Paper 1 - Due March 11th, in class.
Relativism: An attractive theory or a slippery slope towards moral disaster?
It is often claimed that ethics is relative, either to individuals or cultures or even historical periods. What does this claim mean? Is this claim true? If it is, then certain practices that are condemned in one context, may well be deemed acceptable—even morally obligatory—in others. A good example of such a disagreement is found when we examine the practice of female genital mutilation (also called “female circumcision” or “F.G.M.”). While this practice is virtually unheard of in Western cultures, it is widely practiced in others. But is relativism an adequate response to the problem of F.G.M.? Can we treat moral disagreements over such an issue as merely a cultural or subjective hang-up, a preference or bias in favor of our (or my) way of behaving? Or does relativism fail to address the reality of F.G.M.? What other ethical responses might we might to relativism?
At some point in your essay, you should make sure you answer the following questions:
Here is one source on F.G.M. to get you started:
Rubric for Paper 1
15 points: The paper has a thesis (a point to be proved), which is clearly defined at the beginning of the paper. (In this case, your thesis essentially will be whether relativism is a good theory or not, and you'll be looking at F.G.M. as an example of what practice which might be supported by relativism.)
30 points: The paper accurately describes the subject matter of the essay. This must include the problem discussed by the thinkers mentioned in the essay topics and the arguments given to support their views. For example, you should explain why people claim F.G.M. is a good practice. You should explain the various arguments in favor of relativism. You must also clearly define all of your terms in the paper which are necessary for adequately tackling your topic. For instance, "relativism," "F.G.M.," "tolerance," "subjectivism," etc.
25 points: The paper accurately explains possible criticisms of the arguments presented by the thinkers in the paper and provides evidence to support the thesis of the paper. For instance, what are the various problems with relativism? What might make F.G.M. an immoral practice? Why do many people protest against this practice?
20 points: The paper contains no grammatical or spelling errors.10 points: The paper has a bibliography.