Moral Absolutism and Relativism Revision/Notes 2

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Absolutism and Relativism
Absolutism:
Absolutism is making normative ethical decisions based on objective rules. It maintains that some
things are always right and some things are always wrong. They are fixed for all time, places and
people.
A common example of Absolutism is Kantian Ethics.
Advantages of Absolutism
It allows moral rules to be evaluated critically.
It is fair as people are treated the same as the rules are the same for everyone.
If a moral rule is right, then there would be no need to have different rules for different people
because the absolute rules are universal.
Disadvantages of Absolutism
Sometimes it is not appropriate to treat people the same due to circumstances that arise due
to situations.
Life is not simply 'black and white' and as this is the case, it is simply not right to make
everyone live by the same rules.
Relativism:
Relativism says that nothing is intrinsically right or wrong.
It is popular in the present day because there is a belief that everyone should be tolerant towards
others' beliefs and views this idea for freedom of speech implies that there are no `real' absolute
truths.
Some believe that all human circumstances are different and therefore there is a need to have
different moral rules for people.
Cultural Relativism
Says that different countries or even areas within a country have different values, for
example, Muslims expect women to cover up (at least some of) their bodies.
It affirms the idea 'when in Rome do as the Romans do'.
It allows there to be variety in different cultures.

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However, as there are no overriding standard to compare cultures to, no one can say that one
culture is better than another because of what they believe this could be either an advantage
or a disadvantage.
Moral truths are no more than subjective feelings about behaviour which can therefore never
achieve the status of fact as they are the result of ways of life and opinions which vary from
culture to culture or person to person depending on circumstances.…read more

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Absolutists can appear to be intolerant to views of others, for example, if they are against cruelty of
animals, they would be against the Islamic practice of sacrificing lambs, but Relativists would be able
to see the religious significance and the importance of that practice to the Islamic community and will
therefore not condemn it.…read more

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