What does Cultural Relativism claim about ethics? How does Rachels argue against it and for moral universality?

Cultural relativism suggests that the moral behavior of people should be valued based on their culture. For example, whatever might be right and ethical in one community can be immoral in a different society. Therefore it is better to value ethics based on the individual’s cultural practices, “What is thought right within one group may be utterly abhorrent to the members of another group, and vice versa.” According to the cultural relativism concept, people should not judge the behavior of other individuals based on their standard norms but instead, look deep into their cultural beliefs and the reason behind that act.

Based on Rachels’s argument, cultural relativism holds the notion that what is right in one community is considered wrong in another society. It, therefore, means the concept does not allow for adjustment in the societal norms. Furthermore, it cannot allow for social reforms since such steps will prove to be against the cultural standards of the community. She continued to say that other than the difference in customs and values in society, other factors like religion are essential in determining the variation, thus making the disagreement between the cultural practices of communities to be less than it may appear.

Based on moral universality, Rachels elaborates that some moral values have to be universal irrespective of the differences in cultural values amongst communities. For example, she talks about a murder where she argues that if societies had a different perception about killing, everybody would be in great danger of insecurity, and therefore people would remain isolated, leading to the destruction of the whole group. It is therefore concluded that some moral values are treated similarly in different cultures.

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Academic.Tips. 2022. "What does Cultural Relativism claim about ethics? How does Rachels argue against it and for moral universality?" October 9, 2022. https://academic.tips/question/what-does-cultural-relativism-claim-about-ethics-how-does-rachels-argue-against-it-and-for-moral-universality/.

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