Absolute vs relative morality debated at MSU


There are absolute moral truths, according a Notre Dame philosophy professor. But a counterpart at Montana State University disagrees.

Approximately 200 students and community members attended a discussion Monday that featured two professors sharing their agnostic and Christian views of hope, evil and death.

The hour-long discussion was organized by the Veritas Forum, an organization committed to exposing students and faculty across the U.S. to conversations surrounding Christian faith “in dialogue with other beliefs,” according to the Veritas Forum website.

“There are objective moral truths,” Sam Newlands, a visiting philosophy professor representing the Christian perspective from the University of Notre Dame, said. “And moral relativism is wrong.”

Cultural disagreements about whether an act is right or wrong morally don’t eliminate the objective moral truths that exist from Christianity, according to Newlands.

Christianity provides realistic, tangible outcomes of which people can hope on, different from wishes based only on human efforts, according to Newlands.

“Evil arises only from our inexhaustible hope,” Thomas Donovan, a philosophy professor at MSU, said representing the agnostic point of view. “Evil is part and parcel of our human condition.”

In cycles throughout history, one meaning system prevails over another to “answer to people’s needs for solace in the face of mortality,” according to Donovan.

To Donovan, hope stems from people’s fears from death and morality, and embracing the inevitable mortality would elicit action powerful enough or equitable to when people first gained their sense of self-reflection.

“I thought the Veritas Forum was engaging and thought-provoking,” Hannah Good, a political science student at MSU, said. “It’s a great platform for discussing and challenging core values, particularly those surrounding hope, evil and death.”

– edited by Jared Miller

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