What are the most popular arguments against moral universalism, rather than for relativism or nihilism?

I'm asking in case deontology is the only viable universalist ethics, because deontology seems anathema to human happiness. I don't mean that in any Nietzschean way (though I'm interested in what he has to say about Kant and universalism): the mixture of repugnant and trivial conclusions seem hugely counter-intuitive for anyone to perform.

1 Answer 1


One common argument is that moral absolutes are too rigid or give incorrect answers. A famous objection to Kant is the problem of lying: Imagine a murderer came to your house and asked if anyone was home. Would it be acceptable to lie? Under Kantian ethics, it would not be morally permissible to say "no one is home".

See here for further explanation: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/philosophy/kants-axe

  • ok thanks, i guess i kinda covered that in the question tho
    – user38026
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 16:39
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    Well, what else are you looking for? Things like this are showstoppers for the theories.
    – ritlew
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 17:12
  • just something i didn't mention in the question!
    – user38026
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 17:12
  • I feel you are unfair on Kant. His universal maxim is sound, but he shoots himself in the foot by imposing a condition about lying. If we concede that sometimes lying would be the correct application of his maxim then it works fine. I prefer it stated as Kingsley's 'Do as you would be done by'. I'm afraid I don't know the arguments against universalism. .
    – user20253
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 18:20

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