Journal: Ethical Relativism

Ethical “relativism” asserts that any act is right in its cultural context. It is another aspect that people wanting to find and practice a less stringent interpretation of ethical morality have tried to give validity. Self-disciplined ethics and morals and can be practiced more profitably at other people’s expense without (also annoying) guilt or blame or shame. There are several occasions in my professional experience in the hotel industry that ethical relativism has impacted a decision.

One significant example is that of a waitress and the hotel manager, and the waitress’s father expressing their ideas about the use of violence when clients make displeasing remarks about the hotel’s food. After having prevented an impending fight following a violent client aggressively making unpleasant comments about the hotel’s food and the waitress, the hotel manager advised the waitress not to use violence ever when she encounters aggressive clients. According to the hotel manager, violence is against the hotels’ organizational culture and uncivilized and dangerous. Later that day, after hearing the story, the waitress’ father advised her never to allow such disrespect. Instead, she should hit clients once, and they likely will not use insults and displeasing comments. In the end, the waitress decided to follow what was right. One of her values was to avoid violence and respect others. She decided to talk to the client and let him understand that his actions were not right. The outcome of this experience was quite fair since it both favored the needs of the waitress and ensured that the client understood what was right.

This is an excellent example of moral relativism because both answers can be right or wrong, depending on the context and values, principles or standards prioritized. The hotel manager and the father prioritize and perhaps even define their values differently, explaining their different judgments of what is good in this situation. An individual would have to wonder, ideally or in practice? Ideally, it means individuals can consider all possible moral positions and have or attempt to know all possible moral positions. They can find a moral opinion or action that properly suits a situation. More basically, a recognition that “something” is not always right or always wrong – it depends on many things, most especially context. By following her own set of rules and values, the waitress did what was morally right, and by doing that, she was able to help others understand and save the hotel’s reputation.

In practice, those who trumpet ethical relativism are obsessed with putting down one particular source of morality. They probably just want to do whatever they want to do and not have anyone say anything about it. This does not mean that that ethical relativism is terrible – I think well-informed, knowledgeable moral relativism practiced with humility is a good preference. It equally applies to oneself – I am not always right, nor always wrong, and there may be or usually are more options than I am aware of. I suppose that knowing many moralities and conscientiously choosing what ethically applies is a good practice. However, some people use it simply to have the illusion of moral solidity without any external reference points at all. In a way, it can be a statement of self-godhood. The missing ingredient being conscientiousness.







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