Cultural Relativism Is A Weak Argument Essay

Cultural Relativism Is A Weak Argument Essay

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In this paper I will argue that cultural relativism is a weak argument. Cultural relativism is the theory that all ethical and moral claims are relative to culture and custom (Rachels, 56). Pertaining to that definition, I will present the idea that cultural relativism is flawed in the sense that it states that there is no universal standard of moral and ethical values. First, I will suggest that cultural relativism underestimates similarities between cultures. Second, I will use the overestimating differences perspective to explain the importance of understanding context, intention and purpose behind an act. Finally, referring to James Rachels’ “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” I will solidify my argument further using his theory that there are consequences to taking cultural relativism seriously (59).
Cultural relativism underestimates similarities between cultures because it suggests that there is no universal truth in ethics common to all cultures (56). All human beings have basic needs and interests, seeing as ethics deals with needs and interests, humans must share common ethical standards. An example of this is funerary practices among the Greeks and Callatians. Darius, a king of ancient Persia had encountered both of these cultures in his travels. He discovered that the Callatians eat the corpses of their dead fathers whereas the Greeks cremate them. Each believes that the funerary practices of the other are absurd (54,55). Both cultures are honoring their dead, but go about it in different ways, there may not be a universal way of doing things, however there is universal ethics.
The idea that all humans must understand the context, intention and purpose of an act is another criticism of cultural relativism referre...


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...Ibid). To say that we have made progress implies that today’s society is better than 100 years ago meaning we are making a judgment that is not allowed according to the cultural relativists (Ibid).
Though there are benefits of the cultural relativism theory such as being optimistic about other people’s cultures (65) it has many challenges that prove it to be a weak theory. It is flawed in the sense that it underestimates similarities and overestimates differences between cultures that prove that there is a universal standard for ethics among all human beings when we understand context and rules of morality that are consistent through all cultures. We are all able to judge each other’s cultures and our own cultures because that is how moral progress is accomplished. If there is moral progress and a universal standard of ethics than cultural relativism cannot exist.

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