For example: "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights." These are the basic rights of everyone on the planet. I believe these to be the basis of ethics in any culture.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
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Sophistry was destroying all philosophy's principles and disclaim the role of mind and puts instead the rule of lusts and that's almost what happened and what's happening now, Aristotle and his teacher the greatest philosophers fought this theory there are absolute ethics but humans might not reach it all as we seek for perfection , in the end we are imperfect and sometimes we follow our lusts, needs , passion and so on..
I find it hard to believe that ethics are universal and unchanging, if there is an objective morality, we would need a source, and arguably that has never been confirmed. The divine command theory and Kant's Categorical Imperative have been used by advocates of universal ethics, both of which have their flaws. Time has also played a role in ethics; what ancient cultures practiced in the past are now considered by the majority to be immoral.
With regard to the first question, what is meant by ethics, the difference between morals, law and ethics needs to be discussed. Admittedly, the lines between the three are not bright ones. Adding to the confusion is the fact that we often use terms such as ethics or ethical to encompass conduct which falls within one of the other categories which is likely what has happened here.
Morals are standards of conduct or behavior which are derived from a set of values to which one subscribes. Those values are often, but certainly not always, rooted in a belief of something outside of one’s self. As C.S. Lewis has well documented in his appendix to The Abolition of Man the vast majority of humanity subscribes to a uniform view of morality. Morals are ultimately enforced by one’s conscience and, as argued by individuals such as Henry David Thoreau in Civil Disobedience, is said to transcend laws.
Laws are a society’s rules for interactions between its individuals, corporations and governmental entities. They differ depending upon the society’s location in time and space. At the very basic level, there are two types of laws: those that are malum in se and those that are malum prohibitum. Laws that are malum in se are those things that are wrong or bad in themselves. Almost all malum in se laws also govern behavior which is considered immoral by most people. Murder, rape, theft; generally speaking these behavior is frowned upon everywhere although there are, of course, exceptions that are made depending upon who is doing the act to whom.
Believe it or not, but the more problematic question is not what is meant by ethics but rather what is meant by relative. Check out the wiki entry for moral relativism, for example, for an idea of the history concerning one sense of the word and the issue you are raising!
That being said, my answer to your question--are ethics relative? --is yes, if the ethics you are referring to are general ethics as described above. What happens in the marketplace, for instance, or social behavior amongst people as Fulghum sets forth. All the others, be they morals, laws or special ethics, are absolute in the sense that they set forth principals that can’t be violated without suffering some consequence of merit.
In support of this position, I point to the fact that each of the three areas has a method of reconciling their transgressors and violators. Morality has the concept of forgiveness. Legality has the maxims of equity. Special ethics usually has a provision concerning board discretion. Such options need not exist if they were relative as opposed to absolute in nature. General ethics, however, has no similar option thus we have to look more to the context and intentions behind the conduct, which makes them by definition relative.
Objective morality is the idea that a certain system of ethics or set of moral judgments is not just true according to a person's subjective opinion, but factually true. Proponents of this theory would argue that a statement like "Murder is wrong" can be as objectively true as "1 + 1 = 2." Most of the time, the alleged source is God, or the Kantian Categorical Imperative; arguably, no objective source of morality has ever been confirmed, nor have any a priori proofs been offered to the effect that morality is anything other than subjective.
The moral principles that people claim to be "objective" usually coincide very well with what they feel subjectively to be true. When pressed to provide justification, the person in question will usually just fail to understand that morality might not be objective, and might consequently grow increasingly doubtful or hysterical as the subjective bases of their arguments are progressively revealed, as has been observed in recent times.
Most of the objective morals promoted today in the West are grounded in Christianity. Among Christians, it follows from the ideas of inherent human sinfulness and original sin that one's subjective moral instincts must be categorically classed as evil. Thus, say the Christians, one needs an external, objective source for morality. And — speak of the devil — there is such an external, objective source to be found at a nonspecific location in the sky, sitting on a throne.
The Catholic Church originally admitted several sources for such morality, including human reason; but at the Protestant Reformation, when the principle of "total depravity" was promulgated to an unprecedented degree, human reason became very dodgy and the Bible became the only source that was not suspect. Hence, we see creationists arguing that there are no meaningful morals if Genesis 1 is not true to the letter.
Ethics and Morality are invented by humans....Nowhere in nature can you find evidence that we need to be a certain way or not be a certain way...People invented rules they thought were the right rules,and even some invented rules that serve them more than everybody else...All of right and wrong is man made...
Just think of Nazi Germany, probably the most obvious example. They thought that what they were doing was morally acceptable. Same thing with slavery, and racism (which is still going on), homophobia, xenophobia (still happening), and basically anything else.
There was a time when the most disgusting and horrible things were commonplace, and people will say the same about what we do today.