Create an argumentative essay around why you find James Rachels’ critique of Cultural Relativism pursuasive. Paper should be 4-5 pages MLA citation with a thesis statement on defense


Sample Answer

Sample Answer

Title: The Persuasive Critique of Cultural Relativism by James Rachels


Cultural relativism is a philosophical theory that suggests that an individual’s beliefs and values should be understood based on their own culture, rather than being judged against the standards of another culture. However, James Rachels, a prominent philosopher, provides a compelling critique of cultural relativism. This essay will analyze Rachels’ critique of cultural relativism, exploring its persuasive arguments and implications for ethical reasoning.

Thesis Statement

James Rachels’ critique of cultural relativism effectively exposes the flaws in this ethical theory by highlighting its potential for moral relativism, its inability to condemn heinous practices, and its lack of practical application in resolving ethical dilemmas.

The Problem of Moral Relativism

One of the central arguments presented by Rachels is the problem of moral relativism inherent in cultural relativism. Cultural relativism suggests that what is morally right or wrong is determined by one’s culture, leading to the conclusion that no culture’s values are superior to another’s. However, Rachels argues that this perspective can lead to moral nihilism, where any action, regardless of its consequences, becomes morally permissible as long as it is accepted within a particular culture. This undermines the universal principles of ethics and can justify atrocities in the name of cultural tolerance.

Inability to Condemn Heinous Practices

Rachels also points out the ethical shortcomings of cultural relativism in addressing heinous practices such as genocide, slavery, or female genital mutilation. According to cultural relativism, these practices would be considered morally acceptable within the cultures that endorse them. However, Rachels argues that there are certain fundamental human rights that should transcend cultural boundaries and be upheld universally. By failing to condemn such egregious violations of human dignity, cultural relativism exposes its moral bankruptcy and ineffectiveness in promoting ethical norms.

Lack of Practical Application

Moreover, Rachels highlights the impracticality of cultural relativism in resolving real-world ethical dilemmas. In situations where different cultures clash on moral issues, cultural relativism offers no guidance on how to arbitrate conflicting values. Without a framework for evaluating competing moral claims, cultural relativism falls short in providing meaningful solutions to complex ethical challenges. Rachels underscores the need for a more nuanced and reasoned approach to ethics that transcends cultural boundaries and upholds universal moral principles.


In conclusion, James Rachels’ critique of cultural relativism raises important questions about the limitations and dangers of this ethical theory. By exposing its potential for moral relativism, its failure to condemn heinous practices, and its lack of practical application in ethical decision-making, Rachels challenges us to reconsider the foundations of our moral beliefs. Ultimately, his arguments compel us to seek a more robust and principled approach to ethics that respects cultural diversity while upholding universal standards of justice and human rights.



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