The Argument for Ethical Relativism from the Diversity of Morals

The Monist 47 (4):528-544 (1963)

Many people, failing to understand the theories of such ethical relativists as William Graham Sumner, Ruth Benedict and Edward Westermarck, have thought that various findings of the social sciences establish these theories. They regard the problem of ethical relativism, or the problem of determining whether or not any of these theories is sound, as a scientific problem. And they often think of ethical relativism as a scientific theory which explains these findings. In particular, it is widely thought that anthropologists have amassed overwhelming evidence to prove that the moral beliefs of peoples of different cultures conflict or are diverse in such a way that this diversity of morals raises the problem of ethical relativism. And many have thought and continue to think that ethical relativism is demonstrated by this evidence and is a scientific hypothesis which accounts for the diversity of morals. The argument from the diversity of morals is the most popular argument for ethical relativism based on the data of the social sciences.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Philosophy of Science
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ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI 10.5840/monist196347420
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