Thomas Hobbes’s social contract theory is minimally related to that of cultural relativism. Both deal with human nature and the search for peace. But while cultural relativism is in some ways a noteworthy theory, the social contract theory is the only one of the two that could logically work in an active environment.
Cultural relativism theorizes that the best way for different societies to function together at peace is for them to recognize that each culture must be allowed its own system of beliefs. One individual may believe that his or her culture’s belief system is the one true way. Is there any way to absolutely prove that that person’s morals are not correct? Not in the cultural relativist view. Cultural relativism states that no man from a different background can justifiably say that another society’s beliefs are wrong; that other society may believe that his ideas are wrong. The only way to resolve the matter peaceably, as cultural relativism acknowledges, is for societies to recognize their differences without attempting to force their beliefs upon one another; neither will they try to prove each other wrong. They must simply peacefully coexist without interference generated by belief systems.
Cultural relativism is perfect in its barest form. Even though many peoples have many different beliefs and many of these people believe that their own moral code is the only true one, who can say which is better than another? This is the struggle that cultural relativism sets out to permanently resolve. It seems as if cultural relativism could bring about natural equality among groups of differing beliefs. After all, no one belief can be qualified (attributed) as being superior or better than any other belief. ...
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...t to their supreme authority: the right to determine who is equal among them. With this conception of the theory, anyone could always resolve a situation if it was necessary for the achievement of peace.
While both theories have their good points, only the social contract theory can hold up. Cultural relativism seems perfect at first, but the truth is that it goes aginst itself in too many obvious way. No matter what adversity comes along, a new contract can always be put into effect. Although cultural relativism would fail to do so, Hobbes’s social contract theory succeeds in restoring peace to societies.
Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. Third ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1999.
Hobbes, Thomas. The Social Contract. in The Right Thing to Do, Ed. James Rachels. Second
ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1999. pages 50-58.
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