Explain the difference between relative and absolute morality. (25 marks)
Moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person's individual choice. Absolute morality is the belief that there are standards of behaviours from which deeds are measured. It implies that actions are not influenced by an individual's society or situation. Absolute morality is much more ‘black and white’ in the way in which something can only be right or wrong, not taking the situation or reasons behind an action into consideration. This is different to relative morality, where the morals are subjective and takes into account the circumstances of a situation e.g. Mary Bell: absolutism would make her guilty regardless; relativism takes the situation into consideration. Both moral perspectives have different strengths and weaknesses. Moral relativism is defined as the belief that what one person may regard as a right conduct may not be the same for someone else. A relativist view understands something is not always entirely right or wrong. This perspective holds the perception that moral truths vary depending on culture, time, place and religion. Relativism is a popular ethic though is rejected by most religions which are absolutist. There are no objective truths in relative morality, this view is more subjective. There are no set rules and nothing is simply right or wrong. Advantages of this theory are how it explains the different values people hold and how it encourages diverse cultural expressions – it prohibits a dominant culture enforcing itself over others. It is a flexible ethical system that can accommodate the wide diversity of lifestyles in the modern world. This therefore contrasts to moral absolutism which can seem intolerant of cultural diversity.
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