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Philosophical view that what is right or wrong and good or bad is not absolute but variable and relative, depending on the person, circumstances, or social situation. Rather than claiming that an action's rightness or wrongness can depend on the circumstances, or that people's beliefs about right and wrong are relative to their social conditioning, it claims (in one common form) that what is truly right depends solely on what the individual or the society thinks is right. Because what people think will vary with time and place, what is right will also vary. If, however, changing and even conflicting moral principles are equally valid, there is apparently no objective way of justifying any principle as valid for all people and all societies. This conclusion is rejected by consequentialists (seeconsequentialism) and deontologists (seedeontological ethics) alike.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ethical relativism, visit Britannica.com.
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