In philosophy, moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition’s truth; moral subjectivism is thus the opposite of moral absolutism.
Relativistic positions often see moral values as applicable only within certain cultural boundaries … or in the context of individual preferences …. An extreme relativist position might suggest that judging the moral or ethical judgments or acts of another person or group has no meaning, though most relativists propound a more limited version of the theory. In moral relativism there are no absolute rights and wrongs, only different situations.
Some moral relativists — for example, the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre — hold that a personal and subjective moral core lies or ought to lie at the base of individuals’ moral acts. In this view public morality reflects social convention, and only personal, subjective morality expresses true authenticity.
My uncle died yesterday.
He was a nice man, the youngest of 7 children on my mother’s side. He worked hard, raised four kids. A quiet man, married to a vivacious French Canadian woman. Once he told me that when he was a little kid, the teacher in kindergarten thought he was so cute that she used to hug him all the time.
When the older members of your family pass away, you realize a door is closing that will never be re-opened. The people of your childhood are disappearing. Opportunities to learn more about who you are have been lost. That the visit you were meaning to make, well it’s too late now.
His oldest daughter, my cousin, relinquished a child, a boy, to adoption. She’s had some trouble in her life. (I wonder why?) She’s never looked for her son. She knows I found mine. She’s met him. When I’ve hit rocky patches in my reunion, she’s said maybe it’s just as well she never looked. I guess she’s frightened.
Her son would have been my uncle’s first grandchild. I wonder if they look alike, blonde hair blue eyes. Good looking. He’d be almost 40 now. He probably has a wife and some kids.
I wonder if he felt a little tug on his heart from somewhere yesterday? A little something wrong? Did he hear the click of a door closing in front of him – forever?
About ten years ago, the same cousin’s youngest brother fathered a child. He was not in a committed relationship with the woman but she had the baby and he shares custody and brings his son to many family occasions.
Sunday my husband and I are driving to attend the memorial service. That son, no doubt, will be there with his father, helping to remind him that life goes on and family matters.
People tell me that when I write fiction “moral relativism” is one of my recurring themes. I like to think they say that because I create sympathetic characters who the reader understands and even approves of when they do things society usually frowns upon. ( I wonder why?)
Forty years ago my cousin did one of the worst things a girl could possibly do. She got pregnant. Her son is lost to her and us. A terrible price to pay.
Ten years ago her brother did the same thing.
Her brother’s son is part of the family. The same people who took attitudes of moral indignation over her situation (and my own), welcome his son with open arms.
That is a perfect example of moral relativism to me. And why on my Facebook page I describe my religious views as flexible.