Explain the difference between absolutist and relativist ethics. The Absolutist theory is the theory that certain things are right or wrong from an objective point of view and cannot change according to culture. Certain actions are intrinsically right or wrong, which means they are right or wrong in themselves. This is also known as deontological. The relativist theory is the theory that there are no universally valid moral principles. All principles and values are relative to a particular culture or age.
Ethical relativism means that there is no such thing as good “in itself”, but if an action seems good to you and bad to me, that is it, and there is no objective basis for us to discover the truth. This theory is also known as teleological. An example of an absolutist ethical system would be if a single mother with a very young child had no money and therefore no food to feed the child, and she stole some food from the shop and the mother was caught and had a trial, an absolutist would argue that its morally wrong to steal and should suffer the consequences of the crime.
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They don’t take into account the situation the person might be in and use an absolute law. However, this is in contrast to the alternative ethical system, called “relativist”, because this system is really the complete opposite. Again I’ll use the same example as I did for absolutist. If a relativist was looking at this they would take into consideration the situation the woman might be in and empathize with her and try to find an outcome that is the most fair.
One reason to support the absolutist approach as the only defensible approach is that it provides justification for acting which means that morality seems to demand some sort of obligation. If there’s a fixed moral code then there is no obligation to act in a way. Another Strength is that it gives clear guidelines, which basically means the rules are fixed and clear to apply. In contrast to these strengths, there are weaknesses to this theory, one being that ignores the circumstances.
This is a weakness because this seems rather cold and ignores the person’s circumstances. Surely all situations are different and need to be viewed from other people’s positions? In contrast to the absolutist theory, the relativist theory is completely opposite to what the absolutist theory states. A strength of the relativist theory is that it avoids judging one culture against the other. This is because morality is relative and that would suggest that no culture can critisise another.