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[rel-uh-tuh-viz-uh m] /ˈrɛl ə təˌvɪz əm/
noun, Philosophy
any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with individuals and their environments.
Origin of relativism
1860-65; relative + -ism Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for relativism
Historical Examples
  • If this one exception is granted, the whole illusory universe of relativism is overthrown.

    Outspoken Essays William Ralph Inge
  • The inevitable consequence is that we imprison ourselves hopelessly in the affirmation of Kantian relativism.

  • The former view is relativism, the latter is absolutism, in the matter of truth.

    Pragmatism D.L. Murray
  • Jefferson's relativism is even more clearly marked in the last chapter, which forms the real conclusion of the book.

    Thomas Jefferson Gilbert Chinard
British Dictionary definitions for relativism


any theory holding that truth or moral or aesthetic value, etc, is not universal or absolute but may differ between individuals or cultures See also historicism
Derived Forms
relativist, noun, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for relativism

1865, in philosophy, from relative (adj.) + -ism. Cf. relativist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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relativism in Culture

relativism definition

The doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, “relative” — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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