What's the difference between moral relativism and moral absolutism?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The difference here is that moral relativism says that there is no fixed morality whereas moral absolutism holds that there is.  The latter holds that some things are absolutely morally good or bad while the former holds that things are only morally good or bad in context.

For example, let us look at the idea of chicken fighting as animal abuse.  Here in the United States, this practice is seen as immoral because it is cruel to animals.  To a moral absolutist, this would mean that chicken fighting is immoral whether done by an American in the US or by a Filipino in the Philippines (my uncle in the Philippines raises fighting cocks).  To a relativist, the American would be acting immorally because his culture says chicken fighting is immoral.  However, the Filipino would not be acting immorally because his culture says that it is acceptable.

This is the difference -- relativism says that what's moral changes from place to place while absolutism says that something that is truly immoral is immoral no matter what a particular culture thinks.

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