712 Words3 Pages
Flavia Neyra
In “Trying Out One’s New Sword” by Mary Midgley, she expresses her argument in opposition to theory of relativism. Relativism is a theory that states a person has moral reasons which depend on person’s group, culture or society. According to Midgley, this theory is referred to as “moral isolationism”. Midgley brings up intriguing ideas and uses rhetorical questions to support her argument. Midgley’s argument analyses three main points that she emphasizes and I will provide two counter ideas that oppose her argument.
Moral isolationism is a theory that believes the world is divided separately into sealed units of societies and that moral judgments can only be applied to the culture of origin. This theory states that we must respect unfamiliar cultures by not forming any opinions at all. Midgley believes that this theory is illogical and that you need to know a culture before judging it at all. Respecting an unfamiliar culture without knowing anything about that foreign culture is impossible. According to Midgley, respecting a culture requires a favorable judgment that is made by understanding. For example, Midgley mentions the ancient Japanese practice of a samurai trying out his new sword by slicing a wayfarer. While we might not live in Japan we are supposed to praise the samurai for his actions. A samurai must do such actions to honor himself as a samurai and not let down his emperor. Even with limited understanding of the Japanese, other cultures can still respect the samurai and praise him. Knowing a little about a culture can give us a good idea about what the culture is and develop a favorable judgment.
Another point that Midgley mentions is that if we are not able to judge any other culture, then we certa...

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...that norms to one culture were not always moral norms. Every culture has different norms that accidentally becomes a norm to that culture. With this in mind, there is no such thing as a universal norm. Therefore, if there is no universal norm it contradicts Midgley’s idea about cultures not being separate. Cultures are isolated because if they weren’t then there would be a universal norm.
Upon reflection, Midgley believes that one must know about one’s culture and about others before judging them. Also judging a culture is crucial in order to morally develop as a culture. Every culture is also mixed with different types of other cultures making isolation impossible. Opposing to these views, I believe that cultural criticism actually creates more arguments than helps solve them. Also, I believe that our cultures are isolated but not having a universal norm.

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