Ethical Relativism

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Cultural relativism Pages: 2 (765 words) Published: August 8, 2013
Ethical Relativism

Is Ethics universal? Is it wrong to steal from someone regardless of what the culture you are in says on the matter? What about funeral customs? Is there a right or wrong way to deal with the bodies of those who have died? Some philosophers believe that there is no universal right or wrong and that the correct way to do things is based on what the morals of individual cultures say. Others, such as James Rachels, believe that there is a universal code of ethics that transcends the moral codes of individual cultures. In his essay, “Morality is Not Relative”, Rachels discusses ethical relativism, or as he calls it “Cultural Relativism”, and the logical problems that are associated with this code. Cultural Relativism is the idea that different cultures have different moral codes and customs and because of this, an act cannot be considered immoral on the grounds that a different culture considers it to be wrong. There is no independent standard or code upon which we can judge customs, so there can be no right or wrong where they are concerned. Different cultures have their own morals and customs; just because someone disagrees with them doesn’t make them wrong. Under this theory, there is no objective moral truth; acts cannot be judged because individual cultures have their own say as to what falls under right and wrong. Ethical Relativism is very appealing at first glance. It seems to say that all cultures are equal and that we are just being arrogant if we try and say that our way of doing things is better than that of another culture. Is this the case though? Is our society no better than that of one that thinks it is ok to commit genocide in an attempt to build the master race? Would we not consider our society more advanced or better than it was when it was legal to own slaves? Under Ethical Relativism, we can be no better than any other society, because that would mean that we have some standard of comparison. On the...

Cited: Rachels.James,The Elements of Moral Philosophy,1986,McGraw-Hill,Inc
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