Culture Relativism states that we cannot absolute say what is right and what is wrong because it all depends in the society we live in. James Rachels however. James Rachels summarizes the former theory into one brief statement: “Different cultures have different moral codes.” (Rachels, 18) Ethical relativism. Cultural Relativism. Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. Ruth Benedict, PATTERNS OF CULTURE ().

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He vigorously refutes racchels theory of cultural relativism using example after example, and general rule after general rule, and in many cases, his analysis is persuasive.

Therefore, killing female babies at birth helps to keep the population from becoming skewed overwhelmingly female, and helps to reduce the burden on the family relativsm travel. For example, we would not be able to condemn cultures that enslave people or that commit genocide.

There are definitely universal moral codes that underlie all of the human cultures around the world, as Rachels claims.

Skip to main content. Together, they address the entirety of cultural relativism and what rahels rules lie beneath the everyday actions of members of cultures around the world.

Most of the actions that people take, and the things that they do, are not based on any underlying moral code. Benedict cites another example of a culture-wide action that would seem illogical and immoral to someone of Western culture: Rather, he was simply a nice guy who liked to work and be helpful. The conclusion, however, concerns what really is the case. Abu Rizvi December 6, HCOL A Cultural and ethical relativism are two widespread theories that are used to explain the differences among cultures and their ethics and morals.


If a normal member of one culture were to be transplanted into a significantly different culture, they would be considered abnormal in that culture.

Cultural Relativism

Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. Using these two examples, Rachels comes up with two general arguments that cultural relativism uses: He states that we agree that we should not eat our grandmother, when only pages before he discusses the disagreement over eating relatives.

Humans are more creatures of habit than they are of universal morality. His latter example about Earth is an argument over scientific fact, while his former two disposal of the dead and infanticide are arguments over moral code. Click here to sign up. The Eskimos are a nomadic tribe jamrs males are often killed during hunting or from the cold.


There is no rule that states that moral cultures must abide by such a code, and that any culture that does not is not moral. Rachels uses that concept to make three conclusions regarding cultural relativism.

Rachels misses the point when it comes to what morals and other characteristics are universal across all cultures. In the first example, Rachels argues that, according to cultural relativism, because there is a disagreement between the two cultures, this leads to the conclusion that there could not possibly be a true objectively right procedure for disposing of the dead.

In some societies, people believe one thing; in other societies people believe differently.

For example, Eskimos do not value infanticide when other cultures do not—they simply use it as a means of survival while other cultures do not need to.


Rachels uses another example to support his argument: The notion of right is in the folkways. A prominent ethical theory, cultural relativism, holds that the right or the good is the customary.

The fact is that one of the societies may simply be mistaken. With the possible exception of the proper treatment of dead bodies, all of the examples cited by both Rachels and Benedict show members of a particular culture performing actions or following certain rules in a method consistent with the belief that doing so will keep the culture moving in a positive direction.

He had no desire to mask his true personality and conform to the tendencies of his culture.

Shipka and Minton, p. However, Rachels does not subscribe to the theory of cultural relativism. The two similar theories describe the moral, ethical, and societal differences that diverse cultures experience.

Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. Rachels draws the somewhat-incorrect conclusion that if the theory of cultural relativism is accepted, one would no longer be able to criticize a different culture for its practices.

Similarly, Benedict is correct in her conclusions that many aspects of relwtivism lives of people within a culture are actually exclusive to that culture. In fact, there is disagreement even between his examples that show his assumptions are incorrect: