Monday September 21
Relativism-there are no universal moral truths
Conclusion that relativists draw, couldn’t be true. It is counter-intuitive. Since there are no
universal moral truths and shouldn’t interfere with other peoples beliefs, and we should be
tolerant of them.
-Williams says that there is a universal moral claim, that all cultures should be tolerant.
Another set of phenomenon that can make relativism look ok. Imagine the matter of abortion
from last class. In one sense it’s true that she ought to have an abortion. In another sense it was
true that she ought not to have an abortion.
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Some philosophers say x, some say not x, but they are both right. Ex. Aristotle
In terms of moral beliefs, If I believe x is right when in fact it’s wrong, subjectively, I should do x.
objectively, I should avoid ex. The relativist view that if you think it’s right, then its right for you,
is true at least for subjective rightness. If she thinks abortion is wrong, then subjectively it is
wrong for her. The subjective ought is not the only ought that is important.
Relativism would require massive revision in moral thought and is not in fact accepted, either
about acts affecting others (rape, genocide) or about acts within personal sphere
Applies to this question. There are two ways that we can talk about what is right to do. What you
subjectively ought to do depends on your beliefs. What you objectively ought to do depends on
what the actual truth is.
The question, ought she to have an abortion can be interpreted in two ways. The emphasis can
be put on either the objective or subjective rightness of the issue.
If she believes that abortion is wrong, when in fact it isn’t, she subjectively ought not to have the
abortion. Since abortion is not wrong, she objectively should have the abortion.
In the subjective sense, the relativist formula is true, “if you think it’s right, then it is right to act in
that way”. Another reason why relativism can look appealing.
But. It can’t support relativism because the subjective ought can’t be the only ought. In the
abortion case, when the woman looks at the idea that abortion is wrong, if it is subjective then it
will keep going infinitely. There can’t be subjective rightness unless there is objective rightness,
or at least beliefs about objective rightness. The objective rightness is denied by relativists.
What is subjectively right for you to do depends on what you believe is objectively right.
Williams and Rachel’s don’t do enough to explain why people are attracted to relativism. Relativism is not accepted generally. People would not agree that it is right to rape 6 year old
girls if it is believed to be right by a specific person.