Relativism: The Tangible Theory


Since the beginning of rational thought, philosophers have searched for
the true meaning of morality. Many theorists have attempted to answer this
question with reasoning, in an attempt to find a universal set of rules, or a
way to distinguish right from wrong. Some theorists believe that this question
is best answered by a single moral standard, while others debate if there can be
a single solution. Cultural Relativism explores the idea that there can be no
one moral standard that applies to everyone at any given time. The Kantian
theory, on the other hand, states that a universal sense of duty, would most
benefit humankind. I believe that the Cultural Relativist theory takes into
consideration the different cultures that make up the population as a whole.
The idea of universal truth in ethics, is a myth. The customs of different
societies are all that exist. These customs can not be ‘correct\' or ‘
incorrect\' for that implies there is an independent standard of right and wrong
by which they may be judged. In today\'s global community people are
interacting more and we are now discovering, more then ever, how diverse
cultures and people really are. For these reasons the Cultural Relativist
theory best defines what morality is, and where it came from.
Today all over the world people are communicating in ways never before
imagined. Cultural Relativism believes that one set of morals will not
adequately adapt to the individuality of all the cultures and subcultures in the
world. What this means is that there is no one moral law that fits every
situation at every time. There will always be exceptions to the rules.
Cultural Relativism leaves the creation of moral and ethical standards to the
community. The community then makes moral judgments based on its specific
culture, history, and individuality. For these reasons Cultural Relativism
helps the community, by letting the community set its own moral standards,
rather than impose a set of morals, as the absolutists would suggest. Imposing
a set of universal morals would not be able to compensate for all the different
cultural differences that exist today. If a universal moral law were to be
created, what criteria would be considered? Would one use each communities\'s
religion, customs, laws, educational standards, or culture? It would be
impossible to take into consideration all of the different factors unique to
each community when creating a universal moral truth. That is why Cultural
Relativism is the best solution for moral standards, each community considers
all their own factors of culture, religion, education, etc. and then create
their own set of morals based on their needs.
There are many different situations in everyday life that call upon our
moral judgment.
With all of the people in the world and all of the different situations,
who is to say that there is one set standard that we should follow on the
societal level, as well as the individual? Cultural Relativism, challenges the
ordinary belief in the universality of moral truth. It says, in effect, that
there is no such thing as universal truth in ethics; there are only the various
cultural and personal codes, and nothing more. Moreover, our own code has no
special status; it is merely one among many. One clear example of this is
illustrated in the treatment of women in some countries, against the way they
are treated in the United States. In the United States women are privileged
with the same rights as men, therefore creating, by law, an equal society.
However in some Middle Eastern countries women are not allowed to show their
faces in public, own land, or may be forced to be just one wife to a man with
many wives. The questions philosophers ask in this situation is, "Which one of
th ese cultures is morally correct in their treatment of women?" According to
absolutists there would be one universal solution. And, in this case, there is
clearly no such solution. If you were to support the United States\' treatment
of women, you would have to go against many of the Middle Eastern beliefs and
moral standards. Another way of looking at it would be from the woman\'s
perspective. In the United States the woman is given freedom and the ability
to choose, whereas in the Middle Eastern culture she has no rights. Is that
culture morally correct for the woman? There are just too many variables to
take into consideration when trying to make moral decisions for all cultures to
follow. If we were to use a set standard we would have to judge