Friday, July 15, 2016

Cultural Relativism and Cultural Practices

From guest blogger, Ming.

We talked about Ethical Relativism in class. It has two forms: cultural relativism and individual relativism. I want to talk about Cultural relativism mainly. The theory is that one makes his/her decision depends on cultural commitments. In other words, morality is made by each society and society has final say in ethics.

Before reading Ethical Relativism, I thought it would be a good thing because I believe that majority people would make moral decisions, and the society would make best choice that is beneficial to well-beings.

However, the story of Nuran Halitogullari changed my mind. A 14-year-old girl was killed by his father because she was raped and her father thought she had dishonored their family. Such “honor killings” usually go unpunished in Istanbul because of cultural beliefs that a family’s honor often depends on the “purity” of its women. From my point of view, that girl already suffered a lot, and it takes courage to live her future life. She already lost virginity and that is a huge suffer for her and for her family. However, killed by her father, she was even poorer than being raped. If cultural relativism is correct, then killings in such cultures are moral. But how can killing innocent people be moral?

I did a little research online and found that there are some awkward (at least seen by me) belief in other cultures. For example, Shiite Muslims believe that suffering martyrdom can pay tribute and absolve sin. Therefore, the day of Ashura, an event recognized by many Muslims around the world, select men join a procession and flagellate themselves with daggers to the head. Under Muslim cultures, it is morally right even though doing so causes pain. But how can hurting oneself be moral?

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