Download
moral relativism n.
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
Moral Relativism PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
Moral Relativism

Moral Relativism

548 Views Download Presentation
Download Presentation

Moral Relativism

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript

  1. Moral Relativism PHIL104 – 2009 Dan Turton

  2. Today • Follows the Stephen Law reading • Relativism • Moral Relativism basics • Some available positions

  3. Relativism • There are no independent truths • All truths are relative to some framework or other • E.g. Some person, culture etc. • So, what is true for you might not be true for me • Time might seem objective… but it’s actually relative

  4. The Great Mystica • Logical scientific reasoning is not the only system of belief/knowledge • Open your mind to what you don’t yet understand! • Judged on New Age standards, astrology is a very sensible practice! • So, the claims made by astrology are true (relative to new age ways of thinking)

  5. Interesting vs. Boring Relativism • Boring relativism doesn’t involve contradictory ‘truths’: • Dan likes tofu, so tofu is nice for him • John thinks tofu tastes like rotten eggs, so it’s not nice for him • Interesting relativism does: • Dan believes in astrology, so it’s true for him • John thinks its rubbish, so it’s not true for him

  6. Is All Truth Relative? • ‘All truths are relative’ could be absolutely or relatively true • If it’s an absolute truth, then it contradicts itself • If it’s a relative truth, then… what do you think?

  7. Is All Truth Relative? 2 • Dan: ‘All truths are relative (including this one)’ • Smart Student: ‘So, whatever I think is true is true… for me?’ • D: ‘Exactly!’ • SS: ‘So, if I think it’s true that “all truths are absolute”, then it’s a relative truth that “all truths are absolute”… but that’s a contradiction!’ • D: Hmmm… Errr… Oh dear… • SS: ‘Sorry Dan, but “all truths are relative” leads to a contradiction either way… It’s just not true!

  8. Moral Relativism • There are moral truths, but • There are no independent truths about what is morally right or wrong • Moral truths are always relative to some group • E.g. our moral beliefs are true for us, but not necessarily for other groups

  9. Olaf vs. Mrs Barbery • Olaf: ‘It’s obviously true that FGM is morally wrong, because it causes permanent damage to the recipients’ • Mrs B: ‘Whose “truth” is this? You must judge the morality of their actions by their own moral truths.’

  10. Moral Arrogance • Mrs B: ‘It’s arrogant to assume that you know the moral truth for everyone and that they are all wrong!’ • Olaf: ‘But, we should spread our moral values because they are so obviously right.’ • Mrs B: ‘If you were them, then you would not think that it was so obvious.’

  11. Some Positions • Moral relativist • Moral absolutist • Arrogant • Humble • Moral Nihilist

  12. Arrogant Moral Absolutist • Position: • There are one or more universal moral truths that can be used to determine the morality of actions • I know what they are • Problem: • How can you be sure that you are right? There is no test!

  13. Humble Moral Absolutist • Position: • There are one or more universal moral truths that can be used to determine the morality of actions • I’m notsure what they are • Problems: • How can we even discuss this if you don’t know what they are!? • What could they even be?

  14. Moral Nihilist • Or ‘Ethical Nihilist’ • Position: • All talk of morals is rubbish because nothing is morally right or wrong • Problems: • Some actions are clearly more or less moral than others • Is there any positive evidence for moral nihilism?

  15. Next Time • Read • James Rachels: ‘The Challenge of Cultural Relativism’ • Get ready to discuss • More objections to Moral Relativism

  16. James Rachels vsMoral Relativism PHIL104 – 2009 Dan Turton

  17. Today • Follows the James Rachels reading: • ‘The Challenge of Cultural Relativism’ • Rachels interpretation of an arguments for cultural relativism • His general criticisms of the theory

  18. Cultural Differences • Different cultures are… well… different • Importantly, many seem to have different moral codes • Callatians eat, Greeks burn • Each think the other is morally reprehensible

  19. E.g. Inuit • Offer wives to visitors • Alpha male can drop by any time he likes • Grandparents are left out in the cold to die • Children (usually girls) are killed at birth at the parents discretion

  20. Cultural Relativism • A form of moral relativism • Moral truths are judged relative to the moral code of the relevant society/culture • E.g. infanticide is morally permissible for Inuits because the moral code of their society allows it.

  21. What Cultural Relativists Think • Societies have different moral codes • The codes cannot be rated or compared because there is no objective moral measure • Only the moral code of the culture in question can assess what’s ‘Morally right’ in that culture/society • Judging other cultures’ moral practices is arrogant • we should be tolerant of them

  22. The Cultural Differences Argument • Different cultures have different moral codes c) Therefore, there is no objective “truth” in morality. Morally right and wrong are dependant on the relevant culture’s moral code - (what they believe to be morally right and wrong)

  23. Being Charitable • Give your opponent as much as possible • Make their argument better if you can • Show why it’s still wrong • Theoretically, this will cut the debate short (with you emerging the clear winner)

  24. The (New) Cultural Differences Argument • If cultures believe in different moral codes, then there is no objective “truth” in morality • Cultures do believe in different moral codes c) Therefore, there is no objective “truth” in morality; it’s all relative.

  25. Verdict on the Cultural Differences Argument • The argument does not support the conclusion • Therefore the argument does not give good reason to believe the conclusion • But, the conclusion could still be true • Rachels goes on to discredit the conclusion

  26. Taking Your Opponents Conclusion Seriously • Philosophers are famous for having their head in the sand • Many of our thought experiments are ‘unrealistic’ / ‘plain stupid’ • One way you can catch people out is to imagine the (bad/absurd) consequences of your opponent being correct! • Reductio ad absurdum

  27. Taking Cultural Relativism Seriously • 3 absurd consequences: • “We can’t judge others” • “The standards of our society dictate right and wrong” • “There would be no moral progress”

  28. Judging Others • “We can no longer say that the customs of other societies are morally inferior to our own” • Works for funerary practices • Callatians vs Greeks vs us • Not so well for: • FGM, Slavery, • Anti-Semitism

  29. Deciding what’s Morally Right and Wrong • “We could decide whether actions are right or wrong just by consulting the standards of our society” • Dan: I’m worried that slavery is morally wrong. • Southerner: Don’t worry, we all think it’s OK • You can’t criticise other societies moral codes or even your own!

  30. Moral Progress • “The idea of moral progress is brought into doubt” • Women are no longer the property of men • They can now vote, own property and even be PM! • This seems like moral progress • A cultural relativist must deny many types of moral progress • It’s just moral/societal change

  31. Verdict on Taking Cultural Relativism Seriously 1) If cultural relativism is true, then moral progress, comparison and criticism don’t make sense 2) Moral progress, comparison and criticism do make sense c) Therefore, cultural relativism can’t be true (it contradicts obvious facts)

  32. Is there Really Moral Disagreement? • Remember that difference in moral codes between cultures is a very important part of the cultural relativists argument

  33. The (New) Cultural Differences Argument • If cultures believe in different moral codes, then there is no objective “truth” in morality • Cultures do believe in different moral codes c) Therefore, there is no objective “truth” in morality; it’s all relative.

  34. Is there Really Moral Disagreement? • If we look closely, there may not be • E.g. Eating cows (grandma) • E.g. Inuit baby-killing • Men are the hunters and die more easily • Mums can only nurse/carry so many kids at a time • Adoption (if possible) first

  35. The Common values • Remember these are morals at the societal level • Without these, the societies would fail • Caring for offspring • Truth-telling • Murder is wrong

  36. How Much Moral Difference? • So, it’s contentious how much moral difference there is • Does this matter? • Would a complete lack of moral difference (at a deep societal level) mean that moral relativism is false?

  37. Problems with Cultural Relativism • It’s main argument has 2 problems: • Believing in a moral code isn’t enough to make it true • There may not be moral cultural differences after all • If CR is true, then we can’t: • Compare, criticise or progress morally

  38. Lessons from Cultural Relativism • It reminds us about cultural differences • and helps us to examine the peculiar cultural rules we follow • Which may well be arbitrary (not morally right or wrong) • Be open-minded • Some of your moral beliefs are probably based on cultural influences during your upbringing

  39. Next Time • Read: • Gilbert Harman: ‘Precis of Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity’ • Get ready to discuss: • Probably the best simple account of moral relativism

  40. Gilbert Harman’s Moral Relativism PHIL104 – 2009 Dan Turton

  41. Recap: Some Positions • Moral relativist • E.g. Mrs B • Moral absolutist • Arrogant e.g. Olaf • Humble • Moral Nihilist • Extreme • Moderate

  42. Recap: Rachels’ Problems with CR • It’s main argument has 2 problems: • Believing in a moral code isn’t enough to make it true • There may not be moral cultural differences after all • If CR is true, then we can’t: • Compare, criticise or progress morally

  43. Today • Follows the Gilbert Harman reading: • ‘Precis of Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity’ • Harman’s argument for moral relativism • Applying Rachel’s reductio to Harman’s MR

  44. Relativistic Truths • In some cases, what is true is best understood in relation to other truths (background truths) • Is it true that Bill Clinton had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky? • That depends on some background facts: • What counts as sexual relations?

  45. How a MR Interprets Moral Judgments • When someone says: • It’s morally wrong for P to do D • E.g. It’s morally wrong for Bill to cheat on his wife • The moral relativist takes them to mean: • In relation to moral framework M, it’s morally wrong of P to D • According to the moral framework of the USA, it’s morally wrong for Bill to cheat on his wife

  46. Understanding Olaf? • Olaf: FGM is always morally wrong • Mrs B: I take it you mean: ‘in relation to Western moral frameworks, FGM is always morally wrong’ • Olaf: No, I don’t! • Mrs B: Actually, yes you do.

  47. Moral Diversity as an Argument Against Moral Absolutism (Again) 1) There are fundamental moral disagreements between groups 2) The best explanation for this fact is that there are no absolute moral facts, just relative moral facts c) Therefore, we have good reason to believe that moral relativism is true

  48. Evidence of Fundamental Moral Diversity • Some differences in moral frameworks can’t be explained by differences in situational factors or non-moral beliefs • Killing (who can be killed?) • Meat-eating • Liberty vs equality • NZ: Civil unions, abortion, homosexuality

  49. Moral Absolutists’ Explanation for Diversity • Some people are ‘not well placed’ to discover moral truths • Perhaps societies that encourage an open dialogue on ethics are better placed? • Perhaps ethics professors in those societies are best placed?