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Ethical Relativism.docx

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PHIL 1100

Ethical Relativism  Ethical Relativism: each person determines what is morally right o What I feel is right is right. What I feel is wrong is wrong. – Jean- Jacques Rousseau o The view that all moral values are relative to the individual or specific culture.  Ethical Subjectivism o The view that the ultimate moral authority is the individual or the “subject” o A person stealing someone else’s laptop and say they are ethical because they are acting in accordance with their own moral conviction o Does not guarantee a tolerant acceptance of the rights and interests of others o Moral anarchy  Descriptive ethics: an ethical approach that simply represents ethical beliefs without evaluating their accuracy or appropriateness (What is the case?)  Normative ethics: an ethical approach that attempts to prescribe what ethical behaviours should be accepted or become cultural norms (What ought to be the case?)  John Searle o It is often said that one cannot derive “ought” from “is”  no set of descriptive statements can entail and evaluative statement without the addition of an evaluative premise  Benedict – Cultural Relativism o Cultural relativism is ethical subjectivism on a societal level o Cultural norms determine what is ethically right and wrong o Moral values nothing more than agreement of various groups of people o If slavery or polygamy is a common practice in a certain culture, it is morally right for that culture o Your idea of good or bad has been programmed into you when you’re born in a particular culture  the culture determines what is right or wrong o Travellers – have different perspectives than us – not necessarily tied to cultural norms o In North America, wealth = success but a lot of the world does not think like this o Need to question to culture to recognize what it is  Benedict’s Argument o “The vast majority of the individuals in any group are shaped to the fashion of their culture.” o Moral values arise from social adaptation  Morality  “socially approved customs”  Values arise from social adaptations – passive, you are constantly adapting  There is a spectrum; some of us withstand pressure, some of us don’t  Values are neither superior or inferior to those of another o Modern civilization does not embody an evolutionary “pinnacle of human achievement” but rather “one entry in a long series of possible adjustments” o Not possible to say one “recipe” of culture is better than another, they just represent different ways people use to organize themselves into social groups o Your beliefs about morality, religion, etc. are dependent on the accident of your birth  Who you are is going to be different if you had a different set of parents  Not something you actively choose o “It is morally good” = “It is habitual”  Very similar to something like language; why do you speak English? It is accidental you speak English; you did not choose to speak it  Social adaptation to speak English  Actively choosing to learn another language – different from everyone else who only speaks English o Many people find the relativist view to be convincing  The Cultural Difference Argument o Usually explains why relativism can be true o 1) If there were an absol
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