“Things are not quite so simple always as black and white.” -Doris Lessing


TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about the concepts of moral relativism and moral absolutism.

Let me digress for a few sentences.

This past Wednesday, I was watching one of my kids play soccer and intrigued by how little the score and the eventuality of a “winner” or “loser” was to the kids playing. Sure, they understood that whatever team scored the most goals was the winner, but the purpose of the event was beyond the outcome of a binary winner and loser.

Moral absolutism refers to a set of ethics or principles that are fixed in time. In this system, there are principles that are always right or wrong and beyond debate. There is always a winner or loser based on defined criteria. Contrasting, moral relativism holds that nothing is intrinsically right or wrong, black or white; winner or loser depends on context. To the relativist, circumstances are crucial to uncovering the character of a person or conflict.

The debate between absolutism and relativism – whether it be philosophical or cultural – is centuries old, and despite our best efforts, we will not solve it here. Instead, the goal for today’s Sunday Surgical Scrub is to make you aware of these powerful differing views that permeate significant portions of our headspace.

On the one hand, the pursuits of life are beyond simply a winner and a loser. Limiting yourself to transactional interactions risks being devoid of fundamental insight into the machinations of motive and meaning. However, at the same time, one must be weary of having no absolute ideals and default to rationalizing any act. The latter has been the calling card of many oppressive societies.

“Limiting yourself to transactional interactions risks being devoid of fundamental insight into the machinations of motive and meaning.”

So, what do we do?  

In my opinion, the sanguine approach is to beware the limits of binary absolute outcomes and embrace the diversity of relative viewpoints. This allows to circumvent the curt effect of a black and white world while at the same time still allow for the questioning and query essential for a just existence.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know.


MEDICINE & MACULA: Many thanks to the Journal of VitreoRetinal Diseases and the American Society of Retina Specialists for publishing one of our recent reports, West Nile Virus Chorioretinitis With Foveal Involvement: Evolution of Lesions on Optical Coherence Tomography (Gary L. Yau,  Eric K. Chin,  D. Wilkin Parke, Steven R. Bennett & David R. P. Almeida).

It was published in the March 2017 issue of the journal and describes the clinical course of foveal West Nile virus chorioretinitis.

You can find the publication here.


GRATIS: “Changing the game is a mindset.” -Robert Rodriguez


My best to you,

David Almeida


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