Moral Relativism

10 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2009

See all articles by R. Edward Freeman

R. Edward Freeman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Daniel Gilbert

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Patricia H. Werhane

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Bidhan L. Parmar

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

This note provides an introduction to moral relativism, discusses the various ways it poses fundamental challenges to engaging in ethical reflection, and offers alternative ways of thinking about ethics that avoid the trap of relativism.

Excerpt

UVA-E-0341

January 12, 2009

Moral Relativism

Making morally defensible decisions requires balancing tolerance and resolve. Moral relativism and moral absolutism offer managers a “free pass” from the critical thinking and reasoning necessary in making well-balanced decisions. The rapidly increasing global scale of business requires that executives be prepared to confront a variety of situations in which they must determine what is ethically right and wrong. This note identifies and analyzes a few of the conceptual traps caused by relativist thinking and offers guidance on how to avoid these traps.

What Is Moral Relativism?

Moral relativism is a view about the scope of our values and beliefs. In essence, moral relativism holds that claims about what is right and wrong are relative to individual, social, and cultural boundaries; therefore one cannot judge what is right and wrong outside those individual, social, and cultural boundaries.

. . .

Keywords: ethics, relativism, decision making, ethical theory

Suggested Citation

Freeman, R. Edward and Gilbert, Daniel and Wicks, Andrew and Werhane, Patricia H. and Parmar, Bidhan L., Moral Relativism. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0341. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1417204

R. Edward Freeman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
804-924-0935 (Phone)
804-924-6378 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/freeman.htm

Daniel Gilbert

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Andrew Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/wicks.htm

Patricia H. Werhane

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4840 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/werhane.htm

Bidhan L. Parmar

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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