An argument that moral relativism is "wrong." :) I understand that it may be fashionable to call yourself a 'relativist' now-a-days but, before you take that idea as your own, maybe you will test the waters a bit. I, for one, just don’t see the "blank slate" morality approach as being a real possibility. I doubt, that as social animals we are born without certain "moral" attitudes toward one another. For example, the ‘reaction’ we call "empathy." The feeling of "shame." What purpose do these feelings serve? IMO, these are genetic reactions that preserve our social bonds with other individuals. By preserving our social bonds our individual genes gain that much of an advantage. ‘Group behavior’ can be seen working its advantage in many species in nature. Not saying there isn’t a ‘tug and pull’ between self-interest and group-interest. There is. Walking that line is what it is all about when living in a group as a social animal. Solitary animals can act with reckless self-interest. Social animals cannot. So - If we accept that familial "love" (familial bonds) is a genetic mechanism that protects our genetic legacy than why would it be different on a bigger scale when considering social bonds? If determining the limits of self-interested behavior is described, in part, by our genetic inheritance than why isn’t this the basis for a "morality." Here is an example I read somewhere – sorry I forget where – but think it was in Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. ---- It went something like this: We have a flock of birds infested with ticks. No bird can pull the ticks off their own backs but the two birds, working together, can remove all of the ticks off of each other. Assume there is no advantage to either bird other than this. The disadvantage to each bird is the energy expended in pulling off the ticks of the other bird. Energy that will have to be replaced. Birds take turns pulling off ticks. Now if ‘Bird 1’ expends the energy to pull ticks off ‘Bird 2’ but ‘Bird 2’ does not reciprocate – it seems that ‘Bird 2’ is ahead of the game. All of ‘Bird 2’s’ ticks are gone without expending energy. Having no advantage ‘Bird 1’ will not pull ticks from ‘Bird 2’s’ back again. Others who witnessed this ‘injustice’ will recall ‘Bird 2’s’ behavior when their turn comes since it is in their self-interest to do so. Now, if this behavior is repeated too many times by ‘Bird 2’ – he will die due to tick infestation. So – if with a calculating, cunning ‘Bird 2,’ a bird who wants to cheat, he had still better either be secretive or selective when doing so – or his calculating, cunning genes will stop with his tick infested death. Cooperating genes live for another day. And here is a very interesting scenario relating to moral choices which comes from Discover Magazine - This relates to the question what are the origins of 'moral choices.’ http://www.discover.com/issues/apr-04/features/whose-life-would-you-save/ NOW with that in hand ------ back to our human brothers and sisters. – Taking the ‘bird example,’ our reaction to other people in ‘moral situations’ depends on this same sort of genetic ‘give and take.’ A ‘give and take’ response encoded in our genes that the ‘large majority’ of us have inherited. Yet, you say, we certainly behave differently around different people. One set of responses for our child, another for our friends, and yet another for total strangers. Why? it appears that it would generally be in our interest to help those around us who we know. In our interest to be distrustful of those who are not members of our clan. Genetically, it is probably not in our interest to help a member from another tribe that has come into our territory. In fact, where the evolution of our genetic response is concerned, it is probably in our genetic interest to encourage their absence since we will have to compete for available resources with those folks. MAYBE, this might translate into modern cultures as a ‘Is this person living in a small town or in a large city?’ question. Taking the example given to us by Discover Magazine – (see the quote above) – and extend it out a bit. Not to just the visceral reaction to killing up close and personal ---- but also to whether we have a personal relationship with the person or we don't. That is, do I know this person AND do others know me? Will others in my ‘social group’ / clan recognize my behavior has good for the group or totally selfish? It is one thing to be a habitual traitor in a small town, and hide that fact, and quite another to blend in with that behavior in a large city. I think that our genes just might be selected for this sort of automatic behavior. They 'think' for us --- always calculating the best chances to past itself to the next generation. As such we remain 'morally loyal' to our social group but not to others. Big, artificial social groups like cities make some of us act in ways that we would not act if we had to be socially accountable. That would make a difference but it would still be a difference with instinctual / social roots IMO.