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The challenge of cultural relativism. James Rachels. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. Oxford University Press () . What different positions have gone under the name of “cultural relativism”? What does Rachels think is the essence of the theory? Do you find the theory. James Rachels’ essay, The Challenge of Cultural Relativism, is primarily a critique of cultural relativism and, in a way; the writer has put forward.

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Project MUSE – Cultural Relativism: Interpretations of a Concept

Herskovits – – New York: Cultural Relativism in Social and Political Philosophy categorize this paper. Works Cited Gardner, Martin. Information This entry was posted on March 15, by hadeelnaeem in Philosophy and tagged Cultural Relativism. Rachels is not a social scientist. Hence, we are stuck at the same problem; objectivity or no objectivity. Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

On The Challenge of Cultural Relativism

Thus, I believe this theory has its importance as well, its usefulness lies in the tolerance that it teaches man. Request removal from index. History of Western Philosophy.

Email required Address never made public. In this case, we can easily identify through science, evidence and reason that one of these cultures is mistaken.

It is the philosophers from our culture—people like Rachels—not the philosophers of other cultures—who assume the right to pass judgment on other cultures, and decide that some universal standard [End Page ] of morality, yet to be determined, is the real goal.

From an anthropologist’s point of view, the most serious flaw in Rachel’s notion that cultural relativism presents a “challenge” to racheld is that he simply hasn’t done his homework, and knows little about anthropology or its central purpose—to understand and learn about the variety of human cultures, past cutlural present.


John Ladd – – Belmont, Calif.

Cultural Relativism in Social and Political Philosophy. You are commenting using your Twitter account. Finally, from the anthropologist’s point of view, Rachels fails to understand that ethnocentrism governs his understanding of morality.

The challenge of cultural relativism

Firstly, the challlenge against Cultural Relativism proposes that since different values prevail in different societies there can be no objective standard. These cultural differences are just practices and customs relating to different areas and times and may not be morally right or wrong.

This site uses cookies. An Analysis of the Foundations of Morality. No keywords specified fix it.

Oxford University Press You rachelw commenting using your Facebook account. Lf instance, the writer rightly points out that some cultures believe in heliocentricity and others may still believe in a geocentric arrangement of the universe.

Eventually, the writer touched upon the most interesting and pragmatic aspect of the theory. Obviously, reason has always persuaded man to believe that telling the truth is always more beneficial for all societies, and necessary for communication.

Cultural Relativism; Perspectives in Cultural Pluralism. Finally, having cited several well known examples relatifism customs our society would never condone, such as sharing of wives among some Eskimo, Rachels has one generous thing to say about cultural relativism: The student had learned, however, that the anthropologist is a participant and an observer at the same time, and that our task is to faithfully portray a culture.

Moreover, the writer pointed out that even experience can tell us that Cultural Relativism is not quite the case; he based this particular argument on the tinges of moral objectivity that we see amidst the cultural differences in values.

For Rachels, however, differences in the morality or value of customs—the relativity of moral values—become the central problem of cultural relativism Rachels Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. In his explanation, Rachels writes about the different values that require no standard. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.


The fallacy in the argument is that the conclusion does not follow from this premise. Thus, cultural and moral relativism stand in the way of discovering those universals.

Rachels rejects cultural relativism because, in his challenge, cultural relativism is identical to ethical relativism, and this equation relativjsm to an inability to criticize any society’s beliefs and practices, including our own. Morality and Cultural Differences. An anthropologist would have asked different kinds of questions: What he was learning in his philosophy class challenged what he had learned about cultural relativism as a core concept in anthropology and he was surprised to find it examined negatively by a philosopher.

By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. As we discussed the position James Rachels took in the article assigned to the ethics class, it became clear that Rachels’ understanding of cultural relativism differed from that of most anthropologists: The student was confused.

That’s part of what I told my student as we discussed Rachels’ essay. One cannot deny that Cultural Relativism, as a theory, has given us a lesson for rschels. Find it on Scholar.

James Rachels: The Challenge of Cultural Relativism

There may be objective morality and the values of societies may be different from that objective morality and they may be in accordance with the objective morality. His essay does not pretend to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject, nor does he indicate anything but a nodding acquaintance with what anthropologists have said about the subject.

North and Latin American Thf. Rachels is only one voice among many philosophers.