Sumner’s argument for relativism is sound. In the book, Folkways, Sumner argued that morality, world philosophy and rights are products of folkways. What individuals perceive as conscience or moral convictions are products of a culture which we have developed through its influence and childhood training. Universal ethical principles do not exist, what people perceive are different cultural conditioning. For instance, some cultures allow a man to have many wives. The discovery of Sumner was that women in Tibet were encouraged to have multiple husbands. The diversity of moral values we have indicates that culture solely determines our ethical standards.
Shaw’s argument for the universality of moral principles such as impartiality, equality, and equity are convincing. Societies have different moral codes and a given morality can successfully fulfill its function or can fail to satisfy the community’s goal in having moral ties. Additionally, it is a must for a moral system to work and also the whole population must accept it. Besides, there are no social groups that will allow a morality that is against its interests. Therefore, the social nature of morality allows it to abide by general principles of impartiality, equality, and equity. The moral code must function within a historical context and culture of a particular community. However, variations between societies are unavoidable because people must accommodate needs, customs, and different situations.
Tolerance refers to the willingness or capacity to recognizing and respecting the culture or beliefs of other people. In my opinion, tolerance necessarily devolves into an “anything goes” view of morality. With tolerance, one respects opinions, practices, and morality of other people although what is right for one community is not right for another. However, we need to be tolerant and avoid limiting the freedom of groups with whom we disagree.
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