Diversity Thesis : Variation from culture to culture = no universal moral standards
Dependency Thesis : Right and Wrong depends on culture
Morality does not occur in a vacuum – culturally contextualised (missionaries often imposed their values)
No non-cultural point of view (neutrality is a myth)
Therefore: there are no objective moral standards (JL Mackie, Inventing Right and Wrong Penguin, 1977)
A. Individual Relativism (Subjectivism): morality is in eye of the beholder
- No criticism is possible (genocide, Hitler)
- Mere aesthetic taste or emotivism: ice cream YEAH!
- Solipsism (the self is the only thing we can know exists), atomism (separateness)
B. Cultural Relativism (Conventionalism)
Heroditus: Culture is king (Greeks burnt their dead fathers vs Callatians, who ate them! Both were horrified at each other’s practices)
Ruth Benedict: Did sociological research to show that cultures have opposite values (eskimos)? She found a Melanesian tribe that saw kindness and cooperation as vices.
Argument for tolerance
- If morality is relative to culture, then there is no independent basis to judge
- If there is no independent basis to judge, so ought to withhold judgment/ tolerate
- Morality is relative to its culture
- We ought to be tolerant of the moralities of other cultures
Problems With Relativism
- No basis to criticise other’s values
- No reform possible
- Why obey law?
- Definition of culture/society
- It’s untrue: There are similar values underlying various ethical mores. (CS Lewis: fairness, truth-telling, loyalty)