Part I History of Ethics
Life of Socrates
Part II Concepts and Problems
Normative Ethics and Applied Ethics
Part III Applied Ethics
Field of Applied Ethics
Distinctions within Relativism
There is a distinction between "morals" and "mores" -- the latter can be defined as "harmless customs" (e.g., "tea at 4"); the former as "treatment of others" (e.g., "the practice of Apartheid"). In discussing Relativism, we are concerned only with "moral practices."
The Problem of Relativism: What one society considers Right, another Society considers Wrong. Therefore, RIGHT AND WRONG are RELATIVE to a PARTICULAR SOCIETY. Here we need to be aware of two things:
(1) Confusing "harmless conventions" (The British drive on the left side of the road) with "harmful practices" (Clitorectomy is customary among the Somali).
(2) Even if "moralities" may differ from society to society, it need not follow that Morality Itself is relative -- for there is a further distinction between CULTURAL ("descriptive") RELATIVISM and NORMATIVE ("Ethical") RELATIVISM.
Cultural ("descriptive") Relativism:
The descriptive relativist simply notes certain sociological FACTS:
(a) Factual Claims: "x is considered right in Society y at time t" and "x is considered wrong in Society z at time t."
(b) Empirical Conclusion: Moralities are relative [Note that the claims of Cultural Relativism are either true or false.]
Normative (ethical) Relativism
The normative relativist goes BEYOND any sociological facts.
(a) Normative Claim: "What is considered right in Society x at time t IS right for that Society."
(b) Theoretical (metaethical) Claim: Morality Itself is Relative.
Note that ethical relativism does not logically follow from any truths uncovered by descriptive relativism. Note also that the ethical relativist has a hard time explaining how radical moral change can occur within a certain society (as with slavery or women's suffrage in the United States).
See excerpts from the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Moral Relativism.