Theories Of Cultural Relativism

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Relativism is a philosophical belief that is described as “a family of views whose common theme is that some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is relative to something else” (Standford University 2003). Relativism believes that each opinion is equally valid. Relativism is often presented when it comes to the problem “how people ought to regard or behave towards those with whom they morally disagree” (Stanford University 2008). Cultural relativism is a more specific theory that deals with the diversity among different cultures. First, it considers that people live in a particular cultural background and enrich their cultures within the society; every culture has its own unique developmental processes that are…show more content…
Franz Boas first articulated cultural relativism theory in 1887 to argue against the idea that people can put all cultures into a large collection. He put cultural relativism as this: “Civilization is not something absolute, but that it is relative, and that our ideas and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes . . . Each civilization is the outcome of its geographical and historical surroundings” (Boas 1887, 588). According to Boas’ statement (Boas 1887), he strongly disagreed with the idea of generalization; instead, he considered that in ethnology, all was individual. Then in the 20th century, in Ruth Benedict’s article Anthropology and the Abnormal in Journal of General Psychology, she claims, “There are well-described cultures in which these abnormals function at ease and with honor, and apparently without danger or difficulty to the society” (Benedict 1934, 34). In this article (Benedict 1934), she believed it was a particular group’s practice and ideologies that define what is moral; judgment about right and wrong was a product of a society itself. Their belief can distill down to one point that people should show respect and understanding toward other groups of people. During World Wars, their ideas were used as a tool to censure cultural colonialism and to support developing…show more content…
They find that there are not only differences among people; it is of no doubt that human beings share a large number of common qualities. They believe in human rights, that is, “rights that belong to an individual or group of individuals simply for being human” (Weston 2014). Furthermore, the Unite Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a document Universal Declaration of Human Rights; this document was written “for fundamental freedom for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion” (Encyclopedia Britannica 2010, 657). The universal human rights theory declines cultural relativism because it sets unified rules for all human beings. Therefore, a heated discussion has begun in academic circle. Whether there exists an agreement on evaluative standard that can be applied in all societies is still a question. The conflict between universalism and cultural relativism remains unsolved

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