Tag Archives: absolutism versus relativism

Absolutism Versus Relativism

“Explain the need for finding a medium between absolutism and relativism for today’s global society, and then explaining the possibility of finding such a medium and achieving it.”

Asking me a question about absolutism relating to relativism is akin to asking an atheist to relate Catholicism to Judaism. First, I do not believe that there is any higher moral code than man’s. Second, I believe that morality is merely the mean, within a society, of the ethical beliefs of the whole of the membership. Each person, then, forms their own personal moral code by examining the interactions within their society. I feel that this is more of a political notion than an ethical one. This leads me down the path of nihilism where the only moral code is a personal willingness to accept (or, accept to change) societal values, these values having no transcendence beyond our own lives.

Absolutism, as Thiroux and Krasemann (2009) explain it, is a belief that there are moral truths which transcend human life (p. 89). Relativism describes a belief system that is particular to a certain society, and though each belief may transcend the society, it is not necessarily so (p. 90). It appears that absolutism is flat in geometrical terms while relativity is three dimensional, and just as you can place a circle within a sphere but not the inverse, I believe that absolutism can exist within the confines of a greater relativism. It does not seem, however, that relativism can exist within an absolutist system of morals.

Coexisting moral codes can certainly conflict if two competing beliefs are thought to be absolute. However, I believe that many of the competing moral codes do not have to be unwavering. The members of the various societies of this world can certainly choose to interact or not interact with members of other societies in such ways that would allow their beliefs to compete. This is seen within the debates of religion versus science. Though the can coexist, they are not comparable in terms of values and, therefore, should not be compared. Unfortunately, when one chooses to live within a society, one chooses to abide by the governance of its moral code or should make attempts to change it.


Thiroux, J. P., & Krasemann, K. W. (2009). Ethics: Theory and practice (Tenth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.