Free Cultural Relativism Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Culture, Relativism, Morality, Race, Ethics, Adolf Hitler, Flaw

Pages: 1

Words: 275

Published: 2020/09/12

Ethics Around the Globe

Cultural relativism is the view that the concept of right and wrong stems from the unique cultural viewpoints of people. If two cultures differ about whether any act is right or wrong, the framework of cultural relativism would hold that the act would be true for the culture that holds it to be so. The roots of cultural relativism arise from thinkers such as William Graham Sumner, who averred that the ‘right way’ was the way that the ancestors used, and that ‘tradition’ was ‘its own warrant’. Thus, cultural relativism challenges notions of universal moral truths, insisting that there is no objective standard to judge one societal code better than the other (Rachels, 1986). The essence of cultural relativism is a tolerance and respect for difference amongst cultures (Howson, 2009).
One of the major criticisms to cultural relativism stems from the argument that if the tenets of cultural relativism were to be taken as valid, we would not be able to morally censure the customs of other cultures. (Rachels, 1986). This corollary, while acceptable in most cases, would prove to be morally indefensible in case of extreme acts on the part of certain cultures. For example, the Nazis believed in the supremacy of the Aryan Race and the moral justification in extinguishing the Jewish race. If the Allies adhered to cultural relativism, they would have had to allow the Nazis to go ahead with their anti Semitic plans without opposition. Similarly, the world would have to stand by and watch as Islamic extremists kill all unbelievers in Iraq and Syria. Thus, the fact that cultural relativism condones excess and extremism by cultures becomes its greatest flaw. Because of this flaw, it would be prudent to disregard cultural relativism as an ethical compass.


Howson, A. (2009). Cultural relativism. Retrieved 06 Jan 2015, from
Rachels, J. (1986). The challenge of cultural relativism. Retrieved 06 Jan 2015, from

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