In explaining Cultural Relativism, it is useful to compare and contrast it with Ethical Relativism. Cultural Relativism is a theory about morality focused on the concept that matters of custom and ethics are not universal in nature but rather are culture specific. Each culture evolves its own unique moral code, separate and apart from any other. Ethical Relativism is also a theory of morality with a view of ethics similarly engaged in understanding how morality comes to be culturally defined. However, the formulation is quite different in that from a wide range of human habits, individual opinions drive the culture toward distinguishing normal “good” habits from abnormal “bad” habits. The takeaway is that both theories share the guiding principle that morality is bounded by culture or society.
Implicit in the basic formulations for both theories, the moral code of a culture is neither superior nor inferior to any another. The codes of individual cultures are just different and there is no standard or basis upon which to perform any type of comparison. Therefore, under both theories, the lack of standards across cultures implies that attempts to judge relative correctness or incorrectness between them cannot be justified.
For Cultural Relativism, it is perfectly normal that something one culture sees as moral, another may see as immoral. There is no connection between them so they are never in conflict relative to their moral beliefs. However, within the context of Ethical Relativism there’s a significant difference. Normally, two cultures will possess varying proportions of the same normal and abnormal habits yet from a cross-cultural standpoint, what is abnormal in one culture can be seen as properly normal in another. There is no resulting conflict over consideration of what’s normal because they are just expressing a difference of opinion over the selection of a dominant good habit. These theories assure that the morality of two cultures must be viewed as strictly independent.
Within Cultural Relativism, a moral code exists in an evolved state, reflecting almost an absolute framework for it’s members, available for consultation as the need dictates. However, Ethical Relativism sets forth that opinions of what constitutes morally good habits will continuously vary within a culture and even tend toward growing more extreme over time. This static vs. dynamic element distinguishes between these two...