Cultural Relativism Explores the Meaning of what is “Right”

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Williams defines an amoralists as someone who does not believe in any moral ideas and have no moral tendencies that they follow. Williams talks about how they are moral parasites because they take advantage of our moral institutions. The way Williams talks about amoralism is that he makes it a very narrow definition. He talks about how an amoralist cannot by any means judge others or have self pride. They cannot get mad if someone steals from them and they want revenge because this implies that they feel as though they have been wronged. He frames it in a way that is nearly impossible and absolutely irrational to be an amoralist.

The reason that people who suffer from depression cannot classify as an amoralist is because what these people need is hope. They cannot be rationalized to care and all of their actions are mechanical. Rational in this situation means that the support for their actions is derived from their lack of happiness and from a perspective of giving up. An amoralist is not depressed or emotionally distraught, but is emotional stable and all of their actions are based on their logic. An individual epistemological subjectivism (IES) is a version of epistemological subjectivism (as there is also collective) in which moral reasoning cannot resolve moral disagreements. The definition of epistemological is the capacity to understand. When Williams talks about IES, he narrows down who he is talking about by referring to it being in reference to a stable person.

An IES is not a defeatist which is a person who thinks that there is no person who can make a claim to answer what is right and wrong with moral injustices. This also means that they are not indifferent, meaning that they do believe that there can be moral justification. What IES believes is distinct is the belief that a person can have a strong moral belief but an IES cannot say it is wrong because they are not in a position to do so. They believe this because they cannot prove it like it is possible to prove science. Williams thinks that their raitional can possibly be threatening to universal moral views but the diffuser argument makes them no longer threatening because it takes away their strength in the argument. Williams does not argue it as being incoherent, rather, he simple refutes aspects of it that make it a weaker argument. Under noble morality, “good” is defined by the social elites and the nobleman.

Good is defined by their characteristics that is rooted from strength and those with power. The characteristics they have is Healthy, strong, rare, talented, and privileged. What is “bad” is, therefore, defined by the exact opposite of what is “good”. For example, because strong is good, therefore, weakness (the opposite) is bad. What happens is that a shift develops that has been labeled slave morality in which the definition of what is “good” changes. Now it is good v evil. The significance of this is that now “evil” is now the qualities of the nobleman (which used to be good). The opposite is now good so instead of being forceful, it is “good” to be restrained. What this means is that instead of “good” coming from a source of strength, it is now coming from a source of weakness. The question then becomes, what caused this change? The reason this change happened was because of a slave revolt. The priests had caused the slave revolt because of priestly morality.

There was an emphasis from God to be pure and that evil was impure. The priests defined good by their attributes and what they wanted to see.

Section B: Opposing Side Williams presents what cultural relativism and then he explains why it is not a moral theory that can hold much ground. He explains how cultural relativism explores the meaning of what is “right”. Cultural Relativists think that “right” varies for a given society. There are three propositions that must be followed. One is that “right” varies for a given society. The second proposition is that “right” is in functionalists terms (what is right is what serves the societies purpose) and the third is that it is wrong for one society to try to interfere with the values of another society. Williams then argues that the premise of cultural relativism is flawed.

He argues that the first and third propositions contradict each other. He explains how in order for the first proposition to be true then different societies can have different views on when or whether to condemn what they view as immoral societies. Proposition three says that “condemning societies” are therefore wrong, which completely contradicts proposition one. The problem with Williams’ argument is that he misinterprets the meaning of “wrong” and “value”. The reason these three propositions are presented in this order is because the cultural relativists establishes first that right is relative and along with that, so is wrong. When the term “wrong” is used, it is not in reference to moral wrong, but it refers to it simply being disruptive to other societies. What William’s fails to recognize is that cultural relativists view the world in a big picture third person sense. The view is not in first person. Furthermore, Williams puts too much weight on the word values.

Values is something that is broad (such as justice). So when one society goes in to try to change another society, they attack the branches of justice, not justice itself. The significance of memory and forgetfulness in Nietzsche’s Genealogy is that he explains one how memory created bad consciousness and why it is unnatural. Nietzsche first makes a distinction between motor memory and socially created memory. Motor memory is what tells you to not put your hand on the hot iron because it will burn you. The socially created memory is what is not connected to survival but it was shaped in order to have promises and character be made. The method that is used to have this accountability is corporal punishment. This makes people remember and this makes there be a cost for forgetting. Nietzsche uses the example of the debtor and the creditor and how the creditor benefits from this method. Memory can be good and we naturally remember, but Nietzsche suggests active forgetting. He suggests that when we hold on to the bad and dwell on our bad conscious, it only holds us back.

One must self consciously make the decision to move on. An objection needs to be raised to this on two grounds. It can be generally agreed on that holding on to the past is bad for oneself, however, one cannot simply make themselves forget something. Nietzsche makes unrealistic assertions without providing a methodology on this. The second issue is that Nietzsche discusses the socially created memory as being unnatural. The problem with this is that it is natural as that is the nature of our society. We are social creatures and one must adapt to the status quo of the society. Social darwinism exists and therefore if one actively forgets the bad, they will not be able to survive in society because they would make the same mistakes. 

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Cultural Relativism Explores The Meaning Of What Is “Right”. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved March 3, 2024 , from

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