The Flaws of Cultural Relativism

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The Flaws of Cultural Relativism

Renowned philosopher Peter Singer once said: “...from a still larger point of view, my society is just one among other societies, and the interests of members of my society are no more important, from that larger perspective, than the similar interests of members of other societies… Taking the impartial element in ethical reasoning to its logical conclusion means, first, accepting that we ought to have equal concern for all human beings." What Singer is saying here, is that when societies make decisions, they must think first if it is the best for all its people; but instead, the world judges right away when encountering differences. From a play, to a novel, to contemporary world issues, Cultural Relativism is missing and Ethnocentrism, the idea of one being more superior than another, is being used instead. The theory of Cultural Relativism states that if one culture is willing to respect another, they may understand their different ways of living. People will not jump to conclusions about people if they went by this theory but instead, they may become enlightened. Although Cultural Relativism may be an appealing theory that encourages people to learn about, and not judge other cultures, people should not accept the theory entirely due to its incompatibly with human rights such as freedom of expression, religion or beliefs, and equality.

There are various reasons why society should consider the theory of Cultural Relativism. Accepting the theory will help people have more of an open mind, it will spread equality amongst the diverse cultures, and prevent conflict from cultures as well. There are many unfortunate events that have occurred over time; but if people who were involved in these events were to acknowledge these good causes that Cultural Relativism brings, there is a much more possibility where damage might have been prevented. Take a look at Nazi Germany, who treated Jewish people wrong in every way possible... to the point where they killed them. Most people now would consider it completely outrageous, wrong, immoral, etc. to do what the Nazis did to the Jews; but to the Nazis’ leader, Adolf Hitler, it was completely necessary. He blamed them for many things, such as losing the First World War, prostitution and pornography and everything else he disliked; but what he really disliked, was the way the Jewish people wanted to live by at the time. The Jews wanted to live by Communism and once Hitler concluded that Jews were Communists, he decided to take away all civil rights from them. For example he had signs up that would say “Jews not admitted” in practically every decent area(Simkin.)Well, instead of mistreating Jewish people, each Nazi and their leader would have been more humane if they went by Cultural Relativism. Since Cultural Relativism’s purpose is to help cultures interact with each other, it would have been the perfect principle to go by. There would have been less injustice and more compromising if the Nazis tried to be more receptive to the Jews’ ideas. Cultural Relativism is a great way to try to get along and not judge other cultures by their ways; however, there are times where the theory becomes misleading.

When going by Cultural Relativism, you must accept the way people express themselves whichever way they decide to; whether it be in appearance, or through actions. The theory becomes weak in this area because it prevents those who feel violated or harmed from protesting inside or outside of their society. Translations, by Brian Friel, is one example of a time where many Irish people felt they were being violated because of another culture, the British, who came in their homeland Baile Beag to anglicize it. It is necessary to not go by Cultural Relativism at this time because the Irish language, Gaelic, was a language that was struggling for existence; whereas English is a language that was very common then as well. Still, the British assistant,...
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