Flashcards in Moral Relativism Deck (25)
Which meta-ethical stance does moral relativism support?
What are the two types of relativism?
Descriptive and normative
What does descriptive relativism claim?
Moral codes differ from one society to the next.
From descriptive relativism, what do normative relativists infer?
There is no objective moral truth independent of what society endorses. We cannot therefore use the standards of our own society to judge the practices of other cultures.
What doesn't moral relativism deny?
It does not deny that people can act wrongly. It is a form of noncognitivism but not at a social level. Within each society, there is moral truth.
What do cognitivists believe about moral disagreement?
When two cultures disagree, both are aiming towards the single moral truth.
What do relativists believe about moral disagreement?
Relativists believe that both cultures make claims that are true for them.
How does disagreement end in scientific research?
Science aims to represent the one physical world. When it is agreed that a theory is an accurate representation, it is accepted as true.
Why is morality different to science?!?
Ethical practices, unlike science, are relative to social worlds, of which there are many.
Strengths of relativism
1. Cultural diversity, 2. Untenability of cognitivism
How is cultural diversity a strength?
Descriptive relativism does certainly appear to be true, giving relativism intuitive appeal.
How is the untenability of cognitivism a strength?
Critics of cognitivism point out that moral judgements are just assertions or assumptions. Value judgements appear to be distinct from factual claims, and so attempts to justify value claims cannot appeal to facts.
What are the 5 problems with relativism?
Normative relativism can't be inferred from descriptive, difficulty in judging other cultures, moral progress, disagreement within cultures, Foot's argument, universal nature of moral codes...
How does relativism exaggerate cultural diversity?
There are certain values which are present in some form in nearly every society - these values promote flourishing.
Apparently significant differences in moral outlook are often superficial, masking underlying common values.
Furthermore, many moral differences are the result of factual differences - eg. One society may genuinely believe that slaves are animals
How does relativism ignore diversity within cultures?
Relativists assume that members of a society will simply subscribe to their societies standards without question. But society is not this homogeneous - there is ethical disagreement even within cultures.
Morality is more than just indoctrination!
Problem of inferring descriptive relativism from normative
The fact that cultures disagree does not automatically imply that there is no moral truth, any more than disagreement between historians suggests that there is no fact of the matter.
Response - inference to the best explanation
What does Peter Winch say about diversity within individual cultures?
It is possible for cultural norms to seem 'alien' to people within those cultures - a university professor might feel more at home with medieval alchemists than at a football match!
If relativism is true, why can't we judge other cultures?
If we say that actions are only right/wrong relative to a particular culture, we cannot condemn the practises of other cultures. This means that morality becomes an entirely arbitrary concept.
Why is the inability to judge other cultures such a problem?
It seems absurd to claim that a country which endorses slavery or fascism is as good as a country which promotes equality and tolerance... Relativism stops is from pointing out that certain ways of life are inherently better than others. (James Rachels)
Moral relativism if arguably self refuting. How does this relate to condemning other cultures?
Relativism seems to claim that although there are no objective values, it is an objective fact that we ought to tolerate other cultures. But this is self-refuting, and undermines the relativist position.
Problem of moral progress
Relativism implies that we can value anything we like
Why is the implication that we can value anything we like a problem for relativism?
It implies that any standards, regardless of how bizarre they might be, can be 'morals' - but there seem to be certain limitations to what we can, and cannot, value.
Who argues that we cannot value whatever we like?
Philipa foot (Naturalism)
What does Phillipa Foot claim restricts morality?
Human flourishing. Goodness is that which is commendable - a culture cannot arbitrarily declare that anything is commendable!