A structural critique of cultural relativism

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Dogbrain, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. Dogbrain

    Dogbrain New Member

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    I was recently conversing with someone who claimed that "cultural relativism" was the only proper basis upon which to make social decisions. Now, this might well be a fashionable pose to make, but a claim of exclusive validity for cultural relativism appears to be self-destructive. To wit:

    If absolute cultural relativism is valid, then, to be philosophically consistent, one must admit that the cultural perspective that rejects cultural relativism is equally as valid as the cultural perspective that accepts cultural relativism. If this is the case, then one cannot claim that cultural relativism is valid, since to do so means that one must also claim that it is as invalid as it is valid.

    To reject the cultural perspective that rejects cultural relativism means that one must abandon cultural relativism in order to defend it, since to reject the cultural perspective that rejects cultural relativism is to assign higher value to accepting cultural relativism than to rejecting it, which means that one is no longer being culturally relativistic.

    The only way to "preserve" cultural relativism is to be a hypocrite to some level or another. One must embrace a "dogmatism of relativism" or embrace a "relativism except in those areas that are philosophically inconvenient".
     
  2. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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  3. Dogbrain

    Dogbrain New Member

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    Note that I was writing specifically about the use of "cultural relativism" as the sole acceptable (moral) guideline for making social decisions, not as an academic tool. Of course, this was very CONVENIENTLY ignored in the attempt to claim that I am talking about a "straw man".

    From the Wikipedia article:

    "any attempt to apply the principle of cultural relativism to moral problems would only end in contradiction: either a principle that seems to stand for tolerance ends up being used to excuse intolerance, or the principle of tolerance is revealed to be utterly intolerant of any society that seems to lack the (arguably, Western) value of tolerance."

    If it is a "straw man", then the same "straw man" is deemed worthy of consideration by those professors of anthropology who deign to crawl down from the ivory tower and consider what their premises might mean if applied to societies.
     
  4. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    You didn't specifically mention applying it to moral issues, but instead mentioned applying it philosophically - but as the Wikipedia article mentions, it was has been misappropriated in general use to apply to moral problems it was never apparently designed to address.
     

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