Moral differences,Moral Subjectivism,& Cultural Relativism
Moral Subjectivism “What I feel is right is right. What I feel is wrong is wrong.” – Jean Jacques Rousseau Ethical Subjectivism - There are no objective moral truths – only an individual’s feelings or preferences.Some Criticism: Anyone can harm others if it feels right to them No arbitration between views possible, other than the exercise of power. We do tend to think that arbitration is possible – we do it all the time. And that it’s wrong to 2 harm others for such a reason.
Cultural RelativismCultural Relativism - All (not some) moral values are nothingmore than cultural customs and laws.(X is right if my culture says that it’s right)
Our moral perspective is culturally-embedded“the very eyes with which see the problem are conditionedby the long traditional habits of our own society”With this realization, we can’t confuse the morality ofour own culture with the inevitable morality of humannature.Instead, we recognize that morality is different inevery society.„All morality is a convenient term for socially approved habits‟“morally good” = “socially habitual”/socially accepted or sanctioned
What exactly are the claims of cultural relativism?James Rachels 1. Different societies have different moral codes. 4. The moral code of our own society has no special status; it 2. The moral code of a society is merely one among many. determines what is right within that society; that is, if 5. There is no “universal truth” in the moral code of a society ethics; that is, there are no says that a certain action is moral truths that hold for all right, then that action is peoples at all times. right, at least within that society. 6. It is arrogant for us to try to judge the conduct of other 3. There is no objective peoples. We should adopt an standard that can be used attitude of tolerance toward to judge one society’s code the practices of other cultures. better than another’s
The Cultural Differences Argument GENERAL FORM OF THE ARGUMENTP1. Different cultures have different moral codesC. Therefore, there is no objective “truth” in morality. Right and wrong are only matters ofopinion that vary from culture to culture. P1. The Greeks believed it was wrong to eat the dead, whereas the Callatians believed is as right to eat the dead. C. Therefore, eating the dead is neither objectively right nor objectively wrong. It is merely a matter of opinion that varies from culture to culture. MACKIE’S ARGUMENT FROM DISAGREEMENTP1. Different cultures have different moral codesP2. The best explanation for this fact is that moral judgments merely reflect social custom, ratherthan an objective truth.C. Therefore, we should think that there is no objective “truth” in morality. Right and wrong areonly matters of opinion that vary from culture to culture. P1. The Eskimos see nothing wrong with infanticide, whereas Americans believe infanticide is immoral. C. Therefore, infanticide is neither objectively right nor objectively wrong. It is merely a matter of opinion, which varies from culture to culture.
The consequences of taking cultural relativism seriously1. We can’t claim that the customs of other societies are morally worse than our own.1. We can determine whether actions are right or wrong just by consulting the standards of our society.1. The idea of moral progress becomes meaningless
What does cultural relativism get right? We should not be dogmatic about our moral beliefs. Many of our practices are just cultural/traditional – and we should not lose sight of this fact. We should not simply assume that our own moral norms are right. We should keep an open mind about moral issues, looking for reasons that provide evidence for or against moral norms.
What is a culture anyway?
Moral disagreement and moral truthMoral Nihilism - Every time we make a moral judgment we mean it inthe objective sense. There is, however, no objective moral truth.Whenever we make a moral judgment, we say something. There areno moral truths – neither relative nor objective. MACKIE’S ARGUMENT FROM DISAGREEMENT (revisited)P1. Different cultures have different moral codesP2. The best explanation for this fact is that moral judgments merelyreflect social custom, rather than an objective truth.C. Therefore, we should think that there is no objective “truth” inmorality. Right and wrong are only matters of opinion that vary fromculture to culture.
Some alternative explanations of moral disagreement1. Contemporary Anthropology 4. The disagreement is actually over has largely abandoned its non-moral facts, not a genuinely traditional relativism. Today it moral disagreement after all. holds that cultural differences are insignificant in comparison 5. The parties are just talking past with shared similarities each other in the same way that we do when we talk about flavor2. General principles will preferences. prescribe different specific rules in different concrete 6. The disagreement exists because circumstances. of a failure of imagination or self- deception due to other things3. The disagreeing parties may people have at stake actually be arguing about (power, freedom, money, religiou different things and so talking s commitments, etc.) past each other
What best explains this disagreement? & Some liberals Some conservative disagree, believing that Christians believe that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality is wrong homosexuality. Any because it is a practice consenting partners can that God abhors. love and have sex with whomever they want.
What best explains this disagreement? These women want equal treatment – that both women and men are treated equally Some societies legally or & when it comes to right publically go topless as socially demand that men do. women show great modesty in public by covering their bodies.
What best explains this disagreement? Most Europeans strongly Most Americans believe believe that the death penalty is inhumane & that justice demands the death penalty
What best explains this disagreement? & Some people believe Some people believe that abortions should that abortions should be be permitted in some or prohibited in some or all all cases. cases.