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12. Modernization, Culture and Morality in Europe: Universalism, Contextualism or Relativism?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter analyses the following question: do people in Europe think that there are absolutely clear guidelines about what is good and evil whatever the circumstances (moral universalism/absolutism), or do they think that such guidelines do not exist (moral relativism). If people do think that there are absolutely clear guidelines, do they consider deviations from these guidelines as sometimes justifiable by the circumstances (restricted moral universalism/moral contextualism)? In order to improve understanding of possible differences in morality perceptions between people within as well as between different European societies, hypotheses about social change and its impact on morality perceptions are derived from theory and tested empirically. A final question that is addressed is the extent to which rather subjective morality perceptions are in accordance with real moral judgements when we are confronted with questions about the moral justifiability of specific behaviour.

Keywords: European societies; relativism; subjective morality perceptions; universalism



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