Is Information Ethics Culture-Relative?

Is Information Ethics Culture-Relative?

Philip Brey (University of Twente, The Netherlands)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-088-2.ch003
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Abstract

In this article, I examine whether information ethics is culture relative. If it is, different approaches to information ethics are required in different cultures and societies. This would have major implications for the current, predominantly Western approach to information ethics. If it is not, there must be concepts and principles of information ethics that have universal validity. What would they be? The descriptive evidence is for the cultural relativity of information ethics will be studied by examining cultural differences between ethical attitudes towards privacy, freedom of information, and intellectual property rights in Western and non-Western cultures. I then analyze what the implications of these findings are for the metaethical question of whether moral claims must be justified differently in different cultures. Finally, I evaluate what the implications are for the practice of information ethics in a cross-cultural context.
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Moral Relativism And Information Ethics

In discussions of moral relativism, a distinction is commonly made between descriptive and metaethical moral relativism. Descriptive moral relativism is the position that as a matter of empirical fact, there is extensive diversity between the values and moral principles of societies, groups, cultures, historical periods, or individuals. Existing differences in moral values, it is claimed, are not superficial but profound, and extend to core moral values and principles. Descriptive moral relativism is an empirical thesis that can in principle be supported or refuted through psychological, sociological, and anthropological investigations. The opposite of descriptive moral relativism is descriptive moral absolutism, the thesis that there are no profound moral disagreements exist between societies, groups, cultures, or individuals. At issue in this essay will be a specific version of descriptive moral relativism, descriptive cultural relativism, according to which there are major differences between the moral principles of different cultures.

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