Universalism and Relativism

Universalism and Relativism - Handout March 3, 2008 Phil...

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Handout March 3, 2008 Phil 104 sec 2-12 universalism relativism page 1 Outline: Universalism and Error theories I Universalism definition, attraction II Error theories A) mistakes about what ethical sentences mean A1) Relativism A1a) Complete Ethical Relativism: two main varieties: A1a1) individual: A1a1a: Subjective: whatever an individual takes to be good or obligatory is so for her. A1a1b: Objective: An objective truth about what the good relative to an individual is A1a2) culture/ society: whatever a society takes to be good or obligatory is so for that society A1b) Moderate Ethical Relativism A1c) pseudo-relativism A2) emotivism A3) prescriptivism B) Mistakes about the reality of ethical facts I Universalism: Plato, Locke, Kant, Mill (and to an extent, Gilligan) have UNIVERSAL MORALITIES. (Moralities based on faith in a divine revelation likewise are universalist. There are many options in theological details. One is that what is good is whatever God commands. This has struck many as paradoxical, since it seems to make what is good arbitrarily subject to God’s will. Another view is that God, as creator of everything other than Himself, creates values and expresses them through commands. Still another view is that God is necessarily perfectly good, so that God’s commands reflect objective truths about what is good and bad.) Universalist ethical systems hold that there is ONE morality for all human beings, in fact for all rational agents anywhere at any time. Plato, Locke, Kant, and Mill hold that this single morality can be recognized by reasoning. Let us call this “philosophical universalism.” The assumptions behind philosophical universalism are: 1) Moral sentences are ascriptions of moral properties to actions and other things. Moral sentences are therefore objective reports about what is objectively the case with respect to human beings. These moral sentences apply to human beings across the board. Thus: 2) There is a single human nature, which involves rationality, perhaps some natural dispositions to sociability, and some basic needs. A universal morality constructs a theory that applies to every human being. Advocates of such notions as "human rights" often presuppose that there is a single basic morality that applies to all human beings.
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Handout March 3, 2008 Phil 104 sec 2-12 universalism relativism page 2 2) Given a single basic human nature, there is a single set of basic human values. 3) The content of those basic human values is rich enough to determine all other values. Thus differences in values are always to be explained in terms of differing circumstances and differing histories of people, and can be resolved by appreciating these differences. 4) So there is a single morality, and reasonable people can be brought to recognize it as such, then
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This note was uploaded on 04/14/2008 for the course PHIL 104 taught by Professor Bontly during the Spring '08 term at UConn.

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Universalism and Relativism - Handout March 3, 2008 Phil...

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