Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A Bad Reason for not Imposing One's Values on Others

The following argument is sometimes heard. "Because values are relative, it is wrong to impose one's values on others." But if values are relative, and among my values is the value of instructing others in the right way to live, then surely I am justified in imposing my values on others. What better justification could I have? For it to be wrong for me to impose my values, value-imposition would have to be a nonrelative disvalue. But if there is so much as one value or disvalue that is nonrelative, then cultural relativism is false.

One sees from this how difficult it is for relativists to be consistent. A consistent relativist cannot make any such pronouncement as that it is wrong to impose one's values on others; all he can say is that from within his value-scheme it is wrong to impose one's values on others. But then he allows the possibility that there others for whom value-imposition is the right thing to do.