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Chatper 2 Ethics

by: Katlyn Burkitt

Chatper 2 Ethics Phil 103

Katlyn Burkitt
GPA 3.2

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About this Document

These notes cover chapter 2 of the textbook
Intro to Ethics
Class Notes
ethics, intro, wilson
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Katlyn Burkitt on Sunday September 18, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Phil 103 at Towson University taught by Wilson in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 4 views. For similar materials see Intro to Ethics in philosphy at Towson University.


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Date Created: 09/18/16
Chapter Subtopics Sections Definitions The Elements of Moral Philosophy Chapter 2: The challenge of Cultural Relativism (pg 14-31) 2.1. Different Cultures have different moral codes (pg 14 and 15)  Darius the king of ancient Persia believed that a sophisticated outlook should appreciate the differences between cultures (pg 14) o Callatians eat the bodies of their dead fathers o Greeks cremate their fathers o He asked the Greeks what it would take for them to eat the bodies of their fathers they said “no amount of money could persuade them” o He then asked the Callatians what it would take to burn the bodies of their fathers and they told him “not to speak of such things”  This explains that different cultures have different moral codes  Eskimos (pg 15) o Men tend to have more than one wife o They would share their wives with guests as a sign of hospitality o A dominant male in a community may demand and receive sexual access to the wives of other men o Wives are permitted to break these arrangements by leaving their husbands and taking a new partners as long as the previous husband did not make too much trouble o Infanticide is common o Female babies are more likely to be killed o This is permitted at the parents discursion o If the elderly became too feeble they were left in the snow to die 2.2. Cultural Relativism (pg 16 and 17)  Many people believe “different cultures have different moral codes” as the “key” to understanding morality. “There are no universal moral truths” only the “customs of different societies.” (pg 16)  There is a quote structured as a block quote from William Graham Sumner here (pg 16)  This made people skeptical about ethics because there is no “universal truth in ethics”  Claims made by Cultural Relativists (pg16) o Different societies have different moral codes o The moral code of a society determines the right and wrongs of that society o There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one society better than another’s o Our societies moral is no better than the morality of another society o It is rude to judge other cultures  Despite seeming contradictory such as the tolerance of other cultures, but situations such as Nazi Germany being intolerant of other cultures, Cultural Relativism holds that the morals of one society ONLY hold true within the bounds of that society itself (Pg 17) o “When in Rome do as Romans do” 2.3. The Cultural differences argument (pg 17- 19)  The argument o Cultural relativists begin with facts about cultures then draw a conclusion about morality  Greeks believed it’s wrong to eat the dead, Callatians believed it was right  Therefore it is neither objectively right nor wrong to eat the dead but varies by culture.  The Eskimos saw nothing wrong with infanticide where Americans believe it to be wrong  Therefore infanticide is neither objectively right nor wrong but varies by culture  These two examples support the 2 general ideas of Cultural Relativists  1. Different cultures have different moral codes  2. Therefore there is no objective truth in morality, that it varies from culture to culture  The issue with the Cultural differences argument is (pg18) o That it is not a sound argument because the conclusion does not follow from the premise, “even if the premise is true the conclusion could still be false” o The premise concerns what people believe but the conclusion concerns what really is the case, meaning it does not follow logically from the premise. o Making this argument invalid or unsound  An example: The Greeks and the Callatians disagreed on whether it was right or wrong to eat the dead, but does it logically follow from their disagreement that there is no objective truth in the matter?  A clearer example: Some societies believe the earth is flat many like our own believe it is a sphere. Does it follow from the disagreement that there is no “objective truth” in geography. (pg18)  Of course not because we realize some members of society may be wrong, there is not a reason to believe that if the world is a sphere that every society and culture would know this information  This should not be mistaken to say that Cultural Relativism could not be false just that the argument is structured in such a way that the argument fails. (pg19) 2.4. What follows from Cultural Relativism? (pg 19- 21)  “The notion of right is in the folkways. It is not outside them of independent origin, and brought to test them. In the folkways, whatever is is right.”  What are the consequences if we took this seriously o 1. “We could no longer say that the customs of other societies are morally inferior to our own” (pg 19)  This sounds good if we focus only on funerary practices but we would also be barred from other less benign practices, for example when the Chinese government represses political dissent within its borders, and political prisoners are forced into doing hard labor or are slaughtered.  Because of cultural relativisms belief we would be unable to say this was wrong, we could not say free speech societies are better than oppressed societies.  These societies would be immune from criticism o 2. We could no longer criticize the code of our own society  Cultural relativism says that what is right or wrong in one culture is only right or wrong in the social context of that culture. So if it is the cultural norm than it is right within the culture o 3. The idea of moral progress is called into doubt  For the same reason we can no longer criticize our society we cannot say that a change is progress because we have no way to judge said progress. Since any moral codes in a society can only be judged in context with that society we cannot compare social change with the codes of the “old society”. Therefore, we cannot say whether a change is positive or negative 2.5. Why there is less disagreement than it seems (pg. 21-23)  The differences in a societies value system are not at the moral level but at the belief system level. o Ex. A culture believes it is wrong to eat cows. This is different from our culture, but why won’t they eat cows. They won’t eat cows because they believe human souls inhabit animals after death. This is where they differ in their belief. We do not believe that human souls inhabit animals after death. However, we agree that we should not eat a human, therefore we aren’t that different. 2.6. Some values are shared by all cultures  Protect the young  Be honest  Don’t murder  These rules exist in most societies because a society could not function without them 2.7. Judging a cultural practice is understandable  The book goes into a discussion about excision and how most believe it to be wrong but then may be enforcing our own cultural standards on that society  Through this discussion the book determines that there is no universal standard of right or wrong 2.8. & 2.9  These two sections serve as summaries of the rest of the chapter  The 5 claims of cultural relativism o Different societies have different moral codes o The moral code of a society determines what is right or wrong only within the boundaries of that society o There is no objective standard of right and wrong o The moral code of our society has Paper One 1. Review the case a. Describe the situation b. Describe the subject c. What is the problem? 2. Who are the stakeholder? 3. Identify the ethical problem? 4. From the perspectives of 3 stakeholders apply 3 ethical principles to the case/situation/or subject 5. What conclusions/recommendations can you draw from your ethical analysis? Video  Cosmetic Neurology: The process of enhancing your mental performance using nootropics (mental performance enhancing drugs) Researcher/doctors Students Boosting brain power with Nootropics Society Teachers


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