Ethical Relativism


Ethical relativism refers to the view that the suitability or wrongness of an argument is contingent on somewhat upon the beliefs of an individual that guides his/her argument. The theory is contradicted by the situational ethics which purports that being right or wrong rely on the situation that an action is performed. The views of different people are varied, and that does not conclude that one is right while the other is wrong. Indeed, the idea of being right or wrong is less dependent on the moral beliefs since such would operate from the set standards of right and wrong. The discussion in the paper is aimed at destroying the ethical relativism by explaining in details its inadequacies and as well as solve a moral issue that supports on the side and discredits the other.

Explanation and destruction of the ethical theory

The theory is manifested by the diversity of the moral views, moral uncertainty, the situation variances and the allowance of diverse arguments. Upon the different moral views, each person has specific facts about something and tentatively disagrees with another as each keeps on hold various moral beliefs. Indeed, Ruth Benedict asserts that disparities and togetherness in moral beliefs are evidence of the claim that there is no objective moral truth, only subjective moral reasoning (Oppong, 2019). Moral uncertainty claims that people are unaware of the right and wrong, often evident in a dilemma; and such make their arguments subjective. Indeed, based on the skepticism, failure to be confident of power and wrong is an implication that there are no objective standards, making morality relative and subjective. The situation variation objects the existence of the universally valid morals norms and accommodates the fact that people should differ in what they believe. The toleration of disparities supports endurance to the different moral beliefs, and therefore, no one should think that one’s view is more authentic or wrong the else.

However, the ethical relativism theory has several inadequacies and in most cases is against the arguments mentioned above. For the diversity of the moral views argument, the idea of variation in the discussions may offer no apparent prove that nothing about the matter being disputed. Thus, besides the fact that people have different moral views, there are factual bases to ascertain the truth of the argument. As a result, people do not rationally address their understanding of the fact; instead, they treat the matter as wholly subjective irrespective of their disagreements. The premises supporting an argument tend to rely on one side instead of evaluating all the dimensions of the arguments. The moral uncertainty argument does not prove that there is nothing to know. Indeed, in a complicated moral situation, one may not be sure of the right thing to do (Stenmark et al.  2018). People only act under their conscience; that is; what they believe is right. However, the use of the conscience does not subject matter to be a mere belief, and it is advisable for one to merely claim not to know rather than claiming there are no right answers. The situational differences arguments appear to make detachment in terms of collective or the universal morality impossible. Such argument confuses objectivism with absolutism. Absolutism entails a set of absolute moral rules which apply in all places and at all times while objectivism presents some morals as universal though the morals may vary (Meyers, 2016). Objectivism consents that absolutism is fundamental in that one can know the absolute falsity and truth for every moral statement, though insist that one can explain moral theory objectively by a comprehensive ethical approach. However, this does not provide a conclusion which affirms all the norms as subjective and relative.

Similarly, toleration of differences points that contemporary relativism does not emanate from a legitimate role of allegiance to the value tolerance. However, this position seems contradictory since one can only adopt understanding as a moral value on condition that relativism is valid. Notably, validating relativity is impossible since all values are universal and none is considered more correct than the other; hence difficult to adopt tolerance as a moral principle. Furthermore, according to Bernard Williams, if relativism is true, then one should not hassle to listen to someone else’s moral beliefs since by description, their opinions cannot be better or more correct than one’s own beliefs (Blake, 2018). Oddly enough, the ethical objectivist who is not an extremist may posit tolerance as an objective value and trans-cultural, for being open to the beliefs of others one may be likely to draw close to the truth about morality.  The debate against ethical relativism doe does not generalize it as false; instead, it has shown that the arguments for relativity are weak and especially for those who value logic and give reasons for supporting them.


People have different ethical views and in which each group defends the truth of their opinions. Relativity accepts each belief depending on the arguments backing it up. The fact and false of the faith is justified by the quality of the premises supporting them. The ethical relativism respects someone’s belief and acknowledges it as a base of arguing. However, the theory has several inadequacies that make its arguments naïve and is subject to criticism or destruction.





Oppong, S. (2019). When the ethical is unethical, and the wrong is ethical: Cultural Relativism in Ethical Decision-Making. Polish Psychological Bulletin50(1), 18-28.

Blake, N. (2018). Between Rationalism and Relativism. Tradition v. Rationalism: Voegelin, Oakeshott, Hayek, and Others, 173.

Stenmark, M., Fuller, S., & Zackariasson, U. (2018). Relativism and Post-Truth in Contemporary Society. Springer.

Meyers, C. (2016). Universals without absolutes: A theory of media ethics. Journal of Media Ethics31(4), 198-214.