Cultural Relativism - College of Mount St. Joseph

Cultural Relativism:
Ethics in a Global Context
Ronald F. White, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
College of Mount St. Joseph
Descriptive and Prescriptive Realism
• Descriptive Realism (Objectivism)
– There are universal facts
• Prescriptive Realism (Objectivism)
– There are universal values (Hypernorms)
• Teleological Theories
– Objectivity of utility ratios
• Deontological Theories
– Objectivity of human rights
• Virtue-Based Theories
– Objectivity of standards character excellence
Descriptive Relativism
• Descriptive Relativism (Truth is Relative)
– Historical Relativism
– Cultural Relativism
• What is a culture?
• What is a cultural belief?
• What is a cultural practice?
– Individual Relativism (egoism)
Prescriptive Relativism
• Prescriptive Relativism (Value is Relative)
– Historical Relativism
– Cultural Relativism
– Individual Relativism (egoism)
Toleration
• Descriptive Relativism and Toleration
– To what extent are we morally required to tolerate false descriptive
beliefs expressed by other individuals and/or cultures?
• Prescriptive Relativism and Toleration
– To what extent are we morally required to tolerate false prescriptive
beliefs expressed by other individuals and/or cultures?
• Limits of Toleration
– Liberty
• Harm Principle-(paternalism)
– Utility
– Beneficence
– Justice
Cultural Intervention
(Imperialism)
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Are there times when one culture has the moral obligation to intervene in the intolerable beliefs or
practices of another culture?
Which of the following are “intolerable?”
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Genocide
Denying women
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Education
Health Care
Voting Rights
Property Rights
Freedom of Movement (driving an automobile)
Sex Slavery (Women and Children)
Violation of Property Rights
Violation of Freedom of Speech
Polygamy
Cultivation of Illegal Drugs
Corrupt Governmental Officials
Use of the Death Penalty
Civil War
Environmental Pollution
Under what conditions is cultural intervention morally required? Are there utilitarian constraints?
Small Group Discussion Questions
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What is cultural identity?
Discuss some of the following “cultural beliefs.” To what extent should these beliefs be tolerated by other
cultures?
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The soul is immortal
Homosexuality is morally wrong
Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level
Human females are less intelligent than males
The earth is flat
Prayer cures cancer
It is wrong to eat meat
It’s OK to offer or take a bribe
Discuss some of the following “cultural practices?” To what extent should these practices be tolerated by other
cultures?
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Eastern Culture
Western Culture
American Culture
Chinese Culture
Islamic Culture
Nazi Culture
Roman Catholic Culture
Urban Culture
Appalachian Culture
Ancient Greek Culture
Scientific Culture
Business Culture
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