Department or Program



An anthropological analysis of the varying cultural conditions for well-being suggests that there is no universal good for humans. Jesse Prinz, a moral relativist, holds that culture shapes a person’s conception of the good and that morality is grounded in human sentiments. Despite the cross-cultural differences in well-being, my thesis argues that, under some circumstances, we are justified in evaluating the moral practices of other cultures. I examine emotionism, as it is developed and defended by Prinz, which claims that we cannot judge the moral practices of other cultures because moral claims are grounded in brute emotion. Using evidence from contemporary psychology and neuroscience, I demonstrate the deep connection between cognition and emotion and argue that moral utterances are not statements of feeling, but statements of belief. Recovering objective truth, I reconstruct Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach to provide a framework for sensitive and just moral judgment, focusing on gender equality and human dignity. Nussbaum’s capabilities approach establishes that an action is wrong if it diminishes a person’s ability to function in specifically human ways. Using this platform, I analyze the moral matter of female genital surgeries, both in regions of North and West Africa and within the United States.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2016

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


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