--Implications of cultural
--relativism does allow that moral judgments can be true or false—relative to a culture.
Example: Slavery is wrong! (in 21st century America)
does not entail tolerance for the practices of other cultures.
--Arguments for cultural relativism (arguments for 5)
--cultural differences? (appeal to 1 above)
--What is the best explanation for such differences?
--cultural influences: Cultural forces do in fact determine the way
which people view what is morally acceptable and unacceptable. (Culture is a
powerful force in shaping its citizens’ moral values).
--Compare with religious belief: same cultural differences, influences,
yet there are
clearly matters of fact at issue
--Problems for relativism
--A mistake to morally condemn (or praise) the practices of another culture?
Example: The systematic persecution of Jews in Medieval Europe was wrong.
(This is simply an error? ‘Persecution’ of the Jews was likely regarded widely
--Is there no practice which is morally unacceptable even if tolerated
in a particular society?
--A mistake to criticize our
own culture and its practices?
Example: Early feminists argued that the practice of allowing only men to vote was
morally unacceptable. (Simply mistaken? The practice was widely accepted in the culture.)
--A mistake to believe that
moral progress is possible?
Example: “America in the year 2000 has not become a morally perfect society; but we
have made progress from the days when women and minorities were 2nd class
citizens or not citizens at all." (Simply a mistake?)
--The possibility of underlying
--Some norms are necessary for society to exist: lying, murder, etc.
--Often surface disagreement is caused by disagreement over empirical facts,
not moral values. (Does God exist? Are people reincarnated as animals?)