Values and Society – Lecture 3
Ethical Relativism and Aristotle
Ethical Relativism: The moral rightness and wrongness of actions vary across different societies. There
are no absolute moral standards binding on all people at all times. Recognizing this, we should be
tolerant of moral differences across societies.
Plato asks “Do the gods love the good because it is good, or is it good because the gods love it?”
There are two options:
They are good whether or not the gods think so.
They are good only because the gods think so.
There are the same two options regarding moral judgements:
They are true whether or not our culture says so.
They are true only because our culture says so.
The ethical relativist believes that the second option is always true.
Premise 1: The Diversity Thesis
There are many cultures in the world. Each of these different cultures has their own distinct moral code.
A cultures moral code emerges out of these particular values and social arrangements of that culture
itself. Example: “Courage in battle is the highest virtue” (true in some cultures, not true in others).
Certain moral judgements have no case in certain