week four discussion forum


Desmond Soverns’s response

Rosenstand is alluding to Christina Hoff Sommers commenting on the actions of people performing acts that are recognized typically as morally good in many cultures. Sommers view can be interpreted as unfounded based on the generalization that actions such as mistreating children, tormenting animals, lying, or stealing as wrong. In some cultures, these virtues may be a means for survival or a way for humans in certain situations to get by. In a utopian setting these actions would be unnecessary or excessive but there are instances that can justify the action. Sommers chose to refute this idea because she believes that no matter the circumstance, certain actions are never justifiable as right or acceptable. However, relativism states that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.

Sommers makes valid points, which given the culture I have grown up in; I would agree that the aforementioned actions are morally and ethically unsound. But as the definition of relativism states, the judgement of any given action must be judged according to the context which surrounds it. So to answer whether or not Sommers' “view is convincing enough to make a relativist change her stripes?”; my answer would be “no.” Sommers’ view takes too many cultural aspects into consideration and has an absolute approach when judging actions.

In a more relatable way, Sommers’ views match with virtue ethics as they deal more with the human character and mind. Actions such as lying, stealing, and cheating are issues of character. Our character can be innate or shaped by our environment but there is no absolution in how we turn out. This leaves room for Sommers’ interpretation as it deals with character flaws or attributes. The ethical emphasis is placed on an individual’s character for ethical thinking. Deontology places more of an emphasis on the rules and consequentialism places the emphasis on the consequences. Cultural relativism puts a large majority of the emphasis on the environment or culture a person is exposed to. Rosenstand accepts this theory as it avoids absolution and gives way to why people act the way they do based on their surroundings. Utopian societies would be the easiest way to produce the results Sommers speaks of.

With various combinations of situations and lifestyles comes a multitude of possibilities for what can be deemed right or wrong, good or bad. Policies and procedures for a similar task can be misconstrued depending on where they are created. What may be ethically sound in the United States can easily be way off base in another country. Personally I believe relativism is a sound approach to decide how certain actions should be judged. In a given moment decisions will come down to how we are raised and to a certain extent, the innate characteristics of human nature.