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.


6 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

  3. Bernard Wisani Baloyi October 24, 2017 at 1:35 am #

    So ethical relativism is more to a certain specific society group it does not cares about how a rights or wrong is define is ethical according to the defination of that particular individual. . While Cultural relativism does not favour a certain specific it promotes fair and good judgement to All nations. Which is a respect , value and promotes the spirit of Ubuntu across the board.

  4. Jason Petersen March 13, 2018 at 2:45 pm #

    I think this was written by a very biased person which shows that the truth about what is being said in the article is not based solely on the fact of the definitions of the what Cultural Relativism and Ethical Relativism and examples of them but is used 2 examples that say Sharia law is ok and the United States is wrong for disagreeing with it. That shows a bias of the writer and then they move onto using slavery as another example that is intended to cause you forget the first inclination and only think about the latter. I do not believe in Slavery and it was wrong that it happened in the United States but let us not forget that Slavery still exists on the Continent of Africa by the hands of their own people. And as for the example of Sharia law and the United States not agreeing with it, is because as a society we have a separation in our judicial system that does not allow a religious law govern. That is what Sharia law is it is a religious law that governs countries where Islam is the majority/only religion allowed. Please make this a more factual not personally biased. I am here to learn about cultures of humans, not political science classes for political agendas.

  5. Jeff Asafo Adjei April 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm #

    Moral claims are cognitively meaningful,but because of certain reasons we cannot assert that moral claims are universal, objective, and common to all.
    Therefore, where as cultural relativism dwells on the differences in cultures, ethical relativism is of the view that moral claims make sense, but the criterion of their truth or falsity is based on the individual. This is the reason why Protagoras said that, “man is the measure of all things”


  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 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: