Moral Relativism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Discussions of moral relativism often assume (as mostly has beenassumed here so far) that moral relativism is the correct account ofall moral judgments or of none. But perhaps it is the correct accountof some moral judgments but not others or, more vaguely, the bestaccount of morality vis-à-vis these issues would acknowledge bothrelativist and objectivist elements. Such a mixed position might bemotivated by some of the philosophical questions already raised(recall also the suggestion in the section on that some people may be“meta-ethical pluralists”). On the empirical level, it might bethought that there are many substantial moral disagreements but alsosome striking moral agreements across different societies. On themetaethical plane, it might be supposed that, though manydisagreements are not likely to be rationally resolved, otherdisagreements may be (and perhaps that the cross-cultural agreementswe find have a rational basis). The first point would lead to a weakerform of DMR The second point, the more important one, wouldimply a modified form of MMR (see the suggestions in the lastparagraph of ). This approach hasattracted some support, interestingly, from both sides of the debate:relativists who have embraced an objective constraint, and (morecommonly) objectivists who have allowed some relativistdimensions. Here are some prominent examples of these mixedmetaethical outlooks.

“Why the World is the Way It Is: Cultural Relativism and It’s Descendents” by Dr

The relativist confuses cultural (or sociological) relativism with ethical relativism, but cultural relativism is a descriptive view and ethical relativism is a prescriptive view.


Ethical Relativism - Lander University

It follows that, accordingto cultural relativism, we cannot object to Hitler and Nazism, Mayan infantsacrifice, China’s massacre of students in Tiananmen Square, South Africa’sapartheid, genital mutilation (i.e., female circumcision) of young girlsin Africa, and so on, because each of these practices is justified by theworldview within which it exists.


Two Dogmas of Empiricism - Ditext

The first of these has a long history in discussions of moralrelativism and in fact may be considered one of the earliest instancesof experimental moral philosophy. As was seen in , for more than a century the work ofanthropologists and other social scientists has contributed to thedevelopment of thought about moral relativism, both by purporting toprovide empirical evidence for extensive cross-cultural disagreementand diversity about morality, and by proposing the notion that moralcodes are true only relative to a culture as the best explanation ofthis. That is, these scientists have provided empirical grounds foraccepting DMR, and they have suggested that some form ofMMR is a reasonable inference from this data (though thesepositions were not always clearly distinguished). More importantly,the work cited in by Brandt (1954) andLadd (1957), involving both empirical investigations into the moralvalues of Native Americans and philosophical reflection on thesignificance of these investigations vis-à-vis moral relativism, aresignificant examples of moral philosophers engaging in empiricalinquiry in support of philosophical aims. Their empirical work did notimmediately inspire other other philosophers to engage in similarresearch. Experimental philosophy in this sense--experiments or otherempirical investigations conducted by philosophers--did not becomeprominent until nearly a half-century later. Nowadays philosophers dosometimes conduct experiments to investigate the extent of moraldisagreement (for example, see the study of Western and East Asianvalues cited in Doris and Plakias 2008). What has been much morecommon in recent decades has been the citation by philosophers ofempirical studies by anthropologists to establish facts about moraldisagreement or diversity (for example, see Prinz 2007, Velleman 2013,and Wong 1984 and 2006). There is more about these issues in .

Modern empiricism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas

Cultural Relativism (sociological relativism): the descriptive view that different groups of people have different moral standards for evaluating acts as right or wrong.