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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An anthropologist would have asked different kinds of questions: A need for a standard, hence, is vital. Finally, from the anthropologist’s point of view, Rachels fails to understand that ethnocentrism governs his understanding of morality.

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 chaloenge a rachles.

Oxford University Press, Works Cited Gardner, Martin. Cultural Relativism and Philosophy: From an anthropologist’s point of view, the most serious flaw in Rachel’s notion that cultural relativism presents a “challenge” to philosophy 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 and present.

Morality and Cultural Differences. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: In this case, we can easily identify through science, evidence and reason that one of these cultures is mistaken. Thus, Relxtivism believe this theory has its importance as well, its usefulness lies in the tolerance that it teaches man.


The student was confused. Underlying his ideas is the suspicion that cultural and moral relativism are a threat One cannot deny that Cultural Relativism, as a theory, has given us a lesson for tolerance.

John Ladd – – Belmont, Calif.

The challenge of cultural relativism

For instance, the covering of breasts with a scarf is part of some cultures and is not really important for other cultures. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use.

Science Logic and Mathematics. Information This entry was posted on March 15, by hadeelnaeem in Philosophy and tagged Cultural Relativism. Defence of Cultural Relativism. The fact that there is no measure relativisk societal progress without a standard and no moral value, belonging to any society, can be discouraged, looked down upon or prohibited can be a major problem.

James Rachels, The challenge of cultural relativism – PhilPapers

This entry has no external links. In his explanation, Rachels writes about the rachwls values that require no standard. History of Western Philosophy. The Problem for Normative Cultural Relativism. Cultural Relativism cannot be a law particularly because of these values that are common everywhere and at all times.

For Rachels, however, differences in the morality or value of customs—the relativity of moral values—become the central problem of cultural relativism Rachels Firstly, the argument against Cultural Relativism proposes that since different values prevail in different societies there can be no objective standard.

Rachels says nothing about the objectives of anthropology in his essay. Questions about why certain customs continue to be practiced and transmitted to each generation, or even whether those customs fit into the fabric of the society are never discussed.


While this premise is true and, factually, different societies have different moral values it does not follow that there is no objective morality. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Rachles. There may be exceptions to these values and there may be variations in these exceptions relative to different societies but murder chalenge telling a lie have always been prohibited.

Project MUSE – Cultural Relativism: Interpretations of a Concept

Thus, cultural and moral relativism stand in the way of discovering those universals. 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. As a result, for Rachels, cultural relativism leads to moral relativism. The tolerance people show towards homosexuality is because of Cultural Relativism.

However, the tolerance that they teach different societies is of value. What, exactly, was wrong with what James Rachels said about cultural relativism? Rachels’ essay was chosen to represent the ethical issue of cultural relativism in an introductory textbook on ethics.

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