Moral Relativism + Environmental Ethics - Wednesday, Feb 17...

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Wednesday, Feb 17 - Two Separate Topics: (1) Moral Relativism, (2)Environmental Ethics(1) Moral Relativism: The view that, in Ethics, truth is relative to personalopinions and cultural values. The view that no moral judgement is absolutelytrue. Who can decide which culture is better than another?Prof. Allan Bloom (classics professor) on THE MORAL RELATIVISM OF TODAY'SSTUDENTS(‘The Closing of the American Mind: How higher education has failed democracyand impoverished the souls of today's students’)"There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every studententering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. . . .The students' backgrounds are as various as America can provide. Some arereligious, some atheists; some are to the Left, some to the Right; some intend tobe scientists, some humanists or professionals or businessmen; some are poor,some rich.They are unified only in their relativism and in their allegianceto equality. And the two are connected in a moral intention.The relativity oftruth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of afree society, or so they see it. . . . That it is a moral issue for students is revealedby the character of their response when challenged -- a combination of disbeliefand indignation: 'Are you an absolutist?,' the only alternative they know, utteredin the same tone as 'Are you a monarchist?' or 'Do you really believe inwitches?' . . . The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is noterror but intolerance.Relativism is necessary to openness; and this is thevirtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty yearshas dedicated itself to inculcating. Openness -- and the relativism that makes itthe only plausible stance in the face ofvarious claims to truth and variousways of life and kinds of human beings -- is the great insight of ourtimes. . . ."The students, of course cannot defend their opinion. It is something with whichthey have been indoctrinated. Thebest they can do is point out all theopinions and cultures there are and have been. What right, they ask, do I oranyone else have to say one is better than the others? If I pose the routinequestions designed to confute them and make them think, such as, 'If you hadbeen a British administrator in India, would you have let the natives under yourgovernance burn the widow at the funeral of a man who had died?,' they eitherremain silent or reply that the British should never have been there in the firstplace. It is not that they know very much about other nations or about their own.The purpose of their education is not to make them scholars but toprovide them with a moral virtue -- openness."students with very diverse backgrounds are only unified in relativism andallegiance to equality; open-ness is the main purpose of higher education theinsight of our time

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Moral relativism

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