Are There Universal Moral Requirements and Is Some Morals Known as Universally Wrong? Challenges to Relativism

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SOC 120
June 13, 2011

ARE THERE UNIVERSAL MORAL REQUIREMENTS AND IS SOME MORALS UNIVERSALLY KNOWN AS WRONG? CHALLENGES TO RELATIVISM Imagine you are a philosopher/thinker, attending a conference where the following questions arise; Are there universal moral requirements? Are there some morals universally known as wrong? One philosopher, Lenn Goodman argues that there are some certain morals known as simply wrong. Lenn Goodman states there are four moral areas he believes as morally wrong: “(1) genocide, politically induced famine, and germ warfare; (2) terrorism, hostage taking, and child warriors; (3) slavery, polygamy, and incest; and (4) rape and female genital cutting” (Goodman, 2010). The conference leaves you and the other thinkers/philosophers, to answer whether he/she believes if Lenn Goodman is right or not and what challenges it presents to relativism. After there is much debate, there is a possibility that the questions will remain, “Are there universal moral requirements and is there some morals known as universally wrong?” This researcher believes it all depends upon how an individual perceives these questions, in relation to his or her own beliefs. To answer whether there are universal moral requirements or not, if some morals are universally wrong and whether Goodman or the researcher/thinker is wrong or right is difficult to answer because it is possible to say that neither side is wrong or right because it is relativism. There is also a possibility that there may or may not be moral requirements, some morals may be known as universally wrong or not because it is possible to conclude that relativism challenges the possibility that moral requirements and whether they are universally known may or may not exist. Because whether they exist or not is one’s own individual belief, their individual cultures beliefs, and challenges relativism.

To begin to understand whether these possibilities exist or not, why it is difficult to take a position for or against the possibilities previously stated and why the questions may remain; the individual must first understand what relativism is. According to Kurt Mosser, “Relativism is the idea that one’s beliefs and values are understood in term of one’s society, culture, or even one’s own individual values” (Mosser, 2010, pg.22). There is two ways to classify moral relativism, individual and cultural moral relativism. Cultural moral relativism, whether certain moral requirements exist or not and right/wrong, good/evil; are relative to a culture that the individual belongs to as a whole. Individual moral relativism is whether an individual believes certain moral requirements exist or not and right/wrong, good/evil; are relative to the individual own beliefs. To understand how a relativist argues, how relativism works, how Goodman’s article challenges relativism and vice versa, and why the researcher believes such possibilities exist as previously stated, we will use one of Goodman’s areas that he believes is simply wrong; polygamy.

“The view of an ethical relativist argues that there is no absolute moral standard and that the interpretations of moral claims are the reflection of an individual’s viewpoint” (Mosser, 2010). For example, an individual or culture from one society who practices polygamy in their society, a relativist may say “polygamy is not wrong, in society” and an individual or culture from another society who does not practice polygamy, a relativist may say, “polygamy is wrong, in society” (pgs. 22-24). Therefore, if Goodman believes that “polygamy is morally wrong, in society and is universally known as simply wrong;” Could not another philosopher/thinker who does practice polygamy say “polygamy is morally right in society and it is not universally known as simply wrong?” What about the other areas such as genocide,...
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