Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Moral Relativism under Criticism

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies

Moral Relativism under Criticism

Article excerpt


Ethical relativism is one of the most important issues of ethical philosophy meaning that the values and ethical judgments are not stable. This issue is such important that an individual's approach and position concerning relativism or non-relativism of ethical values significantly effects on the viewpoints, worldview and legal and social conditions of other people. Our goal is to provide a clear explanation of relativism and especially its reasons as well as to examine them. In this study, we have examined different types of relativism. In descriptive relativism, we pointed out that such type of relativism would not judge the accuracy or inaccuracy of ethical values and therefore, discussing on examination of relativism reasons was useless. In normative relativism, we mentioned that their main reasons were based on cultural differences, diversity of moral viewpoints and lack of ethical values. In this regard, we have shown that values exist and that cultural differences and diversity of ethical viewpoints are not proofs to relativity. We also showed in Meta ethical relativism that such type of relativism has proved Meta ethical relativism by using descriptive relativism and denial of ethical values and certainty of translation. To criticize these reasons, we showed that ethical values exist and that ethical relativism may not be considered as a proof to the Meta ethical relativity. Research method in this paper is of descriptive and analytical type.

Keywords: ethics, relativism, meta ethical relativism, descriptive ethical relativism, normative relativism, ethical absolutism.


Discussing on the ethical relativism is one of the most important debates in ethical philosophy. Relativism may be considered as a theory that denies a certain type of general and universal facts. It considers different areas such as culture and ethics to be related to a specific framework and denies the fact that such framework is the only actual and most rational framework. From the viewpoint of this school of thought, authenticity of all ethical principles depends on the selection of cultures, communities and/or people. This approach has become a challenge for some people in the Islamic world causing the Islamic researchers and community to face a serious problem. So far, if our problem with ethics was that we could not practically prevent from immoral acts, based on relativism we cannot even theoretically consider such behaviors inappropriate. This is because according to relativism, first of all, right and wrong may not be distinguished and no behavior or viewpoint may be criticized. It is just enough to claim that it is ethical and in such case we have to consider that as legitimate. Secondly, the most noble and dirty works are placed in just one position since a rational arbitration may not be conducted between them. Thirdly, ethical values will change into rootless, artificial and arbitrary issues because no reasonable basis remains for ethics. Individually, the result of such ideology will be a sense of absurdity since human gentility can be achieved only in the light of alignment with truth and virtue. Socially, when people do not attach any importance to the value principles, they only accept them cautiously and if they do not feel any danger from other people, those principles may not hinder them from their greed and therefore, ethical rules will be so sensitive in the community. Finally, it can be said that based on relativism, ethics loses its existential philosophy and this will be a major disaster.

The most important types of relativism include descriptive, normative and Meta ethical relativisms. Absolutism is in contrast with relativism. Absolutism means that at least some of the fundamental principles and ethical judgments are unchangeable and do not depend on people's tastes and contract, but they depend on actual conditions. It can be said that the history of ethical relativism goes back to the sophist's age; however, some of its traces can be found in the periods before ancient Greece in the schools of thought such as pironism and academic skeptics. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.