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Aspects of Moral Relativism

Moral relativism is a philosophical position according to which moral or ethical provisions do not, in fact, reflect universal moral truths. However, this kind of relativism does not deny the truth – it merely affirms its relativity. The adepts of moral relativism state that humans are not omniscient, and history is contains examples of people and societies acting on behalf of infallible truth. This truth was more than mistaken later, therefore, human society must be very careful about important ethical decisions on the alleged absolute requirement. The absolutes also tend to discourage experimentation and rule out possible areas of research leading to progress in many areas, as well as stifle the human spirit and the search for meaning. Relativists see moral values ​​that apply only to certain cultural boundaries or within the context of individual preferences. This draws similarities to ethical pluralism, asserting the existence of multiple values ​​that can be equally correct and fundamental but still be in conflict with each other. It is clear that moral relativism presents a situation with a valid rationale for two different theses, each of which has its own space of existence.

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An extreme relativistic position might suggest that a moral or ethical judgment of the actions of another person or group does not make sense at all due to the inability to objectively measure these actions. Stellino and Gori (2018) claim that “no contradiction is involved in claiming that ‘moral claims are true only relative to some standard or framework’ since this is not itself a moral claim” (p. 156). Usually, moral relativism contradicts any types of moral realism that preserve the existence of invariant moral facts that can be known and appreciated, whether through some verification process or through intuition. Sharp supports this claim, stating that “since there are no limits on which agreements groups could reach, anything is permitted, given the right background agreement” (p. 271). However, the equalization of “morality” and “morals” in moral relativism pushes towards the typical for the supporters of the cultural relativity of morality position. Its context reduces the very possibility of distinguishing between “moral” and “non-moral/immoral” to the difference between “accepted here-and-now” and “unaccepted”. This leads to the substitution of morality for a custom, a convention somewhat similar to the substitution by the law.


Gori, P., & Stellino, P. (2018). Moral Relativism and Perspectival Values. In Marques António & S. Sàágua (Eds.), Essays on values and practical rationality – ethical and aesthetical dimensions (pp. 155–174). essay, Peter Lang.

Sharp, D. (2019). Moral Relativism and the Idea of Morality. In C. Kanzian, S. Kletzl, J. Mitterer, & K. Neges (Eds.), Realism – Relativism – Constructivism Proceedings of the 38th International Wittgenstein Symposium in Kirchberg (pp. 271–274). essay, De Gruyter.

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