Summary Of The Challenge Of Cultural Relativism

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Response to Rachels “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” Different cultures have different conceptions of right and wrong. The Eskimos, for instance, commit infanticide often, leaving their babies to die in the snow. Although we uphold the same value of caring for our offspring, an Eskimo family may be unable to care for their child and select death as their final option. In our culture this is viewed as horrific, but to the Eskimos, it is a part of life (Rachels 35). Cultural relativism says that to presume that our societal norms are superior to the societal norms of another culture is arrogant.
Cultural relativism promotes open-mindedness. It tells us not to judge another culture based off of our own ideas of morality. However, while cultural relativism has some
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Cultural relativism says all one has to do is check if their action is in agreement with their societal code to determine if their action is right or wrong. But what if their societal codes are wrong? “Cultural Relativism not only forbids us from criticizing the codes of other societies; it also stops us from criticizing our own” (Rachels 34).
Rachels final argument against cultural relativism is that it destroys the idea of moral progress and social change. We could not say that Martin Luther King, Jr. changed society for the better as that would be judging the social standards of another time. What happens then to someone who wishes to challenge their society’s moral codes? Their argument is immediately shut down by cultural relativism. “There are some moral rules that all societies must have in common, because those rules are necessary for society to exist” (Rachels 36). Not every moral code is different in different societies and cultures, Murder, for example, must be prohibited in order to have a complex society, and so there has to be some moral standard, meaning that the theory of cultural relativism falls

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