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Ethics- Paper 1 - Thomas Arnost Intro to Ethics Professor...

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Thomas Arnost Intro to Ethics Professor Delaney February 12, 2008 Relativism vs. Absolutism The concept of “right and wrong” is a topic that will never cease to be controversial. There are innumerous approaches one can take in this debate. This paper will examine a few of the more popular points of view that exist. First, the differences between descriptive and normative ethical relativism will be explored. We will then proceed do the same for moral objectivism and moral absolutism. Then, both the strong points and fault of both normative ethical relativism and moral objectivism will be identified and critiqued. Lastly, we will examine how ethical pluralism manages to find a middle ground between normative ethical relativism and moral objectivism. Many people often find it difficult to recognize the subtle differences between descriptive ethical relativism and normative ethical relativism. Descriptive ethical relativism is a theory points to cultural differences as the reason for the discrepancies between what is considered morally just in different societies, but not does point to one or the other as being right or wrong. For example, in the article titled “Custom is King”, Herodotus discusses a people called Callatians whose men eat the bodies of their deceased fathers. Some may consider this practice to be morally reprehensible, but a descriptive relativist insists that cultural differences are the reason for this difference in point of view and refuses to acknowledge that this practice is either right or wrong. A normative realist, however, would have a different opinion on the matter. As the name would suggest, normative realists point to the norm as the factor that distinguishes right from wrong. Therefore, acts that are considered to be a norm within a society are
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considered morally justifiable acts and those that go against the norm are not. In the case of the Callatians, a normative realist would view this act as ethically permissible do to the fact that this is a common practice in that society.
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