• 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. Explain Virtue ethics - its strengths and weaknesses?

    But in that case on person's virtue may be another's vice, and one person vice in one set of circumstances may be another's virtue.

  1. Discuss whether moral judgments are subjective or objective

    However this raised may objections - it was suggested that many that there is a distinction between 'higher' and lower' pleasures. Higher pleasures were defined as literature, art and music, activities that elevated the mind whilst lower pleasures were thought to be the indulgences in drinking and gambling.

  2. Are Moral Values Objective Or Subjective?

    if they are born with an instinct for example to not kill, maybe they are not able to express themselves at such a young age.

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

    Moore in his book Principia Ethica (1903). In his theory of naturalistic fallacy he claims that Mill's idea is based on something being desirable. He believes that Mill defines desirable as "what it is good to desire." These desires could be bad as well as good.

  2. Famine, Affluence and Morality - Peter Singer.

    Nowadays the country is ruled with an iron fist, and the rights of individual Bangladeshis, including the right to own property, are denied. Wealth cannot be accumulated in Bangladesh because those who would create it know that it will be taken from them by force.

  1. Assess The Strengths / Weaknesses Of Virtue Ethics

    There are still two other ways that the virtue theorist might try to determine what the virtues are.

  2. Christian Aid - A Charity Helping Poverty

    For example, in Ghana an organisation called SEND is helping people to find out more about their country's debt and how they can make sure any funds from debt cancellation are spent wisely. Christian Aid's main focal point is now to rewrite the international rules and practices that govern the

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