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Morality and Cultural Differences Paperback – January 16, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195158636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195158632
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.4 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,409,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John W. Cook is at University of Oregon (Emeritus).

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Christopher P. Atwood on November 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In "Morality and Cultural Differences" John W. Cook offers a philosophical assessment of anthropological arguments for moral relativism.
Cook's initial chapters explore, in good philosophical fashion, what it is we are really asserting when we assert moral relativism. Those who attack relativism usually miss their target because they misunderstand its fundamental assertion. This assertion Cook identifies as the anthropological observation that we learn morality through the process of "enculturative conditioning," that is to say, children learn morality not by an impartial search for truth but by taking on the rules and judgements of their elders. Since the process of becoming moral is not truth-oriented but culture-oriented, relativists point out, moral judgements are only correct within particular cultures, not universally.
Cook then subjects the view of moral relativism to searching criticism and exposes many of the strange paradoxes which result from it. He looks at the history of anthropology and shows that pioneers like Franz Boas did not espouse relativism, although his disciples thought he did. He demonstrates how Boas was actually concerned with the projection of (our) motives onto the actions of people in other cultures, not with relativizing the morality of other peoples' motives.
His concludes that the deadlock between moral relativists and moral absolutists comes from them both sharing a distorted view of what morality really is. Both start with the idea that morality is concerned primarily with classing actions as right or wrong according to abstract principles determined by an outside authority.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Martin O. Heisler on April 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
John Cook provides one of the most thorough analyses of the philosophical foundations of the pseudo-debate between moral absolutism and moral and cultural relativism. He does a fine job of debunking the salient arguments of each side. He suggests, but fails to develop adaquately, the notion that they are both culturally and politically constructed sides; and he does not venture far enough into either the philosophical or the real-life consequences of the unhelpful absolutist-relativist distinction. Absolutist and relativist positions are divisions inside modern cultures, not between cultures. We need to address the whys and so-whats of this. Cook has given us a valuable foundation on which the build the exploration of such questions. If only the diction, and especially the syntax, would be better ...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pedro Rosario on June 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In this book, John Cook demonstrate that absolute morality doesn't necessarily have to be linked to ethnocentrism. Though he doesn't mention it, and I don't know if Cook is familiar with G. E. Moore, he practically shows how that equating cultural values with ethics would inevitably fall in the naturallistic fallacy.
His views on "projection error" are quite important and should be discussed in ethics today, and should not be ignored. He establishes a difference between moral absolutism and ethnocentrism, and proves that relativists have no basis for their position.
Certainly, this is one of the greatest contributions I've ever seen in the field of Ethics.
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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Federico Longo on March 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When buying this book I was very interested in learning which are some key cultural differencies with moral implications and the title of this book promised to provide me such information.
However I found that the real subject is the Relativistic approach versus the Ethnocentric one: which is mainly, from my point of view, a discussion between two philosophical parties without supporting the real matter.
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