Explain the main differences between absolute and relative morality

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Immanuel Kant Pages: 2 (884 words) Published: December 14, 2014
Explain the main differences between absolute and relative morality (25 marks). Absolute morality is morality with fixed rules. An absolutist argues that moral actions are right or wrong in themselves – regardless of circumstances, cultures or intention. They believe in ethical absolutes – rigid moral rules true for all time in all places and situations; they are facts – morality is objective. Most absolutists follow a set of rules that they view as universal truth – a religious person may see their religion’s moral code as objective. For example, a Roman Catholic would argue that abortion is intrinsically evil and always wrong – because this is what the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church teaches; and this is the moral code that they would refer to. This is the polar opposite of a relativist approach to morality. Relativists view morality as something subjective, not objective – that is, what is right for one group is not necessarily right for others; so actions cannot be intrinsically or objectively right or wrong as in absolutist theories. Moral judgement depends on the circumstances, culture, intention and many other factors. To take the same example, relativists would argue that abortion may be right in some circumstances – if the mother’s life was at risk or the pregnancy was the result of rape, some relativists would argue that abortion would be the lesser of two evils and therefore acceptable in these circumstances. Cultural relativism is a common principle held in our society today – it is the idea that different cultures have different ideas of what is right and wrong; and none of these groups have any right to impose their views upon other groups. This has replaced the absolutist way of thinking previously held in our country – as it is more tolerant and accepting of different cultures; the UK is an incredibly culturally diverse country. A typically cited example of this is the changing attitudes to the work of missionaries. In Victorian England,...
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