Pluralists believe that there are truths about right and wrong, and that multiple perspectives can each have a piece of those truths. They believe that the evidence supports some reasonable views about what is right that are better than other views (Spectrum of Pluralism) and that we should be humble and open to other’s ethical principles within reason.
Why a Spectrum?
A Spectrum (i.e. multiple perspectives) shows different colors of light, in this case from the sun, or another star. When combined, these different colors can provide the full spectrum of natural light (i.e. white light). This represents the Pluralist’s idea that there are truths about what’s right to be discovered (e.g. through rational deliberation, spirituality/religion, etc), and that several perspectives (i.e. colors) can help in our search for truth. Pluralists believe that there are a few ways to address differences about what is right that are better than other ways. They hold that there are truths about what’s right, but that we must be open to a few approaches, not just one. Pluralists believe that although opinions may differ, there are several, sometimes conflicting, principles that should guide all of us. They believe that these principles need to be balanced. Pluralists may live by sayings like: “Balance the truths of perspectives”, “Bend, but don’t break.”
Some things seem to be clearly right or wrong regardless of preference, culture or context. Pluralism allows us to have the conviction that there are some real truths about right and wrong. It also encourages us to be humble and seek out different viewpoints that we may not have considered since no one perspective has been shown to be flawless. It helps us to pursue a middle ground between being too open to any random viewpoint and too closed to different, but reasonable, ways of approaching what’s right.
In their efforts to find some truths about what’s right, Pluralists may consider too many or too few approaches. Pluralism, as a concept, provides no guidance for which approaches to consider, beyond “multiple”. How many different approaches have a piece of the truth? Also, pluralism provides no guidance for what to do when views conflict (e.g. some views advocate stealing if it would save a life, others do not). Sometimes different views point to the same answer, but how do we “balance” these views when they point to different answers?
Spectrum’s Theoretical Background:
Spectrum’s Conclusion and “What do I do now?”
Pluralism highlights a valuable lesson: There seem to be some truths about right and wrong and multiple perspectives may each illuminate a piece of those truths. Pluralism can help us find a middle ground between being too rigid and too permissive. We believe that the evidence favors a pluralistic approach to ethics. When deciding what is right, we suggest considering five well-respected approaches which come from over 2,000 years of moral philosophy (see the 5Cs: Character, Code, Consequences, Care and Consult). We can look to these individual approaches to address the Cons of Pluralism.
To better understand this focus area, see the PDF Handout.