Another argument against moral relativism is that the position is self-refuting. This means that when it is tested against its own criteria, it fails to pass. If I were to write “I cannot write a word in English,” the statement would be self-refuting because I had just written the statement in English. Likewise, the claim of the moral relativist refutes itself. If the moral relativist states “there is no absolute morality,” he just made an absolute statement about morality which, by his own definition he is not allowed to do.
Here, however, the moral relativist may interject and make the claim that, because the statement itself, “There is no absolute morality,” is not a moral statement, it is not self-refuting. But, even if the statement is not a moral statement, surely the implication that the moral relativist draws from the statement refutes itself. Since the moral relativist does not believe that any culture’s morality has any more value than another’s, he also believes that each culture should tolerate every other culture. The view generally takes the following shape: “Since I cannot know that my culture’s morality is correct, I (morally) ought to tolerate the morality of other cultures.” But here appears a non-refutable self-refuting moral statement. What if another culture exists that does not share the same value of tolerance? How would the moral relativist seek to remedy such a dilemma? Whose version of morality would he call on to solve this issue? Does he use his own morality or that of the other culture? The moral relativist’s own belief system forbids him to judge the moral belief system of the other culture based on his own moral belief system and thus forbids him from making his original statement about tolerance. He thus cannot fault the other culture for not valuing tolerance just because he does so. Consequently, the other culture has no moral obligation to value tolerance and the moral relativist has no moral basis for making his statement. The position of the moral relativist again fails in its practical application.