Ethical Relativism: there are no common, universal, or objective values. Moral values are developed by individual peoples, groups, or cultures to fit their unique conditions.

  • Relativists say that all moral rules are equally acceptable, because there is no way of judging between them. They do believe in moral right and wrong, but they do not believe that ideas about right and wrong are universal.
  • Ethical relativists believe that morality involves conforming to the norms of the society in which a person lives.
  • Moral values are private, individual and subjective.

Criticisms:

  • The existence of many different views of morality and ethics does not necessarily mean all views have equal value. Many widely held beliefs (the earth is flat, humans cannot go to the moon) have been shown to be false.
  • Few people believe in, or practice ethical relativism in their personal or social lives. E.g. You would probably have problems if your friend suddenly decided that theft is ethical and regularly took your possessions without permission.
  • Most people have difficulty remaining neutral when they hear how people treat each other in other cultures. (Nazi Germany society)
  • Within one society, there are often conflicting positions concerning controversial issues such as poverty, capital punishment and abortion.

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