Moral Relativism

I am having trouble understanding how it is possible for moral relativism to exist. I am in the understanding that a moral relativist believes that our morals are based on our individual needs and surroundings and that there are not set standards. This I agree with, but, I also undertand that a moral relativist is acceptant of others morals whether they belive they are right or wrong. This is what i cannot comprehend.
Morals are our personal beliefs that are concerned with other people, for example ones belief in not smoking because it damages ones health would not be a moral belief because it only concerns one self. But a belief that smoking is wrong because it damages other peoples health is a moral. But surely anyone that holds true morals would object to others going against the morals even if the objection is passive. But a relativist is acceptant of others breaking his/her morals.
I cannot think of an example of moral relativism. If you were a pacafist because you believed war caused too many loss of lives then you would object to anyone who believed that war was good. It would not be possible for you to be a moral relativist if you really believed war was moraly wrong because with the concern of others (morals) you would object to war or atleast disagree with anyone who supported war.
If anyone can think of a case of moral relativism i would be very pleased to hear it.

Moral relativism is really situational ethics if you ask me. Morals are supposed to be universal principles. I say supposed because I can think of several cultures that have ideas that are counter to western moral principles. Anyway, ethics are created by people and can be applied to everything from how one performs an operation to how one makes chewing gun. So, ethics can be very amorphous.

A good example of situational ethics might be this:

Bob is against killing other humans. He has been firm in this conviction for the whole of his life.

Bob is walking home one night and is attacked by a crazy person. Bob quickly decides that he wants to make it home to see the wife and kid, so he picks up a brick and smashes the guys head in, thus killing the man. Afterward, Bob feels fine and knows that he had to do what he did both for himself and his family.

That’s an example of the situation dictating the ethics.

That’s an extreme example that’s even sanctioned by law, but there’s many more. In fact situational ethics might have switched places with rationalization as a form of lying. It seems that any behavior can be rationalized into a personal code of ethics and that somehow makes the behavior hard to challenge.

Personally, I see it all as a response to thousands of years of oppression at the hands of religious institutions. The message was that you Must behave in a certain way or else you are a Bad person. The current response is that I’m not a bad person because I can’t be because if you just understand that….

Meanwhile, even long ago there were codes of honor dictated by certain organizations and professions such as, the code of chivalry and the Hippocratic Oath. With these there can be no relativism because you agreed to follow them in much the same way as a contract.

Morals are relative to the individual or to the culture.

One person may think it is perfectly acceptable to commit suicide whereas another may not.

It may be completley ethical to have 5 wifes in the middle east whereas in Europe it is not.

Right, that’s the way it really is but there are common and formal ideas that moral principles are or should be universal.

One question is: should they be?

If one is interested in human rights should that interest end at your doorstep or would you be in violation of your own ethics by making that so? We can take this kind of question right down to the individual level if we wish to.

Moral relativism is a historical phenomenon that Nietzsche identified as an early form of nihilism. It’s basically individualism for idiots, a way of making people feel unique and free when they are anything but. You tell them that their particular brand of received wisdom is in fact their own invention and that because ‘everyone is different’* that everyone’s perspective is valid.

Of course the hypocrisy is blatant. To say on the one hand that all morals are relative but then tell the person who believes his morals to be absolute (which must of course be a valid opinion to hold) that he is wrong is the modus operandi of the moral relativist.

Burn the relativists for all I care, they are just lazy naysayers.

  • one of the least proved popular myths of modern times - we don’t even know that everyone is genetically unique, let alone the rest

So is everyone in agreance that Moral Relativism does not exist? I am trying to best understand it as it is something my philosophy class is currently concerned with.

No, it exists and that’s why we are talking about it.

Morals do not exist unless you believe in a god that has defined certain rules that MUST be followed. However, if you look at morals as codes of conduct and principles upon which to base those codes as being human creations then they exist. One could say that these codes were invented to create predictable social, business, political behavior, and so forth. That’s great but that does not mean that they have to be followed. Each person could feel free to make up their own set of unique codes of conduct whenever they want to. There’s nothing that’s going to stop it.

However, that does not mean that it’s good.

In my opinion, the existence of a diety has everything to do with this topic.

Everything is relative, including morals.
To say that they are not is to say there is some shining absolute standard of morality, somewhere out there in the universe, that we must/should abide by.
However did any of you come to THAT conclusion?

Morals are universal (in my opinion anyway…), but it’s up to each of us to define what they are, (you know, like Truth and Beauty and all that stuff…) so we should always be open to other’s points of view. I mean, after all, who can we trust to be right about everything? The best we can do is trust ourselves.

So you are saying morals exist objectively, yet we must subjectively define them for ourselves?
This is a paradox.

Dear Dr Satanical

“Dr” you yourself claimed:

If everything is relative then the statement ‘Everything is relative’ is itself relative, meaning it isn’t absolutely true in all circumstances. Therefore everything isn’t relative. So if everything is relative then not everything is relative. A paradox.

There’s no positive argument for relativism. And Relativism and Satanism are very different things.

Ok fine. Everything in our known universe is relative.
Linguistic nitpickery.

And yet no demonstrable grounds for objectivism.

So what? Your point?

Im sorry i think this topic is above anyone that hasnt studied philosophy or even the concept of mroal relativism (no offence). I was not asking whether morals exist or whether anyhting is relative. I am obviously not going to get a reasonable answer from anybody… please continue your discussions on morals.

Moral Relitivism is basically this:

“Different cultures have different moral beliefs therefore there can be no universal moral turth because morals are all matter of opinion.”

Which of course is a fallacious argument.

A good example would be:

Jim thinks that infanticide is bad. But Mary who was brought up in another counrty where infanticide is a common practice thinks its a perfectly reasonable and ok thing to do. Although this is agiant Jim’s morals he will not denounce or say that Mary’s beliefs are wrong because he belives that it is just all a matter of opinion.

Moral realativists will often say “How can I judge them for…becuase thats their culture?”

yes you have grasped the concept… but do you believe in this concept is it possible… i dont see how it is possible… i was told that if you even believe that what someone else is doing is moraly wrong then you re not a moral relativist


I have already talked about a lot of this stuff. The relativistic approach to morality creates a situation where every person is entitled to their own morality. So, the wife beater next door is entitled to do that if he feels that that is the right thing to do. It would be my right to kill him if I believed that was the right thing to do or maybe do nothing. The concept would, en masse, result in chaos. However, an argument could be made that it is and has been the norm. Trying to get people to follow “morals” has never worked.

However, I’m curious about what you mean when you say “is it possible.” It is possible because it is happening already. What do you mean.

Also, I believe that morals were invented by people. Where do you think that they have come from?

Clear some things up why don’t you.

I’ll bring the gasoline.

Therefore the statement ‘everything in our known universe is relative’ therefore… another paradox.

We can keep playing this game.

Who said anything about objectivism? I’m simply pointing out that your position is no less contradictory and illogical as that which you seek to oppose.

Are you a relativist or a Satanist?

All we need is some kindling and a few marshmallows.