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Critical Analysis Of Ethical Relativism

1376 words - 6 pages

When it comes to moral dilemmas between cultures, there is a grey area that can sometimes make it difficult to resolve issues surrounding the dilemma. What is morality? How is it possible to know what is morally correct when cultures differ so vastly? To answer these questions, and many more regarding the moral dilemmas in the world, there are theories that have been developed to resolve them. One example is known as Ethical Relativism. Ethical Relativism has been developed on the basis that there is no common set of values that can apply to everyone, as there are an infinite number of cultures that exist and clash with each other. Morality is extremely relative, so the best way to solve a moral dilemma is by analysing the conditions of the specific culture to which it applies. In this paper, I will be discussing and analysing Ethical Relativism and the ways it can be applied to moral issues.
To truly understand the meaning of the the term Ethical Relativism, one must first break down the word itself. The first thing I asked myself was, “what is considered ethical?” Everyone has a set of morals or values that they have shaped for themselves, and it is these principles that guide our perception of how we view something as right or wrong. It is important to remember that what we personally perceive as ‘ethical’ can differ entirely from how another person views it. This is a factor when applying Ethical Relativism. The word ‘relative’ is an adjective used to describe something that is not absolute or independent. It is said that “pure relativism claims that there are no universal moral standards. One can distinguish this extreme position from a principle of moral ‘relativity’ that refers to the way some conditional features of a moral act have a bearing on the way we ought to evaluate it” (Vacek 15). Putting these two together, you can say that Ethical Relativism refers to the view that there is no one true set of values that can be applied to everyone.
Ethical Relativism is necessary when dealing with moral dilemmas because morality is so subjective as a result of all the different types of cultures that exist. “Since people have different conceptions of what constitutes right action, they will identify different behaviour as moral and thus identify different moral traits” (Welch 516). It is not logical to have a set list of specific moral guidelines for every person in the world to follow because cultures clash and people grow up with different sets of moral values. Therefore, there are many moralities as opposed to just one universal morality and because of this, the relativist view is very tolerant. We cannot judge anyone outside of our own culture because standards vary between cultures.
The other end of the moral spectrum would then be Absolutism. An absolutist believes that absolutely everyone should follow one set of moral guidelines when determining right from wrong. This is the opposite of what a relativist would think. Lets say we...

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