There’s an old question: "if you knew what was Right, would it be Right to force other people to do what was Right?"

The most obvious fudge is to say that part of knowing what was Right would be knowing the answer to that question. There are also several attacks on the premises, the most obvious of which is that "nothing is Right", at least in the sense that the question assumes. Perhaps what is Right for you is Wrong for others, or perhaps it doesn’t make sense to talk of Right and Good.

I tend to question ideals of tolerance, in which everyone has their own moral system, which is as equally and validly right for them as anyone else’s moral system. If nothing else, a good fraction of those moral systems are actually fairly intolerant. Is it possible to be tolerant, open, and accepting, of closed and intolerant ideas? Is it possible to be tolerant of someone else’s abhorrence for tolerance? Is it possible to tolerate people trampling on the tolerance of others?

I feel that in the act of exercising tolerance in these situations is often akin to asserting the superiority of tolerance, which leaves tolerant ethics in a bind in which they accept nothing quite so much as acceptance.

That said, the moral sky has not fallen in now that we are prepared to live with people who have different gods from us, or no god at all, or every god under the sun. The extent to which you can adhere to an absolute ethical system when surrounded by happy, content and ethical enough people who seem to hold fundamentally incompatible belief systems from each other is limited.

Even a humble absolutist who does not believe that they have a good personal connection to the ultimate truth at least asserts one truth: that there is an absolute morality out there somewhere. Relativists are doubly bound, as they must assert that everything is relative, except relativity, because it is absolutely true that there are no absolutes.

The natural answer in a pluralist society seems to be to not know. To be uncertain of whether or not there is absolute morality. The question then is how to be an idealist.

How can a person who has not decided whether being a better person is absolutely defined or purely subjective try to be a better person or to better anything? From where do ideals arise?

I have some faith in the interpersonal context. The question of things being better, or being a better person in a solipsist universe is meaningless. Hence ideals are not found by retreating into some system, either resolutely absolute, or completely relativist, that exists independently of interpersonal context. The only possible meaning that acts can have is with reference to something external. Reality kicks back, and the feeling of such kicking gives us better grounds for action than any internal decisions about morality.