Sunday, September 20, 2009

Philosophy of Cultural Relativism

Philosophy of Religion » Cultural Relativism

A few posts back I looked at a theological approach, just briefly, and related that approach to cultural relativism. Today's post is also from a philosophy of "religion" approach, however, no religious ideology is mentioned in this analysis of cultural relativism. What I felt most important to note, in this particular authors argument, was his conclusion and how he arrived at it. Basically though, however, I want to get right to the strength of his analysis:

"This strength of cultural relativism, however, is also its weakness. Cultural relativism excuses us from judging the moral status of other cultures in cases where doing so seems to be inappropriate, but it also renders us powerless to judge the moral status of other cultures in cases where doing so seems to be necessary. Faced with a culture that deems slavery morally acceptable, it seems to be appropriate to judge that society to be morally inferior to our own. Faced with a culture that deems ethnic cleansing morally acceptable, it seems to be appropriate to condemn that society as morally abhorrent.

In order to make such judgments as these, however, we need to be able to invoke an ethical standard that is not culturally relative. In order to make a cross-cultural moral comparison, we need a cross-cultural moral standard, which is precisely the kind of moral standard that cultural relativism claims does not exist."

Where this argument leads is where many others have lead already, that is to say that to argue for the legitimacy of cultural relativism you must also have what he says is a "cross cultural moral standard." This is the first time I have heard this notion announced. I happen to like it. There have been many other pronunciations of similar approaches with meanings that are of course nearly identical. However, not exactly associated the same way. Furthermore, the simplicity of the entire article makes it easy to follow and is easy for a beginning philosophy major perhaps even useful to an intermediate level to understand and to comprehend. It just cuts through a lot of the"jargon". I hope that someone that may arrive at this blog has a chance to review this article and my review of it. They will hopefully gain an enhanced understanding of the philosophy of cultural relativism.


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