Moral relativism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L099-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 10, 2023, from

References and further reading

  • Benedict, R. (1934) Patterns of Culture, New York: Penguin.

    (Argues that different cultures are organized around different and incommensurable values.)

  • Foot, P. (1978) Moral Relativism (The Lindley Lectures), Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.

    (Defends a form of moderate relativism.)

  • Harman, G. (1975) ‘Moral Relativism Defended’, Philosophical Review 84: 3–22.

    (Argues that morality is founded on implicit agreement and that moral ‘ought to do’ judgments presuppose that speaker, subject and intended audience share the relevant moral standards.)

  • Harman, G. (1984) ‘Is There a Single True Morality?’, in D. Copp and D. Zimmerman (eds) Morality, Reason and Truth: New Essays on the Foundations of Ethics, Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld.

    (Discusses the relation between a naturalistic approach to morality and relativism.)

  • Harman, G. and Thomson, J. (1996) Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

    (Most comprehensive statement of Harman’s relativism. Modifies some earlier positions taken.)

  • Herskovits, M. (1972) Cultural Relativism: Perspectives in Cultural Pluralism, New York: Vintage Books.

    (Anthropologist argues for meta-ethical and normative relativism.)

  • Krausz, M. (1989) Relativism: Interpretation and Confrontation, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

    (Besides the articles from this volume specifically identified here, this is a good survey of different perspectives on descriptive and meta-ethical relativism.)

  • Ladd, J. (1973) Ethical Relativism, Belmont, MA: Wadsworth.

    (A collection of philosophical and anthropological essays on descriptive and meta-ethical relativism.)

  • MacIntyre, A. (1988) Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

    (Accepts a strong version of descriptive relativism in which different moral traditions contain incommensurable values and standards of rational justification, but argues against meta-ethical relativism on the grounds that traditions may be compared with respect to their ability to resolve internal problems and to explain why other traditions have failed to solve their own problems.)

  • Mackie, J.L. (1977) Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

    (Defends a sceptical form of relativism under which moral judgments lack the objectivity they purport to have. Hence no standard moral judgments are true.)

  • Nagel, T. (1986) The View from Nowhere, New York: Oxford University Press.

    (Criticism of arguments for meta-ethical relativism from moral diversity.)

  • Plato (c.380–367) Theaetetus, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, ed. E. Hamilton and H. Cairns, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1961.

    (Statement of a conventionalist and relativist view of morality attributed to Protagoras.)

  • Scanlon, T.M. (1995) ‘Fear of Relativism’, in R. Hursthouse, G. Lawrence and W. Quinn (eds) Virtue and Reasons: Philippa Foot and Moral Theory, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    (Discussion of why relativism appears to be a threat to the importance of morality.)

  • Stevenson, C.L. (1944) Ethics and Language, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    (Defends a noncognitivist theory of moral judgment.)

  • Walzer, M. (1987) Interpretation and Social Criticism, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    (Defence of moderate meta-ethical relativism based on the theory that the meaning of general values is given through specific practices.)

  • Williams, B. (1972) Morality: An Introduction to Ethics, New York: Harper & Row.

    (Criticism of some versions of meta-ethical and normative relativism.)

  • Wong, D. (1984) Moral Relativity, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    (A defence of moderate relativism based on a naturalistic approach. Some chapters presuppose contemporary philosophy of language that some may regard as technical.)

  • Wong, D. (1991) ‘Three Kinds of Incommensurability’, in M. Krausz (ed.) Relativism: Interpretation and Confrontation, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

    (Discusses ways in which value differences between cultures may result in different criteria for the rationality of belief about the world.)

  • Wong, D. (1996) ‘Pluralistic Relativism’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 20: 378–400.

    (More discussion about the constraints that all adequate moralities would have to meet.)

Citing this article:
Wong, David B.. Bibliography. Moral relativism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L099-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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