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Individualistic Moral Relativism vs Cultural Moral Relativism & Kohlberg's Conventional Stag

< Individualistic Moral Relativism vs Cultural Moral Relativism & Kohlberg's Conventional Stage of Ethical/Moral Development >

Ethical moral relativism by definition is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of society about what is right and what is wrong closely link to that society’s cultural background. With that says, moral relativism is conditioned by cultural norms. Now, let's talk about individualistic moral relativism also known as moral subjective and cultural moral relativism. Once done, we'll then analyze Kohlberg’s conventional stage of ethical development in order to get a better understanding of what individualistic moral relativism and cultural moral relativism are all about and the way they affect how a person may view and treat others.

(Individualistic Moral Relativism)

Individualistic moral relativism also known as moral subjectivism, argues that there are no universal standards. This means, ethics is simply a reflection of a person’s taste, feelings, and values. In other words, there are no objective moral values but only subjective ones, due to the fact that they are based on a person’s feeling, preferences, and values. With that says, what is right and wrong varies from person to person. For example; what Mrs. Jeanne Doe sees as the right thing may not be the right one for Mr. John Doe and vice versa.

(Strengths and Weaknesses)

On one side, this is very good because no one should be allowed to impose his/her beliefs on somebody else. However, if what is right or wrong is a matter of personal belief, this means, cheating on an exam may not be okay for one student while it might be okay for another. So my point is that, despite the fact that this theory promote respect and acceptance for one’s set of beliefs, at the same time it could also be the source of serious confusions, because if everybody has his/her own truth, religions and laws have no place within society, and then it would've been anarchy and chaos everywhere. So, self-interest is the sole purpose of individualistic. Meaning, "I only see my interest and nothing else but my interest." That is what narcissism is largely feeding on.

(Cultural Moral Relativism)

Cultural moral relativism argues that there is no culture superior another, especially when comparing the system of morality, law, politics, customs, etc. According to cultural relativists, all cultures are equal, there is no culture better or more moral than another. With that says, it is wrong for a culture or a society to impose its beliefs on another culture or society because every culture or society has a different set of beliefs.

(Strengths and Weaknesses)

Cultural relativism’s strength is that; no culture or society can impose its set of beliefs on another culture or society, the reason is simple, every culture has a moral obligation to respect one another. However, the issue with that view is that; in a society where women and children have no rights at all, no other culture would've been able to object to their inhumane treatment of women and children. As a result, women and children would've been oppressed without the hope of a better life. So cultural moral relativism does not take into account people’s gender, their social class, as well as their ethnicity. And, this is where cultural moral relativism fails.

Individualistic vs Cultural Moral Relativism:

The difference between individualistic moral relativism and cultural moral relativism is that: there are no objective moral values. This meaning, what is right or wrong, according to individualistic moral relativism, varies from person to person. While for cultural moral relativism what is right or wrong varies from society/culture to society/culture or traditions. In other words, morality is a matter of personal view according to the individualistic moral relativism. But, for cultural moral relativism, morality is conditioned by culture or society (Cultural norms).

Now let's apply the Kohlberg’s Conventional Stage of Ethical/Moral Development.

According to psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg (1958), an individual undergoes three stages of moral development known as Pre-conventional morality, Conventional Morality, Post-conventional morality.

1) Pre-conventional morality: At this stage, the child has no moral codes, his/her morality is only conditioned by the adults around him/her and the consequences of breaking rules.

2) Conventional Morality: According to Kohlberg, people usually start to internalize moral standards at this stage. They start to reason based on norms of the group or society to which they belong to.

3) Post-conventional morality: At this stage individual judgment is directly based on self-chosen principles and his/her moral reasoning is based on an individual’s rights and justice.

Now if we take into account Kohlberg conventional stages of moral development, cultural relativists individuals are stuck in the second stage of moral development, which is Conventional Morality. As a result, these individuals would do anything as long as it conforms to the group they belong to. They more into following and maintain orders. I think Kohlberg L. seems to have a valid point because cultural relativists individuals believe in what is moral within their society or cultures, they never question whether or not such a law or treatment is moral or immoral, due to the fact that according to them what is moral is culturally based.

The aspect of ethical or moral relativism that I agree with is that; no culture is superior to another culture. But can one culture more moral than another? I believe it's possible due to the fact that morality is universal and certain cultural practices in remote countries are inhumane.

The aspect that I disagree with is that; what is moral or immoral and right or wrong are purely based on that cultural set of beliefs. If that is true, there are places where people are committing horrible crimes in the name of their gods, using children as mercenaries, and treating women like they don't matter, that would've made it okay for them to act that way and no one would've said anything, if cultural relativism was to stand. And frankly, I don't think this kind of practice should be allowed nor be tolerated in any society or culture regardless of what the cultural norms are.


Argosy University (2015). The Case of Cultural Diversity. Female Genital Excision or Mutilation. Data Retrieved on 08/05/2015, from:

Queensborough Community College (2105). Ethics: Relativism. Individual and Cultural. Data Retrieved on 08/05/2015, from:

Santa Clara University (2015). Ethical Relativism. Data Retrieved on 08/05/2015, from:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2015). Moral/Ethics Relativism. Data Retrieved on 08/05/2015, from:

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