Morality is Culturally Relative

This essay has a total of 2021 words and 9 pages.

Morality is Culturally Relative


Within this world that we live on, there is an enormous amount of people. Each of these
people belongs to different cultures and societies. Every society has traits and customs
that make it unique. These societies follow different moral codes. This means that they
will may have different answers to the moral questions asked by our own society. What I am
trying to say is that every society has a different way of analyzing and dealing with
life's events, because of their cultural beliefs. This is claim is known as Cultural
Relativism. Cultural Relativism is the correct view of ethics.


1. Different societies have different moral codes.
2. There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one societal code better than another.
3. The moral code of our own society has no special status; it is merely one among many.
4. There is no "universal truth" in ethics-that is, there are no moral truths that hold for all peoples at all times.
5. 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.

6. It is mere arrogance for us to try to judge the conduct of other peoples. We should
adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the practices of other cultures(Pojman,1996,p.360).


Above are six claims that help explain the notion of Cultural Relativism. This essays
arguments will help to illustrate them directly and indirectly. It will be clear that the
true answer to the question of ethics is, Cultural Relativism. The definitions listed are
words used through out the paper and can be used as a reference.


Cultural Absolutism- Holds there is exactly one right answer to every "What I should do in situation X?".
Cultural Relativism- "Views moral validity in terms of social acceptance"
Society- Organized or interdependent community
Ethics- set of moral principals
Morality- degree of conformity to moral principals; moral conduct; science of morals
Values- desirability, or qualities on which these depend; one's principals, priorities, or standards.

The subject of murder is probably the most common issue thought to be a moral absolute.
What I mean is, people think it is wrong to kill another human being. This is not always
the case; murder has its place in many cultures. In Rachels article, the Eskimos practice
infanticide as well as the killing of elders. The elders are too feeble to contribute to
the group but; they still consume precious food, which is scarce. This practice is
necessary for the survival of the of the group. The males within the Eskimo tribes have a
higher mortality rate because they are the hunters and food providers. The killing of
female infants helps keep the necessary equilibrium for the survival of the group. So,
this infanticide and killing of elders does not signal that Eskimos have less compassion
for their children, nor less respect for human life; it is merely recognition that murder
is sometimes needed to ensure that the Eskimos do not become culturally extinct
(Pojman,1996).


To continue with the subject of murder, there are many questions about murder that our own
society faces. Within our own society there are conflicting views on topics such as
abortion, capital punishment and, euthanasia. To some these acts are considered to be
murder, to others they are necessary to our society. The point of this conflict is that
even within our own society, there is a discrepancy between what is morally right or
wrong. There is an exception to every so-called moral absolute. This eliminates the
possibility of Moral Absolutism, and proves there is no universal truth (Pojman,1996).


Ruth states that homosexuals deal with many conflicts that are culturally based
(Pojman,1996). For example, in our western society, the Catholic religion believes that is
a sin for individuals to partake in homosexual activity. By this I mean, the tendency
toward this trait of homosexuality in our culture exposes these individuals to all the
conflicts that coincide with this choice of lifestyle. Some of these conflicts include
hate groups that partake in "gay bashing", public ridicule and even laws against
homosexuals taking wedding vows. This differs from what Ruth explains about how in
American Indian tribes there exists the institution of the berdache (Pojman,1996). These
are men who, after puberty, take up the dress and occupations of women and even marry
other men. These individuals are considered to be good healers and leaders in women's
groups. In other words, they are socially placed and not ridiculed by other members of
their society. This is an example of how different societies have different moral codes.


Ruth states within her article how every society integrates itself with a chosen basis and
disregards itself with behavior deemed uncongenial (Pojman,1996). This means societies
will choose their own moral standards and ethical codes and, disregard actions that do not
lie within the boundaries of these moral standards and ethical codes. She goes on to say
that our moral codes are not formed by our inevitable constitution of human nature. We
recognize that morality differs in every society. Our own culture and environment will
dictate these codes. This explains why different people have different moral standards
because, behavior is culturally institutionalized.


The Kwakiutls of Melanesia have a social code that is based on paranoia. This attribute is
abnormal to our western society, according to Ruth. Abnormality is a term for the segment
that that particular civilization does not use (Pojman,1996). This is abnormal because in
our moral code the paranoia, or distrust of others, would cease us from functioning
properly. For example: we could not get food from the supermarket, receive health care
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