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Moral Relativism

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A) Explain the main characteristics of Moral Relativism. The theory of Moral Relativism suggests that no principle or value is completely right or wrong; it depends on the circumstances such as the particular society in which one lives in. This proves to be a problem when discovering the actual truth as people begin to think that the truth relies on who maintains it or that the only truth is their own. This can lead to truth having no significance because everything depends on the society to which one belongs to. This ideology originates from Ancient Greece at the time of Homer (8th century BCE). People within Greek society began to come across different ideas if what it meant to be moral. They questioned their own absolutist ideals, resulting in the discussions of the Sophists, a group of wise men, who disputed that all morality was relative - what was right and wrong was different within every society. A Greek philosopher, Protagoras proposes that people's main focus in life was to just get on with it; he says "Man is the measure of all things". ...read more.


Hobbes indicates that right or wrong is determined by the need for people to control their naturally selfish desires and to work for the interest and well-being of the group. He also points out that right and wrong are influenced by what is needed to minimise conflict and promote survival. John Leslie Mackie, an Australian philosopher wrote a book called "Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong". In his book, Mackie articulates that our moral beliefs do not shape the societies we live; rather our morality is shaped by society. He goes on to suggest that people want to believe morality has an objective truth, but that this is based on the psychological need to try and find an objective reality to base our views on and to give us confidence. However, there is no valid way of proving which moral view or belief is better as moral relativism requires us to be non-judgemental. Mackie concludes by saying that there is no real ultimate standard of right or wrong, which is a common relativist view. ...read more.


Another criticism suggests an important point, the Relativist approach is to accept and tolerate other people's intolerant system. Respecting other people's beliefs is difficult when they believe that the oppression of women is correct, for example. Some criticisms highlight that according to Relativists there is nothing wrong with slavery, torture or human sacrifice, if that is what a society practises then so be it. Additionally, Relativism gives little reason for behaving morally except to be socially accepted. There are several other flaws to the Relativist theory. For example, some statements are truly absolute, "It is wrong to torture innocent people". Just because cultures vary, it does not mean there is 'no' objective good. Along with this, ethical beliefs can change when they are challenged, primitive practises do discontinue. Moral relativism, because of its open-minded implications for ethics, is a matter of great importance; what we think about moral relativism matters. This is a situation where philosophy has a practical impact on society as a whole. It is important that the theory, and its consequences, are more widely understood in order to enforce true morality. ...read more.

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