Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cultural Relativism

      I honestly found this article to be extremely fascinating. While I also found it to be very repetitive (though that may have been to drive the point of the article), I basically agree with the argument the author is presenting. Cultural Relativism is based entirely upon opinions created by members of different societies. There are no set rules when it comes to morality and ethics and no one society has the right or privilege to condemn another society because of their difference. While I do believe that there are "primitive" cultures, that is strictly based on their access to modern technologies; it has nothing to do with their moral practices. However, this does not mean that I necessarily agree or approve of certain practices that are considered "right" by other cultures, it just means that I respect other ways of life and fully believe that everyone else should, too.
      Within the article, the author presents many examples that support his conclusions. First he brings up the instance of Darius, a king of Persia, where the king discovers that two groups of the people, the Callatians and the Greeks, have entirely different opinions on how they honor the dead. The Callatians eat the bodies of their fathers while the Greeks cremate their dead. While I have to say that I would never eat any dead person and that I agree with the Greeks, the Callatians (as well as the Greeks) fully believe that their practices are morally correct and both cultures were equally shocked and disgusted at the others' practices. Another example I found was of Eskimo society. Accepted practices that clash with those of our society include polygamy, infanticide, and a general disregard of human life, among other things. While those in our society would be absolutely disgusted by these morals (including myself), the Eskimos fully believe that their practices are correct and ethical. The line between savagery and just different societal standards is when there is a disagreement within that specific society. If all members of the society are in agreement with their practices, then we have no reason to condemn it or deem it inferior to the way we live.
      As I said in the introduction, I only basically agree with the entire argument. There were a few examples that I disagreed with. The author said that some societies believe that the Earth is flat, while others (modern societies) say that the Earth is spherical. He says that Cultural Relativism is not one hundred percent accurate because it is a fact that the Earth is a sphere and not flat. However, Cultural Relativism does not involve arguments that can be proven, in my opinion. The shape of the Earth is not up for debate, it is a proven fact. However, practices within a culture cannot be proven to be morally correct or incorrect because we do not have any set rules that govern all human beings. Another example made was with slavery and anti-Semitic societies. I believe this example is flawed because, as I stated earlier, there is a line between savagery and difference in society and there were plenty of people (including many people that were not in the oppressed groups in these societies) that disagreed completely with these practices. Therefore, I do not find this to be a valid example.
      To conclude this extremely long entry (I apologize, Mrs. Burnett, I had a lot to say about this), I found this article to be extremely enlightening, thought-provoking and I agree with most of what the author is presenting. One society cannot be truly inferior or superior to another society because there is no proof anywhere that states what is morally right and wrong. Every society creates its own practices and they all have a right to be respected (though it is not required that one agrees with them).