`Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill all reject ethical relativism, i. e. , the idea that a practice or action is morally right simply because ones society or culture says that it is morally right. Explain how Aristotle, Kant, and Mill would apply their ideas to an ethical criticism of female genital mutilation. Female Genital Mutilation also known as female circumcision is a procedure which is performed on girls before puberty. In this procedure part of or the entire clitoris is removed in order to insure that the female has reduced or no sexual feelings.
It is still practiced around the world mostly as a cultural custom rather than a religious one. The reasoning behind this action is that it is done in an effort to make girls into women, that it is the duty of the parents to insure they are circumcised and to ensure that they are eligible for marriage (Religioustolerance. org). In order to consider how Kant, Mills and Aristotle would perceive this procedure we must consider the different social aspects attribute to the writings of each philosopher.
According to Kant every single individual possesses the ability to discern right from wrong and that moral of the action should be decided from the intentions of the individual instead of the consequences. Kant also saw the moralistic centre of an action came from duty and not self interest. He also believed that a Maxim becomes universal law only when it is accepted by all men independent of any outside influences or circumstances. He also said that the respect of individuals came from seeing them as an end to themselves which means that infringement on their freedoms is a violation of their rights as individuals.
When we apply these considerations to the topic of female genital mutilation we see that this procedure cannot be considered universal law since it is not seen as a rational action in all societies. Additionally it cannot be considered universal law in terms of nature since this procedure interferes with the natural state of the woman’s body. Secondly, though the action may be considered the duty of the parents of the girls whose genitals are mutilated it does not make it morally justifiable since it infringes on the humanitarian rights of the girl.
Additionally, the fact that these girls are often circumcised against their will must also be taken into account. It can also be considered that though the girls are circumcised out of duty, the action itself is not unconditional on the part of the parents who see their own self interests in seeing the girl married or being accepted by society instead of what the girl herself wishes. In the case of John Stuart Mills it is apt to apply his principle of Utilitarism in this case.
The objective of this principle is that the only consequence that should decide the action to be taken is if it brings the individual the greatest happiness. In the case of female genital mutilation if we consider who the action actually affects we find that three parties are directly involved, the parents of the girl, society and the girl herself. Thus, if we apply Mills theory to this situation then it follows that the genital mutilation of this girl though may bring unhappiness to the girl she will be a source of happiness for society and her parents.
In effect it would bring society joy since it has one more woman who is considered eligible for marriage and the parents would be happy since their daughter is considered a part of society. In effect the unhappiness of the girl and the pain associated with this procedure is not taken into account since the decision on a broader level brings the most happiness to the most individuals if the procedure is carried out. On an individual level however John Mills’s teachings work against it.
If we consider Aristotle, it is prudent to recall one his greatest teachings, that every part of the body be it the foot or the head or even the vagina serves a particular function in the body and that the goodness of that function lays within it. In effect if we consider the fact that female genital mutilation can impair not only the sexual pleasure of women, giving those problems in excretion and also childbirth. Then it stands to reason that Aristotle sees the goodness within that organ to be lost to the body if this procedure is carried out.
Aristotle also saw that the separate functions of the body like those of society served to make an individual whole, if any of those functions are disrupted then the whole individual is disrupted as well. Though indirect it can be seen that all three philosophers were against the concept of Female Genital Mutilation. In their teachings we can find the moral and logical center required to finally leave behind this ancient and unnecessary tradition. Works Cited Religioustolerance. org. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Africa, the Middle East & Far East. 2008. 1 June 2009 <http://www. religioustolerance. org/fem_cirm1. htm>.
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