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Relativism vs. Subjectivism: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 15, 2024
Relativism posits that truth and morality vary based on context or culture, while subjectivism holds that they are based on personal feelings and opinions.

Key Differences

Relativism suggests that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. Subjectivism argues that knowledge and values are rooted in individual experience, emphasizing personal perspectives and feelings.
In the realm of ethics, relativism posits that moral principles are determined by cultural norms and societal standards. Conversely, subjectivism in ethics implies that moral judgments are based on individual feelings and personal experiences.
Relativism in epistemology argues that the truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture. Subjectivism, however, maintains that reality and knowledge are created by the individual, often disregarding external standards or realities.
When discussing art, relativism might suggest that the appreciation and interpretation of art vary among different cultures and historical periods. Subjectivism in art implies that the beauty or value of art lies entirely in the individual's emotional response.
In legal theory, relativism may suggest that legal interpretations can vary based on cultural or societal contexts. In contrast, subjectivism could imply that personal beliefs and opinions of judges or individuals play a significant role in legal judgments.

Comparison Chart


Dependent on cultural or situational context
Rooted in individual feelings and perspectives


Morality varies by culture or society
Morality is based on personal feelings


Contextual and relative to specific frames of reference
Personal, influenced by individual experience

Art Appreciation

Varies with culture and time
Based on personal emotional response

Legal Interpretation

Influenced by societal norms and context
Influenced by personal beliefs and opinions

Relativism and Subjectivism Definitions


Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge is relative to the limited nature of the mind and the conditions of knowing.
Relativism suggests that what is ethical varies from one culture to another.


Subjectivism asserts that beauty in art is determined by individual emotional response.
An art critic who embraces subjectivism may judge a painting based on how it makes them feel.


Relativism posits that there are no absolute truths in ethics.
In relativism, moral principles are seen as varying based on societal norms.


Subjectivism in epistemology argues that reality is shaped by personal perceptions.
A subjectivist may claim that our understanding of the world is colored by our unique experiences.


Relativism in legal theory implies that laws are interpreted based on societal values.
Legal relativism recognizes the influence of cultural norms on law enforcement and interpretation.


Subjectivism in legal theory suggests that laws are interpreted through personal perspectives.
In subjectivist legal theory, the same law may be applied differently based on individual judges' beliefs.


Relativism in epistemology argues that truth varies with perspective.
A relativist would argue that scientific truths are influenced by the cultural background of the scientists.


Subjectivism holds that knowledge and values are subjective and based on individual experience.
In subjectivism, each person's moral judgement is based on their personal feelings.


Relativism asserts that beauty and value in art are dependent on cultural context.
Artistic standards in relativism differ greatly across different societies.


Subjectivism in ethics suggests that moral truths depend on individual opinions.
A subjectivist believes that what is 'right' varies from person to person.


The theory that value judgments, as of truth, beauty, or morality, have no universal validity but are valid only for the persons or groups holding them.


The quality of being subjective.


The theory, especially in ethics or aesthetics, that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them.


The doctrine that all knowledge is restricted to the conscious self and its sensory states.


A specific such theory, advocated by a particular philosopher or school of thought.


A theory or doctrine that emphasizes the subjective elements in experience.


(philosophy) the philosophical doctrine that all criteria of judgment are relative to the individuals and situations involved


Any of various theories holding that the only valid standard of judgment is that of the individual. For example, ethical subjectivism holds that individual conscience is the only appropriate standard for moral judgment.


(metaphysics) The doctrine that reality is created or shaped by the mind.


(epistemology) The doctrine that knowledge is based in feelings or intuition.


(ethics) The doctrine that values and moral principles come from attitudes, convention, whim, or preference.


Any philosophical doctrine which refers all knowledge to, and founds it upon, any subjective states; egoism.


(philosophy) the doctrine that knowledge and value are dependent on and limited by your subjective experience


The quality of being subjective


What is subjectivism?

A philosophy where truth and morals are based on personal feelings.

How does relativism view moral standards?

As varying according to cultural or societal norms.

How does subjectivism view moral standards?

As based on individual opinions and emotions.

Does relativism believe in universal truth?

No, it argues that truth is always relative to context.

Can relativism apply to law?

Yes, suggesting legal interpretations vary with cultural context.

Does subjectivism accept objective reality?

It often rejects objective reality in favor of personal perception.

How does subjectivism affect legal judgments?

By implying they are influenced by personal beliefs.

Is relativism consistent across cultures?

It recognizes that different cultures may have different truths.

What is relativism?

A theory that views truth and morals as relative to context or culture.

Is subjectivism consistent for everyone?

No, it can vary drastically from person to person.

Does relativism support a single moral framework?

No, it suggests multiple frameworks based on cultural differences.

Does subjectivism support a single moral framework?

It tends towards personal moral frameworks.

How does relativism view cultural differences?

As sources of different but equally valid truths.

How do subjectivists perceive history?

As a narrative shaped by individual perspectives.

How does subjectivism view cultural differences?

As less relevant compared to individual perspectives.

How do relativists view history?

As interpreted differently depending on cultural perspectives.

Can relativism be applied to science?

It can, suggesting scientific truths are influenced by cultural contexts.

How does subjectivism relate to science?

It may argue that scientific understanding is influenced by personal biases.

What impact does relativism have on ethics?

It challenges the idea of absolute moral principles.

What impact does subjectivism have on ethics?

It promotes the idea that morality is based on individual feelings.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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