Political Correctness as the End of Moral Relativism

So, we usually talk about PC as an outgrowth of moral relativism: you can't criticize any other culture without causing offense because you can't suggest that any culture is better than another. A new article in the Atlantic says that, actually, that's a perfectly serviceable non-relative ethic by itself. The harsh punishments of pro-PC activists are an enforcement of a non-relative ethic against the non-PC.
The subjective morality of yesterday has been replaced by an ethical code that, if violated, results in unmerciful moral crusades on social media.

A culture of shame cannot be a culture of total relativism. One must have some moral criteria for which to decide if someone is worth shaming....

This system is not a reversion to the values that conservatives may wish for. America’s new moral code is much different than it was prior to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s. Instead of being centered on gender roles, family values, respect for institutions and religious piety, it orbits around values like tolerance and inclusion. (This new code has created a paradoxical moment in which all is tolerated except the intolerant and all included except the exclusive.)
Well, except no: the most intolerant and exclusive brands of all can travel under this flag, because they can claim to have been not tolerated or excluded by some previous authority. It remains an anti-Western Western philosophy, a West that blinds itself like Oedipus out of horror at its past sins. In that blindness, it now can see nothing except the ever-cycling vision of the old sins playing out again against the mind's eye.

What happens outside of that mental torture chamber is none of its proper concern.


E Hines said...

America’s new moral code....

Bull. This is just another attempt to shut down dissent by arrogantly announcing that the matter is settled.

The PCers and the moral relativists just demonstrate both their intellectual and their moral bankruptcy with this sort of thing.

Eric Hines

james said...

Purity in the PC universe is a moving target. What got you accolades a couple of years ago will get you savaged this year. That's not so much a moral code as a moral fashion. No heroes last longer than a season; in a few years they'll be tearing down your statues because you no longer match the current fashion.

You can't make this stuff up: too early for April Fool's.

Dad29 said...

James has it: "pc" is evolving relativism, ergo still relativism.

Instead of permanent things, we now have a merry-go-round which is not even merry.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The moral code before the 1950's was centered on gender roles, family values, etc? We went to war with Hitler over gender roles? Who knew? We put people in jail for lack of respect for institutions? I missed that part.

The author at the Atlantic does not understand what the earlier cultures were. He knows some random things, filtered through the prism of the 60's and 70's. When he tries to see similarities and contrasts with today's culture, then, he has no idea what he is talking about.

There is a certain skill involved in writing an essay on a final exam when you haven't read the material for the course. I'm guessing Jonathan Merritt was pretty good at it.

Tom said...

In anthropology, shame cultures are those that depend on shame and the threat of ostracism to control people. This doesn't depend on stable moral criteria, just on a social group capable of enforcing the threat of ostracism.

Shame cultures are contrasted with guilt cultures, which control people by reinforcing a sense of guilt for condemned behaviors. Guilt cultures, among which the US was counted 60 years ago, do depend on a stable moral code.

Neither term is absolute. Shame cultures also use guilt, and guilt cultures also use shame, so the terms are generalizations.