Culture Relativism states that we cannot absolute say what is right and what is wrong because it all depends in the society we live in. James Rachels however. James Rachels summarizes the former theory into one brief statement: “Different cultures have different moral codes.” (Rachels, 18) Ethical relativism. Cultural Relativism. Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. Ruth Benedict, PATTERNS OF CULTURE ().

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Rachels covers the topics and examples of cultural relativism within the central area of the spectrum, reativism Benedict covers those at the far ends. There may be circumstances, such as isolated societies, in which suitable medical treatment is unavailable to parents or unknown to them and this may mitigate their moral responsibility.

Another situation addresses the Eskimo practice of infanticide. Similarly, there is no reason to think that if there is moral truth everyone must know it.

Rachels misses the point when it comes to what morals and other characteristics are universal across all cultures. The Eskimos are a nomadic tribe whose males are often killed during hunting or from the cold.

Cultural relativism does, in fact, exist—but not to the extent that Benedict might predict, nor to the extent that Rachels has denied its existence.

Most of the actions that people take, and the things that they do, are not based on any underlying moral code.

There are some characteristics of cultures that are not based upon any universal moral code. Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. Moreover, our own code has no special status; it is merely one among many.

Rather than having a strict set of universal rules that govern the morality of different cultures, Benedict argues that many cultures are at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to specific areas of culture and lifestyle. The ‘right’ way is the way the ancestors used and which has been handed down.


Similarly, at face value, many in the United States may feel that Eskimo infanticide is morally abhorrent, Rachels argues that it is actually quite logical.

In fact, there is disagreement even between his examples that show his assumptions are incorrect: Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. Paradox and Discovery, Fifth Edition, p.


Rachels seems to draw most, if not all, of his examples rafhels relation to our Western culture, failing to take into account racnels extreme examples that Benedict uses. As time goes on, certain actions begin to become congenial, and others, uncongenial.

Benedict cites another example of a culture-wide action that would seem illogical and immoral to someone of Western culture: One final example that he uses to support his analysis is the difference between cultures that refuse to eat cows and those who do not.

Shipka and Minton, p.

Similarly, Benedict is correct in her conclusions that many aspects of the lives of people within a culture are actually exclusive to that culture. The first conclusion is that a member of one culture would not be able to consider felativism other cultures inferior to their own, as it would not be true—they are simply all different. I believe, further, that modern international moral affirmations, such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, support my position.

Cultural Relativism

In fact, it may be argued that even those cultures that share such a belief do not have any reason to. For example, we would not be able to condemn cultures that enslave people or that commit genocide.

Certain aspects of cultures simply cannot be unified under one universal moral code that governs all of the human race. Benedict has the opposing viewpoint that the morals and ethics of cultures are, in fact, relative. This duty is part of the general custodial duty relatuvism parents to help, instruct, and preserve their offspring, a duty addressed by British philosopher, John Locke, more than three hundred years ago in his Second Treatise of Government.


There, it was customary to respond to a death of a person by killing another person.

If a normal member of one culture were to be transplanted into a significantly different culture, they would be considered abnormal in that culture. Quoted by Rachels in Shipka and Minton, p.

Hemsley Long Paper Prof. As a result, he makes assumptions on the lack of differences among cultures that should not be made. Rather, he was mames a nice guy who liked to work and be helpful. Rachels is correct in his belief that there are many aspects of cultures that are not exclusive to specific cultures.

Along those same lines, it is imperative that the young of the society be cared for so that they may carry it into the future. Further, in that customs often differ from culture to culture, so right and wrong differ, and there is no objective, universally applicable moral law.

Not every culture has a reason to believe that their fellow members are out to poison them with black magic. There is nothing moral about whether or not Earth is flat—it has been scientifically proven that Earth is an oblate spheroid.