Moral Relativism

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Moral relativism sates that ‘there’s not a single correct morality’ because the ethical or moral statements differs from one individual to another hence no one’s opinion of right and wrong is superior, all statements are correspondingly valid. The moral relativism is an extensive term, a lot of in person applied variety of different forms of relativistic thinking, like cultural relativism. These are altogether founded on the possibility that there is no extreme standard of good or bad, therefore every judgment concerning good and bad is absolutely a result of an individual’s inclinations and his environment. There is no extreme standard of morality, as indicated by moral relativism, and no statement can be viewed completely ‘accurate or incorrect”.

There are several ways to understand moral relativism.

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  1. Meta-ethical moral relativism states that moral judgements are not right and wrong in any absolute sense, yet just with respect to specific standpoints.
  2. Descriptive moral relativism which is also known as cultural relativism holds that moral values, beliefs and practices are defined by culture which are generally true.
  3. Normative moral relativism asserts that all society should accept moral values of different societies.

Most of the ethicists reject the concept of moral relativism. Some of them asserts that though the moral practices of social guidelines may differentiate, but the fundamental good benchmarks can’t be distinguished. For instance, in certain society, assassinating one’s parents after they arrived at a specific age was normal thing, originating from the conviction that individuals were in a better situation in the life after death if they entered in physically active and energetic condition. While such a practice would be denounced in our society, we would agree with these social orders on the hidden good rule – the obligation to think about guardians. Social orders, at that point, may contrast in their utilization of basic good standards yet agree on the standards.

Summary and Analysis of Bernard Williams’ Relativism

Moral relativism simply explains that morality is comparative to the one’s culture norms. That is, the rightness and wrongness of any activity depends on the society’s ethical standards in which it is adopted. It usually happens that some actions are considered right for one society but wrong for some other society. Ethical relativist believes that there are no general good benchmarks – guidelines that can generally be applied to all groups of people. The primary moral principles through which the practices of a society can be judged are basically its own. Therefore, moral relativism is right, there can be no regular system or settling moral arguments or for reaching at concurrence on moral issues among individuals from various social orders.

Bernard Williams was a well-known moral philosopher of the twentieth century. In his book ‘Morality: An Introduction to Ethics’, he put forward that Relativism views the ethical judgment which can be valid, yet just by fulfilling prerequisites supported by people or societies which can’t themselves be ethically advocated through the fulfillment of further, more objective necessities.

Bernard Williams rejected what he called ‘strict social relativism,’ that moral originations have legitimacy just in respect to a society. However, he supported another type of relativism. This was clarified by reference to a distinction between a ‘notional confrontation,’ where a unique viewpoint is known yet not a genuine choice for us, and a ‘real confrontation,’ where a different viewpoint is a genuine alternative for us—something we may grasp without losing our hold on the real world. Williams’ ‘relativism of distance’ says moral evaluations are suitable in genuine confrontations, however not in notional ones. For instance, we would never grasp the viewpoint of a medieval samurai: Since this is a notional encounter, it is unseemly to depict this viewpoint as just or unjustifiable. This is the sense where relativism is right. Despite that, in real confrontations, relativism unhelpfully debilitates the assessment of another viewpoint that is a real alternative for us.

As indicated by Williams ‘obscene relativism’ is disturbing good view in theory. Which is customarily meant as good relativism, this ethical relativism expresses that what is correct must be resolved as what is directly for that specific culture at that specific time.

“Vulgar relativism” according to Barnard Williams is a repulsive moral view in the philosophy. Which is usually signified as moral relativism. However, the moral relativism asserts that the right actions must be considered as right for a particular society at a particular period. Williams expresses the argument for ‘vulgar relativism’ on three bases. Firstly, ‘right’ must be logically comprehended that means ‘right for a given society’. Secondly, what is ‘right for a given society’ is to be comprehended in a functionalist sense that means it should be understood concerning advancement of society’s persistence/achievement and so forth. Thirdly, the conclusion drawn from the first two recommendations, is that ‘ vulgar relativism’ prevents individuals from one society to denounce and restrict with the morals of another society. In conclusion, no society has a right to interfere and condemn practices of another society in order to challenge them by showing their own specific practices. Williams denoted it as a vulgar moral activity. He doesn’t believe that such a decision can be an outcome of the significance of nature of morality.

In Williams conclusion, the significant complaint with respect to ‘indecent relativism’ is the difficulties which portrays the ID of a general public

In Williams is of the view that the significant objection regarding “vulgar relativism” is the difficulties which bounded the recognition of a society. If any society let’s say is characterized by the values of a culture, at that point Williams guarantees that the functionalist propositions will turn out to be nothing more than repetitions and in other words self-conflicting.

Besides, there’s a problem in what we should take to establish as a society. That is, how many individuals must be included and in what kind of association wants to be addressed underneath this ‘vulgar relativism’. For instance, are the individuals in Ghana who still pursue the Ashanti custom a society, or would it be appropriate to categorize them as just a gathering of individuals who are members of the Ghana society, and they are performing Ashanti ritual. As Williams already brought up that is there even a difference among society and the act of a custom or are the two of them one and equivalent. Regardless if it were the situation that those in Ghana following the Ashanti custom do form their very own particular society, Williams addresses whether because of the size of the citizens and the high level of social combination between the two gatherings, both in qualities and future reliance, shouldn’t it is acceptable to intervene and convict definite acts to some extent.

Hence, Williams further believes few characteristics of morality which appear to intersect societies and their principles. For instance, the component of universalization, found in any morality. It seems as if the most considerable features of morality can be found in every society and it is simply how that society generalizes what must and must not be admissible is what varies.

Williams claims, that every single moral judgment acquire in respect to a society, to an all-inclusive case that to criticize the activities/estimations of another society is completely wrong. However, it doesn’t pursue from reality of meta-ethical relativism that we should be open-minded to different social orders.

Objections to Moral Relativism

  1. The first argument against moral relativism is that it can’t represent the (commonly solid) emotions and convictions that individuals shows with respect to immoral acts. Is it true that we are actually eager to acknowledge, for instance, slavery or the Nazi’s behavior towards the Jews was ethically correct since it was reliable with the social convictions of the individuals who had performed these demonstrations?
  2. Second argument states that moral relativism is coherently conflicting. According to relativist ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are relative terms, that is what is correct in respect to a given culture. However, the relativist’s asserts that ‘it is not right to judge or interfere with the moral convictions and practices of other societies by using the word ‘wrong’ in a non-relative manner. Consequently, the relativist holds that what is good and bad is in respect to an offered culture to the case that it isn’t right, normally to permit moral judgment on the moral standards of different societies.
  3. Third argument is that Relativism additionally appears to neglect to represent the way that individuals, groups of people and even societies, frequently come to perceive that their norms and values are unethical. For instance, if the Apartheid in South Africa was ethically right, for what reason was the practice stopped? Hence this phenomenon confesses that moral standards of a specific society might be incorrect.
  4. The last argument asserts this question whether a single culture has similar standards in a manner that cultural relativism expects. We can find many examples in American culture for instance, moral contradictions and fiercely challenged. On recent problem like governmental policy regarding minorities in society, the Iraq War, abortion and gay marriages, moreover the past issues like the Vietnam War, women’s right and slavery there has been a serious contradiction regarding ethical status of these issues. Is it accurate to state that ‘American culture’ is itself relativistic in its moral standards? So as to look after reliability, the relativist would need to state that it is.


Moral relativism claims that different values and belief are associated with different societies that are certainly influenced by their cultures. Hence it allows us to discover and explore different cultures and their practices which are contrast from our culture. Whereas observe our purposes behind the convictions and values that we perform.

I agree with the fact that we should not interfere in the values and practices of other culture as every culture has its own values and principles which are important for the people. But if in any society holds such practices which are immoral and not acceptable in any case, like violation of human rights, slavery, injustice, harming human beings, animals or nature, such practices are definitely condemnable. In every situation we cannot say that ‘who we are to judge’. I think people must have a right to judge those practices.  


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