Moral relativism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In philosophy, moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth. Relativistic positions often see moral values as applicable only within certain cultural boundaries or in the context of individual preferences. An extreme relativist position might suggest that judging the moral or ethical judgments or acts of another person or group has no meaning, though most relativists propound a more limited version of the theory.

Some moral relativists — for example, the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre — hold that a personal and subjective moral core lies or ought to lie at the foundation of individuals' moral acts. In this view public morality reflects social convention, and only personal, subjective morality expresses true authenticity.

Moral relativism differs from moral pluralism — which acknowledges the co-existence of opposing ideas and practices, but accepts limits to differences, such as when vital human needs get violated. Moral relativism, in contrast, grants the possibility of moral judgments that do not accept such limits.

In popular culture people often describe themselves as "morally relativist," meaning that they are accepting of other people's values and agree that there is no one "right" way of doing some things. However, this actually has little to do with the philosophical idea of relativism; relativism does not necessarily imply tolerance, just as moral objectivism does not imply intolerance. These people's moral outlook can be explained from both theoretical frameworks.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Moral relativism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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