What aspects of ethical relativism do you identify and agree with? What aspects do you disagree with? Give a personal example that illustrates your stance on ethical relativism, describing how you made a moral decision in an ethical dilemma. Include at least two references to support your thoughts.
Post a 500-word paper to the
True moral beliefs correspond to and correctly represent something objective in reality. They are valid in that they are descriptive of something discovered in the nature of things. They are not subjective creations but adequate and reliable discoveries of something independent of the minds that discover them. They are true whether anyone believes them or not. Moral reality is what it is whether anyone knows what it is or not in the same sense that the law of gravitation was in operation before the law thereunto appertaining was formulated by human beings. Our present beliefs may be wrong, but further thought and insight may lead to better knowledge. Some moral beliefs are right and true, i. e., put us in touch with reality. Contrary beliefs are wrong and false, i. e., they misrepresent the way things really are. Some beliefs are so obvious that we are justified in saying that they are true, e. g., torturing babies for the fun of it is wrong. About others we may be unsure, but we can be certain that there is a truth objective to us. We can pronounce rival views wrong in accordance with the certainty with which we hold them. With regard to at least some moral questions, relativism can be overcome or transcended. Reason and/or divine revelation can unite us with what is the case in the nature of things. Two points, then, are essential to this position: 1. an objective moral order exists, and 2. on some crucial moral issues we can have reliable or even certain knowledge about what the objective order obligates us to do.
Free ethical issue papers, essays, and research papers.
5. In cases of genuine ambiguity, of course, two courses of action might be equally valid in the sense that both will achieve equivalent mixtures of good and evil, there being no preferable third course of action available. For example, in a particular instance getting a divorce or staying married may result in equal amounts of harm and good, though perhaps distributed in different ways. Here validity is judged by the same moral principles representing one particular outlook. In a wider context, a pluralism of values must be acknowledged that does not allow a simple harmony among them or permit the realization of them all simultaneously in absolute fashion. They can be in conflict. Consider liberty and equality, freedom and order, justice and mercy, and unity and diversity, for example. The values in each of these pairs objectively considered constrain and relativise each other. Sometimes, at least, to get more of one, we have to have less of the other.
My particular interest in this subject is whether relativism, which is a belief about beliefs, is an adequate or workable foundation for ethics. Does relativism prevent us from discerning and affirming those principles most productive of justice and happiness for all? Can it sustain moral passion, courage, and commitment to live by the highest and best we know? Those who abhor relativism maintain that valid moral judgments mirror the objective structure of reality. Right and wrong are grounded in natural law or the will of God or some other pattern in the very nature of things. Otherwise all sorts of dire consequences follow. Not all criticisms assume the same definition or apply to every type of relativism. Some of the typical alleged defects can be listed. If moral claims reflect time and place rather than grasp universal truths, ethics rests on insecure foundations. If moral standards are nothing more than a collection of disparate opinions, they cannot have a binding or necessary claim on our allegiance. If moral judgments are merely subjective preferences or expressions of feeling, no appeal can be made to anything beyond that. Objective judgments about right and wrong are undercut. Meaningful debates about morality are impossible since there is no standard beyond the opinion of the disputants to serve as a basis for judgment. If moral values are relative to a particular person or group and not universal principles grounded in reality itself, no basis exists for calling people to a higher standard than the one they now have. Hope for moral progress is undermined. In fact, the very concept of progress is rendered meaningless. Unless moral values are anchored to reality, mirror something present in the nature of things, we cannot say that some moral views are inferior to others. Two contrary views could be equally valid, since valid only means that somebody prefers it. Worst of all, relativism ultimately is the equivalent of saying that might makes right since those who have effective influence or the power of coercion determine standards of behavior, beyond which no legitimate appeal can be made.