ETHICAL RELATIVISM (1) - ETHICAL RELATIVISM JAMES...

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ETHICAL RELATIVISM
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JAMES RACHELS (1941 - 2003)
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THE CHALLENGE OF CULTURAL RELATIVISM (1998) Rachels begins by describing Eskimo (Inuit) marriage and sexual practices as well as their use of infanticide and euthanasia of the unfit at the turn of the 20th century.
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THE CEREMONIES OF MARRIAGE
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CULTURAL RELATIVISM There is no such thing as universal truth in ethics: there are only the various cultural codes and nothing more. Moreover, our own code has no special status; it is merely one among many (Rachels, 440).
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CULTURAL RELATIVIST CLAIMS 1. Different societies have different moral codes. 2. There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one societal code better than another. 3. The moral code of our own society has no special status; it is merely one among many. 4. There is no “universal truth” in ethics -- that is, there are no moral truths that hold for all peoples at all times. 5. The moral code of a society determines what is right within that society; that is, if the moral code of a society says that a certain action is right, then that action is right, at least within that society. 6. It is mere arrogance for us to try to judge the conduct of other peoples. We should adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the practices of other cultures (Rachels, 440).
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THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES ARGUMENT 1. The Greeks believed that it was wrong to eat the dead, whereas the Callatians believed it was right to eat the dead. 2. Therefore, eating the dead is neither objectively right nor objectively wrong. It is merely a matter of opinion, which varies from culture to culture. Or, alternatively: 1. The Eskimos see nothing wrong with infanticide, whereas Americans believe infanticide is immoral. 2. Therefore, infanticide is neither objectively right nor objectively wrong. It is merely a matter of opinion, which varies from culture to culture.
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THE CEREMONIES OF DEATH
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THE FORM OF THE ARGUMENT 1. Different cultures have different moral codes. 2. Therefore, there is no objective “truth” in morality. Right and wrong are only matters of opinion, and opinions vary from culture to culture (Rachels, 441).
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INVALID ARGUMENT The Cultural Differences Argument is not valid.
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