Arenas, Hazel Joy B.
MAS70 – A1
23 January 2018
Moral relativism is a theory that standards an individual or a group has about what is right and wrong or good and evil are based on a person’s preference and culture, therefore, an individual has the right to determine his position of it for himself. It is the opposite of moral absolutism which supports a universal or absolute set of moral standards that states that particular actions are intrinsically right or wrong while relativism believes that actions are relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. This theory says that “You decide what’s right for you, and I’ll decide what’s right for me.”, “It’s true for me if I believe it.”, and “Who am I to judge?”.
It all started from 5th century Greece until one of the first to come up with a detailed theory of Moral Relativism was the Finnish philosopher and anthropologist Edward Westermarck (1862 – 1939) presenting that all moral ideas are subjective judgments that reflect one’s upbringing. The differences in beliefs among societies provides the evidence of the lack of any innate, intuitive power and of any universal or absolute beliefs.
Moral relativism has its characteristics, a descriptive moral relativism says moral standards are based on an individual’s own culture and environmental influences of his society while meta-ethical moral relativism states that there are no objective bases for a culture’s moral values to be privileged over another, whereas adheres that all societies should accept each other’s views about morality.
Relative morality is now being embraced by the 21st century or the modern world as there has been an appreciation for cultural diversity, declining importance of religion in modernized societies, critical attitudes for colonialism and given the difficulty of proving value judgments the way one proves factual claims. It might sound good at first but I disagree with moral relativism because it can be logically contradicting. Moral relativism states that “all things are relative” and if all things are relative then the statement would be true. Since a truth is an absolute, then not all things are relative; and the statement supports absolutism.
It is self-defeating in and of itself because even if it promotes tolerance, it doesn’t tolerate intolerance or absolutism. S. Michael Houdmann comments, “The very fact that we should tolerate people (even when we disagree) is based on the absolute moral rule that we should always treat people fairly—but that is absolutism again! In fact, without universal moral principles, there can be no goodness.”,
In spite of the fact that moral standards in relativism are in accordance to their culture, it becomes confusing to an individual if he should align himself to his cultural groupings when he has he has the right to choose his own way. There are no grounded, permanent standards to turn to. Even when a relativist experiences or feels an unfair ethical treatment, he can’t instantly reject or betray his position on relativistic view on morality or else he becomes a moral absolutist. For an instance, if a thief puts a gun to a store owner’s head, despite the owner resistance and pleadings for his life, it won’t matter because there are no absolute moral standards. All are equally valid and no one’s opinion of right and wrong or good and evil is better than any other. A murder or a rapist is free of guilt and can never be judged wrong as long as it is his standard and it is what he wishes to do. All things are relative.
Fixed moral standards are no longer the foundation of the laws of society when moral relativism takes control. These laws will be a matter of opinion based on subjective judgments. Since everything is relative therefore even if society has its claims on morality, anyone can do anything he wants and be a law unto himself which will later lead to conflict, chaos or anarchy. There won’t be bearings or condemnations for actions. There won’t be an authority who has firm criteria he can run to and be justified. He cannot argue or defend himself against another person as it would mean imposing his set of moral values.
The intrinsic moral worth of an individual the absolute moral standards encourage is what makes a society thrive. There may be aspects of a culture that can be embraced and celebrated, there are also aspects that should be abandoned. The common ground of a society would always be to maintain and protect what’s good and excellent in the world.
Allaboutphilosphy.org. “Moral Relativism”
Houdmann, Michael S. “What is Moral Relativism?” 2014,
Mastin, Luke. “Moral Relativism – By Branch / Doctrine – The Basics of Philosophy.” 2008,
McCombs School of Business. “Moral Relativism – Ethics Unwrapped”
Schumacher, Robin. “What is Moral Relativism?”
Van Der Breggen, Hendrick. “Apologia.” 15 January 2009,
Wikipedia. “Moral Relativism”