Summary - Relativism

Presented by:
Nathan Bennett
Terri Small
PJ White
 No
single moral standard applies equally to
all people
 There are many codes and standards
 Morality is relative to the norms of one’s
 There
is a single moral standard that does
not change; it is absolute
 Basic and fundamental ethical principles are
true regardless of time, condition, or
 “What
is absolutely true is always correct,
everywhere, all the time, under any
condition. An entity’s ability to discern these
things is irrelevant to that state of truth.”
 –Steven Robiner
 The
first clear statement of relativism comes
with the Sophist Protagoras, as quoted by
"The way things appear to me, in that way
they exist for me; and the way things
appears to you, in that way they exist for
 …moral
values are relative to cultures and
there is no way of showing that the values of
one culture are better than those of another.
American Anthropological Association – 1947
 Social
scientists who devoted considerable
attention to the moralities of different
Edward Westermarck (1906-8 and 1932)
Richard B. Brandt (1954)
John Ladd (1957)
 Many
religions have morally absolutist
their system of morality is derived from the
commands of a god.
 It
would mean that even the most outrageous
practices, are “right” if they are
countenanced by the standards of the
relevant society.
 Deprives
us of any means of raising moral
objections against social customs, provided
that those customs are approved by the
codes of the societies in which they exist.
 To
claim that there is no legitimate way to
judge a society’s practices “from the
outside,” critics reply that we can always ask
whether a particular cultural practice works
to the advantage or disadvantage of the
people within the culture.
 If
every cultural system is valid, then none is
better or worse compared to another cultural
belief in absolute "right and wrong" can
potentially be used to justify any number of
acts that might generally be considered to be
Is it ethical or moral
to kill someone or
assist the suicide of
someone who is old or
 The
killing someone who
was ill or old could
be a morally sound
 The
Violation of:
 fundamental
human right to life
 Law of one’s god
 In
some societies, killing one's parents after
they reached a certain age is common
the belief that people were better off in the
afterlife if they entered it while still physically
active and vigorous.
Some Hindus say that by helping to end a
painful life a person is performing a good deed
and so fulfilling their moral obligations.“
 "The
equality-of-human-life ethic requires
that each of us be considered of equal
inherent moral worth, and it makes the
preservation and protection of human life
society's first priority.Wesley Smith, JD
Questions to ponder
 How
“right” do you think it is to have one
moral standard applicable to all people?
 Is
it acceptable for a person to perform an
action deemed acceptable within their
culture, while residing in a culture with
different moral belief (i.e. female genital
mutilation, wife beating, segregation of
 If
you were forced to move to a different
country would you follow their cultural
practices even if they were against your
personal ethical and moral beliefs, or would
you rather die standing up for what you
believe in?

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