Chapter Three: Relativism

Section  3. What Relativism Opposes

The best definition of relativism takes the form of a denial. It is a rejection of two things.

First, relativism denies the existence of any moral obligation or moral principle or moral value which applies to all people at all times in all places. This means that it is a rejection of "Universal Objectivism"; that is, it rejects that there are objective principles (etc.) that apply universally (i.e. to all people).

Second, relativism denies that moral principles (etc.) are independent of the moral agent's (or community's) belief system. In other words, this is a denial of "Moral Realism." This follows from the Dependency Thesis. The Dependency Thesis says that obligations derive from beliefs; the belief that abortion is wrong causes abortion to be wrong. Realism is the philosophical doctrine that stuff exists whether or not we believe it exists. Snow exists whether or not Mary believes snow exists. Moral realism holds that moral realities (right actions, obligations, values, etc.) do NOT depend upon human recognition. Moral realism thus allows for people to be wrong in their beliefs.


Proceed to the next section of the chapter by clicking here>> section.

Copyright Stephen O Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino  2002. All Rights reserved.

Return to:               Table of Contents for the Online Textbook