Ethical Cultural Relativism

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Vanessa Torres
Ethical Cultural Relativism

I will begin with defining Ethical Cultural Relativism. Ethical Cultural Relativism is an ethical theory that denies the existence of universal moral truths. It claims that right and wrong must be defined variously, based on differences in cultural norms and ideas. It specifically states moral right and wrong are “relative to” one’s society and time in history, not absolute across time and cultures (Pen,19) Ethical Cultural Relativist believes in three major ideas. The first idea is, “there is no higher truth in ethics above and beyond cultural habit and social customs”. In other words, ethics is invented not discovered. The second idea is, “morality is nothing more than a social invention that suppresses a group’s value system, and this value system can vary over time and place”. In other words, there is no one true value system and ethical objection is wrong. The third and last idea is, “ethical truth is culturally relative.” In other words, what is really true in one culture is really true for it, but it may be false in other cultures. The first thing an Ethical Cultural Relativist would say is, all cultures are different not right or wrong. If one culture believes in slavery it would not be right nor wrong it would just be different. That particular culture would act in that manner because of where and how they grew up. Maybe throughout time the idea of slavery for the culture would change, but for now it does not matter because an Ethical Cultural Relativist cannot judge them since they believe there is no ultimate morality. After someone understands the idea of no ultimate morality, I would go on and explain another example of how an Ethical Cultural Relativist would view other cultures. The second way an Ethical Cultural Relativist would view another culture is by being tolerant. An Ethical Cultural Relativist would say, since there is no ultimate morality everyone should respect and be tolerant to others. One cannot judge them even if you do not care for what they are doing so just accept them and be open-minded to their ideas and soon you might accept those ideas yourself. Once the person understands this idea of tolerance, I would mention it is an idea of controversy where many people destroy the idea of Ethical Cultural Relativism, but first before arguing against Ethical Cultural Relativism, I will discuss Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a religious tradition practised in Africa and India. I will discuss the religious practice of Femal Genital Mutilation (FGM) and further discuss my argument against the ethical cultural relativist's view of allowing such tradition. The first argument for Ethical Cultural Relativism is the argument from disagreement. The argument from disagreement states that there has been no agreement cross culturally through time past and space concerning what is really right and wrong, it follows that there is really no objective right and wrong or no moral “truth” to individual cultures. In other words, this idea states that since there is no right or wrong there is no answer to what is right and wrong. According to Ethical Cultural Relativist’s everything is relative including disagreement so moral truth is relative to an individual’s culture. This idea states that everyone has to be right when they are following their own culture’s beliefs. As long as you are not disobeying your cultures beliefs then you are doing nothing wrong and no one should judge you. This idea is the main backbone of Ethical Cultural Relativism, but it does have at least one flaw in it. The problem is in the argument itself. One can believe there has been no agreement cross culturally through time past and space concerning what is really right or wrong, but we do not have to believe the second part. The second part states, there is no objective right and wrong so moral truths are representative of individual cultures. Anthropologists believe the...
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