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Cultural Relativism

             Cultural Relativism is the doctrine that the moral rightness and wrongness of actions are relative to a culture. Our moral principles describe social conventions and must be based on the norms of our society. In our rapidly changing world a convergence of various cultures is an increasing trend bringing together people of diverse beliefs and moral values. The interaction of these different belief systems allows for one to question what is morally "right" and what is morally "wrong". Cultural relativism is a highly controversial concept as the main conclusion drawn is that there is no objective "truth" which many ethicists believe can threaten the discipline of ethics. .
             Cultural relativism holds two main arguments for the diversity of moral beliefs. The diversity thesis states that different cultures have different moral codes. Adultery, for example, is accepted in a society that approves of it, but is morally abhorrent in one that disapproves of it. The dependency thesis states that moral beliefs are the product of culture, and the validity of moral principles is a product of different lifestyles. The "best explanation" of actual moral diversity is that moral beliefs are the product of different ways of life (lecture, 15 moral relativism). The conclusion drawn from these two theses is that there is no objective "truth" in morality. Proposed laws of cultural relativism argue for example, that human rights as understood in the West are not necessarily applicable to the third world or the non-Western societies on the grounds that their philosophical basis is different and perhaps opposite. African societies, for example, are not based on individualism while Western conceptions of human rights are based on the autonomous individual. Western societies emphasize the role of the individual's political and civil rights whereas African and non-Western societies put more emphasis on the role of the community.

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