Ethics of Relativism, Utilitarianism and Libertarianism Term Paper

November 12, 2020 by Essay Writer

Unsatisfactory Implications

Ethical relativism is the concept that describes the morals and views of individuals in a given society as equally rational. In this regard, rational aspects are determined by what a particular culture determines as right or wrong (Shaw, 2008). Therefore, the concept is based on the fact that reality felt by an individual is bound to the culture or societal beliefs. Hence, any ethical judgment is influenced by the moral values of one’s society. However, there are several implications, in which ethical relativists believe, as the concept bears various unsatisfactory implications.

The first unsatisfactory implication of the ethical relativists is that progression in moral values is undoubtedly impossible. Shaw (2008) articulates that there is no such moral progress as believed by the relativists. This implies that any moral progress must be succeeded by anything regarded as appropriate. Thus, the achievement of anything appropriate/good is influenced by a given set of common standards. The ethical relativists consider any moral progress as retrogressive.

Consider a situation where slavery was considered by most societies to be morally right in the past. The current society considers that having another person as a slave is immoral due to the developments in civilization, exposure, and political stability of several countries. While comparing the two incidences, it is evident that there is only a difference in perception of what slavery is. This is to say that moral values of a given society can either be changed to good or bad depending on what the society considers to be right.

The second unsatisfactory implication is that any individual should not condemn another person’s culture in cases where the personal behaviors are wrong. Considering some situations regarded by a particular society as right, it might be unaccepted practically. For example, a particular society may condemn women holding any leadership positions, which are seen as work for men. In this case, no one should question or condemn this act. If there is the condemnation of other cultures, this act cannot exist in those particular societies that deter women from holding senior positions in businesses or societal leadership.

Thirdly, the most serious unsatisfactory implication is what the ethical relativists regard as unacceptable for any individual to denounce his or her culture. This implies that no one is to question his/her culture regards as moral or immoral. For example, a person does not need to doubt the ethical relativists who hold that the society believes men to be above women. This attribute indicates that even if a woman qualifies to be above a man, it would be disrespectful for an individual who belongs to that society to disregard what the society holds. In this light, it can be seen that such cases are retrogressive.

Inquiries Facing Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism, an ethical philosophy, is based on the actions that result in benefits to the majority in any society and encourages various organizations to emphasize ethical policies satisfying the majority (Shaw, 2011). However, there are several inquiries that face this theory.

The first critical inquiry is on if there are actions that may seem wrong even if the implications seem to be good. In as much as utilitarianism is focused on the actions rather than on their course, there are some deeds that are worth critique. It would be morally right not to undertake something as it may result in happiness to the majority (Shaw, 2011). Killing a person because of his or her views would befit the majority in case society hate him or her. However, it would be unjust to the minority affected by the killing, while the majority would celebrate the occasion.

The second inquiry is based on the workability of utilitarianism. Satisfying the majority would be noble. On the contrary, the course of action would be detrimental. The level of happiness may be different, leading to the gearing of the action towards satisfying the majority, which might be questionable. It would not be easy to satisfy the majority as the course of action might be inexact.

The last inquiry is on the determination of justice behind utilitarianism. Since the theory is based on the result, which is the happiness of the majority, the way of achieving happiness is debatable on whether justice was done or not. In a situation where other people’s happiness is sacrificed at the expense of the majority, utilitarianism is regarded to be unjust. Therefore, utilitarianism is only justified if the course of action befits everyone (Shaw, 2011).


In most cases, property rights constrain liberty (Rothbard, 1978). According to the Lockean rights, there are usually aspects of liberty and rights. Libertarians, therefore, emphasize the negative liberties as well as rights which override most definite liberties. In this case, the Lockean rights put it clear that one is at liberty to do anything as long as the second party’s rights are not infringed. In respect to this, the libertarian factor in private property rights is postulated in the Lockean rights. In other occasions, the Lockean rights point that individual’s right should not be forsaken by the negativity of some rights imposed by several states (Rothbard, 1978).

Therefore, the libertarians have a purpose of agitating for physical products of liberty referred to as private property. Conclusively, libertarians express more concerns to private property as supported by Lockean rights.


Rothbard, M. N. (1973). For a new liberty. New York: Macmillan.

Shaw, W. H. (2008). Business ethics (6th ed.). Belmont, Calif.: Thomson Wadsworth.

Shaw, W. H. (2011). Business ethics (7th ed., Student ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Read more