Sar Phil


This journal assignment corresponds with Chapter 8 (and more specifically sections 8.2 and 8.3) of the textbook, but you may also wish to consult your guided notes, module activities, and discussion board posts from modules 10 and 11 as you write this journal entry. This journal entry will follow the ‘Process of Critical Thinking’ that you used to discuss the other philosophical problems in this course. If you need to review the process, you may consult section 1.3 of the textbook (and specifically pages 12-15). You’ll remember these steps of the process (below). Please pay attention to the notes I have added and highlighted below.

  1. State your initial point of view.
  2. Define your point of view more clearly.
  3. Give an example of your point of view.
  4. Explore the origin of your point of view.
  5. Identify your assumptions.
  6. Offer the reasons, evidence, and arguments that support your point of view. [this should be a very well-developed, and very thorough section of your journal entry and you should use arguments and evidence that we’ve worked through in the modules]
  7. Consider other points of view. [Note: this means counter-arguments to your position. This should be a very well-developed, and very thorough section of your journal entry and you should use arguments and evidence that we’ve worked through in the modules]
  8. Arrive at a conclusion, decision, solution, or prediction.
  9. Consider the consequences.

You will work through this process for the philosophical question or problem of moral truth (and more specifically, how we whether moral relativism or moral absolutism is correct) now that we have explored this topic in detail in Chapter 8. You will use the nine-step process to write your journal entry but please pay attention to the notes/suggestions highlighted above.

Your assignment:

In your journal entry, your aim is to use this process to explore your own thought on the problem of moral truth after thinking through the material in Chapter 8 of our textbook. Thus, for step 1, you are to explain your position on whether moral relativism or moral absolutism is correct. You must state which of the theories on moral truth we have examined in sections 8.2 and 8.3 you believe to be correct. You must incorporate the arguments, evidence, and ideas that we’ve explored in the modules to support your view (in Step 6). For Step 7, you should consider what the “other side” believes (for example, if you are defending relativism, consider in this section the objections that an absolutist might give). Make sure that steps 6 and 7 include plenty of material from the chapter to show that you’ve considered the material and thinkers we’ve considered in developing your own viewpoint.

Journal Specifications

You may structure your journal entry in nine paragraphs (one for each step listed above with steps/paragraphs 6 and 7 being the most substantial) or you may wish to combine several elements together in a longer, more-developed paragraph. For this option, please follow this outline:

Paragraph 1: Steps 1, 2, and 3

Paragraph 2: Steps 4 and 5

Paragraph 3: Step 6 (well-developed section)

Paragraph 4: Step 7 (well-developed section)

Paragraph 5: Steps 8 and 9

Plagiarism and Citations

You should not refer to anything for this journal entry other than our textbook and course materials. So long as you refer only to course material, you can use in-text citations informally when you present arguments given or presented in the textbook. For example, you should say something like “Philosopher X, as mentioned in our textbook, claims that….” Since this is an informal writing assignment, you do not need to add a ‘works cited’ page or use in-text citations in any other way than what I’ve used in the example. However, if you use anything beyond our textbook, you must properly cite your sources using MLA. Do not plagiarize; please refer to the syllabus for the penalties for doing so.


Ethical Relativism

• The theory of ethical subjectivism holds that each individual determines what is morally right or wrong, that he or she should determine their own best course of action by following their own moral compass. Some believe that ethical subjectivism can lead to social isolation and moral apathy, a sort of “every man for himself” attitude.

• Cultural relativism is the social correlative to ethical subjectivism. Cultural relativism holds that each culture has its own inherent moral and ethical beliefs and that people who do not belong to that culture have no right to judge or evaluate those beliefs. Although some cultural relativists (including Ruth Benedict and Franz Boas) worked from the perspective of postcolonialist critics, seeking to undo the “civilizing” damage wrought by imperialist Western cultures on non-Western colonized societies, cultural relativism can be very damaging if it simplistically overlooks injustice.


Ethical Absolutism: Some Moral Values Are Universal

• The converse of relativism is ethical absolutism, which holds that some moral and ethical values apply to all peoples in all circumstances. Although ethical absolutism acknowledges—through descriptive ethics—that different individuals and groups hold different moral and ethical principles, the ethical absolutist (unlike the ethical relativist) does not then hold those beliefs as normative—applicable to all people everywhere. However, there is no one “universal code” toward which ethical absolutists can point in support of their perspective. Absolutists argue, based on our own lived experience, that most people conduct themselves as though there was such a universal code. Most people, for example, believe that murder is wrong and that coming to the aid of someone in distress is right