Ethical Relativism And Cultural Relativism

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Cultures and societies around the world often have different moral beliefs. From an anthropological perspective, to deny cultures any validity in their moral beliefs would be a delusional ethnocentric refusal of cultural relativism. From a moral philosophical perspective, however, this is a conflicting matter. Is morality then simply a social construct based purely on arbitrary opinions? Are there no universal moral truths? In response, conventional ethical relativism puts forth the notion that there are indeed no objective moral truths. In other words, “there are no absolute or objective moral standards that apply to all people everywhere”, which would make all moral beliefs justified as a result of cultural relativism (98, 100). Another response to this moral dilemma would be that moral objectivism still holds because morals are not social constructs with no underlying reality; there are foundational moral truths that exists regardless of cultural differences. Although there are many flaws in ethical relativist assertions, for the sake of simplicity, I contend that anthropological notions of cultural relativism do not justify arguments for conventional ethical relativism because they fallaciously and naively advocate for unyielding “intercultural tolerance” (100). Furthermore, I believe that cultural relativism can still be understood and upheld (to some extent) within the realm of objective moral truths. To expand on why I view the moral objectivist argument as better, I will first explain why ethical relativism is naively non confrontational and logically unsound. Unconditional intercultural tolerance would appear the most morally progressive stance to take, as humanity has intuitively realized it is wrong to impose one’s... ... middle of paper ... ...ntuition is for some strange evolutionary reason confused into falsely believing that killing other humans is morally reprehensible, we will eventually discover we are mistaken and update our moral foundations after someone challenges them. Moral objectivism allows for humans to question and challenge morality; ethical relativism does not. Considering the aforementioned reasons, it would be reckless to reduce morality to nothing more than an arbitrary social construct. Although ethical relativism has good intentions, it wrongly assumes that moral objectivism is devoid of understanding cultural relativism. Beliefs and customs are relative, but the moral principles from which they are built upon are not. To conclude that we must be passive bystanders in the face of moral wrongs would be detrimental to the advancement and betterment of morality, and, in turn, humanity.
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