• Ethical Relativism
• Moral Differences
• Not everyone shares our idea of what constitutes decent/moral behavior.
• What we believe to be immoral behavior in fact can be grounded in an ethical code.
– 9/11 for example. Al-Qaeda’s code of ethics identify their action as morally justified and mandated
• Moral nihilism
– View that there are no morally right or wrong viewpoints, that the whole moral issue is a cultural game.
– Neither your nor my opinion matter because there is no moral right or wrong.
– Difficult to uphold because it’s extreme.
• Moral skepticism
– We can’t know if there are moral truths or not.
– Problem, how do you make moral judgments
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• Moral codes varied enormously from culture to culture.
• When judgments are not made but are descriptive about cultural diversity, that is it describes what is, it is called cultural relativism.
• Ethical Relativism
• No universal moral truths.
• Each culture has its own set of rules that are valid for that culture.
• We have no right to interfere with another culture’s view or they with ours.
– Starfleet’s Prime Directive mandates that Starfleet personnel are prohibited from interfering in the normal development of any society. (From Star Trek Encyclopedia)
• Cultural vs. Ethical
• Cultural relativism is a descriptive theory
– Tells how customs differ from culture to culture.
• Ethical relativism is a normative theory
– Which states there are no universal ethical codes; that each culture’s code is right and valid for that culture.
• Ruth Benedict (1887-1948)
• Student of anthropologist Franz Boas
• Shared his viewpoint that cultures around the world should not be judged by the standards of Western civilization and that moral standards are NOT universal.
• In 1934 she wrote “Anthropology and the Abnormal” which claims that “modern civilization becomes not a necessary pinnacle of human achievement but one entry in a long series of possible adjustments.” (112)
• She felt that Western society has no right to impose it’s code of conduct on other cultures.
• Advocated cultural and moral tolerance.
• She then made the leap from cultural relativism to ethical relativism.
• Claimed we can’t judge but that it is normal in that culture thus it is good.
• The point is to recognize that cultural differences are equally meaningful within each culture’s context.
• Problems with ethical relativism
1. No criticism or praise for other cultures
• Claims that what other cultures do cannot be judged by...