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Implications of differences in the moral standards of different cultures to the nature of morality

Author: 
Alanazi, Mohammed Ratoubi
Subject Area: 
Health Sciences
Abstract: 

Cultural relativism is based on a facile observation that what is considered to be morally right at one time and place (or in one culture) may or may not be considered to be morally right in another. For example, it is morally permissible in Saudi Arabia to have more than one wife up to four wives, and in Indian it is morally permissible that wives to be burned alive along with their dead husbands on a funeral pyre; however, none of these examples (in Saudi Arabia and/or India) are morally permissible in Australia. A major question that must be asked when considering the use of cultural relativism in the study of morality is, how widely do cultures actually vary? This article has elaborated on a number of points regarding cultural relativism. First, it is fundamentally destructive to the idea of shared morality because the only determination that can be made from a culturally relativist standpoint is that an act is personally immoral, rather than a statement of comparison of wider culture. Furthermore, it demonstrated that the basis of cultural relativism – that the moral norms and values of cultures vary widely – is often overstated and thus that the use of moral relativism in the analysis of morality is not actually as useful as it may be. Finally, it showed that cultural relativism can often be twisted in order to preclude moral judgment of acts that are clearly wrong, based on the assertion that these acts are traditional within the culture that they are taking place in.

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