Moral Relativism

What is moral relativism?

Some people are for it and some against it but it seems to me like we’re not all working with the same idea of what it actually means and implies.

I mean, I’m for it. But that might not mean what you think it means. You’re against it. I’m not sure what exactly it is that you’re against. Or you’re for it and I mistakenly think we’ve actually agreed about something.

I’m probably ignorant but I guess judging things differently based on cultural standards. Ignoring universal standards of right/wrong on the basis such standards can’t objectively exist.

It’s the position that starts off with real world data. It sees that morality and moral sentiments differ from person to person, from culture to culture, and it concludes that none of these people or cultures have it right. The problem with it is that it takes on a god’s eye point of view, and in this respect it isn’t much more different than objectivism.

Moral relativism is about having relative morals, obviously.

It’s not that moral relativism says everyones morals “aren’t right”, nor does it take on “a gods eye point of view”. It asserts that all you need for a set of morals are personal preferences. Where moral objectivism proposes that there are “truthful” morals, moral relativity just accept that morals come from our subjective experience, desires, and agenda, not some bank of moral truth.

In my experience people who bad mouth moral relativism usually don’t have the courtesy to provide a rational reason. On that note, anyone claiming to have absolute, objective, or undeniable morals usually don’t have rational reasons to support those either.

In my opinion, actions are not universally right or wrong, they are just actions and the only people making judgments about the morality of those actions are human beings. To one group something can seem morally right, and to another it can seem morally wrong. Like slavery for example.

Why is murder wrong?

Asking this question gets interesting answers. My own answer is that if you appreciate your life and do not with to be murdered, or think it would be “wrong” for someone to murder you, then you should see doing the same thing to someone else as wrong.

My base morals concerning murder tell me it’s wrong for practical and logical reasons.

A moral objectivist may or may not have a more interesting explanation. In my experience they usually do not provide reasons, but rather statements like “it is just wrong”, or “god says it’s wrong”.

I think morality without reason is foolish, though different people reason different things.

Writing down an objective set of morals is nothing but an attempt to save yourself the work of thinking for yourself and deciding what is right and wrong.

I don’t know about that. Yes it certainly happens, and even ostensibly intelligent and considerate philosophers like Richard Rorty will sometimes espouse it, but the idea of a morality convenience store where you can pick and choose doesn’t sit right with me. Like you say, it’s too tempting to think that “relativism” means “anything goes”.

Well i never said anything goes. You base your morals on your own experience. this is not like going into a “morality convienience store”. If you have reasons to support your moral beliefs, practical or sentimental, you can be considered a moral relativist.

Yeah, sorry about that, I brought my agenda along - it likes to get out a bit… :wink:

I suppose what I’m suggesting too is that we try and get away from the borrowed moralities and the problem I have with “personal preference” is that too many people think they can just find a ready-made morality they like and use it as their own. Too much of the world is like that already, all that fatuous “consolations of philosophy” rubbish.

moral relativism is the best thing that has ever happened to us.

ever talked to some old-fashioned (pseudo-) moralist? So, you understand what i mean…

I provided a reason, you just didn’t understand.

Different morals:


an objectivist will say A is right, and the rest are wrong. He will necessarily speak as if he has knowledge of the thing in itself, i.e., take on a god’s eye pov. A relativist will say, “A is wrong, and so are the rest.” It’s a sweeping statement, and it pretty much means he will have to claim that in any instance of morality it’s not values in of themselves, as universals, that communicate with A, B, C, or D. But, this claim can only be made by someone who has knowledge of the noumenon, otherwise it’s baseless.

I’d be fine with a position of skepticism. That is to say, I’d have no problem with a position that looks at particular universalist moralities and then says, in epistemic terms, that one wouldn’t be justified in holding that position. I do have a problem with relativism because it makes a sweeping ontological claim about all moralities, and as such it is faced with the same epistemic troubles as moral universalism.

Despite this, I still believe that it’s probably true that emotivism has it right.

That sounds like moral absolutism to me.

It’s cause you don’t distinguish between epistemology and metaphysics. Moral relativism is neither prescriptive nor proscriptive so there’s nothing absolute about it, except it’s epistemic arrogance which to a foggy eye can look like absolutism. It’s a metaethical theory.

Saying that you’re a moral relativist when someone asks what your morality is, you wouldn’t be telling them anything about what you think is right or wrong…you’d just be saying that of the things you do believe to be right and wrong that they are influenced by you being human, or by you living in a certain society, or by you just plain being you (relative to humanity, relative to culture, and relative to individual.)

Actually this is very innacurate. A moral relativist will say that each morals are “right” for the people who carry them.

No sweeping statement is made besides that one.

It says a morals right or wrongness depends on the perspective which percieves it.

But to say this, it must say something about the metaphysical existence of morality…of all moral systems that purport to speak to universal values. Every single one. You’ve got a morality in mind? I can tell you without even taking a look at it that it’s not discovered. It is created by the individual/culture/humanity, and it isn’t intrinsic, objective, a unviersal property.

what pray tell is teh metaphysical existence of morals?

Is it some realm beyond our own wherein moral rules exist as granite bubble letters? :laughing:

How about this, show me a moral that is true for every possible perspective, and you will have produced a universal moral.

The purporting of universal morals is the first line crossing in the first place. From some perspectives, people just disagree. If you want to get into logical consistency and specifics, that’s another story. … 018538_ITM

Some inside baseball, but if you are willing to slog through the statistics, some interesting stuff too.

I don’t know. Relativists claim they do, or rather, need to claim that they do in order to make the point that morality is culturally/individually/humanly relative. You see, a relativist is not only claiming that what a person thinks is right, or good, or bad is culturally determined, or humanly determined, or whatever. He’s also saying something about what morality is not, and while I agree with the notion that moral values aren’t intrinsic, I also acknowledge that I’m in no position to know. Despite my epistemic lackings, which I acknowledge, I still think the most rational position is the non-cognitivist’s, of which relativism is a variety. I am, however, hesitant to call myself a relativist, because ironically enough, it means different things to different people, and also because of the flaws I’ve pointed out.

A universal more is not just a value judgment that is constant across cultures. It’s [purported to be] a property, like redness, that inhibits acts or characters of men. The statement, “This man is bad,” said when a guy kills little kids, is thought by some to mean that the man has this property, badness, in the same way that he has the property shortness, or tallness. Others think that that’s just hogwash; that such statements don’t say anything about the metaphysical being of the man–that the statements merely refer back to what that person who says them feels about the action, i.e., when someone says, “This man is bad,” what they really mean is, “I don’t like him.”

A moral relativist makes no claims about absolute morals. Some may claim they do not exist but that is their prerogative. You can just as easily claim agnosticism. In this case a moral relativist does not deny “absolute morals” but rather espouses the benifits of “subjective morals”.

relativists make conditional claims concerning truth.

They concern themselves with personal truths and subjective truths. It takes into account perspective, which can cause differing opinions of “truth” in different situations.

I guess it comes down to something like the existence of god. If God exists and its morals are perfect or absolute or true, then the conclusions of a relativist must be imperfect.

What i would like to point out, is that we base all our morals on our perspective and understanding, and that if absolutely true morals do exist, we are left with no guarantee we can reason them out, so our “relative” morals are really the best things we have; they are all we have.

I could also go into how a personal set of morals does a better job of getting you what you want than some assumed, adopted, or universal set of morals, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

Is the man “bad”?

What does “bad” mean?

Is the man “bad” by his own standards?

What if these murders were religiously motivated… Would the agressive religion see that mans actions as “bad”?

A property like “badness” is not something intrinsic. It is not even like the color red. When we attribute “badness” to someone, this person quite simply acts in opposition to our own morals. If your morals do not conflict with the mans actions, then this man is not bad.

You could postulate that any murderer is absolutely bad, but we both know you don’t have the means to back such a statement up.

Moral relativism isn’t so bad. It’s like a switch to margarine, you won’t believe it’s not butter!

You confuse this:
with this:

Your link says nothing about how moral relativism involves absolute morals. That’s the whole distinction - that’s the point. What are you saying? It makes no sense to me. There’s nothing metaphysical about morals - morality is to do with our relationships to each other.