cannot assert such a thing!

Sherrin asks about the importance of an individual’s ability to independently make moral judgments. Loyd argued that “without an absolute moral code, we could have no law.” If law refers to the act of effecting laws in an absolutely just manner, Loyd is probably right. However, Sherrin seems to be correct that moral relativists would not fall into anarchy, a point William Golding asserts in “Lord of the Flies.” Likewise, if all common laws ceased to exist, we would not immediately start committing crimes because many of us are essentially decent people. I agree that people do have their own “sets of beliefs as to what is right or wrong without an absolute moral code to guide them” – i.e. their own morals and values, but moral relativists are unable to make sound moral judgments about right and wrong.

One should also remember that actions speak louder than words. Consider the scenario of doctor Delia Surridge from the movie “V for Vendetta.” She had hoped her whole life to find cures for diseases and participated in horrible atrocities against other human beings. She had felt guilty for participating in this effort but hopeful about finding this cure for a good cause. In exacting his own sort of justice, the protagonist V states: “I have not come for what you had hoped to do. I have come for what you did.” Delia’s actions were morally wrong although she had initally hoped that they would lead to some further good; she ignored the consequences of her active participation in a project that actually committed crimes against humanity. Delia is an ethical relativist. V may be a moral absolutist. As a nominal Christian, I turn to the parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus states: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40). The set of moral absolutes includes a commandment to actively love your neighbor as yourself. Love is part of a universal human conscience that all people are capable of agreeing upon.

My advice is this: Stay informed and alert, and listen to your conscience. Make decisions based on true facts. Grow in wisdom and understanding. Make a positive difference. How? In the words of Aristotle, “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.” Actions speak louder than words. Live that vocation, and live it well.

Daniel DugovicseniorKeenan HallNov. 19