His challenge consists in critiquing the Cultural Differences Argument discussed below , giving reasons for thinking that there is an objective standard of morality, and then attempting to defend a particular objective moral standard. The upshot of this is that the Christian worldview, with its particular objective moral standard, is more plausible than both cultural relativism and atheism. Ethical Relativism vs Cultural Relativism Ethical relativism is a doctrine that encompasses many different theses, including the empirical thesis that there is disagreement about morality, the metaethical thesis that morality is not absolute, and the normative thesis of how we ought to act towards those whom we disagree with on moral issues Gowans. Relativists may hold all of these theses together, but many hold only to some of them. One version of ethical relativism is cultural relativism.
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Cultural Relativism is the idea that there is no such thing as universal truths in ethics; rather there are only various cultural codes. Rachels begins by addressing the idea of cultural relativism and the cultural differences argument.
The cultural differences argument looks at the Greeks and Callations example. The Callations believed it was right to eat the dead and the Greeks believed it was wrong.
Rachels states that Cultural Relativists would say eating the dead is neither objectively right nor wrong because eating the dead is a matter of opinion.
Rachels argues that this argument is not valid because the premise simply does not follow the conclusion. He then looks at the claim that in some societies people believe the Earth is a sphere. Rachels argues that this does not follow the cultural differences argument because there is simply no objective truth in geography. There cannot be objective truth to everything, therefore peoples believes can be wrong.
Rachels next step in disproving the Cultural Relativism theory looks at what happens if we take the argument too seriously. He first states that we could no longer say the customs of our society are morally better than others. This means we would no longer be able to criticize other practices or say they were wrong.
Rachels then states that we could decide whether actions are right or wrong by consulting the standards of our own society. So to determine right from wrong, one has to ask whether the action is in accordance with ones cultural code. This idea would forbid us from criticizing our own cultural codes. Lastly, all moral progress would be called into doubt. Under Cultural Relativism, social reform cannot be judged by the standards of different times.
Therefore, social reform does not work under Cultural Relativism. Rachels states that what we often think are dramatic cultural differences, do not differ nearly as much as we thought. This is the idea that most cultures have the same values. The only difference then lies in their beliefs and application of them.
A really good example of this was the Eskimos who often kill their babies, mainly the girls. But the Eskimos have just as much regard for life as the rest of us do. They simply live under harsh, unsafe, and extreme circumstances that in order to sustain their population and provide for their families, they may have to kill their baby.
Again, there is no difference in morality, but a difference in conditions. This brings up the idea of Universal truths. Without these universal morals, no society would be able to function. Even though Rachels does not agree with Cultural Relativism, he believes there are lessons we can take away from this theory.
Lastly, Rachels believes that we need to keep an open mind. Regardless of how strongly we believe in something we need to acknowledge that our feeling are not always perceptions of truth or what is best. When what we believe in is challenged or said to be not the best, people become very defensive and close minded. The Eskimo example shows how we must ask questions before assuming someone or a society is morally in the wrong.
We should not assume that actions in different societies are wrong or immoral at first glance. We must humbly and open mindedly go about asking questions to uncover the truth to the situation. Often what appears to be a difference in morals in really just a difference in beliefs. Most cultures do have the same morals or value the same things.
This idea is so applicable today. To me this reading really shows that there are universal morals and the importance of valuing beliefs of other cultures. In class we talked about the Burqa Bills that France had implemented. This article focuses on the Burqa bills in Australia. This article critiques the ban and explains the negative impact of it.
Cultural Relativism is the idea that there is no such thing as universal truths in ethics; rather there are only various cultural codes. Rachels begins by addressing the idea of cultural relativism and the cultural differences argument. The cultural differences argument looks at the Greeks and Callations example. The Callations believed it was right to eat the dead and the Greeks believed it was wrong. Rachels states that Cultural Relativists would say eating the dead is neither objectively right nor wrong because eating the dead is a matter of opinion. Rachels argues that this argument is not valid because the premise simply does not follow the conclusion.
Further, in that customs often differ from culture to culture, so right and wrong differ, and there is no objective, universally applicable moral law. Moreover, our own code has no special status; it is merely one among many. The tradition is it own warrant. It is not held subject to verification by experience. The notion of right is in the folkways. Here is the argument: Different cultures have different moral codes.