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Morality and Cultural Relativism

            Cultural Relativism is the philosophical position that asserts that the validity of moral truths are determined by, and should be understood in respect to, an individual's culture. Those who subscribe to this particular philosophical position suggest there are no universal moral truths, and that postulating universal moral standards is an inexact and ultimately arbitrary practice. Hence, the validity of moral actions and its implications for the individual is derived from specific cultural norms and social mores. When most convincingly argued, cultural relativism theory asserts that all fundamental moral values vary throughout culture-to-culture and time-to-time. Consequently, cultural relativists claim that moral truths are internally determined from within a culture as a result of cultural experiences and interactions. Cultural Relativists thus propose that the moral permissibility of an act is solely contingent on its culturally acceptability, thus rendering an objective evaluation, be that a universal moral standard or western philosophical principles, irrelevant. .
             The investigation of cultural relativism requires its application to events of moral ambiguity, so as to explore its ability as a legitimate moral framework. The quintessential example of such an event can be seen through the cultural responses to the September 11 attacks on the United States of America. Almost three thousand civilians were dead, and it was believed that nothing could possibly justify such an extreme act of violence and horror. From my overview of Cultural Relativism, it becomes clear that, to the cultural relativist, such an act may not be considered universally 'wrong' in the sense with which that term is usually used. The term 'wrong' cannot be applied universally, because it is argued that because morality is relative to ones culture, there are no objective moral standards. Consequently, if the actions of those responsible were culturally approved, then it may even be the case such an act was morally right.

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