Louis Pojman argues for objectivism instead of relativism in morality even though we are attracted to the idea of relativism. Ethical relativism is made up of a diversity thesis and a dependency thesis. The diversity thesis is also known as cultural relativism and basically states that morality is different between different societies. The dependency thesis is similar to the diversity thesis, but states that morality depends on the context of the society. There are two views on the dependency thesis. In one view it is the application of the moral principles that depends on the situation, but in the other the principles (not how they are applied) actually depend on the situation. And even with the application of moral principles it is important to remember that they can change. Ethical relativism has two categories: subjectivism and conventionalism. Subjectivism is all about the individual, like it is everyone for themselves. This idea makes people like Hitler, Bundy, and members of the KKK (just to name a few) justified in their actions. With conventionalism it is all about the society or culture, but then it becomes a question of how many individuals it takes to make a society.
If there are enough Hitler-like people then they can form their own culture with its own morals and anything goes again. Both of these views of ethical relativism seem to be going in circles allowing all behavior as acceptable. Another issue with ethical relativism – whether it is subjective or conventional – is that a person has to determine what is their primary culture. Culture is made up of so many aspects like location, race, gender, religion, sexual status, etc. that a person could be making a moral decision that goes against one part of their culture but is acceptable with another part. Pojman outlines ethical relativism and then discusses moral objectivism as the correct idea. He argues that it only takes one moral principle for all people to show that relativism is false and objectivism is true.
He states a variety of general ethical principles (ten, specifically, which may have a connection to the Ten Commandments or may just be a coincidence) that seem to be necessary to rid suffering, resolve conflict, and promote human flourishing. While reading Pojman’s statements on ethical relativism I asked myself where do we draw the line on deciding what is right and wrong. As a Christian it was difficult to read that some people believe in relativism and think that whatever they personally decide to be acceptable IS acceptable – or even that entire societies can do something that goes against human nature. It was a relief to get to the end of the article where Pojman argues against relativism and makes a case for objectivism based on the fact that we do have a core morality.
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