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Compare And Contrast 7 Of The Main Ethical Principles

4261 words - 17 pages

Despite the implementation of a certain code of conduct and belief system into most individual's everyday lives, the concept of ethics or moral philosophy remains a hazy area, left to be tackled by philosophers and exceptional theorists. The assessment of major ethical systems over the course of the semester has forced me to reevaluate the fundamentals of my own moral philosophy and reconsider the role of ethics as a more average field of thought than I had once considered. Included in the major ethical systems examined throughout the course were: Cultural Relativism, Religious Ethics, Ethical Egoism, Utilitarianism, Kant's Moral Absolutism, Social Contract, and Ethics of Virtue. The explication of these very different systems and their pillars can be a sound basis for analyzing one's personal moral philosophy.

In the 4th century BC the Greek sophist Protagoras, living in the midst of a period of Greek historical turmoil, turned to philosophy and an experimental model that he would develop to attempt to find any universally accepted moral principals. After collecting data from cultures he had the ability to examine, he concluded that he didn't find any universally accepted moral principals, which led him to the conclusion that there are no moral absolutes. In this case, when discussing something that has universal acceptance, it means with absolutely no exceptions, and a moral absolute is something that exists in the real world, independent of changes in perception. Protagoras concluded, through the use of human opinion for his data, likely to be not the most reliable source, that if morals are not absolute in nature, they are relative to the cultures that they are inherent to. This conclusion leads him to be called the father of cultural relativism. Using the system of Cultural Relativism, which has been widely popularized, the key is that "different cultures have different moral codes." (Rachels 18) There are numerous claims made by cultural relativists, some of which can be separated to be examined for soundness independently. In the text, a few of the six claims Rachels points out are: "1. Different societies have different moral codes, 2. The moral code of a society determines what is right within a society...3. There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one society's code better than another's..." (Rachels 18) and so on. Interestingly, opposite of what Protagoras concluded, it seems from the claims in the text that it is not necessarily true that a difference in customs means a difference in values. For example, the difference in the African customs and American customs for adolescent women doesn't mean that both cultures do not value the coming of age. According to Rachels, there are valuable things to learn from Cultural Relativism, despite the flaws in some of their arguments. For one, it is possible to learn that you should keep reevaluating your own values with the realization that they can change, and also to keep an...

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