Last week I met some friends, and in our conversation, the issue of gambling came up, and five individuals in a group of seven argued that this practice is immoral. I could not understand why such an issue could be controversial, but I quickly realized that all those against gambling were international students from China, and this practice is outlawed in their country. I write this paper to justify gambling through the lenses of moral relativism.
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There is no universal set of moral principles that can be applied uniformly on different issues across cultures. Every culture has its own sets of beliefs that inform decisions made concerning various life matters in what Green calls “to each her own” (344). In other words, nobody has the moral high ground to judge another. Therefore, in the case of gambling, people should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as it does not cause harm to other individuals.
Gambling is a personal matter, and it should be treated as such without infringing on people’s freedom of choice. If I am opposed to the practice, perhaps because I have studied the detrimental aspects associated with it, the best that I can do is to present that information to gamblers and hope that they can see the negative aspects of what they are doing.
However, beyond educating gamblers, only those who are willing to listen, I cannot force my ideologies on them because, under moral relativism, the moral code of a society is a function of what people deem as acceptable or unacceptable. Personally, I am not a gambler, and I actually do not support it, but my philosophical approach towards life and morality is based on moral relativism. I would be ignorant if not arrogant if I attempted to judge the conduct of other people using my ethical standards because my code of ethics is not better than that of other individuals or societies.
My stand on the issue of gambling could be challenged from different perspectives. A critic of my views could argue that the available data in the literature and evidence-based studies show that the practice is associated with numerous negative aspects. For example, Heiskanen argues that gambling may lead to addiction, substance abuse, financial problems, family breakdown, and other indecorous behaviors, such as crime (364-366).
However, in my rebuttal, I would argue that the issue being contested is not whether gambling is good or not, but how people should be allowed to lead their lives. Using evidence-based data to deny people their capacity and the right to choose is immoral in itself. The problem here is not a medical one, but a philosophical and backed with the principles of moral relativism; people should be allowed to choose between what is moral or immoral according to their beliefs.
In conclusion, the issue of gambling raises many questions, especially from a philosophical point of view. Someone may wonder why authorities should allow such perceivably immoral practice to thrive in society without setting laws to outlaw it. However, from a moral relativism perspective, there is no universal truth in ethics, and thus what is moral or immoral will differ from one culture or society to another based on the underlying beliefs. While gambling is illegal in China because it is viewed as bad, it is permissible in the US and most other countries.
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Heiskanen, Maria. “Is It All About Money? A Qualitative Analysis of Problem Gamblers’ Conceptualizations of Money.” Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, vol. 34, no. 5, 2017, pp. 362-374.
Green, Michael. “What is Moral Relativism.” Philosophy, vol. 93, no. 3, 2018, pp. 337-354.