Cultural absolutism aims to solve this problem, it is the idea that although there are differences in culture, and we should accept those, it is important to uphold basic moral values which are the same worldwide. This is supported by the “golden rule” or the idea that you should treat others how you want to be treated. This rule is found in all religious scripture albeit in different ways, for example “Love your neighbour” in the Bible or “Let him who desires his own advantage not harm another” which is found in Buddhist text. This shows that although these religions can be very different, the fundamental values found are the same.
Cultural absolutists believe these values are the same in human beings around the world, regardless of culture. One example of the theory of cultural absolutism is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Set up in 1948 after the monstrosities of the second world war, it aimed to promote “recognition of the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” suggesting that our individual cultures are not as important as the fact we are all human; Article 27 of the declaration states: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community” suggesting that our individual cultures should also be protected. Supporters of this theory believe that cultural absolutism will create a world where we are liberal and accepting, but also take responsibility for our actions, and can recognise when something is wrong. However, some people suggest that Cultural absolutism creates a homogenous culture by reducing cultural traditions and making us all the same.
In conclusion, the differences between cultural absolutism and relativism are significant. Although both accept that our culture may make us have different values, and that our culture is important, cultural relativists maintain that because of our differences in culture, it is possible for us to share no values at all. Cultural absolutists on the other hand, believe that all human beings share a similar code of conduct, and we all have consciences. They believe that this moral code should be applied to all in law.
B) “Nothing is always wrong” Discuss this statement.
The belief that there are no absolute values is called Relativism. Relative Morality is the idea of taking into account the circumstances of a situation before deciding how to act, and the belief that what is right and wrong varies depending on these circumstances. Therefore relativists would agree with this statement. However, absolutists would disagree, as absolutism is the idea that there are certain things which are always right or wrong, regardless of the circumstances. One philosopher who pioneered the idea of moral absolutism was Plato. He believed that mankind was inherently selfish and immoral, and so needed a set of absolute rules to guide us. He set out this philosophy in his book Republic, with his analogy called the Ring of Gyges, when a “just man” is given a ring with grants him the power of invisibility. He then behaves exactly the same as an “unjust man” would; by seducing the Queen, killing the King and taking power. Plato says this means that humans only act justly for fear of punishment, and once that fear is taken away from them they will act selfishly. Plato believes that we obtain our knowledge of what is moral from a higher being called “The Form of the Good” who exists outside the universe. This suggests that he believes our morals come from a figure of authority, and to Christians, this figure would be God. The idea of God telling us what is moral is called the Divine Command Theory.
However, there are some problems with getting your commands from God. This problem is known as the Euthyphro Dilemma. The Dilemma is that if you believe that things are moral because God says that they are, what if God orders someone to do something that is wrong, for example, God says murder is wrong, and then commands Abraham to kill his son. This is the problem of Abhorrent Commands. As well as this, if anything that God says is right, then as the philosopher Leibniz says “Why praise him if he would be equally as praiseworthy in doing the exact opposite” This is the Arbitrariness Problem. However, if you then say that things are morally right or wrong dependent of God, then there are also problems, because then what is the point of believing in God? This is the Emptiness Problem.
If we cannot get our morals from a higher being, then where do they come from? Most atheists would agree that our morals depend on our upbringing, our culture and education. However, these values are not absolute. This theory is known as Cultural Relativism. It is the idea that people around the world will have different morals because our cultures are different, and that it is possible for two cultures to have completely opposite values. We can observe this in the world today, for example, The Ik Tribe in Uganda, were studied in a report by Turnbull and he was “shocked” by the way they have had to adapt for survival, he says they have little empathy for each other and will not share food with the weak or elderly. This shows that because of their need to survive, their morality is different to ours. However, there are also problems with cultural relativism. There are lots of barbaric practises found in other cultures, for example FGM, and cultural relativism would suggest that we would accept that as a difference in cultural norms and that we could not criticise it. Therefore they would disagree with the statement.
Cultural absolutism aims to solve this problem. It is the belief that although cultural norms may vary worldwide, there are certain moral standards that everybody needs to follow. They believe that because all human beings have a conscience we should all aim to help each other and treat each other equally. This is supported by the “golden rule” or the idea that you should treat others how you want to be treated. This rule is found in all religious scripture albeit in different ways, for example “Love your neighbour” in the Bible or “Let him who desires his own advantage not harm another” which is found in Buddhist text. This shows cultural absolutists that all human beings share the same basic values. They believe that it is important for our human rights to be upheld in law if our moral standards fail, and so agree with moral absolutists that some things e.g rape and murder are always wrong. However cultural relativists would argue that cultural absolutism will create a homogenous culture and lead to a world which is less accepting of those who are different to us.
In conclusion, the argument for cultural absolutism is stronger and so I think that the statement is wrong. This is because although it is important to be accepting and understanding of other people’s morals it is also incredibly important to uphold human rights, as they are vital in a democratic society. Freedom of speech is an important right and so cultural absolutism is not taking away people’s right to disagree, or express their opinion, but simply does not allow for abhorrent acts to be justified in the way that cultural absolutism does.