The 19th century philosophers Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and their existentialist successors such as Sartre and Camus, are the instigators of this problem. It is interesting to note in this regard that far from philosophy being irrelevant to modern society it has in fact had a tremendous and subtle influence. (A similar influence of philosophy is shown later in connection with the origin of modern ideals of individualism, freedom and Human Rights). Cultural themes are influenced and shaped by writers and artists, although often it is only in the hindsight of historical judgement that our vision of this phenomenon becomes clear.
Examining Nietzsche's attempt at "the revaluation of all values" and conscious "immoralism" demonstrates that far from proving that moral judgement is impossible, Nietzsche was in fact very much engaged in a campaign of moral criticism. His target was the ossified religiously-motivated ethical stagnancy of petty moralism. Although he targeted religion, his critique went much deeper, and even questioned the rising supremacy of the scientific ethos. Nietzsche shook the foundations of the moral thinking of his time, and helped uncover an important truth about modern morality: the meaning we find in our lives is structured around cultural symbols that are not static and can be changed. What Nietzsche missed was the accompanying realisation that there is an inescapably communal aspect to morality. This is the truth at the heart of relativism.
Part 2 of 23 in the Pentenary series.