Ethical Absolutism and Cultral Relativism

Ethics is what explains the different morals world-wide. It is related to culture and religious beliefs. In addition, it establishes the behavioral standards. This essay is an attempt to make a distinction between an ethical absolutism and cultural relativism. Absolutism is usually defined as the holding of absolute principles in political, philosophical, or theological matter. It is not relative to any social or individual differences. Cultural relativism is treated as the theory that beliefs, customs, and morality in relation to society, culture, and historical context. It exists in relation to the particular culture from which these customs and beliefs originate. The theory of relativism represents moral values and the conceptions of truth, which are not absolute. This essay will show the difference of both ethical terms, characteristics, and state the ideal observer.

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Ethics refers to standards of right and wrong. It outlines laws, social norm, and feelings. Philosophy creates a sense of morale ethics which conveys the existence of different beliefs. To a degree, a relation exists with politics that to be recognized. Kelsen stated that political theory and that part of philosophy called ethics are closely connected to each other and even interrelated. For example, epistemology which is the theory of knowledge and the theory of values could help to signify ethical statements and analysis, which could be seen as a type of solution.

A more accurate analysis of ethical statements could be performed through the distinction between absolutism and relativism. Analysis of differences in statements and definitions helps to get a good clarification and understanding of both ideologies. According to Firth, any statement is considered to be relative if no expressions are identified. The scientist claimed to be egocentric and “egocentric expressions may be described as expressions of which the meaning caries systematically with the speaker, but their ambiguity is conventional and systematic” (p. 318). He also stated that a moral philosopher may be treated as a relativist with properly analyzed statements.

The moral decision of what to do could be linked to the statements of Haber, who believed that it is to be tempted by fear or hope of consequence. In this position, it is only natural that fear of the consequence would allow people to lie for the sake of good. The scientists described absolutism as expectations constituted by respondents the more general rights. However, specifications are not present there. This idea explains that both the statement and the analysis are directed by an egocentric expression. Implying that, absolutism is found by excluding an egocentric expression.

Haber raised the topic of an extreme form of absolutism. He claimed that a good man, recognizing that his action would be an act of bad type, will not deliberate further. The man will not allow himself to be easily tempted by fear or hope of consequences. Furthermore, Haber discussed the argument for the principle that people must not do evil for the sake of good. According to the scientist, lying is not considered to be a bad action. The moral decision of what to do could be linked to what is being claimed, which is to be tempted by fear or hope of consequence. In this position, it is only natural that fear of the consequence would allow people to lie in the name of good.

An absolutist is seen to have an accurate sense of answer, while a relativist implies that the relevant standards belong to the people we are judging. Therefore, a dispositional analysis of an absolute ethical statement would not have common doubts. Instead of interpreting ethical statements, Firth investigated the aspect of analyzing the ethical statement consistently by investigating the nature of all beings of a certain kind and their characteristics are of one kind or none. He claimed that other aspects such as assertions about the dispositions of all actual (past, present, and future) beings of a certain kind could lead to ethical statements of the existence of god. In addition, all ethical statements including the following ethical term can be argued false, if god does not necessarily exist. However, individuals with strong beliefs and hope would agree this idea. For example, people with faith in their religion such as Muslims would agree, but an atheist would disagree.

The study of ethics extinguishes the difference between what is right and wrong. In terms of a philosophical exercise, both absolutism and relativism depend on different situations, which help to identify the difference between them.

From the relativists’ point of view, there is no moral code. But there are many ways of identifying the truth. At the same time, according to ethical absolutism, there is one answer. The relativist would disagree with the distinction between what could possibly be the right answer and what is the wrong answer. Existence of different moral standards is related to the existence of different cultures. Therefore, none of the standards is treated as a correct one. This raises the question of finding the correct standard. It is based on different standards of different people. Whether or not people agree to such morale standards would be in their own opinion. It explains to us that each culture would have its own standard that is perceived to be the correct one. This creates a conflict in the belief of absolutism. For example, the Germans under the rule of Hitler were wrong, but they thought of their race to be superior over others. Moreover, having different standards could mean that a group of individuals would not consider themselves as a group simply because of their individual standards. Thus, implying that there is no right or wrong answer, as it depends on the cultural differences, there is no universal term in ethics.

Nietzsche gave a convincing description for this in his theory of the master and slave moralities. He described how codes of morality grew dominant helping people to survive within their environments, amongst different social groups irrespective their belonging to the social class. However, the upper classes are characterized as being powerful and having pride. This can be clearly seen on the example of modern multinational corporations. For example, in 2009, Nike closed a Honduran sweatshop because of their refusal to pay the workers $2 million which was required accordingly to the law. This shows the human empathy that is being driven away by the economic growth. On the other hand, Nietzsche referred to slave morality and argued that “born of slavery” protected people from prosecutors by accepting any threats to avoid punishments. Therefore, this became a moral code.

The term an ‘ideal observer’ is treated as the one that can determine ethical issues. Therefore, it would be capable to detect a possible solution or state the truth or false of certain judgments. The theological understanding of the statement “x is right” conveys that x is right to say that god approves it. Implying all ethical statements relatively to the theological statement could mean those who do not believe in the existence of god would therefore contradict themselves.

If morality is natural, the ideal observer would be suggested according to the situation. The argument leads to cultural relativism being the best moral perspective. If an individual is being outcasted from a specific social group, or even if an individual disapproves with the extermination of millions of Jews, then it would be morally reasonable.

There is claim that all beliefs are cultural artifacts. Therefore, they do not comply with objective facts. There are two consequences that are considered to be devastating for relativists. The first stated that if what relativists claim holds for all their beliefs, then it holds for relativism as well. Lack of conformation to objective facts is also a cultural artifact. In general, relativism does not speak about the truth. However, it tells about the relativists’ cultural motivations and their beliefs about the truth. When people believe that relativism is false and it is related to certain beliefs, they do conform to objective facts. It means that they are culturally conditioned. However, if there is no other reason to be a relativist, nothing is the matter of reason. Thus, relativism is strongly dependent on the cultural conditioning to which people subject.

If relativists make an attempt to defend their position stating that something is not culturally conditioned, they cannot consistently defend their central claim about inexistence of the truth. Thus, relativists defend their theory as being an absolute one. They claim that truth lies in perception of a concrete individual. According to their claims, it is an absolute. But it is a contradiction as they do not believe in absolute.

At the same time, absolutism does not have any contradiction concerning this idea. Absolutists find that truth lies in reality, which is objective and does not depend on the personal bias. This idea is acknowledged and supported by observable phenomena. Absolutists use the self-sufficiency of reality to determine the accuracy of a theory. They claim that reality exists regardless people’s ability to understand and determine it. For example, mentally ill people or those in comma cannot consciously perceive reality. It means that they cannot establish its definition. When a person is in comma, reality does not stop. If it stopped existing, there would not be doctors or hospitals to take care of such people. In addition, there would be no factor of reality. This proves the idea that truth comes only from objective facts. Therefore, the human capability to acknowledge truth is based on the recognition of reality. Moreover, this process is a part of the objective existence aspect. Thus, an absolutist philosophy is considered to be internally consistent due to the fact that it is based on the stable and self-sufficient reality.

Thus, speaking about ethics, ethical absolutism, and cultural relativism one should raise the question of the basic and common values. It is recognized that there are numerous practical difficulties when it comes to the specification of ethical principles that may apply universally. However, the difficulties do not suggest that ethical relativism is correct.


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