Cultural Relativism

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PHIL 200
Michael Blome Tillmann

Cultural Relativism Moral Objectivism: There are universal moral truths. Moral Subjectivism: There are only subjective moral truths which stand true for some people at some times. Cultural Relativism Ethical Relativism  Different societies have different moral  No objective universal moral truths codes   Moral code of a society defines their way of judgments  No objective standard  Moral codes has no special status  Adopt attitude of tolerance **Ethical Relativism does NOT follow from Cultural relativism. Ethical relativism can be false even if cultural relativism is true. Problem of Cultural Relativism: Argument is invalid, therefore unsound. 1. Concerns what people believe 2. Concerns what is(what is not) the case Comment: Why should this be a problem if it concern what people believe? That’s the basis of argument. I don’t get it. If Ethical Relativism is true: 1. We cannot morally assess others. 2. We can judge our acts through the standards of our own society. I.e. a serial killer may be morally wrong to murder in one society but he can just go to a society where killing is ok and then, he won’t be doing anything morally wrong anymore. 3. We can’t critically morally evaluate our own societies. Why do we think cultural relativism is true? Cultural relativism is a claim about the difference in values between societies. And anthropology claims that different societies have different cultures. BUT difference in custom does not suggest as difference in values. Reasons to doubt Cultural Relativism: All cultures have some values in common. Examples:  The protection of the young  Truth-telling  Prohibition on murder Comment: This is not necessary true. Even aggression is ok in some remote cultures in the Amazon and Africa. At an earlier time, in some cultures in Western Asia and Northern Africa, families would bury their child if it was a daughter. Challenges of Moral Objectivism 1. Psychological Egoism:  Humans are always selfish  Challenges motivation claim 2. Ethical Egoism:  Humans are not obligated to do anything that is not their own interests. Argument of Psychological Egoism: 1. When agents act voluntarily, they do what they most want to do 2. It’s selfish to do what the most want to do. 3. Therefore, agents act selfishly (voluntarily). Objection: 1. First premises are false. It is false that everything we do voluntarily I what we most want to do. I.e. we mi
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