Cultural Relativism vs. Ethical Relativism

27 Sep

6. Explain the difference between cultural relativism and ethical relativism. Do you think that the fact that people disagree about moral right and wrong shows that ethical relativism is true?

In order to make the distinction between cultural relativism and ethical relativism, one must understand the term, the word that defines the study of morality—ethics. By definition ethics is a branch of philosophy that attempts decode which things are morally good, what actions are morally just, universally accepted (Vasquez). Ethics is the study of morality, the standards that an individual or a group has about what is right and wrong, good and evil, light and dark. Ethics allows the investigation of moral standards within a society, allowing questions to whether they are reasonable or unreasonable. Ethics is a justified hajj, a justified pilgrimage, a justified journey for the search of true morality.

Cultural relativism is an affirmation that holds that societies are dissimilar in their moral standards, their laws and culture protocols. To expand, cultural relativism holds that what one culture believes is immoral, another culture may believe is moral (Vasquez). In essence, cultural relativism is the view that morality is culture dependent. For example, Gaegogi, in English terms—dog meat, is considered a dish on the peninsula of South Korea. Due to the reason why there is a diversity of what is right or wrong among culture actions including slavery, polygamy, homosexuality, genocide, and numerous other topics, the term cultural relativism emerged.

Ethical relativism denies the existence of a one universal moral law. Ethical relativism supports the idea because cultures of societies are dissimilar in astronomical ways they accept, it follows that there is not one correct set of precepts everyone should adopt. According to the definition, instead, people should follow the moral laws and protocols that their own unique society sets forth or accepts. For instance, how the Western world is governed may not be appropriate (according to some viewers) for cultures in different cultures outside of the West.

Even though both cultural and ethical relativism sound similar, they do have inherited differences. Cultural relativism is seen as different societies that believe in different moralities. Cultural relativists see their view as a sociological fact where scholarly works proves the existence of different moralities. On the contrary, ethical relativists claim that the same action that is moral is immoral in another. For example, people living in the deserts of Saudi Arabia think that stoning a woman because she broke Sharia law (Islamic law) is not morally wrong, whereas people in the United States believe it is wrong. To surmise the difference between ethical relativism and cultural relativism is that in ethical relativism, whatever the denizens of a culture or society “think” is right for them to do is “in fact” what is right for them to do (Velasquez).

Because the fact that people disagree about moral right and wrong shows that ethical relativism is not true. There are several conflicts within ethical relativism. One problem emerges when one asks, “Is slavery morally right, if society as a whole accepts it?” The following are conflicts within the belief of ethical relativism: when there are two conflicting views on what is laws are morally just, which of the views are to be followed?; within ethical relativism, one has to accept society’s views and not question them; due to the fact that societies differ in moral laws they hold, it does not follow that there is one correct code of moral laws; there are universal moral values that societies must adopt in order to survive (Velasquez). However, even though ethical relativism inherits the preceding problems and conflicts, one of its main purposes is to knock down an approve solution for what a society believes is right and wrong. Due to the fact that people have come from different backgrounds and survived, no one, not one has the prerogative to say what is right or what is wrong.


3 Responses to “Cultural Relativism vs. Ethical Relativism”

  1. Sunny Gale February 13, 2014 at 1:25 am #

    The only truth is that Melchezidek has the final say as to what is moral. Man is immoral and his compass is off kilter.

  2. Patrick January 18, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    “cultural relativism is the view that morality is culture dependent” – paragraph 2

    “The difference between the two is that in ethical relativism, whatever the denizens of a culture believe is right, is in fact right” – paragraph 4

    This seems like the same thing to me I’m confused


  1. Diabolik Lovers Episode 10: “Stop smelling like that.” | Chromatic Aberration Everywhere - March 9, 2014

    […] than on my (very biased) ones. In other words, to be a good cultural relativist (although not an ethical one). Considering the progress I’ve made on this so far, I’d say watching and blogging […]

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