Historical Background Though moral relativism did not become a prominent topic in philosophy or elsewhere until the twentieth century, it has ancient origins.
One is a question of moral epistemology: Ethical theorists and theologians of the day held, variously, that moral good and evil are discovered: Hume sides with the moral sense theorists: Hume maintains against the rationalists that, although reason is needed to discover the facts of any concrete situation and the general social impact of a trait of character or a practice over time, reason alone is insufficient to yield a judgment that something is virtuous or vicious.
Moral rationalists of the period such as Clarke and in some moods, Hobbes and Locke argue that moral standards or principles are requirements of reason — that is, that the very rationality of right actions is the ground of our obligation to perform them.
The moral sense theorists Shaftesbury and Hutcheson and Butler see all requirements to pursue goodness and avoid evil as consequent upon human nature, which is so structured that a particular feature of our consciousness whether moral sense or conscience evaluates the rest.
Hume sides with the moral sense theorists on this question: Closely connected with the issue of the foundations of moral norms is the question whether moral requirements are natural or conventional.
Hobbes and Mandeville see them as conventional, and Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Locke, and others see them as natural. If there were nothing in our experience and no sentiments in our minds to produce the concept of virtue, Hume says, no lavish praise of heroes could generate it.
So to a degree moral requirements have a natural origin. Thus he takes an intermediate position: While even so law-oriented a thinker as Hobbes has a good deal to say about virtue, the ethical writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries predominantly favor a rule- or law-governed understanding of morals, giving priority to laws of nature or principles of duty.
The chief exception here is the moral sense school, which advocates an analysis of the moral life more like that of the Greek and Hellenistic thinkers, in terms of settled traits of character — although they too find a place for principles in their ethics. Yet he insists on a role for rules of duty within the domain of what he calls the artificial virtues.
Hume roundly criticizes Hobbes for his insistence on psychological egoism or something close to it, and for his dismal, violent picture of a state of nature. Yet Hume resists the view of Hutcheson that all moral principles can be reduced to our benevolence, in part because he doubts that benevolence can sufficiently overcome our perfectly normal acquisitiveness.
While for Hume the condition of humankind in the absence of organized society is not a war of all against all, neither is it the law-governed and highly cooperative domain imagined by Locke.
It is a hypothetical condition in which we would care for our friends and cooperate with them, but in which self-interest and preference for friends over strangers would make any wider cooperation impossible.
In the realm of politics, Hume again takes up an intermediate position. He objects both to the doctrine that a subject must passively obey his government no matter how tyrannical it is and to the Lockean thesis that citizens have a natural right to revolution whenever their rulers violate their contractual commitments to the people.
He famously criticizes the notion that all political duties arise from an implicit contract that binds later generations who were not party to the original explicit agreement.
On his view, human beings can create a society without government, ordered by conventional rules of ownership, transfer of property by consent, and promise-keeping. We superimpose government on such a pre-civil society when it grows large and prosperous; only then do we need to use political power to enforce these rules of justice in order to preserve social cooperation.
So the duty of allegiance to government, far from depending on the duty to fulfill promises, provides needed assurance that promises of all sorts will be kept.
The duty to submit to our rulers comes into being because reliable submission is necessary to preserve order. Particular governments are legitimate because of their usefulness in preserving society, not because those who wield power were chosen by God or received promises of obedience from the people.
In a long-established civil society, whatever ruler or type of government happens to be in place and successfully maintaining order and justice is legitimate, and is owed allegiance. However, there is some legitimate recourse for victims of tyranny: The indirect passions, primarily pride, humility shamelove and hatred, are generated in a more complex way, but still one involving either the thought or experience of pain or pleasure.
Intentional actions are caused by the direct passions including the instincts. Of the indirect passions Hume says that pride, humility, love and hatred do not directly cause action; it is not clear whether he thinks this true of all the indirect passions.
Hume is traditionally regarded as a compatibilist about freedom and determinism, because in his discussion in the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding he argues that if we understand the doctrines of liberty and necessity properly, all mankind consistently believe both that human actions are the products of causal necessity and that they are free.
The two treatments, however, surprisingly enough, are entirely consistent. Hume construes causal necessity to mean the same as causal connection or rather, intelligible causal connectionas he himself analyzes this notion in his own theory of causation: In both works he argues that just as we discover necessity in this sense to hold between the movements of material bodies, we discover just as much necessity to hold between human motives, character traits, and circumstances of action, on the one hand, and human behavior on the other.
He says in the Treatise that the liberty of indifference is the negation of necessity in this sense; this is the notion of liberty that he there labels absurd, and identifies with chance or randomness which can be no real power in nature both in the Treatise and the first epistemological Enquiry.
Human actions are not free in this sense. This is the sense on which Hume focuses in EcHU: Hume argues, as well, that the causal necessity of human actions is not only compatible with moral responsibility but requisite to it.
To hold an agent morally responsible for a bad action, it is not enough that the action be morally reprehensible; we must impute the badness of the fleeting act to the enduring agent.Moral relativism is an important topic in metaethics. It is also widely discussed outside philosophy (for example, by political and religious leaders), and it is controversial among philosophers and nonphilosophers alike.
Divine command theory (also known as theological voluntarism) is a meta-ethical theory which proposes that an action's status as morally good is equivalent to whether it is commanded by God.
The theory asserts that what is moral is determined by what God commands, and that for a person to be moral is to follow his commands. The Three Main Branches of the Philosophical Study of Ethics 1. Meta-ethics 2.
Normative Ethics 3. Applied Ethics 2 B. Meta-ethics consists in the attempt to answer the fundamental philosophical questions about the nature of ethical theory itself.
Examples: 1. Are ethical statements such as "lying is wrong", or. Since tolerance so-understood is a normative thesis about what we morally ought to do, it is best regarded, not as a form of moral relativism per se, but as a thesis that has often been thought to be implied by relativist positions such as DMR and MMR.
Despite the popularity of this thought, most philosophers believe it is mistaken. Essay on Meta-Ethical Cultural Relativism - Meta-Ethical Cultural Relativism The thesis of meta-ethical cultural relativism is the philosophical viewpoint that there are no absolute moral truths, only truths relative to the cultural context in which they exist.
Meta-Ethical Cultural Relativism Essay Words | 3 Pages Meta-Ethical Cultural Relativism The thesis of meta-ethical cultural relativism is the philosophical viewpoint that there are no absolute moral truths, only truths relative to the cultural context in which they exist.