Ethical Relativism - University of Notre Dame

Loading...
Ethical Relativism

Defining Relativism I

Ethical Relativism is the view that the rightness or wrongness of an action depends partially upon the beliefs and culture of the person doing the action I

I

Cultural Relativism says that an action is good if and only if one’s culture says it is good (and likewise for bad) Subjectivism says that what is right or wrong depends on what the individual acting believes to be right or wrong

I

This is contrasted with Objectivism says that there is one standard of right and wrong for every person in every culture at every time.

I

It is also contrasted with situational ethics, which says that the rightness or wrongness of an action depends on the situation in which the action was performed

I

Relativism says that the same action in the same situation can be right or wrong for different people.

Cultural Relativism I

One central idea behind cultural relativism is the connection between “norm” and “normal”

I

Each culture has their own set of what is normal, which people in that culture get used to.

I

In America it is normal (and expected) to drive on the right side and bad/unnormal to drive on the left, but in the U.K. the opposite is true.

I

In some cultures it is normal/good to burn the dead and wrong to eat them, while in other cultures it is normal/good to eat them and bad to burn them.

I

The claim of cultural relativism is that there is nothing deeper to morality than cultural customs we have come to expect of people.

I

Since different cultures have different norms, we should not assume there is one “correct” norm.

Cultural Relativism

I

In addition to the argument from cultural difference, there also seems to be arguments for relativism from a certain view of tolerance.

I

Cultural relativism seems to celebrate differences as being good and right, rather than judging people for being different from us.

I

There is a deep seeded view in current culture that everyone has their own perspective. Because we cannot relate to how other people were raised, we shouldn’t judge them. At most we should only judge those we are closest with and understand best.

Obvjectivism I

I

I I

I

I

An objectivist will respond to these claims by noting that different customs does not necessarily indicate an ethical difference. If one culture eats the dead to pay their respects, and another culture burns the body to pay there respects, there seems to be a sense in which the underlying ethics of respecting the dead is the same, even if the way they respect the dead is different. Likewise, one could reasonably say that there is nothing ethical about driving on the right or left side of the road. It is ethical not to endanger yourself and others, so it is ethical to follow the local driving customs, but what those customs are is a completely non-ethical issue. On the other hand, things with obvious moral status (such as rape or murder) do not seem to vary across cultures in the same way. These are only meant to respond to the case for relativism; there are also massive problems with relativism.

Problem 1 I

Cultural relativism implies that we cannot say any other societies’ values and norms are better or worse than our own.

I

This is precisely what defenders of the view like about it.

I

However, this is really difficult to maintain in the face of really terrible cultures (e.g. Nazis)

I

Are we really prepared to say that ISIS raping, crucifying, and beheading people (including children) for not converting to Islam is a perfectly acceptable and wonderful part of their culture which we should celebrate?

Problem 2 I

Cultural relativism implies there is no such thing as moral progress or regress within a culture.

I

Consider, is the U.S. better for having gotten rid of slavery?

I

In order to say that, you have to be able to say that one culture (our contemporary one) is better than another culture (that of our ancestors), but this is precisely what cultural relativism denies.

I

If we could judge one culture as better than another, that would mean that there was some independent standard by which we could judge how good a culture is based on how close it fits that standard, but that is the definition of Objectivism.

Problem 2 I

Some people try to get around this problem by saying that from the perspective of our culture, of course slavery is wrong! We are completely correct (qua relativism) to criticize our ancestors, because our culture condemns slavery!

I

However, while it is “correct” for us to say that slavery was wrong, it was also equally “correct” for American’s 200 years ago to say that abolition was wrong.

I

This doesn’t just apply to the slave-owners either; since the slaves were part of a society that condemned abolition, they would have been “correct” in saying that abolition is wrong and slavery is good.

I

We don’t yet know what way our culture will proceed, so for all we know, it will be “good” in the future to torture, bully, or otherwise harm people.

I

Given cultural relativism, moral judgments may be correct or incorrect, but this will in no way help us progress as a society.

I

In fact, many progressive movements will be wrong because they will go against what our culture currently accepts.

Problem 3 I

Cultural relativism says that what is good and bad depends on one’s culture, but “culture” is a incredibly vague concept.

I

Consider: you are a part of American culture, so for you, abortion is ok. But, you may also be a part of Catholic culture, so for your, abortion is wrong.

I

Other cultures you could belong to would be a political party, a Notre Dame culture, an academic culture, a global culture, a football culture, etc.

I

There are so many cultures of so many different sizes; given how many disagree with each other, how is the individual to figure out what is right or wrong for them based on their culture.

I

What it seems to come down to is what culture you want to identify with more.

I

Thus, it seems cultural relativism devolves into subjectivism.

Loading...

Ethical Relativism - University of Notre Dame

Ethical Relativism Defining Relativism I Ethical Relativism is the view that the rightness or wrongness of an action depends partially upon the bel...

174KB Sizes 13 Downloads 0 Views

Recommend Documents

No documents