Sentiment and Social Intuition
David Hume (1711-1776) believes that morality is based on sentiment, or feelings and emotions. In other words, when you feel that something is right or wrong, it is because you were taught that it was right or wrong. When researching Hume, I found the agent, receiver, and the spectator distinction: a product of earlier moral sense theories. The agent is the person that performs an action, the receiver is the person affected by the action, and the spectator is the person who observes and approves or disapproves of the action. (Fieser) The idea of sentiment is that we can perceive the outcomes of actions through our feelings. Whoever raises you, teaches you how to perceive your feelings of right or wrong.
Sentiment leads to relativism. Relativism is the idea that you have grown a custom to something or made it a habit. Individual relativism is your own opinion of right or wrong for yourself; it cannot be evaluated by anyone else. In Ruth Benedict’s A Defense to Moral Relativism it is understood that what outlines your social customs depends on where you are from or where you were raised. Someone raised in a completely different way than most people, may be taught to perceive right or wrong in ways not accepted by society. This is where cultural relativism comes in. Cultural relativism is the idea that the culture decides what is right or wrong.
According to Louis Pojman’s theses, cultural relativism is “an anthropological thesis which registers that fact that moral rules differ from society to society.” He also believes that peoples’ acts of right or wrong depend on the nature of the society from which they came from. In his conclusion, Pojman believes that if morality is rooted from culture then there are no universal moral principles suitable for all cultures and people at all times. The problems with cultural relativism are: 1. We just don’t act this way. (We cannot criticize people outside of their own culture.) 2. What...
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