Philosophical leanings might seem impossible to pin town with exacting word problems. But recent work by Geoffrey Goodwin and John Darley shows that it might be possible to employ a simple mental puzzle to assess a person's perspective on moral questions. This quiz can help you find out whether someone is a relativist, who believes that no one single answer exists to a particular moral problem, or whether that person is an absolutist, who embraces only one "true" answer to these weighty conundrums.
This short word problem has proven remarkably successful in assessing people's tendency to look at multiple possibilities, an indication of a relativist moral sensibility. Try the test and see in which camp you belong.
The green blocks problem
There are five blocks in a stack. In this stack, the second block from the top is green, and the fourth is not green. Is a green block definitely on top of a non-green block?
C) Cannot be determined
Continue to the next page to find the answer.
Relativist or absolutist?
Let's work through the possibilities. It may seem at first that the answer cannot be determined, but consider the possible colors of the third block. If it is green, there is a green block on top of a non-green block.
The other possibility is that it is non-green, but then there also has to be a green block on top of a non-green block.
So the correct answer is actually A. Participants who carefully go through all of the possibilities and arrive at this answer turn out to also be more likely to endorse a "relativist" view in which moral questions do not necessarily have a single objectively true answer. This result suggests that moral relativism might be especially appealing to people who have a tendency to vividly imagine alternative possibilities. Read more about experimental philosophy in Knobe's article in the November 2011 issue of Scientific American: "Thought Experiments."