"What exactly is "cultural relativism" in metaethics? Is cultural relatisim true? Can cultural relativists uphold the principle of cultural tolerance?

Essay by vivHigh School, 12th grade February 2005

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Cultural relativism is one of many alternatives within the domain of metaethics, a theory relating to moral judgments and whether they are truth-apt (capable of being true or false). This theory is supported by Ruth Benedict as she argues that normality is relative to culture, to be morally "good" tantamount with normal, so therefore morality is relative to culture. However her statement that normality is synonymous with being morally good is without basis and overlooks the minority of society and thus her argument is chauvinistic. James Rachels illustrates how the theory is false by pointing out that even persistent, culturally-aligned disagreement is not necessarily grounds for relativism as well as analyzing the consequences of accepting the theory, claiming that these consequences are not practical to our way of living and hence morally unattractive. There is also the problem relating to the relationship between cultural relativism and the principle of cultural tolerance which illustrates the impossibility for cultural relativists to uphold the principle of cultural tolerance and thus almost defeating the purpose of the theory.

Personally cultural relativism seems to emphasize conformity and blind obedience to the morals of ones culture.

Morals concern what is right and wrong and many people would agree that what is "right" is moral, but there is much debate about what makes something right. In his article "Cultural relativism and cultural values", Melville Herkovits defines the principle of cultural relativism as "judgments are based on experience, and experience is interpreted by each individual in terms of his own enculturation"

Cultural Relativists argue that it is the cultural normality's of a society itself that makes an action morally right. Morality is subject to change over time, for example, in the southern United States slavery is now viewed as immoral, when only a few hundred years ago, it...