Morality Is Culturally Relative Essay, Research Paper
Within this world that we live on, there is an enormous amount of people. Each of these people belongs to different cultures and societies. Every society has traits and customs that make it unique. These societies follow different moral codes. This means that they will may have different answers to the moral questions asked by our own society. What I am trying to say is that every society has a different way of analyzing and dealing with life’s events, because of their cultural beliefs. This is claim is known as Cultural Relativism. Cultural Relativism is the correct view of ethics.1. Different societies have different moral codes.2. There is no objective standard that can be used to judge one societal code better than another.3. The moral code of our own society has no special status; it is merely one among many.4. There is no “universal truth” in ethics-that is, there are no moral truths that hold for all peoples at all times.5. The moral code of a society determines what is right within that society; that is, if the moral code of a society says that a certain action is right, then that action is right, at least within that society.6. It is mere arrogance for us to try to judge the conduct of other peoples. We should adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the practices of other cultures(Pojman,1996,p.360).Above are six claims that help explain the notion of Cultural Relativism. This essays arguments will help to illustrate them directly and indirectly. It will be clear that the true answer to the question of ethics is, Cultural Relativism. The definitions listed are words used through out the paper and can be used as a reference.Cultural Absolutism- Holds there is exactly one right answer to every “What I should do in situation X?”.Cultural Relativism- “Views moral validity in terms of social acceptance”Society- Organized or interdependent communityEthics- set of moral principalsMorality- degree of conformity to moral principals; moral conduct; science of moralsValues- desirability, or qualities on which these depend; one’s principals, priorities, or standards.The subject of murder is probably the most common issue thought to be a moral absolute. What I mean is, people think it is wrong to kill another human being. This is not always the case; murder has its place in many cultures. In Rachels article, the Eskimos practice infanticide as well as the killing of elders. The elders are too feeble to contribute to the group but; they still consume precious food, which is scarce. This practice is necessary for the survival of the of the group. The males within the Eskimo tribes have a higher mortality rate because they are the hunters and food providers. The killing of female infants helps keep the necessary equilibrium for the survival of the group. So, this infanticide and killing of elders does not signal that Eskimos have less compassion for their children, nor less respect for human life; it is merely recognition that murder is sometimes needed to ensure that the Eskimos do not become culturally extinct (Pojman,1996).To continue with the subject of murder, there are many questions about murder that our own society faces. Within our own society there are conflicting views on topics such as abortion, capital punishment and, euthanasia. To some these acts are considered to be murder, to others they are necessary to our society. The point of this conflict is that even within our own society, there is a discrepancy between what is morally right or wrong. There is an exception to every so-called moral absolute. This eliminates the possibility of Moral Absolutism, and proves there is no universal truth (Pojman,1996).Ruth states that homosexuals deal with many conflicts that are culturally based (Pojman,1996). For example, in our western society, the Catholic religion believes that is a sin for individuals to partake in homosexual activity. By this I mean, the tendency toward this trait of homosexuality in our culture exposes these individuals to all the conflicts that coincide with this choice of lifestyle. Some of these conflicts include hate groups that partake in “gay bashing”, public ridicule and even laws against homosexuals taking wedding vows. This differs from what Ruth explains about how in American Indian tribes there exists the institution of the berdache (Pojman,1996). These are men who, after puberty, take up the dress and occupations of women and even marry other men. These individuals are considered to be good healers and leaders in women’s groups. In other words, they are socially placed and not ridiculed by other members of their society. This is an example of how different societies have different moral codes.Ruth states within her article how every society integrates itself with a chosen basis and disregards itself with behavior deemed uncongenial (Pojman,1996). This means societies will choose their own moral standards and ethical codes and, disregard actions that do not lie within the boundaries of these moral standards and ethical codes. She goes on to say that our moral codes are not formed by our inevitable constitution of human nature. We recognize that morality differs in every society. Our own culture and environment will dictate these codes. This explains why different people have different moral standards because, behavior is culturally institutionalized. The Kwakiutls of Melanesia have a social code that is based on paranoia. This attribute is abnormal to our western society, according to Ruth. Abnormality is a term for the segment that that particular civilization does not use (Pojman,1996). This is abnormal because in our moral code the paranoia, or distrust of others, would cease us from functioning properly. For example: we could not get food from the supermarket, receive health care from hospitals, or even allow our children to receive an education. This is because of the belief that the parties would be trying to do us harm. Because of paranoia and distrust, the Kwakiutls are forced to break all social ties. For example, they do not accept food from the sharing of seed, even within the family group. This differs with our society in that, the trust of others plays a vital part of our everyday lives. We rely and trust others when we drive cars and interact at work. Both of our societies continue to survive and function though. This is an example of how there is no objective standard that can be used to judge one societal code better than another.A society that does not have laws protecting members from murder has a society where the members respect the act of murder. The Kwakiutls go out and kill only after one of their own relatives has died. The Kwakiutls do not go out and kill at random times, they only kill to ease their soul for a dead relative (Pojman,1996). Within our own western society, there are laws against murder. This is because without these laws it would create complete anarchy. This is when a society respect the power of murder, it can function without laws against it. Rachels proposes that cultures have value systems that do not differ that greatly. He states that cultures beliefs are different but, the values that they hold toward these beliefs are basically the same. Rachels argument is based on the discussion of a society who holds a cow as being sacred. This society will not eat this cow even on the verge of starvation. The society holds a belief that this cow contains the spirit of a deceased family member, “Grandma”. This societies value in Rachels mind is the same as our own western society in that we would not believe it to be right to eat “Grandma” (Pojman,1996). The problem in this argument is Rachels gets confused in what the real value system is. The real value system is not as Rachels described it of believed cannabalism. The real values are whether we would endanger our lives as well as our families over a supersticious belief. People in our western society would not starve their families over a supersticious belief!, but the people in this society Rachels described would. This is definitely not the same value system. So these cultures do have different ethical principals. One fault of moral absolutes is that of a closed mind. These are people who are unable to accept any action that they do not believe to be moral. These are people who, as Rachel’s put it, are arrogant with closed minds (Pojman,1996). With opening our minds, people will find that our feelings are not necessarily the truth. Our emotions will turn into understanding. What I mean is that with the knowledge of cultural rituals or societies’ customs, we will be able to accept the peculiar things they do in comparison to be own society. For example when we first learn that the Callatians eat the bodies of their dead fathers, people in our society are disgusted and outraged. Then these people learn that this is done out of respect, with the belief that the Callatians dead father’s spirit will live inside them (Pojman,1996). This gives people who at first are outraged an understanding of why this act is completed. So without Cultural Relativism this understanding could not take place.In Rachels article it is said that Cultural Relativism follows an argument that is not sound. He states that Cultural Relativism attempts to derive a substantive conclusion about morality, from the mere fact that two cultures disagree about it. Rachels uses the analogy about societies who believe the world is flat (Pojman,1996). This analogy of objective truth is wrong. First, because their knowledge of the earth’s shape is just a simple lack of technology. Their ability to survive as a society is because of their moral codes and is not comparable to their lack of technology. Their moral codes allow them to set up a social and religious structure, their education has nothing to do with morality. Their education is related to a lack of resources. Comparing morality and knowledge has no reflection in the disproof of Cultural Relativism. Therefore all Rachels is really trying to pass judgments about one groups’ idea being right and another one being wrong. Education and knowledge are not comparable and; this analogy is wrong.The moral code of a society determines what is right within that society; that is if the society says that a certain moral code is right, at least within that society. This explains why Rachels is wrong in stating that a consequence of Cultural Relativism is that; we would also be stopped from criticizing other less benign practices (Pojman,1996). The Eskimos consider it to be morally okay to kill the elderly and baby girls because they are acts practiced within their own society, for survival. To say that we could not condemn a society for the purpose of slavery on the killing of Jews by anti-semantic, is not Culturally Relative. The definition of Cultural Relativism is defined as being within their society. This is not a view of Cultural Relativism because these people are placing their beliefs on another society, the Jewish society. This is not an acceptable consequence of Cultural Relativism.Rachels’ theory about Cultural Relativism being based on an invalid argument is not true. But, Rachels shows why people give in to the thought of Moral Absolutism. People make the mistake of assuming all of these cultural preferences are based on absolute standards (Pojman,1996). This is not the case, some societies just have peculiar practices, in comparison to our own society. For example, the Callatians eat the flesh of their dead fathers. To our western society, this act is considered to be some sort of appalling, demented act. To the Callatians, this is a traditional ritual and to ignore it would be disrespectful and the act of a degenerate (Pojman,1996). This discrepancy is just another example of Cultural Relativism.Works CitedPojman, Louis P. Philosophy: The Quest for Truth. 3rd ed. New York: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1996.