Moral Relativism and Moral Judgment
Instructions: Compose a brief essay of at least 400 words but no more than 600 words (not including your references list) on the following topic, referring to and critiquing relevant ideas from at least three of the Week 5 readings as you develop your thoughts:
What moral guide should American society use for making moral decisions, moral absolutism, moral relativism, or something in between? Make an argument for your stance. (INCLUDE YOUR OWN OPINIONS AND EXPLANATION.
Note 1: No matter what stance you take, it is recommended that you make ONE OF THE THREE CHOSEN READINGS THE ESSAY BY RUTH BENEDICT, as her essay has been hugely influential in the social sciences and in the therapeutic community in America.
Note 2: While it is easier to defend a middle-ground position that either strict moral absolutism or moral relativism, nonetheless, it is possible to create a good argument for any position along the spectrum between absolutism and relativism.
Write in Arial font, size 14
Reference specific ideas from at least three of the assigned readings that illustrate these values. Always name the author whose ideas you are discussing (use the author’s full name the first time you refer to him/her; after that, identify authors by their last names). INCLUDE YOUR OWN OPINIONS IN YOUR ESSAY!!!
Provide in-text citations for all ideas, opinions, and facts derived from the course readings, whether you simply refer to them, paraphrase them (put them entirely into your own words), or quote them. Place the in-text citation at the end of your sentence but before the period that ends your sentence. The in-text citation should give the author’s last name (unless you’ve used it already in your sentence), the year of publication (if known), and the appropriate page number(s) from the reading (if page numbers are used in the online text of the essay). Do not use the title of the reading unless it does not have an author).
Provide a References list at the end of your essay that includes bibliographic references for every reading cited in your essay.
Follow APA formatting guidelines for your list. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) offers excellent detailed explanations of APA Format requirements. This is the URL for the Purdue OWL:
Moral Relativism and Moral Judgment
Moral Relativism and Moral Judgment
Moral relativism refers to the stance that all moral judgments are either false or true in view of a certain standpoint and that there is no viewpoint that holds unique privileges over others. Such a standpoint, for instance, may be that of historical period or religion. In this essence, distinct cultural settings provide individual with distinct moral values, based on which good and bad are judged and that there are no moral values that could be said to be shared universally across societal boundaries. The United States of America form an all-inclusive society, with individuals from different cultural backgrounds, and hence different sets of moral values. It is only through upholding moral relativism that there can be tolerance among these populations as they are able to understand their differences in culture.
Ruth Benedict, in her defense of ethical relativism, asserts that the paradox of culture and the question of whether to regard a social dysfunction as abnormal provides an avenue through which one can view the distinctiveness of society. Benedict argues that in as much as a certain social dysfunction of an individual may be viewed as abnormal in one society, it may be found to be normal in another society, an aspect that undermines any attempt to regard certain values as absolute (Benedict, 1934). Her assertion suggests that no single culture is more justifiable than the other, which means that no culture holds the absolute right of considering the social values of a different culture as abnormalities, especially in an all-inclusive society such as the United States. As such, moral relativism gives all the different societies defined by different cultures in the US an opportunity to consider themselves as equal and to refrain from attempting to dictate what is morally acceptable to other communities beyond their cultural scope. Case in point, societies that consider homosexuality as morally unacceptable ought to develop and clear understanding of, and tolerate, those that are in support of such a culture.
The same stance is echoed in an article titled “Moral Relativism”, published in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. In the article, one form of moral relativism referred to as Meta-ethical Moral Relativism (MMR) establishes that the falsity and truth, or justification, of moral judgments is not universal or absolute, but relative to the convictions, practices, and traditions of a particular group of individuals (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2015). This further enforces the idea of distinctiveness in culture between different societies. Case in point, some societies are in support of polygamy, while others are not. This does not give either of the cultural groups absolute rights to establish moral values on which to judge the morality of polygamy. In a diversified society, both cultures are acceptable and should be accorded the same amount of value and respect.
Nevertheless, in a diverse society, conflict is bound to arise considering the boundaries of activities that are considered as morally right or wrong. Such was seen during the civil war, where the southern states engaged in a war with the northern states in defense of slavery as being morally acceptable, which was considered as immoral among the northerners. To alleviate such a stalemate, it is important for the different cultural societies within the US to engage in all-inclusive efforts of developing a shared code of morals that is tolerant among all the cultures. Such a code, which is the constitution in the US, should respect each culture, but set limits to cultural practices that impede societal cohesion, or discredit other cultures. Manuel Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, and Michael J. Meyer (1992) demonstrate that in as much as there may be differences in terms of the moral practices upheld by different cultures within the society, there are no differences in terms of the underlying moral principles (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, & Meyer, 1992). As such, these principles, such as the value of life, should be used to establish a situation of agreement among the cultures, such as not taking the life of other persons for any reason.
Benedict, R. (1934). A Defense of Ethical Relativism. The Journal of General Psychology, 10, 59-82.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2015, April 20). Moral Relativism. Retrieved from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativism/#ForArg
Velasquez, M., Andre, C., Shanks, T., & Meyer, M. J. (1992, August 1). Ethical Relativism. Retrieved from Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/ethical-relativism/