Introduction to Philosophy
Dying for a Coke or Pepsi
“Moral Relativity” suggests that right and wrong are a matter of personal opinion, and because everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, there really is nothing that is truly right or truly wrong; the best that a Moral Relativist can do is find enough people who have similar opinions and then make laws based on a majority consensus. But, even the majority opinion might change in a few years, and then the Moral Relativists running the government would have to revise the laws of accepted behavior. In practice, a Moral Relativists goal is to persuade the majority to agree with a certain opinion or view, even if others hold a different initial opinion (since right and wrong are not hard and fast). On the other side, people who believe that some things are definitely right and some things are definitely wrong (according to Moral Relativists) should be regarded as narrow-minded “fanatics.”
Choose one (1) of the two scenarios below and explain your position.
Suppose that you lived in a society in which the population was doubling every fifty years, but the food production was increasing by only 80% during the same time period–meaning that in a few generations, the population would grossly exceed the amount of available food.
• Keeping in mind that a Moral Relativist would say that our notions of killing people or even just letting them starve are neither right or wrong (since those are just “opinions”), how would you resolve this over-population and lack of resources problem? Provide as many details as you can for your solution, and explain your “justification” for whatever action you think would be the best solution, even if your “solution” is to take no overt action.
• The point of the Moral Relativist would be that what was right yesterday might be wrong today. So, what would you propose, and how would you defend it?
If the idea of killing people or letting them die is too far outside your realm of thinking, we have an alternative scenario. You are the Presidential Advisor of Carbonated Beverages, and the Supreme Court has declared that only one carbonated beverage can be considered the official soft drink of the United States. Naturally, everyone has an opinion about which one is “the best” soda—whether it is Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, A&W Root Beer, and so forth. You have two choices: (1) you can go back to the Supreme Court and make the argument that no one should be forced to choose single soft drink for the whole country and that all opinions should be valid (and provide a lot of good reasons for why there is no right or wrong “best” soda), or (2) you could pick one soft drink and explain why you are forcing the entire nation to comply with your particular choice (which, incidentally, would be the definition of “fanaticism,” according to the Moral Relativists).
• So, which choice would you make, and how would you defend it?
Incidentally, this looks like the easiest scenario of the two choices, but it is not, since “different kinds of soda” is actually a euphemism for “ways to die” as we reduce the population numbers from the first scenario.