Philosophy 140- Introduction to Ethics Discussion Forum on Ethical Relativism Yo


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Philosophy 140- Introduction to Ethics
Discussion Forum on Ethical Relativism
You should review these topics before writing your discussion answers:
What is Conventional Ethical Relativism? What reasons do people have to believe it? Does it imply tolerance?
What are the first two criticisms of Conventional Ethical Relativism under the category “undermines important values”?
First Case for Discussion
The anthropologist Ruth Benedict reported some years ago on an example of a custom or practice from a culture, the Kwakiutl, indigenous to the northwest coast of Canada. In the example, the tribe suffers the death of one of its members through accident or some other non-war related incident. This death is a great affront to the dignity of the tribe, and in order to make things right from this offence to their dignity, the tribe would mount a war party and set off to take the life of a member of a neighboring tribe.
In that culture of the Kwakiutl, “affront killings” were the normal way to do what ought to be done. We could say that to commit such affront killings was prescriptive, in that culture. There would be no legal or social punishments for those members of that culture who killed members of the neighboring tribe.
Suppose that the killing took place in the Bay Area of California, where one resident of San Francisco died in a bicycle accident, and in order to make up for this offensive loss, that person’s family drove across San Francisco Bay to Oakland, and shot and killed the first residents of Oakland they found.
This would not be a normal action in San Francisco. In fact, if those individuals were caught by the police they would be arrested, tried, and if convicted, go to prison for a long time.
According to conventional ethical relativism, all moral principles and values are justified by virtue of their cultural acceptance. Question: so, according to conventional ethical relativism, which culture is morally right in how they deal with “affront killings”? Explain. Suppose some member of the Kwakiutl culture criticized their own practice, perhaps even saying that they should be like San Franciscans in such cases, then if conventional ethical relativism is true, what follows?
Suppose some member of the San Francisco culture criticized their own practice, perhaps even saying that they should be like the Kwakiutl in such cases, then if conventional ethical relativism is true, what follows?
Do you think there is any valid criticism of the Kwakiutl practice? If so, is there some universal moral value or principle you would apply?
Second Case for Discussion
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus (mentioned on page 14) praises a practice of the Babylonians that was designed to ensure that all their women were properly married off. Every year the Babylonians held a gathering in which the young women were put up for auction in descending order of beauty. The wealthiest men would outbid one another for the privilege of marrying the prettiest women, and the money collected would be used to provide dowries for the least attractive women as well as for the handicapped ones, if there were any. Thus everyone went home married. Herodotus, a Greek, not a Babylonian, praises this practice because it achieved a kind of balance and equality in the community. But if conventional ethical relativism is true, then was Herodotus right or wrong to praise that practice? Does it seem that Herodotus is appealing to some universal moral principles or values in his praise of this practice, and if so, which ones? And if he does appeal to some universal principles or values in judging the Babylonians, then, according to conventional ethical relativism, is his judgment valid or not? Explain.
This practice of the ancient Babylonians is not our custom at all. So, do you think this is a good custom? Explain why or why not. In your answer, you will be saying whether you think conventional ethical relativism is right or wrong; if you think it is wrong, do you think there is some universal moral principle or value that helps us judge this practice? Explain.
Suppose that right now there were such a practice in another culture. If we would never accept such a practice in our culture, because we think it is morally wrong, would we be right, from the point of view of conventional ethical relativism, to criticize that culture for that practice? Explain.

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