Pitfalls of Relativism

The year was 1943. Hundreds of Jewish people were being
marched into the gas chambers in accordance with Adolf Hitler's
orders. In the two years that followed, millions of Jews were killed
and only a fraction survived the painful ordeals at the Nazi German
prison camps. However, all of the chaos ended as World War II came to
a close: the American and British soldiers had won and Hitler's Third
Reich was no more. A certain ethical position would state that the
anti-sematic Nazi German culture was neither right nor wrong in its
actions. In fact, it is this view of the cultural relativist that
assumes all actions considered right in a culture to be good for that
culture alone. Moreover, the relativist claims that these actions
cannot be judged according to their ethical correctness because there
is no absolute ezdard by which they could be compared. In the above
case, this position would not allow for the American and British
soldiers to interfere with the Nazis; the relativist would claim that
the Allies were wrong in fighting the Germans due to a cultural
disagreement. In truth, it is the relativist position which has both
negative logical and practical consequences, and negligible benefits.

The first logical consequence of relativism is that the
believer must contradict himself in order to uphold his belief. The
view states that all ethics are relative while putting forth the idea
that no absolute ezdard of rightness exists. If this is the case,
then what is cultural relativism relative to? From a purely logical
point of view, this idea is absurd, for in assuming that something is
relative one must first have some absolute by which it is judged. Let
the reader consider this example to reinforce the point. A young woman
is five feet tall, and her older friend is six feet tall. The younger
female considers herself short because she looks at her friend and
sees that she is taller than her. It would be illogical to say that
the first woman is short if she were the only female in existence; if
this were the case then there would not be anyone for her to be
relative to in height. However, this logical fallacy is what the
relativist assumes by stating that there is no ezdard of rightness
for relativity. Quite simply, the cultural relativist is stating that
he is relative to an absolute which he considers non-existent.

One other logical error that the relativist makes lies in his
"Cultural Differences Argument.1" The premise of this argument is that
"different cultures have different moral codes." The conclusion that
the relativist derives is that "there is no objective 'truth' in
morality, [and therefore] right and wrong are only matters of opinion
[that] vary from culture to culture.2" The main logical problem with
this argument is that the stated conclusion does not necessarily need
to be the case if the premise is given. The premise states what
different people believe to be true, and the conclusion jumps to the
assumption that this belief must necessarily be the case. Let the
reader consider this inezce, which closely follows the form of the
above given argument. Assume that there is a society that believes
that sunning as much as possible in the nude can only benefit a
person. Due to scientific study, it has been experimentally shown that
overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can cause skin cancer.
Being in the American culture, people know this to be true and
therefore would disagree with sunning too often. According to the
relativist, since the two cultures disagree concerning the practice of
sunning there is no objective truth about it. However, this is a
faulty conclusion because empirical evidence shows that the first
culture would be wrong in its beliefs. In truth, one cannot "derive a
subeztive conclusion about a subject (morally) from the mere fact
that people disagree about it.3"

Having discussed the logical consequences of relativism, it is
necessary to expound upon the effects of its practice. The first of
these repercussions is that the culture determines what is
functionally right and wrong. This means that the individual has no
say in the matter, and if there is a conflict between the two, the
individual's ethical belief is not given any consideration. Of course,
in theory this does not seem to create an enormous problem;