Last updated: February 24, 2019
Topic: FamilyChildren
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On Cultural Relativism

Cultural relativism (CR) plainly states the following: ”different cultures have different moral codes; therefore, there is no objective truth in morality.”  In this sense, cultural relativists say that different cultural practices express different moral codes. They are all plainly different precisely because there could not be any set objective standard as no society could claim superiority over another. This ultimately results in the banishment of “universal truths” in ethics. Hence, a head-hunting society is as ethically correct as a society that punishes killing of foreigners. James Rachels begs to disagree.

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For Rachels, cultural relativists comes out with a substantive conclusion from facts, an obvious violation of the logical principle that an ought cannot be derived from an is. Also, the consequences of CR are untenable. For one, we could not anymore speak of an “inferior culture.” As such, a culture that treats women as chattels of men is not inferior to a culture where men and women are equal. Also, CR would force one to judge rightness or wrongness simply from one’s standards, since all cultures are equally the same anyway. Lastly, CR removes the possibility of moral progress. Without a standard, such a progress is plainly impossible. Probably, the point that cultural relativists do not see is the point that in the end, there is really less disagreement as it seems.  Most cultures share similar values thought expressed in different practices. Eskimos that leave their newborn to die do not love their children less as we do, as Rachels explains.

I agree with Rachels because the point that different cultures ultimately share similar values is something real. There would probably be any culture that would explicitly want the demise of its members. Though of course, due to different needs, different cultures produce different expressions of these values. Also, this world probably be very difficult to live in if no moral progress is possible at all. These similar values should act as standards that ultimately should lead to some sort of moral progress.