Moral Relativism

Philippa Foot

in Moral Dilemmas

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252848
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597411 | DOI:
Moral Relativism

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Examines various definitions of moral relativism, first discussing the views of Charles Stevenson and Walter Stace and suggesting that neither of these two authors deals with the most troubling form that relativism can take. The important question is whether societies with widely differing moral codes may ultimately simply face each other without there being any common standard to which both must answer. Bernard Williams has argued in favour of the possibility of this ultimate confrontation and so supports a radical form of moral relativism. Foot, however, challenges it, suggesting that the use of the concept of morality brings with it the relevance of more or less determinate considerations of human goods and evils. During the discussion of Stace's views, there is also consideration of the important relativistic idea that rightness and wrongness is relative to each person's conscience. This too is denied, in agreement with Aquinas’ argument that even an erring conscience binds but cannot excuse. It is always wrong to go against one's conscience, but when conscience errs, it may also be wrong to do what one thinks one should do.

Keywords: aesthetic judgement; Aquinas; conscience; moral judgement; moral relativism; Walter Stace; Charles Stevenson; Bernard Williams

Chapter.  7034 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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