PHIL 240A.  HANDOUT #5.

 

VARIETIES OF MORAL ABSOLUTISM, RELATIVISM, REALISM/ANTI-REALISM, AND SKEPTICISM/ANTI-SKEPTICISM

 

 

A.  (PURELY) DESCRIPTIVE MORAL RELATIVISM

 

DESCRIPTIVE CULTURAL RELATIVISM ABOUT PARTICULAR JUDGMENTS = Different cultures disagree on some particular normative moral judgments.

 

DESCRIPTIVE CULTURAL RELATIVISM ABOUT BASIC STANDARDS = Different cultures disagree substantially on the most basic or fundamental normative moral principles.

 

DESCRIPTIVE INDIVIDUAL RELATIVISM ABOUT PARTICULAR JUDGMENTS = Different individuals disagree on some particular normative moral judgments.

 

DESCRIPTIVE INDIVIDUAL RELATIVISM ABOUT BASIC STANDARDS = Different individuals disagree substantially on the most basic or fundamental normative moral principles.

 

                For each type of descriptive relativism, there is a corresponding type of normative relativism, normative absolutism, metaphysical relativism, and epistemological relativism.  On this handout, I give the definitions for cultures (e.g., Normative Cultural Relativism About Basic Standards).  You should be able to provide corresponding definitions for individuals (e.g., Normative Individual Relativism About Basic Standards).

 

 

B.  NORMATIVE CULTURAL ABSOLUTISM (WITH RESPECT TO MORALITY)

 

NORMATIVE CULTURAL ABSOLUTISM ABOUT PARTICULAR JUDGMENTS = The normative view that even if different cultures disagree on some particular normative moral judgments, one culture is "morally correct", and the members of all cultures (morally) ought to act in accordance with the particular normative moral judgments of the "morally correct" culture.

 

NORMATIVE CULTURAL ABSOLUTISM ABOUT BASIC STANDARDS = The normative view that even if different cultures disagree substantially on the most basic or fundamental normative moral principles, one culture is "morally correct", and the members of all cultures (morally) ought to act in accordance with the fundamental normative moral principles of the "morally correct" culture. 

 

 

C.  NORMATIVE CULTURAL RELATIVISM (WITH RESPECT TO MORALITY) 

 

NORMATIVE CULTURAL RELATIVISM ABOUT PARTICULAR JUDGMENTS = The normative view that when different cultures disagree on some particular normative moral judgments, the members of each culture (morally) ought to act in accordance with the particular normative moral judgments of their own culture (or, at least, it is morally permissble for them to do so.

 

NORMATIVE CULTURAL RELATIVISM ABOUT BASIC STANDARDS = The normative view that when different cultures disagree substantially on the most basic or fundamental normative moral principles, the members of each culture (morally) ought to act in accordance with the fundamental normative moral principles of their own culture (or, at least, that it is morally permissible for them to do so). 

 

 

 

D.  METAPHYSICAL RELATIVISM WITH RESPECT TO MORALITY (MORAL ANTI-REALISM) AND ITS DENIAL

 

MORAL ANTI-REALISM (METAPHYSICAL RELATIVISM WITH RESPECT TO MORALITY) = No moral judgments are true—that is, no particular moral judgments or moral rules or moral principles are true—because there are no objective moral standards or objective moral truths. 

 

MORAL REALISM (ANTI-METAPHYSICAL-RELATIVISM)= There are objective moral truths or standards, and thus some normative moral particular judgments and/or normative moral principles are true.  Normative moral judgments and principles are not purely descriptive, but they are made true (or false) by an objective normative moral reality.  One can be a realist about particular normative moral judgments, or the most basic or most fundamental or ultimate normative moral principles, or both. 

 

 

E.  EPISTEMOLOGICAL RELATIVISM WITH RESPECT TO MORALITY  (MORAL SKEPTICISM) AND ITS DENIAL

 

MORAL SKEPTICISM (EPISTEMOLOGICAL RELATIVISM WITH RESPECT TO MORALITY) = Even if there are objective moral standards or objective moral truths, all disagreements over particular moral judgments and over the most basic or most fundamental or ultimate normative moral principles are in principle irresolvable, because it is in principle impossible for any human being to discover which side (if any) is correct, or even to have any reason for believing of either side that it is correct.

 

MORAL ANTI-SKEPTICISM = It is in principle possible to acquire good reasons to believe some normative moral judgments and/or principles.  One can be an anti-skeptic with respect to particular normative moral judgments, or with respect to the most basic or most fundamental or ultimate normative moral principles, or both.  (Note that moral anti-skepticism does not imply that there are no difficult moral issues, and thus does not imply that all reasonable people will agree on the answer to any moral question.  For example, a moral anti-skeptic can accept that some moral questions cannot be resolved without more information or more impartiality than most people possess.)

 

 

 

RELATIVE AND NON-RELATIVE TOLERANCE

 

Relative Tolerance (Wishy-Washy Tolerance) = The view that I should be tolerant of other cultures, because my culture has a norm of tolerance, but that the norm of tolerance does not apply to cultures that do not have such a norm.  This view holds that there is only a relative duty to be tolerant of other cultures.  It only applies to cultures that have it.  This is the only duty of tolerance that Normative Cultural Relativism (as defined on the handout) could ever justify.  According to NCR, only those cultures with a norm of tolerance would have a duty to be tolerant.

 

A Non-Relative Norm of Tolerance = That the members of each culture should follow their own internal norms (or at least it is morally permissible for them to do so) and that all cultures (whether or not they accept a norm of tolerance) should tolerate (not interfere with or attempt to change) other cultures' internal norms.  This view holds that there is a non-relative duty to be tolerant of other cultures' internal norms.  It applies even to cultures that have a norm of intolerance toward other cultures.