WHERE DO OUR MORALS COME FROM? Moral relativism and self-interest theory

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1 WHERE DO OUR MORALS COME FROM? Moral relativism and self-interest theory

2 In pairs, discuss the following questions: Are there any other living creatures that live moral lives? Discuss. Where does morality originate from? Look at possible sources of human morality and prepare to support claims.

3 Moral Relativism According to moral relativism our values are determined by the society we grow up in, and there are no universal values Moral values are simply customs or conventions that vary from culture to culture

4 Arguments for Moral Relativism The diversity argument the great variety of moral practices suggest there are no objective moral values For example, there are or have been cultures that have permitted such things as slavery, female genital mutilation, killing adulterers, burning widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands, cannibalism We may not agree with many of these practices but who is to say that in that society it is not moral?

5 Arguments for Moral Relativism The lack of foundations argument moral values are lacking in foundations, for there does not seem to be an independent moral reality against which we can test our values to see if they are true or false Compare this lack of foundation to say mathematics, where we know the truth or falsity of a statement This suggests that our morals are simply the result of the way we have been brought up and conditioned by society

6 Arguments for Moral Relativism We cannot settle ethical arguments based on reasoning or perception or emotion because of the nature of the moral statements consider the following argument with two different conclusions: Some people in the world are starving I have more food than I need (1) therefore I ought to give some of my food to the starving (2) therefore I am very lucky! From a logical point of view, (1) is no better than (2)

7 Does moral relativism make us more tolerant? Moral relativism seems like a philosophy which encourages a tolerant live and let live attitude We certainly don t want our attitudes to lead to cultural imperialism this occurs when one culture imposes its values on other cultures HOWEVER, tolerance does not necessarily follow from moral relativism Consider: someone who says his morality includes killing people Someone who says his morality includes intolerance and racism

8 Which of the following cultural practices should we tolerate and which should we seek to have banned? Punishing adultery by stoning to death Punishing murder by lethal injection Female genital mutilation Infanticide Imprisoning suspected terrorists without trial Discriminating against minority groups

9 Arguments against moral relativism Despite appearances, there are in fact some core values that have been accepted by all cultures human beings have broadly similar needs and problems and therefore have come up with similar moral rules We can justify the need for some universal moral values for example, a random act of killing is wrong if it were OK then society would cease to exist in a coherent way

10 In pairs, answer the following: Compare and contrast the moral codes of some of the world s great religions. How much overlap is there between them? Which five values would you say have the best claim to be universal and why? Could you make a claim that morality comes from religion? Is there a counterclaim to this?

11 Where do our morals come from? Read the article and answer the following questions: What evidence supports the claim that there is a biological source of morality? Give examples from the text. What counterclaims are there against the idea that there is a biological source of morality?

12 Where do our morals come from? Watch the TED talk Trust, Morality and -- oxytocin? and answer the following questions: What argument does Paul Zak make for a chemical source of morality? Can you find a counterclaim for his argument?

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