Lewis Vaughn's Definition Of Ethics And Morality

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Morality is, in many ways, a thorn in philosophy’s foot, struggling to abide by the standard of intellectual rigor typically held in the philosophical tradition. This is not particularly surprising. There is a high emotional and personal investment placed in morality and as such, even great minds can falter in their logical demands of morality. The issue of objectivism in ethics is particularly problematic. Lewis Vaughn’s arguments against ethical relativism in Bioethics show the difficulty of dismissing said theory’s possibility, all the while failing to provide his own evidence on behalf of ethical objectivism. Vaughn’s own definition of ethics and morality provide the standard of intellectual rigor that shall be used throughout the essay: …show more content…

To his credit, Vaughn acknowledges that “diversity of moral judgements among cultures is a reality” (15). He also rightly states that just because such diversity exists does not mean that there is no objective moral truth. I can also find no issue with Vaughn’s assertion that such disagreements “may simply indicate that there is an objective fact of the matter that someone (or everyone) is wrong about” (15). However, neither does it logically follow that there is an objective moral truth – I will return to this issue in a moment. Vaughn then goes on make a similar argument against cultural relativism as he did subjective relativism, “if a culture genuinely approves of an action, then there can be no question about the action’s moral rightness” (16). As with his assertion that a murder’s moral acceptance of his crime implies its moral rightness, this claim confuses cultural relativism’s larger point, which is that morality is an agreed upon cultural convention, not an objective law like those governing like gravity or evolution. Outside cultures would not be wrong to question another culture’s moral rightness. They would simply be doing so according to their own moral standard instead of some objective one. Vaughn then goes onto say “cultural relativism implies there cannot be any such thing as moral progress” (16). The question arises, why are we assuming that there must be moral progress? His following argument is that social reformers cannot exist in cultural relativism. This claim arises from an overly narrow definition of a culture. For example, Martin Luther King Jr. may have been wrong according to the conservative white culture of his time, he was right according to the African American culture of his time. Cultural relativism does not deny that cultural trends can shift over time, so the modern prevalence of his morality does not undermine the theory. Cultural relativism

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes vaughn's argument against subjective relativism, which is the theory that moral principles are wrong or right only at an individual level and not by some external standard.
  • Argues that cultural relativism is an agreed upon cultural convention, not an objective law like those governing like gravity or evolution.
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