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PP 110 - ethics.docx

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Ashwani Peetush

Ethics  Meta-ethics: looking beyond ethics (what can ethical statements tell us?) o Meta-ethics looks at/discusses the status of ethical claims (1 step removed)  What can ethical statements tell us? Cultural Relativism – the view that all morals are relative to time, place, history and culture (there are no universal moral ethical truths)  Who are you to judge? o Encounter objectivism – simply a matter of opinion (judgematic) o If views/judgment have no weight in one circumstance, then it has no weight in other circumstances as well o Logical implication of moral subjectivity  Ex. one cannot judge that the holocaust is one of the most evil, vicious, shameful, degrading, etc. moments in history  One benefit: countries came together to create laws that would prohibit any such occurrences in the future (United Nations Charter of Human Rights)(Universal Declaration of Human Rights – UDHR)  A number of principals (ethical, legal) that attempt to specify the minimal conditions of what it is to live in a decent world o Ex. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood  These “universal” assumptions show cross cultural morals/norms/values that should be argued for o Some argued: these are simply local (western) values  This promotes imperialism  Anthropologists (those that study culture) claimed they did not see these values in other countries o Objections 1. There are no universal values 2. This particular formation of these values are parochial  Because we did not participate in the signing of this charter, the articles are not legitimate  But, this argument does not deny truth of universal human values  It denies this particular set is cross cultural  Rule of law: no one is above the law – it cannot be retroactively applied (it is unfair – runs contrary to the basic justice)  I would not do something like that, but I acknowledge that it exists  The Argument o The evidence: different cultures have widely different moral codes  In this society, elders were murdered, babies were killed (especially female), and wives were shared  Conclusion: there was little regards for the above issues o Therefore, no ethical truths exist; they are arbitrary and subjective  The values are not culturally shared – no universal values  The idea that there are cross culture moral codes is problematic  Everything is subjective and arbitrary  Arbitrary – no bases in which to ground, to do something without reason (a matter of convention – no truth about one way or another – no necessity)  Subjective – it is simply dependent upon the subject – matter of opinion o Ex. Scenario #1 Jane: “I love chocolate ice-cream, it is so good!” Tom: “I think chocolate ice-cream is bad!”  Both can be true at the same time because they are matters of opinion (no objective truth of the matter)  Truth of the claim is entirely dependent on the subject o Ex. Scenario #2  Jane: “Rape is a heinous and morally depraved act; it is categorically wrong in all circumstances, including war.”  Ted Bundy: “Rape is pleasurable and thus good.” o Primafacy makes the two scenarios dissimilar  Scenario #1 has no contradictions – however, Scenario #2 is a contradiction o Morals are not subjective in a sense  Objections to Relativism 1. (Invalid Argument)  Not a strong argument (one of the weakest)  Different people have different values, therefore  Can’t assume: one’s belief results in truth  People think X, therefore X (wrong) o Ex. people do not believe there is right or wrong, therefore there is no right or wrong  Cultural relativist: but you are merely assuming the objectivity of morals  Rachels says: ethical statements lack cognitive value (do not have true values)  Their values contradict – therefore, no agreement 2. Reduction Ad Absurdum (Indirect proof) (weakest argument – it is informal – an apparent absurdity – no logical contradiction)  Reductio Ad Absurdum – Reduce to absurdity  Assumption :ex. universe is made of jello, therefore I am made of jello – implication  Logical Law: it is true that either “X” is true or “not X” is true (contradiction)  With contradiction, it is hard for communication – hard to understand what one is trying to convey (contradictions are bad things – try to avoid it at all cost)  If you assume that cultural relativism is true, it implies that life is a moral  Progress entails that there is a standard that one can use to judge progress  Ex. Women voting rights results in a better society (who says this is true? One can only say this because the principal of equality is used to judge)  If cultural relativism is true, then you cannot condemn anyone’s moral belief and moral progress does not exist (that is because moral progress implies that there is an independent standard, that you can progress towards something better, that there is something be
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