Discussion Topic: Moral Relativism
Please read the general discussion requirements above, as well as the announcements explaining the discussion requirements and answering the most frequently asked questions. If you are still unsure about how to proceed with the discussion, please reply to one of those announcements or contact your instructor.
After reading Chapter 2 of the textbook, reflect on the following:
What is an ethical belief that you feel strongly about, but you know is not shared by some people of other cultures? This can be a belief that certain things are right or good, or that certain things are wrong or bad. (Be sure to differentiate between cultures and societies – a society like that of the U.S. contains many different cultures.)
For the purposes of this discussion, be sure to should focus on an ethical truth that you hold to, not a cultural norm that has no moral significance.
Topics that have ethical relevance which you could write about could include, but are not limited to:
Whether we should use military drones in war time
The ethics surrounding end of life scenarios/euthanasia
Whether abortion is ethical
The ethical boundaries (if there are any) for the institution of marriage
You are also welcome to offer a philosophical examination of relativism by addressing topics like:
If relativism is true, is it true for everyone?
What are some of the problems with relativism (i.e. the reformer’s dilemma)
Why do we accept objective truths in other academic fields (i.e. math, science, etc.) but not in ethics? What is it about ethics that leads us to believe that it is subjective?
Topics to avoid are those which are cultural rooted and not ethical in nature. Examples of these include, but are not limited to:
Whether it is right/wrong to chew with your mouth open
Whether we should shake with our left or right hand
How we should greet strangers
Whether we should or shouldn’t burp at the dinner table
How we should refer to others (using ma’am or sir)
If we should make eye contact while talking
Whether we should go to church on Sunday
1. Reflect on yourself:
What are the reasons for your belief? Try to explain as succinctly as possible the main reason(s) why you have the belief that this is right/wrong or good/bad.
Do you consider this to be something you were merely conditioned to believe, or do you think these beliefs represent your own independent thought and reflection? Explain.
2. Reflect on the other:
If you were to try to explain and defend the contrary beliefs of some from another culture, how would you do that? (I.e., do your best to speak from their point of view about why they hold certain beliefs on this issue.)
If you had to identify an assumption, background conviction, or way of thinking that best explains why someone from another culture would have a different belief, what would that be?
3. Engage with the text:
Considering what the textbook says about moral relativism, would you consider your belief to be objective or relative? That is, do you think your belief is true (or at least stronger) in comparison to the other culture’s, or do you think it’s merely relative to your own culture?
If you think it’s true (or stronger), explain why. If you think it’s merely relative, choose one of the objections to relativism raised in the text, briefly explain it, and defend your position against that objection.