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