moral relativism and absolutism


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Moral absolutism and moral relativism
What is ethical relativism?
There are no universally valid principles
All principles are related to a culture or age
No such things as good in itself
Left no writings
Taught Plato
Argues that all humans share a common, innate understanding of what is morally good
Moral knowledge came from the highest of the forms- good.
There are objective and universal moral truths
Universal truths can be discovered
Rejected Plato's idea of the world of forms
Understanding and wisdom can be found in the world
Find out how to be virtuous by looking at virtuous people
Cultural relativism
Because of the diversity across and within cultures there can be no true morality
For relativists such differences e.g. stoning in some cultures, and not in others present no
Rules of conduct differ from place to place
There is nothing right or wrong universally
What is right or wrong depends upon the nature of the society
No one can judge other cultures because different cultures have different values
No universal moral principles valid for everyone at all times
Reasons for relativism
Decline of religious authority
Better understanding of other cultures
Development of competing theories
Means more people have a choice to which beliefs they prefer
Weaknesses of relativism
There can be no evaluation of practices in cultures
Doesn't allow societies to progress
Seems to give reason for behaving morally except to be socially acceptable
Ethical beliefs can change when challenged
Situation ethics
Joseph fletcher developed situation ethics in the 1960s
He argued that each situations is different and absolute rules are too demanding and
Christians should base their decisions on one single rule, the rule of agape
This love is not merely an emotion but involves doing what is best for the other person,
The right choice is the most loving and it will depend on the situation.
The theory depends on four working principals and six fundamental primciples
The four working principles
1. Pragmatism- what you propose must work in practice
2. Relativism- words like `always' `never' `absolute' are rejected. There are no fixed rules

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Positivism- a value judgement needs to be made, giving the first place to love
4. Personalism- people are put in first place, morality is personal and not centred on laws.
The six fundamental principles
1. Love (agape) is the only absolute
2. This love is self-giving which seeks the best interests of others
3. Justice will follow from love because justice is love distributed
4. Love has no favourites and does not give those who like preferential treatment
5.…read more


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