Relativism and Morality Essay

In the article, “Some Moral Minima,” Lenn E. Goodman raises the question, “if it is true that no norm can be made absolute unless some other is compromised, are there no rules that tell us that principles are principles – no norms delineating concretely, and uncompromisingly, wrong from right? ” (Goodman, 2010) Goodman goes on to state that the areas singled out in this article are not comprehensive of every consideration to which humans are due; he asserts that these are just some of the practices that should never be considered as options.

The twelve areas which Goodman addresses include the following: (1) genocide, politically induced famine, and germ warfare; (2) terrorism, hostage taking, and child warriors; (3) slavery, polygamy, and incest; and (4) rape and female genital cutting. According to Goodman, these practices are simply and absolutely wrong under any circumstances. I think that most of us would agree with Goodman that these twelve acts are absolute wrongs, and their continued practice in society should be halted and eliminated. I will attempt to address each group of “crimes” and include my thoughts with Goodman’s.

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In regards to genocide, famine, and germ warfare, each of these is simply a version of murder – specifically, premeditated mass murder. I agree with Goodman that any murder is wrong because it destroys a human subject. Our one basic right as human beings is the right to be alive, the right to live. Goodman distinguishes between wholesale murder and individual murder, not just because of its grand scale but also because of its willful neglect of individual recognition of the persons murdered. Any acts such as Hitler’s holocaust must be condemned on all measures.

The next areas Goodman addresses are terrorism, hostages, and child warriors. As a whole, I agree that these also are wrong. Terrorism is always wrong; it is nothing more than a mere act for show to gain attention for some cause. Terrorists seek to achieve higher sensations to get as much of a public response as possible. “The more devastating the damage, the more inhumane, the more avidly is it sought by strategists, ideologues, and theologians of terror. ” (p. 90) Suicide bombings are a life wasted for a cause – real or imagined.

With hostage taking and child warriors, our focus shifts from acts of murder and mass murder to acts that violate human dignity. As hostages and child warriors, human beings are transformed into mere means and objects. Hostages are often reported as abused, tortured, brainwashed, and physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or sexually assaulted. While I agree that the above acts are deplorable and unacceptable, and no person should be held against their will, I do not necessarily agree that all hostage-taking is wrong.

In some political ways, sometimes hostage-taking may be justified if the person held hostage is released once the cause or objective is accomplished. As in the case with Patty Hearst and the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army), a greater good can come out of this act of hostage-taking. Millions of dollars of food was distributed to poor people in California as a direct result of Patty Hearst’s captivity. Patty Hearst, a classic example of the Stockholm Syndrome, became an advocate for the SLA and their causes. The third areas with which Goodman dealt were slavery, polygamy, and incest.

These forms of crimes deal with exploitation of humans. Slavery is just as much a modern-day issue as it was in the earlier days of American history and the Civil War era. Human trafficking must not be tolerated under any circumstances. No person has the right to own another person or to use another person in an inhumane way. No person has the right to infringe on another person’s freedom. Many slaves and bondages in human trafficking endure unspeakable horrors and torturous sufferings. As for Goodman’s condemnation of incest, I would also include any form of sexual molestation, whether the person is a relative or not.

There is never any excuse for anyone to violate another human being for his or her own sexual gratification. I do not agree that sexual deviancies can be justified by cultural differences. Child molestation of any form, including statutory rape, is reprehensible and unjustifiable. The final areas addressed by Goodman were rape and clitoridectomy. Both of these actions are violations against another person. While it is known that both men and women are raped, rape is primarily recognized as a sexual crime against a woman.

Rape not only involves forced sex; it often also includes assault, other physical injuries, and many times, even death. I can agree with Goodman (p. 92) “that rape is not a sexual crime but a power crime. ” I also agree with Goodman’s statements: “Rape is wrong. It is always wrong. No circumstance can make it right. ” (p. 92) Overall, I agree with Goodman that there are some absolutes in society and certain actions that should never be accepted or tolerated.


Goodman, Lenn E. (2010). Some Moral Minima The Good Society, 19(1), 87-94. doi: 10. 1353/gso. 0. 0097