Essays24.com - Term Papers and Free Essays
Search

Ethics

Essay by   •  October 5, 2010  •  1,292 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,228 Views

Essay Preview: Ethics

Report this essay
Page 1 of 6

Many people have claimed that although they by definition are separate, cultural relativism about morality and simple subjectivism can be objected to in the exact same way. In order to see the similar objections and attempt to defend the theories, they must first be looked at separately for clarification about each theory before they can be compared and contrasted. In this paper I will first look in small detail at the idea of cultural relativism, then look in the same way at simple subjectivism. After explaining each theory, I will then show the objections that are often used to negate both of these ideas, before finally responding to the objection in defense of cultural relativism. By doing this I will be able to prove my thesis of this paper that the objections raised, just like they do with simple subjectivism will disprove the idea of cultural relativism as solid grounds for determining moral rules.

The idea of cultural relativism is that there is no set standard for what is right and what is wrong, the ruling on this issue comes down to the culture involved. Quoting sociologist William Graham Sumner, Rachels writes, "In the folkways, whatever is, is right" (18). That is cultural relativism goes against near all other theories on morality and claims that there is no universal way of knowing right and wrong. The moral truth does not come from anywhere else besides how an action is taken in one's own culture. Also unlike most other theories, cultural relativism reflects one's own beliefs. A cultural relativist living in America for example would be against genital mutilation as it is not thought of as a benefit to or accepted by his culture; while a cultural relativist on behalf of the Bantu tribe in Africa would be for it as it is commonly accepted among his own culture. When a society deems an action right, it is then accepted as right within that society; that is cultural relativism.

Now that the idea of cultural relativism is clear, I will take a look in some detail at simple subjectivism. Simple subjectivism unlike cultural relativism looks to the ideas of individuals rather than a society for what is right and what is wrong. The basic definition of simple subjectivism is when a person says that something is good or bad in relation to morality they are simply saying that they approve or disapprove of the thing in question. When somebody says for example, "Abortion is good", they are simply saying "I (the speaker) approve of abortion". Just as if they were to say "abortion is bad", they are saying nothing more than "I (the speaker) disapprove of abortion". This idea is known as simple subjectivism because of the easy, uncomplicated form that it takes; the two speakers above although having separate views on the question of whether abortion is acceptable or not are both right in their own regard. The first speaker approves of the action while the second speaker disapproves, causing neither of them to truly be right or wrong.

The previous example I just used is a perfect transition to the problems with simple subjectivism and cultural relativism that I will now discuss. In the example above where speaker one said that they approve of abortion and speaker two claimed to have disapproved of the same action it would seem as if a disagreement would occur. The problem however is that there is no disagreement in simple subjectivism, by definition, simple subjectivism is noting more than making a statement about one's own attitude. Speaker one's attitude is pro abortion and speaker two's is the opposite. Speaker one can not disagree with speaker two about his own attitude; just as speaker two can not disagree with the attitude of speaker one. In terms of simple subjectivism speaker one and two may have different opinions, and technically disagree on the question but they must acknowledge that what the other speaker is saying is true. When the first speakers says "I approve of abortion" speaker two can say nothing more than, "yes, I agree that you approve of abortion". Rachels refers to simple subjectivism as having a type of "eternal frustration" (36), because there is no actual stance on an issue being taken in simple subjectivism, just a lot of opinion stating.

The same problem regarding opinions just described with simple subjectivism carries over to cultural relativism as well. Although at first cultural relativism seems like a sound theory, allowing separate cultures to determine their own moral rules, it is open to the same argument posed

...

...

Download as:   txt (7.4 Kb)   pdf (93.8 Kb)   docx (10.9 Kb)  
Continue for 5 more pages »
Only available on Essays24.com
Citation Generator

(2010, 10). Ethics. Essays24.com. Retrieved 10, 2010, from https://www.essays24.com/essay/Ethics/3540.html

"Ethics" Essays24.com. 10 2010. 2010. 10 2010 <https://www.essays24.com/essay/Ethics/3540.html>.

"Ethics." Essays24.com. Essays24.com, 10 2010. Web. 10 2010. <https://www.essays24.com/essay/Ethics/3540.html>.

"Ethics." Essays24.com. 10, 2010. Accessed 10, 2010. https://www.essays24.com/essay/Ethics/3540.html.