"What Exactly Is "Cultural Relativism" In Metaethics? Is Cultural Relatisim True? Can Cultural Relativists Uphold The Principle Of Cultural Tolerance?

2380 words - 10 pages

Cultural relativism is one of many alternatives within the domain of metaethics, a theory relating to moral judgments and whether they are truth-apt (capable of being true or false). This theory is supported by Ruth Benedict as she argues that normality is relative to culture, to be morally "good" tantamount with normal, so therefore morality is relative to culture. However her statement that normality is synonymous with being morally good is without basis and overlooks the minority of society and thus her argument is chauvinistic. James Rachels illustrates how the theory is false by pointing out that even persistent, culturally-aligned disagreement is not necessarily grounds for relativism as well as analyzing the consequences of accepting the theory, claiming that these consequences are not practical to our way of living and hence morally unattractive. There is also the problem relating to the relationship between cultural relativism and the principle of cultural tolerance which illustrates the impossibility for cultural relativists to uphold the principle of cultural tolerance and thus almost defeating the purpose of the theory. Personally cultural relativism seems to emphasize conformity and blind obedience to the morals of ones culture.Morals concern what is right and wrong and many people would agree that what is "right" is moral, but there is much debate about what makes something right. In his article "Cultural relativism and cultural values", Melville Herkovits defines the principle of cultural relativism as "judgments are based on experience, and experience is interpreted by each individual in terms of his own enculturation"Cultural Relativists argue that it is the cultural normality's of a society itself that makes an action morally right. Morality is subject to change over time, for example, in the southern United States slavery is now viewed as immoral, when only a few hundred years ago, it was not. Therefore there are no objective or absolute moral standards that apply to all cultures and people at all times. Ruth Benedict was an anthropologist and supporter of cultural relativism. In conclusion to her observations of various people, she argued that "normality is relative to culture, morally good is synonymous with normal, and therefore morality is relative to culture." Morality must be considered relative to the goals, wants, beliefs, history, and environment of the society in question. Even though individual beliefs may originate from personal experience, there are common social rules, values, customs, and habits that have gained social approval over the years, so that they have become part of the norm or the nature of things. Therefore, since morality is based on society and different societies have different views of right and wrong and proves once again there can be no moral absolutes. Since there are no absolutes, under this view of cultural relativism all moral views determined by one's culture are deemed true-apt whether...

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