Name: are standards of right or wrong that influence

Name: Kofi Ameyaw

Professor: Daniel Estrada

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Course: HSS 405

Date: 12/16/2017

Do we all have the Same Ideas of
Wrong and Right?


            Moral values are standards of right
or wrong that influence individual choices and behavior. A person’s morals are derived
from society, self, religion, and government. Standards of right and wrong vary
between individuals because moral values vary. People have different ways of
rationalizing right and wrong because they are not homogenous. It is undeniable
that human beings are generally disagreeable. Philosophy itself is a reflection
of how differently we define right and wrong. Virtually everything that
constitutes a thoughtful position is contested and rationalized in different
ways. This contested nature of morality leads to relativism in moral

Cultural Relativism

            Undeniably, moral judgments on
beliefs and practices vary because of cultural differences. Certainly, there
are variations in cultural values, norms, and beliefs (Tilley 5).
Rights and wrongs vary because there is no superior culture and every culture
has its own moral standards. Indeed, there is no overriding moral position
which is followed by all. Despite the fact that national boundaries have become
less important, culture still fundamentally influences thinking and behavior.

            Agent relativism states that moral
arguments are morality right only if they are congruent with cultural norms.
The assessment of morality is right or wrong if it conforms to moral norms
(Tilley 6). As such, the standards of right and wrong vary between
cultures. Ideas about right and wrong are not shared by all. Cultural belief
systems act as guidance in the determination of what is morally right.

            The fact that rights and wrongs vary
according to culture does not mean that some cultural practices are not
criticized. Indeed, some cultural practices are controversial because people
have different standards of right and wrong. Cultural differences determine
moral values which in turn influence moral evaluations (Tilley 9). It
is the reason why people from different cultures evaluate cultural practices in
other cultures as being wrong or unacceptable. Female genital mutilation is one
of the controversial practices that the world cannot agree upon. It has been
fought from a human rights perspective, gender rights perspective and medical
ethics perspective. Still, there are many who support the practice despite its
being outlawed because they believe it is culturally important.

            The theory of cognitive relativism
also provides insight into why there are differences in how people view right
and wrong. Cognitive reasoning, perceptions, judgment, and knowledge influence
moral reasoning (Lawson 572). Consequently, the truth
is relative and value judgments vary, and may sometimes be controversial.  Ultimately, right and wrong is relative to
the individual’s reasoning and knowledge.

            To be
honest, moral universalism is an oversimplification of moral issues because it
fails to account for complexity in moral decision-making. Populations are often
divided on issues because there is no one truth (Quintelier et al. 215). Truth
varies across cultures and within cultures. Therefore, it is an
oversimplification to assume that an absolute truth exists to reconcile the
differences in moral perspectives. Polarizing sociopolitical positions will
continue to highlight the gray areas that cause differences in moral

            The reality
is that moral universalism is a problematic concept because it creates an
appraising superior force. The idea that people have the same standard of right
and wrong is flawed. There is no superior appraising body when it comes to
moral evaluations. If there is no superior culture by which other cultures are evaluated,
then moral relativism is highly acceptable.

Individual moral relativism

            What is right and wrong is
determined by the person’s individual morals. Different people exhibit
different moral standards. The reality is that different cultures have
different cultural values (Tilley 5). Muslim cultures have
different moral values which reflect the differences in right and wrong. Their
moral evaluations are fundamentally influenced by religion. Their ideas about
same sex marriage and gender relations are fundamentally different from those
of western culture.

            Standards of rationality vary among
individuals. There is no objective standard of reasoning that can be applied to
everyone.  There is a plurality of views
which characterize living in a free society. We live in a pluralistic society
where notions about right and wrong are complex and diverse
(Rest et al. 388). Attempts to rationalize rights and wrongs often end
up being problematic. Universalism remains more of an ideal than a reality. The
universal declaration of human rights is yet to have worldwide applicability.
The human rights declaration was conceptualized in a western philosophical
frame and does not include cultures in the developing world.

            Individual moral relativism is a
common occurrence in society. An individual’s moral values, states, and
feelings influence their determination of right and wrong. Moral reasoning is
subjective in nature. Right and wrong vary among individuals. People have
differing standards and it creates problems in society. The reality is that
moral evaluations that are based on preferences and tastes lead to deviant and
criminal behavior.

Moral disagreements

            Clearly, individuals do not always
have a reasonable sense of what is right and wrong. There is no doubt that
individual decision-making can be faulty and sometimes pathological. There are
many people in jail because of their views of right and wrong are so faulty
that they violate the standards set by society in a way that merits their

            In real life, rationalizing about
right and wrong is not always an intellectual exercise. Lay people apply folk
morality theories when dealing with moral dilemmas (Quintelier, De Smet, and
Fessler 227). In this regard, right and wrong are reduced to taste,
preferences, and likes. It is a subjective exercise because differences in
upbringing lead to different moral developmental outcomes. Thus, it is
unreasonable to expect people to engage in deep rational thought. Ultimately,
they rely on subjective value judgment to resolve moral dilemmas.

            Self interest drives people to have
different views about right and wrong. 
The truth becomes subjective when personal moral relativism is
applied.  For instance, people argue in
favor of homosexuality based on opinions and attitudes. They may or may not
approve of homosexuality depending on their self interest in the matter. For
example, if they are religious they might object to the same. Individual moral
reasoning is the reason why differences in right and wrong are expressed on a
daily basis.

            The influence of moral subjectivity
cannot be denied. There is no consensus on morality even among philosophers
because it is not possible. Morality is an ambiguous concept that is subject to
interpretation and subjective thought processes. Moral complexity ensures that
people have to make choices (Fellman 129). Often, there is an uncertainty in
the right choice. Moral dilemmas are often characterized by lack of sufficient
information. Consequently, people apply subjective evaluations based on their
personal philosophy which is influenced by cognitive relativism.

            People have desires, fears, and
motivations that influence their moral evaluations. It is the recognition of
these different interests that society places rules that ensure that chaos and
anarchy do not become the order. The fears, desires, and motivations have an
impact on the differences in moral choices. They need not be nefarious but they
do in fact lead to different ideals. For example, religious and political
motivations affect an individual’s moral evaluations.

            A contested
practice such as abortion is interpreted differences based on the individuals’
subjective moral evaluations. Pro-choice and pro-life proponents feel strongly
about their moral positions (Quintelier et al., 215). They provide compelling
reasons why a woman’s rights are more important, and why the sanctity of life
is paramount. As a matter of fact, there are many countries where abortion is
illegal. Individual moral relativism remains a significant factor in moral
decision-making. No matter what the law says the differences in ideals still

disagreements are a natural aspect of humanity. It is normal to have
disagreements about issues that seem not to have rational resolution. Conflict
and incompatibility are the driving force behind moral disagreements (Khoo and
Knobe 22). Moral reasoning is often incompatible because of subjective
reasoning. The fact that people disagree does not mean that they are incorrect.

semantics also reflects the different interpretations of morality. Moral contextualism
holds that sentences are true or false depending on the context in which they
are made (Khoo and Knobe 38). Moreover, norms define the context by which moral
utterances occur. The conversational context affects the variations in what is
right or wrong. Moral semantics is a theory that underpins that moral judgment
is influenced by opinion and there are no objective moral facts.

            The reality
is that moral disagreement continues to be persistent. As a matter of fact, it
is the most consistent aspect of moral reasoning. Disagreements between
universalism and relativist, absolutism and realism dominate moral discourse.
It is quite clear that people will consistently disagree about right and wrong
because there are fundamental moral disagreements about the nature of morality

Moral Relativism
cannot be ignored

differences in moral frameworks cannot be ignored. The truth of moral
statements is relative to the moral framework that one endorses. Moral
relativism allows for competing moral frameworks. Actions are morally in some
contexts while in others they are wrong. Different situations call for moral
concepts to be used in different ways (Quintelier et al. 215).  Those who support a pro-life framework are
not superior to those that support a pro-choice moral framework. The reality is
that there is no moral universalism in the choices that matter to people.

moral conflicts are the manifestation of differences in moral evaluations.
Moral conflict is a natural part of every society. Emotive issues create moral
differences that highlight that people do view morals in a relative manner.
Complicated problems often reinforce moral relativism. In complexity, there are
no straight forwards moral positions. 
Polarizing issues cause divisions and strongly held positions based on
personal, religious, or political convictions.

Moral expansiveness

            The concept
of moral expansiveness also explains differences in standards of right and
wrong. The reality is that the depth of people’s moral beliefs fundamentally
impact decision-making (Crimston, et al. 14). 
People have strong moral positions on animal rights and climate change
because they have expanded levels of empathy and concern. The divergent nature
of moral intuitions affects the differences in moral evaluations (Crimston, et
al. 14). Moral concern for different issues varies. Undeniably, their moral
standards are expansive and different from the norm. Individual values and self
image influence moral expansiveness. Moral distinctions are influenced by the
expansion of moral consideration.

in moral imagination also support the efficacy of relativism. Humans have an
intuitive ability to apply creative ideas that are not based on established
moral principles to discern moral truths. Moral understanding depends on
metaphorical concepts that are embedded in larger narratives. Individuals
cultivate their own empathetic abilities which ultimately influence their
thinking. They use imagination to deal with complex moral issues.  It is important to appreciate that morality
exists beyond the accepted moral standards.


conflict is a natural part of every society. People disagree about right and
wrong because there are variations in cultural values, norms, and beliefs.
Rights and wrongs vary because there is no superior culture and every culture
has its own moral standards. Indeed, there is no overriding moral position
which is followed by all. Contentious issues cause morality variations and
highlight the fact that people view morals in a relative way. Complex problems
often reinforce moral relativism because there are no straight forwards moral
positions. When there are no clear answers people will have different

moral disagreement continues to be consistent and persistent. The influence of
moral subjectivity in moral reasoning is a reality that defies universalism.
There is no consensus on morality even among philosophers because it is not
possible. Morality is an ambiguous concept. Ultimately, moral complexity
ensures that people have to make choices.



Works cited

Lawson, Tony.
“Ethical naturalism and forms of relativism.” Society vol. 50,
no. 6 2013 pp. 570-575.

Crimston, Daniel,
et al. “Moral expansiveness: Examining variability in the extension of the
moral world.” Journal of personality and social psychology vol.111,
no. 4 2016, 636.

Fellman, Marc.
“The case for moral complexity.” (2006).

Khoo, Justin, and
Joshua Knobe. “Moral disagreement and moral semantics.” Noûs

Katinka JP, Delphine De Smet, and Daniel MT Fessler. “The moral
universalism-relativism debate.” KLESIS–Revue philosophique vol. 27
2013 pp. 211-262.

Tilley, John J.
“Cultural relativism.” Human Rights Quarterly vol. 22, no. 2
2000 pp. 501-547.

Rest, James R.,
et al. “A neo-Kohlbergian approach to morality research.” Journal
of moral education vol. 29, no. 4 2000 pp. 381-395.