Frequently this semester (and in philosophy in general), a counterargument to many moral claims is using culture as a reason to adhere to said moral principle. Boiled down to its most basic form, this is the concept of moral relativism. This concept states that there are no objective moral truths and that morality is relative in the sense that “moral truths” are true only relative to a person’s or group of people’s attitudes.
Initially, this may seem like an easy claim to accept. It seems right that people should be able to form their own opinions based off of what knowledge they possess and the world view they hold; however, it is surprisingly easy to unravel this principle. One approach is to ask what are some basic moral principles people can all agree on? An is one is that harming others is bad. Moral relativists would say that such a claim is only applicable to someone if they choose it to be. When put in that frame, the argument sounds pretty lame and weak if you ask me. You basically are giving people the power to do whatever they see fit.
So why do we let people get away with certain behaviors because of their culture? To be sure, culture is something that should be respected, though in many moral cases, it can be put on a pedestal too high. In the following two-blog posts, I will discuss the role culture plays in the realm of food ethics.