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How might a moral relativist respond to the claim that people should always tell the truth?

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Introduction

How might a moral relativist respond to the claim that people should always tell the truth? When the word "moral" is looked up in a dictionary, it gives the following definition - concerned with right or wrong conduct, a moral lesson or principle, a person's moral habits. Moral relativism is along the same lines, as moral relativism is the theory that morality, or standards of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore become a matter of individual choice. You decide what's right for you, and I'll decide what's right for me. Moral relativism says, "It's true for me, if I believe it." Moral relativism is strongly linked and related to meta-ethics. Meta-ethics has produced a large number of different theories that have helped to find and understand the meaning and function of ethical terms like 'good' and 'bad'. These are very usefully classified under three general headings: 1) Ethical Naturalism; 2) Intuitionism; and 3 Emotivism. The ethical naturalism theory teaches that all ethical statements can be translated into non-ethical ones. ...read more.

Middle

This definition makes the question, 'I know a banana is a fruit, but is it yellow?' pointless because the first part of the sentence has already supplied the answer to the question. It is what G E Moore calls a 'closed question'. Moore concludes that that a definition is correct when the question asked is closed and incorrect when the question is open. Asking an open question, in other words, means that the two expressions being used do not mean the same thing. Therefore, G E Moore is teaching ethical non-naturalism / intuitionism. Ethical non-naturalism is G E Moore's own moral theory. If ethical language can ever be reduced to factual statements, then it can never be regarded as true or false on the basis of observable evidence. Does this mean that ethical statements can never be considered true or false? Moore denies this. We do process another method of verification, in which we decide whether an ethical proposition is true or false through a process of moral intuition. ...read more.

Conclusion

I live in a world of children where "truth" is what we recall instinctively. So, if I am being threatened I say what I think I need to say to remove the threat. If I am asked if I believe in Father Christmas - I do, because I know no different from what my parents told me. So, I think I always tell the truth. Last year I asked my Dad if Mum was dying, he said no. But she did. Last year I asked my Dad if my Mum was dying, he said yes. And she did. In summary, a Moral relativist would answer in the context of his or her own culture and experience. I think that there is more to life than just truth and a Moral relativist would have to think about the context of the question as much as the definition of truth. So, I think the answer would be "it depends". Strengths - there is a lot of support for a point of view from the society because judgements reflect the values of the community. Weaknesses, a corrupt society could lead to corrupt values, which may ultimately not be sustainable in the wider world. ...read more.

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