Culture Relativism states that we cannot absolute say what is right and what is wrong because it all depends in the society we live in. James Rachels however. James Rachels summarizes the former theory into one brief statement: “Different cultures have different moral codes.” (Rachels, 18) Ethical relativism. Cultural Relativism. Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. Ruth Benedict, PATTERNS OF CULTURE ().

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A prominent ethical theory, cultural relativism, holds that the right or the good is the customary. Further, in that customs often differ from culture to culture, so right and wrong differ, and there is no objective, universally applicable moral law. Moreover, our own code has no special status; it is merely one among many.

For instance, writing insociologist William Graham Sumner, affirmed: The ‘right’ way is the way the ancestors used and which has been handed down.

The tradition is it own warrant. It is not held subject to verification by experience.


Cultural Relativism

The notion of right is in the folkways. Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. One of Professor Rachels’ key points is that cultural relativism is based on a faulty argument which he calls the cultural differences argument.

Here is the argument: Different cultures have different moral codes. Therefore, there is no objective ‘truth’ in morality. In some societies, people believe one thing; in other societies people believe differently.

The conclusion, however, concerns what really is the case.

Cultural Relativism | WYSU

For instance, if one society believes that the earth is flat and another that it is spherical, we should not conclude that there is no objective truth about the shape of the earth. The fact is that one of the societies may simply be mistaken.

As Rachels puts it, “There is no reason to think that if the world is round everyone must know it. Similarly, there is no reason to think that if there is moral truth everyone must know it.


They may be exempt from prosecution because they have conformed to custom and possibly law. This duty is part of the general custodial duty of parents to help, instruct, and preserve their offspring, a duty addressed by British philosopher, John Locke, more than three hundred years ago in his Second Treatise of Government.


I believe, further, that modern international moral affirmations, such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, support my position.

Skip to main content. Paradox and Discovery, Fifth Edition, p.

Quoted by Rachels in Shipka and Minton, p. Shipka and Minton, rachsls. According to Locke, the duties of parents to their children and their authority over them cease when the children become adults.

There may be circumstances, such as isolated societies, in which suitable medical treatment is unavailable to parents or unknown to them and this may mitigate their moral responsibility.