The Cultural Differences Argument for Moral Relativism

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Ruth Villagra
The Cultural Differences Argument for Moral Relativism.

Moral Relativism is generally used to describe the differences among various cultures that influence their morality and ethics. According to James Rachels, because of moral relativism there typically is no right and wrong and briefly states : “Different cultures have different moral codes.” (Rachels, 18) Various cultures perceive right and wrong differently. What is considered right in one society could be considered wrong in another, but altogether all cultures have some values in common.

In Elements of Moral Philosophy, the author gives examples of such. For instance, a tribe of Indians known as Callatians ate bodies of their dead fathers; the Greeks turned to cremation. Both societies believed each of their own to be the correct way to dispose of the dead. When they were both asked if one would do what the other practices, they both thought the opposite custom was dreadful. Another different culture that is mentioned is that of the Eskimos. They would offer their wives to their guests as a form of hospitality. In addition, they practice infanticide, killing of children at birth, especially females, in order to reduce the burden on the family living under their harsh circumstances. In our society, this goes against our marriage and sexual practices- and killing of babies is seen as completely immoral and even punishable. Therefore we categorize them because it is not our natural way of life.

These examples of cultural differences lead us to the Cultural Differences Argument for Moral Relativism : “Different cultures have different moral codes ; there is neither an objectively right nor objectively wrong custom. It is a matter of opinion that varies from culture to culture.” (Rachels, 19) When looking back at the Greeks and Callatians example, we are able to see that the Greeks thought it was “wrong” to eat the dead, whereas the Callatians believed it was “right”. From a...
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