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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Archels to Benedict, all cultures and their people start out with a persuasion in one direction of moral standards. This rachelss example addresses the universal moral code of survival that is shared by all cultures. Therefore, it may be arguable that cultural or ethical relativism does not apply to most cultures, only to those on the extremities that Benedict cites. Most of the actions that people take, and the things that they do, are not based on any underlying moral code.

In some societies, people believe one thing; in other societies people relatigism differently. For example, we would not be able to condemn cultures that enslave people or that commit genocide. One such situation is about the proper way to dispose of the dead: Benedict supports the notion that the morals, ethics, and actions of different cultures of people are simply the result of many years of cultural evolution, through accidental isolation of and contact with other cultures.

One ja,es Professor Rachels’ key points is that cultural relativism is based on a faulty argument which he calls the cultural differences argument.

Similarly, Benedict is correct in her conclusions that many aspects of the lives of people within a culture are actually exclusive to that culture.

There is no way, on the other hand, to scientifically prove in and of themselves, not with relation to the environment or any other external factor whether cremation or cannibalization is morally better, or whether infanticide is morally right.

The fact is that one of the societies may simply be mistaken. Log In Sign Up.

Paradox and Discovery, Fifth Edition, p. Therefore, there is no objective ‘truth’ in morality. Moreover, our own code has no special status; it is merely one among many. It does not, however, indicate a lack of cultural relativism, as the simple need to conduct infanticide in order to survive may be exclusive to the Eskimo culture. Right and wrong are only matters of opinion, and opinions vary from culture to culture. One final example that he uses to support his analysis is the difference between cultures that refuse to eat cows and those who do not.


Rachels translates cultural relativism into the fact moral ethics are not universal—they are simply a matter of opinion that differs from culture to culture. However, Rachels does not subscribe to the theory of cultural relativism. Different cultures have different moral codes. Benedict, 36 Were he transplanted into—for instance—the United States, he would be considered normal; in his native land, however, he is abnormal. He vigorously refutes the theory of cultural relativism using example after example, and general rule after general rule, and in many cases, his analysis is persuasive.

Together, they address the entirety of cultural relativism and what concrete rules lie beneath the everyday actions of members of cultures around the world.

Therefore, killing female babies at birth helps to keep the population from becoming skewed overwhelmingly female, and helps to reduce the burden on the family during travel. As a result, he makes assumptions on the lack of differences among cultures that should not be made.

Both Rachels and Benedict use a plethora of examples to support their analyses. While seen in isolation, each would appear to be correct. In fact, there is disagreement even between his examples that show his assumptions are incorrect: He states that we agree that we should not eat our grandmother, when only pages before he discusses the disagreement over eating relatives.

To support his argument, he uses multiple examples. Rather, he was simply a nice guy who liked to work and be helpful. The Eskimos are a nomadic tribe whose males are often killed during hunting or from the cold. In general, senseless murder is to be regarded as a negative action that is detrimental to the furthering of society.

Cultural Relativism

Along those same lines, it is imperative that the young of the society be cared for so that they may carry it into the future. Humans are more creatures of habit than they are of universal morality. The conclusion, however, concerns what really is the case. 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.

His latter example about Earth is an argument over scientific fact, while his former two disposal of the dead and infanticide are arguments over moral code.

According to Locke, the duties of parents to their children and their authority over them cease when the children become adults. Rather than having a strict set of universal rules that govern the morality of different cultures, Benedict argues that many cultures are at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to specific areas of culture and lifestyle.


I believe, further, that modern international moral affirmations, such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, support my position. 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. The notion of right is in the folkways. The third conclusion is that the idea of moral progress would be called into doubt, meaning that a culture could not evolve to become even more moral than it once was—as, again, they could never be considered morally wrong by another culture in the first place.

Benedict cites another example of a culture-wide action that would seem illogical and immoral to someone of Western culture: Benedict uses extreme examples to support her points.


Shipka and Minton, p. With the possible exception of the proper treatment of dead bodies, all of the examples cited rzchels both Rachels and Benedict show members of a particular culture performing actions or following certain rules in a method consistent with the belief that doing so will keep the culture moving in a positive direction.

If a normal member of one culture were to be transplanted into a significantly different culture, they would be considered abnormal in that culture. While it would be considered morally repugnant in our society to feel good after ja,es such an endeavor, those involved in the war party and the killings felt good upon their return to Sebaa.

Abu Rizvi December 6, HCOL A Cultural and ethical relativism are two widespread theories that are used to explain the differences among cultures and their ethics and morals. In the second example, he states that cultural relativism supports the notion that because there are differing opinions on the morality of infanticide, that there is again no true objectively moral action with regard to killing babies.

For instance, if one society believes that the earth is flat and another that it is spherical, we should not conclude that relatiivsm is no objective truth about the shape of relativisk earth.