To begin with, recall that conventionalism is a relativist theory of ethics that maintains that what is good is determined relative to a society, convention, or culture. On this account, no society or culture is better than another.
Sometimes our intuitive or everyday views about right and wrong match up with what the conventionalist says about morality.
Another common ethical view is that health care of some kind is needed in any well-functioning society. A conventionalist will see that most cultures find health care beneficial and thus say it is morally desirable.
Much of what you find intuitively right or wrong is learned from the society you’re brought up in. Thus, if you’re a conventionalist, your intuitions are likely to match up with the ethical evaluations you make with this theory.
It should be noted that a Saudi Arabian might find the impermissibility of men and women interacting in the workplace counterintuitive. In this case they will be in disagreement with the conventionalist in their own country, but in agreement with the conventionalist in America.
There are other ways that your moral intuitions might go against the conventionalist. For instance, your views might not fit with how your own society works.
Sometimes it is not clear whether or not our everyday moral views fit with the conventionalist. This is sometimes due to the fact that there isn’t a consensus on an issue in a particular society.
Another issue that divides a population is the use of recreational drugs.
Here, there is a conflict between those that think drugs are bad for society and those that think they do not necessarily cause harm to society. For the conventionalist, then, it is undecided as to whether it is permissible or impermissible.
Philosophers working in ethics often try to apply ethical theories to specific situations. Let’s consider how conventionalists might apply their ethics to the following issues (assuming they are American).
Here are the positions that conventionalists takes on these issues.
|Conventionalism and Applied Ethics|
|Environment||People disagree about whether or not non-human nature has a moral status. Therefore, a conventionalist would give an uncertain result.|
|Abortion||People are divided over this. Some think it is acceptable, others think it is unacceptable. A conventionalist would give an uncertain result.|
|Contraception||Most people think the use of contraception is acceptable. A conventionalist would therefore say it is permissible.|
If you disagree with the judgments based on what is accepted or what contributes to the functioning of a society, then you may not think conventionalism is the best ethical theory.
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