Letter: Chewing over Gum(1)

January 5, 2001

Fay Weldon's tilt at political philosophy does not amount to a hill of beans ("Towards a grand universal morality", Millennium Magazine , THES, December 22/29). Our godless age has, she argues, so completely lost all moral compass that we no longer understand concepts of right and wrong.

Having beguiled the reader with cute metaphors of department stores and chewing gum, Weldon hits us with her big moral concept: "The greatest good of the greatest number" (which misquotes Bentham, not Mill, by the way).

Capital idea - we are about due for another Victorian revival and they certainly had no truck with moral relativism.

At this point, Weldon, instead of demanding that workhouses be rebuilt, seems to lose her nerve. "How (governments) interpret this goal is up to them."

Same goes for scientists and police forces. Even a soldier will reflect on "whether he feels it his duty" to kill people. And the rest of us will have no problem with any decision he might make, because "Gum" will "make all things clear".

"Grand universal morality" is the opposite of what is being argued. This is half-baked relativism, which any regime on earth would have no difficulty signing up to. The idea that without religion there are no fundamental moral values on which we can build is repugnant and offensive. Argue the case for a particular morality, by all means, but do not tell me that "motive is all" and that all outcomes are equal.

T. M Satterthwaite

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