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Moore’s No-Disagreement Argument against Cultural Relativism in Metaethics

Moore is considered to be an ethical non-naturalist. Non-naturalism is a branch of cognitive ethics. By definition, cognitive ethics is a view of meta-ethics which holds that ethical sentences express their propositions in a manner that is either true or false. The proponents of non-cognitive ethics disagree with this assertion of cognitive ethics. Additionally, cognitive ethics are divided into naturalism and non-naturalism. Naturalism argues that moral terms can be defined with natural terms. On the other hand, non-naturalism claims the opposite. According to Moore’s non-naturalism, an attempt to define moral terms using natural terms leads to a commitment of a naturalistic fallacy. The reasoning of Moore was inspired by David Hume’s. Moore proceeds to suggest that intuition can be used to recognize what is morally good and what is morally wrong. He claims that moral terms cannot be defined nor broken down any further. They can only be recognized with intuition. Conversely, the concept of cultural relativism induces inclusiveness and tolerance in the topic of meta-ethics and the moral facts. It holds that the belief of a person, their values, and what they practice should be comprehended based on that person’s own culture and should not be judged against another person’s criteria (Afshari 105). It is against the backdrop of the understanding of these two schools of thought that this paper posits that when directly applied to cultural relativism, Moore’s no-disagreement argument fails.

Moore’s No-Disagreement Argument against Humean Subjectivism

Under subjectivism, Hume holds that human beings are more under the influence of their feelings than their reason (Lo 134). He argues that human beings are more motivated by their feelings than any of the results of the analysis. Hume states that few of the leading convictions of individuals are driven by a rational investigation of the facts. Hence, it is the feeling, and not a thought, that tells individuals that an object is either beautiful or ugly or that any given action exhibits a vice or a virtue. In Hume’s view, there is a sense in which the concept of virtue and vice is a matter of objective fact. Moreover, he brings up a more important sense in which virtue and fact are not objective. In this regard, he posits that virtues have to be agreeable or useful to individuals, and they have to serve the interests of the individual. On the other hand, Moore’s no-disagreement argument on naturalistic fallacy does not hold views which oppose the meta-ethics that Hume describes (Van Roojen 76). This is because, whereas Moore contends that good is a subjective component of psychology and not a universal objective entity, Hume opines that ethical values are not objective qualities but rather are mind perceptions. They also agree with the notion that the opposite of this is mistaken, and they refer to the opposite as vulgar according to Hume and fallacious according to Moore.

Cultural Relativism

As stated earlier, cultural relativism contends that a culture should not be judged based on our standard of what is right and wrong, or what is considered normal or strange (Healy 22). Instead, there is a need to strive to understand the practices of the culture of other people based on the contexts upon which their culture exists. The rationale behind this concept is that what might be considered as immoral in one society may be revered as a moral act in another society and that no person is allowed to judge the customs of another society since there is no existence of a universal standard of morality (Brown 375). In modern anthropology, this concept of cultural relativism is widely accepted. It is held that the diversity of cultures, even the ones that possess moral beliefs that are conflicting should not be considered through the lenses of being good or bad or being wrong or right. Both Hume’s subjectivism and Moore’s non-disagreement argument dispute against this version of cultural relativism, albeit on differing grounds.
In Moore’s book, Principia Ethica, he spends time defending his non-naturalist thesis and talks about the sovereignty of ethics. Based on the intuition argument, Moore argues that a belief in a moral objective reality should be abandoned and in its place, the individuals should accept an account of ethical values that are prescriptivist an emotivist. Moore’s thesis limits itself in scope as it aims to look at what the individual thinks about a specific subject and that person’s intuition makes him conclude. This gives leverage to a member of another society to have the locus of deeming, out of intuition, acts of his society as right or wrong, and conclude, still out of his intuition, that acts of another society are wrong or rather bad or good. This is similarly the case with subjectivism. Therefore, in subjectivism, the disposition of a person allows him or her to make immediate judgments of tastes without paying attention to the laws governing the said tastes (Costelloe 52). As such, depending on a person’s disposition, he or she can easily feel that acts of another society are detestable or legitimate, a concept that goes against cultural relativism.


This paper maintains that when directly applied to cultural relativism, Moore’s no-disagreement argument fails. This is because whereas Moore’s no-disagreement argument applies and specifically interrogates the perception of truths and the false one has out of his own intuition, the cultural relativism requires the widening of this scope to make individuals understand the behaviors of societies not out of their own intuition, but rather out of being able to comprehend the behaviors of other societies with respect to the context in which they are in.
In providing a way out, this paper provides that when directly applied to cultural relativism, Moore’s no-disagreement fails, and the version of it tailor-made to apply to cultural relativism also fails. Primarily, if this is done, intuitionism will still find it hard to explain a moral disagreement. However, even those who support intuitionism hold radically different ethical views. A good example is Ross who intuits proto-Kantian moral truths and Moore who is a teleologist. If intuition is tailor-made to cultural relativism, it will still fail because when it comes to intuition sense, there is need of a certain moral maturity and tuning for someone to pick up on the universal features. There is a likelihood that stupidity may lead to the going astray of people’s intuitions and thus moral disagreements will tend to persist.
On the other hand, people’s intuitions, which are based on the open question argument might be unreliable at times and be perceived to be irrational moral judgments that express how people feel or what they personally believe in and not judgments that give voice to objective and non-natural moral properties (Grey 41). In whatever form, Moore’s argument is tailored, as long as it still calls for an intuitively based perception mechanism, then it is bound to restrict itself to a personal view of good and bad and not viewing good and bad with respect to the societal context as cultural relativism.
There are some good arguments in here, but they’re not directly addressing the no-disagreement argument.

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