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Showing posts from April 14, 2013

cultural relativism and me

I think of myself as a cultural relativist, but I am constantly irritated at my fellow culture relativists and the debate they wage with their antipodes, the various kinds of moral absolutists. I have a list of complaints, but I will hold back the full thesis, and content myself with merely two of them. 1.        The wrong enemy. There has been a long and, to my mind, futile hunt and peck debate between the relativists and the absolutists concerning the universality of this or that custom or norm. Relativists like to point to things like the fact that the pharaohs of Egypt married their sisters, and absolutists like to point to the universality of the incest taboo. This debate was waged to an extent in the ancient world, but in modernity, it was the discovery of America, and the difference of the Americans, that kickstarted it in the seventeenth century. Seventeenth century writers loved to list the odd beliefs and customs they found among the Americans, and from these lists spr