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Class 6: Cultural Relativism

by: Minjee Kong

Class 6: Cultural Relativism BADM 4101

Marketplace > George Washington University > BADM 4101 > Class 6 Cultural Relativism
Minjee Kong
Business Law and Ethics
Kirsten Martin

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About this Document

This document bundle includes the notes for Class 6 which covers Cultural Relativism. There are outlines for the two readings "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism" and "The Parable of the Sadhu"....
Business Law and Ethics
Kirsten Martin
Class Notes
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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by Minjee Kong on Monday February 9, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to BADM 4101 at George Washington University taught by Kirsten Martin in Spring2015. Since its upload, it has received 533 views.


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Date Created: 02/09/15
February 9 2015 The Challenge of Cultural Relativism James Rachels Pages 438 447 How Different Cultures Have Different Moral Codes 0 Our own way of living seems so natural and right that for many of us it is hard to conceive of others living so differently o Conceptions of right and wrong differ from culture to culture Callatians tribe of Indians and the Greeks 0 Different beliefs of funerary practices Callatians customarily ate the bodies of their dead fathers Greeks practiced cremation 0 One custom was not right or wrong compared to the other Cultural Relativism Every standard is culturebound Cultural Relativism challenges our ordinary belief in the objectivity and universality of moral truth 0 There is no such thing as universal truth in ethics there are only the various cultural codes and nothing more 0 Claims which have been made by cultural relativists 1 Different societies have different moral codes 2 There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one societal code better than another 3 The moral code of our own society has no special status it is merely one among many 4 There is no quotuniversal truth in ethics that is there are no moral truths that hold for all people at all times 5 The moral code of a society determines what is right within that society that is if the moral code of a society says that a certain action is right then that action is right at least within that society 6 It is mere arrogance for us to try to judge the conduct of other peoples We should adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the practices of other cultures The Cultural Differences Argument 0 Cultural Relativism is a theory about the nature of morality 0 At the heart of Cultural Relativism there is a certain form ofargument 0 Strategy is to argue from facts about the differences between cultural outlooks to a conclusion about the status of morality 0 Cultural Differences Argument 1 Different cultures have different moral codes 2 Therefore there is no objective truth in morality Right and wrong are only matters of opinion and opinions vary from culture to culture o The premise concerns what people believe while the conclusion concerns what really is the case The Consequences of Taking Cultural Relativism Seriously William Graham Sumner summarizes the essence of Cultural Relativism 0 There is no measure of right and wrong other than the standards of one s society 1 We could no longer say that the customs of other societies are morally inferior to our own 2 We could decide whether actions are right or wrong just by consulting the standards of our society Cultural Relativism would not only forbid us from criticizing the codes of other societies it would stop us from criticizing our own 3 The idea of moral progress is called into doubt Why there is Less Disagreement than it Seems o The original impetus for Cultural Relativism comes from the observation that cultures differ dramatically in their views of right and wrong 0 Cultures do not differ nearly as much as it appears 0 Difference is in our belief systems not in our values How All Cultures Have Some Values in Common 0 Values must be more or less universal In any complex society there must be a presumption in favor of truthfulness There are some moral rules that all societies will have in common because those rules are necessary for society to exist What Can Be Learned from Cultural Relativism What is wrong about Cultural Relativism o It rests on an invalid argument o It has consequences that make it implausible on its face 0 The extent of the cultural disagreement is far less than it implies What is right about Cultural Relativism Two lessons to be learned from theory 1 Cultural Relativism warns us about the danger of assuming that all our preferences are based on some absolute rational standard 0 Many of our practices are only cultural products 2 Keep an open mind 0 Our feelings are not necessarily perceptions of the truth they may be nothing more than the result of cultural conditioning 0 Cultural Relativism is an attractive theory because it is based on a genuine insight 0 Many of the practices and attitudes we think so natural are really only cultural products 0 Avoid arrogance and have open minds February 9 2015 Italian Tax Mores CASE Arthur L Kelly Pages 54 56 Key Terms Commercialista a function which exists in Italian society for the primary purpose of negotiating corporate and individual tax payments with the Italian tax authorities Bustarela a substantial cash payment requested by the Italian revenue agent from the commercialista Quick Summary 0 Italian tax authorities assume that no Italian corporation would ever submit a tax return which shows its true pro ts but rather would submit a return which understates actual pro ts by anywhere between 30 and 70 0 Tax authorities issue to each corporation an quotinvitation to discussquot its tax return 0 Italian revenue service states the amount of corporate income tax which it believes is due 0 Several rounds of bargaining 0 Italian corporation represented by its commercialista American bank opened a banking subsidiary in major Italian city 0 At end of rst year bank was advised by its local lawyers and tax accounts to le its tax return quotItalianstyle and hire a comm erciaista 0 American general manager of the bank rejected advice and led quotAmericanstyle 0 Tax authorities requested taxes more than the proper amount led 0 Bank manager set up an appointment to meet personally with the manager of the Italian revenue service 0 Comments from both parties at the meeting 0 General Manager quotYou can t really be serious about disallowing interest paid on deposits as a tax deductible expensequot 0 Italian revenue service says quotPerhaps However we thought it would get your attention Now that you re here shall we begin our negotiationsquot Case Questions 1 Did the American manger do anything wrong Why or why not According to Cultural Relativism the bank manager did not do anything wrong according to American customsmorals which was what he was accustomed to However Italian culture is different from what is the norm in America so Italians may see what he did as wrong 2 What would you have done in his place If I were the American manager I would have followed the Italian custom and led taxes quotItalianstyle I would have followed the Italian method because in Italy corporations and tax officials follow a different custom but in the end mediate and nd the proper tax amount after having their quotinvitation to discussquot February 9 2015 The Parable of the Sadhu Bowen H McCoy Pages 287 293 Key Terms Sadhu an Indian holy man Ethical Dilemma Should somebody have stopped to help the sadhu to safety 0 Would it have done any good 0 Was the group responsible Background Sixmonth sabbatical program that Morgan Stanley adopted 0 Nepal walking 600 miles through 200 villages in the Himalayas and climbing some 120000 vertical feet 0 Situation in which a basic ethical dilemma suddenly intruded into the lives of a group of individuals The Sadhu Friend Stephen began having symptoms of altitude sickness at 15500 feet and porters also suffered from height Pasang the Sherpa sirdar leader was worried During a rest period one of the New Zealanders who had gone ahead came down the mountain with the sadhu 0 Found him lying on ice shivering and suffering from hypothermia 0 Gave the responsibility to take care of sadhu to rest of climbers 0 Stephen and four Swiss climbers took off outer clothing and clothed the sadhu o In fear of withstanding the heights to come and wanting to get over the pass left sadhu with Stephen and others and took off after several porters who had gone ahead 0 People helped the sadhu to a certain extent but in the end everyone decided to continue on their climb and no one knows if the sadhu was about to survive Breakdown between the individual ethic and the corporate ethic o No one person was willing to assume ultimate responsibility for the sadhu The Individual vs The Group Ethic Real moral dilemmas are ambiguous Reasonable people often disagree otherwise there would be no dilemma In a business context it is essential that managers agree on a process for dealing with dilemmas As a group need a process for developing a consensus need a purposeplan Because corporations and their members are interdependent for the corporation to be strong the members need to share a preconceived notion of what is correct behavior a quotbusiness ethicquot and think of it as a positive force not a constraint Business ethics has to do with the authenticity and integrity of the enterprise 0 To be ethical is to follow the business as well as the cultural goals of the corporation its owners its employees and its customers Individuals who operate from a thoughtful set of personal values provide the foundation of a corporate culture In a complex corporate situation the individual requires and deserves the support of the group


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