Universal Moral Wrongs and Relativism

Universal Moral Wrongs and Relativism Lori-Ann Racki SOC120- Intro to Ethics and Social Responsibility Dr. Megan Reid November 12, 2012 Universal Moral Wrongs and Relativism In the article “Some Moral Minima”, Lenn Goodman argues that there are certain moral wrongs that are universal. He describes four areas he believes are areas of universal moral wrongs in detail. Morality has been an issue that many societies all over the world have been trying to understand and contend with for a very long time.
In this paper I will explain how I agree with Goodman on the belief that certain things are and should be considered simply wrong universally. I will also explore the challenges Goodman presents to relativism by using specific examples of these challenges. I will discuss how I think there should be such universal moral requirements and defend these answers. I will then be concluding that although I agree with Goodman’s argument, the theory of relativism makes one reconsider the logical reasoning of moral minima and if it is possible to have universal moral wrongs accepted by all societies and cultures.
In Goodman’s argument he confirms four universal and fundamental things that are considered not acceptable and wrong in society- moral minima. The first is genocide which also includes politically induced famine and germ warfare. The second is terrorism which also includes kidnapping and child labor force including using them as child warriors. The third category is polygamy which can encompass slavery and incest. The final category he covers is rape and female genital mutilation (Goodman, 2010, p. 8). I would without a doubt agree and share these same sentiments as Goodman describes. I would say that most of what Goodman has outlined in his arguments would be considered by most civilized societies as acts that deny human beings their rights to live a comfortable life and these acts would be considered wrong and immoral to these societies. Therefore, I would say that Goodman was right and accurate to create this list of moral wrongs that can and do affect many societies.

Of course, Goodman’s statements have and will be questioned with critical thought by those who attempt to challenge the facts he has presented. We do live in a world where everything is subject to different types of interpretation, or relativism which as described by Mosser is “relativism is the idea that one’s beliefs and values are understood in terms of one’s society, culture, or even one’s own individual values” (2010, chap. 1. 8).
Therefore, some of Goodman’s beliefs contradict some of the current cultural customs and traditions that have been considered acceptable in some societies. For instance, terrorism, to the ones that are involved with this act it is not wrong because they are doing it in some cases to win a kind of moral pass by risking self-immolation; they are willing to ask of themselves what they take from others. These terrorists think that they are getting offered glory and God’s garden for their act in order to erase their past and simplify their future (Goodman, 2010, p. 9). Another example would be to say that polygamy is universally wrong, would be very controversial because in many countries it is not only accepted but promoted within their culture. In the United States, polygamy is considered wrong and is illegal, but in a village such as Northern Ghana, the village chief has 11 wives and this is acceptable in his culture (Mosser, 2010, chap. 1. 8). In this example the perception of right and wrong is dependent on the person contending with it and the cultural beliefs they belief in.
Another similar example would be Goodman’s statement that female genital mutilation is simply wrong is subject to different interpretations dependent upon cultures and customs in different societies. In some African societies this act is done to a young child to prepare her for womanhood and is considered an act of virtue. This act is considered a rite of passage that has been deeply entrenched into some of these African customs and societies.
Therefore, regarding this act as immoral is very controversial and is subject to a wide range of interpretation depending upon the culture and society trying to interpret it. When considering the examples within this paper, it is clear that there is not a simple answer to whether there should be universal moral requirements. For me, I do believe we should have some universal moral requirements as human beings, but when you study other cultures and societies it can be shocking to find out that what we consider to be wrong in general is practiced in some cultures as normal behavior.
As described terrorism would be considered wrong and immoral to many people in the world because the human life is considered sacred, but for those who do this to fulfill what they consider their religious obligation, it is not wrong but expected. Polygamy would also be considered by many as a wrong thing to do because it demoralizes and dehumanizes woman, it makes woman objects of ownership and not an individual human being. Yet for those that live in societies such as the Muslim society and the Northern Ghana village, it is not just accepted as the right thing to do but it can also be encouraged by the society members.
Female genital mutilation is another area that many civilized societies would consider wrong and immoral to do because it hampers all sexual satisfaction for the female, and could cause sickness or even death if not done properly. Yet for those born into these African and other societies, they consider this act a rite of passage as well as a way to prevent woman from being promiscuous and/or having extra marital affairs and therefore it is the right thing to do.
In conclusion, although I do agree with Goodman that there are certain things that are simply wrong, it is almost impossible to believe that there can be such universal moral requirements or moral minima. Logically I believe that there should be universal moral requirements throughout the world because of the cultural and society beliefs that I have gained throughout my life. Thinking objectively though, I think we need to accept the fact that no one man or woman can stipulate the rules of right and wrong for all cultures and societies throughout the world because of the accepted theory of relativism.
If we were to give one human being the right to determine what is universally wrong, and what universal morals should be then we would be giving up all the rights of individual’s to live by their own cultural beliefs. It is human nature to question what is morally right or what is morally wrong, but no one person can really ever be one hundred percent perfect. Therefore, does it make sense for us to accept the ideas and beliefs of what is right or wrong given to us by one person? I don’t believe that we can agree to this either logically or morally.
I believe that relativism is ultimately one of the main reasons why universal moral minima will not be able to be accepted by the world as a whole. References: Goodman, L. E. (2010). Some Moral Minima. Good Society Journal, 19(1), 87-94. Retrieved from: http://web. ebscohost. com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer? sid=e88efb93-bef5-4563-96c8-5c37daa7eb0e%40sessionmgr115&vid=4&hid=105 Mosser, K. (2010). Introduction to ethics and social responsibility. San Diego, Bridgepoint Education, Inc. retrieved from https://content. ashford. edu/books/AUSOC120. 10. 2/sections/ch00

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