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Relative or Absolute

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Under the moral system espoused by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, property was stolen and destroyed; countries were invaded, looted, and pillaged; and millions of innocent people were raped, mutilated, experimented upon, tortured, and murdered. Discuss the extent to which you feel such a system is moral or immoral, basing your answer upon whether you feel morality is relative or absolute?

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Relative or Absolute

Notes by Bjarke Viskum, University of Stirling, PhD (ip)

1. Let us start by agreeing that with the exception of a few confused neo-Nazis, we all feel that the Nazi regime was deeply immoral and that regardless of whether we subscribe to a respectively meta-ethical relativism, objectivism or absolutism. Rather, the question is whether and on what grounds the relativist or the absolutist can criticise 'Nazi-morality' (insofar as one can speak of such a thing) as being morally inferior to our Western value system.
2. Nowadays many people - and many philosophers as well - subscribe to a form of ethical relativism. The rational is simple: We observe that different cultures around the world and throughout time subscribe to different and sometimes divergent value systems and ask why the type of morality that we by chance happen to be brought up with should be the single true and most justified morality? Of course, we all think that the morality we subscribe to is in fact the true morality, but can we justify this belief? (Important, the mere fact that we can observe a plurality of moral system does not entail the truth of meta-ethical relativism. One of the moral systems could be more justified than the others. Likewise, the mere fact that there are divergent scientific theories does not entail that none of them are more justified than others.)
3. The absolutist would appeal to a universal standard of morality. She would claim to know the single true and most justified morality. Thus, in criticising for example Nazi-morality the absolutist can appeal to a universal standard of morality that we qua universal are all obliged to adhere to. She could for example argue that the equal worth of all human beings is a universal value that all whether they do so or not should subscribe to, wherefore the Nazi value system is immoral because inherent in this system is the belief that Jews are a form of sub-humans. Now, the problems for the absolutist are of course to prove that there ...

Solution Summary

The solution discusses the extent to which you feel a system is moral or immoral.