Objective vs. Subjective Morality
The question of morality was addressed in one of my classes. Is it objective or subjective, and what are the implications for policy? Well, for the seasoned student of politics, you would know that my contempt for cultural relativism would extend to subjective morality. I believe in objective morality, and as such, I believe democracy as an institution best represents the general goals of moral policy.
Subjective moralists suggest that absolute, or general, rules for morality do not apply to the world. They would suggest that every culture has a different judgement on what is 'right', and what is 'wrong'. In other words, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter." The subjective moralist would not overtly judge another man's morals. Furthermore, he would suggest that any attempt to imply absolute morals is simply forcing one's ideas on another.
Objective moralists suggest that there are absolute rules that apply to morality. There is 'good' and 'evil'. The distinction between the two is cross-cultural. One man's terrorist is another man's immoral (yet rational) fighter. The killing of innocents intentionally is absloutely wrong. Hitler is 'evil'. Saddam is 'evil'. Bin Laden is 'evil'. The average person in the world is 'good'. And there is nothing inherently wrong with making those judgements.
In class, my support of objective morality was equated with the worst ethnocentric (basically racist and neoconservative) statement to date. It was quite to my amazement that a subjective moralist made the statement. He made a judgement on my moral character because I suggested that there are absolutes when discussing morality. Apparently he was not completely subjective. This is a problem with many subjective moralists. It is okay for them to judge, but not okay for others to judge.
This is the essence of the problem with subjective morality. You cannot judge subjectively. It smells of appeasement. Terrorists are only defending their culture, so we should either ignore them or give them concessions. Saddam was only doing what he thought was right, so we should never have invaded Iraq. Hitler only had intentions for Greater Germany, so we should assume he is a peaceful man. If you want to defend these guys, there is something wrong with your judgement.
Another problem subjective moralists have with their objective counterparts is current American policy for the promotion and support of democracies. They view American policy as an imposition of American values (Democracy) upon people of different moral character. They suggest Arab (not Muslim mind you) culture cannot comply with Democracy. Ethnic groups will fight, terrorist will fight, and the people will not understand how to participate in Democracy.
We had these same sorts of problems in our own country, though. The North and South had two very different cultures. The South participated in an immoral institution. Should the North have accepted slavery subjectively? I think not. So they fought, survived, and still exist today. Basically, infighting within a country is not a valid argument for the inability of Democracy to survive in Arab culture. I might add that Iraq has never experienced such infighting within its borders for thousands of years.
Finally, the subjective moralist would suggest that others view President Bush as an immoral or 'evil' figure. Sometimes perception is wrong, though. I think every person in this country (at least the majority) understand that there is no 'evil' behind President Bush's policies. He simply wants to promote and support democracies in the hopes that the world can one day achieve peaceful relations. He understands that there are 'evil' people in the world. America is one of the few countries that can respond to 'evil', so we should. He also believes that democracies are inherently 'good'. You cannot fool a majority of the people. And since the average person is 'good', majority rule within Democracy is 'good'.
Disagree if you want. But if you are a subjective moralist you better not judge.