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Ethical relativism is a view on morality stating that there are no universally accepted moral principles. Morality varies from one culture to another and no society has the right to impose their view of morality on other societies. Ethical relativism can be summed up to mean that morals are derived from what is culturally acceptable in any given society. ER is made up of two theses. The first is the diversity thesis, which simply says that moral practices are diverse across cultures. Ruth Benedict defends this theory by using homosexuality as an example. She explains how homosexuality was accepted and even encouraged in many cultures throughout history, like ancient Greece, but denounced in others. More evidence for the diversity thesis can be found in burial practices. Ancient Greeks honored their dead by burning the bodies. Similarly, Callatians showed respect to their dead by eating the bodies. However, both cultures were extremely offended when asked how much money would be required to institute the burial practices of the other. These examples clearly illustrate the vast differences in morality from culture to culture. ER’s second thesis is called the dependency thesis. It states that there is no objective standard by which to judge morality. Westermark defends this theory by saying that ethics is a learned set of behaviors instilled in every human at a young age by his or her surroundings. As a young person, we pick up on “right” and “wrong” by learning from those around us what is culturally acceptable. The ultimate source of morality, according to Westermark, is sympathy. This “gut feeling” of right and wrong is the only scale of morality each person has. Pojman has found many discrepancies in the theory of ethical relativism. Since ER says that no cultures view of morality can be criticized, we ought to be tolerant of all cultures. The problem is that tolerance would then be a universal moral principle, which ER says doesn’t exist. In fact it would be...
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