Explain the difference between moral relativism and cultural relativism
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Owen Taylor R.P.E. Essay 20th September 2008 a) Explain the difference between moral relativism and cultural relativism Relativism is the principle that all points of view are equally valid and that all truth is relative to the individual. Moral and cultural relativism are perceived by many as somewhat similar and are easily confused. However there is a substantial difference between the two, which will be explored in the following. Cultural relativism is the manner that a person's attitude and conduct should be understood in terms of his or her culture. It explains the reasons why those from different cultures have a vastly different way of life. Cultural diversity has been documented since the earliest times. The Greek historian Herodotus travelled around the world and found it vastly different from his native homeland "The customs of the Getae...when a baby is born the family sits around and mourns at the though of suffering it must in endure...but when somebody dies, they bury him with merriment and rejoicing" this exemplifies the gulf between beliefs throughout the world then. Now, there are still limitless different beliefs in the world. One of these is the death penalty. It is enforced in numerous countries such as the United States and Thailand yet in even more countries it is highly frowned upon showing the cultural diversity of many countries on just one topic.
This is similar to Instrumental ethics. This means that something is good because it leads to a desired result. An egoist is someone wh0o does things for the best intentions of himself and himself only. Utilitarianism accepts the existence of ethical conflict and is based on the question, "which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people?" Doing something that has a negative impact on yourself but helps more people is seen as morally right. If you did something that is seen as immoral but had a positive effect on the majority involved then this would be seen as utilitarianism. The most famous utilitarian was John Stuart Mill. He believed that we have motivations to abide by the Utilitarian standard of morality. There are two classes of motivations for promoting general happiness. There are external sanctions and internal sanctions. External sanctions arise from our hope of pleasing and fear of displeasing God and others whereas internal sanctions come from our desire of pleasing ourselves. Subjective morality is dependant on an individual's internal thought. This means that a person would get the choice to make a personal moral decision. The fundamental difference between Cultural and Moral relativism is that moral is more individual to a particular person. It is more down to that persons true beliefs. Cultural relativism influences people's own personal moral opinions and so it results in consistent moral beliefs throughout that particular culture.
This would mean that decisions would be made on what would have the greatest impact, which would result in a very fair and selfless society. Also, relativism leads to more respect for people, as they have to make their own decisions. It would mean people would now have a chance to think for themselves. This would surely mean that people would be able to express their opinions on things more openly and thus would result in faster development of society. It would allow society to move on, as there would be no fixed rules. Situation ethics (a relative theory) is where love (agape) is the only absolute. It is easy to understand and can constantly be upgraded for new problems. It also focuses on humans and concerns for others. It allows people to take responsibility for their own decisions and make up their own minds about what is right or wrong. Both opinions have sufficient ground for argument but I personally believe that it is fair to an extent. I do believe it is fairer than absolutism but there are still some fundamental flaws. I believe that it would be incredibly hard to condemn different crimes as in different circumstances it may not be seen as bad. Although thanks to utilitarianism some people would do things for the greater amount of people some egoists would do what is best for them. Many relativist theories contradict each other anyway and until these are resolved relativist theories cannot become any more involved in today's society.
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