Cultural Relativism: Degrees of Morality Essays

Submitted By beautifulwordss
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Intro to Ethics
Moral Judgement Paper

Morality, when it comes into question there is never a right answer. "What is it to be moral?" is a question many ask and get many answers to, each rivaling each other in their definition of what it means to live morally. In attempting to answer this question one must carefully analyze core philosophies that are underlying in the definition of morality yet are critical in understanding that much more what it is to be moral. It must be noted that it is already understood that in its "minimum conception" (Rachels pg. 13), morality is an effort to guide one's conduct by reason. In this essay I will attempt to define various core thoughts and principles that work cohesively in understanding moral judgement. Cultural Relativism is an important philosophy to understand, as Ruth Benedict stated "Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits" (Rachels pg. 14). This statement is key in defining Cultural Relativism as this theory is based on the the observation that different cultures have different moral codes. It is already understood that in various cultures there exist various ways of life each with their own truths culturally accepted as moral truths. One must understand that these moral truths only exist within the confines of that society, as what one society accepts to be moral can be accepted as immoral in another, as stated "the norms of a culture reign supreme within the bounds of the culture itself" (Rachels pg. 17). As stated in the textbook, "every standard is culture-bound" (Rachels pg. 14) enforcing what I had already stated. Cultural Relativists theorize that there is no such thing as universal truth in ethics, there only exist various cultural codes that dictate the morality of these members of that specific society and nothing more. In understanding what Cultural Relativism is one must know of five key principles made by theorists (Rachels pg. 16): 1. Different societies have different moral codes, 2. The moral code of a society determines what is right within that society; that is, if the moral code of a society says that a certain action is right, then that action is right, at least within that society, 3. There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one society's code as better than another's. There are no moral truths that hold for all people at all times, 4. The moral code of our own society has no special status; it is but one among many, 5. It is arrogant for us to judge other cultures. We should always be tolerant of them. Cultural Relativism does explain the historical progress between Stephens' viewpoint and Martin Luther King Jr.'s viewpoint on racism for the simple fact of understanding the setting. Slavery was not abolished in America until 1865, a full four years after Stephens' comments. This person lived in an era where it was culturally accepted among white folk in early colonies that slavery of African workers was as fine as we see owning a pet now. His moral judgement is influenced simply by the fact of he lives and how that society believes. By that time it was accepted that the whites were a superior race above all others. When Martin Luther King Jr. comes into play, he is living in an era of radical thinking where the superiority of the white race has diminished as racial equality becomes more accepted. He is championing the acceptance and equal treatment of all races in America of that time. Therefore, the cultural acceptance of certain ideas has changed over the century which explains the contradicting viewpoints on racism. According to Cultural Relativism Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights reforms are morally wrong because as stated in the text, "No one, however, may challenge the ideals themselves, for they are by definition correct" (Rachels pg. 20). This statement helps understand that since the civil rights reforms presented to the community went against what was