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Ethical Relativism

            Moral or ethical relativism is the belief that what is considered morally right or morally wrong depends on the society/culture you belong to. Therefore, what is moral or ethical in one culture may be seen as unethical in another culture. In her article, "A Defense of Moral Relativism," Ruth Benedict states that "Morality is culturally relative. " (79) Morality depends on culture. " What one society approves may be disgraceful and unacceptable to another. " (79) An action is morally obligatory for a person if and only if that action is required by the basic moral principles or standards accepted by that person's culture. .
             Anthropologist Ruth Benedict uses the examples of homosexuality and murder, which are considered to many cultures as morally wrong. Benedict claims that in ancient Greece, as indicated by Plato's Republic, homosexuality was mostly approved and accepted. Homosexuality was "presented as one of the major means to good life. " (80) This clearly shows what it's believed to be immoral to one culture may be considered as moral and acceptable to another culture. Benedict also states in the culture of the Kwakiutl, a culture which has been without contact to and thus has remained uninfluenced by our "standardized worldwide civilization, " the death of a loved one (no matter if the person has died of accident or natural causes) is considered an "insult " which is to be dealt with by committing murder (79, 82). .
             According to Benedict, each of these examples demonstrate how what is considered immoral in one society is considered moral in another. Benedict's argument is: (1) If what is accepted by society, based on shared beliefs, as normal behavior varies from culture to culture, then morality would vary from culture to culture. (2) Each culture, based on shared beliefs, decides what is considered acceptable and normal behavior within their society. (3) Therefore, morality is relative to the culture.

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