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Ethics and Politics of Justice
Geoff Ward
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by drinksomedrpepper on Sunday May 15, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Crm/Law C163 at University of California - Irvine taught by Geoff Ward in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 4 views.


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Date Created: 05/15/16
C163 – Ethics and Politics of Justice Week 2 – Lecture 3 Ethical Relativism Outline  Levels of reasoning  Absolutism  Relativism Levels of Reasoning  Common language –basic level of reasoning  Description – questions about what “is”  Describing cars colors or location  Explanation – how or why it “is”  Car was moving 60mph  Normative judgment  What “ought to be”  Factual claims about the way things are  Judging if the action was right or wrong Moral Reasoning  Normative ethics holds that one’s conduct should take into account moral issues – that one should act morally, using reason to decide the appropriate course of action  What should I do with a reasoning behind it  Reason for our action  Reasoning behind the way we think with what is right vs. wrong  But how should we reason, morally?  What moral law or principles can guide us?  Absolutism  Relativism Absolutism  Idea that there is one eternal, universal, and unchanging moral law that is available to all  Forever, everywhere, constant, everyone  Behaving morally should be something everyone can do and is expected to do  Objective: of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality  Objectivism: a knowledge claim, asserting that all reality is objective and external to the mind; that knowledge is reliably based on observed objects and events  Objectivism is necessary for objective to be true  In order to be objective, you have to believe that there are objects in the world to be objective about Types of Objectivism  Aesthetic  Beauty, taste, preferences, pleasing  Hard to make a claim objectively  Moral  Right, wrong  Cognitive  Mind, thinking  Events, things, phenomena  Objective about things that exist independent of observers and the mind  Q: Is moral objectivity possible?  Can we be certain of what did or did not happen, something right vs. wrong Ethical Objectivism says yes to question ^  Ethical objectivism:  Certain acts are objectively right or wrong, regardless of circumstance  Ethical universalism:  Objective moral truths can be applied to anyone, anywhere, at anytime Objections to Ethical Absolutism  If people cant agree, then how will we determine what is right vs. wrong  Unclear what this one supposedly ”true” perspective is  Multiple ethical systems and people disagree on actions and what is right vs. wrong  Unclear how that perspective is to be established/proven to be true  Unclear whether/how that perspective is changed/improved over time  Something that was right 100 years ago is still right today (ex: slavery is good then and is good now) Sex & Morality: Are any of these objectively wrong?  Polygamy  Having multiple wives/spouses  In some cultures, this is a common practice  Pornography  Question about how frequently it happens  Prostitution  Zoophilia (sex with zoo animals)  Pedophilia (sex with children – what age?)  These are not objectively wrong because we cannot come up with a certain answer, even though we may personally believe these are wrong ideas Some problems with objective and universal truth…  Disentangling convention and truth: differentiating patterned beliefs/practices from principle  The problem of moral authority: on what objective or universal authority can we support a claim of ethical absolutism; can everyone come up with the same answer or is it taught; can man answer it himself or does god answer it for us  The problem of ethnocentrism: a way of perceiving the world (and truth) from the perspective of one’s own culture or social group, which often leads to effort to dominate and oppress “other,” allegedly inferior, cultures or social groups; saying other cultures are immoral compared to your culture  The problem of dogmatism: the refusal to entertain criticism of or challenges to one’s belief; stick to your own beliefs and refuse to believe others Relativism  What is morally right or wrong varies across situations; people; societies; and history  The is a contextual approach to moral reasoning Two dimensions of relativism  Meta ethical relativism  Given cultural (and historical) variability, there is no objective sense in which moral truth (right/wrong) can be discussed  It is impossible to ask right or wrong because there is too much difference between cultures and historical periods  Normative relativism  Because there is no objective truth, we should avoid judging the beliefs and practices of others (cultures), and accept that our beliefs are not necessarily more right or wrong than others  All truth is context dependent so you cannot go around saying something is right vs. wrong; cannot pretend you have the right answer The challenge of relativism  If all beliefs are potentially right or wrong, how do we morally reason to resolve ethical dilemmas?  The challenge ethical absolutism and relativism share is finding an adequate source of moral authority by which to justify our choices and actions Regulating Relativism  Pragmatic relativism: we should abandon the search for absolute truths and commit ourselves to functional beliefs – that is, notions of right and wrong, of justice, that yield a well-ordered society. Sociologically functional beliefs and actions are those should consider right. Reached the answer that is sufficient enough for them to regulate society. Well ordered and well functioning society  Ethical pluralism: holds that in most situations that there are many truths rather than one single truth. In such cases, specific (pragmatic) principals may be useful in choosing between competing ethical perspectives  Principle of understand; principle of tolerance (tolerating others believes even if they contradict your own beliefs; tolerate differences of beliefs); principle of standing up against evil (question of what is evil); the harm principle (do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t harm someone else) Legal moralism  Government can and should pass laws to regulate behavior, and prohibit behavior deemed (by who?) to be immoral. Examples?  The rationale is pragmatic – legal moralism defines “moral delinquency” and thus helps maintain the moral integrity of communities Pros and Cons of Ethical Relativism  Benefits  Recognize particularity and differences (don’t all have the same exact beliefs and cultural backgrounds)  Emphasizes the values of an open mind  Objections to ethical relativism


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