Is Morality Determined By Culture?

Essay by phishstyxzUniversity, Master'sA+, March 2003

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"Are there absolute moral standards, or are moral standards effective only as far as they agree with the orientations of a given people at a given period of their history?" (Satris, 6) There are several theories that address the question of whether or not morality is determined by culture, and each theory contains its respective strengths and weaknesses. Three main theories that discuss the correlation between morality and culture are the Diversity Thesis, the Dependency Thesis, and Ethical Relativism.

Each person is brought up and is educated in a manner that is distinct to their culture. Culture dictates what one learns, how one behaves, and their habitual modes of thought and reason. Culture is not a rigid system of laws by which all members of a society must conform. Culture is flexible, and it is continuously remade and cultivated over time. Individuals are subject to outside influences and each person is responsible for making decisions in an ethical manner.

An evaluation of what is good or bad is relative to the cultural background out of which they arise.

According to cultural relativism, morality and immorality are concepts that are related to but not equal to normal and abnormal. A practice such as polygamy or infanticide may be viewed as normal in one culture, but it may be viewed as immoral by members within that same culture and other cultures. What is considered wrong and right varies from society to society, there are no inter-societal moral standards. The actions that one partakes in depend on the society that one belongs to. The principle of cultural relativism attempts to explain the question of the nature and role of values in culture and states that "Judgments are based on experience, and experience is interpreted by each individual in terms of his enculturation"...