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No More Relativism


The recent debut of the unabashedly right-wing publication Peninsula predictably provoked a broadside of "liberal" condemnations, with The Crimson firing the offensive. Before continuing to blast the staff of Peninsula for asserting that society needs a shared, common morality and that it is possible to base morality in truth, the left-wing elements at Harvard ought to examine the implications of their own position more carefully.

The liberal argument for tolerance at Harvard has denegrated beyond the easygoing belief that, because it is impossible to ascertain any universal standard, all points of view are equal (hence none really worth passionate argument, deep analysis or stalwart defense), into the strident assertion that anyone who argues for the superiority of a distinctive moral insight or way of life is elitist or anti-democratic--and therefore immoral. One must not simply accept another's lifestyle, but celebrate it as just as valid as one's own. Or be branded a bigot.

The basis of this tolerance is the contention that only the individual can determine morality. But to argue that society has no right to judge one moral life to be better than another is dangerous. While this may protect society from the violent crusades of absolutists, the sanctuary will be temporary. My values may be no more valid than yours, but at the same time yours are by definition no more valid than mine, and if my values hold, for example, that zoroastrians should be burned at the stake, your values (which might include the maxim, "Burning people is wrong")are relevant only to you and your actions, not to me or my actions.

Peninsula, by asserting that society must have some grounding in morality, is attempting to restrain Harvard from a slide into nihilism, and this should give its left-wing critics pause. No one today advocates the policy that homosexuals (to pick the current pet cause of campus liberals) be exterminated. Society agrees that such a policy would be evil. If the left gets what it wants, i.e. the moral vacuum of relativism, in another twenty years anything will be morally possible. Mike Reynolds '91   President, Harvard Conservative Club

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