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What is ethical relativism?
Ethical relativism can be described as making a decision based on ones' belief or choice on what looks ethically right. It therefore represents the position that there no moral absolutes. This is to mean that there is no moral right or wrong, that they are only valid ethic norms are the various ones which exist in particular societies and which obligate only the persons living in those particular moral communities.
Forms of ethical relativism
Ethical relativism exists in two forms; subjectivism and conventionalism. By describing subjectivism it is a view of morality as more of a personal decision based on facts and opinions while conventionalism is seen more as social acceptance which in turn coincides with cultural relativism.
Conventionalism and principle of tolerance
Therefore we can argue for or against whether conventionalism provides a good argument for the principle of tolerance? Conventionalism is a matter of what we refer to as morality, a matter of culture and social norms while the principle of tolerance entails toleration of a range of beliefs and moral values. It therefore does not allow the members of a given society to express themselves fully in their diverse beliefs, life-stances and practices. Pojman argues that conventionalism entails tolerance. This however can only be argued right if at all the moral acceptance is within the same society. If morality exists within a given society it is therefore not right to criticize the morality of another society but its own and if there exists no independent way of criticizing other cultures, that is when then that we should be tolerant as morality is only relative to the culture of a given society. Conventionalism supports the view of having moral principles relative to cultures.
What our cultures says is right or wrong remains just that, right or wrong without someone from outside arguing about it. What is right for one culture can not always be right to another culture and thus that's when conflicts arise as there can never be a defined way to handle a crush in cultures. It is from this that the principle of tolerance comes in. why should one culture tolerate the beliefs and practices of another if at all that society does not support the other's culture? It is therefore right to tolerate those cultures whose norms and beliefs are different from ours. The only solution to resolve such a crisis would therefore be reducing these cultures and societies into one culture and society- the individual. This becomes the creation of subjectivism. In this case of subjectivism, each individual has his or her own morality, individual beliefs, habits and choices.
Defining subjectivism according to Pojman is that morality is dependent on an individual. That an individual can make decisions personally without the interference of the culture. Pojman's argument for morality is this can help settle conflicts. Pojman therefore argues that conventionalism can lead to subjectivism. How then? Conventionalism is linked to viewing morality based on cultures while subjectivism is based on an individual morality. The tie between the two is linked to the fact that in both cases individuals are involved. For cultures and norms to be accepted there has to have been some individuals who those it right to places morality based on the culture they founded. On the other hand for subjectivism to exist it has to be based on an individual. Also in both instances of subjectivism and conventionalism both have a common link that there can never be an absolute morality, a defined standard of either being termed right or wrong. This can only be determined by what either the individual or the groups think. It is clear to state that the conventionalism leads to subjectivism as morality is not entirely dependent on the society nor does it exist in a vacuum but is mainly dependent on the individuals. Societies are composed of individuals and these individuals may at times argue on moral issues.
Subjectivism and reasons why Pojman criticized it
Thus this becomes Pojman's point to criticize subjectivism. He argues that what is termed as either right or wrong mainly depends on the individual's perception of what is either right or wrong. He therefore goes on to state that subjectivism makes morality useless. This is because one cannot criticize another on matters which the latter views as morally right. On this point is when we come to think and ponder on if what we tell others such as thieves and serial killers to be wrong is actually wrong considering that they view it as being right. It therefore goes to say that subjectivism is viewed on notions such as justice and the act of being fare whereas these notions are indefensible in the universal principles. It comes to this effect of subject relativism as there are no moral principles.
Pojman reduces the state of morality based on subjectivism to simple personal taste where there cannot be any constructive arguments. This can be related to what majority view as beauty being in the eyes of the beholder. There can never be a complete and comprehensive argument about this as everyone will have a different view. He therefore inclines to the reasoning that there can never be a moral agreement for subjectivism but moral agreements can be found in conventionalism.
The fact that people are social creatures helps Pojman in stating that subjectivism treats people with isolation while in the real sense they should be interactive with families and other groups. Pojman main points all direct to the fact that subjectivism is incoherent due to the fact that human interaction will involve common languages, norms and habits, and because there could never be a resolution to conflicts in subjectivism it therefore fails to recognize the existence of a common humanity in people.