The notions of moral and cultural relativism have been thoroughly investigated by most famous thinkers from ancient period; it is interesting to note that the principal difference between them lies in human beliefs based on cultural or moral truths and propositions; the paper will be focused on the analysis of relativism expression disclosed by the most outstanding philosophers.
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Plato, in his work ‘The Allegory of the Cave’, supports the principles of moral values objectivism; people have clear knowledge of justice, good, and virtues, and can completely take control of their awareness. His basic idea was demonstrated through moral relativism as human confusion as to personal limitations. The image reflected in the thinker’s work can be analyzed as the picture of human conditions limitation and all possibilities allowing exceeding these limitations. On the contrary to Plato’s relativism vision, Aristotle managed to present the view of moral relativism as the intermediate condition between deficiency and excess; he never supported the existence of moral relativism through the knowledge or science; it is a kind of wrong behavior, perception, way of thinking lying between certain actions and certain emotions. In his work ‘Nicomachean Ethics’, Aristotle managed to characterize the extremes of justice and judgmental behavior resulting from the mixture of strong and weak feelings; taking into account his theory, it should be stressed that the domination of a weak feeling in the set can turn positive feature into the negative one. That is considered to be the basic rejection of moral relativism. (Aristotle, 2000)
The presentation of moral relativism as self reliance by Emerson, can be analyzed through the conception of the formation of individual consciousness; his work ‘Self Reliance’ is considered to be Emerson’s disclosure of moral relativism through the objection to social dependence. People are not to live in accordance with established standards; it is necessary to stress that coming from his theoretical study, we are to refuse the social conventions forms as well as social values promoted in the cultural community. Comparing his view to Krauthammer, ‘Defining Deviancy Up’, it is necessary to stress that he depicts the humanity through no moral relativism position; according to Krauthammer, the absolutism of values is completely rejected, as his position was concentrated on the embryo being not considered as human life; it means that he rejected the absolutism of innocent human life.
Being a moral relativist means to reject the principles established and developed in the society; the person living in the environment of moral relativism ideas sponges all the positions and standards of this life theory. For example, the mother of such principles cannot bring up a child rejecting the position of moral relativism. The explanation of how to be non-judgmental will never be supported through her own practice; that is why the child will always imitate her mother’s behavior, life position and principles reflecting them in the society surrounding her, for example, at school, university and future family.
Sommers, the author of the works ‘Are we living in the Moral Stone Age’ and ‘Teaching the Virtues’, disclosed the moral relativism ideas through the principle danger to society. According to her ideas, people live under the threat of confusion having no clear distinguishing standards between good and bad. Modern society lives under the pressure of moral standards and people are surrounded by moral dilemmas. It is considered to be inappropriate to ‘indoctrinate’ the modern young generation into moral traditions and national culture; as a result with every passing century people are becoming closer and closer to moral degradation. (Furrow, 2004) Thus, Lewis, ‘Tribal Wisdom’, identified the modern problem of relativism through injustice promotion and its inappropriate interpretation. It is necessary to underline the idea that this concept is considered to be relative for everyone; as a result people live under the threat of unjust interrelationships having no conscious idea how to differentiate ‘right and wrong’. (Lewis, 1992) Benedict, ‘A Defense of Moral Relativism’, stressed that relativism is based on the human morality developed in the society people live in. According to her theory, ‘social systems are communities with common beliefs and social practices’; according to this position moral standards of one society can become abnormal ones for another. (Benedict, 1934) Thus moral relativism can be viewed as the intercultural obstacle, because it is characterized as the universal habit of a particular culture. It is necessary to mention the position of Irvine, ‘Confronting Relativism’, who insisted on the point, that ‘it is possible for an intelligent person to arrive at ethical relativism as the result of long, hard thought…’; according to this position, the truths are considered to be universal regardless of the time, place or nationality. (Irvine, 2000)
The analysis of moral relativism proved to be based on sophisticated and controversial theories developed by the most outstanding thinkers; one cannot reflect the ideas of the established social norms in case of his moral relativism position. It is necessary to underline the idea that the position of moral relativism is dependent on human truth perception and attitude to absolute norms and standards of the society.
Aristotle. (2000). ‘Nicomachean Ethics’. Cambridge University Press.
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Benedict. (1934). ‘A Defense of Moral Relativism’. London.
Emerson. Self Reliance. Web.
Furrow, D. (2004). Moral soundings: readings on the crisis of values in contemporary life. Sommers: ‘Are we living in the Moral Stone Age’; ‘Teaching the Virtues’.
Rowman & Littlefield. Irvine. (2000). ‘Confronting Relativism’. Web.
Krauthammer. (1993). ‘Defining Deviancy Up’. New York Press
Lewis. (1992). ‘Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World’. Viking Adult.
Plato. (1944). ‘The Allegory of the Cave’. The Republic. New York Heritage Press.