Indeed, relativism and the moral nihilism with which it is often affiliated, seems to be in retreat everywhere. For many observers and critics, this is a wholly positive development since both have the corrosive effect of undermining ethical certainty. I think there are two motivations behind this disdain for relativism and moral nihilism:
Ancient Greece Ancient Greece was the birthplace of Western philosophical ethics. The ideas of Socrates c. The sudden flowering of philosophy during that period was rooted in the ethical thought of earlier centuries.
In the poetic literature of the 7th and 6th centuries bce, there were, as in other culturesmoral precepts but no real attempts to formulate a coherent overall ethical position. The Greeks were later to refer to the most prominent of these poets and early philosophers as the seven sagesand they are frequently quoted with respect by Plato and Aristotle.
Knowledge of the thought of this period is limited, for often only fragments of original writings, along with later accounts of dubious accuracy, remain. He appears to have written nothing at all, but he was the founder of a school of thought that touched on all aspects of life and that may have been a kind of philosophical and religious order.
In ancient times the school was best known for its advocacy of vegetarianismwhich, like that of the Jains, was associated with the belief that after the death of the body, the human soul may take up residence in the body of an animal see reincarnation.
Pythagoreans continued to espouse this view for many centuries, and classical passages in the works of writers such as Ovid 43 bce—17 ce and Porphyry — opposing bloodshed and animal slaughter can be traced to Pythagoras.
This term was used in the 5th century to refer to a class of professional teachers of rhetoric and argument. The Sophists promised their pupils success in political debate and increased influence in the affairs of the city. They were accused of being mercenaries who taught their students to win arguments by fair means or foul.
Aristotle said that Protagoras c. They regarded themselves as imparters of the cultural and intellectual qualities necessary for success, and their involvement with argument about practical affairs naturally led them to develop views about ethics.
The recurrent theme in the views of the better-known Sophists, such as Protagoras, Antiphon c. He argued that, while the particular content of the moral rules may vary, there must be rules of some kind if life is to be tolerable.
Thus, Protagoras stated that the foundations of an ethical system needed nothing from the gods or from any special metaphysical realm beyond the ordinary world of the senses. He explained that the concept of justice means nothing more than obedience to the laws of society, and, since these laws are made by the strongest political group in its own interest, justice represents nothing but the interest of the stronger.
Presumably he would then encourage his pupils to follow their own interests as best they could. It is not surprising that, with ideas of this sort in circulation, other thinkers should react by probing more deeply into ethics to see whether the potentially destructive conclusions of some of the Sophists could be resisted.
This reaction produced works that have served ever since as the cornerstone of the entire edifice of Western ethics. Yet, unlike other figures of comparable importance, such as the Buddha or Confucius, he did not tell his audience how they should live.
What Socrates taught was a method of inquiry.
relativism. Belief that human judgments are always conditioned by the specific social environment of a particular person, time, or place. Cognitive relativists hold that there can be no universal knowledge of the world, but only diverse interpretations of it. History Background. The Ethical movement was an outgrowth of the general loss of faith among the intellectuals of the Victorian era.A precursor to the doctrines of the ethical movement can be found in the South Place Ethical Society, founded in as the South Place Chapel on Finsbury Square, on the edge of the City of London. Morality is a code of conduct adopted by a society. But who decides what it is? In previous centuries people generally agreed on a common idea of morality, but times have changed. The hypocrisy of organized religion and the secularization of society have left us adrift and without a shared notion.
When the Sophists or their pupils boasted that they knew what justice, piety, temperance, or law was, Socrates would ask them to give an account, which he would then show was entirely inadequate. For those who thought that adherence to the conventional moral code was more important than the cultivation of an inquiring mind, the charge was appropriate.
By conventional standards, Socrates was indeed corrupting the youth of Athens, though he himself considered the destruction of beliefs that could not stand up to criticism as a necessary preliminary to the search for true knowledge. In this respect he differed from the Sophists, with their ethical relativism, for he thought that virtue is something that can be known and that the virtuous person is the one who knows what virtue is.
SocratesSocrates, herm from a Greek original, second half of the 4th century bce; in the Capitoline Museums, Rome. He believed that virtue could be known, though he himself did not profess to know it. He also thought that anyone who knows what virtue is will necessarily act virtuously.
Those who act badly, therefore, do so only because they are ignorant of, or mistaken about, the real nature of virtue.
This belief may seem peculiar today, in large part because it is now common to distinguish between what a person ought to do and what is in his own interest. Once this assumption is made, it is easy to imagine circumstances in which a person knows what he ought to do but proceeds to do something else—what is in his own interests—instead.
Indeed, how to provide self-interested or merely rational people with motivating reasons for doing what is right has been a major problem for Western ethics. In ancient Greece, however, the distinction between virtue and self-interest was not made—at least not in the clear-cut manner that it is today.
The Greeks believed that virtue is good both for the individual and for the community. He also took over the Socratic method of conducting philosophy, developing the case for his own positions by exposing errors and confusions in the arguments of his opponents.
He did this by writing his works as dialogues in which Socrates is portrayed as engaging in argument with others, usually Sophists. PlatoPlato, marble portrait bust, from an original of the 4th century bce; in the Capitoline Museums, Rome.Ethics.
|Table of Contents.||What have you been thinking about? This chapter examines the idea of moral relativism and its consequences.|
The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Philosophers today usually divide ethical theories into three general subject areas: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.
Relativism, roughly put, is the view that truth and falsity, right and wrong, standards of reasoning, and procedures of justification are products of differing conventions and frameworks of assessment and that their authority is .
christian responsibility, cont. d) take up your cross. a faithful christian is one who is walking under persecution and testing - the cross prepared specifically for him to carry. The Importance of Ethical Decision Making - Introduction Generally, ethics is defined as standards of performance that explains how human beings should opt to react during many circumstances in which they meet with friends, citizens, parents, teachers, children, .
The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. Moral relativism takes the position that moral and/or ethical propositions do not reflect universal moral standards. Moreover, moral relativism takes the position that moral truths reflect those of social, cultural, and historical circumstances.