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Report of Business Ethics On
Submitted To: Dr. Sahib Khan Channa On: December 6, 2011
Submitted By: Sadia Amin (8840) Sec : E
Table of Contents
Acknowledgement: .................................................................................................................... 4 Letter of Transmittal .................................................................................................................. 5 Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..6 Ethics…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………7 Concept of Ethics.................................................................................................. 7 Ethics as a Normative Field of Study ................................................................. 7 Ethics and Religion .............................................................................................. 8 Ethics and Law ................................................................................................... 11 Morals: ............................................................................................................... 13 Virtue.................................................................................................................. 13
Relativism………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….14 Concept of Relativity And Relativism ..................................................................................... 14 Basic relativistic statement: .................................................................................................... 14 Secondary Relativistic statement ............................................................................................. 15 Ethical Relativism……………………………………………………………………………………………………….16 Definition of Ethical Relativism: ............................................................................................. 16 What is Ethical Relativism? ………………………………………………………………………………………..17 History of Ethical Relativism ……………………………………………………………………………………18 Ethical Relativism's Position…………………………………………………………………………………….20 Descriptive Relativism………………………………………………………………………………20 Meta-ethical relativism……………………………………………………………………………..20 Normative relativism………………………………………………………………………………..20
Views on Meta-Ethical Relativism……………………………………………………………………………..20
Scientific View………………………………………………………………………………………….21 Philosophical Views………………………………………………………………………………….21
Ethical Relativism vs. Cultural Relativism:……………………………………………………………………….24 Ethical Perspectives of Cultural Relativism……………………………………………………………………….25 EGOISM:.................................................................................................................... 26 SOCIAL GROUP RELATIVISM: ............................................................................... 28 CULTURAL RELATIVISM: ....................................................................................... 29 UTILITARIANISM; ................................................................................................... 31 DEONTOLOGY: ......................................................................................................... 32
Cultural Relativism and Universal Moral Principles. ……………………………………………………..33 Ethical Relativism and Ethical Inquiry………………………………………………………………………….35 Ethical Absolutism, Ethical Objectivism, Ethical Relativism…………………………………………..36 TWO FORMS OF ETHICAL RELATIVISM…………………………………………………37 1.Personalism and ………………………………………………………..38 2.Conventionalism……………………………………………………………38 Arguments for Cultural Relativism……………………………………………………………………………..38 Cultural Differences Argument…………………………………………………39
Argument from Moral Skepticism:………………………………………………………………………….40 Arguments for Ethical Objectivism (against Ethical Relativism):……………………………….41 There Are Some Universals in Codes of Behavior across Cultures………………42 Counterintuitive Consequences of Ethical Relativism………………………………. There Is Less Disagreement than there Seems to Be………………………………… THE ETHICAL DILEMMA ……………………………………………………………………44 Critics of relativism……………………………………………………………………………………………..45 Article on Ethical Relativism……………………………………………………………………………….46
BIBLIOGRAPHY: ..................................................................................................................... 49
In the name of ―Allah‖, the most beneficent and merciful who gave us strength and knowledge to complete this report. This report is a part of our course “Business ethics”. This has proved to be a great experience. I, would like to express our gratitude to teacher ―Sir Dr. Sahib Khan Channa” for providing me with the opportunity to work on this report & for her sustain all the way in the course of the semester and for making us understand the course so systematically & comprehensively.
Sadia Amin (8840) [Type text] Page 5 . Subject: Report on Ethical Relativism This experience of working provided me with the unique insight into the whole concept of ethical relativism its different perspectives and important of its substantial study in business. . This gave me practical experience to see how much its is important in business to consider ethical relativity in conduction of business in different societies. Respected Teacher. Institute Of Business Management.Ethical Relativism Letter of Transmittal December 6. Karachi. 2011 Sir Sahib Khan Channa Instructor of Business Ethics. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to work on this report.
but rather defined relative to the society in which it exists. ethics. Protagoras. it is said that Relativism promotes tolerance and discourages social criticism. Because of this. We now turn to the third area of philosophy. As well as varying geographically. It exists in the sense of describing both relativity in ethics between individuals as well between societies. It may be thought that not only are certain acts believed to be morally right in one society but wrong in another. but actually are right in one and are wrong in another.. Subsequently. it then seems therefore logical that there are no absolute moral truths.Ethical Relativism Introduction It is a self-evident fact that across that world. Because of this sheer diversity of moral codes and practices. that Sociologists and Anthropologists have found it useful to help explain and understand the vast catalogue of moralities amongst the human race. incompatible for an Ancient Egyptian.. It has been in more recent times. Ethical Relativism is a meta-ethical theory in that it questions the status of ethical theories as opposed to simply human behavior (Warburton 1995). viz. it then seems logical to assume that morality is in no sense absolute or universal. there is a bewildering variety of different moral codes and practices. [Type text] Page 6 . ideas of right and wrong have changed continuously over time. however. the proponents and detractors of Relativism continue to be divided. Ethics is the study of values. just as it would probably be the ‗wrong‘ one. Relativism has existed for a long time. with an early proponent in the Ancient Greek Sophist. It is this latter sense on which this essay will focus. However.because they have often seen at first hand the destruction wreaked on other societies by a crude importation of Western values‟ (Ibid. The prevailing ethical code in Sweden during the Fifteenth Century would be the ‗right‘ one for a Medieval Swede. ). As we have seen some philosophical discussions in ontology (we considered the question whether God exists from a philosophical perspective) and in epistemology (we considered in particular the question whether skepticism about the external world and about the future is justified). as well as „. This theory is known as Ethical Relativism.
Ethics as a Normative Field of Study The term ‗ethics‘ is ambiguous. etc. Ethics Definition of Ethics “Ethics. .‖). also known as moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is.‖ Concept of Ethics Before we proceed. let us clarify three points. we need to understand why most (not all) philosophers agree that the study of ethics is independent of Religion. we need to understand the difference between ethics and law. Ethics is a normative field investigating broadly conceived morality. . In other words. while in the next two units we will discuss two major ethical theories: utilitarianism and Kant‘s deontological moral theory. In this unit. Second. Before describing ethical relativism its is important to understand ―ethics‖ and the concept of relativity. the theories not only aim to tell us what is right but also why it is right. First. Third. we will consider the question of ethical relativism. It sometimes signifies the philosophical discipline that deals with morality. An important question ethicists ask is: Is it right to do X? One branch of ethics attempts to construct general theories which could give us a principled answer to the above question. justice. We will be using the term ‗ethics only in the first sense. But it also signifies a system of beliefs about what is right or wrong (as in ―According to Christian ethics . virtue and vice. [Type text] Page 7 . we need to distinguish ethics in the sense we intend here (as a field of study) from ethics understood as a system of beliefs.Ethical Relativism in particular moral values. right and wrong. . concepts such as good and evil.‖ or ―According to Buddhist ethics . .
One of the answers. customs. (2) Innocent human beings are sometimes killed. The concern of disciplines such as psychology or anthropology is descriptive. Euthyphro ) [Type text] Page 8 . Ethics and Religion Many religions have developed ethical belief systems (prescribing what constitutes the right behavior).” (Plato. Consider two claims: (1) It is wrong to kill innocent human beings. There is an old philosophical argument (first proposed by Plato).Ethical Relativism Ethics deals with human behavior (actions). or holy because it is beloved of the gods. Claim (2) is descriptive – it tells us what the world is like. The concern of ethics is always normative (or prescriptive) not descriptive. which is designed to establish that ultimately all ethical questions are independent of religion and must be investigated on their own grounds. and institutions. Religions do not usually offer theories that would explain why the behavior prescribed is right (save for it being endorsed by the deity). Plato considers the question of what is piety. But there are two ways of dealing with these: normative and descriptive. In one of the best know of Platonic dialogues Ethyphro. which he investigates. character. Claim (1) is normative – it tells us what the world should be or ought to be like. There are also secular ethical belief systems. is that something is pious (or holy) if and only if it is beloved by the gods (let us call it ―hypothesis (h)‖): (h) Something is holy if and only if it is beloved by the gods. Plato thinks that this is an interesting view but raises what looks like an innocent question: “The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy.
As I said.) [Type text] Page 9 . if something is holy because it is beloved by the gods then hypothesis (h) does too (at least purport to) explain the nature of Holiness. – (A) and (B) are intended in such a way that they do exclude each other: if you think one is true. i. If the gods love eating cheesecake then eating cheesecake is holy. After all. which do we believe: (A) God prescribed the Ten Commandments because they are good/right. Plato‘s discussion of this issue has been very influential. Plato asks us. If the first interpretation (a) is true. There is a fundamental difference between these two ways of understanding the relation. there is almost a consensus among philosophers that it shows why ethics is to be investigated on its own grounds.Ethical Relativism In other words. you can‘t think the other is true. then in effect it looks like we have not given any explanation of why something is holy. in effect. according to which morality consists in obedience to God‘s commands (let us focus just on the ten commandments). you can skip it for now or for ever. The note identifies two readings of (B) – one of which is compatible with (A). it looks like Holiness is a matter of gods‘ whim.e. However. If the gods love killing one another then killing one another is holy. Claim (a) offers no such understanding. He thought that there was being holy or not was an objective matter. Otherwise. independently of religion. i. Plato notes that there are two possible ways of thinking about the relation: (a) Something is beloved by the gods because it is holy. on the other hand. (b) Something is holy because it is beloved by the gods. After all. independent of anyone‘s (including gods‘) whims.e. If the gods love playing soccer then playing soccer is holy. if we agree that the gods love something because it is holy. Here is a way of applying Plato‘s argument to the socalled Divide Command Theory of morality. for us to claim that something is beloved by the gods because it is holy. But one has to wonder whether it is an adequate explanation. What is holy then becomes a matter of gods‘ whims. (If you are inclined to accept (A) and (B). please read the framed note. And that Plato found objectionable. It may have sounded like hypothesis (h) is giving some explanation of holiness but if it is interpreted as claim: (a) then no explanation of holiness has been given. there is a linguistic ambiguity in (B) such that some people want to accept both (A) and (B). If the second interpretation (b) is true. we need to have an understanding of what holiness is. the other not. (B) The Ten Commandments are good/right because God prescribed them.
It has been objected therefore that accepting (B) (where (B2) is the intended rendition) renders God‘s choice of. from the point of view of what is right or wrong. It was God‘s choosing them (without thinking that they are right or good) that made them Good/right – because to say that God chose them is to say that they are Good/right. They were not chosen because they were good. On this view. God is pictured as consulting the standard of what is good and bad before choosing those prescriptions that are good.after all. On this picture. God obeys not only the laws of mathematics (despite his omnipotence he cannot create a square circle) but also the laws of ethics (he cannot make [Type text] Page 10 .Ethical Relativism Claim (B) is subject to two readings: (B1) The Ten Commandments are good/right -. the ethical categories of good and bad are prior to God‘s making certain moral prescriptions. Consider a legal analogy to help you understand the original contrast: (A‘) South African parliament abolished the laws of apartheid because they were evil. they became good when they were chosen. This is a delicate point.) The point is that there is no right or wrong before God‘s choice. God prescribed Them. God‘s choice is arbitrary – what is right (or wrong) is established only after God makes a choice. they Became good/right when God prescribed them. (B2) The Ten Commandments were neither good nor right in themselves. God would not have prescribed them were they bad/wrong. Therefore. On interpretation (A). ((B1) is still compatible with (A). Claim (B2) is the intended reading for (B). the ten commandments somewhat arbitrary. (B‘) The laws of apartheid are evil because the South African parliament abolished them. say. ethics is on a par with mathematics and logic.
‖ ―Thou shall commit adultery. it is sometimes objected that the option expressed by (B) makes it appear as if God‘s choosing those ten commandments and not a different ten (the contrary ones.: ―Thou shall kill. that they can be accepted by people who do not share a particular faith.) was a matter of fiat. These and other concerns have led a great many people toward accepting (A) and treating ethics (at the very general level) as independent of religion. On this picture. right and wrong.‖ etc. then ethics is independent of religion. of course. Take what is expressed in (A) for an example.g. For according to the picture expressed in (B). It means is that they can be evaluated independently and. for instance. If so. however. It has been objected that the picture is in fact contrary to what many believe about God. as e. On interpretation (B). Moreover. It also means that it is possible to search for an answer to questions such as why certain ethical rules are right beyond pointing to God‟s having chosen them. killing people for fun. however. Many believe that God chose the Ten Commandments because they are good.Ethical Relativism it the case that what is in fact wrong. God is pictured as creating the categories of what is good and bad.e. But this means that God thought about whether they are good or bad before choosing them. i. This cannot have happened if one accepts (B). be right). Ethics and Law [Type text] Page 11 . God could not have considered whether the commandments are good or bad before choosing them – it was his choosing them that made them good. Note that to treat ethics as independent of religion does not mean that the ethical precepts of a given religion are wrong. ethics depends on religion because it only comes into being as a result of God‘s declarations. It could not after all have been a matter of God‘s thinking that they were good (since the category of good is only established with the choice).
and behavior. logically deduced. selfchosen choice to think and behave as deemed most correct to the individual.g. How of Creation: An ethic is a self-chosen standard of mental behavior based on logic. A good ethic is the inwardly self-chosen act of self-control towards creative self-betterment without regard of external (social) standards. there are laws of ethics that are not legalized (e. perception. here we have the following information in this regards: Act of Creation: An ethic is a singular. there is no law against thinking evil thoughts about others. They both aspire to furthering social harmony.Some time question arises in our mind how ethics and its relativity identified that it exist . whereas beliefs are as toothpicks in sand. legalized slavery. resulting in an illogical noncreative conformity. e. an ethic functions similarly to a belief system in that both influence the person's reasoning. While the two sometimes overlap (we hope the overlap is greater than not). Behavior of Creation: All further inward logic and externally expressed behavior is manipulated to conform to and be logically consistent with the self-created ethic. and there were (are) laws that were (are) wrong (e. An ethic is a sturdy triangulation point fixed solidly into the ground that resists all winds and floods.g. Ethics [Type text] Page 12 . As triangulation1 requires a fixed point of reference. easily plucked up and rearranged to conform to the winds and waters of life. an ethic is the fixed point for associating. In appearance. But there are important differences between them. there is no law against lying in general – except in legally defined situations.g. under oath. the laws of Apartheid). self-created. whereas a belief is the bad internal standard that accepts external (social) standards to be the standard of behavior. Ethics is a matter of conscience.Ethical Relativism Both ethics and law involve prescriptive normative claims. there is no law about planning murders). whereas law is a matter of covert public action. Why of Creation: An ethic is a fixed mental reference-point that logic uses for the associating and weighing of reasoning. and intelligence exists through analogous association.
―What‘s right is just what God says is right‖). Quality Quality is creative harmony relative to the object's environment and ultimately weighed relative to the laws of Nature. First. Virtue Virtue is the sum creation of good ethics applied (logical behavior in creative harmony)..g. subjectivism (―What‘s right for me is not necessarily right for you‖). euthanasia. or ethics. Ethics provide an introduction to those problems of philosophy that are problems of moral philosophy. anyway) to provide systematic procedures for answering questions about right and wrong. Second. Depravity Depravity is the sum creation of bad ethics applied (illogical behavior not in creative harmony). Throughout. and genetic engineering. abortion. we will consider several historically important and still-prominent theoretical approaches to ethics that purport (most of them. albeit with varying degrees of certitude—but to improve our thinking about the considerations that may count as reasons for [Type text] Page 13 .Ethical Relativism and beliefs are not the same things even though they may at times appear to produce similar behaviors. We will begin by examining certain problems that arise when we try to make moral judgments: problems such as cultural relativism (―What‘s right for us is not necessarily right for them‖). let us clarify three points. Morals: Morals are the creation of ethics externally applied (logical-good or illogical-bad behavior). Before we proceed. we need to distinguish ethics in the sense we intend here (as a field of study) from ethics understood as a system of beliefs . and the role of religion in morality (e. In the third and final part of the course we will consider more concretely a variety of important moral issues such as famine relief. we will seek not so much to form judgments about specific moral issues—most of us do that on our own anyway.
What I object to is Cognitive and Moral relativism. look at this article from CARM which demolishes logically cognitive relativism and hence also moral relativism. for it is true that it may be correct to do one thing in one culture but not in another (Click herefor more details). It is basically divided into: Cognitive relativism: (Epistemology) All truth is relative. culture to culture and society To society and this concept basically lead to very controversial issue ethical relativism. since moral truth is a subset of all truth. Third. I would present a short simple rebuttal to both Cognitive and Moral relativism. Moral/ethical relativism: (Morality) All morals are relative to the social group where it is constructed. Situational relativism: Whether an action is right or wrong depends on the situation.Ethical Relativism and against the moral judgments we are tempted to make. Basic relativistic statement: [Type text] Page 14 . For an in-depth rebuttal. Situational relativism may be sometimes correct. Relativism: Concept of Relativity And Relativism Relativism is the belief that all points of views are equally valid. we need to understand the difference between ethics and law. We can not study ethic in isolation because ethics vary from person to person. Second. we need to understand why most (not all) philosophers agree that the study of ethics is independent of Religion. Thus there is no one point of view that is more valid than others.
If is absolutely true that "there are no absolute truths". since this statement expresses such a view: " No one can know anything for sure". we can see that for both statements. to the question of whether such a statement: "there are no absolute truths" is true. Therefore. if he is unsure of the truth of such a statement. then it will be OK. Therefore. Therefore. Their new statement is: Secondary Relativistic statement: No one can know anything for sure. then you know at least one thing for sure. there are some absolute truths.Ethical Relativism There are no absolute truths. relativism has been shown to be illogical and self-defeating. relativism is false. So may I know if this statement "There are no absolute truths" is absolutely true? If it is false. then there is at least one absolute truth. then this statement is false. However. this does not solve their problem. So may I ask if you do know if this statement is correct for sure? If you do know that this statement is true for sure. that the statement " No one can know anything for sure" is true If you do know that this statement is false. In conclusion. they would be agnostic. If you don't know if this statement is false. and relativism is thus falsified. then relativism is false. then it is false that "there are no absolute truths". However. then sometimes it is false that "there are no absolute truths". namely "there is no absolute truths" The relativist may respond by saying that asserting that there are no absolute truths will lead to such a contradiction. [Type text] Page 15 . If it true sometimes but not always true. thus there are absolute truths and relativism is thus falsified.
Definition of Ethical Relativism: E [Type text] thical Relativism “Tendency to make ethical (right/wrong) choices only on the basis of what looks right or reasonable according to one's own belief or value system. One advantage of ethical relativism is that it allows for a wide variety of cultures and practices. and technology change in society. Just because the group of people thinks that something is right does not make so. Ethical relativism is the position that there are no moral absolutes. It also allows people to adapt ethically as the culture. right and wrong are based on social norms. Now it is not. and justice is all relative. right and wrong. Two hundred years ago in America. This is good and a valid form of relativism. Slavery is a good example of this. that they have changed over time.Ethical Relativism Ethical Relativism Ethics of a society is vary widely from society to society is thing is lead to the controversial issue ethical relativism. and that they are not absolute. Some have heard of the term situational ethics which is a category of ethical relativism. At any rate. ethical relativism would mean that our morals have evolved. Instead. slavery was the norm and morally acceptable.” What is Ethical Relativism? Relativism is the position that all points of view are equally valid and the individual determines what is true and relative for them. knowledge. no moral right and wrongs. The disadvantage of ethical relativism is that truth. Relativism theorizes that truth is different for Page 16 .
Unlike the subjective view. Almost everyone has heard a relativist slogan: What‘s right for you may not be what‘s right for me. what is right for you as an individual is dependant upon what your particular culture believes is right for you. This philosophy allows people to mutate ethically as the culture. Repeatedly the value of a human being is determined by a combination of social preferences and patterns. This position would assert that our morals evolve and change with social norms over a period of time. Instead. This view supports the concept that whatever culture says is right for you really is right for you. ethical relativism is the most common variety of relativism. Slavery is a good example of ethical relativism. Conventional relativism places the individual‘s will subordinate to the will of the cultural majority. Ethical relativism represents the position that there are no moral absolutes. no moral right or wrong. emotions. knowledge. experience. and technology change in society. While there are relativists in science and mathematics. What is ethical relativism from a subjective view? Subjective ethical relativism supports the view that the truth of moral principles is relative to individuals. Conventional ethical relativism supports the view that the truth of moral principles is relative to cultures. The culture or society becomes the highest authority about what is right for each individual within that society. the relativist excludes any religious system based on absolute morals and would condemn absolute ethics. No moral principles are true for all people at all times and in all places. God has the power to convey [Type text] Page 17 . Whatever you believe is right for you personally is completely up to you to determine. and ―rules‖ that seemed to bring about the most benefit.Ethical Relativism different people. Subjective relativism allows you to be sovereign over the principles that dictate how you live your life. not simply that different people believe different things to be true. What‘s right for my culture won‘t necessarily be what‘s right for your culture. This position would be opposed to ethical relativism. What is ethical relativism from an absolute view? The desire to have an absolute set of ethics implies an Absolute Ethics Source which can easily be deduced as being God.
He distinguished between matters of fact and matters of value. Those absolutes. Various other ancient philosophers also questioned the idea of an objective standard of morality. neither are your ways my ways. and the Greek philosopher Protagoras (c. He [Type text] Page 18 . The 18th-century Enlightenment philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) serves in several important respects as the father both of modern emotivism and of moral relativism. Conventional relativism implies that all you have to do is convince a few of your close friends to engage in some activity that is viewed as immoral by the rest of society.‟ declares the Lord” Relying on an individual‘s or a society‘s moral choices is analogous to using our sense of touch to determine the extent of a child's fever. the ancient Jaina Anekantavada principle of Mahavira (c. But Hume regarded some of our sentiments as universal. and that no single point of view is the complete truth. For example. but in the end it leads to death” History of Ethical Relativism: Ethical relativism encompasses views and arguments that people in various cultures have held over several thousand years. When a child is sick. The Greek historian Herodotus (c. however. In the early modern era Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677) notably held that nothing is inherently good or evil. 599 – 527 BC) states that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view. but only with our sentiments and passions. and suggested that moral judgments consist of the latter. 481 – 420 BC) famously asserted that "man is the measure of all things". Our mental growth and the health of our soul is also worthy of a more accurate gauge than subjective human feelings. for they do not deal with verifiable facts obtained in the world. though Hume himself did not espouse relativism. “There is a way that seems right to a man. Suddenly you have now made the previously unacceptable activity ethically and morally correct for you. “„For my thoughts are not your thoughts.Ethical Relativism things to us that are absolute truthful and ethical. 484 – 420 BC) observed that each society regards its own belief system and way of doing things as better than all others. may not be to our liking or please our subjective tastes. a more precise and consistent measurement is imperative.
and suggested that the universe remains indifferent to our preferences and our troubles. The Twilight of the Idols. and that in comparing customs. [Type text] Page 19 . concludes that "Nietzsche's central argument for anti-realism about value is explanatory: moral facts don't figure in the 'best explanation' of experience. The Platonist view holds that what is 'true'. This led some to posit that differing systems have equal validity. (See Beyond Good and Evil. or most real. which he said provided evidence of the lack of any innate. Moore's (1873–1958) ethical intuitionism — in vogue during the early part of the 20th century. is something which is other-worldly while the (real) world of experience is like a mere 'shadow' of the Forms. and which identified moral propositions as true or false. etc. supporting an anti-realist interpretation. The Antichrist. can be 'explained away. . He portrayed all moral ideas as subjective judgments that reflect one's upbringing. the increasing body of knowledge of great differences in belief among societies caused both social scientists and philosophers to question whether any objective. On the Genealogy of Morals. Moral values. is bound to avoid any weighting of one in favor of the other".Ethical Relativism famously denied that morality has any objective standard. One scholar. He rejected G. To some extent.) Anthropologists such as Ruth Benedict (1887–1948) cautioned observers against ethnocentricism — using the standards of their own culture to evaluate their subjects of study.' " It is certain that Nietzsche criticizes Plato's prioritization of transcendence as the Forms. and known to us through a special faculty of intuition — because of the obvious differences in beliefs among societies. The Finnish philosopher-anthropologist Edward Westermarck (1862–1939) ranks as one of the first to formulate a detailed theory of moral relativism. . It is controversial whether the late modern philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) is an anti-realist or a realist about morality. which prioritized life-denying moral qualities such as humility and obedience through the church. Benedict said that morals do not exist — only customs do. with no standard for adjudicating among conflicting beliefs. intuitive power.E. Nietzsche believes that this transcendence also had a parallel growth in Christianity. absolute standards pertaining to values could exist. the anthropologist "insofar as he remains an anthropologist . and so are not real constituents of the objective world. in short. most famously expressed in Plato's allegory of the cave.
Meta-ethical relativism. fundamental disagreements about the right course of action even when the same facts obtain and the same consequences seem likely to arise. we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards. in fact. is the prescriptive or normative position that. further still. or normative positions regarding the differences in moral or ethical judgments between different people and cultures: Descriptive relativism is merely the positive or descriptive position that there exist. Normative relativism. convictions. is the meta-ethical position that the truth or falsity of moral judgments. on the other hand.Ethical Relativism ETHICAL RELATIVISM’S POSITION: Ethical Relativism may be any of several descriptive. Views on Meta-Ethical Relativism [Type text] Page 20 . or practices of a group of people. meta-ethical. as there is no universal moral standard by which to judge others. is not objective or universal but instead relative to the traditions. or their justification.
In this case. albeit in a very limited sense. for example. Hare and other philosophers also point out that. Hare R. They do not affirm or deny that moral facts exist. which meet with universal understanding and do not depend upon [Type text] Page 21 . aside from logical constraints. including those subject to cultural or religious standards or norms. The science is founded on Ethical realism. or even multiple cooperating species . Philosophical Views o R. M. according to Hare. morality is defined as the set of relative social practices that promote the survival and successful reproduction of the species. Nevertheless.Ethical Relativism Scientific View Moral Questions and Science: Sam Harris has argued that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions that may one day fall within reach of the maturing sciences of mind. notwithstanding the descriptive properties or truth conditions of moral terms. or more specifically. Morality and evolution: Some evolutionary biologists [who?] believe that morality is a natural phenomenon that evolves by natural selection. consequently. all systems treat certain moral terms alike in an evaluative sense. human logic shows the error of relativism in one very important sense (see Hare's sorting out Ethics). This parallels our treatment of other terms such as less or more. argue that moral propositions remain subject to human logical rules. This allows for moral discourse with shared standards. they postulate an objective and preferred standard of moral justification. notwithstanding the absence of any factual content. Thus. M. Ethical naturalism. only that human logic applies to our moral assertions. Hare (1919–2002). they contend that one cannot hold contradictory ethical judgments.
too. have suggested that meta-ethical relativists essentially take themselves out of any discussion of normative morality. or because it cannot arbitrate disagreement Many critics. even though they may disagree about certain "facts". including Ibn Warraq and Eddie Tabash. the moral relativist can only appeal to personal preference to object to the practice of murder or torture by individuals for hedonistic pleasure. for example. Philosophical Poverty Critics propose that moral relativism fails because it rejects basic premises of discussions on morality. "this is a good wrench" or "this is a bad wheel". but for moral universalism. [Type text] Page 22 . o Walter Terence Stace "Ethical Relativity" is the topic of the first two chapters of The Concept of Morals in which Walter Terence Stace argues against moral absolutism.Ethical Relativism independent standards (for example. It applies to good and bad when used in their non-moral sense. Practically. These critics argue specifically that the moral relativists reduce the extent of their input in normative moral discussions to either rejecting the very having of the discussion. or else deeming both disagreeing parties to be correct. For instance. one can convert measurements). since they seem to be rejecting an assumption of such discussions: the premise that there are right and wrong answers that can be discovered through reason. some forms of metaethical relativism may amount to Moral nihilism. when we say. This accusation that relativists reject widely held terms of discourse is similar to arguments used against other "discussion-stoppers" like some forms of solipsism or the rejection of induction. This evaluative property of certain terms also allows people of different beliefs to have meaningful discussions on moral questions.
an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. Many of the main criticisms of moral relativism by the Catholic Church relate largely to modern controversies. currently the population vacuum in Europe is filled by immigrants. regardless of the practical use of this conception. such as elective abortion. Marcello Pera and others have argued that after about 1960. Religious Views Roman Catholicism Catholic and some secular intellectuals attribute the perceived post-war decadence of Europe to the displacement of absolute values by moral relativism. As a result. inadequate. however. who attempt to reestablish absolute values which stand at odds with moral relativism. Pope Benedict XVI. maintain that their conception of morality is. for that exact reason.Ethical Relativism Simon Blackburn Philosopher Simon Blackburn made a similar criticism. The critics. and explains that moral relativism fails as a moral system simply because it cannot arbitrate disagreements. The moral relativist might respond that their conception of morality (as being capable only of describing preferences) is more accurate. Ultimately critics can do little more than to invite moral-relativists to redefine "morality" in practical or morally realistic terms. which led to a decline in the importance of families and to depopulation. Europeans massively abandoned many traditional norms rooted in Christianity and replaced them with continuously evolving relative moral rules. The most authoritative response to moral relativism from the Roman Catholic perspective can be found in Veritatis Splendor. [Type text] Page 23 . In this view. sexual activity has become separated from procreation. often from Islamic countries.
they began to reject this assumption and. which seems most natural to us. Cultural Relativism: Perhaps the most prominent version of ethical relativism was cultural relativism. but intrinsic laws of the cosmos built into the heart of reality. that morality and ethical values are not mere decorative frills of personal opinion. the view that moral principles are relative to a culture. threatens to undermine any secure objective foundation for morality. not subjective superstructure. the materialistic world view. Anthropologists began to study other cultures – frequently with the background assumption that they were studying inferior (in particular morally inferior) peoples. The result is the widespread moral degeneration that we witness today. [Type text] Page 24 .Let us begin with understanding the basic positions. The impetus for the view came through the development of anthropology. they began to reject the ethical absolutism. As their studies deepened their understanding.Ethical Relativism Buddhism Bhikkhu Bodhi. To counter this tendency. mere moral exhortation is insufficient. If morality is to function as an efficient guide to conduct. wrote: “ By assigning value and spiritual ideals to private subjectivity. in the clearest terms. ” Ethical Relativism vs. it cannot be propounded as a self-justifying scheme but must be embedded in a more comprehensive spiritual system which grounds morality in a transpersonal order. an American Buddhist monk. with it. Religion must affirm.
such as mathematics or "scientific methods". so there can be a temptation to judge others' ethical choices as "wrong". and refers to some interest that is valued or preferred. or community Cultural relativism . that govern people's behavior. The categories of ethical perspectives presented here may not exactly coincide with those you may have seen elsewhere. but the following categories are general enough to facilitate our discussion: Egoism or self interest . Although we may not be aware of them. ethics is "our character". Derived from the Greek word ethos. [Type text] Page 25 .the standard is the interests of my friends. Ethics applies to social action. Not all choices are ethical ones. when we make choices there are competing standards. the "rightness" of which can be tested only by knowing the standard that is applied. The implication of this is that most ethical choices benefit someone or.Ethical Relativism Ethical Perspectives of Cultural Relativism A person's "ethics" is the moral standard that a person uses in choices of what is "right" or "wrong". differ with circumstances. at the least. The choice of "4" or "5" in providing the "right" solution to the problem "What is 2 +2?" is not an ethical issue.the standard is my interests Social relativism . or may not. so the absence of any ability (or opportunity) to make a choice argues that behavior that is compelled or made in ignorance may not fit the notion of "ethical behavior". group. Ethics also applies to "choice".ethical behavior may. satisfy some interest that YOU have.the standard is "most people" or experience with consequences Deontology . Nor is the answer to the question "What is the speed of light?" Many solutions are known or can be tested through an accepted formalized logical system. but this is not an argument for what some call "situational" ethics -. meaning "character". or ethical perspectives.the standard is my cultural or legal system of values Utilitarianism . It is how we judge our and other's choices regarding behavior to one another. The exercise here is not to judge. We may not share the same interest or preference.the standard is an obligation to do the "right" thing Each of these categories identifies a different kind of standard for making choices.
In advancing their individual interests. at the basis of this perspective is the view that all people are "equal". The most well known advocate of this view today is University of Chicago Nobel economist Milton Friedman. And. and interests can and should compete. Indeed. No one is "more deserving" than another. not to try to be altruistic by attempting to engage in activities that are unrelated to this business interest. This is not "greed" because greed connotates "excess" or demanding more than one is entitled to. to buy or to sell. For business. the competitive market renders the decision of what the "right" price is. it is useful to understand how we discriminate between "right" and "wrong".or there is no deal. EGOISM: Egoism or self-interest ethics assumes that individuals (or businesses) have an obligation to guide their conduct by a rational calculation of one's own interests. Egoism assumes that there is no "entitlement". "free" and should enjoy the unrestrained liberty to pursue self-interests. it should be noted: rarely does the sell obtain his highest price. Egoism makes no assumption that one person's interests are in any way "superior". This also is Adam Smith's view of the market: buyers and suppliers with opposing interests (buyers want the lowest price and suppliers want the highest price) seek a transaction. The "right" price is established by each party agreeing to the transaction because they each view "this price" as acceptable .Ethical Relativism I simply wish to point out that since decisions often are made on the basis of an ethic perspective. others also have interests. it follows that the only objective is to create the greatest profit or value for its owner. Conduct is "right" when it advances personal interests. not the buyer his lowest price. Friedman wrote: [Type text] Page 26 . In his classic Capitalism and Freedom (1962).
to quote Adam Smith again. Egoism as an ethical perspective is not a "free-for-all" contest. perhaps located in Indonesia. the plantation owner. Every person serving self-interest promotes the social good. the miner know nothing of the end product. This view shows a fundamental misconception of the character and nature of a free economy. In such an economy. What brings these diverse efforts together to produce the pencil is the market. The worker labors to cut the wood for wages. engages in open and free competition. . the pencil. The rubber is from a plantation of rubber trees. . The wood is from a South American tree cut by a worker who knows nothing of its intended use. "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. The lead is made from graphite produced as by -product of mining carbon by a profit making company. which is to say. It is the responsibility of the rest of us to establish a framework of law such that an individual pursuing his own interest is. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. either. Self-interests must be pursued within the law. without deception or fraud. By pursing his own interest. The woodcutter. The pencil is a product composed of many parts that are produced independently around the world. Nor is it always the worse for the society it was no part of it. .‖ To audiences Milton Friedman illustrates his perspective with the pencil. the objective of the law ought to be libertarian .that is. there is one and only one social responsibility of business . to facilitate the greatest possible liberty of individuals and of businesses constrained only by the higher need that all be able to compete fairly and unimpeded by the force of others. But. [Type text] Page 27 . he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. cultivated for diverse purposes and sold by its owner.to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game. Each works in his own sphere to promote his economic well-being.Ethical Relativism ―The view has been gaining widespread acceptance that corporate officials and labor leaders have a "social responsibility" that goes beyond serving the interests of their stockholders or their members.
Members of social groups to which we belong impose expectations on how we should behave. and the family into which we are born.Ethical Relativism SOCIAL GROUP RELATIVISM: If not the self as the proper referent to "right" conduct. self-impose the group's ethics. Social group relativism is the view that we assess what is proper conduct by understanding what our social group expects of us. The values or expectations that each of these "groups" share are varied and are sometimes conflictive for the individual. Group interests can articulate the self-interests of a collection of individuals. here the term simply means that standards of conduct in our personal life and in business are governed by the expectations of others on our behavior. Groups can also express interests that seem antithetical to its members. allegiances to colleges and sports teams. All of these social groups or categories identify to others. and to ourselves. we also share these standards. Because we "belong". to name a few of the social groups in which we have "membership". An Example: You are the Personnel Manager at a large corporation (group membership is [Type text] Page 28 . who we are. Our personal identity is crowded with social categories which are assigned to us and to which we assign ourselves race. ethnicity. then the reference is the expectations of others . and regulate the behavior of other members to the group's standards. groups can and do extract conformity to its ethical standards by subordinating the interests of the individual to that of the group. such as a union or professional organization. While the term "relativism" has come to imply that "any thing goes". sex. membership in social groups. political affiliations. the Heaven's Gate group was held together by a shared belief that the world would soon end and that members would be saved by a spaceship once they shed their early forms (committed suicide). for example. Because group pressure to conform to what others expect from us can exercise a very strong influence. religion. age grouping.our social group. Simply." We identify with several groups that comprise a larger society. "We conform.
Your boss hands you the list of people who will be "laid off" and instructs you not to tell anyone until the formal announcement is made next month. Many small businesses pay minimum wage and provide no health insurance not only because it may be in their financial interests to do so.Ethical Relativism the company). Since we belong to many groups. as it is a matter of complying with society's values that have become our own values. Your friend is about to buy a new house. Cultural values are formalized into law when compliance is [Type text] Page 29 . this ethical perspective can produce conflictive or "wishy-washy" decisions: "I will tell my friend and swear him/her to secrecy. People comply with cultural values because they have been learned. A close friend of yours is on the list to be laid off. and participation in society's institutions. Unlike social relativism. if social relativism is the perspective to apply. This may vary given own estimation of loyalty to as group. but also because it is an accepted industry practice. communicated and reinforced through a variety of mechanisms that include child rearing. CULTURAL RELATIVISM: In this perspective the ethical standard is culture. social relativism often takes the form of industry practices. education." If the solution is to tell the friend because he's about to make a major mistake . but self-interest would argue to secure one's own job by complying with the boss's instruction to not tell." But. Do you tell your friend that he/she may not or will not have a job next month? There may be no "good" answer to this kind of dilemma. Social group relativism may not pose a clear choice of action until we have identified what social group is most relevant to our actions.the socially relevant referent for action is the friendship group. The company is about to lay off a number of employees because of a downturn in the market. compliance is not so much a matter of trying to conform to other's expectations. A similar decision can be derived from "social relativism" by identifying the company as the relevant referent: "I am the company's Personal Manager and my company requires that I remain silent on this. widely shared values. what is the moral obligation of the friend to also tell his other friend about the impeding lay-offs? In business.
and the widely held value is not formalized. Cultural relativism also does not lead to a universal sense of "right" conduct. there are many examples of how cultural and legal standards of conduct have changed from the treatment of women and minorities to product liability standards. this leads to conflicting ethical standards. The right to vote. Although not fixed in time. laws that prohibited businesses from being open on Sunday because of dominant religious values that were expressed in law.S. is a core value that has progressively become formalized into the legal system. and law regarding. however. Americans. For example. and. the law as a standard for ethical behavior is an attempt to forge a national consensus on individual conduct.S. is not as high as most European countries. child labor in this country has changed over the past century. Cultural vales are not universal. the standard in the U. In the case of child labor laws. For example. it is deemed illegal and "wrong" for a man to have more than one wife at the same time. but illegal. A polygamous family from such a country would be confronted with serious legal problems in the U. have we attempted to impose this legal and cultural standard on the import of manufactured goods from other countries. In the case of health care entitlement. "everyone else paid bribes. it was legal. and. but an American who hates football is no threat to American culture. however." American businesses. American cultural acceptance of. the standard is high. In the U. as a culture. however. As business becomes more international.Ethical Relativism especially important to society. The punitive consequences of breaking the law insure compliance to the important standards of conduct. Prior to the 1960's many States enforced "blue laws". not are they fixed. conflictive cultural norms and laws become problematic in trying to act "ethically". Violators were "unethical". value football. Culture is not universally shared. Only recently.S. this conduct would be seen not only "unethical". were disadvantaged in this kind of competition because the practice of paying bribes for contracts [Type text] Page 30 . and operated illegally. If someone attempted to obstruct the exercise of this value. In many countries this practice is legal and permitted. What is "right" is governed by the national culture to which the decision maker belongs. Until recently most European businesses freely paid "fees" to agents in third world countries for delivering large government contacts because it made business sense. Of course.
practice. thus "situational ethics". When a decision harms the greatest number of people involved. it is "wrong" Individuals sacrifice their personal interests when these do not serve the general welfare. courts. and followed by other American businesses only at their peril of being caught and convicted in U. but on an appraisal of the situation. the alternative courses of act available. Sometimes called "situational ethics". John Stuart Mill argued for a more complex utilitarian philosophy that equates utilitarian with "practical".S. has difficulties.Ethical Relativism was "unethical". Who is the majority whose interests are to be considered? Is it "right" for a majority to suppress a minority? The question evokes our history of slavery. and Rwanda. however. as Adam Smith had argued. the former Yugoslavia. The ancient Greeks distrusted democracy simply because it had the potential to lead to a tyranny of the majority. and the consequences of the choices available. the social good emerges from the creation of the kind of society that engenders competing interests and ideas of the "good". The theory's fundamental proposition is "the greatest good for the greatest number. the German extermination of Jews. UTILITARIANISM. This majoritarian ethic. Jeremy Bentham developed a political theory that attempts to resolve conflicts between individual and collective demands on one's actions utilitarianism. necessarily contribute to the common good. trial and error. Most. then commit to an action that is satisfying to a majority. What is discernible as socially good arises from experience. and current conflicts in Ireland. Nor for that matter would an individual pursuing his own interest. illegal. A contemporary of Adam Smith. utilitarianism accepts that there are competing obligations that are prioritized by some contextual standard. Because all must be considered equal." The utilitarian ethic requires that a decision-maker assess the choices of all who are involved in its outcome. Palestine. importantly. Mill argued that the greatest number do not always know the common good. The utilitarianism of Mill attempts to balance the rights of minorities with the [Type text] Page 31 . the greatest good lies in the greatest liberty for individuals to pursue their own self-expression of what is good. The "right" thing to do depends not so much on an ethical standard.
Ethical Relativism rights of the majority by limiting majoritarian actions through the requirement that minority interests are to be protected. The duty to make this a better world is something we take upon ourselves. to do what is "right". Kant termed the Ideals that people share about how people [Type text] Page 32 . Then.". environmentalists. Kant identified that the basis of ethics is the obligation. Mill is also arguing that the common good is served by allowing conflict among competing interests. But. to an acceptable level. or the duty. and the government are being resolved to find workable solutions in land management. But. This was found through shared land ownership and shared stewarding of the land to accommodate. The best example I know of that illustrates Mill's approach is taking place in Arizona where conflictive interests among cattlemen. if you ask. irrespective of the number of others who may do it. "good" or "bad". imagine the world or the circumstance as it should be. and. "What is the 'right' thing to do?". And. To find this "common ground" required that each surrender personal or group interests to commit to a solution in the "public good. Across the three parties it is difficult to assess what is the "public good" and a majority point of view is not very helpful. everyone's interests. The common good is worked out through a shared experience of what is beneficial to the community. What is "right" comes from an idealized notion of what a better world ought to be. in certain circumstances there may be a compulsion to act otherwise. The solution required that all parties cooperate to express their competing needs and work together to find a workable solution agreeable to all. By raising the very question is an action or decision "right". Cattlemen need cheap grazing lands. DEONTOLOGY: The deontological perspective is sometimes stated simply as: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. act on the merits of this Ideal. Kant agrees that not everyone in all cases is capable of this." The root word deon is from the Greek meaning "obligation" or "commitment". we raise the question whether it is something we are willing to do. the government attempts to enforce property and environmental laws. environmentalists seek protection of wild life. The philosophical theory of deontology is formalized in the writing of Immanuel Kant in the early 1800's.
To deontology. Falsehoods create distrust. To the deontologists. I can conceive of a better way. To many religious people this will sound like "theology". a higher level of conduct. this is not a utilitarian value . We can imagine that universally others share this dislike of being lied to. and if acted on. Truth telling is a duty because we understand what it is like to be lied to. And. simple because it is the right thing to do. A few years ago when a New England textile mill burned down. As it is not possible to "prove" the existence of God.and. and. undermine relationships. the owner opted to continue paying the salaries and benefits of workers while the plant was being re-built. for example. many small businesses spend the money to provide health insurance for its employees. and. nothing else. it is not possible to "prove" the existence of universal truths not rooted in scientific inquiry. truthfulness is simply "right" as an ideal. But.Ethical Relativism ought to behave a "categorical imperative" . This is an empirical problem that in Kant's reasoning is not especially a problem. and of itself. we assume the obligation to commit to the Ideal as something of value in. [Type text] Page 33 .a transcendent concept of "rightness of action" that is accessible to anyone who thinks about the world as it ought to be. we do not all see "right" in the same way.tell the truth only when it serves "good" purposes. As suggested in the ethical frameworks presented. not because it may be instructed by religion. and our relationship with others that helps to create the world as it ought to be. can lead to disaster. Deontology suggests that there is a universal Ethic that is available to all of us. There are many cases of business decisions based simply on doing the "right" thing. is a moral obligation. but deontology as a field of ethics attempts to forge a concept of "right" that is more universal than a religion. Companies such as Johnson and Johnson and Dayton Hudson spend large amounts of money for community services in the areas in which they operate as part of their desire to be good citizens. We opt to tell the truth because we understand that it is the "right" thing to do. our place in the world to foster this ideal. Telling the truth. it is faith or belief in the value of this Ideal that connects me to an obligation to act accordingly .
Also. we would all move out of town and live in seclusion. and prohibitions against drinking alcohol or eating types of meat. The above-discussed problems of interference in foreign government. However. do as the Romans. multinationals have moral responsibilities that cross cultural [Type text] Page 34 . namely. whether moral values vary from society to society. However. there seem to be some foundational principles that appear uniformly. Many cultural practices are unquestionably shaped by cultural environments. multinationals will be tempted to adopt the least costly moral principles that a given cultural context will allow. a society simply could not continue. and there is no universal standard of morality that applies to all people at all times. which is a practice that we find abhorrent. rape. to that extent. For example. such as rules requiring women to covering their heads in public. For example. So. and exploitation all raise a range of ethical questions. multinationals face the problem of relativism directly by placing one foot in the moral context of American culture. bribery. Some philosophers argue that these principles appear universally in societies since.Ethical Relativism Cultural Relativism and Universal Moral Principles. such as obligations to care for one‘s children and elderly parents. without them. Is cultural relativism true? Philosophers have debated this question for over two thousand years. and murder. philosophers point out that many seemingly diverse standards of behavior in fact reflect common values. Cultural relativism implies that moral values are completely defined by cultural contexts. then. and another foot in the moral context of a foreign culture. if a society permitted murder. prohibitions against assault. As long as we stay within our own cultural environment.‖ This is the issue of cultural relativism. putting the elderly to death is based on the principle that children should see to the happiness of their parents. some cultures kill their elderly. Driven by the profit motive. perhaps the most important is whether companies should adopt the attitude that ―When in Rome. and this is a principle that we too have. this is no problem since we simply act morally as our society dictates. if we grant that there is some commonality to moral values around the world. stealing. However.
most philosophers believed that moral principles were pretty useless unless people believed in God and were afraid that God would punish them for evil deeds. Philosopher Richard T. such as basic liberty rights.Ethical Relativism boundaries. such as regulatory agencies. Perhaps we can generalize from these views and say that we may not follow even the best moral principles unless an external authority monitors [Type text] Page 35 . Until a few hundred years ago. In more recent times. Third. which are moral norms of the market place. which are advocated in all societies. multinationals should follow the norms that constitute a moral minimum. This means that businesses should not operate in countries with human rights violations unless they can be catalysts for democratic reform. we must accept the whole liberty package. In view of how strong the profit motive is to businesses. social contract theorists argue that fear of punishment from governments is the only thing that will motivate us to follow moral principles. multinationals should follow principles of honesty and trust. such as land and tax reform. De George believes that third world countries lack adequate background institutions. multinationals should not violate human rights. and the systematic violation of moral norms of the marketplace would be self-defeating. These are required as foundational for any business operations. De George offers a more specific set of guidelines for the following: Do no intentional direct harm to the host country Produce more good than bad for the host country Contribute to the host country's development Respect the human rights of its employees Pay one‘s fair share of taxes Respect the local culture and work with it Cooperate when local governments reform social institutions. First. So. which is part of political and civil liberty in general. Business depends on economic liberty. Second. if we accept economic liberty. Philosopher Norman Bowie recommends three universal moral standards that are appropriate to the activities of multinationals. which makes it all the more necessary for businesses to adherence to moral standards. we may wonder how realistic many of these cross-cultural moral principles are.
most clinical trials are now largely controlled and conducted by the pharmaceutical industry. Conflicts of interest are easy to overlook in the rush to approve new. important "research". known as the Belmont Report. But the Emperor has no clothes. The Nuremberg Code was developed in response to the outrages perpetrated by Nazi researchers in the 1930s and 1940s. case-by-case interpretations of the Belmont Report principles and the context of their practical applications can create a lot of wiggle room. the United Nations. businesses may set them aside for reasons of profit. Fortunately. The commission's findings. Ultimately. We can see the moral responsibility of multinationals in the same light. though. Medical ethics became an area of concern in the wake of the Nuremberg Trials.Ethical Relativism our actions and punishes us when we go wrong. And. News organizations. But even this is effective since most large businesses believe that their reputation is their biggest asset. As medical research expanded in the United States. Without an external monitoring authority. However. The National Research Act of 1974. All of these organizations have limited clout. Ethical Relativism and Ethical Inquiry Ethical relativism provides a flimsy moral gloss condoning questionable activities of global pharmaceuticals in developing nations. The rush to do so is very real. though. which managers of multinationals can probably figure out on their own. In the last 20 years clinical trials have become big business. which created the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. and rely mainly on the threat of bad publicity to bring about change.1 [Type text] Page 36 . and environmental groups all take special interests in seeing that multinationals live up to high standards. international human rights groups. are a statement of the basic ethical principles and guidelines governing the conduct of research. There are reasonable moral guidelines that multinationals should follow. several external mechanisms are already in place to punish irresponsible multinationals. there's no such thing as a little bit of ethics. legislators recognized a need to codify a set of principles and regulations in the wake of publicity surrounding the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. such as those offered by Bowie and De George.
CROs generated $7 billion in revenues. And when money comes in the front door. ethics are thrown out the window. Ethical Relativism: Ethical relativism is the doctrine that there are no universal moral laws or principles. The implications are clear.Ethical Relativism Even more alarming. all moral principles are universal in nature – no moral principles depend on any reference group. According to strong ethical objectivism (ethical absolutism). (Cultural relativism is the view that moral principles are relative to cultures. [Type text] Page 37 .2 In 2001. Developing nations are attractive sites for drug trials . items on the balance sheet of global pharmaceutical corporations. ethical absolutism) and weak ethical objectivism. According to weak ethical objectivism. Clinical trials are a business activity. Clinical trials can no longer be accurately categorized as research. much of the work of these trials is outsourced to contract research organizations (CROs).standards of care are less demanding or nonexistent. In 2004. Ethical objectivism has two versions: strong ethical objectivism (or. more than 40% of pharmaceutical drug development expenditures had been committed to outsourcing. Ethical Absolutism. All moral principles are relative to cultures/societies/groups of people. whereas other moral principles do depend on culture/society/group.) By contrast. regulatory oversight is rudimentary or absent. So understood ethical objectivism is simply the negation of the ethical relativist view. Ethical Objectivism. some moral principles are universal in nature and do not depend on any reference group. ethical objectivism is the position that there are at least some universal moral principles that do not depend on any reference group. and local governments are notoriously pliable.
According to the weak ethical objectivist. On the personalist view. Personalism and 2. One then often hears such declarations as ―What is moral for me is not moral for you‖ or ―This is so according to my morality‖. the set of moral principles and the set of culture-specific principles have nothing in common. Moral principles are independent of any culture-specific principles on this view. according to ethical relativism. and so are culture specific. all moral principles depend on the culture. When people use the term ‗ethical relativism‘. On the conventionalist view. TWO FORMS OF ETHICAL RELATIVISM There are two main types of ethical relativism: 1. moral principles are relative to a person. which are culture-specific but have little to do with morality.Ethical Relativism The views can be represented as different depictions of the relation between the set of moral principles and the set of culture specific principles. they usually mean conventionalism. the personalist view has such horrible consequences that it is rejected by most ethicists. experiment) that [Type text] Page 38 . ersonalism thought to be a self-defeating position. This view is sometimes expressed in ordinary conversations especially when one does not see how to resolve a moral debate one is engaged in. as you will soon see. The remaining position. I will use the term ‗ethical relativism‘ interchangeably with ‗conventionalism‘. According to ethical absolutism. Pmaking this is sometimes we will be engaging in a kind of thoughtLet us suppose (inall of supposition. the set of moral principles is a subset of the set of culture-specific principles. According to ethical relativism (in its most common version of cultural relativism). Contrary to appearances. This is in part because the personalist view is extremely problematic. Thus. This does not necessarily mean that all culture-specific principles are moral principles – there may be principles such as table manners. weak ethical objectivism lies between these two extremes. After this section. moral principles are relative a social group/society/culture. Conventionalism. there are some moral principles that are independent of culture and some moral principles that are dependent on culture.
Now suppose that I announce today that all of you – independently of how you were doing in this class so far – are going to get an F for your final grade. I might have very good reasons to fail you. Personalism annihilates this function of moral discourse altogether.‖ (Moreover. But as a personalist. But one can accept such thoughts without being a personalist. I‘ve got a ready reply: ―What is unfair according to your morality. In your reaction (which will be the more intense the more you actually believe me). – But this reply in unintelligible on the assumption that we are all personalists. Indeed. Here is one such: every individual has a right to choose their own views moral or otherwise. [Type text] Page 39 . In fact. it is arguable that there is nothing of it left over. you have your own way. If they don‘t match. I might think that failing you all would help you get a perspective on just how important grades are in the grand scheme of things. is fair According to mine. that what I have done is UNFAIR! I had no reason to do it. You have no way of convincing or arguing with me about what is the right thing to do. One of the functions of ethical thinking is to facilitate. What would be your reaction? Well. All there is in personalism is an individual‘s opinion concerningmoral matters. improve and harmonize our relations with others. In other words. in a more or less calm fashion. you betray the fact that your gut intuitions tell you that you are not a personalist. You would want to press the point that what I have done is unfair. I would fail all of you. so be it. that failing you all would be fair only in the situation if you had deserved it by how well (or poorly in this case) you were doing in this course.) It is very unlikely that you would be satisfied by my response.Ethical Relativism us in this class (including me) are personalists. I have my own way. those intuitions reveal that in the interpersonal character lies in the very nature of moral concepts. For example. there may be a healthy thought behind the appeal of personalism. you would tell me. Still.
If so. From the fact that Opinions vary it does not yet follow that neither is right or wrong. the argument is not unproblematic. The transition from premise (1) to premise (2) is [Type text] Page 40 . We cannot know that there are objective moral laws. The main problem with the argument is the transition from (2) to (3). this in itself does not show that there is no right answer. If opinions vary concerning whether the theory of evolution provides an accurate reconstruction of our past. There is no objective truth in morality. that we cannot know that there are objective moral laws. Note that the conclusion here is not quite the view of ethical relativism for ethical relativism involves the claim that there are no objective (culture-independent) moral laws. Still. (2) Moral opinions vary from culture to culture. (3) Neither opinion is right or wrong. viz. Here the claim is weaker. then the argument certainly does not establish that there are no objective moral principles.Ethical Relativism Arguments for Cultural Relativism Cultural Differences Argument: (1) Different cultures have different moral codes. Argument from Moral Skepticism: (1) Our moral opinions are determined by our culture‘s moral code. If your opinion concerning the time you were invited to Thanksgiving‘s Dinner varies from that of your brother. (2) We cannot take an extra-cultural stance. it does yet mean that neither of you is right or wrong. The argument does undercut our confidence in ethical objectivism but this by itself does not yet constitute an argument for ethical relativism.
etc. The society must guard against them at its own peril. the society itself would cease to exist. they could not trust each other (they could not trust that the other guy is not about to kill [Type text] Page 41 . We grow up in the belief that the sun moves around the Earth (it is very hard to resist its empirical obviousness). And even if they did not die. the members of the society might eventually all die. abusing the young. is there something that the relativist can say here?) Moreover. Come mid-life crisis – it is reconsidered again. we do not take an extra-cultural stance. But we eventually reject this belief too. It is certainly not the case that (2) follows from (1). For example. Why could moral beliefs not be revised as well? Can you think of moral beliefs that you have already changed your mind about? Do you think this is a good rebuttal? Or. There are at least two reasons to think that even if it is the case that our moral opinions are determined by our culture. First. there are some attempts to understand what is moral that do not appear to depend on culture in any obvious way. moral beliefs are not the only beliefs we acquire in virtue of our upbringing. breaking promises or other commitments. It does not follow that we cannot do so.Ethical Relativism Questionable. Arguments for Ethical Objectivism (against Ethical Relativism): There Are Some Universals in Codes of Behavior across Cultures There are certain behavior patterns that a society must reject by and large: killing. The most that follows from (1) is that pre-reflectively. Were the society not to establish some rules against such behaviors. Most children grow in the unquestionable belief that their parents know what is good for them. it still might be possible for us to take an extracultural stance. Come teenage years – this belief is rejected flat out. lying. if killing (at a whim) were permitted.
it is argued. antiSemitism. So. which we cannot accept – among them: No customs of other societies/cultures can be subject to moral evaluation. The point here is this: If one is an ethical relativist. these are the consequences one has to accept. lying. political oppression of minorities. Are we to conclude that there ought to be a moral Law that people should eat and drink and procreate? Counterintuitive Consequences of Ethical Relativism It has been argued that ethical relativism is to be rejected because it leads to certain Counterintuitive consequences. there are some rules that all societies must accept if they are to remain in existence. and So their society will cease to exist. It is extremely hard to accept that slavery or anti-Semitism are not wrong (if another society accepts them). are accepted by our society. But these consequences are counterintuitive. apartheid. etc. It relies on the fact that the relativist has no way of evaluating the practices of other societies. Correlatively. If people do not eat. slavery. they are right. why should they count as moral? The same Argument presumably would work for eating. If slavery. they will die. Lack of trust at such a basic level is already tantamount to the dissolution of a society – all one may feel like doing is ―emigrate‖. Only limited moral progress is possible – only to the extent of accomplishing the ideals held by the society but not yet realized. the customs of our society/culture cannot be subjected to moral Evaluation. one should not be an ethical relativist. So. These constitute the foundation of the objective moral rules that are independent of cultures.Ethical Relativism them). For further reflection: What makes such rules moral? Even if one grants that all Societies must accept some rules. Note that the argument only establishes that there must be a presumption against killing. e. Therefore. etc. The relativist rejoinder: The argument does not work. It is still compatible with their being exceptions to those rules that are dependent on cultures. that we cannot say that anti[Type text] Page 42 . if accepted by a society/culture cannot be deemed morally wrong.g.
we can say that anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany was morally wrong (from our point of view). differences in customs can be due to differences in values. the eating of a cow might be like eating a human. So the values coincide: both cultures prohibit eating humans. Given this belief. Hinduism prohibits the eating of cows. do you think? Would this count as a moral evaluation? Or Something missing there? There Is Less Disagreement than there Seems to Be: The ethical relativist begins with the premise that customs of different cultures differ. There are at least two other factors that enter the picture: In other words. Differences in customs can be due to differences in beliefs. but they differ in their beliefs what might count as a human. which is central to the ethical relativist claim.Ethical Relativism Semitism in Nazi Germany was morally wrong. Differences in customs can be due to differences in circumstances. Rachels argues that this only appears to reflect a difference in values because it is also believed that people reincarnate and that human souls may enter cows after death. But this is not the case. (See Rachels‘ [Type text] Page 43 . Surely. It is the difference in moral values (not just a difference in customs or behavior patterns). but also to differences in beliefs or in the circumstances in which the culture finds itself. The problem is that the relation between customs and values is not straightforward. He draws the preliminary conclusion that the values that are expressed by those customs differ as well. ☯ How good is this response.
Gellerman. individuals must ask themselves whom they are serving with their decisions: society. themselves. presumably. reincarnation is in fact believed to occur Not only between human beings and cows. ☯ For further thought: Are you convinced that the values do not differ in these Particular cases? Concerning the first case. mostly on baby-girls. One reason often cited for engaging in immoral behavior is that the activity seemed to fall within reasonably acceptable moral bounds. perhaps the company even expected or ordered the violator to perform the act. in his essay "Why 'Good' Managers Make Bad Choices" in The Business of Ethics and the Ethics of Business. identified four common rationalizations that lead to unethical business behavior by well-intentioned managers. because everybody else was doing it. A third reason was that the offender believed that the conduct was safe because it would never be discovered—because the risk of getting caught was so low. in choosing a course of action. possibly with the threat of reprisal for inaction.) He shows that it is the harsh environment and other circumstances (among others.Ethical Relativism detailed explanation of why the Eskimos commit infanticide. lack of birth control methods) that leads to the infanticide. their God. A second rationalization was that the unethical act was performed in the interest of the corporation. ethical dilemmas plague everyone. it was not "really" illegal or unethical. For example. or some other entity. He argues that the explanation and some other facts (such as the fact that parents are willing to give up some of the newborns for adoption rather than killing them) shows that in fact the Eskimos‘ values do not differ from our own: we both cherish children. Does that change anything? Concerning the second case: Are you convinced that there is no difference in values? What if the Circumstances changed? Is there a difference between explanation and justification? THE ETHICAL DILEMMA In addition to ethical issues arising out of changing norms and contrasting social theories. [Type text] Page 44 . even individuals who are honest and confident in their moral stance. their family. Conflicts result from day-to-day business decisions that are intrinsically influenced by factors such as loyalty. Saul W. it was okay to commit the act. the corporation.
[Type text] Page 45 . does not equate to relativism. or divulging unethical corporate behavior. minimizes its impropriety. is—second only to American political campaigns—the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of relativism of our time. In fact.Physicist Alan Sokal initiated the science wars in 1996 with his hoax paper entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity". and argues that deconstruction. employees often do have a motivation to engage in technically unethical behavior for their corporations. which criticizes the postmodernist use and (what they perceived to be) abuse of science. Critics of relativism In Science and Relativism. and even the local community can cause an employee to continue even highly unethical behavior. He criticizes the views of the sophist Protagoras in his dialogue Thaetetus. properly understood. offenses are carried out because the company condones the behavior. in the interest of being a team player and not being labeled a tattletale. . managers. is generally frowned upon by American society. Kenan Malik writes: "The consequence of this [relativism] has been both to undermine the value of knowledge and to narrow the scope of intellectual and political debate". and assures protection for those who engage in it." The literary theorist Christopher Norris has written a book entitled "Against Relativism". He later co-authored the book Fashionable Nonsense (also known as Intellectual Impostures) with Jean Bricmont. He is an expert on postmodern thought. Pressure from fellow employees.Plato could be seen as a critic of relativism. Studies have indicated that whistle-blowing.Ethical Relativism Fourthly. Larry Laudan writes "The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interest and perspectives. particularly deconstruction.
Claire Andre. Thomas Shanks. and torture. S. That is. genocide. It may be the highest and noblest act a wise man can perform. including infanticide. it may be held that one kills by custom his two children. or that a husband has a right of life and death over his wife or that it is the duty of the child to kill his parents before they are old. or who cut their upper teeth first.the concept of "ethical relativism. Meyer Cultures differ widely in their moral practices. a person suffers torment at having caused an accidental death. Among some peoples. diversity is evident even on those matters of morality where we would expect to agree: We might suppose that in the matter of taking life all peoples would agree on condemnation. or regarded as a sin against the gods. an act that constantly occurs in a tribe.. and the act itself." Differences in moral practices across cultures raise an important issue in ethics -. Such differences may lead us to question whether there are any universal moral principles or whether morality is merely a matter of "cultural taste. may be a matter for incredulous mirth. Other anthropologists point to a range of practices considered morally acceptable in some societies but condemned in others. The very tale of it. and Michael J. in the matter of homicide. polygamy. impossible to conceive as human possibility. Or it may be a crime punishable by law.Ethical Relativism Article on Ethical Relativism Developed by Manuel Velasquez.J." Ethical relativism is the theory that holds that morality is relative to the norms of one's culture. among others. the recourse of anyone who has suffered some slight rebuff. It may be the case that those are killed who steal fowl. On the contrary. it is a matter of no consequence. on the other hand. or who are born on Wednesday. Suicide may also be a light matter. sexism. As anthropologist Ruth Benedict illustrates in Patterns of Culture. whether an action is right or wrong depends on the moral norms of the [Type text] Page 46 . racism.
may be governed by universal moral standards and judged wrong despite the many other differences that exist among cultures. we would agree with these societies on the underlying moral principle -. may differ in their application of fundamental moral principles but agree on the principles. Most ethicists reject the theory of ethical relativism. killing one's parents after they reached a certain age was common practice. there are no universal moral standards -standards that can be universally applied to all peoples at all times. For example. This means that if I am a member of a society that believes that racial or sexist practices are morally permissible. Other philosophers criticize ethical relativism because of its implications for individual moral beliefs. then it follows that one must obey the norms of one's society and to diverge from those norms is to act immorally. If ethical relativism is correct.the duty to care for parents. such as customs regarding dress and decency. there can be no common framework for resolving moral disputes or for reaching agreement on ethical matters among members of different societies. such as slavery. torture. While such a practice would be condemned in our society.Ethical Relativism society in which it is practiced. Simply because some practices are relative does not mean that all practices are relative. members of the same society may hold different views on practices. may depend on local custom whereas other practices. The same action may be morally right in one society but be morally wrong in another. in some societies. In the United States. But such a view promotes social conformity and leaves no room for moral reform or improvement in a society. Also. These philosophers assert that if the rightness or wrongness of an action depends on a society's norms. What constitutes right action when social consensus is lacking? [Type text] Page 47 . a variety of moral opinions exists on matters ranging from animal experimentation to abortion. then I must accept those practices as morally right. it is argued. stemming from the belief that people were better off in the afterlife if they entered it while still physically active and vigorous. For the ethical relativist. or political repression. Societies. for example. Some claim that while the moral practices of societies may differ. the fundamental moral principles underlying these practices do not. Certain practices. then. Furthermore. it may be the case that some moral beliefs are culturally relative whereas others are not. The only moral standards against which a society's practices can be judged are its own.
S. it must be acknowledged that the concept raises important issues. ethics is an inquiry into right and wrong through a critical examination of the reasons underlying practices and beliefs. It also encourages us to explore the reasons underlying beliefs that differ from our own. The practice of slavery in pre-Civil war U. As a theory for justifying moral practices and beliefs. For these philosophers. we can acknowledge cultural differences in moral practices and beliefs and still hold that some of these practices and beliefs are morally wrong. In other words. Ethical relativism reminds us that different societies have different moral beliefs and that our beliefs are deeply influenced by culture.Ethical Relativism Perhaps the strongest argument against ethical relativism comes from those who assert that universal moral standards can exist even if some moral practices and beliefs vary among cultures. ethical relativism fails to recognize that some societies have better reasons for holding their views than others. society or the practice of apartheid in South Africa is wrong despite the beliefs of those societies. while challenging us to examine our reasons for the beliefs and values we hold. [Type text] Page 48 . The treatment of the Jews in Nazi society is morally reprehensible regardless of the moral beliefs of Nazi society. But even if the theory of ethical relativism is rejected.
Ethical Relativism BIBLIOGRAPHY: http://www.edu/theories/Utilitarianism/ http://ethics.cc.brunel.scu.com/Friedman.mo.jcu.ac.kcmetro.htm http://ethics.sandiego.wikipedia.ideachannel.faqs.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v11n1/relativism.sandiego.html#ixzz15z8C81jG www.businessdictionary.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/ethicalrelativism.edu/philosophy/gensler/et/et-01-00.uk/~jarvis/bola/ethics/duty.com/definition/ethical-relativism.htm scu.html http://www.us/longview/socsci/philosophy/ethics/relativism.org/abstracts/Business/The-perceived-importance-of-ethics-and-socialresponsibility-on-organizational-effectiveness-a-surve.htm http://www.edu/theories/kant/ http://sol.htm http://www.html#ixzz15ywdAAu2 http://www.org/wiki/Relativism [Type text] Page 49 .htm en.
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