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 'moral principles.'
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, click here.