So relativism can’t just be the anodyne claim that moral differences exist.If so, it would be indistinguishable from any other theory. It claims that human beings effectively construct morality.Structurally, they both have the form [subject] [predicate]. Yet there is a massive difference between them: The first is an objective claim, and the second is a subjective claim.
Let’s view this as the ground floor of ethical inquiry.
One question within applied ethics is whether and to what extent abortion is justified. But go up one level of abstraction and you’ll find yourself doing normative ethics, which looks at ethical .
When it comes to evaluating ice cream flavors, what we think or how we feel makes all the difference.
What do planetary bodies and ice cream flavors have to do with ethics? All of us have to ask ourselves: Is morality more like the our planet’s shape or like our dessert preferences?
An example of an ethical principle is the Golden Rule; notice that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a general principle rather than some thorny ethical dilemma with which society is currently concerned.
The idea is that normative principles should illuminate the applied issues — for example, learning about utilitarianism should supply one with a framework to use when theorizing about, say, climate change. At the highest level of abstraction, the theorizer is not concerned with specific moral problems (applied ethics), nor is he or she concerned with specifying the right ethical principle (normative ethics).
It is very important that we not confuse relativism of either variety with the similar but importantly different claim that morality differs across cultures and individuals.
Every ethical theory without qualification accepts that morality differs across societies and individuals.
Yet I attributed subjectivity to (2) because judgments of taste do in fact depend on what we think or how we feel.
Ask yourself a simple question: What makes a given claim true or false — something inside the head or something outside the head?