Moral Claims Differ Across Cultures. Free Essay Sample

Published: 2022-12-27
Moral Claims Differ Across Cultures. Free Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Relationship Social psychology Social issue
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1202 words
11 min read

Moral claims cannot be universal because every culture has a different perception of what is wrong and what is right. In modern society, moral claims might have minimum disparities as a result of cross-cultural interactions. However, one cannot use the contemporary environment to assert that moral inclinations are more or less similar across cultures. A critical analysis of the argument prompts one to look at the traditional communities where cultures were distinct. Different cultures have varied beliefs on issues relating to family, marriage, relationships, and religion. A look at how various cultures approached these issues brings into perspective the realization that moral claims cannot be assumed to be universal. The aspect of what is right and what is wrong is significantly woven in the cultural fabric of every community, and culture is dependent on several factors such as environment, beliefs, and religion that vary from one community to another. Therefore Grey's thesis is wrong.

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Cultural Background

Moral claims do not operate in a vacuum but have a genesis in the cultural background of a given community. An assumption that all cultures subscribe to practically the same moral values is to ignore the rich and diverse cultures in traditional and contemporary society. A question that is often raised when looking at cultural diversity is why do persons of a given culture behave the way they do? There is a need to look at the possibility that since people grow up in different social and cultural setups, they are bound to behave differently. According to Benedict (152), internal dynamics determine the nature of the culture of a given community. The internal dynamics in this case refer to the forces that compel people to behave in a particular manner. For instance, an aspect like religion contributes significantly to how people behave within a cultural set-up.

Hinman (187) explains that the Egyptians, they believed in life after death to the extent that they preferred to send nobles with virtually all their belongings. The idea of life did not just motivate the practice after death. The Egyptians believed that the same body would in some way resurrect and go to the next realm of life. Therefore, it became an essential practice among the Egyptians to mummify their dead. On the other hand, a religion such as Christianity preferred to bury their dead. Christians also believe in life after death. However, the perception of Christians about life after death is significantly different from the one adopted by ancient Egyptians. Christians believed that the flesh would eventually rot, but that the spirit of the dead person would proceed to the next life. Therefore, it is crucial to understand that such an otherwise subtle difference in religious practices had a significant impact on how the two cultures handled their dead. Opponents of this theory often claim that people should be judged by the same codes regardless of their cultural background. According to Sapontzis (103), behavioral scientists have for a long time studying the effect of cultural diversity in establishing sound moral values in a multicultural set-up. The outcome of such studies has brought into perspective the need to approach moral claims from a contextual perspective. Adopting a universal cultural approach is tantamount to assuming that some values are superior to others. One of the areas where moral values have been applied with bias in modern society is in the delivery of services such as health. There are cases where certain groups of people have not been catered for adequately because they have different moral claims as compared to the majority groups. For instance, a Muslim lady would not be comfortable being attended to by a male during a gynecological examination. Lack of consideration of such diversities can significantly affect the association of people within a diversely cultural society. Therefore, assuming that moral values are universal has its disadvantages, mainly when it is used in modern society.

Relativity of Values

The relativity theory of values postulates that acceptable conduct varies from one community to another other as explained by (Hinman 35). Grey's thesis explains that despite the superficial differences, moral claims have the same basis and can, therefore, be taken as universal. However, what Grey claims to be superficial are fundamental considerations when looking at moral values. For instance, an aspect such as marriage and personal relations determine how people relate to one another. Rachels (15) explains that from the traditional perspective, various communities perceived marriage and other relations differently. The author explains the Eskimos who considered aspects such as polygamy and sharing of wives a normal thing. However, among other communities in Europe marriage was considered a sacred thing and the thought of sharing a wife even with a close friend was unthinkable.

The difference brings into perspective the differing perceptions about social relations within communities. Ellemers (24) explains that one of the fundamental roles of moral values in every community to control social behavior. Moral values have roots in need for human beings to co-exist amicably within a given environment. Therefore, a practice such as marriage cannot be given a superficial status because it determines the structure in which future generations grow, and how men and women relate with one another. The realization of the fact that some communities allowed polygamy while others did not is testimony enough of the diversity of moral values. Apart from marriage, there were also other aspects of social relations that were significantly different from one community to the other. For instance, what was considered as a crime in one community would be acceptable in another community. Rachels (15) observes that the ancient Callatans of India considered eating of the flesh of their dead fathers a very normal practice. However, among the ancient Greeks, such a practice would have been punished severely. Such disparities have prompted philosophers to consider the relativity of values, especially when considering moral claims in a cross-cultural set-up. Therefore, it is essential to approach the issue of moral claims from a contextual perspective.


Grey's theory is myopic in its assumption that apart from superficial differences, all cultures have the same moral principles. The aspects that Grey relegates to superficial are the core principles that define cultures. For instance, when looks at the cultural background of different communities there is the realization that they develop from different environments. Therefore, there is no way that two different cultures can have the same moral values if these values develop from different backgrounds. The relativity of values also provides proof that communities have diverse moral claims. Essential cultural considerations such as marriage and social relations vary across cultures. These are some of the core considerations that define cultures. Social relations are an essential part of moral values because they define what a person can or cannot do. In essence, Grey's theory fails to define moral values holistically, especially in a multicultural set-up.

Works Cited

Benedict, Ruth. Patterns of Culture: An Enduring Classic. New York: Houghton MIffling, 2013.

Ellemers, Naomi. Morality and the Regulation of Social Behavior: Groups as Moral Anchors. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Hinman, Lawrence M. Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory. 5th. New York, NY: Cengage Learning, 2012.

Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. New York, NY: Routledge, 1999.

Sapontzis, Steve F. Subjective Morals. London, UK: University Press of America, 2012.

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