morning! Yes, indeed. Good morning!
I want to welcome all of you to this
dialog on ethics. And I want to say thank you all for
volunteering for this class. I'm glad to see that we
have people here from several departments: philosophy,
anthropology, political science, and economics. We
wanted several areas to be represented.
Our topic for discussion is ethical
or moral relativism. What that means and what
questions it involves is our subject for today.
In general, ethical relativism is
a theory about moral judgments and moral principles
- a 'meta-ethical' theory. It makes claims about
what those judgments or principles mean and how they
are grounded or not grounded in certain ways. It
makes claims about the status of those judgments and
whether they have certain properties. For example,
an ethical relativist may claim that ethical
judgments are not objective in some sense of that
rather ambiguous term.
By the way, I'm using the terms
'ethical' and 'moral' interchangeably. Some writers
make a distinction between the two, but I suggest
that we not do so. Therefore, the phrases 'ethical
judgment' and 'moral judgment' are synonymous. The
same goes for the phrases 'ethical principles' and
But I want your views. Let's open
with a question.
A man in some west African
cultures can have more than one wife. In our
country, this is illegal. Moreover, many people here
would consider it morally wrong for a man to have
more than one wife. What kinds of ethical and
meta-ethical questions does this difference raise?
For a brief
description of the participants in the discussion,