Culturally Relative Ethics vs. Objective Ethics First Essay

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¶ … Culturally Relative Ethics vs. Objective Ethics

First, it is necessary to address the underlying concept about whether or not moral principles exist in any objective sense or only as function of learned cultural values. A strong argument can be made that the full dependence of moral values on subjective perspective is the same as an admission that there is really no such thing as morality, only socially-learned expectations. In theory, the very same conduct might be "moral" and considered perfectly acceptable in one society and "immoral" and criminal in another society. If that is the case, then there is simply no need to consider or discuss morality as an abstract because it has no meaning.

Therefore, unless one believes that nothing is genuinely moral or immoral intrinsically, it cannot be the case that culture and social learning define what morality is. On some level, we understand this, as evidenced by the way we regard certain historical events. For example, throughout Europe during the Nazi occupation of the World War Two era, local townspeople had the opportunity to comply with the official laws and rules imposed by authority figures or to obey their own conscience and ignore those laws. That is especially true in Germany, where the anti-Semitic Nuremburg Laws were promulgated by the nation's duly elected government officers (as opposed to occupied nations where German laws were imposed by force as martial law).Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Essay on Culturally Relative Ethics vs. Objective Ethics First, Assignment

Christians who believed that concepts of morality transcend human laws ignored their "public duty" to report the whereabouts of Jews fleeing the Nazi death squads intent on murdering them for no other reason than their ethnicity. Instead of fulfilling their legal civic duties, many of them risked their own freedom and their lives to shelter Jewish citizens from capture. Today, no civil society regards those actions as "immoral" because they violated the applicable local laws; instead, they are viewed as heroes, and rightfully. The exact same is true of the anti-slavery movement in the southern American states during the slavery era in America. They violated duly established laws against educating slaves and, especially, helping escape from slave states to live in Free states. In both examples, the individuals involved demonstrated a core moral reasoning that required them to question their cultural learning objectively and to do what was the moral and right thing irrespective of society's view.

Therefore, one has the same moral obligation in a foreign country: namely, to ignore cultural perspectives that happen to permit or encourage conduct that one knows is immoral in an objective sense. It may be convenient to rely on the excuse of cultural values to justify doing things that one knows or should know are immoral, but to do so is to violate moral principles. For example, just because it may be customary to violate the rights and dignity and welfare of certain types of people, or to exploit them, in foreign nations does not operate to magically make it morally right. One must remember that most of the laws and public policies that restrict business practices in the United States evolved precisely because there was a need to enforce ideas that had a moral basis in the first place. For instance, child labor laws and environmental laws did not suddenly appear carved out onto a tablet without explanation of relevance or purpose. They developed gradually as a means for society to impose moral values on behavior in a formal way to protect those who could not protect themselves. The existence of law generally provides evidence that a moral inequity required resolution because people left to their own decisions do not always do what is morally right.

Gender Blindness in Hiring and Employment

Schwartz's article makes some good points but it also suggests that business organizations have a duty (apart from legal obligations) to do something that may not necessarily be in their best interests. Without a doubt, women who have all of the necessary tools and motivation to pursue and dedicate themselves to a career should have the same opportunities as men to do so. To a certain extent, perfectly qualified female employees may encounter obstacles based in erroneous perceptions or expectations based on social learning that are entirely unfair when they happen not to be accurate with respect to any particular female employee.

For example, a female employee who deserves to be on the executive track may be passed over unjustly for a male counterpart for reasons other than talent and ability based on assumptions that happen not to be true in her case. It may be true that women are more likely than men to take a leave of absence from work at some point in their career because they bear the brunt of maternity. Notwithstanding Schwartz's suggested solutions such as shared jobs, there is nothing wrong, in principle, if a business organization values the consistency and reliability and predictability of its important employees not to take leaves of absences. A business has a legitimate interest in employing people who will reduce overhead costs rather than increase them. Therefore, is smokers get sick more often and miss more work because of illness and if married men are more punctual than single men, it is morally acceptable (although not necessarily legal) to prefer to hire nonsmokers over smokers and married men over single men.

Schwartz presents certain evidence to bolster her argument that discrimination against hiring (or promoting) women out of concern for their commitment may actually support the opposite point-of-view. Specifically, she argues that while 90% of male executives become parents by the age of 40, only 10% of female executives do. The problem with that argument is that the relative difference indicates precisely why hiring or promoting women to executive positions in general may be against the interests of business organizations that wish to minimize any conflicts between the professional and private lives of their employees. Certainly, with respect to those women who intend to focus on their careers and delay becoming parent (or who happen not to aspire toward parenthood) should be considered strictly on the objective basis of their talents and their abilities. However, one cannot deny (or place blame over) the fact that most adults eventually do decide to become parents and that, through not fault of anybody other than biology, women have no choice but to bear the brunt of childbirth, if not necessarily child rearing. Unsubstantiated sexism and other forms of prejudice are unjustifiable; however, an organization should be entitled to make decisions in its best interests.

When it comes to the situation of employing Ellen Moore in Saudi Arabia, there is no question that the cultural mores that make that decision more costly for the company are unjustified and truly primitive. However, the reality of the situation is that the organization does not have the opportunity or any invitation from Saudi nationals with whom they will be conducting business to help that society question, re-evaluate, or change its social structure and foundational beliefs and values. Through no fault of Ms. Moore's employing organization, the fact of the matter is that employing a woman in the position in question in Saudi Arabia makes less business sense than avoiding the inherent difficulties associated with that choice. The organization should not have an artificially imposed obligation to maximize instead of mitigating those potential problems.

Bluffing in Business and Poker

Albert Carr makes a good point about the parallel between business and poker in relation to "bluffing." Perhaps the most illustrative aspect of his argument is the analogy between the poker bluffing/ethical business deception vs. poker cheating/unethical business deception. In poker, it is presumed that players will conceal their intentions and the relative quality of their hands and that is an accepted strategy. Likewise, in business, it is understood that competitors and negotiators will also conceal their strategy or the limits of the prices they might be willing to pay for leverage and that is also acceptable even if it involves deception. The same goes for deception that do not come at the expense of others, such as the example of a job candidate lying about what magazines he reads or about his age. Of course, it is possible to imagine a scenario where misrepresenting innocuous information could potentially harm the other entity, such as an employee who exposes an employer to liability by misrepresenting his actual qualifications or licensure status. But in most cases, a lie of the type relating to the employee's age or reading preferences is not unethical because it produces no harm.

Meanwhile, other types of business deception are as unethical as cheating in poker. Concealing the material truth about a product or about the details of a business arrangement to induce another entity to do something he would not do with full awareness is unethical deception and is analogous to playing with an extra card that is not part of the deck. Examples of that principle would include concealing major repairs to a vehicle offered for sale… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Culturally Relative Ethics vs. Objective Ethics First.  (2011, December 14).  Retrieved March 1, 2021, from

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"Culturally Relative Ethics vs. Objective Ethics First."  14 December 2011.  Web.  1 March 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Culturally Relative Ethics vs. Objective Ethics First."  December 14, 2011.  Accessed March 1, 2021.