Terrorism Undermines the Credibility of Moral Relativism

Telos: Critical Theory of the Contemporary (2016)
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The adage, “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter,” is offered as a plausible example of evoking moral relativism. Moral relativists recognize no transcultural moral facts. So, for them, even the concept of harm would be subjective or context-sensitive. Yet one can appeal to cogent transcultural moral reasons to distinguish between deliberately and unjustifiably harming impeccably innocent people and those who might engage in justifiably harming those guilty of grave crimes. In the face of the preventable evil acts that terrorists frequently perpetrate against impeccably innocent people, it is argued that moral relativists have a substantive burden of proof to demonstrate that no cogent transcultural moral reasons exist against the practice of terrorism. In the absence of such a demonstration, it is reasonable to believe that the practice of terrorism, while not totally defeating moral relativism, seems to undermine its credibility.

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Vicente Medina
Seton Hall University


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