Moral Relativism


Is morality relative? Are definitions of right and wrong a matter of opinion, or are there absolute standards? Some things to consider about moral relativism:

1. Some moral standards are universal to all cultures and times. What society approves of treason/disloyalty, murder of innocents or theft?

2. While people may disagree on whether an action is right or wrong, everyone agrees that people ought to do good. Even someone who believes that morality is relative will say that people ought not impose their morality on others, or that people ought to respect others' beliefs - both of which are clear statements of ethics that the speaker believes others should follow.

3. If morality is a matter of opinion, we have no reason to condemn others' beliefs or actions. But this means we can't condemn philosophies such as Nazism or racism or actions such as child abuse or rape. Nor can relativists condemn those who are intolerant of other beliefs (including their own), because "intolerance is wrong" is merely an opinion of theirs which is not shared by the intolerant. Likewise, if ethics are only opinions, praising heroic or unselfish deeds would make as much sense as praising someone for sharing our taste in food, for praise assumes that one has done something good when one could have easily done otherwise.


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