Relativism: each communities’sreligion, customs, laws, educational standards, or
Relativism: The Tangible TheorySince the beginning of rational thought, philosophers have searched forthe true meaning of morality.Many theorists have attempted to answer thisquestion with reasoning, in an attempt to find a universal set of rules, or away to distinguish right from wrong.Some theorists believe that this questionis best answered by a single moral standard, while others debate if there can bea single solution.Cultural Relativism explores the idea that there can be noone moral standard that applies to everyone at any given time.
The Kantiantheory, on the other hand, states that a universal sense of duty, would mostbenefit humankind.I believe that the Cultural Relativist theory takes intoconsideration the different cultures that make up the population as a whole.The idea of universal truth in ethics, is a myth.The customs of differentsocieties are all that exist.These customs can not be correct’ or incorrect’ for that implies there is an independent standard of right and wrongby which they may be judged.
In today’s global community people areinteracting more and we are now discovering, more then ever, how diversecultures and people really are.For these reasons the Cultural Relativisttheory best defines what morality is, and where it came from.Today all over the world people are communicating in ways never beforeimagined.
Cultural Relativism believes that one set of morals will notadequately adapt to the individuality of all the cultures and subcultures in theworld.What this means is that there is no one moral law that fits everysituation at every time.There will always be exceptions to the rules.Cultural Relativism leaves the creation of moral and ethical standards to thecommunity.The community then makes moral judgments based on its specificculture, history, and individuality.
For these reasons Cultural Relativismhelps the community, by letting the community set its own moral standards,rather than impose a set of morals, as the absolutists would suggest.Imposinga set of universal morals would not be able to compensate for all the differentcultural differences that exist today.If a universal moral law were to becreated, what criteria would be considered? Would one use each communities’sreligion, customs, laws, educational standards, or culture?It would beimpossible to take into consideration all of the different factors unique toeach community when creating a universal moral truth.That is why CulturalRelativism is the best solution for moral standards, each community considersall their own factors of culture, religion, education, etc. and then createtheir own set of morals based on their needs.
There are many different situations in everyday life that call upon ourmoral judgment.With all of the people in the world and all of the different situations,who is to say that there is one set standard that we should follow on thesocietal level, as well as the individual? Cultural Relativism, challenges theordinary belief in the universality of moral truth. It says, in effect, thatthere is no such thing as universal truth in ethics; there are only the variouscultural and personal codes, and nothing more.Moreover, our own code has nospecial status; it is merely one among many.One clear example of this isillustrated in the treatment of women in some countries, against the way theyare treated in the United States.In the United States women are privilegedwith the same rights as men, therefore creating, by law, an equal society.
However in some Middle Eastern countries women are not allowed to show theirfaces in public, own land, or may be forced to be just one wife to a man withmany wives.The questions philosophers ask in this situation is, “Which one ofth ese cultures is morally correct in their treatment of women?”According toabsolutists there would be one universal solution.And, in this case, there isclearly no such solution.If you were to support the United States’ treatmentof women, you would have to go against many of the Middle Eastern beliefs andmoral standards.
Another way of looking at it would be from the woman’sperspective.In the United States the woman is given freedom and the abilityto choose, whereas in the Middle Eastern culture she has no rights.Is thatculture morally correct for the woman?There are just too many variables totake into consideration when trying to make moral decisions for all cultures tofollow.
If we were to use a set standard we would have to judge people andtheir culture.And who is to say that one culture and its people are right,and that the other is wrong?In ancient Egypt people were allowed to marrytheir brothers and sisters.In most of today’s cultures that is morally andethical ly wrong.The reasoning behind this change in marriage styles results fromscientific research. Scientists have found that over time inbreeding causes ahigher rate of birth defects among the offspring.This fact has influencedmany of the developed’ cultures to outlaw inbreeding.Does this mean that theEgyptians were morally wrong because they did not have the scientific knowledgeabout inbreeding that we have today?utilitarians would have us believe yes.
They would state that the only moral way to have acted, would be to not inbreeddue to the fact that it causes harm, thus unhappiness, to the offspring.Ifthis is true, how are we sure that we are not morally wrong in what we do, if infive or ten years into the future science discovers that what we considermorally right now is harming us physically?This is where the beauty ofRelativism comes into focus.Relativism would say that neither culture isright, or wrong.Relativism would state that each culture would decide, on anindividual basis, what it would consider morally and ethically right.
Ourmodern society is full of diversity among cultures.There are no set rules andmorals that we can follow because of that very fact.People are different, andto judge them by any other standards than their own is morally and ethicallywrong in itself.Relativism warns us, quite rightly, about the danger ofassuming that all our preferences are based on some absolute rational standard.They are not.
Many (but not all) of our practices are merely particular to oursociety and our own personal preference, and it is easy to lose sight of thatfact.These are the reasons that I believe that Relativism best answers thequestion, is there a set standard of morals and ethics for all to live by, ordoes each community, culture and individual create its own?Now that I have touched on more of a Cultural Relativistic view, I wouldnow like to apply the same theory to an individual.I believe individuals havethe same kind of freedom to design their moral truths in a way that suits them,separate from their community.Thus, just because a society sets a standard ofmorals, there is nothing prohibiting an individual from straying from thatstandard, besides the society capabilities of enforcing those moral truths.
Assume for a moment there is a community, that enforces all of its moral truthswith the death penalty.When one is deciding to go against those truths, ornot, he would only have to calculate the risk of getting caught.Thus, the oldsaying “you can do what ever you want, as long as you can get away with it”,would be accurate.
A common point that is brought up against Relativism, when applied tothe individual, is the point that according to Relativism it is wrong to saythat one moral truth is right or wrong, because each culture and individual areallowed to make up their own truths.Then how can a society punish a personfor not following their moral standards?I would reply as follows.Moralities differ in each society, serving a functional purpose that is uniqueto the factors that comprise the area.
The differences of all aspects of lifeare considered when morals are being produced.Society values are developed inorder to ensure prosperity, stability and harmony; when the values arethreatened, so is the good of the society.In order to maintain social balance,all members are forced to conform to these values.Those who choose to disobeysocietal maxims are banished or ostracized from the community.
Social codesbenefit the individual, too, they are not constructed simply for the benefit ofthe society as a whole.The reckless behavior of the nonconformist could bedangerous to an individual’s well being.Thus, these morals, are for the goodof all.However, if a member of the society can break these moral codes and doso successfully, there is nothing in one’s personal moral code itself wrong withdoing so, except the society instilled guilt that is learned and taught throughthe generations.And that is exactly it, because morals are created by thecommunity, and there are no universal truths, then if you have enough people notfollowing the moral truths of their community, then the morals for thatcommunity will change accordingly.That is what Cultural relativism is basedon, the community being able to change their set of morals, how else would thathappen if it does not start from the individual level.
From the examples shown in this paper, Cultural and IndividualRelativism clearly is the more logical choice as the theory that best provides aworkable solution to the question of what controls ethics and morality. Whileabsolutists try to prove that there is one single set of moral rules that can beused as a guideline in the validation of moral and ethical standards for thecultures and individuals of the world.The Utilitarians are trying to create agreater happiness for all involved in the community.And the Kantians arelooking for their universal sense of duty.However they all can be questionedwith this single statement, “if anyone, no matter who, were given theopportunity of choosing from amongst all the nations of the world the set ofbeliefs which he thought brought the most good and happiness, he wouldinevitably, after careful considerations of their relative merits, choose thatof his own country.
Everyone without exception believes his own native customs,and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best.” And this discredits thepossibility that one such person can come up with a set of morals, or a true wayto calculate those morals, because in fact everyone is biased to his or her ownmoral beliefs.Absolutism is obviously not a feasible solution due to the factthat the cultures of the world are too radically diverse to ever be able to beclassified under one set of moral and ethical guidelines.I believe theUtilitarian idea of maximizing the good of the whole is also not feasible, onaccount of everyone not agreeing on what makes them the most happy.TheKantinisen sense of duty is discredited in the same way, on account ofeveryone’s sense of duty being different.Although there will never be a moralor ethical theory that clearly includes all cultures as morally right, theRelativist theory is by far the most sensible solution offered to us at thistime.