Celebrating our
Common Moral Compass

Adrian Bishop

The Centre for Defined Ethics
The Moral Compass Project

The lack of agreement on what a
Moral Compass is

But, when these pundits are asked "What is the Moral Compass?" suddenly it becomes an "unwritten rule" with all the consequent dangers that an unwritten rule presents. They insist there is no such thing as a codified list of fundamental ethical principles and everything is just moral relativism.

Moral relativism is a trap as it recognises no such thing as ethical "knowledge" at all. It proposes there is a wide variety of moral beliefs and practices which vary not only through time, but between different cultures, races and classes. It claims that "each persons morality is a matter of their concern" and there are as many perfectly valid moral positions as there are individuals." It also alleges that it is impossible to prove which morals are "right" and which are "wrong".

The British Philosopher, Walter T. Stace (1886 -1967) put this issue into perspective over half a century ago. "Certainly, if we believe that any one moral standard is as good as any other, we are likely to be more tolerant. We shall tolerate widow-burning, human sacrifice, cannibalism, slavery, infliction of physical torture, or any of the thousand and one abominations which are or have been from time to time, approved by one moral code or another. But this is not the kind of toleration we want or would accept."

The result is, individuals and society are being heavily blamed for not acting with a Moral Compass and then at the same time being criticised and told that it is risible to think that a codified Moral Compass exists.

It is argued that we have no respect for ourselves or for others as independent free moral beings. That we as individuals, now believe that we inhabit a moral vacuum where there is no firm foundation for moral concepts. There is no Moral Compass, and no authentic moral framework for making value distinctions. We are left with nothing except a feeling of isolation, powerlessness, an absence of moral awareness and a lack of a shared experience and social solidarity. There is nothing but a post-modern culture of narcissism, devoid of any real moral framework for making value distinctions. It is claimed that the existence of a Moral Compass is quite simply a myth.

The suspicion that we do not have clear moral values and everything is just moral relativism encourages a deep-rooted culture of suspicion in society and a consequent lack of basic trust between people. Attempts to constantly extend mechanisms to make people more "accountable" founder, because without personal moral accountability. We are reduced to doing what we are told and we in turn do not trust the people doing the telling. The consequence of not being trusted is that we become less and less trustworthy and the downward spiral continues.

   Anti-ethical messages in society


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