1. Cultural relativism is defined as the widely accepted position in the world. It is the idea that views the moral and ethical standards in such a manner that they vary from culture to culture. As such, there is no culture that can be said to be superior or better than the other (All About Philosophy 1). It argues that all moral values and arguments within the cultures are valid. The foundation of the cultural relativity is that there is no ultimate standard of good or bad. As such, the judgment that can be said to be good or bad can only be a product of the society itself. With this explanation, I tend to agree that cultural relativism is actually a good way to go. It can prevent the discrimination that can arise in the modern world where some people can feel to be superior to others just due to their value systems. As such, it helps to avoid the concepts of inferiority and superiority complexes, and all people live in harmony. Another good side of cultural relativism is that it helps in preventing ethno cultural attitudes. This is a situation where people feel that their culture is better than other people’s. by having the cultural relativism, there is a very high possibility that there can be respect for and acceptance of the cultures of others. This is good for peaceful co-existence. Of course, there is the argument that due to civilization, some cultures are more advanced than others. This might be theoretically true, but it is worth noting that all cultures have their own definition of civilization. As such, the cultures of others should be respected at all costs.
2. Every single day, human beings are faced by situations where they have to make some decisions. Two types of decisions exist; the moral judgments and judgments of preference. Rest, Turiel and Kohlberg argue that moral judgments are those judgments reached at after considering the moral values related to the decision (226). As such, the decision or judgment might not favor the one making it, but since it is morally upright, then it is taken. On the other hand, there are the judgments of preference which are made depending on the values and the principles that an individual has. As such, the decision is made depending on the individual’s own values, not the overall perspective. Well, though the two might seem to be somehow different, a closer analysis reveals that they could be the same. If an individual makes a moral judgment, he takes the opinion that is socially and ethically acceptable. As such, it is one that has the interests of the society at hand. On the other hand, an individual making a judgment of preference draws from his own values. However, it is well known that the value systems are developed at the society level. Therefore, it implies that the decision made also lies within the moral guidelines of the society, since these are the foundations that inform the individual’s values. From this interaction, it can be argued that the decisions are one and the same. The only difference is that at the time of the decision making, an individual thinks that he is the one making the decision and that it solely relies on him. The truth, however, is that the judgment draws a lot from the societal rules and values within which the individual hails.
3. Human beings are known to be social creatures. As such, they tend to live their lives in an interdependent manner where they have to rely on each other. This implies that there has to be some moral values and principles that govern these interactions so as to avoid mistreatments or abuse of other people. These guidelines are known as the moral principles. I am of the opinion that there is no single moral principle. Rather, there are different principles that have to be followed or observed. The main foundations of morality lie in the norms such as “treat others as you would like to be treated”, “keep your promises”, “be fair” and “do your best” (Perkins 1). There is no single principle that can be said to unite all these. Rather, there has to be different principles that assert each of them. As philosophers and scholars tried to come up with the definition of morals, they could not come up with a single principle. On the contrary, they came up with a set of principles that can help in maintaining the moral standards. These include non-malificence, beneficence, autonomy, justice, utility, fidelity, honesty and privacy (Perkins 1). These principles are all indispensable in a society that claims to have a sound moral standing. However, they are fully independent of each other and all apply under different circumstances. Trying to bring them under one umbrella is not possible since each has its own definition and meaning which is different from the others. It is for this reason that I am of the opinion that there is no single moral principle. Rather, there are sets of principles that assert the moral nature in human beings.
4. No one in the world wants to be unhappy or to experience pain. Rather, everyone wants to be happy and to enjoy life. This, according to csus.edu, is the main idea behind utilitarianism (1). It is about getting the best out of life and its situations and living a happy life. At times, utilitarianism is equated to hedonism since it is after the derivation of pleasure for the individuals. The founders of utilitarianism, English philosophers John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) and Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) based their theory on social reforms (csus.edu 1). They argued on how people and animals should not be mistreated but should be given a comfortable life. “pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as endsall desirable things are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain” (csus.edu 1). This is very correct. However, there is the argument that life is not just about happiness. This, in my opinion, is the greatest argument against utilitarianism because it attacks the very roots of the theory. Well, utilitarianism has it that in every activity, happiness or pleasure should be the ultimate end, not pan and displeasure. However, there is more to life than just happiness and pain. Many activities can have other different outcomes apart from these two. This theory, therefore, does not seem to approach the issues of life from a wholesome perspective. Rather, it takes a portion of life and lays much attention on it at the expense of the others. Due to this factor, the theory seems to loose its footing.
All About Philosophy. Cultural Relativism – Illogical Standard. Allaboutphilosophy.org, 2012. Web, 16th Aug. 2012, http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/cultural-relativism.htm
Csus.edu. Utilitarianism. Csus.edu, n.d. Web, 16th Aug. 2012, http://www.csus.edu/indiv/g/gaskilld/ethics/utilitarianism%20notes.htm
Perkins, John L. Humanism and Morality. Australian Humanist, Jan. 2004. Web, 16th Aug. 2012, http://home.alphalink.com.au/~jperkins/humoral.htm
Rest, James, Turiel, Elliot, & Kohlberg, Lawrence. Level of Moral Development as a Determinant of Preference and Comprehension of Moral Judgments made by Others. Journal of Personality, 37.2: 1969 (225-252). Web, 16th Aug. 2012, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1969.tb01742.x/abstract