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PHL400: Week 9 - (NOV 5th) Rachels, Donnelly.docx

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PHL 400
Mark Clamen

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Week 9: Human Rights:thniversal or Relative? I November 5 , 2013 - James Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism”  Broader, moral outlook (fact of cultural difference means there are no distinct human rights?) - Jack Donnelly, “The Relative Universality of Human Rights”  Particular constraints on human rights What is cultural relativism? - Rachels opens with quote: “morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits” [Make a value judgement (what is right or wrong) we do so from within a very real, cultural category; we share them, not because of some metaphysical reason, but rather because we share predispositions that lead to certain conclusions] - [our norms and values are not absolute – they can change with time; when we discuss different cultures, all the necessary features that make up any culture in any place and time are considered values]  [we know people do not act all the same, but we know that when they act inappropriately, the society calls them out on it -> such as laws; so they are punished]  [social norms play a pseudo-legal role in our behaviour]  Morés: [an action that may not be universally held – ask why is it?]  Example: Callatians eat their honoured dead because the thought of the body wasting is offensive to them, the Greeks are disgusted by that because they cremate them = Different cultures have different moral codes  Why do people allow or prohibit certain actions?  Callatians may be seen as barbaric; the sharing of their actions becomes a story for the Greeks to tell, often cultural relativism is told through how “bad the others are”  Why is it incorrect to judge a culture on these claims of cultural relativism?  There is no independent/universal moral standard to compare them to; various cultural codes that structure different societies at different times  The only place to judge them would be from within; when we step out of this, we have no right to judge the morality The Cultural Differences Arguments (19-20) - (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 - [Human rights needs, and wants to be universal; can we judge yesterday on today’s terms? Can the future’s terms judge us?] - [Murder, infanticide – are now being judged from within] - What is wrong with this argument, structurally? It moves from the fact “people disagree” to the conclusion “is it right that people disagree” (moving form “is” to “ought”) = It is a bad argument because the premise does not equal the conclusion - [We are, on some level, saying they are wrong, not just mistaken] Should we take cultural relativism “seriously”? Rachels asks (21 – 26) - [Culture differs in terms of space but also in terms of time] - There are risks of taking it too seriously, but also says that perhaps cultural relativism is not as it’s cracked up to be  How different are the Greeks from the Callatians? Do societies really have different values? Or do they just have very different contexts  Learns that assuming our cultural norms are natural and viable, and therefore by definition correct, that we need to be able to grow, and become more just/fair and meet diversity in a way that allows this to happen-> not all encounters with diversity calls upon our moral values, but most often it will  Some things are not as fundamental to us as we thought; such as how we treat the dead “The Relative Universality of Human Rights” by Jack Donnelly - [he begins by describing what he thinks human rights are
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