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E THICS Chapter 2 Relativism. C ULTURAL R ELATIVISM 1. Different societies have different moral codes. 2. The moral code of a society determines what.

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Presentation on theme: "E THICS Chapter 2 Relativism. C ULTURAL R ELATIVISM 1. Different societies have different moral codes. 2. The moral code of a society determines what."— Presentation transcript:

1 E THICS Chapter 2 Relativism

2 C ULTURAL R ELATIVISM 1. Different societies have different moral codes. 2. The moral code of a society determines what is right or wrong for that society. 3. There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one society’s standards to be better than another. 4. The moral code of our society has no special status. 5. It is arrogant for us to judge other cultures. We should always be tolerant of them.

3 T HE FIFTH CLAIM : T OLERANCE The fifth claim is contradicts cultural relativism, because it prescribes tolerance as an objective claim. However, what if the moral code of a society prescribed intolerance, then, according to cultural relativism, this society should be both tolerant and intolerant.

4 T HE C ULTURAL D IFFERENCE A RGUMENT (1) Different cultures have different moral codes. (2) Therefore, there is no objective truth in morality. Right and wrong are only matters of opinions, and opinions vary from culture to culture.

5 C ULTURAL D IFFERENCE A RGUMENT The CDA is invalid, which means that, even if the premises are true, the conclusion does not follow necessarily. It is therefore, an unsound argument. This does not mean that the conclusion is false, and it does not mean that it cannot be a cogent argument!

6 W HAT FOLLOWS FROM C ULTURAL RELATIVISM ( REDUCTIO ARGUMENT AGAINST R ELATIVISM ) 1) No cultural could have morally inferior customs; however, there certainly are practices around the world that are horrific (e.g., political oppression) that we ought to condemn. (Space) 2) We could never formulate a legitimate critique of unjust practices or customs of our own culture. (Reflection) 3) There can never be moral progress. (Time)

7 1) A LL C USTOMS OF ALL CULTURES ARE MORALLY E QUAL (S PACE ) This first consequence seems absurd. There certainly are practices around the world that are horrific (e.g., political oppression). We should not be tolerant of repressive and torturous practices, even if they are customs of a foreign cultures. At the same time, we can learn about morally superior customs from other cultures.

8 2) C ANNOT C RITIQUE OUR OWN CUSTOMS The second consequences of cultural relativism is that our own society can have no immoral practices Cultural relativism states that what is ethically right is what a culture accepts as custom, therefore, we can never critique any custom as morally corrupt. But this is absurd, because it would imply that our customs are morally perfect.

9 3) T HERE CAN BE NO MORAL PROGRESS (T IME ) The third consequences is also absurd. If Cultural Relativism is correct, then the concept of social reform is impossible. Moreover, social reformers, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Gandhi, and Jesus would have to be viewed not as morally superior visionaries, but as corrupt individuals who were morally evil. This is absurd!

10 W HY C ULTURAL D IFFERENCES Customs are a result of many factors other than moral values. Customs arise from a belief system about how the world works (physical facts), about religious beliefs (God, soul, after-life), and as a result of a culture's environment (climate, terrain, medicine, resources, etc.). Two cultures’ customs may be very different because of factors other than different value systems.

11 E XAMPLE The Greeks and Callatians both cared, respected and valued their ancestors; however, because their views about the dead and their different religious beliefs, they had different methods of showing their respect. The Eskimos’ treatment of female infants can be understood better, once we understand the harsh physical environments they lived in, and that they were nomadic people who had to move long distances. Moreover, Eskimos mothers nurtured and fed their children until they were four, making it very difficult to have several children simultaneously. There was no birth control, and taking the life of an infant was a last resort for the sake of survival.

12 G ENERAL U NIVERSAL R ULES There does seem to be some general universal rules that are essential for society: 1) Some degree of truth telling (honesty) 2) Prohibition against murder.

13 A RE THERE CULTURE - INDEPENDENT M ORAL STANDARDS Example: female circumcision is wrong. Should we interfere in cases where customs dictate that certain unjust, harmful practices be performed? Why are people reluctant to do so?

14 C ONFUSION Moral judgments vs. action and interference The virtue of tolerance does not mean that we ought to tolerate everything. The virtue of respect means we ought to respect a person and their right, but not necessarily their actions and beliefs. Condemning a specific practice does not mean that one condemns the entire society.

15 1.D IFFERENT SOCIETIES HAVE DIFFERENT MORAL CODES Yes, but they also have shared values. The reasons why they have different moral codes many times has to do with factors not concerned with morality, such as religious beliefs, different belief systems, etc.

16 2. T HE MORAL CODE OF A SOCIETY DETERMINES WHAT IS RIGHT OR WRONG FOR THAT SOCIETY. This means that societies are morally infallible. It also means that if you believe something to be true then it is true (this is absurd). It also means that there can never be moral improvement or progress. It also means we would have to accept horrific practices, such as slavery or racial discrimination, just because some people believe that it is morally permissible.

17 3. T HERE IS NO OBJECTIVE STANDARD THAT CAN BE USED TO JUDGE ONE SOCIETY ’ S STANDARDS TO BE BETTER THAN ANOTHER. Just because there is no universal Truth that holds for all time and in all cases, does not mean that we cannot talk about one practice being morally superior than another. There is a difference between Absolute principles and objective principles.

18 4. T HE MORAL CODE OF OUR SOCIETY HAS NO SPECIAL STATUS. This is true and we do not have to be cultural relativist to hold this view. In fact, our society and culture might be morally inferior to many others and we can learn a great deal from other societies.

19 5. I T IS ARROGANT FOR US TO JUDGE OTHER CULTURES. W E SHOULD ALWAYS BE TOLERANT OF THEM. Moral judgment does not need to be made arrogantly. Nor does it need to imply judgments about a culture’s overall superiority or inferiority. Moral judgments can be limited to specific practices. To judge a specific practice as morally wrong in a given culture, is perfectly consistent with showing respect for that culture and its other customs.

20 L ESSONS OF C ULTURAL RELATIVISM First, many of our practices are socially conditioned and conventional and so Cultural Relativism does have a strong insight and foundation. Second, because we are strongly conditioned through social norms and conventions, we can easily confuse the line between ethical principles and non-ethical principles. This can lead to cultural arrogance and superiority about non- moral customs. Cultural Relativism, therefore, prevents dogmatism and can makes us more open minded.

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