Cultural Relativism

Cultural Relativism
: A actions rightness or wrongness
depends entirely on the attitudes of the
culture a person finds him or herself to be
An argument for cultural relativism
Different cultures have different moral
Therefore, there is no objective truth in
morality. Right and wrong are only matters
of opinion, and opinions vary from culture
to culture.
Is this argument valid?
An argument is valid if whenever the
premise is true, the conclusion must be
If we suppose that moral codes do vary
from culture to culture, does it necessarily
follow that moral truths also vary?
The argument is not valid.
The premise is about what people believe
to be right or wrong. The conclusion is
about what really is right or wrong.
Compare: people believe different things
about God and gods. Therefore, there is
no objective truth about the existence or
non-existence of God or gods.
Arguments against cultural
If CR is true, then it is impossible to ever
legitimately criticize the standards of another
If CR is true, it is impossible
If CR is true, the best way to determine what is
right or wrong is just to survey what most people
believe is right or wrong
If CR is true, one cannot say of former practices
of one’s own society that they are worse or
Is there as much variation as there
Different societies have different views
about the legitimacy of infanticide.
But this might show that the conditions of
the society’s are different—not that they
value children differently
Rachels: There are objective standards
because there are values that are
necessary for a society to flourish.
No society could exist if it did not value
children, or disallow murder, for instance.