Ethics Part I: Ethical Relativism and Ethical Objectivism

Ethics Part I: Ethical Relativism
and Ethical Objectivism
Ring of Gyges (Ji-jeez)
Would you use it?
Would there be limits on
its use?
Grants total invisibility.
No one knows you have it.
Totally free to act in anyway
you desire without suffering
social or legal judgment.
Why not use it to satisfy
your every desire, gain
power, and crush
You’re Not Who They Think You Are
They think you’re
Mother Teresa but
you’re really Hitler.
Why not be immoral?
They think you’re
Hitler but you’re really
Mother Teresa.
Why be moral?
How Did You Learn about Morality?
Questionnaire on page 430.
How did you arrive at your
ideas of morality?
Would different life
circumstances have caused
you to develop different
moral ideas?
Ethics: What Ought We Do?
Descriptive vs. Normative
A situation, a motive, an
action, and a
The Situation and the Act
What makes an action
“moral” or “immoral?”
Is truth-telling a moral
Thought Experiment page
Motives and Intentions
Does motive matter?
Can motive alone make a
seemingly good act bad
and/or a seemingly bad
act good?
Thought Experiment page
Do consequences of an
act matter?
Do consequences
determine whether an
action was morally right or
morally wrong?
Thought Experiment page
Ethical Relativism
Subjectivism (individual
Conventionalism (cultural
Is the basis for moral claims
individual taste, cultural
norms, or something else?
Philosopher’s Notebook:
Why not use you as a test
Ethical Conventionalism (Cultural Relativism)
Different societies have different
moral codes.
There is no objective standard that
can be used to judge one societal
code better than another.
The moral code of our own society
has no special status; it is merely
one among many.
There is no “universal truth” in
ethics—that is, there are no moral
truths that hold for all people at all
The moral code of society
determines what is right within that
It is mere arrogance for us to try to
judge the conduct of other peoples.
We should adopt an attitude of
tolerance toward the practices of
other cultures.
Implications of Ethical Relativism
No cultural practices are
any better than others
Actions are right /wrong
only by the standards of
the culture in which they
take place .
No such thing as “moral
progress.” (spanking,
Ethical Objectivism
Are there some moral
standards that exist
independent of individual
taste and cultural norms?
“Where” Do Objective Standards Exist?
Golden Rule. (page 445)
Human flourishing.
Biological necessity =
individuals need society.
Divine Command.
How do we acquire moral

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