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Lecture 4

PHLB07 - Week 2, Lecture 4 Notes

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Kelin Emmett

PHLB07 - Week 2, Lecture 4 Weekly Readings: Defending Cultural Relativism - Ruth Benedict The Challenge of Cultural Relativism - James Rachels Challenges to Morality • Psychological Egoism • Cultural Relativism • Devine Command Theory • Subjectivism * Each of these positions presents a challenge to our common understanding of morality. Defending Cultural Relativism - Ruth Benedict Contentious Claims: • Female genital circumcision • The moral status of theory • Equal rights for women • Acceptable sexual practices • Freedom of religion, speech, conscience, assembly • The permissibility/impermissibility of killing animals. • ETC.. Benedict: • The spectrum of various human behaviours is enormous. • By certain accidents of these become culturally predominant and the culturally reinforced.  "Normal" = norms that are socially reinforced (rewarded/punished).  An "abnormal' or "aberrant" in one society can often flourish/thrive in another. The Challenge of Cultural Relativism Cultural Relativism: • Notices that different cultures have different norms. • Concludes that "norms" must be culturally relative and it is naive to think otherwise.  Eg. Eating with one's hands, cannibalism, infanticide, sexual practices etc. Cultural Relativism Rachels teases out 6 claims: 1. Different societies have different moral codes. 2. The moral code of a society determines what is right and wrong in that society. 3. There is no objective standard by which to judge one society's code better than another. 4. Our own moral code has no special status 5. There are no universal truths in ethics (actions that are "right" or "wrong" in all times and pace) 6. We should tolerate other cultural practices. Rachels criticisms: Logical fallacy: "the cultural differences argument" (20) 1. Different societies have different moral codes. :. 2. There is no objective truth in morality; "right" and "wrong" are only matters of (cultural) opinion. The "cultural differences argument" is invalid: • Nothing about what really is that case follows from what people believe is case.  E.g. many people believed the world is f
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