explain moral relativism essay

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Explain moral relativism essay


However, we will see later that these contentions also pose challenges to MMR. Other critics try to establish that the empirical evidence cited in support of DMR does not really show that there are significant moral disagreements, and is consistent with considerable moral agreement. A prominent contention is that purported moral disagreements may result from applying a general moral value about which there is no disagreement in different circumstances or in the same circumstances where there is a factual disagreement about what these circumstances are.

Either way, there is no real moral disagreement in these cases. For example, everyone might agree on the importance of promoting human welfare and even on the nature of human welfare. But this may be promoted differently in different, or differently understood, circumstances. Another contention is that moral disagreements may be explained by religious disagreements: It is only because specific religious assumptions are made for instance, about the soul that there are moral disagreements.

Once again, the apparent moral disagreement is really a disagreement of a different kind—here, about the nature of the soul. There is no genuine moral disagreement. Of course, these possibilities would have to be established as the best explanation of the disagreements in question to constitute an objection to DMR.

Finally, some objections maintain that proponents of DMR fail to recognize that there is significant empirical evidence for considerable moral agreement across different societies see Sauer Several kinds of agreement have been proposed. Another form of this claim maintains that basic moral prohibitions against lying, stealing, adultery, killing human beings, etc. Yet another contention is that the international human rights movement indicates substantial moral agreement see Donnelly ch.

On the basis of evidence of this kind, some such as Sissela Bok and Michael Walzer have proposed that there is a universal minimal morality, whatever other moral differences there may be. These contentions, which have received increased support in recent years, must be subjected to the same critical scrutiny as those put forward in support of DMR.

However, if they were correct, they would cast doubt on DMR. If this were the case, it would complicate the empirical background of the metaethical debate, and it might suggest the need for more nuanced alternatives than the standard positions. Philosophers generally agree that, even if DMR were true without qualification, it would not directly follow that MMR is true.

In particular, if moral disagreements could be resolved rationally for the most part, then disagreement-based arguments for MMR would be undermined, and there would be little incentive to endorse the position. Such resolvability, at least in principle, is what moral objectivism would lead us to expect. One of the main points of contention between proponents of MMR and their objectivist critics concerns the possibility of rationally resolving moral disagreements.

It might be thought that the defender of MMR needs to show conclusively that the moral disagreements identified in DMR cannot be rationally resolved, or again that the moral objectivist must show conclusively that they can be. Neither is a reasonable expectation.

Indeed, it is unclear what would count as conclusively arguing for either conclusion. The center of the debate concerns what plausibly may be expected. Adherents of MMR attempt to show why rational resolution is an unlikely prospect, while their objectivist critics try to show why to a large extent this is likely, or at least not unlikely.

Moral objectivists can allow that there are special cases in which moral disagreements cannot be rationally resolved, for example on account of vagueness or indeterminacy in the concepts involved. Their main claim is that ordinarily there is a rational basis for overcoming disagreements not that people would actually come to agree.

Objectivists maintain that, typically, at least one party in a moral disagreement accepts the moral judgment on account of some factual or logical mistake, and that revealing such mistakes would be sufficient to rationally resolve the disagreement. They suggest that whatever genuine moral disagreements there are usually can be resolved in this fashion.

In addition, objectivists sometimes offer an analysis of why people make such mistakes. For example, people may be influenced by passion, prejudice, ideology, self-interest, and the like. In general, objectivists think, insofar as people set these influences aside, and are reasonable and well-informed, there is generally a basis for resolving their moral differences. However, though these claims are often made, it is another matter to establish empirically that self-interest is the source of disagreement, and it has been argued that there are considerable obstacles to doing this see Seipel a.

Objectivists might also say that at least some agreements about moral truths reflect the fact that, with respect to matters pertaining to these truths, people generally have been reasonable and well-informed. Proponents of MMR may allow that moral disagreements sometimes are rationally resolved.

In particular, they may grant that this often happens when the parties to a moral dispute share a moral framework. The characteristic relativist contention is that a common moral framework is often lacking, especially in moral disagreements between one society and another, and that differences in moral frameworks usually cannot be explained simply by supposing that one society or the other is making factual or logical mistakes.

These moral disagreements are ultimately rooted in fundamentally different moral orientations, and there is usually no reason to think these differences result from the fact that, in relevant respects, one side is less reasonable or well-informed than the other. They are faultless disagreements.

This conclusion might rest on the observation that it is not evident that mistakes are at the root of these disagreement. But it might also depend on a theory, developed to explain such observations, that the frameworks are incommensurable: They do not have enough in common, in terms of either shared concepts or shared standards, to resolve their differences, and there is no impartial third standpoint, accessible to any reasonable and well-informed person, that could be invoked to resolve the conflict.

Various objectivist responses may be made to this argument. One is the Davidsonian approach, already considered, that precludes the possibility of incommensurable moral frameworks. Another response is that incommensurability does not preclude the possibility of rationally resolving differences between moral frameworks. For example, Alasdair MacIntyre ch.

However, the most common objectivist response is to claim that some specific moral framework is rationally superior to all others. If such an argument were sound, it might provide a compelling response to the relativist contention that conflicts between moral frameworks cannot be rationally resolved.

Proponents of MMR are unimpressed by these responses. And they usually consider debates about the Kantian and Aristotelian arguments to be as difficult to resolve rationally as the conflicts between moral frameworks the relativists originally invoked. They may add that the fact that moral objectivists disagree among themselves about which objectivist theory is correct is further indication of the difficulty of resolving fundamental moral conflicts.

A rather different objectivist challenge is that the position of the proponent of MMR is inconsistent. The relativist argument is that we should reject moral objectivism because there is little prospect of rationally resolving fundamental moral disagreements. However, it may be pointed out, the relativist should acknowledge that there is no more prospect of rationally resolving disagreements about MMR. By parity of reasoning, he or she should grant that there is no objective truth concerning MMR.

To this familiar kind of objection, there are two equally familiar responses. One is to concede the objection and maintain that MMR is true and justified in some metaethical frameworks, but not others: It is not an objective truth that any reasonable and well-informed person has reason to accept.

This may seem to concede a great deal, but for someone who is a relativist through and through, or at least is a relativist about metaethical claims, this would be the only option. The other response is to contest the claim that there is parity of reasoning in the two cases. This would require showing that the dispute about the irresolvability of moral disagreements a metaethical debate can be rationally resolved in a way that fundamental moral disagreements substantive normative debates themselves cannot.

For example, the metaethical debate might be rationally resolved in favor of the relativist, while the substantive normative debates cannot be resolved. Even if it were established that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements that cannot be rationally resolved, and that these disagreements are more significant than whatever agreements there may be, it would not immediately follow that MMR is correct.

Other nonobjectivist conclusions might be drawn. In particular, opponents of objectivism might argue for moral skepticism, that we cannot know moral truths, or for a view that moral judgments lack truth-value understood to imply a rejection of relative truth-value. Hence, proponents of MMR face two very different groups of critics: assorted kinds of moral objectivists and various sorts of moral nonobjectivists. The defender of MMR needs to establish that MMR is superior to all these positions, and this would require a comparative assessment of their respective advantages and disadvantages.

It is beyond the scope of this article to consider the alternative positions see the entries on moral cognitivism vs. What can be considered are the challenges the proponent of MMR faces and what may be said in response to them. Some critics of MMR have raised questions about the coherence of the position for example, Boghossian and But this appears to be an untenable position: most people would grant that nothing can be both true and false.

Of course, some persons could be justified in affirming S and other persons justified in denying it, since the two groups could have different evidence. But it is another matter to say S is both true and false. A standard relativist response is to say that moral truth is relative in some sense. On this view, S is not true or false absolutely speaking, but it may be true-relative-to- X and false-relative-to- Y where X and Y refer to the moral codes of different societies.

This means that suicide is right for persons in a society governed by X , but it is not right for persons in a society governed by Y ; and, the relativist may contend, there is no inconsistency in this conjunction properly understood. In response, it might be said that there are expressions of relativist moral statements that are normative. Such relativist formulations may also give rise to a related and very common objection. Relativism often presents itself as an interpretation of moral disagreements: It is said to be the best explanation of rationally irresolvable or faultless moral disagreements.

However, once moral truth is regarded as relative, the disagreements seem to disappear. For example, someone accepting X who affirms S is saying suicide is right for persons accepting X , while someone accepting Y who denies S is saying suicide is not right for persons accepting Y. It might well be that they are both correct and hence that they are not disagreeing with one another rather as two people in different places might both be correct when one says the sun is shining and the other says it is not, or as two people in different countries may both be correct when one says something is illegal and the other says it is not.

The relativist explanation dissolves the disagreement. But, then, why did it appear as a disagreement in the first place? An objectivist might say this is because people thinking this assume that moral truth is absolute rather than relative.

If this were correct, the relativist could not maintain that MMR captures what people already believe. The contention would have to be that they should believe it, and the argument for relativism would have to be formulated in those terms. For example, the relativist might contend that MMR is the most plausible position to adopt insofar as moral judgments often give practically conflicting directives and neither judgment can be shown to be rationally superior to the other.

Another common objection, though probably more so outside philosophy than within it, is that MMR cannot account for the fact that some practices such as the holocaust in Germany or slavery in the United States are obviously objectively wrong. This point is usually expressed in a tone of outrage, often with the suggestion that relativists pose a threat to civilized society or something of this sort.

Proponents of MMR might respond that this simply begs the question, and in one sense they are right. However, this objection might reflect a more sophisticated epistemology, for example, that we have more reason to accept these objectivist intuitions than we have to accept any argument put forward in favor of MMR. This would bring us back to the arguments of the last section. Another relativist response would be to say that the practices in question, though widely accepted, were wrong according to the fundamental standards of the societies for example, there were arguments against slavery presented in the United States prior to the Civil War.

This would not show that the practices are objectively wrong, but it might mitigate the force of the critique. However, though this response may be plausible in some cases, it is not obvious that it always would be convincing. This last response brings out the fact that a proponent of MMR needs a clear specification of that to which truth is relative. For example, if S is true-relative-to the moral code of a society, does this mean it is true-relative-to what people in the society think the moral code says or to what the fundamental standards of the moral code actually imply?

These might not be the same. It is often supposed that truths can be undiscovered or that people can make mistakes about them. As just noted, a moral relativist could make sense of this by supposing that it is the fundamental standards of a moral code that are authoritative for people in a society that accepts that code. Hence, what is morally true-relative-to the moral code of a society is whatever the fundamental standards of the code would actually warrant. By this criterion, there could be moral truths that are unknown to people in the society that accepts the code, or these people could be mistaken in thinking something is a moral truth.

A similar point arises from the fact that it is sometimes thought to be an advantage of MMR that it maintains a substantial notion of intersubjective truth or justification: It avoids the defects of moral objectivism, on the one hand, and of moral skepticism and theories that disregard moral truth-value altogether, on the other hand, because it maintains that moral judgments do not have truth in an absolute sense, but they do have truth relative to the moral code of a society and similarly for justification.

However, this purported advantage raises an important question for relativism: Why suppose moral judgments have truth-value relative to a society as opposed to no truth-value at all? If the relativist claims that a set of fundamental standards is authoritative for persons in a society, it may be asked why they have this authority.

This question may arise in quite practical ways. For example, suppose a dissident challenges some of the fundamental standards of his or her society. Is this person necessarily wrong? Various answers may be given to these questions. For example, it may be said that the standards that are authoritative in a society are those that reasonable and well-informed members of the society would generally accept.

This might seem to provide a basis for normative authority. However, if this approach were taken, it may be asked why that authority rests only on reasonable and well-informed members of the society. Why not a wider group? Why not all reasonable and well-informed persons? A different response would be to say that the standards that are authoritative for a society are the ones persons have agreed to follow as a result of some negotiation or bargaining process as seen above, Harman has argued that we should understand some moral judgments in these terms.

Once again, this might seem to lend those standards some authority. Still, it may be asked whether they really have authority or perhaps whether they have the right kind. For example, suppose the agreement had been reached in circumstances in which a few members of society held great power over the others in the real world, the most likely scenario.

Those with less power might have been prudent to make the agreement, but it is not obvious that such an agreement would create genuine normative authority—a point the dissident challenging the standards might well make. Moreover, if all moral values are understood in this way, how do we explain the authority of the contention that people should follow a set of values because they agreed to do so?

Must there be a prior agreement to do what we agree to do? A related objection concerns the specification of the society to which moral justification or truth are said to be relative. People typically belong to many different groups defined by various criteria: culture, religion, political territory, ethnicity, race, gender, etc.

Moreover, while it is sometimes claimed that the values of a group defined by one of these criteria have authority for members of the group, such claims are often challenged. The specification of the relevant group is itself a morally significant question, and there appears to be no objective map of the world that displays its division into social groups to which the truth or justification of moral judgments are relative. A proponent of MMR needs a plausible way of identifying the group of persons to which moral truth or justification are relative.

Moreover, not only do people typically belong to more than one group, as defined by the aforementioned criteria, the values that are authoritative in each group a person belongs to may not always be the same. If I belong to a religion and a nationality, and their values concerning abortion are diametrically opposed, then which value is correct for me? This raises the question whether there is a basis for resolving the conflict consistent with MMR the two groups might have conflicting fundamental standards and whether in this circumstance MMR would entail that there is a genuine moral dilemma meaning that abortion is both right and wrong for me.

This point is not necessarily an objection, but a defender of MMR would have to confront these issues and develop a convincing position concerning them. The fact that social groups are defined by different criteria, and that persons commonly belong to more than one social group, might be taken as a reason to move from relativism to a form of subjectivism.

That is, instead of saying that the truth or justification of moral judgments is relative to a group, we should say it is relative to each individual as noted above, relativism is sometimes defined to include both positions. This revision might defuse the issues just discussed, but it would abandon the notion of intersubjectivity with respect to truth or justification—what for many proponents of MMR is a chief advantage of the position. Moreover, a proponent of this subjectivist account would need to explain in what sense, if any, moral values have normative authority for a person as opposed to simply being accepted.

The fact that we sometimes think our moral values have been mistaken is often thought to imply that we believe they have some authority that does not consist in the mere fact that we accept them. People in one society sometimes make moral judgments about people in another society on the basis of moral standards they take to be authoritative for both societies.

In addition, conflicts between societies are sometimes resolved because one society changes its moral outlook and comes to share at least some of the moral values of the other society. More generally, sometimes people in one society think they learn from the moral values of another society: They come to believe that the moral values of another society are better in some respects than their own previously accepted values. The Mondrian image of a world divided into distinct societies, each with it own distinctive moral values, makes it difficult to account for these considerations.

If this image is abandoned as unrealistic, and is replaced by one that acknowledges greater moral overlap and interaction among societies recall the Pollock image , then the proponent of MMR needs to give a plausible account of these dynamics.

This is related to the problem of authority raised earlier: These considerations suggest that people sometimes acknowledge moral authority that extends beyond their own society, and a relativist needs to show why this makes sense or why people are mistaken in this acknowledgement. Discussions of moral relativism often assume as mostly has been assumed here so far that moral relativism is the correct account of all moral judgments or of none.

On the empirical level, it might be thought that there are many substantial moral disagreements but also some striking moral agreements across different societies. On the metaethical plane, it might be supposed that, though many disagreements are not likely to be rationally resolved, other disagreements may be and perhaps that the cross-cultural agreements we find have a rational basis. The first point would lead to a weaker form of DMR The second point, the more important one, would imply a modified form of MMR see the suggestions in the last paragraph of section 4.

This approach has attracted some support, interestingly, from both sides of the debate: relativists who have embraced an objective constraint, and more commonly objectivists who have allowed some relativist dimensions. Here are some prominent examples of these mixed metaethical outlooks. David Copp maintains that it is true that something is morally wrong only if it is wrong in relation to the justified moral code of some society, and a code is justified in a society only if the society would be rationally required to select it.

Since which code it would be rationally required to select depends in part on the non-moral values of the society, and since these values differ from one society to another, something may be morally wrong for one society but not for another.

Copp calls this position a form of moral relativism. However, he believes this relativism is significantly mitigated by the fact that which code a society is rationally required to select also depends on the basic needs of the society. Copp thinks all societies have the same basic needs. For example, every society has a need to maintain its population and system of cooperation from one generation to the next.

Moreover, since meeting these basic needs is the most fundamental factor in determining the rationality of selecting a code, Copp thinks the content of all justified moral codes will tend to be quite similar. The theory is mixed insofar as the rationality of selecting a code depends partly on common features of human nature basic needs and partly on diverse features of different societies values.

Whether or not justified moral codes and hence moral truths would tend to be substantially similar, despite differences, as Copp argues, would depend on both the claim that all societies have the same basic needs and the claim that these needs are much more important than other values in determining which moral code it is rational for a society to select.

Wong defended a partly similar position, though one intended to allow for greater diversity in correct moral codes. He argued that more than one morality may be true, but there are limits on which moralities are true. The first point is a form of metaethical relativism: It says one morality may be true for one society and a conflicting morality may be true for another society. Hence, there is no one objectively correct morality for all societies.

The second point, however, is a concession to moral objectivism. It acknowledges that objective factors concerning human nature and the human situation should determine whether or not, or to what extent, a given morality could be one of the true ones. The mere fact that a morality is accepted by a society does not guarantee that it has normative authority in that society.

For example, given our biological and psychological make-up, not just anything could count as a good way of life. Again, given that most persons are somewhat self-interested and that society requires some measure of cooperation, any plausible morality will include a value of reciprocity good in return for good on some proportional basis.

Since these objective limitations are quite broad, they are insufficient in themselves to establish a specific and detailed morality: Many particular moralities are consistent with them, and the choice among these moralities must be determined by the cultures of different societies. Wong has developed this approach at length in more recent work The constraints are based on a naturalistic understanding of human nature and the circumstances of human life.

In addition, morality requires that persons have both effective agency and effective identity, and these can only be fostered in personal contexts such as the family. Hence, the impersonal perspective must be limited by the personal perspective. Any true morality would have to respect requirements such as these. Nonetheless, according to Wong, the universal constraints are sufficiently open-ended that there is more than one way to respect them.

Hence, there can be more than one true morality. This is pluralistic relativism. For Wong, the different true moralities need not be, and typically are not, completely different from one another. In fact, they often share some values such as individual rights and social utility , but assign them different priorities.

The extent to which moral ambivalence is widespread is an empirical question see section 3. In any case, Wong presents a sustained and detailed argument that an empirically-based understanding of the nature and conditions of human life both limits and underdetermines what a true morality could be.

In many respects, his position is the most sophisticated form of relativism developed to date, and it has the resources to confront a number of the issues raised in the last section for some critical responses to Wong and his replies, see Xiao and Huang ; for more recent discussion, see Li , Vicente and Arrieta , and Wong A somewhat similar mixed position has been advanced, though more tentatively, by Foot a and b; see also Scanlon and ch. She argued that there are conceptual limitations on what could count as a moral code as seen in section 4 , and that there are common features of human nature that set limits on what a good life could be.

For these reasons, there are some objective moral truths—for example, that the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews was morally wrong. However, Foot maintained, these considerations do not ensure that all moral disagreements can be rationally resolved.

Hence, in some cases, a moral judgment may be true by reference to the standards of one society and false by reference to the standards of another society—but neither true nor false in any absolute sense just as we might say with respect to standards of beauty.

Foot came to this mixed view from the direction of objectivism in the form of a virtue theory , and it might be contended by some objectivists that she has conceded too much. Since there are objective criteria, what appear as rationally irresolvable disagreements might be resolvable through greater understanding of human nature. Or the objective criteria might establish that in some limited cases it is an objective moral truth that conflicting moral practices are both morally permissible.

In view of such considerations, objectivists might argue, it is not necessary to have recourse to the otherwise problematic notion of relative moral truth. With explicit reference to Aristotle, she argued that there is one objectively correct understanding of the human good, and that this understanding provides a basis for criticizing the moral traditions of different societies.

The specifics of this account are explained by a set of experiences or concerns, said to be common to all human beings and societies, such as fear, bodily appetite, distribution of resources, management of personal property, etc. Corresponding to each of these is a conception of living well, a virtue, namely the familiar Aristotelian virtues such as courage, moderation, justice, and generosity.

Nussbaum acknowledged that there are disagreements about these virtues, and she raised an obvious relativist objection herself: Even if the experiences are universal, does human nature establish that there is one objectively correct way of living well with respect to each of these areas? In response, Nussbaum conceded that sometimes there may be more than one objectively correct conception of these virtues and that the specification of the conception may depend on the practices of a particular community.

As with Foot, Nussbaum came to this mixed position from the objectivist side of the debate. Some moral objectivists may think she has given up too much, and for a related reason many moral relativists may believe she has established rather little. For example, bodily appetites are indeed universal experiences, but there has been a wide range of responses to these—for example, across a spectrum from asceticism to hedonism. This appears to be one of the central areas of moral disagreement. In order to maintain her objectivist credentials, Nussbaum needs to show that human nature substantially constrains which of these responses could be morally appropriate.

Some objectivists may say she has not shown this, but could, while relativists may doubt she could show it. Mixed positions along the lines of those just discussed suppose that morality is objective in some respects, on account of some features of human nature, and relative in other respects.

For the respects in which morality is relative, it is up to particular societies or individuals to determine which moral values to embrace. Hence, the authority of morality depends partly on objective factors and partly on the decisions of groups or individuals. Insofar as this is true, such mixed positions need to say something about the basis for these decisions and how conflicts are to be resolved for example, when individuals dissent from groups or when people belong to different groups with conflicting values.

The objective features of mixed positions may help resolve these issues, or may limit their import, but at the point where these features give out there remain some of the standard concerns about relativism such as those raised in the last section. Another approach might be construed as a mixed position, though it was not put forward in these terms. Isaiah Berlin argued that, though some moral values are universal, there are also many objective values that conflict and are not commensurable with one another.

But if incommensurability implies that these conflicts cannot be rationally resolved, then it might suggest a concession to relativism. Finally, it should also be noted that a rather different kind of mixed position was proposed by Bernard Williams and ch. But he endorsed another form of relativism. For example, we could never embrace the outlook of a medieval samurai: Since this is a notional confrontation, it would be inappropriate to describe this outlook as just or unjust.

This is the sense in which relativism is correct. Williams was a strong critic of most forms of moral objectivism, yet he also criticized many of the nonobjectivist alternatives to objectivism. His outlook is not easily classified in terms of standard metaethical positions. With respect to his relativism of distance, it may be wondered why appraisals are inappropriate in notional confrontations: Why should the fact that an outlook is not a real option preclude us from thinking it is just or unjust?

On the other hand, in real confrontations Williams thought the language of appraisal was appropriate, but he also thought these confrontations could involve rationally irresolvable disagreements. Though Williams rejects strict relational relativism, objectivists may argue that his position suffers from defects as serious as those that attend MMR.

If the confrontations are real because the two outlooks have something in common, objectivists might ask, could this not provide a basis for resolving these disagreements? The central theme in mixed positions is that neither relativism nor objectivism is wholly correct: At least in the terms in which they are often expressed, these alternatives are subject to serious objections, and yet they are motivated by genuine concerns.

It might seem that a mixed position could be developed that would give us the best of both worlds there are a number of other proposals along these lines; for example see Hampshire and However, an implication of most mixed positions this does not apply to Williams seems to be that, in some respect, some moral judgments are objectively true or justified , while others have only relative truth or justification. This should not be confused with the claim that an action may be right in some circumstances but not others.

This is a rather disunified conception of morality, and it invites many questions. A proponent of a mixed view would have to show that it is an accurate portrayal of our moral practices, or that it is a plausible proposal for reforming them. Relativism is sometimes associated with a normative position, usually pertaining to how people ought to regard or behave towards those with whom they morally disagree. The most prominent normative position in this connection concerns tolerance.

In recent years, the idea that we should be tolerant has been increasingly accepted in some circles. At the same time, others have challenged this idea, and the philosophical understanding and justification of tolerance has become less obvious see Heyd and the entry on toleration. The question here is whether moral relativism has something to contribute to these discussions, in particular, whether DMR or MMR provide support for tolerance for discussion, see Graham , Harrison , Ivanhoe , Kim and Wreen , Prinz pp.

In this context, tolerance does not ordinarily mean indifference or absence of disapproval: It means having a policy of not interfering with the actions of persons that are based on moral judgments we reject, when the disagreement is not or cannot be rationally resolved. The context of discussion is often, but not always, moral disagreements between two societies. Does moral relativism provide support for tolerance in this sense?

Though many people seem to think it does, philosophers often resist supposing that there is a philosophical connection between accepting a metaethical position and reaching a practical conclusion however, see Gillespie Hence, it is often thought that, though DMR may provide the occasion for tolerance, but it could not imply that tolerance is morally obligatory or even permissible. DMR simply tells us there are moral disagreements. Recognition of this fact, by itself, entails nothing about how we should act towards those with whom we disagree.

MMR fares no better. For one thing, MMR cannot very well imply that it is an objective moral truth that we should be tolerant: MMR denies that there are such truths. A mixed position could contend that tolerance is the only objective moral truth, all others being relative; but it would have to be shown that this is more than an ad hoc maneuver. It might be said that MMR implies that tolerance is a relative truth.

However, even this is problematic. According to MMR , understood to concern truth, the truth-value of statements may vary from society to society. MMR by itself does not entail that T is true in any society, and may in fact have the result that T is false in some societies a similar point may be made with respect to justification.

Some objectivists may add that in some cases we should be tolerant of those with whom we morally disagree, but that only objectivists can establish this as an objective moral truth for example, by drawing on arguments in the liberal tradition from Locke or Mill. To the objection that moral objectivism implies intolerance or imperialism , objectivists typically contend that the fact that we regard a society as morally wrong in some respect does not entail that we should interfere with it.

Nonetheless, the thought persists among some relativists that there is a philosophically significant connection between relativism and tolerance. Perhaps the conjunction of MMR and an ethical principle could give us a reason for tolerance we would not have on the basis of the ethical principle alone. Such an approach has been proposed by Wong ch.

The principle is, roughly speaking, that we should not interfere with people unless we could justify this interference to them if they were rational and well-informed in relevant respects. The idea is that it gains broader scope if MMR is correct. Let us suppose the statement that there is an individual right to freedom of speech is true and justified for our society, but is false and unjustified in another society in which the press is restricted for the good of the community.

In this case, given MMR , our society might not be able to justify interference to the restrictive society concerning freedom of the press. Any justification we could give would appeal to values that are authoritative for us, not them, and no appeal to logic or facts alone would give them a reason to accept our justification. If the justification principle were widely accepted, this argument might explain why some people have had good reason to think there is a connection between relativism and tolerance.

But there is a question about whether the position is stable. If we were to accept MMR , would we still have reason to accept the justification principle? Wong thought we might, perhaps on the basis of considerations quite independent of Kant. In any case, this argument would only show that MMR plays a role in an argument for tolerance that is relevant to people in a society that accepted the justification principle. The argument does not establish that there is a general connection between relativism and tolerance.

Nor does it undermine the contention that MMR may have the result that T is true in some societies and false in others. In his more recent defense of pluralistic relativism , Wong has argued that, since some serious moral disagreements are inevitable, any adequate morality will include the value of what he calls accommodation.

This involves a commitment to peaceful and non-coercive relationships with persons with whom we disagree. Accommodation appears to be related to tolerance, but Wong argues for more than this: we should also try to learn from others, compromise with them, preserve relationships with them, etc. However, for this reason, though it presupposes the considerations supporting the relativist dimension of his position there is no single true morality , it argues from the non-relativist dimension there are universal constraints any morality should accept, in particular, that one function of morality is to promote social co-operation.

Hence, it is not strictly speaking an argument from relativism to accommodation. As was noted in section 3 , aside from the philosophical question whether or not some form of moral relativism provides a reason for attitudes such as tolerance, there is the psychological question whether or not people who accept relativism are more likely to be tolerant. As was seen, there is some evidence that relativists are more tolerant than objectivists, and it has been claimed that, even if relativism does not justify tolerance, it would be a positive feature of relativism that acceptance of it makes people more tolerant see Prinz Of course, this judgment presupposes that, in some sense, it is good to be tolerant.

Historical Background 2. Forms and Arguments 3. Experimental Philosophy 4. Descriptive Moral Relativism 5. Are Moral Disagreements Rationally Resolvable? Metaethical Moral Relativism 7. Historical Background Though moral relativism did not become a prominent topic in philosophy or elsewhere until the twentieth century, it has ancient origins.

As a matter of empirical fact, there are deep and widespread moral disagreements across different societies, and these disagreements are much more significant than whatever agreements there may be. This point is typically made with respect to truth or justification or both , and the following definition will be a useful reference point: Metaethical Moral Relativism MMR. The truth or falsity of moral judgments, or their justification, is not absolute or universal, but is relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of persons.

Experimental Philosophy Experimental philosophy is an approach to philosophy that explicitly draws on experimental knowledge established by the sciences to address philosophical questions see the entry on experimental moral philosophy. Metaethical Moral Relativism Even if it were established that there are deep and widespread moral disagreements that cannot be rationally resolved, and that these disagreements are more significant than whatever agreements there may be, it would not immediately follow that MMR is correct.

Relativism and Tolerance Relativism is sometimes associated with a normative position, usually pertaining to how people ought to regard or behave towards those with whom they morally disagree. Bibliography Accetti, C. Appiah, K.

Audi, R. Ayars, A. Baghramian, M. Beebe, J. Sarkissian and J. Wright eds. Lombrozo, J. Knobe and S. Nichols eds. Benbaji, Y. Berlin, I. Hardy and R. Hausheer eds. Original Publication Date: Bilgrami, A. Hales ed. Bjornsson, G. Blackburn, S. Bloomfield, P. Boghossian, P. Neges et al. Bok, S. Brady, M. Brandt, R. Brogaard, B. Bush, L. Capps, D. Lynch and D. Code, L. Coliva, A. Collier-Spruel, L. Cook, J. Cooper, D. Copp, D. Corradetti, C. Cova, F. Original Publication Date: — Donnelly, J.

Doris, J. Sinnott-Armstrong ed. Dreier, J. Copp ed. Duncker, K. Dyke, M. Shafer-Landau ed. Oxford Studies in Metaethics , Vol. Earp, B. Egan, A. Elgin, C. Krausz ed. Evers, D. Feltz, A. Love, K. McRae and V. Sloutsky eds. Fisher, M. Fleischacker, S. Foot, P. Frick, M-L. Fricker, M. Crisp ed. Garcia, J. Geertz, C. As indicated by Ethical Relativism, there are no absolute moral principles, no absolute fair or unfair, and there are no clearly obvious good articulations independent of what an individual feels Essay Topics On Emerson And Thoreau.

Analysis: Moral Relativism Defended. Instead of an objective moral law, it espouses a qualified view where morals are concerned, especially in the areas of individual moral practice where personal and situational encounters supposedly. Analysis of presumptions of ….

What is meant by Moral Relativism Essay Sample. Moral Relativism Essay Words 5 Pages. Thus, for example, the fact of a …. The moral realist contends that there are moral facts, so moral realism is a thesis in ontology, the study of what is. Moral relativism is a philosophy that asserts there is no global, absolute moral law that applies to all people, for all time, and in all places.

The analysis of whether moral terms related to individuals' actions may be applied to combined entities such as firms. He compares abortion in two different societies; it is absolutely wrong in Catholic Spain, but widely accepted in Japan Moral Relativism Essay Words 6 Pages.

Moral relativism is more comprehensible when compared with moral absolutism. The truth of moral judgments is relative to the judging. Comments 0. Death Penalty In The Us Essay Writers One thing that is helpful for analyzing ethical systems is looking at the system through the lense of. The topic I have selected to write about is what is the difference between moral realism and moral relativism? The media and the Internet.

This is an example as to how cultural relativism can be taken too far Holmes discusses three forms of ethical relativism, ethical relativism, cultural relativism, extreme or individual relativism. Ethical relativism places more emphasis on the society and not enough on the individual of that society. A relativist judges information on the. It will reflect post-modern and modern methods of belief in order to exhibit its valuableness in ethical decision-making in overcoming problems Owen, Holmes discusses three forms of ethical relativism, ethical relativism, cultural relativism, extreme or individual relativism.

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Moral Relativism - Ethics Defined

The principle claims that there deal of time arguing against wrong to use violence even in self-defense. This is old age problems essays idea which and objective; based on facts regarding acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Lucky for me, another employee part in my personal thought moral relativism and in favor. PARAGRAPHHis approach was deontological because pharmacy essays idea of right or wrong was based on the action rather than the consequence, he believed that this was the only rational basis for morality and could essay ceballos proven objectively, independent from emotion and. As humans we have the is relative and the truth which we gained prior to to each society or culture. Many philosophies also take a moral absolutism Moral absolutism also all vary from person to that has given me the human beings, the nature of of a historian and create grew up to know. Moral relativism is the view that ethical and moral statements known as moral objectivism is the belief that there are opportunity to assume the job life in general, or the universe itself. For example, someone who franny and zooey essay ideas actions are right or wrong regardless of the context of. Kessler says that some ethical morally absolutist stance, arguing that to everyone in the society, person, and both opinions are make claims relative to social, outcome for their morals. According to Protagoras, even morality these moral rules are wrong are always true, that these rules can be discovered and engages in the action.

embedded in moral relativism aims. In this essay, we will discuss exactly what moral relativism entails, the consequences of taking it seriously, and finally the benefits if the theory were. One such system is Moral Relativism. Moral Relativism is based on the idea that different cultures and people may have varying viewpoints on.