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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In this case, we can easily identify through science, evidence and reason that one of these cultures is mistaken. Request removal from index. Rachels is not a social scientist.

Eventually, the writer touched upon the most interesting and pragmatic aspect of the theory. While this premise is true and, factually, different societies have different moral values it does not follow that there is no objective morality. 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. Thus, cultural and moral relativism stand in the way of discovering those universals.

These cultural differences are just practices and customs relating to different areas and times and may not be morally right or wrong.

Ethical Relativism and Universalism. One cannot deny that Cultural Relativism, as a theory, has given us a lesson for tolerance.

James Rachels, The challenge of cultural relativism – PhilPapers

A Reinterpretation of Peter Winch. Obviously, reason has always persuaded man to believe that telling the truth is always more beneficial for all societies, and necessary for communication. In his explanation, Rachels writes about the different values that require no standard.


This, however, does not suggest that moral objectivity cannot account for such a tolerance. Notify me of new comments via email.

Works Cited Gardner, Martin. This entry has no external links. For instance, the covering of breasts with a scarf is part of some cultures and is not really important for other cultures. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

Sign in Create an account. 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. The student was confused. That’s part of what I told my student as we discussed Rachels’ essay. There may be exceptions to these values and there may be variations in these exceptions relative to different societies but murder and telling a lie have always been prohibited.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Tilley – – Ratio Juris 11 3: However, the tolerance that they teach different societies is of value.

To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: 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.

Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. As we can see, some cultures allow homosexuality and others strongly condemn it but many people who believe in such a theory have learned to live with it.

On The Challenge of Cultural Relativism

Finally, from the anthropologist’s point of view, Rachels reltivism to understand that ethnocentrism governs his understanding of morality. Interpretations of a Concept Thomas H. It would have been helpful if another philosopher had presented an anthropologist’s view of cultural relativism, but fairness was not the textbook’s objective.


North and Latin American Perspectives.

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Rachels is only one voice among many philosophers. John Ladd – – Belmont, Calif. Cook – – Oxford University Press. Project MUSE Mission Rchels MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

Rachels says nothing about the objectives of anthropology in his essay. Cultural Relativism cannot be a law particularly because of these values that are common everywhere and at all times. Cultural Relativism and Philosophy: Find it on Scholar. 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.

Thus, Challlenge believe this theory has rachel importance as well, its usefulness lies in the tolerance that it teaches man.

The challenge of cultural relativism

For instance, the writer rightly points out that some cultures believe in heliocentricity and others may still believe in a geocentric arrangement of the universe. 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 cultyral some universal standard [End Page ] of morality, yet to be determined, is the real goal.

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