Moral Relativism

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To many theorists, the philosophical stance embedded in moral relativism aims to understand morality in such a way that refutes an absolute truth. In other words, moral relativism confronts the idea that universal moral standards are inherent to the human species and in doing so suggests that these standards are merely culturally relative. An important aspect of the moral relativist argument includes the fact that cultures vary drastically around the world; and therefore, different cultures have different moral codes. Because a moral relativist distinguishes these differences, they would proclaim that no culture’s moral code can be characterized as “right” or “wrong.” In an attempt to better understand and further advance these moral relativist viewpoints, I will evaluate the contrasting positions of Ruth Benedict’s “The Case for Moral Relativism” and James Rachels’ “Why Morality is Not Relative.” While both authors present several thought-provoking arguments for and against moral relativism, I will side with Rachel’s anti-moral relativist viewpoint within this essay. Therefore, my central thesis is to demonstrate that moral relativism is a flawed philosophical viewpoint. I will begin the essay by introducing two main arguments through the context of a moral relativist viewpoint. These arguments will build on the introduction’s meaning of moral relativism by presenting the core moral relativist views laid out in Rachels’ “Why Morality is Not Relative” while supplementing the information with Benedict’s “The Case for Moral Relativism.” By amplifying the fundamental views of moral relativism immediately, it will allow me to defend my thesis by revealing some significant costs that go along with a moral relativist viewpoint. ... ... middle of paper ... ...ed that an absolute moral code exits, it is important to emphasize that I am not proclaiming that an absolute moral code exists for all practices present in various cultures. Such a proclamation allows for unique social conventions to remain “right” in the eyes of that particular culture no matter how distasteful the custom may seem to another culture. For example, certain cultures permit publicly exposed breasts (Rachels 150). While such a practice may seem strange to outsiders, it is only because the practice is not customary in their particular culture. Because there are no objective reasons why either custom is better, it cannot be labeled as “right” or “wrong.” Many cultural differences can be explained by this principle; however, there are some cultural practices that can be objectively argued against and therefore deem moral relativism to be problematic.

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