Cultural relativism

Hermeneutic intoxication

Cultural relativism is the position that there is no universal standard to measure cultures by, and that all cultural values and beliefs must be understood relative to their cultural context, and not judged based on outside norms and values. Proponents of cultural relativism also tend to argue that the norms and values of one culture should not be evaluated using the norms and values of another.

The concept was established by anthropologist Franz Boas, who first articulated the idea in 1887: "civilization is not something absolute, but ... is relative, and ... our ideas and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes". However, Boas did not use the phrase "cultural relativism". The concept was spread by Boas' students, such as Robert Lowie.

The first use of the term recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary was by philosopher and social theorist Alain Locke in 1924 to describe Lowie's "extreme cultural relativism", found in the latter's 1917 book Culture and Ethnology.

The term became common among anthropologists after Boas' death in 1942, to express their synthesis of a number of ideas he had developed. Boas believed that the sweep of cultures, to be found in connection with any subspecies, is so vast and pervasive that there cannot be a relationship between culture and race. Cultural relativism involves specific epistemological and methodological claims. Whether or not these claims necessitate a specific ethical stance is a matter of debate. Cultural relativism became popularized after World War II in reaction to historical events such as "Nazism, and to colonialism, ethnocentrism and racism more generally."

Source: Wikipedia

1. Cultural relativism can become the last refuge of repression.

2. Those who are culture-blind by background are especially vulnerable to the intoxicating idea that systems of meaning differ profoundly, are justified by their own distinct standards, and are separated from each other by profound gulfs, the crossing of which is an arduous and even perilous performance. The result is a certain tendency to an unduly reverential, rather mystical explication of "meanings", in lieu of more ordinary style of social description and explanation.

Hermeneutic intoxication may be accompanied by a certain facile and self-congratulatory relativism. Systems of meaning are credited not merely with magical potency and efficacy, but also, each in its own zone, with a kind of automatic legitimacy. Such relativism is simply false and a grave mis-description of anthropological practice.

Cultures are not cognitively equal, and the one within which alone anthropology is possible cannot really be denied a special status. The nature and justification of that pre-eminence is a deep and difficult matter. But it springs from something far more important than the arrogance of an imperial class. It is linked to the very possibility of reason.
Reduced by 
(F) Fuzzy exceptional problems