Ethical Relativity and Ethical Absolutis

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Ethical Relativity and Ethical Absolutism : 

Ethical Relativity and Ethical Absolutism Walter T. Stace

http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djublonskopf/Flatearthsociety.htm : 

http://www.alaska.net/~clund/e_djublonskopf/Flatearthsociety.htm What do you say to those who think the Earth is flat?

What if I say it is O.K. to Kill? : 

What if I say it is O.K. to Kill? Should we believe everyone who says what they are doing is O.K. just because they think it is?

Relativism : 

Relativism Ethical relativity is the thesis that there is no single moral standard which is equally applicable to all people at all times. There is no single code or standard, there are many.

Not Opinions, Facts : 

Not Opinions, Facts Relativists do not just mean people have different opinions about morals but that there is no single moral code. There is a difference between what people think and what is true. The relativist says there is no single truth.

Absolutists vs. Relativists : 

Absolutists vs. Relativists Absolutists think there is a single moral standard that is absolute and does not change, relativists think that there is no such standard. The relativist rejects the distinction between what is thought to be right and what is right – she says there is no difference.

The Argument for Relativism (from Variation): : 

The Argument for Relativism (from Variation): If there are different moral standards found everywhere none of these is the correct standard. There are different standards found everywhere. Therefore none of these standards is the correct standard.

Response: : 

Response: The second premise is false. Just because there are different standards does not mean that no standard is correct. All that follows from the fact that there are different standards is that people have different opinions regarding morality, whether or not these opinions are right is a different question.

Are you Sure the Earth is Round? : 

Are you Sure the Earth is Round? After all, people have different opinions about what is right in the physical sciences too, even about the shape of the earth.

The Argument for Relativism (from Ignorance): : 

The Argument for Relativism (from Ignorance): There is no basis for the authority of a universal moral code since we haven’t ever been able tell what its foundation is thus far. But who knows whether we will in the future? And its hard to prove that there is no such foundation.

The First Argument for Absolutism: : 

The First Argument for Absolutism: If relativism is right, many things we believe are false. We believe what many Germans did under Hitler did was wrong, that some cultural rules are better than others (e.g. we should not eat people).

Can Everyone Really be Right? : 

Can Everyone Really be Right? Without a universal standard we can not compare cultures or criticize their members.

Standards : 

Standards We often do make comparisons and think they are meaningful: “Our moral standard is a better standard than the Nazi standard” seems true. And we don’t think this is just egotistical because our standards are ours.

Progress : 

Progress We can not say we have made moral progress. We can not say that it is a good thing that people do not own slaves in the US anymore if relativism is true. All we could say is it is good that current citizens do not to own slaves, but we would also have to say it was good that past citizens owned slaves!

The Second Argument for Absolutism: : 

The Second Argument for Absolutism: If relativism is true we can not even make comparisons between individuals in the same group. What is the group that we are evaluating if everyone has different standards? How can we tell what the norms of a community are even if we can define a group?

Where to Draw the Line? : 

Where to Draw the Line? Why draw the line for relativism at culture? Maybe families or individuals have their own standards. If this is right, we can not even say that Mother Theresa was a better person than Hitler.

In-group Variation: : 

In-group Variation: We probably can not even avoid this problem by defining groups by their adherence to a common standard. Opinions within all groups differ, whose is correct? (If one says the majority is right then anyone who seems better than the majority is actually worse!)

Consequences of Accepting Relativism: : 

Consequences of Accepting Relativism: Besides, if relativism is right, and we accept that there is no definitive standard -- that it is all just taste, why try to work harder at being a better person? It seems that we have reason to try to be better, though.

Exercise: : 

Exercise: Find someone who thinks relativism is correct and have a friendly debate with them. Then find someone who thinks absolutism is right and have a debate with them too. Did you come up with any new arguments or hear any new ones? What did you conclude and why?

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