Defining and understanding moral relativism philosophy essay

The idea that norms and values are born out of conventions can be traced back to the Greek historian Herodotus c.

Defining and understanding moral relativism philosophy essay

Ancient Greece In the view of most people throughout history, moral questions have objectively correct answers. There are obvious moral truths just as there are obvious facts about the world.

Cowardice is a bad quality. A man should not have sex with his mother. Such statements would be viewed as obviously and objectively true, no more open to dispute than the claim that seawater is salty. This assumption was first challenged in fifth century B. The idea was that moral beliefs and practices are bound up with customs and conventions, and these vary greatly between societies.

The Greeks said nothing could induce them to do this. The Callatiae were horrified at the suggestion. The sophists—notably Protagoras, Gorgias, and some of their followers—were also associated with relativistic thinking.

As itinerant intellectuals and teachers, the sophists were cosmopolitan, impressed by and prompted to reflect upon the diversity in religions, political systems, laws, manners, and tastes they encountered in different societies. So, relativistic thinking seems to have been in the air at the time.

Strictly speaking, it is a form of moral nihilism rather than moral relativism, but in rejecting the whole idea of objective moral truth it clears the ground for relativism. Even though moral relativism makes its first appearance in ancient times, it hardly flourished.

Plato vigorously defended the idea of an objective moral order linked to a transcendent reality while Aristotle sought to ground morality on objective facts about human nature and well-being.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

A few centuries later, Sextus Empiricus appears to have embraced a form of moral relativism, partly on the basis of the diversity of laws and conventions, and partly as a consequence of his Pyrrhonian skepticism that sought to eschew dogmatism.

But Hellenistic skepticism gave way to philosophy informed by Christianity, and moral relativism effectively became dormant and remained so throughout the period of Christian hegemony in Europe. Relativism thus ceased to be an option until the advent of modernity.

In the 17th century, Hobbes argued for a social contract view of morality that sees moral rules, like laws, as something human beings agree upon in order to make social living possible.

Defining and understanding moral relativism philosophy essay

An implication of this view is that moral tenets are not right or wrong according to whether they correspond to some transcendent blueprint; rather, they should be appraised pragmatically according to how well they serve their purpose. Hume, like Montaigne, was heavily influenced by ancient skepticism, and this colors his view of morality.

His argument, that prescriptions saying how we should act cannot be logically derived from factual claims about the way things are, raised doubts about the possibility of proving the correctness of any particular moral point of view.

Preliminaries

So, too, did his insistence that morality is based ultimately on feelings rather than on reason. Hume was not a relativist, but his arguments helped support elements of relativism. With the remarkable progress of science in the 19th and 20th centuries, the fact-value distinction became entrenched in mainstream philosophy and social science.

Science came to be seen as offering value-neutral descriptions of an independently existing reality; moral claims, by contrast, came to be viewed by many as mere expressions of emotional attitudes. This view of morality suggests that all moral outlooks are on the same logical plane, with none capable of being proved correct or superior to all the rest.

According to one interpretation, Marx holds that there is no objectively true moral system, only interest-serving ideologies that use moral language.

But Marx wrote little about ethics, so it is hard to pin down his philosophical views about the nature of morality and the status of moral claims.

Nietzsche, on the other hand, wrote extensively and influentially about morality. Scholars disagree about whether he should be classified as a relativist, but his thought certainly has a pronounced relativistic thrust.

Moral relativism - Wikipedia

It is true that Nietzsche likes to rank moralities according to whether they are expressions of strength or weakness, health or sickness; but he does not insist that the criteria of rank he favors constitute an objectively privileged vantage point from which different moralities can be appraised.

These philosophical ideas prepared the ground for moral relativism mainly by raising doubts about the possibility of demonstrating that any particular moral code is objectively correct. But anthropological research in the 19th and 20th centuries also encouraged relativism.

Indeed, many of its leading contemporary champions from Franz Boas to Clifford Gertz have been anthropologists. One of the first to argue at length for moral relativism was William Sumner. To those living within that society, the concept of moral rightness can only mean conformity to the local mores.

Sumner acknowledges that if members of a culture generalize its mores into abstract principles, they will probably regard these as correct in an absolute sense. This may even be psychologically unavoidable. But it is not philosophically legitimate; the mores themselves cannot be an object of moral appraisal since there is no higher tribunal to which appeals can be made.Moral Relativism.

Moral relativism is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others. It has often been associated with other claims about morality: notably, the thesis that different cultures often exhibit radically different moral.

The morality of transformational leadership has been sharply questioned, particularly by libertarians, “grass roots” theorists, and organizational development consultants. Moral Relativism. Moral relativism is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.

It has often been associated with other claims about morality: notably, the thesis that different cultures often exhibit radically different moral.

Defining And Understanding Moral Relativism Philosophy Essay There are several benefits of Moral Relativism, one of which is that it can promote tolerance of different moral standards.

Ethical relativism is the philosophy that morality is relative to the norms of ones culture or community. In other words, whether an action is right or wrong depends on the moral norms of 4/4(1). Toleration. The heart of tolerance is self-control.

When we tolerate an activity, we resist our urge to forcefully prohibit the expression of activities that we find unpleasant.

Postmodernism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)