ETHC 445N CCN Moral Relativism Is It Right to Be a Relativist Discussion

Required Resources

Read/review the following resources for this activity:

  • Textbook: Chapter 1, 2
  • Lesson
  • Minimum of 1 scholarly source (in addition to the textbook)

Initial Post Instructions
The study of ethics and philosophy is one that brings many different kinds of “thinkers” together. One person’s philosophy on ethics is another person’s philosophy on evil. We will be working this term on constructing personal ethical bases and understanding how ethical codes (both personal and professional) are created and followed.

To start us thinking about the different areas of philosophy and ethics, and how we fit into the different molds or world views, let’s imagine the following scenario:

It is 2019. The federal law banning female circumcision is still under appeal in the courts. You are a nurse assisting a plastic surgeon at a local hospital. The plastic surgeon comes from a country where they practice “female circumcision”. This practice is also sometimes called “female genital mutilation”.

(Video) https://video.alexanderstreet.com/watch/fire-eyes-…

Fire Eyes: Female Circumcision, Written by Soraya Mire, Directed by Soraya Mire, Ethnographer Soraya Mire, Narrated by Carol Christiansen (New York, NY: Filmakers Library, 1995), 57 minutes



You are not a member of the doctor’s culture, but reside in a state where this practice is still legal. The plastic surgeon has agreed to perform this practice on a young girl, the daughter of a friend of the surgeon. The friend has authorized the procedure. The girl only knows this is a custom. You did not know that today you would be asked to assist in this procedure. You can refuse to participate (your job may be on the line in the future due to that decision). Or, you can assist the surgeon. What ought you to do? We now want to examine the ethical issues involved. To do this, let’s look at the role of relativism, moral truths, and other issues.

Initial Post Instructions
For the initial post, address the following questions:

  • What would a subjective moral relativist say about what this doctor is doing? Do you agree with the subjective moral relativist? Why or why not?
  • Examine what a cultural moral relativist would say here. Do you agree with the cultural relativist? Why or why not?
  • Name and evaluate general criticisms of cultural relativism as being the wrong moral approach.
  • Is there an objective moral truth about any of the possible actions by the nurse and/or doctor in this case? Why or why not?

Follow-Up Post Instructions
Respond to at least one peer. Further the dialogue by providing more information and clarification.

Writing Requirements

  • Minimum of 2 posts (1 initial & 1 follow-up)
  • Minimum of 2 sources cited (assigned readings/online lessons and an outside scholarly source)
  • APA format for in-text citations and list of references
  • Student Example:
  • What would a subjective moral relativist say about what this doctor is doing? Do you agree with the subjective moral relativist? Why or why not?
  • Subjective moral relativism refers to the actor being the only one right or just. Whatever they say is moral or wrong is moral or wrong. This is very one-sided and does not look at the views of others. In this case, if the plastic surgeon was a subjective moral relativist, he or she would say that the procedure is moral without considering anyone else’s opinion. I do not agree with subjective moral relativist because the opinion of others matters, especially in moral decisions such as this.

    • Examine what a cultural moral relativist would say here. Do you agree with the cultural relativist? Why or why not?

    A cultural moral relativist would say that the procedure is moral because of the cultural society that the young girl practices this tradition. I do not agree with cultural moral relativism because it does not view the young girl’s opinion.

    • Name and evaluate general criticisms of cultural relativism as being the wrong moral approach. I would like to reflect on the case in 2007 that our book talks about. It explains how a woman was gang-raped in Saudi Arabia and she went to the police. She was arrested for being alone with another man to whom she was not related to. The case went to court, the judge ordered her to 200 lashes plus six months of prison time. I believe this is not moral for several reasons. I understand that women are viewed differently in Saudi Arabia compared to America however, moral ethics should be considered in cases like this. The fact that the people who gang-raped her were not punished and she instead opened the door for more gang-rapes and crimes against women. “Punishment in Suadi is left up to the discretion of the judge” (Tonnessen, 2016).
    • Is there an objective moral truth about any of the possible actions by the nurse and/or doctor in this case? Why or why not? The objective moral truth in this particular situation would reflect on me as the nurse and the doctor. As a nurse in this situation, I would consider that female circumcision should be a decision for the young girl to decide. The procedure should also be described to her in detail from beginning to end and what the side effects would be afterward. I would not want to perform the surgery for moral and ethical reasons. If I lost my job for not wanting to perform the surgery, I would feel like it was for a good cause and find another job as a nurse.
    • Rachels, J. (2018). The Elements of Moral Philosophy. [Bookshelf Ambassadored]. Retrieved from https://ambassadored.vitalsource.com/#/books/97812…
    • Tonnessen, L. (2016). Women’s Activism in Saudi Arabia: Male Guardianship and Sexual Violence. CMI Chr. Michelsen Institute. Retrieved from https://www.cmi.no/publications/5696-womens-activi…

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