Ethical Relativism and the Hindu Culture

Essay by trytyeCollege, Undergraduate April 2005

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Ethical Relativism tells us that our moral beliefs tend to reflect the culture in which we grew up in. If this is so, there can be no universal moral standards for us to adhere to as some ethical theories such as Kantianism would have us believe. Because people in different societies make different moral judgments regarding the same action, the argument seems to be, they must accept different moral standards. If this is true, there can be no universal moral standards. This then leads to the idea that cultures are morally infallible; after all, if cultures make the moral laws, cultures can do no wrong. Many antiquities cultures as well as modern, follow this idea to some degree. For example, in India some cultures believe it is morally permissible for wives to be burned alive along with their dead husbands on a funeral pyre. According to Hindu culture, a widow is required to mount the funeral of her dead husband and be cremated alive with his dead corps.

Also according to Hindu culture, if a widow's husband died far away from home, or in another country, she is to be burned alive on the funeral pyre by herself.

Many Hindu men describe this act as "virtuous" and "sanctified," I however, would describe it as a moral depravity, practiced by a society with no viable concept of moral consciousness. To say I disagree with this because it's morally wrong in my "culture" would be accepting the theory of ethical relativism & I simply can't do that. I believe this act is wrong because I believe that there are such things as universal moral standards. Moral standards in which murder is wrong, the depravity and subjugation of women or any human being is wrong and I believe these things to...