Debate On Moral Relativism
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Those who support positions of moral absolutism or universalism often express trenchant criticism of moral relativism some sometimes equate it with outright “immorality” or amorality. Some believe that various historical and cultural events and practices present difficult problems for relativists. An observer in a particular time and place, depending on his outlook , might call something good that another observer in a particular time and place would call evil. Many people in other times and places thought slavery, for example, acceptable, even good while most today view it as a great evil. Many writers and thinkers have held that one can justify any number of evils based on subjective or cultural preferences, and that morality requires some universal standard against which to measure ethical judgments.
Is Moral Relativism Really A Problem
Psychological research suggests it is not
Suppose you believe abortion is permissible. Would that belief alone make it so? No? Then how about if most Americans believed it? Would that suffice? If you think the answer to either question is yes, then chances are you are a moral relativist. You may hold that generally, as Hamlet put it, there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
Moral relativism has as bad a reputation as any view about morality could. For example, in a 2011 interview for the conservative nonprofit American Enterprise Institute, then representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said, Moral relativism has done so much damage to the bottom end of this country, the bottom fifth has been damaged by the culture of moral relativism more than by anything else, I would argue. If you ask me what the biggest problem in America is, Im not going to tell you debt, deficits, statistics, economicsIll tell you its moral relativism.
Many other commentators have lamented moral relativisms pernicious influence as well. But is this diagnosis warranted? Should Americans really be concerned about relativist interpretations of morality? This is the question I am interested in. To answer it, I suggest we turn to psychology and philosophy.
Moral Relativism Is Popular
Moral Relativism Is Not Much of a Problem
The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
Cultural Relativism Vs Ethnocentrism
Ethnocentrism is the tendency to look at the world largely from the perspective of one’s own culture. This may be motivated, for example, by the belief that one’s own race, ethnic, or cultural group is the most important or that some or all aspects of its culture are superior to those of other groups.
Ethnocentrism can often lead to incorrect assumptions about others’ behavior based on one’s own norms, values, and beliefs .
Cultural relativism, meanwhile, is principled on regarding and valuing the practices of a culture from the point of view of that culture, and to avoid making judgments stemming from one’s own assumptions.
Cultural relativism attempts to counter ethnocentrism by promoting the understanding of cultural practices unfamiliar to other cultures. For example, it is a common practice for friends of the same-sex in India to hold hands while walking in public.
In the United Kingdom, holding hands is largely limited to couples who are romantically involved, and often suggests a sexual relationship.
Someone holding an extreme ethnocentrist view may see their own understanding of hand-holding as superior and consider the foreign practice to be immoral .
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What Is Relative Clarity Example
Relative clarity is a monocular signal in which light from distant objects passes through more atmosphere therefore they are perceived as hazy and farther than sharp, clear objects. Example:12 In this scene we can say that the gate is closest to us, because it is by far the clearest object in the image.
Cultural Vs Moral Relativism
Cultural relativism is a claim that anthropologists can make when describing how ethical practices differ across cultures as a result, the truth or falsity of cultural relativism can be determined by how anthropologists and anthropologists study the world.
Many sociologists and anthropologists have conducted such studies, leading to widespread consensus among social scientists that cultural relativism is an actual phenomenon .
Moral relativism, meanwhile, is a claim that what is really right or wrong is what that culture says is right or wrong. While moral relativists believe that cultural relativism is true, they extend their claims much further.
Moral relativists believe that, if a culture sincerely and reflectively adopts some basic moral principle, then it is morally obligatory for members of that culture to act according to that principle .
The implication of moral relativism is that it is absolutely necessary for someone to act according to the norms of the culture they are located in.
For example, when asking whether or not it is ethical to bribe government bureaucrats, a moral relativist would look for the answer in the norms of how people within their country deal with bureaucracy.
If people bribe government officials, then the moral relativist would consider bribery not to be wrong in that country.
However, if people do not normally bribe bureaucrats, then offering a bribe to them would be considered morally wrong.
What Topics Can Be Studied In Cross
Cross-cultural psychology can explore many topics such as:
Child development â whether unique cultural practices influence development.
Emotions â do all people experience emotions the same way? Is emotional expression universal?
Language â whether the acquisition of language and its development is similar or different between cultures?
Relationships â the differences in family, romantic relationships, and friendships which are influenced by culture.
Personality â the degree to which aspects of personality might be influenced to or linked with cultural influences.
Social behaviour â understanding how the cultural norms and expectations have an effect on social behaviour.
The Hidden Parameter Definition
What also binds various forms of relativism is an underlying idea that claims to truth, knowledge or justification have an implicit, maybe even unnoticed, relationship to a parameter or domain. Gilbert Harman , Robert Nozick , and Crispin Wright are among the philosophers to propose versions of this thesis. Paul Boghossian summarizes the position this way:
the relativist about a given domain, D, purports to have discovered that the truths of D involve an unexpected relation to a parameter.
This particular approach to relativism is often expressed in explicitly linguistic terms and is favored by philosophers interested in the semantic dimensions of relativism. The claim is that predicates such as is true, is rational, is right, is good etc. in a natural language have the apparent logical form of one-place predicates, but their surface grammatical form is misleading, because upon further investigation they prove to be elliptical for two-place predicates such as is true relative to, is right according to, etc., . Relativism, according to this approach, is the claim that a statement of the form A is P within a given domain is elliptical for the statement A is P in relation to C, where A stands for an assertion, belief, judgment or action, P stands for a predicate such as true, beautiful, right, rational, logical, known etc., and C stands for a specific culture, epistemic framework, language, belief-system, etc.
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Types Of Cultural Relativism
There are two different categories of cultural relativism: absolute and critical. Absolute cultural relativists believe that everything that happens within a culture must and should not be questioned by outsiders.
Meanwhile, critical cultural relativism questions cultural practices in terms of who is accepting them and why, as well as recognizing power relationships.
Cultural relativism challenges beliefs about the objectivity and universality of moral truth.
In effect, cultural relativism says that there is no such thing as universal truth and ethics there are only various cultural codes. Moreover, the code of one culture has no special status, but is merely one among many.
What Is Cultural Relativism
Cultural relativism is the principle of regarding the beliefs, values, and practices of a culture from the viewpoint of that culture itself.
It states that there are no universal beliefs, and each culture must be understood in its own terms, because cultures cannot be translated into terms which are accessible everywhere.
The principle is sometimes practiced to avoid cultural bias in research, as well as to avoid judging another culture by the standards of one’s own culture. For this reason, cultural relativism has been considered an attempt to avoid ethnocentrism.
Cultural Relativism refers to the ability to understand a culture on their own terms, and consequently not making judgments based on the standards of one’s own culture.
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Empirical Claims Of Diversity And Their Consequences
Data regarding diversity of belief systems, conceptual frameworks and ways of life have frequently been used by philosophers and anthropologists alike to give credibility to philosophical arguments for relativism . The mere fact of empirical diversity does not lead to relativism, but, relativism as a philosophical doctrine, has often been taken as a natural position to adopt in light of empirical diversity, in part, because relativism helps to make sense of such diversity without the burden of explaining who is in error.
How Does Ethnocentrism Relate To Cultural Bias
Cultural bias in psychology is when research is conducted in one culture and the findings are generalised to other cultures or are accepted as universally applicable.
Ainsworthâs research is culturally biased since standards were set as to what being securely attached means, based on an American-only sample.
This theory was then generalised to other cultures so that what was considered behaviour of securely attached children in America should be what all children in other cultures should behave to be considered securely attached.
The parenting styles and behaviour of their infants in cultures outside of America being seen as abnormal because it doesnât fit the American norms is what relates cultural bias to ethnocentrism.
Another example of cultural bias relates to the designs of standardised tests such as intelligence tests. Intelligence tests that are designed by Western researchers reflect the idea of what the West considers as being intelligent.
However, Western cultures may have a different idea of what qualifies as intelligence compared to other cultures.
Thus, when using Western designed intelligence tests in non-western countries, there is likely to be a bias in the results since the test is measuring something from the benchmark of different cultural experiences.
There are two types of cultural bias that can relate to psychological research:
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Relativism And Realism Debates
Should psychology pursue the path of realism or relativism? Critically discuss the implications of the relativism realism debate for psychology.
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The realism and relativism debate has been ongoing for a long time in the field of philosophy and more recently, psychology . In the field of philosophy, an empiricism approach has been widely abandoned in favour of a relativistic approach . However there is little consensus about which is the best approach to adopt by psychologists. There are arguments both for and against relativism and realism, and there are benefits to both approaches. This essay will look at both realism and relativism as philosophical approaches to psychology and which approach is more appropriate for the field.
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George Lakoff And Mark Johnson
George Lakoff and define relativism in their book Metaphors We Live By as the rejection of both subjectivism and metaphysical objectivism in order to focus on the relationship between them, i.e. the metaphor by which we relate our current experience to our previous experience. In particular, Lakoff and Johnson characterize “objectivism” as a “straw man“, and, to a lesser degree, criticize the views of Karl Popper, Kant and Aristotle.
How Is Relative Height Related To Relative Motion
relative height a monocular cue objects higher in our field of vision are perceived as farther away causes the illusion that taller objects are longer than shorter objects relative motion a monocular cue as we move, objects that are stationary appear to move the closer the object, the faster it appears to move
What Is Relative Clearness
a monocular cue light from distant objects passes through more atmosphere therefore they are perceived as hazy and farther away than sharp, clear objects. Relative size is a perceptual clue which allows you to determine how close objects are to an object of known size.
What is relative height in psychology?
Relative Height is a concept used in visual and artistic perspective where distant objects are seen or portrayed as being smaller and higher in relation to items that are closer.
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Relativism And Questioning Postmodernists
Postmodernism is plagued, because of its European philosophical precursors, with the charge of relativism but many postmodernists defy this heritage and reject relativism. This is especially true for the postmodernists who come from a philosophically committed heritage: Marxism, feminism, environmentalism, peace movements, ecology groups, and religious studies . This leads them to argue that while deconstruction is an interesting first step to a postmodern methodology, it is limited because its goal is to undo all constructions. Deconstruction’s intent is not to improve, revise, or offer a better version of the text, so they reject it. Postmodernism, in this view, must ultimately move to reconstruction and by extension, methodology remains essential.
Asserting That Something Is Right Doesn’t Make It Right
Posted April 27, 2012
Broadly speaking, ethical relativism contends that ethical rules are drawn from human experience and that what is right or wrong is dependent upon particular times and places. There are cultural relativists or the individual relativist.
The cultural relativist believes that whether something is right or wrong depends upon what our culture, religion or government tells us. There are rules regarding morality, and the rules are firm, but those rules differ from place to place. Relativism assumes that no cultures ethical values are inherently superior to any other.
The essential claim of the cultural relativist is that moral norms are determined by the society in which you live. There is no claim to moral values independent of or external to society. Morality is a cultural artifact, much like the language that you speak. You may think Spanish is better than Urdu, but thats because you were brought up speaking Spanish. Ethics is as arbitrary as the language you speak or whether you use a knife or chopsticks.
While relativism has its strengths , its primary weakness is that it reduces ethics either to social conventions or to personal preferences. Social conventions arent identical to ethics. Sometimes the two may be at odds. If there were no distinction between convention and morality, anything done by a group would be ethical if that’s how the group defined morality for itself.
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Truth Relativism And Knowledge Ascriptions
MacFarlane argues that know is sensitive to the epistemic standards at play in the context of assessment that is, the extension of know varies with the context of assessment. Much as the relativist about future contingents aimed to accommodate both the determinacy and indeterminacy intuitions, the relativist about knowledge attributions can be viewed as offering an attempted synthesis between the contextualist and both sensitive and insensitive varieties of invariantist . As MacFarlane puts it:
Invariantism is right that there is a single knowledge relation, and that the accuracy of knowledge ascriptions does not depend on which epistemic standard is relevant at the context of use. But contextualism is right that the accuracy of such ascriptions depends somehow on contextually relevant standards. Relativism seeks to synthesize these insights into a more satisfactory picture.
- Any once-and-for-all answer is incompatible with Truth-Relativism
- Therefore, Truth Relativism is ruled out.
The relativist must plausibly take issue with or , . For an attempt to meet Evans challenge, MacFarlane has defended a way to effectively reject via what Marques has called a meet-the-challenge norm of assertion according to which , in asserting p one undertakes a commitment to either defending p or giving up p if the challenge cannot be met satisfactorily for some other discussions of this objection).
Does This Form Of Relativism Promote Or Avoid Oppression Or Cultural Imperialism
Defenders of this version of ethical relativism, such as Scheper-Hughes, often argue that their theoretical stance is an important way to avoid cultural imperialism. Kopelman, in contrast, believes it promotes rather than avoids oppression and cultural imperialism. This view, she argues, entails not only the affirmation that female genital cutting is right in cultures where it is approved, but the affirmation that anything with wide social approval is right, including slavery, war, discrimination, oppression, racism, and torture. That is, if saying that an act is right means that it has cultural approval, then it follows that culturally endorsed acts of war, oppression, enslavement, aggression, exploitation, racism, or torture are right. The disapproval of other cultures, on this view, are irrelevant in determining whether acts are right or wrong. Accordingly, the disapproval of people in other cultures, even victims of war, oppression, enslavement, aggression, exploitation, racism, or torture, does not count in deciding what is right or wrong except in their own culture.
M.M. Moody-Adams, in, 2001
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