Moral Relativism (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The philosophized notion that right and wrong are not absolute values, but are personalized according to the individual and his or her circumstances or cultural orientation. It can be used positively to effect change in the law (e.g., promoting tolerance for other customs or lifestyles) or negatively as a means to attempt justification for wrongdoing or lawbreaking. The opposite of moral relativism is moral absolutism, which espouses a fundamental, NATURAL LAW of constant values and rules, and which judges all persons equally, irrespective of individual circumstances or cultural differences.
Within the U.S. justice system, constant values or rules (represented by constitutional, statutory, or case law) are intended to be structurally tempered to accommodate moral relativity. For example, OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932, is credited with being the first Supreme Court justice to state that the U.S. Constitution was an organic document living constitution subject to changing interpretation. Many times since, Supreme Court justices, in their opinions, have referred to the notion of "evolving" law when modifying, refining, or, in rare circumstances, overruling earlier precedent. Likewise, statutory laws are enacted or repealed by Congress or state legislators in an effort to best reflect the...
(The entire section is 403 words.)
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