PHIL 338A:  Study Questions on Topic #4:  Moral Relativism and Moral Universality

 

1.  Explain or distinguish the following terms.  You may use examples to do so:

Normative Cultural Absolutism/Descriptive Cultural Relativism/Metaethical Relativism/Normative Cultural

            Relativism (about Morality)

External/Internal Practices

External/Internal Norms

Epistemic Modesty/Immodesty with respect to morality

Metaphysical Modesty/Immodesty with respect to morality;

Subjective/Objective Universality of Human Rights Norms

 

2. (a) What is normative cultural absolutism?  (b) What is moral imperialism, as the term is used in this course?  (c) Why is normative cultural absolutism a form of moral imperialism?

 

3. (a) What is the argument that in this course is referred to as "the cultural imperialism argument"? (b) Explain why there is an incoherence in the cultural imperialism argument.  (Hint:  Explain why one of its premises is incompatible with its conclusion.)

 

4. What is the difference between a relative and a non-relative norm of tolerance?  (b) Explain the following:  If one accepts a non-relative norm of tolerance, it is still possible to be a Normative Cultural Relativist about Internal Norms.  In your explanation, show that you understand what Normative Cultural Relativism About Internal Norms is.  (c) Is Normative Cultural Relativism about Internal Norms metaphysically modest or immodest?  Explain.  (d) Explain why Normative Cultural Relativism about Internal Norms is incompatible with a non-relative (i.e., strictly universal) individual right of religious freedom.

 

5.  (a) Give an example from the 1948 "Statement on Human Rights" of the American Anthropological Association that shows that the AAA was advocating a form of moral relativism and explain why it is a form of moral relativism.  (b) What would explain the AAA's advocating a form of moral relativism in 1948?  (c) Explain how the AAA's 1999 "Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights" differs from the 1948 statement on the issue of moral relativism.  (d) What would explain the AAA's change in its position from the 1948 statement to the 1999 declaration? 

 

6.  (a) What is a self-serving reason?  (b) Explain why there is no logical test for a reason's being self-serving.  (c) What kind of behavioral test does Professor Talbott propose as a potential indicator of a reason's being self-serving?

 

7. (a) What is moral imperialism, as the term is used in this course?  (b) For most of his life, Bartolomé de las Casas was a moral imperialist.  Explain why.  (c) What change in his beliefs represented the end of his moral imperialism?  Explain. 

 

8.  (a) What would an "overlapping consensus" on human rights norms be? (b) Give an example of a traditional Muslim or Akan practice that could fit into an international "overlapping consensus" on human rights norms and explain why. (c) Give an example of a traditional practice in any tradition you choose that seems to be an impediment to the development of an international "overlapping consensus" on human rights norms and explain why.

 

9.  (a) Explain why the idea of "overlapping consensus" (and consensual universality) of human rights often is associated with the Top-Down model of moral reasoning; (b) Explain why the idea of genuine universality of human rights fits better with the Bottom-Up model of moral reasoning.  (c) Do you think there are any internal rights norms that should be universal even though they are not universally accepted by all cultures?  Explain and justify your answer.

 

10.  Explain with an actual or hypothetical example each of the following possibilities (your explanation should show that you understand the terms):

(a) someone whose moral views are is metaphysically immodest and epistemically immodest;

(b) someone whose moral views are metaphysically immodest and epistemically modest;

(c) someone whose moral views are metaphysically modest and epistemically immodest;

(d) someone whose moral views are metaphysically modest and epistemically modest.

(e) Which category do your moral views fall into?  Explain.