Cultural relativism as an ethical theory

This explanatory impotence, Harman believes, constitutes a serious disanalogy between, on the one hand, the role that abstract metaethical properties play in actual first-order moral judgments and, on the other hand, the role that theoretical scientific entities play in actual first-order perceptual judgments.

Nevertheless, there will be exceptions to a rule that is in force in the society. Cultural relativism as an ethical theory, the term is useful to differentiate them from realists who believe that the purpose of philosophy, science, or literary critique is to locate externally true meanings.

Within that society, there would be no reason to pay attention to what anyone says. Oxford University Press, Cultural Relativist believe that we as Americans should not judge there practices, because they are only relative to there culture. Hilary Putnam has articulated an influential challenge to the deflationary account.

Non-cognitivism is a semantic thesis about what moral utterances mean —namely, that moral utterances are neither true nor false at all, but instead express prescriptive endorsements or norms.

Morality, Reason and Truth. The suggestion … is that what is by commonsense standards the same situation can be described in many different ways, depending on how we use the words.


A women's right is not in question. In general, anthropologists engage in descriptive relativism "how things are" or "how things seem"whereas philosophers engage in normative relativism "how things ought to be"although there is some overlap for example, descriptive relativism can pertain to concepts, normative relativism to truth.

Except for the occasional cooperative freshman, one cannot find anybody who says that two incompatible opinions on an important topic are equally good. 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.

It has inspired empirical studies of the social construction of meaning such as those associated with labelling theory, which defenders can point to as evidence of the validity of their theories albeit risking accusations of performative contradiction in the process.

Philosophical Problems With Moral Relativism

Even then, however, killing the baby is not the first option considered. The suggestion that moral values might be similarly dispositional was made famous by John McDowell The reason is simple: Non-cognitivists have also attempted to address the Frege-Geach Problem discussed above, by specifying how the expression of attitudes functions in moral discourse.

Proponents of the former view are called realists or objectivists ; proponents of the latter view are called relativists or subjectivists. Lewis in " Mere Christianity " However, it is not clear how the relativist could share a framework with the absolutist on the nature of truth or what argumentative strategies he can use to convert the absolutist without presupposing a shared relativist or absolutist conceptions of truth.

In other words, if Protagoras really believes in relativism why would he bother to argue for it? Since philosophical ethics is often conceived of as a practical branch of philosophy—aiming at providing concrete moral guidance and justifications—metaethics sits awkwardly as a largely abstract enterprise that says little or nothing about real-life moral issues.

The philosophers who get called 'relativists' are those who say that the grounds for choosing between such opinions are less algorithmic than had been thought. Crick stated that only ethics could resolve such conflict, and when that occurred in public it resulted in politics.

Eskimos customs turned out to be very different from our own. It has inspired empirical studies of the social construction of meaning such as those associated with labelling theory, which defenders can point to as evidence of the validity of their theories albeit risking accusations of performative contradiction in the process.

More recently, Peng and Nisbett, using experimental data, have argued that Chinese and American students have different attitudes towards the Law of Non-Contradiction.

Such an outlook is quite congenial to an individualist ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different from the truth of others. To make the point clearer, consider a different matter In some societies, people believe the earth is flat In other societies, such as our own, people believe the earth is roughly spherical.

According to Putnam, our most basic metaphysical categories, e. The treatment of the Jews in Nazi society is morally reprehensible regardless of the moral beliefs of Nazi society.

After all, as discussed above in section one, it has often been actual, historical moments of cultural instability or diversity that have stimulated metaethical reflection on the nature and status of moral values.

The Earth is round. Many Medieval accounts of morality that ground values in religious texts, commands, or emulation may also be understood as defending certain metaethical positions see Divine Command Theory. He thinks necessity is an unobtainable notion, but can be approximated by robust invariance across a variety of conditions—although we can never identify a proposition that is invariant with regard to everything.

In other words, relativism is not the mere anthropological or sociological insight that individuals often disagree with one another on matters of morality or that different societies exhibit different moral beliefs and practices.

Ethics: Cultural Relativism

In particular, this debate was one of the dividing issues in eighteenth-century ethics between the so-called Intellectualist School for example, Ralph Cudworth. Truth, according to Catholic theologians and philosophers following Aristotle consists of adequatio rei et intellectus, the correspondence of the mind and reality.

Thus there may be less disagreement about values than there appears to be. Gilbert Harman has famously argued that our attribution of moral properties is not direct in this way.

Ethical Relativism Essay Sample

Benedict XVI[ edit ] In Aprilin his homily [19] during Mass prior to the conclave which would elect him as Popethen Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger talked about the world "moving towards a dictatorship of relativism": However, we have a different goal: · Cultural Relativism is a theory about the nature of morality.

At first blush it seems quite plausible. However, like all such theories, it may be evaluated by subjecting it to rational analysis; and when we analyze Cultural Relativism we find that it is not so plausible as it first appears to  ·  HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY Vol.

22 the last word in ethical theory. In what follows I challenge this state of affairs by refuting the chief arguments for cultural relativism.

In doing this I walk some oft-trodden paths,4 but I also break new ones.

Moral Relativism

For instance, I take unusual pains to adequately formulate cultural Cultural Relativism is the theory that all belief's are equally valid and that truth itself is relative, depending on the situation, environment and individual.

Those who hold the belief of Cultural Relativist, hold that all beliefs are completely relative to the individual within a cultural  · Cultural relativism is widely accepted in modern anthropology.

Cultural Relativism: A Moral Fallacy

Cultural relativists believe that all cultures are worthy in their own right and are of equal value. Diversity of cultures, even those with conflicting moral beliefs, is not to be considered in terms of right and wrong or good and  · Ethical relativism, the doctrine that there are no absolute truths in ethics and that what is morally right or wrong varies from person to person or from society to society.

Ethical relativism, then, is a radical doctrine that is contrary to what many thoughtful people commonly assume. As such, it "A fascinating and timely treatment of the objectivism versus relativism debates occurring in philosophy of science, literary theory, the social sciences, political science, and elsewhere."—.

Cultural relativism as an ethical theory
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