Absolutism versus Relativism: Definitions and Meanings – Essay Example
The paper "Absolutism versus Relativism: Definitions and Meanings" is a wonderful example of a philosophy essay.
On the most fundamental level of philosophical thinking, absolutism and relativism are diametrically opposed. A short definition of each and some discussion of the implications of each school of thought follows, to show the opposite nature of these concepts. It must be noted that the definition and discussion here is of a general nature and does not analyze either of these concepts in their many variations. The concepts are also only considered in a largely moral context: it is possible to apply these terms to political, scientific, mathematical, and even personal areas of life.
Absolutism argues that absolute laws of morality exist in human beings, in life generally and in the universe as a whole. Thus it is necessary, for example, that humans are ruled by “absolute rulers” so that they can be secure and live in harmony. If someone were morally absolutist, he/she would consider some behaviors evil, and some good: nothing about context or situation would change the nature of the behavior.
A more relativistic view would argue, in contrast, that the context or situation would have to be considered when deciding on the good or evil of a behavior. Relativism would suggest that there is no absolute truth or validity in any opinion. All behaviors, human or physical events would have to be considered within the relative, and subjective, situation or context. From the point of view of morality, there would be no absolutely defined good or evil – any behavior could be argued as acceptable or unacceptable depending on where, when, how, or why it occurred.
Whereas absolutism suggests a universal, natural system of laws, relativism presents laws with very limited force. One of the best-known absolutist writers, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), suggested that human beings are motivated by only two things: they are afraid of death, and they want power over other human beings. Relativism is more general in its approach, suggesting that personal desires, abilities, cultures, and backgrounds motivate individuals.
Within absolutist thinking, the cause of everything can be attributed to the natural laws that govern the universe and humans. Relativist thinking is more likely to look for the causal relationships between things so that a person has reasons in his/her mind for actions or thinking, and that these reasons are affected by surroundings, history and belief systems.
It is evident that these schools of thinking tend to give completely differing explanations for the nature of human existence. When approaching the area of human behavior, it is necessary to understand clearly one’s personal beliefs: Am I an Absolutist or a Relativistic thinker?