Ruth Benedict

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Are Ethics Relative?
Ruth Benedict: Ethics Are Relative
ID # : 0804014743

“Ruth Benedict: Ethics Are Relative
… Morality is culturally relative.”

In this paper, I’m going to discuss the argument that the famous American anthropologist, Ruth Benedict, has put forth regarding ‘ethical relativism’. Ethical relativism is the theory that holds that morality is relative to the norms and values of one's culture or society. That is, whether an action is classified as right or wrong depends on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced. The same action may be morally right in one society but be morally wrong in another. For the ethical relativist, there are no universal moral standards -- standards that can be universally applied to all peoples at all times. The only moral standards against which a society's practices can be judged are its own. If ethical relativism is correct, there can be no common framework for resolving moral disputes or for reaching agreement on ethical matters among members of different societies. In my opinion, morality is culturally relative and completely reliant on the societal pressures and surroundings you have been brought up with, and it plays an integral part on your conception of ethics and morals.

In ‘Ethics Are Relative’, Ruth Benedict asserts morals are culturally defined based on what is considered appropriate behavior in the society. To illustrate her point, Benedict utilizes the examples of homosexuality and murder, which are regarded to many in our society as immoral and even wrong to a certain extent. For example, Benedict states homosexuality in ancient Greece, was widely accepted and did not have any negative associations with it. Benedict also states in the culture of the Kwakiutl, a culture which has been without contact to and thus has remained uninfluenced by our “standardized worldwide civilization,” the death of a loved one (no matter if the person has died of accident or natural causes) is...
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