The Challenge of Cultural Relativism: The Elements of Moral Philosophy. Essay

The Challenge of Cultural Relativism: The Elements of Moral Philosophy. Essay

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Consequentialism is a moral theory which is founded on the premise that an action is morally right if the outcomes of such actions maximize the good and minimize the bad. In contrast, Non-consequentialism is derived from the premise that some actions are inherently right or wrong. As these theories can derive either identical or varied conclusions in morally ambiguous situations, the conclusions in themselves, while important, can not be considered evidence for the theory’s value. Hence, as we can only judge a theories value by its premise, I will argue that consequentialism is derived from a sound premise, while non-consequentialism is based on an unfounded assertion.

Before we consider specific situations, it is important to understand fully the stance of non-consequentialism and consequentialism. Non-consequentialism suggests that there are certain actions that are inherently wrong, and should always be prohibited, regardless of situational consequences. These prohibitions take the form of uncompromising rules, such as ‘do not steal’, ‘do not lie’, ‘do not break promises’ and ‘do not murder innocent people’. I will refer to this set of rules as principles.

Consequentialism, by definition, rejects the notion that these principles are inherently right. The action the consequentialist considers ‘right’, is the one whose outcome will maximize the good, and minimize the bad. A judicious consequentialist would not only consider immediate or obvious outcomes, but also broad or long-term consequences such as the future well-being of society.

Disparity between these moral theories means that what is considered the right action varies in situations, such as Bernard William’s thought experiment ‘Jim and the Indians’ . A non-c...


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...roup, as it aims to maximize the good. For these reasons, consequentialism derives sounder conclusions in morally contentious situations and is the realistically better theory.



Works Cited

Dawkins, R. (2006). The god delusion. Great Britain: Transworld Publishers.

Rachels, J. (1999). ‘The Challenge of Cultural Relativism’. The elements of moral philosophy. Mcgraw-Hill, pp. 29-30

Singer, P (1994). Ethics. Oxford University Press, p. 121

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2011). Consequentialism. The Stanford encyclopaedia of philosophy, Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2011/entries/consequentialism/

Williams, B. (1973) ‘A Critique of Utilitarianism’ in Smart & Williams, ‘Utilitarianism: For and Against’, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, retrieved from http://py111.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/jim-and-the-indians/ accessed 10/4/2012

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