Ethical Relativism

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  • The idea that morality is entirely dependent on a specific time and place. Ethical relativism is perhaps the most controversial (and forcefully repudiated) position in all philosophy. Whereas philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Plato offered an absolute and binding moral code, ethical relativists deny the very possibility that morality can be universally grounded. Although ethical relativists may argue from a number of different positions, many of their claims are often anthropologically based; in discrete societies, moral codes have diverged dramatically, differing from time to time and place to place. Whereas some societies find female genital mutilation deplorable, for example, others imbue this action with deep religious and cultural connotations. Critics have countered that some common human values are indeed universal; prohibitions against “unjustified” (although this ...

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