31 Types of Relativism


Cultural  relativism  describes  the simple fact that there are different  cultures and each has different ways of behaving, thinking and feeling as its members learn such from the previous generation.  There is an enormous amount of evidence to confirm this claim.  It is well known by just about every human on the planet that people do things differently around the globe.  People dress differently, eat differently, speak different languages, sing different songs, have different music and dances and have many different customs.

This is a scientific theory well supported by the evidence gathered by cultural anthropologists.

Descriptive ethical relativism describes the fact that in different cultures one of the variants is the sense of morality: the mores, customs and ethical principles may all vary from one culture to another.   There is a great deal of information available to confirm this as well.  What is thought to be moral in one country may be thought to be immoral and even made illegal in another country.

This is a scientific theory well supported by the evidence gathered by cultural anthropologists.



Moral in USA Immoral in
Eating Beef India
Drinking alcohol, Gambling Middle Eastern Islamic Countries
Women in school or business Afghanistan
Women wearing shorts, face uncoverd Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan

Or the reverse pattern


Immoral in USA Moral or Acceptable
Killing newborn females China, India
Female genital mutilation Many African nations (It is female circumcision)
Family kills a woman family member who is raped Somalia, Sudan


Can you think of other examples?


Normative ethical relativism is a theory, which claims that there are no universally valid moral principles. Normative ethical relativism theory says that the moral rightness and wrongness of actions varies from society to society and that there are no absolute universal moral standards binding on all men at all times.   The theory claims that all thinking about the basic principles of morality (Ethics) is always relative.  Each culture establishes the basic values and principles that serve as the foundation for morality. The theory claims that this is the case now, has always been the case and will always be the case.


Relativism  Skepticism

-no moral principles exist



There are universal ethical principles that apply to all humans.

There are absolutes.

Cultural Relativism There exists a moral core-without which

i.society will not flourish

ii.individuals will not flourish

Descriptive Ethical Relativism
Normative Ethical Relativism
no universal criteria A) there exist moral truths
no absolutes not even tolerance B) Reason can discover truths
no criticism of majority C) it is in our interest to promote them
reduces to subjectivism
We should not make moral judgements concerning other individuals and societies. We do and should judge other individuals and societies with reason and with sympathy and understanding.


Have you ever thought or heard and not challenged the idea that we should not make moral judgments of other people?  Have you ever thought that each person must make up his or her own mind about what his or her moral rules will be?  Have you ever accepted the idea that “Unless you walk a mile in the other man’s moccasins, you can not make a judgment concerning him”?

Have you ever thought that while some act might not be morally correct for you it might be correct for another person or conversely have you thought that while some act might be morally correct for you it might not be morally correct for another person?  Have you thought that each person must make up his or her own morality?

Well, if you answered, “Yes” to any of the above you have relativistic ideas operating in your thought system.  Now you might ask yourself whether or not you really accept those ideas?

Do you believe that you must go out and kill several people in order to make the judgment that a serial killer is doing something wrong?  Do you really believe that you need to kidnap, rape, kill and eat several young men in order to reach the conclusion that Jeffrey Damer did something wrong, morally wrong and horrible?

Do you think that killing newborn babies because they are females is wrong, even for the Chinese?  Don’t you think that once the Chinese and Indians and Africans have a higher quality of life and are better educated that they will and should stop doing those things that harm, kill or degrade women?  If you do you have absolutist ideas working in you as well.

How can you hold opposing ideas at the same time?


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