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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There are some characteristics of cultures that are not based upon any universal moral code. Cultural relativism does, in fact, exist—but not to the extent that Benedict might predict, nor to the extent that Rachels has denied its existence. 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. Help Center Find new research papers in: Different cultures have different moral codes.

Therefore, there is no objective ‘truth’ in morality. Rachels covers the topics and examples of cultural relativism within the central area of the spectrum, while Benedict covers those at the far ends.

Similarly, Benedict is correct in her conclusions that many aspects of the lives of people within a culture are actually exclusive to that culture. Not every culture has a reason to believe that their fellow jamds are out to poison them with black magic. Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. As time goes on, certain actions begin to become congenial, and others, uncongenial.

Cultural Relativism

Benedict has the opposing viewpoint that the morals and ethics of cultures are, in fact, relative. Rachels seems to draw most, if not all, of his examples in relation to our Western culture, failing to take into account the extreme examples that Benedict uses.

rachdls 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. Skip to main content.

Cultural Relativism: James Rachels vs. Ruth Benedict | Gordon Hemsley –

However, Rachels does not subscribe to the theory of cultural relativism. Click here to sign up. There is nothing moral about whether or not Earth is flat—it has been scientifically proven that Earth is an oblate spheroid.


While it would be considered morally repugnant in our society to feel good after completing such an endeavor, those involved in the war party and the killings felt good upon their return to Sebaa. Here is the argument: The Eskimos are a nomadic tribe whose males are often killed during hunting or from the cold.

As a result, he makes assumptions on the lack of differences among cultures that should not be made. It does not, however, indicate a lack of cultural relativism, as the simple need to conduct infanticide in order to survive may be exclusive to the Eskimo culture. The first conclusion is that a member of one culture would not be able to consider any other cultures inferior to their own, as it would not be true—they are simply all different. Skip to main content.

One of Professor Rachels’ key points is that cultural relativism is based on a faulty argument which he calls the cultural differences argument.

Jamfs situation addresses the Eskimo practice of infanticide. To support his argument, he uses multiple examples.

Log In Sign Up. He states that rachells agree that we should not eat our grandmother, when only pages before he discusses the disagreement over eating relatives. 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.

Rachels argues that cultural relativism would continue to support the notion that, because there is a difference of a opinion, there cannot be one truly correct belief. Similarly, there is no reason to think that if there is moral truth everyone must know it. Using these two examples, Rachels comes up with two general arguments that cultural relativism uses: Together, the arguments made by both Rachels and Benedict amount to different relativksm implementing different moral standards in jamss attempt to survive as a culture.

Each culture has its own individual methods to ensure its survival that are not based on any particular tie to the entire human race or its morals, as they are on environmental factors and interactions with other cultures.

One such situation is about the proper way to dispose of the dead: Rather than having a strict set of universal rules that govern the morality of different cultures, Benedict argues that many cultures are at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to specific areas of culture and lifestyle.


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 during travel. Neither group felt the other was correct.

Along those same lines, it is imperative that the young of the society be cared for so that they may carry it into the future. When the two theories are combined, they form a complete theory that some anthropologists and philosophers apply to cultures to describe rituals and actions that differ among them.

The tradition is it own warrant. Rather, he was simply a nice guy who liked to work and be helpful. James Rachels summarizes the former theory into one brief statement: This specific example addresses the universal moral code of survival that is shared by all cultures.

James Rachels: The Challenge of Cultural Relativism

Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. Quoted by Rachels in Shipka and Minton, p. Hemsley Long Paper Prof. This duty is part of the general custodial duty of parents to help, instruct, and preserve their offspring, a duty addressed by British philosopher, John Locke, more than three hundred years ago in his Second Treatise of Government.

Benedict is even more correct in her analysis of the differences among cultures. Benedict does not take into account the points that Rachels addresses about the similarities among cultures. Rachels translates cultural relativism into the fact moral ethics are not universal—they are simply a matter of opinion that differs from culture to culture. If a normal member of one culture were to be transplanted into a significantly different culture, they would be considered abnormal in that culture.

The ‘right’ way is the way the ancestors used and which has been handed down. 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. They may be exempt from prosecution because they have conformed to custom and possibly law.