Female Circumcision Essay

1723 words - 7 pages

The Morality in Female Circumcision The act of female circumcision is practiced in many parts of Northern Africa and Southern Arabia. According to Loretta M. Kopelman, approximately 80 million women have undergone the surgery and an additional 4 or 5 million girls endure it each year. The surgery inhibits women from having orgasms, often results in many health problems, and can cause death among women and children. Beyond the obvious initial pains of the operations, female genital mutilation may bring about long-term physiological, sexual, and psychological effects. It seems absurd that such a dangerous, unpleasant, barbarous procedure would be performed in this day and age. Yet, many societies in Africa and in the Middle East consider the act to be a part of local tradition and deeply rooted in their cultures. Thus, the question arises of whether or not this practice can be morally justified in the areas where it is common.Richard Shweder attempts to address the problem of multiple, coexisting, closely interacting cultural systems. His solution is to accept relativism and the contradictions that different cultures have relative to one another. Shweder puts forth an argument to support his relativist view that consists of four principles, the latter being that to which he objects. The first principle asserted by Shweder is that we, the members of an ethnic group are rationally justified in our conception of things; for example, that when one is dead, one is dead. Secondly, Shweder affirms that the members of some other ethnic group can have a different conception of things; for example, that the spirits of one's dead ancestors can enter his body. Thirdly, Shweder claims that the members of the other ethnic group are rationally justified in their conception of things. Finally, he states that if others are rationally justified in their conception of things and that conception is different than our conception, then we cannot be rationally justified in our conception of things. Conversely, if we are rationally justified in our conception of things and that conception is different then theirs, then they cannot be rationally justified in their conception of things. Shweder rejects this fourth principle and comes to the conclusion that both ethnic groups can be rationally justified in their views. Shweder continues to say that "apparently inconsistent conceptions of things can coexist because they are not met head on" (110). Rather than being contradictions in combat with each other in this world, they are perceptions in different worlds that lead people to begin to appreciate cultural difference. Shweder maintains that when people live in the same society all moral disagreements can be explained as mistakes of fact, ignorance, and misunderstandings. Thus, he claims, in different worlds there is more to disagreements than meets the eye, and even goes as far as saying that our differences make us real.Hence, one may ask how Richard Shweder would address...

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