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Ethical Relativism

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Simon Fraser University
Sam Black

st October 1 – PHIL 1102 1 Cultural Relativism:  Descriptive ethics  Describes ethical behaviour, reporting the facts Ethical Relativism:  Whatever a culture holds to be right is therefore right for them  There are no absolute truths when it comes to morality  Normative ethics  One culture burning dead bodies, which is right for them.  One culture eats their dead, which is right for them. Moral Absolutism:  Or moral objectivism  remember subjective vs. objective  Universal values that are true for all people at all times  E.g., Kant is an absolutist  stealing is always wrong, cheating is always wrong  The 10 commandments hold forever Flourished in 19 century with anthropologists  looked at diff cultures and realized how diff they were  burgeoning of moral relativism  realized what they thought might not be the best  Cultural imperialisim Tales: 1. Sexual practices of the Inuit – lend wives out as a sign of hospitality to travelers but wives can say no but they’d have to divorce husband and marry another man 2. Amazonian tribe – shame if ate in public but no shame if sex in public 3. Cynics (Diogenes) – lived in wine barrel, refused cultural norms and money, skeptical about those types of things, lived in complete independence, questioned everything, Alexander the Great (most famous man in the world) searched for Diogenes, thought it was fine to masturbate in public  we think of a cynic as someone who was negative but not in this sense  question everything 4. Infanticide with Inuits was fine – women born 20 children but killed 10 at birth (mainly girls) 5. Inuits abandoned elders for them to die 6. Female circumcision (excision) – girl from Togo landed in NJ airport and wanted asylum because she did not want the circumcision done that was common practice in Togo One side of us is relativist and one side is absolutiI don’t care if it is common pra
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