'Some Moral Minima' by Lenn Goodman: An Analysis

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In his essay "Some Moral Minima," Lenn Goodman (2010) attempts to challenge moral relativism by arguing that certain acts contain "natural meanings," and subsequently that certain acts are inherently right or wrong, due to their natural moral meaning (p. 92). Goodman discusses a number of acts that he views as inherently wrong, including genocide, germ warfare, and rape, and purports to offer reasoned explanations for why these acts are wrong. However, upon examining Goodman's claims in detail, it becomes clear that he cannot offer any evidence for the existence of objective morality, and instead is reduced to mere assertions and the conflation of cultural evolutionary tendencies with existence of natural, objective meaning. In reality, objective moral meaning does not exist, quite simply because objective meaning in general does not exist; there is no meaning but what human beings have created as a result of biological and cultural evolution, and thus no act is inherently right or wrong. Instead, there are certain acts that have been defined as such through centuries of social conditioning and the gradual homogenization of subjective moral standards, or else utilitarian principles that prove effective for achieving a specific moral goal (that is itself subjective, and thus ultimately arbitrary). Goodman begins his essay with a lengthy introduction regarding his sources and inspiration, but the problems with his challenge to moral relativism begin almost the moment he gets

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