Thursday evening, the society stepped into the world of philosophy by discussing Resolved: Cultural Relativism is Valid. Making her induction, Ms. Hubbell began the debate by defining culture as a set of commonly understood beliefs, values, and norms and relativism as no objective way to morally determine superiority. The result is that the evening will be a moral debate. She laid out two possibilities that the negation must overcome if they are going to win the debate. The first is that if there is no absolute morality, it follows that there can be no moral superiority. Second, if the negation argues that there is an absolute morality, then there is an obligation for them to prove the absolute morality. The standards cannot be doubted as the negation must show capital-t Truth. Ms. Hubbell concluded her keynote by asking if anyone can provide a single objective morality. Mr. Christy, also making his induction, began by pointing out the irony of the debate. He said that if we affirm the debate, then there is no discussion because of the principles of relativism. He then argued that there are three principles at work in this debate: universality, validity, and contradiction. He asked if our values are random, and answered that they are most definitively not random. Mr. Christy explained that ethics is very difficult, so it requires the logical construct of universal application. These rules are made outside of culture. He posited that across cultures there are inconsistent values citing examples of free speech in different regions of the world. He argued that a person cannot hold both values at the same time if they are different. Both cannot represent Truth. He concluded by warning of the dangers of relativism and that universality of claims is vital.
Mr. Berryman began his keynote by explaining the importance of this debate. He explained that at the core of the debate is the question of whether there is an absolute morality. He argued the status quo must be no because of the need for extraordinary evidence. Mr. Berryman cautioned against anecdotes, popular belief, or religious morality. The negation must prove the objective morality because otherwise it is different values for different people. Ms. Wynter asked the moral question that the debate would be based on: can we objectively judge other cultures morally. She told of how the negation agrees with the pluralistic values we are raised on as we grow up. Ms. Wynter continued by attacking relativism because it prevents moral judgment. Relativism prevents atrocities like genocide from being able to be morally judged. She proceeded to say that different practices do not nullify good or bad practices. Using the example of debating societies, she showed how all societies debate, but the Philodemic Society is objectively better at debating. (Huzzah!). Ms. Wynter concluded that we must ask ourselves whether all humans have rights and are there certain values that are morally better.
Mr. Zipperer opened the floor by placing a bomb at the foundation that showed the difficulties of affirming or negating, so he urged abstention. Ms. Regen replied that just because we don’t know the truth doesn’t mean it isn’t out there. Abby Grace (SFS ’16) argued that culture impacts how we act using the example of her grandfather in the 60s and 70s Mississippi. Chancellor Deutsch asked the affirmation to define where culture ends. Mr. RisCassi challenged the problem of wording in the resolution and argued for abstention. Chancellor Drew pushed that if we look throughout history, right wins out. Mr. Donovan asked the negation to provide a linchpin argument to prove the existence of an absolute morality. Mr. Dulik responded that the absolute morality is agency or the ability to act, decide, and translate that into our lives. Chancellor Rugg said that morality is usually boiled down to what feels right or what we were taught which is subjective. Andy Carter (SFS ’13) stated that what ultimately matters is what we think as humans, and we don’t need a tablet from the sky. Anna Mastryukova (COL ’16) argued that because there is a case for both sides of moral issues then we must affirm. Katie Bolas (SFS ’15), using information she was given by Ms. Cleary, argued that moral objectivists and subjectivists agree that atrocities are wrong so we must negate. Elijah Jatovsky (COL ’16) explained his shock when arriving at Georgetown from the lack of composting. Mr. Askonas argued the debate is about human flourishing and cited Jay-Z and Kanye West to show that cultures can be struggling. Mr. Edgar argued that there is no perfect moral culture and that we can only use subjective truths lacking objective truths to evaluate desirability. Mr. Spagnuolo argued that there is is a commonality that we all share that transcends all of humanity. Vice President Arber argued that we are not our fellow man as we are all fundamentally different. Ms. Melendez said we all share the reverence for life. Mr. Wilson said that for the negation to win, they must show that we can intuit moral objectivity and that they had not yet done that. Mr. Prindiville said there is a moral compass that we all have. Mr. Lim said that it is an oversimplification and that diversity leads to the affirmation. Mr. Taft said that the affirmation is simply using negation language to justify the affirmative arguments. Mr. Young hilariously demonstrated the fun things we can do with relativism.
Ms. Wynter proudly stated that the Society is able to tackle big issues. She argued that the negation is natural because we cannot live relatively. She argued that society cares about the individual and worries about appearing intolerant. Ms. Wynter concluded by pointing out the irony of the affirmation because relativism cannot say affirm. Mr. Berryman said two words matter “says who” to show the lack of objective morality. He continued by saying that we need to be humble. Mr. Berryman concluded that there were no arguments that inherently showed that there is an absolute morality. Mr. Christy said that it is impossible to solve absolute morality in two hours. He continued by saying that we don’t need certainty of moral objectivity to negate. He concluded by saying that there only needs to be constants. Ms. Hubbell, using the prop of the program mistakenly saying “Mr. Hubbell”, pointed out how gender is fluid. She continued by saying that relativism is not an easy path because necessary to understand others. In conclusion, Ms. Hubbell said that she wanted an objective morality but can’t prove it. Ms. Hubbell also gave a very passionate thank you to her mentor, Ms. Regen, who was a student of her older sister and that Ms. Hubbell’s sister thought was fantastic. Upon arriving at Georgetown, Ms. Hubbell was able to get to know Ms. Regen and called her the best Georgetown has to offer.
The Society voted 23-4-43 to negate.
The Society inducted Ms. Hubbell and Mr. Christy! Huzzah!