SubjectiveRelativism and Cultural Relativism
Ethical principles require an individual to respect other people andconsider alternative core values. On the other hand, relativismrefers to a situation where morality is relative (Jarvie). In thisregard, the universal norms of right and wrong are discarded.Subjective relativism refers to where each person is entitled to holdtheir opinion concerning a divisive matter. However, culturalrelativism occurs where morality is determined by the guidelinesestablished within a particular group (Jarvie). Notably, I disagreewith the premises established under both subjective and culturalrelativism.
Subjective relativism can occur when people have different opinionson a subject (Overing). For example, one person may be opposed toprogressive tax systems since they target hardworking entrepreneurs.Such an individual may consider it unfair to punish people, who havepainstakingly acquired wealth. Progressive tax systems may alsodiscourage craftsmanship since a lesser percentage of revenues willbe retained. On the other hand, an individual may favor such taxationschemes since they help to redistribute wealth. In many instances,entrepreneurs accumulate wealth at the expense of people from poorbackgrounds. Hence, progressive tax systems could help to reducepoverty. Subjective relativism may also occur when people argue forthe merits and pitfalls of abortion. Proponents may claim that womenshould decide what happens to their bodies. Nevertheless, opponentsargue that no one should take liberties with human life (Vaughn).Hence, the latter group classifies abortion as a gross violationdeserving of capital punishment.
Admittedly, subjective relativism reduces the likelihood of prolongedethical debates. It is also difficult to achieve consensus on certainissues (Overing). In fact, intelligent people often disagree whenholding moral debates. Notwithstanding, I disagree with subjectiverelativism since it blurs the boundaries between right and wrongbehavior. In this regard, people can rationalize harmful conduct onthe grounds of personal determination (Overing). The society woulddescend into anarchy if moral standards were discarded.
Cultural relativism occurs where guidelines vary depending on thetime and place. For example, human slavery was readily acceptable inthe past (Vaughn). However, modern societies are against thepractice. Some countries in the Middle East prohibit women fromdriving cars or traveling without the husband’s permission.Furthermore, some societies encourage polygamy while others enforcemonogamy.
Granted, cultural relativism recognizes the fact that differentsocial contexts may require varying moral guidelines. Moreover,humans lack the insight to ensure fair judgment. Hence, it may bedifficult to understand the factors that contributed towards certaindecisions. Nonetheless, cultural relativism does not explain howmoral guidelines are formulated (Nayak). In addition, societies shareparticular core values. Therefore, it is impractical to justifyimmoral conduct that violates human decency. Cultural relativism alsodoes not account for the gradual evolution of societal norms (Nayak).The existence of several acceptable practices does not mean that suchactions are justifiable. Besides, cultural norms may not be acceptedin various areas.
Indeed, I disagree with both cultural and subjective relativism sincethey contain misleading premises. Ethical principles act asguidelines on acceptable forms of behavior. However, relativism givesprominence to free will. Subjective relativism recognizes anindividual’s capacity to make personal determination of right andwrong. It is portrayed in arguments about progressive tax systems andabortion. On the other hand, cultural relativism allows a group toform unique guidelines. Such principles are manifested in theproliferation of practices such as slavery and polygamy. I disagreewith subjective relativism since it leads to anarchy and therationalization of detestable behavior. Cultural relativism is alsofallacious since it does not account for the creation and evolutionof moral guidelines.
Jarvie, Ian Charles. Rationality and relativism: In search of aphilosophy and history of anthropology. Vol. 6. New York:Routledge, 2015. Print.
Nayak, Bhabani Shankar. "Challenges of Cultural Relativism andthe Future of Feminist Universalism." J. Pol. & L. 6(2013): 83.
Overing, Joanna, ed. Reason and morality. New York: Routledge,2013. Print.
Vaughn, Lewis. Doing ethics: Moral reasoning and contemporaryissues. New York: WW Norton & Company, 2015. Print.