Courtship …..continued. Cultural differences

Sometimes the female extracts more from the male than just a “sky dance”.

The male Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) begins his courtship display with a dramatic flight display (“the sky dance”); with his legs dangling, he hovers high above the female, then swoops down and pulls up abruptly into a hover again. He does this several times before coming to the nest.

After his “sky dance”, the male brings nesting material to the nest as the female calls to him. He brings in more sticks and arranges them in hopes of impressing her some more.

“I can read the Doctor’s mind”, thought Harriett.

He is thinking, “Look at Harriett shamelessly perched on that branch, while Ozzie jumps through hoops”.

“I don’t like to upset the Doctor, but he really does not understand. We osprey have our own customs and practices, just like humans have their own. This is an issue of cultural differences. Surely the Doctor understands this.

But the Doctor does not like the cultural differences argument.

Cultural Differences Argument*

Cultural Relativism, which claims that there is no objective universal truth in morality, puts forward an argument that different cultures have different moral codes. Therefore, there is no objective “truth” in morality. Right and wrong are only matters of opinion, and opinions vary from culture to culture.

The Cultural Differences Argument may appear to be persuasive but is nonetheless logically unsound. Why? Because the conclusion does not follow from the premise—that is, even if the premise is true, the conclusion still might be false. Notice that the premise concerns what people believe but the conclusion assumes what really is the case.

To this form of reasoning, we could submit the following counter-argument:
People in some societies (e.g. primitive tribes) believe the earth is flat, whereas Europeans hold that the Earth is spherical. Therefore, there is no “objective truth” in geography. Belief in the shape of the earth is only a matter of opinion, and opinions vary from culture to culture.

Clearly, just because various societies disagree on something does not mean that there is no objective truth in the matter. Some societies might simply be wrong in their beliefs. Hence, the Cultural Differences Argument errs in drawing a sweeping conclusion about a subject from the mere fact that people disagree about it. Cultural relativism fails because it argues “from facts about the differences between cultural outlooks to a conclusion about the status of morality.”

About Harriett Raptor

Eight-year-old mother of five, fluent in telepathy, a possessor of genetic memory, a genius and scholar. Harriett holds the equivalent of a PhD in philosophy, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and the Homo sapiens’ concept of the humanities. Her understanding of mathematics and logic are beyond Homo sapiens’ current comprehension. Harriett is a thinker, a wise osprey, especially distinguished for her expertise in the Homo sapiens problem.
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