Theories Of Cultural Relativism

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Morality, according to Socrates, is about “how we ought to live” and why. Cultural Relativism is one among numerous disputed theories which has attempted to expand upon Socrates uncomplicated definition (Rachels Elements of Moral Philosophy 1). This theory is unique in its five basic claims. The theories basic claims contain weaknesses, strengths and unsound argument.
As previously stated, there are five basic claims to Cultural Relativism. The first fundamental claim is that “different societies have different moral codes” (Rachels Elements of Moral Philosophy 17). This is certainly a reasonable claim. It is common knowledge that people from different parts of the world do things differently and it is important to understand why they do things
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The problem with this claim is that it does not permit any disagreement of society’s moral codes even if it could lead to improvement. For instance, suppose a resident in Africa questions whether female genital mutilation is morally correct. All she would have to do is see how the ritual comply’s with her society's moral codes. If it does comply, then the ritual must be right, thus no progress to society could be made (Rachels Elements of Moral Philosophy 21). This is because according to Cultural Relativism the only way to improve a society would be to adhere to its own ideals (Rachels Elements of Moral Philosophy 22). This is obviously a major fault of the theory as it is clear from the past that society's moral codes can be wrong and need improvement (E.g., legal abolition of slavery, women’s rights to vote, universal…show more content…
Even more problematic than this is the evidence that the theory employs an unsound argument. According to Rachels, a common argumentative approach used by Cultural Relativists “begin[s] with facts about cultures and wind[s] up drawing a conclusion about morality” (Rachels Elements of Moral Philosophy 18). This is undoubtedly an unsound argument as the conclusion does not follow from the premise. To better clarify, take into account a different matter. In some societies, people believe that the Earth is the center of the solar system. In other, more advanced societies, people believe that the sun is the center of the solar system. It is obvious from this example that just because societies disagree does not mean that there is no “objective truth” in astronomy. This easy to follow example clarifies the unreasonable argument Cultural Relativists employ.
Cultural Relativisms is an influential theory regarding the explanation of morality. Its important features have some strengths. It presents a remedy for ethnocentrism and can help open up minds. The theory, however, is also full of weaknesses. It consists of unreasonable outcomes if followed through. The theory also lays on an unsound
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