The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484–420 BC) observed that each society regards its own belief system and way of doing things as better than all others. instead of reacting to moral laws made by a certain group of individuals in power. This allows for moral discourse with shared standards, notwithstanding the descriptive properties or truth conditions of moral terms. ", Moral relativism is generally posed as a direct antithesis to "moral idealism" (also known as "ethical idealism" and "principled idealism"). To counter this tendency, mere moral exhortation is insufficient. It might, for example, be wrong to sleep with people you’re not married to in some cultures, but not in others. Analysis: Moral Relativism Defended. Moral relativism or ethical relativism (often reformulated as relativist ethics or relativist morality) is a term used to describe several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different peoples and their own particular cultures. Normative moral relativism is the idea that all societies should accept each other’s differing moral values, given that there are no universal moral principles. Meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong. This parallels our treatment of other terms such as less or more, which meet with universal understanding and do not depend upon independent standards (for example, one can convert measurements). Descriptive moral relativism is merely the positive or descriptive position that there exist, in fact, fundamental disagreements about the right course of action even when the same facts hold true and the same consequences seem likely to arise. Bernard Williams' central criticism of ethical relativism is that the relativist concludes from the ethnographic fact that different societies have different moral attitudes, an a priori (non-relative) principle to determine the perspective of one culture to another, e.g. For example, just because bribery is okay in some cultures doesn’t mean that other cultures cannot rightfully condemn it. An advocate of such ideas is often labeled simply as a relativist for short. . Christian absolutists believe that God is the ultimate source of our common morality, and that it is, therefore, as unchanging as He is. Moral relativism has steadily been accepted as the primary moral philosophy of modern society, a culture that was previously governed by a "Judeo-Christian" view of morality. ), Anthropologists such as Ruth Benedict (1887–1948) have cautioned observers against ethnocentricism—using the standards of their own culture to evaluate their subjects of study. It might, for example, be wrong to sleep with people you’re not married to in some cultures, but not in others.  The American anthropologist William Graham Sumner was an influential advocate of this view. ", Philosophical positions about the differences in moral judgments across peoples and cultures, Learn how and when to remove this template message, Relativism § Catholic Church and relativism, "Moral Relativism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy", "Tolerance is more than putting up with things – it's a moral virtue", "Protagoras of Abdera: Of All Things Man Is The Measure", "Reasonable Doubts Podcast, Ibn Warraq interviews "Defending the West" and "What the Koran Really Says, "Review of Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity", United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Moral_relativism&oldid=981948851, Articles needing additional references from October 2011, All articles needing additional references, Articles with unsourced statements from April 2020, Articles with unsourced statements from June 2020, Articles with unsourced statements from January 2018, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The Finnish philosopher-anthropologist Edward Westermarck (1862–1939) ranks as one of the first to formulate a detailed theory of moral relativism.