William Graham Sumner

"Folkways and Moral Relativism"

  1. The Origin of Morality - The Folkways (Anthropology):

    1. The Human Organism -

      1. Two survival mechanisms -

        1. Instinct - automatic avoidance of threats (i.e., pain)
        2. Intelligence - manipulation and adaptation to environment (albeit unconscious)

      2. The Rise of Folkways: Ancestor veneration (i.e., tradition)

        1. The Mythical Tradition
        2. The Anthropological Tradition

      3. The Logic of Folkways: Post hoc, ergo, propter hoc. -

    2. The Foundations of Social Interaction -

      1. Survival of the Community

      2. "Knowledge" of the World

        1. Approximations to the truth
        2. Sufficient time for the development of traditions
        3. Abstractions or Generalizations from the traditions to the world

      3. 'Mores' - Folkways plus philosophical abstractions

  2. The Consequences of the Origin of Morality:

    1. Ethnocentrism - The uncritical belief in the inherent superiority of one's own culture.

      1. Religious - Christianity verses Paganism

      2. Political - Democracy verses Communism

      3. Economic - Capitalism verses Socialism

    2. Relativism - Since morality develops out of folkways which are relative to the environment/culture in which they arise, morality is relative to culture.

    3. Sociological Egoism - As groups we use morality to justify those goals which are in our interest regardless of the interest of others.


PHI 105 Page | Notes Index