The truth in ethical relativism

Journal of Social Philosophy 22 (1):146-154 (1991)
Abstract
Ethical relativism is the thesis that ethical principles or judgments are relative to the individual or culture. When stated so vaguely relativism is embraced by numerous lay persons and a sizeable contingent of philosophers. Other philosophers, however, find the thesis patently false, even wonder how anyone could seriously entertain it. Both factions are on to something, yet both miss something significant as well. Those who whole-heartedly embrace relativism note salient respects in which ethics is relative, yet erroneously infer that ethical values are noxiously subjective. Those who reject relativism do so because they think ethics is subject to rational scrutiny, that moral views can be correct or incorrect. But in rejecting objectionable features of relativism they overlook significant yet non-pernicious ways in which ethics is relative.
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