we start talking about arguments for and against relativism, let me
reiterate some of the definitions we came up with in our last session.
Ayesha offered an extended definition of cultural
relativism. It went like this:
- Moral judgments of the same actions and practices vary widely
from culture to culture.
- Moral principles also vary from culture to culture.
- People within a culture have the morals they have because of the
process of enculturation.
- Each moral code is binding within, but not beyond, the culture
of which it is a part.
We also accepted the following definitions:
- Ethical Relativism - We defined ethical
relativism as a meta-ethical theory stating that there are some cases
in which more than one conflicting moral judgment is true or
correct. We may have to change this definition, but it is a place
- Moral or ethical Judgment - We defined ethical judgments as
moral evaluations of specific actions. For example, "It was
wrong for Tom to lie to Mary."
- Moral or ethical principle - We defined ethical principles as
rules that apply to many specific cases. For example, "It is
wrong to lie" or "It is
wrong to kill innocent human beings" are ethical principles.
We sometimes call these rules or standards.
- Objective - We said that we would call moral judgments and
principles 'objective' if they are independent of human attitudes,
choices, agreements, and feelings.
- Absolute - We decided to call a moral system absolute
if it is thought to be the one and only true morality that applies
to everyone. Someone is an absolutist
if he or she believes is an absolute morality.
Using these definitions we would say that a moral judgment such as
"Thou shalt not kill" is objective if it is grounded on the
will of God rather than a consensus among human beings.
We would say that a moral judgment such as "Lying is always
wrong" is absolute if it is taken to imply that it is binding on
everyone and that any conflicting view is incorrect.