William Graham Sumner's Acception To Ethical Relativism

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In Folkways, William Graham Sumner claimed that morality is actually just a reflection of the mores. He further argued that since morality came from the typical culture groups, it should be only bounded within the group but not universally. The thesis Sumner raised in his argument, aka, ethical relativism, had been challenged by many objections. In this essay, I will provide one objection of ethical relativism and argue that even Sumner attempted to address the objection; his thesis is still fallacious due to begging the question. One critical objection to ethical relativism is the absurd objection. This objection suggests the ethical relativism is absurd due to it cannot make relevant moral distinctions. Ethical relativism claims that right …show more content…
If we follow that, then it is impossible for us to say any culture’s ethical beliefs are better or worse than any other. Think about that if we live in 200 years ago when slavery still exist, relativist would believe that the slavery is the right thing since it is believed by most of people at that time. While, we know that slavery no longer exist in our country now, and we do think that is an improvement compare to what we did before. However, there are still some parts of world that slavery still exist; and according to relativism we cannot find any moral position to criticize them since whatever their culture believes should be considered right. However, it would be irrational and absurd to think there is no morally difference between slavery and freedom. Furthermore, if ethical relativism is true, it is …show more content…
Sumner states that unlike the objection suggest, the ethical codes can change over time. Yet, he states it is not due to some absolute moral rule being uncovered, but simply because of the culture itself changed. He noted that the change in moral rule is due to the old rule fail to provide “same good as formerly” (Sumner, 8) Thus it would focus the mores to change and form new morality. For instance, slavery may be stopped because we do not need slaves any more instead of we find out it is morally wrong. As he states that the mores change is in order to provide good, it follows that the morality, which Sumner claimed to be determined by mores, is also changed in order to provide good. If that is the case, it looks like we can just make an object moral rule “provide most good” instead of “consistent with culture”. Utilitarianism, which states actions are morally right only if they can maximum overall “good”, seems suit better with Sumner. It is also noticeable that Sumner made a big assumption. His whole argument lies upon the assumption the morals came from folkways. However, he did not really offering any evidence that it is the case. If I argue that cat is smart because of there is a kind of smart animal called cat, you may think I am talking nonsense. Sumner actually did a similar thing here. He argues that because morality can only work within a culture since it

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