The error theory states that the idea of morals is not absolute and that in fact, morals are only a figment of the imagination of the societies that practice them, since they are nonexistent. The error theory is a denial of the existence of morals and it can be said that the existence of morals is considered by the proponents of this theory to be relative to the society that practice them…
The error theory suggests that morals are not absolute, that what is morally right or wrong vary from one society to another. It is a theory that states that morals are judged, not by the universal moral norms, but according to the society within which a circumstance calls for moral clarification (Dorsey 2006, p.495). When one considers the definition above, it can be stated that the morals are no longer absolute in different societies because of the fact that they have evolved over a long period, changing considerably from one society to another. A good number of the proponents of this theory, such as John Mackie, believe that morality was an invention of societies to maintain control over its members, and it is because of this that morality varies. If, for instance, morals and social norms were universal in all the societies, in the world, then there would have been no differences in morals, and as a result, the error theory would not have been developed. The error theory states that the idea of morality or the adherence to morals depends on the assumption that they exist; this assumption being false because morals are not based on the reality of the situations being judged. Error theory can be considered a viewpoint where there is the belief that morality is dependent on the norms of the cultures, which practice it. It is these societies which determine whether the actions of individuals is morally right or wrong and those who propagate this theory believe that there is nothing that can be said to be the absolute truth concerning morality because what is considered to be right in one society may not be considered the same in another. If one were to consider Mackie’s statements concerning the error theory, the fact that what is considered morally right in one society may not be so in another show that morality is not a universal norm. There are often chances where what is considered morally right in one culture may be considered wrong in another, an example being the situation of homosexuality. While, in the western world, homosexuality is an accepted norm in society, in other parts of the world, especially in Africa and Middle East, one would find that this practice is frowned upon, and those found in the act tend to be severely punished. Therefore, when it comes to the concept of the error theory, the opinion of what is right or wrong is not judged by norms that would be considered universal because of the fact that it cannot be measured nor do the said morals exist (Delapp 2009, p.8). Morals, if one were to follow Mackie’s argument, are made up by the societies, which put them in force and because of this, these societies become slaves to concepts, which are logically nonexistent. Among the main advantages of using the error theory when considering morals is the fact that a broad range of views concerning morals is taken into consideration. Since there is a wide variety of cultures and practices, it is easier for one to adapt to any situation that one may encounter through the understanding of the motivations behind the development of various cultural norms as well as look upon such morals in an objective way. Moreover, it can be said that the error theory can be used towards the development cultural understanding, which ensures that people are judged, not according to the opinions of other cultures, but according to that of their own cultures and societies. It recognizes that fact that morals are nonexistent and this creates a situation where societies can be studied on an equal footing. Since it is the society which judges what is right or wrong, the people within it have a clear understanding of what is ...
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