Ethical relativism is the normative theory that suggests that what is right is what the culture says is right. What is right in one place may be wrong in another, since the only criterion for distinguishing right from wrong, the only ethical standard for judging an action is the moral system of the society in which the act occurs. According to this theory, there is no absolute ethical standard, independent of cultural context, no criterion of right or wrong by which to judge, save that of particular societies. In short, the theory suggests that morality is relative to society (Crowther and Miriam 173). ER relies on three claims or assumptions, which are:
- Members of different cultures and societies conduct their lives according to moral precepts that do not only vary from each other, but may also conflict with each other
- Moral beliefs and judgments are determined by their social, cultural or psychological settings
- There are no objective, universal criteria for resolving conflicting worldviews.
There are two views that fall under ER, which are ethnical subjectivism and cultural relativism. Ethical subjectivism postulates that individuals create their own morality and there are no objective moral truths, rather only individual opinions. Cultural relativism is the ethical view that moral evaluation is rooted in and cannot be separated from the experience, beliefs, and behaviors of a particular culture and hence what is wrong in one culture may not be so in another (Paul, Fred, and Jeffrey 7).
The critics of ethical relativism pose a judgment question asking whether it will be possible for one society or an individual to judge the other’s behavior considering that all socially acceptable behaviors are considered valid under ethical relativism. Objectivism holds the view that there are certain moral principles that are valid for all individuals and cultures. Objectivism comes in different levels, which are,
1) The fixed view, which suggests that values are fixed and do not change;,
2) The universal view, which incorporates the fixed view and adds that principles apply to all people everywhere, and
3) The absolutist view which incorporates the universal view and adds that certain principles are non-override able and true for all situations (Butts and Karen 8).
Butts, Janie B, and Karen L. Rich. Nursing Ethics: Across the Curriculum and into Practice. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013. Print.
Crowther, David, and Miriam Green. Organisational Theory. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2004. Print.
Paul, Ellen F, Fred D. Miller, and Jeffrey Paul. Objectivism, Subjectivism, and Relativism in Ethics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print.