Ethics: Questions and Answer

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Explain the distinctions between religious relativism, cultural relativism, and human relativism. Moral relativism is influenced by the type of relativism that we encounter in our daily ordinary lives. While moral relativism holds that moral codes or principles are simply the creation of man, cultural relativism is an ethical philosophy of what is perceived to be morally good or wrong in a given society. Human relativism nevertheless argues that people establish their own beliefs morally. Both cultural relativism and human relativism are part of the larger philosophy of moral relativism (Fieser 2). According to your textbook, why does Xenophanes think that religious beliefs are culturally relative?By giving an example of the Thracians’ and the Ethiopians’ early depiction of their deities, and also by adding a similar supposition using animals as an example, Xenophanes is of the opinion that we form our religious beliefs based on what we culturally perceive to be good and evil. His rationale is that instead of describing gods objectively, our cultural experiences form the basis of our notions of the gods and subsequently our religious perceptions in general (Fieser 3).

According to your textbook, what is Pyrrho’s view of morality?In Fieser’s book, Moral Philosophy Through the Ages, Pyrroh thinks that we should not judge (3). Despite never writing a single word himself, Pyrrho believed that there were no grounds for anyone to place judgment on moral matters because according him, there is no way to determine with absolute finality what constitutes bad or good morals on a universal scale.

According to Balfour, how do we determine whether a social practice reflects true morality or is simply depraved? What is the problem with Balfour’s argument according to your textbook?By critiquing the objectivity of moral values as held in the third premise of cultural relativism through social diversity, Balfour supposes that immoral social practices (depraved practices) can be discerned intuitively because true moral practices “shine forth” distinctively. However, Balfour’s views can be challenged simply by arguing that they were founded in his Calvinstic religious background and Irish culture (Fieser 8), and therefore not necessarily applicable across all cultures.

According to Rachels, what are three values that are common to all societies? What are some values that do appear to vary from culture to culture?The three common core values that ensure the survival of societies as cited by Rachels are the prohibitions against killing fellow human beings, telling the truth, and nurturing our children. Nevertheless, it becomes increasingly impossibly to draw a clear boundary between prudence and morality, or to generalize some varying social matters such as the different perceptions on practices like polygamy, incest, adultery, pedophilia, and homosexuality.

What does the author (Fieser) think we should conclude about the argument from social diversity? Explain your answer.According to Fieser, the conclusion we should draw from the discussion on social diversity is that in comparison to moral objectivism, moral values are more grounded in social customs which better explain this diversity of moral standards from culture to culture (7). For instance, traditional practices such as the underage arranged marriages of the East African Maasai community or FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) are terribly abhorred in most Western cultures but received with unquestionable countenance by the cultures practicing them. And yet, some cultures may receive these practices with varied levels of indifference, or tolerance simply because they may be closely related to some of their own social customs.

Explain the difference between cultural relativism and moral nihilism?Cultural relativism recognizes and endorses societal moral standards although it refutes their objective grounding (Fieser 11). Conversely, a moral nihilist does not believe in the existence of moral values whatsoever. According to supporters of moral nihilism, it is neither fundamentally right nor intrinsically wrong for a person to kill another person for any reason. Therefore, moral nihilists hold that only the truly free reject repressive social norms.

According to your textbook, what are the metaethical and normative ethical views of the cultural relativist?Distinguishing matters of normative ethics and metaethics is crucial in the comprehension of the relativist’s perception. While metaethics examines the origin of morality and the question of whether principles of morality exist outside the human society in an objective realm, normative ethics deal with the search for guiding principles (such as laws set in religious sects) and moral values that influence the best human behavior. The relativist however believes that moral standards cannot possibly exist outside human society, but still acknowledges that some of these moral standards have a binding nature which determines whether we are labeled good or bad people.

What are the author’s (Fieser’s) three responses to the criticism that cultural relativism leads to horrible values?In response to the assertion that horrible values can be spawned from cultural relativism, the author challenges this view by pointing out that; (1) albeit the negative nature of some objective moral values, our moral principles have continuously evolved as man’s society evolved over time and therefore should not be considered non-arbitrary, or unchanging, (2) the existence and acknowledgment of objective moral principles does not necessarily mean that our moral values are (or should be) founded around them, and (3) our natural individual drives such as the desire for a peaceful existence, the fear of mortality, and self-preservation help shape our social conventions therefore we cannot assume that moral values are fixed.

According to the author (Fieser), does cultural relativism rule out universal moral judgments? Why or why not? Although the author points out important similarities between the rules of morality for cultural relativists and objectivists, he is also quick to bring to light the fact that the difference in social customs and cultures does not warrant us to make universal moral (judgment) pronunciations. The author believes that although there may be underlying objective moral values that direct our formulation of social conventions, the do’s and don’ts of the morality game keep changing from culture to culture because relativists hold that morality is still grounded in both social norms and individual human nature (Fieser 12). Therefore, relativism rules out universal judgment.

Works Cited

Fieser, James. Moral philosophy through the ages. Mayfield, 2001.

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