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.
Historical Background Though moral relativism did not become a prominent topic in philosophy or elsewhere until the twentieth century, it has ancient origins. In the classical Greek world, both the historian Herodotus and the sophist Protagoras appeared to endorse some form of relativism the latter attracted the attention of Plato in the Theaetetus.
It should also be noted that the ancient Chinese Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi sometimes spelled Chuang-Tzu put forward a nonobjectivist view that is sometimes interpreted as a kind of relativism.
Among the ancient Greek philosophers, moral diversity was widely acknowledged, but the more common nonobjectivist reaction was moral skepticism, the view that there is no moral knowledge the position of the Pyrrhonian skeptic Sextus Empiricusrather than moral relativism, the view that moral truth or justification is relative to a culture or society.
This pattern continued through most of the history of Western philosophy. These discussions pertained to moral objectivity, but moral relativism as a thesis explicitly distinguished from moral skepticism ordinarily was not in focus. Prior to the twentieth century, moral philosophers did not generally feel obliged to defend a position on moral relativism.
Nonetheless, the increased awareness of moral diversity especially between Western and non-Western cultures on the part of Europeans in the modern era is an important antecedent to the contemporary concern with moral relativism.
During this time, the predominant view among Europeans and their colonial progeny was that their moral values were superior to the moral values of other cultures.
Few thought all moral values had equal or relative validity, or anything of that sort. The main impetus for such a position came from cultural anthropology. At the beginning anthropologists accepted the assumption of European or Western superiority.
But this assumption began to be challenged in the twentieth century, especially by some social scientists in the United States. An early dissent came from the sociologist William Graham Sumner, who proposed a version of moral relativism in his Folkways. But the most influential challenge originated with the anthropologist Franz Boas.
He and his students—in particular, Ruth Benedict, Melville J. Herskovits, and Margaret Mead—explicitly articulated influential forms of moral relativism in the first half of the twentieth century. Inon the occasion of the United Nations debate about universal human rights, the American Anthropological Association issued a statement declaring that moral values are relative to cultures and that there is no way of showing that the values of one culture are better than those of another.
Anthropologists have never been unanimous in asserting this, and more recently human rights advocacy on the part of some anthropologists has mitigated the relativist orientation of the discipline. Nonetheless, prominent anthropologists such as Richard A.
Shweder and the late Clifford Geertz have defended relativist positions in recent years.
An important early bridge from anthropology to philosophy was established by Edward Westermarck —8 anda social scientist who wrote anthropological and philosophical works defending forms of empirical as well as metaethical moral relativism.
In the latter half of the 20th century, moral philosophers began devoting considerable attention to moral relativism and some—most notably Richard B. Brandt and John Ladd —took quite seriously the empirical effort of anthropology to understand the moralities of different cultures, to the point of making such empirical inquiries themselves an anticipation of the recent emphasis on experimental philosophy, to be discussed in section 3.
In the past several decades there has been increasing consideration of moral relativism, and there is now an enormous literature on the subject the Bibliography below is very limited.
There are also discussions of moral relativism in applied fields such as medical ethics. For example, in anthropology it sometimes connotes, among other things, the rather uncontroversial notion that anthropologists should strive to be impartial and unprejudiced in their empirical inquires.
The empirical position is usually: As a matter of empirical fact, there are deep and widespread moral disagreements across different societies, and these disagreements are much more significant than whatever agreements there may be.
Sometimes what is emphasized is moral diversity rather than strict disagreement. DMR is often thought to have been established by anthropology and other empirical disciplines. However, it is not uncontroversial: Empirical as well as philosophical objections have been raised against it.
Hence, it is one focal point of debate.
The metaethical position usually concerns the truth or justification of moral judgments, and it has been given somewhat different definitions. Metaethical relativists generally suppose that many fundamental moral disagreements cannot be rationally resolved, and on this basis they argue that moral judgments lack the moral authority or normative force that moral objectivists usually contend these judgments may have.
Hence, metaethical relativism is in part a negative thesis that challenges the claims of moral objectivists. However, it often involves a positive thesis as well, namely that moral judgments nonetheless have moral authority or normative force, not absolutely or universally as objectivists contendbut relative to some group of persons such as a society or culture.
This point is typically made with respect to truth or justification or bothand the following definition will be a useful reference point: The truth or falsity of moral judgments, or their justification, is not absolute or universal, but is relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of persons.
It is not true, or false, simply speaking.Cultural relativism describes the way people actually behave, while ethical relativism describes the fact that a society learns from the previous generation, how to behave, think and feel. A well -known evidence of cultural relativism is the way people behave around the world.
Cultural Relativism Essay. Argument Against Moral Relativism Essay. Relativism between Societies Essay. The meta-ethical theory of relativism claims that there is no universal moral standard that can be used to evaluate the practices and beliefs of other cultures.
For the relativist, 'true' only means 'true for my culture', while at the. Moral relativism is an important topic in metaethics.
philosophers with a variety of meta-ethical commitments have sometimes claimed that in everyday moral practices people implicitly suppose that moral objectivism in some sense is correct (for example, see Blackburn and Jackson ).
Against Relativism: Cultural. - Meta-Ethical Cultural Relativism The thesis of meta-ethical cultural relativism is the philosophical viewpoint that there are no absolute moral truths, only truths relative to .
Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, admit that it is incorrect to assume that the same moral or ethical frameworks are always in play in all .
Ethical Cultural Relativism Essay Vanessa Torres Ethical Cultural Relativism is an ethical theory that denies the existence of universal moral truths. It claims that right and wrong must be defined variously, based on differences in cultural norms and ideas.