For nearly 75 years the Holocaust has been used as an example of evil so clear as to be beyond reasonable dispute. It was useful as a counter to arguments for moral nihilism such as we get on these pages so often, because very few people were willing to stand up and say, “I personally don’t agree with Holocausts, but of course that’s just my opinion; I can’t say a contrary opinion is necessarily wrong.”
That is not the case anymore as the following exchange between me and Bob O’H demonstrates:
Bob O’H: But doesn’t [Becky’s Lesson] actually support the materialists’ assertion? The story shows a situation where an act that the reader regards as grossly immoral is shown as being morally acceptable in another society.
Barry: Your second sentence is almost right. It should read: The story shows a situation where an act that the reader
regards asKNOWS FOR AN ABSOLUTE CERTAIN FACT IS grossly immoral is shown as being morally acceptable in another society.
Thus, if “morality comes from society” is true, it can lead to a situation in which known immoral acts are moral. The materialist is then on the horns of a dilemma. He must admit that under certain circumstances the Holocaust would be good (note, “good,” not merely “regarded as good”) if everyone in the society believes that to be the case. Or he can admit that since that is patently absurd, the premise “morality comes from society” is false.
Bob: Well, no. If I’m a moral subjectivist and I’m being precise, I can say that I regard certain acts are good, and I can say that societies (or other groups) regard these acts as good, but I don’t have any external objective standard by which to say that they actually are good.
Given the choice between (1) embracing the patently absurd proposition that under any conceivable circumstances the Holocaust could be morally good; and (2) rejecting the moral subjectivism his materialism demands, Bob casually clings to his materialism and embraces the absurdity.
Bob is a teacher. God help his students. God help the rest of us as well, because Bob speaks for many, and that should make you very afraid.
Critical Rationalist is even scarier. At least Bob tries to ground his view that the Holocaust was evil in something, even if that something (subjective preference) in practice turns out to be nothing. CR insists there is absolutely no justification for the proposition “the Holocaust was evil.”
Nietzsche speaks of such:
What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing?
“Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing?” Yes, says CR.
If CR is right, then Camus’ observation that the only interesting question is whether to kill yourself in the face of the patent absurdity of life without meaning has real force.
Bob O’H doubles down. In comment 1 in the combox, he says it would be “arrogant” for him to say no one could ever see any circumstances under which they would consider this to be good: