Evaluate Rachel's arguments against cultural relativism. Is he right to endorse
objective moral realism?
DINH NAM TRAN
Cultural relativism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Is the thesis that a person’s culture strongly influences her modes of perception and thought” Most cultural relativists add to this definition saying that there is no standard of morality. This means that morality is relative to the particular society that one lives in. Prominent ethicist James Rachels has written against this view in his work titled The Challenge of Cultural Relativism. This paper will be focused on evaluating Rachels’ critique of cultural relativism, and whether it was right for him to endorse objective moral realism. Rachels defines this as “a standard that might be reasonably used in thinking about any social practice whatever. We may ask whether the practice promotes or hinders the welfare of people whose lives are affected by it.” That is the moral worth of an action is based upon how it contributes to the society from which it operates in.
Rachels is in agreement with cultural relativist in recognizing that we should keep an open minded approach when making ethical judgments about other societies. His thoughts differ from cultural relativist in that he believes that there exist objective moral standards. He puts forward this motion well on two fronts: first, he presents a major flaw in the way that cultural relativist think; second, he puts forward three arguments that support objective moral standards.
Rachels begins his critique of cultural relativism through what he calls the “Cultural Differences Argument”. This is the primary premise from which cultural relativist employ when defending their position. The argument summarized by Rachel as:
1. Different cultures have different moral codes.
2. Therefore, there is no objective “truth” in morality. Right and wrong are only matters of opinion, and... [continues]
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