• This way of stating CR3 avoids the contradiction, because it says that female excision is wrong if performed here but not wrong if performed there .
Evaluating CR3 • There are at least 5 good reasons to think that CR3 is false. 1. CR3 implies that we cannot criticize the moral codes of other cultures. 2. CR3 implies that we cannot criticize the moral code of our own culture. 3. CR3 implies that we can determine whether an action is morally right simply by determining what the majority of people in a given culture believe. 4. CR3 implies that moral progress is impossible. 5. CR3 implies that iconoclasts always have false beliefs.
Notes on 1 • Female excision. Female excision is the practice of cutting off some or all of the external female genitalia. It’s extremely painful and sometimes results in infection, scarring, and repeated and painful tearing during sexual intercourse. • According to CR3 , the fact that female excision is a part of the moral code of certain cultures means that you cannot rationally criticize the practice, since the practice is morally right , provided that it’s performed in those cultures.
Notes on 2 • Ant-Semitism. Suppose you were alive in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. • According to CR3 , you could not rationally criticize the anti-Semitic policies and practices of the Nazi government, since those practices and polices were morally right , provided that they were practiced in Germany at that time.
Notes on 3 • Slavery. Suppose you were born in the early 1800s and raised in a small village in Maine where you never heard about chattel slavery. You move to the American South in the 1830s. You’re thinking about buying a slave, but you don’t want to do anything wrong. • How do you figure out whether slavery is right or wrong?
Notes on 3 2 • According to CR3 , all you need to do is figure out what most people in the South believe. • No other consideration matters—not considerations of justice, fairness, human dignity, respect for persons, personal autonomy, pain and suffering, natural rights, etc. • Not even your own moral beliefs matter, according to CR3 ! • The only factor that matters is whether most people in the South think that slavery is morally okay.
Notes on 4 • Moral progress consists in (i) replacing a false moral belief with a true one and then (ii) acting in accordance with the true moral belief. • We believe that we have made moral progress in the United States on certain moral issues. Slavery is one such issue. • But, if CR3 is true, then the belief that slavery is morally right was in fact true in the South in 1830s! • So, according to CR3 , we did not in fact replace a false belief with a true one. • So, according to CR3 , it turns out that we haven’t made any moral progress at all with respect to slavery!
Notes on 5 • MLK. Martin Luther King Jr. was an iconoclast .