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Relatively speaking

It's all very well respecting other people's beliefs. But—as a fine new book on moral relativism and its origins demonstrates—there are times when it's vital to be able to tell someone else they're wrong

By Michael Bywater   February 2009

Moral Relativism by Steven Lukes (Profile Books, £10.99)

Profile’s “Big Ideas” series has hit the nail on the head with this book. Moral relativism is one of the dominant ideas in the liberal west. Essentially, it argues that there are no such things as universal moral truths; and that what is “right” and “wrong” can only be understood in a particular social or individual context. It’s a theory that exerts a tremendous pressure (both good and baleful) on modern life. Yet, outside academia, it’s not much debated. It’s almost as if moral relativism (let’s call it “MR” for short) has…

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