Example Of Essay On Which Theory Is Better And Why?
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: Culture, Ethics, Utilitarianism, Morality, Relativism, Theory, Development, Society
Compare cultural relativism to utilitarianism.
Culture as a semantic, moral and mental system contains some internal momentum, initiating processes of self-development and self-organization. There are two opposite by their principles philosophical theories that determine social development: cultural relativism and utilitarianism. The essay is going to individuate and compare the basic principles in each of them and determine which is better. It is important to understand that mentioned theories are absolutely different and have radically diverse viewpoints on morality and other ethical issues. So, the determination of better one is very subjective and limits the comprehension of their significances to one narrow issue of morality.
Utilitarianism is a direction in moral philosophy, the main concepts of which were formulated by Bentham in the doctrine "Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation”, written in 1780, and developed in a classical way by Mill in his work written in 1863. It was Mill, who formulated its main arguments. According to this ethical theory, the correct behavior is determined by its final benefit (Mill, 118). Its supporters believe that the utilitarian principle is the only moral criterion of human actions according to which there should always be maximized predominance of good over evil.
Utilitarianism is the ethical theory claiming that the action is a function of the correctness of its consequences, which presupposes the greatest good for the greatest number of people. According to it, effects of goodness should be distributed as widely as possible. It also presupposes that people making moral choices have to seek benefits for themselves and those whom they care. Some believe that good must extend not only to individuals, but also to other beings with feelings and consciousness (Mill, 119). However, as a theory which derives from the effects of actions, utilitarianism is not limited by one particular point of view on the greater good. One of the known forms of this theory is hedonistic utilitarianism, which means to promote people's desire to experience a maximum of pleasure and avoid pain.
According to J. S. Mill (1992), utilitarianism is a form of personal ethics (120). Mill believed that this theory is well combined with Christian morality, directs the efforts towards universal prosperity. Mill introduced in utilitarianism a principle of qualitative assessment of pleasures and the requirement to prefer mental enjoyment to physical. The main idea of the Mill’s polemics was directed against intuitivism, and, personally, against Kant and his followers (Mill, 129). According to utilitarianism, morality is based on the common good as happiness of most of the people, which Bentham called the overall benefits certainly featuring it to personal gain or personal benefit (Bentham, 56). Under the principle of usefulness he understood the principle of selection and evaluation of actions, which orients itself to achieve the greatest possible benefits. This is a philosophical and ideological principle according to which every natural and cultural-historical phenomenon is regarded not in its own specificity, but only as a remedy for external purposes or a useful effect. From the point of view of utilitarianism, any subject, any wealth is defined through the benefits that some social institution can extract from it.
Immanuel Kant in his famous work The Good Will and the Categorical Imperative wrote about abstract category of a good will. It regards the issues determined by supporters of utilitarianism. According to Kant’s theory, good will and other moral qualities are categorical imperative and require automatic rational actions (Landau, 102). This aspect was not supported by utilitarianism and its followers.
Cultural relativism is the position according to which a person cannot properly assess, interpret, or analyze a separate cultural phenomenon outside of its context or culture, in the depths of which he arose and existed. The main position is the assertion that the tradition of one culture cannot be regarded as inferior or superior in the relation to the cultural traditions of other societies (Rachels, 16). The main individual feature of such approach is the consideration of all the cultural forms, behavior of people from other cultures without prejudice, based on their value equal to the values of other cultures, rather than within a culture of the observer, which was adopted as a point of reference for the standard.
Cultural relativism is committed to understanding of other cultures, rather than evaluating them as weird and derives from the understanding that each culture has its moral values (Rachels, 14). Forms of cultural relativism range from softer to more stringent, but its supporters agreed that different norms and values are formed in certain social contexts. And the way the rules’ formation affected these processes must be analyzed in order to understand the specific cultural manifestations.
Critics are afraid that the principle of cultural relativity could make the morality weaker, because it justifies any form of morality (Rachels, 19). It can justify even the most extreme forms of expression of social thoughts as racism and Nazism. Thus, cultural relativism can be called harmful. However, it does not deny the existence of moral absolutes and universal moral values. These aspects of moral code become important, as society produces certain restrictions. It is maintained that this approach extends the range of normal things, if it concerns a socially harmless cultural manifestation. This is extremely important from the point of view of promoting tolerance and understanding. Thus, culture shock causes the destruction of or a significant change in social perspectives as a result of a collision with a foreign culture. Although this condition causes inconveniences for individuals, culture shock can release energy creation, lead to a new depth of understanding of society and culture. It makes cultural relativism tolerant towards morality and main ethical principles.
Historical data points at the similarity of the basic ethical norms of different cultures, because recognizing ethical relativism, people accept different standards of absolute morality, namely universal ethical tolerance (Rachels, 22). To make ethical tolerance a rule of absolute morality means to push the issue of social welfare, justice and fairness to second place. While the main feature of utilitarianism is a denial of the absolutisation of any kind of meanings. The highest good of utilitarianism is relative. That is why both the concepts of relativism and utilitarianism combine closely. The dominance of the principle of utilitarianism is its use of traditional and liberal values in its concept. The utilitarian moral law supports the idea that morally is what brings maximum benefit to the individual or society.
Developed utilitarianism contains the idea of building wealth at the expense of excellence and the intensification of improving performance activity. It can be interpreted as the spirit of the mature, productive entrepreneurship, characterized by an increased need for achievement. Developed utilitarianism is moral ethics of labor. It pushes transition from simple to advanced type of public reproduction. Accordingly, this form of utilitarianism orients culture on soil improvement, modernization by strengthening indigenous forces. Developed utilitarianism can be defined as a progenitor of liberalism.
Utilitarianism appears as both the scope of criticism of traditional nationalism, and as a force, under the pressure of which the regeneration of traditionalism and the development of liberalism occur. However, the median position of utilitarianism in typological triad culture is conditional. In fact, it can be interpreted as the earliest meaning of culture of morality. The genesis of culture, presented as single origin culture and as a set of ever-flowing innovation processes, includes some initial utilitarian phase in which the search of new ways of life and social interaction is important (Rachels, 23). Of course, the original utilitarianism is weak, not spontaneous or fragmented.
However, between the experience of culture, ordered by a system value, and utilitarianism, once standing at the origins of these values appears contradiction. Always receptive to the changes of the world, rejecting any authorities other than good, utilitarianism amends existing experience, thus, on the one hand, increase its scale, and on the other, gradually shake its orderly unity. Consequence of the actions of utilitarianism is a need to reorganize cultural experience, find new ideas which correspond to the complexity of information and a new system of values. In the philosophical categories it can be conceptualized as a phenomenon of division into two vectors of culture: one part is still looking for the traditional absolute, transcendent meanings, the other turns to its utilitarian, relative, inherent meanings. This can manifest itself in small ways, like a slight violation of the tradition in the name of good. This kind of deviation from tradition accumulates and prepares the ground for the new utilitarian ideas, which in their turn inside continue to destroy the traditionalism.
In my opinion, regarding all mentioned information, based on the research of utilitarianism and cultural relativism, the first one has more positive effect on the society as means welfare for everybody. While cultural relativism in its radical form can be very harmful for the development of a society. On the other hand, the concept of Mill about the utilitarianism is very narrow in the sense that it regarded the theory in ideal society. But world experience shows that an essential condition for the existence of moderate utilitarianism is a phenomenon of dialectical interaction of different kinds of interests as private and public, individual and group. In other words, developed utilitarianism may take place only in a society where the nationwide welfare has the priority. At the same time, the theory of cultural relativism supports the existence of different moral codes and underlines their meaning and right for existence. It teaches to be tolerant. Nevertheless, comparing these two philosophical theories in a condition of globalization and contemporary world, in my opinion, utilitarianism is better and more perspective than cultural relativism, because of its effects on moral laws in the conditions of similar cultural values. However, it is very important to remember, that society gained its tolerance in the conditions of cultural diversity due to cultural relativism among nations.
Bentham, Jeremy, and J. H. Burns. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Oxford: Clarendon ;, 1996. Print.
Landau, Russ. "Immanuel Kant, The Good Will and the Categorical Imperative." The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. 102-113. Print.
Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty and Utilitarianism. London: David Campbell, 1992. 117-136. Print.
Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 14-31. Print.