Reasons Why Cultural Relativism is a Bad Idea

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Cultural relativism is a theory about the nature of morality, therefore it is one of those theories that would help in determining what is right and what is wrong. According to this theory, moral values are created by the society through their different beliefs and values. In other words, the concept of 'right' and 'wrong' is culture-specific, that is, a certain practice may be considered as moral in one society or place but may be considered as immoral in the other. Since it is also culture-specific, morality can vary from one culture to another and so it would suggest that there would be no basis as to what the standard of morality is. This now makes any set of customs and traditions or way of life, valid as any other, thus suggesting that no one has the right to judge another society’s customs as it is backed up with this idea.

This would now mean that the norms and practices of some cultures just like female genital mutilation,

which lead millions of women into severe physical and mental ailment, infection, and death is valid because it is a custom based on the beliefs and values of a certain society. Along with that kind of practice are also other practices such as cannibalism, slavery, rape, torture, war, child or force marriages, and more which may bring harm and danger to a person, which are considered as “part of the culture” and thus should be respected.

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Although this theory gained wide appeal to other people, I don't think cultural relativism is fully acceptable in my part, even though it does have a point in other practices such as the wearing of hijabs of muslim women or wearing of saree of Indians and such, but it does not when it comes to cultures and ethnics and their practices that promotes harm, violence, and oppression. For me, cultural relativism only justifies these kind of acts, and respecting these “culture” would only promote destruction and endangering of human life.

Aside from it only justifying these harmful traditional practices, cultural relativism also makes those who are innocent morally defenseless against the aggressors. This is because the theory proclaims that there are no basis to what the universal standards of morality are, therefore we can assume that there are also no basis to whether this certain act is within the criterion of being right or wrong. This now leaves a person defenseless and at the same time, even justifies the actions of aggressors.

Talking about other practices, relating cultural relativism in our current situation is a good example. We are currently in the middle of a pandemic, which arose from cultural practices that are deemed to be moral in a certain place. That is, China's rampant consumption of exotic animals and risky behaviors that placed the world at risk of infections such as deadly coronaviruses. This kind of practice should only be appropriately criticized, instead of abiding to cultural relativism.

In conclusion, cultural relativism only promotes harm, violence, and oppression in most of its aspects and these certain acts should not be tolerated in any way. For me, culture should not be an excuse to endangering human life and as long as a certain practice leads into it, it should only be criticized instead of respecting it as to not justify the actions of these aggressors.

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Reasons Why Cultural Relativism is a Bad Idea. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Reasons Why Cultural Relativism is a Bad Idea.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Reasons Why Cultural Relativism is a Bad Idea. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
Reasons Why Cultural Relativism is a Bad Idea [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from:

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