Beliefs another example that illustrates this point

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Unformatted text preview: the prevalent cultural beliefs happen to be. beliefs Another example that illustrates this point is female Another circumcision. This is the practice in some cultures of excising a portion of female genitalia. It is usually practiced 15 on young girls. Moral RelativismMoral lead to numerous health problem It is quite painful and can It is quite painful and can lead to numerous health problem for the girls but it is practiced for cultural reasons and some argue, as a way of depriving females of sexual enjoyment. enjoyment. Of course, in Western cultures, such a practice is Of considered quite immoral, so we have a case of cultural moral disagreement. Moral relativism would hold that in Western cultures ‘Female circumcision is wrong’ is true where in cultures where people do not happen to hold similar beliefs that claim would be false and it may well be true instead that ‘Female circumcision is right’. ‘Female Someone might argue that of course it is perfectly clear Someone that there is no universality- after all, we have the empirical evidence of moral disagreement- so doesn’t this show that universality does not exist? No it does not. 16 Moral Relativism Moral And as philosophers such as James Rachels have noted, And there are reasons why: there 1. Cultural differences are not evidence for the view that 1. there is no universal truth to morality-there could be such non-relative truth but people are mistaken about it or unaware of it, just as it was true that ‘ The earth orbits the Sun’ even 500 years ago when few people, if anyone believed it. The Premise that there is diversity of belief cannot support a conclusion that there is no universal truth to morality. Some people-or everybody even might be mistaken. Some 2.In culture, we can observe moral progress (morality is 2.In not static); that is things seem to be getting better in some cultures at least. cultures 17 Moral Relativism Moral It is necessary to adopt an attitude of tolerance toward It differing social customs and conventions. differing But closer reflection reveals that instead, the view has But implications that are quite unattractive and implications that most persons would be unwilling to accept. that While tolerance is valuable, it only goes far- it clearly While cannot cover morally outrageous behavior such as mass murder, baseless discrimination or host of other moral problems that we have seen in play through out human history. history. 18 Relativism and Chauvinism Relativism Another, related charge made against moral relativism, is that of chauvinism. Even in view of all the cultural variations in humans’ conceptions of the moral life, the relativist is accused of clinging with zealous certainty to those with which he has been brought up, dismissing variations found in other societies as perversions and distortions which deserve forthright condemnation. Only his own way of doing things is right. He is unimpressed by the fact that other cultures take their own morality as seriously as he takes his; what matters is that they have false conceptions of the good life. life. 19 Moral Relativism Moral the fact that slavery is illegal and For example, some takes For women now have the right to vote as a sign of moral progress in the USA. progress The abolition of slavery throughout the USA-this change in The the culture of the USA-denotes genuine moral progress and not simply a shift in what people happen to believe. Thus it does seem plausible to maintain that there has been moral progress in the USA since 1776, at least with respect to some issues. respect However, this would have to be rejected as illusory if moral However, relativism is true, since there would be no objective standard along which to measure progress. standard The point of the above criticisms is to note that many The people find themselves attracted to relativism because they mistakenly identify it with tolerance or think that such 20 The Argumentum ad Nazium The This challenge to relativism is simple, and essentially This relies on most people’s bedrock intuition. It insists that some individuals and cultures may be radically mistaken about basic moral principles. Suppose somebody were to point to the culture of the Nazis, and comment that the ethical values (or lack of them) of that culture were “right for them”, and that nobody should criticize them. To make the point more vivid: imagine that Germany had won World War II, established Nazi values in the whole of Europe, killed all remaining European Jews, and gained wide acceptance of its doctrine that the human good emerges from conflict and domination. 21 The Argumentum ad Nazium The It remains intuitively abhorrent to suggest that Nazi It values would thereby become right, merely because they would be part of an established culture. Even if nobody challenged them, they would surely still be wicked. wicked. Although the Nazi example is often used as a paradigm Although of evil, there are plenty of other examples that will also serve the purpose. serve However, the Argumentum ad Nazium, or some variant, However, is enough to suggest to most of us that th...
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This note was uploaded on 02/11/2014 for the course BSC 2501 taught by Professor Frigerio during the Fall '12 term at Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research.

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