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Ethical Relativism: Socrates and Appiah’s Theories

Socrates brought a philosophy from heaven to earth, and estranged it from nature, revealing a spiritual, metaphysical field. In the era of universal fermentation, the fluctuations of philosophical, moral, religious, and political beliefs and traditions, he pointed to human self-knowledge as the source and beginning of real knowledge and philosophy. Indeed, racism implies that the human race is not uniform, then cosmopolitanism, which is described in detail by Appiah, puts the interests of all humanity above the importance of an individual nation or state. However, racism can be explained in terms of the cynical wisdom that underlies Socrates’s philosophy. Therefore, the paper aims to dedicate the negative wisdom of Socratic metaphysics and reason, the relationship between racism and sardonic sense under the influence of Appiah’s cosmopolitanism, and determine the relevance of ethical relativism.

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Socrates discovered the true catholic principle in man’s self-consciousness which constitutes inner being and truth. All the property of a person, his body, organs, and abilities belong to him or her externally and are cognized by the mediocre. He or she is an animal, an organism, but as an organism, a person is more significant than a material frame, and an animal is larger than a pure body; thus, a man is greater than his animal. It is a higher, spiritual principle, constituting the true essence of man, revealed in his rational consciousness.

From this point follows Socrates’ doctrine on the essence of man, which is wholly identified with reason. The human soul is rational, and its activities and qualities are reasonable. Wisdom is the beginning and end of moral, actual, and human activity. Consistent and invincible virtue in its rationality depends on exercise in such a dialectic, and the good of people depends on merit. Knowing the relative price of each thing and action, an individual has a reasonable norm of behavior. The whole point is that such knowledge should not be imaginary, but it should be born from within the mind, and not from the outside, based on opinion and prejudice. Real learning can neither be taken nor done; it can be given from birth. Virtue depends on experience; error and vice flow from false consciousness.

Between private means, a person chooses those that are most useful to him or her for achieving goals. Therefore, who does not know the highest purpose, the dialectical relationship of particular goals and actions, is mistaken, sinful, and does not achieve good: this person takes relative means for the purpose. A vice is an ignorance and error, pure ignorance of the right path, but virtue, on the other hand, stems from knowledge generated by wisdom, or rather, is wholly reduced to understanding (Brack 4). Therefore, either such a person acts unreasonably and cannot be considered wise and kind, or the harm that he or she does is only apparent, relative to violence against the mad, punishment of the villain.

Globalism and global markets, information, and the Internet lead to national, patriotic interests to not being able to work because people live in a world where they encounter individuals of different values. For this reason, humanity needs to adapt political views and an ethical system to it. Appiah’s book “Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in the World of Strangers” interprets the idea of being a citizen of the world since people live in an interconnected society (340). There are always more specific things, shared interests, or tastes that are not universal, that distinguish one person from the rest.

This recognition that differences are valuable, as well as similarities, lies at the heart of cosmopolitanism. The author cites the critical idea by stating that “our societies are dangerously divided today – between conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, Brexiteers and Remainers. You can’t run a democracy successfully if the population is divided into feuding tribes, each of which thinks the others are wicked, crazy, or daft” (“Interview – Kwame Anthony Appiah”). However, the idea of racism is contrary to Appiah’s cosmopolitism since racism was the basis of moral error and much suffering. Racists draw principled distinctions between different races because they believe that a racial entity entails certain morally significant qualities. In general, racism is a problem when moral judgment is explained by ignorance of the facts or inability to cognitive activity.

People have a long-standing dream to create a political picture of the world where one can imagine the whole world around as a whole, where he or she feels good, comfortable with any people. Being cosmopolitan is good because it is a way of self-knowledge. However, if a reduction is made, for instance, saying that the interests of white individuals are more important than the interests of all people, it will lead to further separation. There will be ideas that white men’s benefits are more important than the interests of women, or the importance of white Catholics is more critical than others. Therefore, there is a process of constant reduction that causes two extreme moral positions: moral obligations to all humankind or the endless allocation of small groups claiming that minorities are necessary, and others are not. Thus, cosmopolitanism is a morally acceptable position to avoid a reduction and racism.

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In conclusion, wisdom is the supreme good, but people turn away from it by incontinence and a thirst for pleasures that impede the best and force the worst. Socrates insisted on the relativity of the benefits of things, respectively, to persons and circumstances. Appiah also admits that the philosophical idea is not absolute; instead, racism is a variable, depending on moral values or social situations. Instead of asserting that circumstances or people’s opinions about right and wrong are socially determined, ethical relativism admits that reason, in reality, depends solely on what the individual or society considers as such.

Works Cited

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers.” Management Revue. 2008.

Brack, Chad E. “The Socratic Handbook: The Enchiridion as a Guide for Emulating Socrates”. 2020.

“Interview – Kwame Anthony Appiah”. E-International Relations. 2019. Web.

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