Relativism and Morality

Topics: Truth, Belief, Morality Pages: 2 (738 words) Published: January 16, 2014
We frequently make moral judgments about the actions of others. We proclaim that things like removing a wallet from someone else’s pocketbook on a crowded train; flying airplanes into the Twin Towers; and intervening (or not) in the Syrian war are wrong. According to Gilbert Harman, such judgments about people’s actions are defective because they lack relativity to the individual’s moral framework. (Harman, 1975) In ‘Some Moral Minima’ Goodman argues that “there are certain things that are simply wrong.” (Goodman, 2010) I contend that right and wrong are subjective, based upon elements of an individual’s belief system, and dependent upon the situation. In this paper, I will discuss theory based arguments to justify my disagreement with Goodman’s contention.

When considering the theories of right and wrong, it is customary to think of them as absolute. If it’s wrong, it can’t be right or if it’s right, it can’t be wrong. It is only when we stop looking at these theories as absolutes that we can begin to explore the possibilities of moral, subjective and cultural relativity. I submit that a person’s actions are only right or wrong relative to their particular moral framework. It is wrong to kill is a statement that could be made by one based on his moral and/or cultural beliefs, thereby making it a true statement. However, the image becomes blurred when that same man is responsible for administering drugs to prisoners sentenced to death. Some would conclude that such acts raze his moral framework and change the truthfulness of the statement. I submit that, to make such a judgment absent the benefit of knowing the full extent of his moral beliefs would be flawed. There is the possibility that he defines killing and carrying out a death row sentence differently. Harman asserts that it is possible that when one says “It is wrong to steal” s/he is saying something true, but that when another says “It is wrong to steal” s/he is saying...
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