• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What is meant by relativism, and explain the strengths and weaknesses of the point of view compared with absolutism.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

What is meant by relativism, and explain the strengths and weaknesses of the point of view compared with absolutism. Relativism is a fairly modern perspective of ethics, although Greek philosophers dabbled in it. It follows the belief that nothing is intrinsically right or wrong, thus each situation that we encounter merits a decision on the morality of our actions, for the actions in themselves are not morally right or wrong. The determinants of morality in relativism are far more complex. A relativist would argue that to judge the morality of actions in any given situation, we must look into the culture of those involved, we must look at the people involved, what they believe is right and wrong, and so-forth. Relativists believe that we can only know what is right or wrong by relating a given situation to others. Protagoras of Abdera was one of several fifth century Greek thinkers, collectively known as the Older Sophists, a group of travelling teachers or intellectuals who were experts in rhetoric and related subjects. ...read more.

Middle

It can also be criticised as the underlying principles in all societies are extremely similar, and whilst we may act on them differently; the practice of killing one's parents when they reach a certain age may be seen as cruel in Britain, but in Viking societies it was seen as helping them reach the afterlife; in both societies the action taken would be based on the underlying principle of loving and caring for your parents. Absolutism is precisely the opposite; an absolutist would argue that actions are intrinsically right or wrong in themselves, and their morality is fixed in all cultures, societies, all times and for all people. Hence an absolutist would not accept that in one culture it is deemed "morally acceptable" to carry out capital punishment, and in another it has been banned for moral reasons; an absolutist would accept one of the two points of view as the "moral" action, and dismiss the other as wrong. "Absolutists believe that the moral quality of an act is inherent in the quality of the act itself" (Jenkins). ...read more.

Conclusion

Also it seems that relativism is more of an excuse to avoid conflict than encourage moral behaviour. It is inconceivable that even the strongest believers of relativism would accept the opinion of their mother's murderer that it was a moral and just decision to that they made to kill her. Absolutism simply sets guidelines, and although a totalitarian absolutist rule of the world would be disastrous, the fact that we can accept differences in culture because of a similar basic moral foundation to their beliefs, (thou shalt not kill etc...). It would be impossible to maintain a society based on individual relativism, as rapists would be let rampant provided they believed in what they were doing, and murderers would be let off the hook provided they were angry enough/ drunk enough at the time of the murder to believe that their actions were moral. Absolutism is the only way to run a society successfully, and the only way to help with human rights in other countries. Luke Hodgkinson J6 LAK ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Ethics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Ethics essays

  1. Natural Law and absolutism

    Aquinas has based his theory on his experience of the world, not everyone's. What is Natural? Aquinas contradicts himself when he says that all humans should reproduce, as he himself was celibate. Many other people have been celibate, for example Mother Teresa; could somebody say that she did wrong?

  2. Assess The Strengths / Weaknesses Of Virtue Ethics

    Just because someone follows rules does not mean he is a good person. Good people act from proper motives and they desire the good life. But theories like utilitarianism tell us next to nothing about how to form these motives and desires.

  1. How Plausible is Cultural Relativism

    For example, slavery was morally acceptable to most ancient Greeks but is not to most Europeans today. In other words, what was considered right for ancient Greeks would be wrong for today's Europeans and this is applicable to numerous other examples.

  2. Famine, Affluence and Morality - Peter Singer.

    has enough money to buy one bowl of food, or you can ask yourself why the political and social system in Bengal is not working as well as ours does. I think that his hypothetical thought experiments, for example the child drowning in the pond, are misleading and irrelevant to the real problem that he is discussing.

  1. Utilitarianism (Weaknesses and strengths)

    those affected by an action, that action is right if it brings pleasure (or prevents pain), and wrong if it brings pain (or prevents pleasure.) To assess the quantity of pain and pleasure Bentham introduced the hedonic calculus. He proposed an idea that human pleasures and pains are measurable, and

  2. A classmate has cheated. You have seen him/her. Discuss the several elements from a ...

    Ethics is more about the theoretical concept which studies the moral principles and rules of conducts. However, even moral does not tell directly what is right and what is wrong. It provides a path on guiding what constitutes right and wrong conducts.

  1. Are Moral Values Objective Or Subjective?

    We are born from our parents and we are as a result not likely to have completely private moral thoughts, and therefore we are not private but public individuals, e.g. If there is an old woman being mugged by a thief, and you decided not to intervene because you felt

  2. What is utilitarianism? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the theory?

    This view can be summed up in the utility principle. This principle states that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its "utility" or usefulness. Bentham's hedonic calculus presents us with all sorts of problems when we examine what it attempts to do.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work