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PHI 192 (3)
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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHI 192
Professor
Ben Bradley
Semester
Spring

Description
Harry Gensler Reading Cultural Relativism Intro: • Cultural relativism: the view that social approval is the ultimate measure of morality o Those acts approved by society are good o Those acts frowned upon are bad • Cultural relativists believe: o Morality is like law or other social conventions; what is legal in one society may not be in another o Morality varies from society to society o There are no objective moral standards that apply to all people at all times o Right and wrong depends entirely on the customs that have arisen in different societies • Gensler argues that relativism is deeply problematic for 4 main reasons: o 1) relativism cannot allow for consistent disagreement with one’s own social code  So long as society can make moral mistakes, then its approval is not enough to show that something is morally good o 2) relativism is a very poor basis for defending tolerance  Some societies favor intolerance, therefore intolerance is a good thing in those societies o 3) Relativism is a counsel of conformity  One must be uncritical of the norms, because they are always correct o 4) Relativism offers us poor advice about what to do for members of subcultures situated in large groups  What happens when the norms of two groups a person is a part of conflict? Article: Ima Relativist • When someone says “infanticide is wrong” then that means that person’s society disapproves of it • There are no objective truths about right or wrong • Wrongness is defined by society o Something cannot be defined as simply wrong o Something can only be defined as wrong in this or that society o Infanticide is wrong vs. infanticide is wrong in this society • People who say that right or wrong are absolutes are just absolutizing their own society’s beliefs Objections to Cultural Relativism • Biggest problem: CR forces us to conform to society’s norms, or else we contradict ourselves o If “good” and “socially approved” mean the same thing, then whatever was one would have to be the other o So this reasoning would be valid:  Such and such is socially approved. Therefore such and such is good. o We can consistently disagree with the values of our society  We can consistently affirm that something is “socially approved” yet deny that it is “good” o CR is intolerant of minority views which are always defined as wrong Moral Diversity • CR sees the world as neatly divided into distinct societies when in reality the world
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