Critical Thinking/Moral Theories

Critical Thinking/MoralTheories

Is Morality Relative or Universal

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In a very brief discussion, the paper reviews the two general typesof moral theories asserting that morality is either relative or thatmorality is universal. As argued hereafter, morality is a relativeconcept, where what is moral is determined by the context. Theassertion that morality is relative best represents the views of thepresent scholar, although the strength and weaknesses of either ofthe two arguments has been critically reviewed with both logic andsound reasoning.

: Is Morality Relative or Universal

The two general types of moral theories assert that morality iseither (a) relative or (b) universal. Based on reasoning proposed byJudith (2015), then it is certain that morality is more of a relativethan a universal concept, since where is largely determined by thecontext it is applied in. In India today, a bull is regarded as areligious symbol of figure, and how one treats it determines whetherhe is moral or immoral. The same bull in South America is a source offood (beef) and sporting amusement. How one treats a bull in centralIndia and in South America is either moral or immoral based on thecontext, and thus relative rather than defined with a universalstandard. This paper asserts that morality will always be relative,and even when pursuing a universal moral standard, what must bechanged is the context of morality to a universal platform, such thatthe relative concept of morality can equally be universally accepted.

Arguing that morality is universal proposes that all peopleregardless of gender, location, age, culture, education, and contextmust observe similar moral standards. Such a move seeks to dictate avirtue from one party that is superior to the other and thusadvancing what seems to be moral from their superiority stance. Itwould be valid to have some moral standards universally observed,such as in parenting, education, mass media, politics, etc. This cancredibly help in attaining equivalent economic development and socialadvancement of all communities in the global village. A universalstandard on morality against slavery, child abuse, corruption andsimilar scenarios and practices is a strong foundation of humanitytoday. However, changing morality regardless of its context ofapplication is an impossible feat as argued by Facione (2000). Tochange morality, one must first change its context, for morality is arelative standard.

Judith (2015) proposes that informal and formal analysis,complemented by applications is the template of moraldecision-making, whether in science, politics, and mass media. Theforegoing illustrative bull example serves as an informal analysis ofmorality and context of application, validating the assertion thatmorality is a relative concept. The example validates the argumentthat morality is influenced in definition, by the subject/object ofanalysis as well as the perspective of the reviewer. There is problemhowever, when no standard universal measure of morality is observedin such sensitive cultural practices as female genital mutilation,human sacrifices, and slavery, among others. Importantly, what shouldbe done to arrest such cases of negative socio-cultural practices isnot to impose a universal moral standard (imposing a superior moralsense universally), but to change the very perception, understanding,and views of the community involved, until they acquire the advancedperspective of a higher moral standard.

As such, while morality cannot be exclusively changed regardless ofcontext, the context of morality can be changed to be positive, andthe outcome would be a universal moral stance. Morality alwaysremains contextual, and thus relative. In a book review conducted byHarrell (2013), the scholar justified the use of logical reasoning asthe basis of contemporary lifestyles. The present scholar anticipateshaving to consider the morality of actions and statements within theframework of a context, and not with a universal mantra in futureprofessional practice. One can change the context and thus therelative moral sense, but it is impossible to change moralityexclusively from any context. In conclusion, therefore, the assertionthat morality is relative (context-based) represents the views of thepresent scholar, as justified by the foregoing analysis of thestrength and weaknesses of either stance on the relativity oruniversality of morality.


Facione, P. (2000). The Disposition toward Critical Thinking: ItsCharacter, Measurement, and Relationship to Critical Thinking Skill.Informal Logic, 20(1), 61-84.

Harrell, M. (2013). Think: Critical Thinking for Everyday Life ByJudith A. Boss. Inquiry: Critical Thinking across the Disciplines,28(3), 51-58.

Judith, B. (2015). Think: Critical Thinking And Logic Skills ForEveryday Life. (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

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