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“the Challenge of Cultural Relativism”

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By chipper71
Words 1105
Pages 5
Parker Ash
Philosophy 101
Elliot Wagner
May 1, 2014

“The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” by James Rachels

The argument that I would like to address from this reading is that “there is no objective truth in morality. Right and wrong are only matters of opinion, and opinions vary from culture to culture.” (Rachels, 618). In this reading, William Graham Sumner says, “there is no measure of right and wrong other than the standards of one’s society.” ( Rachels, 619) This means that right and wrong are determined by a specific culture and may not be viewed the same in another culture. Cultural relativism is the belief that although practices and ethical beliefs differ from society to society, it must be accepted as good, relative to each respective culture's beliefs and moral code. In cultural relativism, right and wrong become matters of opinion in a particular culture and one culture should not judge the behaviors of another culture by using the standards of their own culture as a measuring stick. If this is the case, then nothing is inherently wrong and nothing is inherently good. It is an “anything goes” mentality – it just has to be approved by ones’ culture or society. “Cultural relativism is a theory about the nature of morality” (Rachels, 618). But that’s all it is –it is only a theory. The moral decisions are a matter of the perception of what one cultures perceives to be moral.
I disagree with Rachels’ viewpoint when he states that there is no absolute rational standard and that the theory of Cultural Relativism does us a service. He states, “We can come to understand that our feelings are not necessarily perceptions of the truth---they may be nothing more than the result of cultural conditioning”. (Michaels, 623) He does not believe that there is a universal truth. Without that belief, any of his objections to the theory of...

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