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Moral Relativism: A Reader

Are all moral truths relative or do certain moral truths hold for all cultures and people? In Moral Relativism: A Reader, this and related questions are addressed by twenty-one contemporary moral philosophers and thinkers. This engaging and nontechnical anthology, the only up-to-date collection devoted solely to the topic of moral relativism, is accessible to a wide range of readers including undergraduate students from various disciplines. The selections are organized under six main topics: (1) General Issues; (2) Relativism and Moral Diversity; (3) On the Coherence of Moral Relativism; (4) Defense and Criticism; (5) Relativism, Realism, and Rationality; and (6) Case Study on Relativism. Contributors include Ruth Benedict, Richard Brandt, Thomas L. Carson, Philippa Foot, Gordon Graham, Gilbert Harman, Loretta M. Kopelman, David Lyons, J. L. Mackie, Michele Moody-Adams, Paul K. Moser, Thomas Nagel, Martha Nussbaum, Karl Popper, Betsy Postow, James Rachels, W. D. Ross, T. M. Scanlon, William Graham Sumner, and Carl Wellman. The volume concludes with a case study on female circumcision/genital mutilation that vividly brings into focus the practical aspects and implications of moral relativism. An ideal primary text for courses in moral relativism, Moral Relativism: A Reader can also be used as a supplementary text for introductory courses in ethics and for courses in various disciplines — anthropology, sociology, theology, political science, and cultural studies — that discuss relativism. The volume’s pedagogical and research value is enhanced by a topical bibliography on moral relativism and a substantial general introduction that includes explanatory summaries of the twenty selections.

Table of Contents

    • Preface   
    • Introduction    1
    • 1    Ethical Relativism    25
    • 2    Facts, Standards, and Truth: A Further Criticism of Relativism    32
    • 3    The Challenge of Cultural Relativism    53
    • 4    Folkways    69
    • 5    Anthropology and the Abnormal    80
    • 6    The Meaning of Right    90
    • 7    The Empirical Underdetermination of Descriptive Cultural Relativism    93
    • 8    The Ethical Implications of Cultural Relativity    107
    • 9    Dishonest Relativism    123
    • 10    Ethical Relativism and the Problem of Incoherence    127
    • 11    Fear of Relativism    142
    • 12    Is There a Single True Morality?    165
    • 13    Moral Relativism    185
    • 14    Non-Relative Virtues    199
    • 15    Tolerance, Pluralism, and Relativism    226
    • 16    Ethics    241
    • 17    The Subjectivity of Values    259
    • 18    Relativism Refuted?    277
    • 19    Relativism and Normative Nonrealism: Basing Morality on Rationality    287
    • 20    Female Circumcision/Genital Mutilation and Ethical Relativism    307
    • Bibliography    327
    • Index    333