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Classified in Philosophy and ethics

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Relativism, a concept which defines that there is no absolute truth in morality—only truth of those whose culture happens to believe to be appropriate in their standards. Strictly speaking, morality depends on the individual’s culture within the society they live in. There are two individual who gives their theories on these diverse cultures: Ruth Benedict and James Rachels. Ruth Benedict argues for cultural relativism while Rachels’ argues against cultural relativism. Although both arguments on their ideas may show some similarities, Rachels behaves differently on Benedict’s claim. Nevertheless, we will discuss their viewpoints on relativism. Benedict offers an argument for the idea of moral relativism. According to Benedict, she concludes that morality is based on what is socially approve from the other society. Furthermore, what is shown as an oddity to us could be a norm to other cultural groups and vice versa. As an example, she mentioned about the Kwakiutl Indian tribe in which they follow a tradition; if someone in the tribe had lost a relative or family member, the individual can kill another individual. Nevertheless, she believed this tribal behavior is not wrong since it was considered as a norm in their society. There are two thesis that also supports his claim; diversity and dependent thesis. Benedict’s diversity thesis states moral rules are different between cultures. As for his dependency thesis, an individual’s acts may be right or wrong depending on the nature of society. A good example would be rules and actions between North Korea and the US. In Benedict’s perspective, morality is seen in the context of history, tradition and goals of the society. In contrast, James Rachels does not like Benedict’s claim of cultural relativism. Rachels argues from one of his examples, the Eskimos in which they believed there is nothing wrong with infanticide, whereas the Americans believe infanticide is unethical. Furthermore, he believed cultural relativism supports the idea since there are different opinions on the morality of infanticide and there is no objective truth about these moral actions. Rachels interprets cultural relativism as there is no objective truth—they are simply a matter of opinion that differs from culture to culture. Rachels uses another example by stating some people believed our world is round while others thought it was flat. He then argues that cultural relativism would continue to support the idea in which there is no right answer to their claims if earth would be round or flat. Rachels addresses the implication of taking cultural relativism seriously by giving several conclusions. The first conclusion is we as a cultural group, would not be given the consideration of critiquing other cultural groups. The second conclusion is that one would be able to determine if something is right or wrong simply by consulting the standards of one’s society, which relates back to the first conclusion; nothing can be deemed morally wrong by any standards. The third conclusion is the idea of moral progress would be called into question; a culture could not evolve to become even more moral than it once was—as, again, they could never be considered morally wrong by another culture in the first place. There are many points that has been establish between these two individual’s arguments. However, both sides are either correct or incorrect. Since I believe Cultural relativism does exist but, not to the extent of what Benedict might’ve predicted or to the extent of Rachels’ belief on its non-existence. I don’t think it is wise to believe there is no objective truth when it comes to understanding morality. There must be some things that are a universal truth yet Rachels denies its existence entirely. Nevertheless, I am neutral between these two individual’s arguments. There were similarities and differences between Benedict’s and Rachel’s arguments. Not to mention, all examples were given in order to establish their claims on what they believed in. Despite all their given points they have provided in their arguments, they have given a good debate on the nature of cultural relativism.

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