Essay On Ethical Relativism

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Over her years of research, anthropologist Ruth Benedict has found countless evidence that proves ethics are relative, while philosopher W.T. Stace, argues against her stance and says that ethics are not relative but absolute. Benedict believes in moral or ethical relativism; ethical relativism is relative to culture at any particular age, region, and society. Then on the other hand, Stace believes in moral or ethical absolutism, which means there is only one eternally true and valid moral code for all human beings. He also goes on to say, “They are in themselves either right or wrong. What we have to do is to discover which they are.”(94.) Both sides feel very strongly about their views and have a lot to say to back up their ideas. Benedict starts off arguing for ethical relativism by talking about how people act towards different traits such as homosexuality. In our society today, homosexuals still do not get all the rights and are not treated with the same respect, as a heterosexual citizen would be. Then in many other societies, homosexuals are not looked down on and are actually given an honorable place in society. Throughout many American Indian tribes, as Benedict has found, there exists the institution of the berdache. When the young boys were going through puberty they would go out in the woods to find their spirit guardian; if they found a woman guardian they would have to come back and take the dress and role of the women. Everyone in the tribe accepts it and the “men-women” are socially placed. Benedict also gives examples of just how different cultures can be, and how depending on what society you were born into makes you believe certain things are okay while other things are not. On an island of north... ... middle of paper ... ... for Hindus until the British stepped in and compelled the Hindus to behave immorally by allowing their widows to remain alive.”(97.) Stace also states that relativists cannot judge civilizations or compare one civilization to another. For if they did, that would mean that there is a common standard they are using to make these judgments, and the existence of a superior standard is exactly what relativists denies. Since they are not allowed to judge different civilizations it also implies that moral progress does not exists because you cannot tell if a culture is better or worse, due to the relativists idea that every culture is right in their own way. If the beliefs of the relativist are true Stace says then, “There is nothing to prevent each man from being a rule unto himself. The result will be moral chaos and the collapse of all effective standards…”(100.)

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