ETHICAL SCEPTICISM AND ETHICAL NIHILISM
 

Ethical Scepticism is the fancy sounding term for something indescribably foolish, one - that there is no right and wrong (nihilism - which includes the idea that you cannot call say needlessly hurting a child right or wrong morally or in any sense) or two - the less silly idea that we cannot know what is right and what is wrong in terms of ethics. It is only a little less silly because it is a short step from being sceptical about knowing right from wrong to denying they exist.  Indeed you may as well!  It avoids making an awkward discussion far more difficult to discuss.

 

Every conversation about good and evil must tackle this terrible twosome. 
 
Ethical scepticism when it merely indicates an inability to know right from wrong differs from Ethical Nihilism which says there is no right and wrong.


Ethical Scepticism or nihilism teaches that there is no right and wrong for all the moral theories are irrational.  You set a maths question.  All the answers you get are irrational but none will be completely bad.  There must be one or two of them that is the best.  Maybe if you cannot find a good morality then go for the best approximation.

When the ethical sceptics say that there is no right and wrong they are saying that it is wrong and therefore immoral and evil to believe in right and wrong!  They are calling it a position to value.  They value their denial but that is just another moral value itself though warped.
 
Ethical sceptics claim that they do not endorse violence. But if they do not endorse it they certainly don't stand in the way of it.

We know that in an ideal universe each person should do what makes her or him happiest. Happiness is obviously better than sadness and when it is not it is just a good thing that is being abused.

There are more Ethical Sceptics than one could ever realise because people notice how people alter standards to suit themselves and to condemn others. They see how difficult it is to work out what is good and evil and how people will still find themselves wrong. Religion does a devoted job of destroying real belief in right and wrong. Its superstitions and wickedness make it a bad influence.

Most people say they subscribe to some form of altruism. They say it is wrong to put your own happiness first.  They warn that the idea that you can if it brings no harm to somebody else still leads to you getting too attached to the happiness so you end up tempted to put others second.  But if happiness is called dangerous then ethics makes no sense for happiness is an important consideration.

 

Altruism says that self-inflicted evil is the true good so no wonder many feel that there is no morality.
 
More subtle forms of ethical scepticism are embodied in the philosophies of moral relativism and pragmatism.

The first says that if a culture believes in female genital mutilation and other doesn’t then both are equally moral for their beliefs make it right.

 

The second says that if something works it is true and that truth has nothing to do with reality. So if one nation functions best denying the existence of God then for that nation it is true that there is no God. And if another nation needs belief in God then it is true that there is a God for that nation. Both deny that truth is realistic or about what really is. They are ethical scepticism in the sense that they deny that right really is right and wrong really is wrong. They say that all that matters is what you think is right and wrong and you must deny they really are right and wrong!
 
The relativist says there are different moralities for different nations. Why don’t they teach that there are different moralities for different individuals so that a man can kill his wife on the grounds he has decided that he should? What is so special about cultures? Cultures are often made up of sub-cultures which have their own way of doing things. Talking about a society's culture always is over-generalising.  The relativist despite claiming that nothing is absolutely wrong says it is absolutely wrong to criticise nations that sacrifice babies to gods or anything else we might consider abhorrent. A total contradiction. If relativism is true then there are things that are always wrong and so morality doesn’t differ from nation to nation and so sacrificing babies is wrong no matter how many people believe it isn’t. Relativism says there are no fixed rules just what your culture prescribes is right no matter what it is and then it contradicts these cultures which argue that their morals are right and everybody that differs from them including other cultures is wrong. So relativism is incoherent nonsense. Its just a whitewashing of much evil.

 

Relativism is just ethical scepticism that despite itself does give commands.
 
Pragmatism says truth isn’t about what is real but about works. It says it doesn’t believe that something is either true or false (page 181, The End of Faith). So it is saying that it is real that there is nothing real. So when it believes in real after all it should believe in the same real as the rest of us! To say that two and two is five is true in a nation that can make it work for it is the height of absurdity and evil is absurdity so pragmatism is evil.
 
THE END OF FAITH, RELIGION, TERROR AND THE FUTURE OF REASON, Sam Harris, Free Press, London, 2005