Cultural relativism is the idea that the moral principles someone has are solely determined by the culture one lives in. These ideas seem to make sense because we as a culture understand that the judgments people make in a different culture will differ from ours whether we choose to support it or not. Our culture has different moral judgments as well and does not look at something like killing someone for stealing as morally right since our culture values human life above theft. Cultural relativism does not exist because some principles are universal and not relative only to culture. People also have the ability to think morally for themselves so morality is relative to someone’s point of view.
Perhaps more so than Emotivists, Prescriptivists see ethical language as fairly meaningful. They believe that the terms used are able to create absolute rules that everyone ought to follow. It would seem that ethical language is seen by many as very meaningful, although for varying reasons. However agent centred theories such as Virtue Ethics would argue that our main focus of morality should be on becoming as virtuous as possible, rather than deciding what is meant by ethical language. Therefore it would seem that perhaps morality should be more focussed on individuals’ actions rather then defining what is meant by ‘good’ and
Kant tried to make moral ethics scientific through universalisation. Just as the law of gravity is universal, Kant believed so should the ‘law’ of ethics. To Kant, doing the right moral action is a categorical imperative. Ethics should be without exceptions. For example, if it is morally wrong to lie, then everyone should never lie.
James Rachels’ on Normative Cultural Relativism Every culture has its own customs, traditions and beliefs that dictate the actions of its citizens. Cultural relativism states that although practices and ethical beliefs differ from society to society, it must be accepted as good, relative to each respective culture’s beliefs and moral code. Rachels believes that an act that may be frowned upon in one culture may in fact be totally acceptable in another. The theory of Cultural Relativism puts in action the idea of what people believe is morally right and how it relates to the culture that it is practiced in. Morals concern what is right and wrong.
Meta ethics tries to make sense of the terms and concepts used in ethical theories. Some people believe that ethical language is extremely meaningful as they argue it is essential to be able to define terms such as “good” and “bad” before we can even begin to discuss ethical theories. However others disagree with this and argue that moral statements are subjective so cannot be meaningful as they cannot be described as either true or false. Those who hold cognitive theories about ethical language would argue that ethical statements are meaningful as they are about facts and can therefore be proved true or false. Ethical Naturalism is a cognitive theory of Meta ethics which holds the belief that ethical statements are the same as non ethical ones, so can be verified or falsified in the same way.
Mill believed it was extremely important that an indivduals free will should not be crushed by society. Mill believed indivduality is what it is to be human and anything that takes away your indivuduality is wrong. Mill state in his book On Liberty “Whatever crushes indivduality is despotism.” Despostism is the idea of dictatorship so Mill is saying that anything that stops our indivduality for example religion is controlling us and not allowing us to be free, which is wrong. Althought we are free we must consider others, this means that we can use our freedom however we must make sure we are not spoiling the freedom of others. This is supported by Paul Kurtz who states humans have the right “to satisfy their tastes” but however they shold not “impose their values on others.” For example you may want to murder someone with your free will however if you go ahead and commit the crime you are negatively effecting others in society and this is wrong.
It varies from place to place. Humans are humans, and so we should view things the same. But there are outside influences in cultures that make us see the discussed views differently. There is no truth in defining what is just and unjust but we are persuaded by believing what is in our morals by following the evidence, logic and reasoning behind each argument made. The author says “and one ought to bring up the question whether it is those who are sane or those who are demented who speak at the right moment”.
Ethical statements are not just about observable facts, but are often statements about what we believe should happen and so are not very easy to establish as true or false, as they are expressions of points of view not shared be everyone. In ethics then, do we know something is good, or do we believe it is good and recognise that our belief is subjective? This is the question philosopher of meta-ethics are trying to answer – can ethical statements have any meaning? There are two schools of thought to do with ethical language, which are cognitive and non-cognitive theories. Cognitivism is the view that we can have moral knowledge.
Moral Relativism cannot and does not accept the idea that an objective moral system exists. If it did, you could evaluate other ethical systems meaningfully. A moral relativist would ask such questions as ‘what do we mean by wrong?’ when making a decision on something deemed wrong. Relativism is in direct contrast with absolute morality that is deontological, referring to looking at the action in itself. A moral relativist would believe that there is no definite set of rules that apply universally.
Words like “distinct” help us understand what Mill is trying to get at. He is opposed to customs because he believes that if a person practices customs, they will not develop their own unique personality. He also uses words like “educate or develop” to show that he values the individuals education, development, and their distinct qualities. I agree with Mill’s position on the need for individual development and education, because it is important for us to make our own decisions to develop according to our own needs and not be dependent or reliant on other people. Mill wants us to make our own choices.