Criticisms of absolutist ethics
- Absolutist ethics are inflexible
- It puts rules before people
- Following absolutist rules doesn't necessarily lead to a better society
- Sometimes the end does justify the means
- It is elitist and intolerant of other cultures and societies
Criticisms of relativist ethics
- Relativism makes it hard to criticise horrific acts like those of the Nazis
- People need rules and society cannot function without laws
- It is much harder to apply relativist theories
- What do you do if two relativists disagree?
You may have studied Cultural Relativism. Cultural relativism is a very weak ethical position. It doesn't really allow ethics to happen, because it claims that the right thing to do is to follow the rules of your society. It also doesn't acknowledge that any society has a variety of rules that may contradict - which do you follow?
Someone like MacIntyre recognises that values change from one society to the next, and we have to understand the context of an issue to understand the ethical decisions people make. However, this is not the same as saying that MacIntyre is a cultural relativist. He isn't saying that something is good simply because it is valued by a society.
Fletcher is another moral relativist who is a long way from being a cultural relativist. It is important not to merely criticise cultural relativism and presume that you have dealt a heavy blow to Virtue Ethics and Situation Ethics.