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Ethical Relativism

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Joseph Campisi

on 1 February 2014

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Transcript of Ethical Relativism

Ethical Relativism
Ethical Relativism
Defense of Ethical Relativism
: Ruth Benedict

Critique of Ethical Relativism
James Rachels
Benedict's Defense of Cultural Relativism
Basic claims: Moral norms are culturally defined and different cultures have different moral norms
Rachels' Critique of Cultural Relativism
James Rachels
Ethical Relativism
Universalism vs. Relativism
claims are absolute. They are valid and the same for everyone.

claims are only valid relative to given groups or individuals. Different claims will thus be valid for different groups or individuals.
The Cultural Differences Argument
[Premise] Different cultures have different moral codes

[Conclusion] There is no universal moral code
Cultural Relativism
Universal claim: 2 + 2 = 4

Relative claim: Mustard is delicious
Ruth Benedict
"We recognize that morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits ... A normal [moral] action is one which falls well within the limits of expected behavior for a particular society" Ruth Benedict, "Anthropology and the Abnormal" (86)
The Dobu
The Kwakiutl
Criticism #1: Is the premise sufficient to justify the conclusion?
Does the mere fact that disagreement exists prove that there is no one right answer?
Criticism #2: The conclusion leads to unacceptable consequences
Criticism #3: The premise isn't true
II. We could no longer critique the practices of our own culture
I. We couldn't critique the practices of other cultures
III. We couldn't say that certain developments were a sign of moral progress
Differences in values vs. differences in belief systems
Shared values
All cultures would seem to share certain common values

a prohibition on harming children
a prohibition on lying
a prohibition on murder
Full transcript