Most people today, as in the past, are, or were, often content with moral relativism. Yet, the fact is such relativism relates to the acceptance that “nothing really matters.” The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called this philosophical relativity as “nihilism.” You’d, perhaps, dub it as the refutation of intrinsic values, albeit this, in its whole context, isn’t true — because, the big question would emerge sooner than you’d take to bat your eyelid. If nothing really matters, what is the point, if not the purpose, of being moral in the first place? 

While freethinking, scepticism, atheism and dereliction are catchphrases of modern life and existence, they aren’t the “thoughtful” engines that drive, or propel, moral relativism. This is primarily because there are as many people who endorse moral relativism, just as much as others believe that the whole idea provides them with a position of convenience, if not strength, to being “tolerant” for themselves and also others. To use a simile, in the context — the metamorphosis is just as good as not saying that “I'm right and you're wrong,” but articulating the diplomatic, “Everyone is entitled to their own view, if not opinion.” You may not embrace the allegory, pronto, whether or not you belong to the tolerant, or “blinkered” school of thought, because it is like throwing in the towel too easily and not disputing the essence, or framework, of morality — just because it could help to mend disagreement, make friends, or bridge the gap, as it were. More so, because the wobbly stand, or view, is, at the end of the day, contrary to philosophical thought — because it gives no room for us to think about morality and accepting things, in contrast, without implication.

Well, to look at the whole thing differently — “nothing really matters” is recognised by more than a handful of contemporary philosophers. What is also obvious is such philosophers aren’t relativists with the nihilistic tag, or label. Such philosophers believe that reason could be given the credence to dwell on the essence of morality — it isn’t just the other way around. What does this connote? That whatever the slant our so-called good values exist. Moral nothingness is, therefore, moral relativism; besides, it pertains, no less, to the belief that all values, including higher values, are simply idioms, or aphorisms, of individual preferences. Yet, the paradox, is, it is precisely this genre of moral high-ground that Nietzsche belittled. You may, therefore, contend that Nietzsche was a nihilist in the garb of being an anti-nihilist, although he identified the decadence of culture everywhere, rather as a position that he never wanted, and yet aimed to seek. It is a fact that nihilism seems to be all-pervading in contemporary society, wherever you look, or turn. It signifies the destruction of all meaning and significance for values — for whatever they are, or whatever they express. It is this domino effect, or belief, that idolises the doctrine that nothing really matters anymore — because nothing really has any meaning, grammar, or syntax. The outcome is obvious — a blurred system of beliefs, or values, or mass anaesthesia.

Agreed that our good, old systems of belief, like morality, religion and spirituality continue to exist, all right, yet the sad part is most of us follow them just because we have to — thanks to one’s own insecurities in the difficult times that we live in, aside from political expediency, or chicanery. Whatever persists as good exists at the periphery of our lives and conscious awareness — not in our heart, mind, or soul. The result is we are a fragmented society, not progressive, as the powers-that-be pontificate.

The writer is aphysician & author

Rajgopal Nidamboor