Cultural Relativism: 4 Arguments For & Against Applied Sentience
But I just cannot see how any of those conclusions can lead to, or even can co-exist with, Cultural Relativism. Why might one be a cultural Relativist? Below I bring up common arguments for Cultural Relativism and then provide counter-arguments.
One So many cultures disagree about so many different things. If the world is full of anything it is passionate disagreement. And because of this it’s easy to wonder if there is any truth behind our moral claims. And since everyone seems to be honest when they make these claims, it seems arrogant to presume that any out of the multitude of nearly identical shouting voices is THE right one.
However, the fact that disagreement exists says absolutely nothing about whether or not there is any truth behind the matter, whether or not one voice among the multitude is closer to the truth. For instance, people disagree about the causes of cancer – does that mean cancer has no cause? All that the existence of widespread, honest and heartfelt disagreement tells us is that this shit is really hard to figure out. Nothing more. Further, there is more agreement that disagreement. Like so much in all of the other sciences, though the disagreements we have about morality are salient, we have a vast resource of agreements behind us.
And again like in the sciences, crazy opinions always lurk around somewhere, but people across the board are social animals who place enormous value in giving respect to those who’ve earned it; love among spouses, children, family and friends; in keeping one’s promises; in protecting the innocent, and so on. two Without God, all is permitted. All laws need a legislator.
So if there is no one up there making the rules, then there are no rules. The presence of ‘moral rules’ is nothing more than what the powerful in each culture have declared or what people, for whatever reason, have simply made up. I’ve never found this argument to make any sense. First, you have the Euthyphro Dilemma. I won’t go into the details, mostly because I’ve already written a post on this. But, basically, either God has reasons for making the moral rules He does, like human legislators in the analogy, or He doesn’t and makes them up arbitrarily.
If they are arbitrary, then that doesn’t explain the force behind their value. We don’t think it right to keep promises because some deity willy-nilly decided that would be ‘right’. If God had reasons, on the other hand, for commanding this or that, then it is those reasons and not God, or any kind of other legislator, that supports morality. Looking back at the shortlist of moral values I list above, we can see what kind of things those ‘reasons’ are. Harm, freedom, love, respect, suffering, reputation, and so on are important in and of themselves.
IT is, for example, the intrinsic value of friendship that supports the virtues that surround it – like trust and compassion – and not that some arbitrary legislator happens to declare friendship to be ‘good’. For a bit more detail, I wrote a long post here on the grounding of ethics without God. Three It’s important to be tolerant of others’ beliefs. If you claim morality is absolute then you are being intolerant of other people’s beliefs. This leads to imperialism, conflict and maybe even worse: genocide. But this argument rests on absolute moral claims themselves! Cultural relativism would certainly say that the person from a tolerant culture ought to be tolerant. But it would also say that a person from an intolerant culture ought to be intolerant.