Talk:Cultural relativism

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Really old talk[edit]

Hey, ark, are you a conservative or libertarian or what? Do you know anything (or care anything about) issues that I also care about? If so, would you like to collaborate? We could make beautiful music together... Ed Poor, Tuesday, June 11, 2002

I'm an anarchist (by which I mean left-anarchist) trying to figure out how to be an anarch. I have a very wide range of interests so I'm sure ours must overlap somewhere. I wouldn't mind collaborating at all; what do you have in mind? -- Ark, Tuesday, June 11, 2002

  1. Fewer and shorter arguments on talk pages
  2. More and clearer articles written from NPOV

Topics you might be knowledgeable on seem to relate to your interest in de Mause's views on psychohistory. Could you delineate the views of other writers, in addition to de Mause, on subjects such as:

  • anthropology
  • primitive cultures
  • incest

Anti-sidetracking formula[edit]

If you will stick to the following formula, you will not find yourself sidetracked into defending your contributions so much:

  • Prominent authority in their field X said Y about Z.
  • Pioneering researcher A said B about it.
  • Traditional spokesman C (representing D) said E about it.

The value of this form of writing is that everyone who reads it, whether they disagree or agree with Y, B, or E, will at least accept that X, A, or C advocate their respective points of view.

I agree that most human rights discourse rejects cultural relativism, and have no objection to the claim made concerning the UDHR.
Nevertheless, the relationship between universal human rights, and cultural rights, is more complex. It is flat out false to claim that "Article 24.3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly rejects cultural relativism". It states:

States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.

This implicitly rejects cultural relativism (as most human rights documents do) but it does not explicitly reject cultural relativism. To "explicitly" reject cultural relativism the document would have to use the words "cultural relativism."

Or a synonym. And what is "traditional practices" if not a synonym for cultural relativism?
Ark, do you carry a vaccuum cleaner around, or what? I seem to keep getting sucked into debates with you. *grin*
To review the definition of synonym: "one of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses" (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, online, available here. Traditional practices is a phrase that means, roughly, cultural practices recognized by a particular community as being long-established within that community. Cultural relativism means, roughly speaking, the belief that all cultural practices must be evaluated within the context of the practicing culture.
How are these synonyms? One refers to actions, the other to evaluation; arguing that they're synonyms is like arguing that "symptom" and "diagnosis" are synonyms because the former is used by the latter to evaluate the former. Pgdudda
All human rights document reject cultural relativism by their very natures. The mere assertion of the supremacy and universality of a human rights document (eg, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) logically entails the rejection of cultural relativism. The human rights become absolute morality which rules over every human being, irrespective of cultural and societal boundaries.
Does the CRC do this? Yes, it does. It does this the moment it mentions inalienable rights. That is, rights which cannot ever be bargained, sold, granted, given or taken away from a person, but may only be secured or violated. Taken with the fact that the CRC takes its authority from the UDHR, and reasserts the universality of human rights found in the UDHR. It really couldn't be any more cut and dried.
That's what "implicit" means. Explicit means that some article rejects cultural relativism. Article 24.3 does this.
If you understand the difference between "traditional practices" and "cultural relativism", you'll see that the CRC rejects the latter implicitly only. See below for (general, but more constrained) agreement with slrubenstein's argument. Pgdudda
The definition you provide is good for an anthropologist but there's a more useful and popular definition around; it's that all cultures have equal value. This definition preserves almost all of the meaning of the other definition. I can see reading what you wrote below that you may not agree on this last point, but the transformation from one to the other is quite simple. "you can only judge a practice with respect to its culture" merely leaves implicit how you're supposed to judge the culture itself with respect to another. The answer is they're supposed to have equal value with our own; whether or not it's meaningful to say that a culture has value. In the reverse direction, if all cultures have the same value respective to each other, and if the given practice can have only one value, then it follows that each practice must be evaluated only with respect to its culture.
And it's pretty clear that Article 24.3 rejects "colloquial CR" completely. I would say it rejects it explicitly, with Article 24.3 explicitly giving negative value to many cultural practices, irregardless of their value in the cultures to which they belong.
But anyways, this is not very useful because I already took out 'explicit' from the article. And then adequately punished SR for forcing me to do it. :) The article reads more anti-relativism than ever and it's perfectly NPOV. -- Ark (I take my victories where I can get them, there're few enough of them)
*chuckle* Fair enough. :-) On the whole, though, we seem to me more in agreement than disagreement here - but I would have said "Article 24.3 rejects cultural relativism implicitly, by explicitly giving negative value to many cultural practices, regardless of their value in the cultures to which they belong." (emphases omissible in citation) Pgdudda

In fact, the document hedges a bit.

A mistake. The UDHR contains a non-contradiction clause (Article 30) which says that you can't interpret any article to undermine rights given by other articles. The CRC lacks such a clause but that's just a mistake.

Article 29 (c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;

You'd have to be pretty twisted to interpret this as culturally relativistic.
Actually, this shows ignorance of the roots of cultural relativism. The concept itself was a reaction against those who attempted to build racist and ethnocentric models of cultural evolution. The original point of cultural relativism was that so-called "primitive" practices, such as lip-piercing, had to be evaluated in the context of the practicioners' culture, not in the context of "traditional"/Christian "morality". Article 29(c) merely reinforces this concept, while simultaneously using Article 24 to reject the extreme form of cultural relativism that doesn't bat an eylash at people endangering the lives of others (on the basis of "but there's no such thing as ‘absolute morality’").
Further, Article 30 (below) takes Article 29(c) a step further, and mandates that merely allowing a child to have appreciation for his or her parents' culture is insufficient; the child must be allowed to freely practice and participate in any and all practices that do not directly harm him or her. This is without regard to whether the child belongs to a "dominant" or "minority" culture, and without regard to the "dominant" culture's evaluation of the (non-harmful) practices in question. Thus, the three articles together can be taken to advocate cultural relativism in its original sense, while clearly rejecting the extreme form often expounded in present-day literature. Pgdudda
You're stretching it. Article 29(c) does a lot of things. It seeks to promote respect for traditional cultures and identities but it places this on the same level as respect for national cultures and foreign civilizations. Yes, Article 29(c) protects some form of culture (ie, stupid ritual practices and delusional group fantasies, which I am totally against btw since on my list of human rights, culture is either absent or at the very bottom, below even the right to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), but anyways. So, yes Article 29(c) protects some culture, but it doesn't protect the particular culture a child belongs to any more than any other culture.
Heh, just now realized that the above paragraph conflicts with what I wrote later (plus, it doesn't seem to have much of a point). But it's still significant that the CRC tries to promote respect for so many different cultures simultaneously. Why? Because the best way to teach atheism to students is to have a class on comparative religions. Nothing demonstrates how false religion is than a demonstration of just how petty and arbitrary religious rituals are. The same applies for culture.
Article 30 is harder for me to explain away, though I got a brilliant insight when I examined its exact wording.
One of the things you have to understand about child abuse and child-parent relationships is the use of the possessive. When people say that a girl is her mother's child, that subtly says that the girl is the property of the mother. When you say that a woman is a girl's parent, that reverses the flow of responsibility. Instead of the child being responsible for being "good", it's the parent's responsibility to be good.
Now, if you'll examine Article 30, it says that a child has a right to enjoy his or her own culture, his or her own religion and his or her own language. Neat trick, huh? It means that there may be a difference between the child's culture and the parent's culture! And a child raised among foreigners since infancy most certainly has a different culture from one raised among the natives. What you have here isn't protection of culture in any meaningful sense, but rather protection of children from a very particular form of oppression. Exactly what you'd expect from the CRC.
I like this last paragraph above. It's sensible, and clearly derivative from the language of the Article. Especially the portion about "protection of children from a very particular form of oppression" - such as Christian Scientists refusing to immunize or provide other preventive and curative health care for their children. It certainly does help to resolve one particular type of ethical dilemma. Pgdudda
So what does this mean? It means that Article 30 protects adolescents who want to wear punk clothes, get their noses pierced, and talk in street slang. But it does not protect parents who want to teach children to have oral sex with them on the excuse that this is their (the parent's) culture. This probably wasn't the intent of the authors of Article 30, but it's impossible to protect culture in any meaningful way within the framework of children's rights. And the authors of the CRC were too focused on children's rights to abrogate them in favour of culture.
So we have that Article 24.3 calls for the abolition of many cultural practices, Article 30(c) undermines culture in favour of an abstract "respect for all cultures" deal, and Article 30 turns culture completely inside out. -- Ark

Article 30: In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.

I am NOT claiming that the document promotes cultural relativism. I am pointing out that the document is more complex than Ark thihnks, or represents it to be. Accordingly, it is false to claim that it explicitly rejects "cultural relativism." slrubenstein

So the CRC doesn't reject all culture. So f-ing what? Rejecting cultural relativism and rejecting culture are two very different things. Apparently, you wouldn't accept rejecting of cultural relativism without simultaneous rejection of all culture. Which of course is BS.
Article 24.3 explicitly rejects cultural relativism. A couple of other articles try to preserve some culture. Given how extremely vague articles #29 and #30 are, the only natural way to resolve any contradictions between them and the very specific article 24, is to let 24 win. Why? Because that way you can interpret the situation as preserving some culture and still preserving article 24. In fact, it's worse (for SR) than that since nothing in articles 29 or 30 actually protects culture in any substantial way. Consider this:
Article 30 says that a child has the right to enjoy his or her own culture. That's a pretty important word there since it means the CRC doesn't defend the infliction of culture upon the child.
Aritcle 29 says that a child should have "respect for their cultural values". Guess what? That means nothing. "respect" can mean practically anything, including as little as knowing about tradition and having some warm fuzzy feelings about it. This is supposed to be hedging article 24 subsection 3?
SR, don't ever give up your day job because you would suck as a lawyer.

I have removed this portion from the article -- not because it is wrong, but because it belongs in a different article:

Closely associated with this is the belief that objective moral standards and codes of conduct do not exist. Here, 'objective' means independence from social mores, no matter how widespread. So for example, infanticide would remain wrong in an objective moral system even if nobody on the planet believed it to be wrong.
Few people believe in extreme cultural relativism. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not recognize any cultural boundaries to its universal applicability. Article 24.3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child rejects cultural relativism. It states:
States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.
And while the Convention does protect some limited aspects of culture (eg, Articles 29 and 30), it can't be said to substantially protect it. Article 29 enjoins the parties to develop respect for a child's cultural identity and values. (emphasis added) Similarly, Article 30 states that children have a right to enjoy their culture. (emphasis added)
It is fair to say that human rights documents accept only those cultural practices they deem compatible with human rights, abrogating those which contradict them. In doing so, they assert their own supremacy over mere cultural beliefs.

As the first two words suggest, this section is really about moral relativism, not cultural relativism. I suggest that parts of it be placed in that article, and parts placed in an article on Human Rights. Slrubenstein

In the aftermath of the Ark/Slr war, I just redirected to moral relativism -- so Allan Bloom's book has someplace to link to. If someone wants to dig into the history and figure out how _cultural_ and _moral_ relativism is different, please do so. --Ed Poor

We shouldn't have to dig into the history of this page to make the distinction; the world Wikipedia is trying to describe is much bigger than Wikipedia! :-) In fact, there are indeed two kinds of relativism, and this article should not have been redirected. Not all cultural relativisms need be kinds of ethical relativism (or moral relativism: you can believe the truth of something that doesn't include ethical creeds depends on the culture), and you certainly don't have to be a cultural relativist to be an ethical relativist (you can simply say that ethics depend upon our own individual attitudes, not those of our cultures).

Can somebody please change it back and do enough Google research to write a stub?

--Larry Sanger 21:42 Oct 13, 2002 (UTC)

I did something better than google research -- I did real library research! I hope people approve Slrubenstein 17:42, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Silverback's edit[edit]

I have to admit I couldn't really understand Silverback's insertion into the article, but it did sound interesting. I deleted it though because I have never heard anyone else make the point, and Silverback didn't attribute it. Slrubenstein 17:42, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

There are a lot of conclusions and judgements in this article that are unattributed. I don't have time to fix them all now, so will return to them later.--Silverback 18:17, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

No need to get bitchy about it. Some of your changes make good sense, but many are just churlish. Slrubenstein 18:59, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I want to add, Silverback, that I deleted what you wrote because I did not think it was at all implicit in the statement, or obvious. I think you have been deleting obvious things. My question to you is, have you really been acting in good faith? When you added the point about the irony, were you deliberately editorializing, or did you think this was an obvious point? I am willing to entertain the latter Iwhich is why I said it sounded interesting, just hard to understand). Can you explain why it is an obvious comment worth adding? If only you were willing to explain what you do (as I have tried to do), we might make some progress. Slrubenstein 20:57, 27 Jan 2005 (UTC)

It is obvious that Stocking is making a value judgement by characterizing a techno-economic status as "backward", and his emphasis on techno-economic status over some other cultural variable is also a value judgement. Neither of these is necessarily shared by once colonial peoples. The once colonial peoples, may themselves have different presumably culturally relative assessments of their standing on this scale or its importance to them relative to other cultural variables. The influence of their once colonial status, may merely have been to give them options, which overall, they decided not to choose, instead choosing to retain their culture. The irony is obvious. I think you experienced feelings of authorial territorialism, that caused you to apply a niggling standard your own contributions could not meet. I think we should assume good faith and allow some obvious or defensible generalizations, assessments and comparisons to be made.
I thought it was ironic to find such a culturally relative statement by Stocking go unquestioned in an article on cultural relativism. That it passed may be a sign of cultural bias in the anthropology profession. There is a tendency to assume for instance that 1st world powers are "exploiting" and "conquering" third word indigenous peoples, when they may not be using force at all, but are merely exploiting resources such as oil which have no use or value in the native culture or sampling persistent resources such as bio-diversity. They are accused of paying unfairly low wages, even in instances where the natives freely chose to accept them rather than continue undisturbed except for having this option in their previous culture. The 1st world cultures are then often accused of leaving the native peoples in the "backward" state, irrespective of whether those people themselves consider desirable or worth the effort to make that change.
I am inclined to cut slack when given slack, and to tolerate some authoritorial voice when allowed some and to see "obvious" or defensible assessments when others in good faith try to see those that I see and can defend.--Silverback 03:02, 28 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Look, I appreciate it when someone calls me on authorial territoriality, which is something I'd rather not have. But in this case, I honestly feel you are misreading Stocking. First, when he explictly says "once colonized peoples" he is invoking their colonial and not pre-colonial history. Many anthropologists today (maybe even mowt, though I can't say that for sure) believe that the "techno-economic backwardness" of these societies was actually a product of colonialism; therefore, to refer to it is not to say anything about the indigenous culture of once colonized peoples, it is to say something about colonialism. Second, he invokes "techno-economic backwardness" in the sentence in which he is describing the neo-racialist use of cultural relativism. I read this sentence as actually making the very point you want to make, or something very similar: Stocking is observing an underlying ethnocentric bias in this use of cultural relativism. This is the only way I can make sense of this quote. Stocking is saying there is something ironic. What is it? That cultural relativists end up supporting ethnocentrism. WShat is the ethnocentrism? That these people are technically and economically backward! Isn't this what he means by neo-racialism? Racialism is not just dividing people into races, but claiming that some races are inferior and other superior. Neo-racialism does the same thing but uses the language of culture (and thus, appeal to cultural relativism). It is these cultural-relativist neo-racialists who think that once colonized peoples are "backward." Not Stocking. So I appreciate the irony to which you call attention -- but it seems to me that Stocking is calling attention to the very same irony; indeed, this is the point of his observation. (By the way, even though I think you misreas the quote, I do appreciate your taking the time to explain your interpretation of it) Slrubenstein 17:17, 28 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Notes on SLR's expansions[edit]

I feel it's a little unfair to critcize entries when you haven't the time to fix them yourself (and in this case I really don't). However since I've been asked.... I like the depth of the page now. However, I feel that it's focus on Boasian anthropology is a little singleminded and doesn't capture the full range of thought on relativism. Ourside of anthropology this concept has roots in liberal traditions of tolerance and minority rights which aren't really mentioned. The philosophical literature on relativism isn't discussed -- and a lot of it does focus on things that could be properly considered under 'cultural relativism' rather than the more stricly philosophical page on 'relativism'. Neither are the ties between issues of relativism and social studies of science and technology and issues of the social construction of knowledge etc. discussed, despite the fact that they address how one's 'culture' affect how one sees the world. Kant is correctly mentioned as the origin of the concept of mediated knowledge, but Francophone inheritors of Kant such as Durkheim and Mauss (I think here of their essay on 'primitive classification') or Levy-Bruhl (primitive mentality) are not mentioned. Within anthropology itself I think it is a terrible shame that the classic 'Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande' is not mentioned since this is /the/ classic anthropological monograph on relativism and rationality. That being said I like the page and probably won't be able to make any of these changes -- so who am I to criticize :!) Rex 19:30, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I hope you will reconsider -- and make changes to the article! I agree with many if not most of your comments. I think it is very important to continue to distinguish between "cultural relativism" as used by anthropologists and "moral relativism" or other relativisms used by philosophy. That said, I agree it is too narrowly Boasian; I agree 100% that it should include Evans Pritchard and perhaps some of the literature on rationality his work encouraged (I think this itself could be an entire section) It is just that it has been a long time since I read that stuff; also, I don't feel as confident about my grasp of Durkheim, Mauss, and Levi-Bruhl -- but you are right this too could be another section (dividing into "American," "British" and "French" origins or strands is a little contrived and of course ultimately simplistic, but as a way to start developing this maybe it would make sense). Anyway, couldn't you may any, some of these changes? Please consider it, Slrubenstein 20:00, 30 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Deletion by SLR[edit]

Not sure why you deleted all my changes. Your references to "vandalism" or "not knowing what I'm talking about" seemed a bit vague. I'll wait a day or two before reverting the deletion, in case you're too rushed to respond. I don't want to start an edit war. -- Uncle Ed (talk) 18:34, Feb 15, 2005 (UTC)

Vague? You only added one claim, that cultural relativism has a second meaning equivalent to moral relativism. When I explain in the edit summary that you don't know what you are talking about, I thought it was pretty clear -- you do not know what cultural relativism is if you think it is equivalent to moral relativism. I deleted your changes because they are factually inaccurate. Moreover, you provided no citation or source, so it read like original research which as you know is against our policy. Frankly, it sounded as if you hadn't even read the article. Cultural relativists have consistently explained that they are not moral relativists. Which sources in the bibliography have you read? What is your basis for this claim? I know of no proponent of culturtal relativism that equates it with moral relativism. The only people I have ever heard (or read) who claimed that cultural relativism is equivalent to moral relativism were people who (1) opposed the concept and (2) had never done any research. We do not let creationists write the article on Darwin's theory of evolution. We don't let some Ptolemean (pre-Copernicus) astronomer write the article on the solar system. We should have the same high standards here. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:40, 15 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Thanks for the explanation. I'll let your deletion stand, of course, but I must protest: I got the notion that cultural relativism is equivalent to moral relativism from the Wikipedia article on cultural relativism. It's a bit further down, inCultural_relativism#Cultural_Relativism_as_Moral_Relativism. -- Uncle Ed (talk) 18:46, Feb 15, 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for explaining your edit to me -- I do see how you could have interpreted it the way you did, and apologize for having been curt. This section is actually meant to explain how some people came to misinterpret or misunderstand cultural relativism. Apparently that wasn't clear. Do you have suggestions as to how to make it clearer? Maybe just changing the title to "Cultural Relativism and Moral Relativism?" Or another title, or something more? I'd appreciate your suggestions, Slrubenstein | Talk 22:46, 15 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I made the suggested change, gracious sir, but it could be clearer. Philosophical terminology is often confusing. -- Uncle Ed (talk) 17:13, Feb 16, 2005 (UTC)

announcing new policy proposal[edit]

This is just to inform people that I want Wikipedia to accept a general policy that BC and AD represent a Christian Point of View and should be used only when they are appropriate, that is, in the context of expressing or providing an account of a Christian point of view. In other contexts, I argue that they violate our NPOV policy and we should use BCE and CE instead. See Wikipedia:Neutral point of view/BCE-CE Debate for the detailed proposal. Slrubenstein | Talk 22:55, 15 May 2005 (UTC)


I reverted SV's recent change. His new lead was "Cultural relativism is the result of the application of ethics, beliefs and values from one culture toward the understanding or judgement of other cultures" but this is simply wrong. In fact, this is the very opposite of cultural relativism. Also, I think "the result of the application" is unnecessarily clumsy wording. CR is a belief. One word is better than five. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:10, 1 Jun 2005 (UTC)

No Herodotus[edit]

Is the absence of Herodotus' "Custom is king" stuff in the epistemological origins section intentional? Unless somebody asks me not to I am going to go ahead and include him (and maybe Engels) in that section next week. ~freddieresearch (anon 9 June 2005)

  • I doubt it is intentional, if you have something to add, take a shot, just don't be surprised if it gets edited. -- Jmabel | Talk 21:24, Jun 14, 2005 (UTC)
I am not sure it is relevant. Heroditus did not use the term "cultural relativism" which would not matter if the people who developed the idea mentioned him as a source. To my knowledge, none of the original sources that first used the phrase "cultural relativism" ever mentioned Heroditus as precedent or influence. Moreover, "cultural relativism" does not mean that "custom is king." "Custom is king" implies that culture determines individual behavior, but the cultural relativists never thought that this is true of culture. Slrubenstein | Talk 21:36, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Herodutus' tale of Darius' experiment with the greeks and the callatians is very clearly designed to teach the reader that people's practices and beliefs vary from culture to culture. The implication being that these attitudes vary because their cultural customs vary. As for relativists and determinism, Bordieu's structures, habitus and practices section of his 1977 book speaks of the "conductorless orchestration which gives regularity, unity, and systematicity to the practices of a group or class". If this is what you mean by "culture determines individual behaviour" then many cultural relativists (myself included) indeed believe that is so of culture. Regarding the lack of the explicit term "cultural relativism" in Herodotus' work, the section i intend to add this information to is called "epistemological origins" not "terminological origins". Finally, both Melville Herskovits, Sumner, and Kluckholn have all been placed in an epistemological historical sequence with herodotus at the root by John Ladd (1977). Whether or not those individuals were aware of their roots in herodotus, and I have been given the impression from my own research that they indeed were aware, isnt relevant. The fact that herodotus is taught as a pioneer in relativism in university anthropology courses and in articles published through the American Anthropological Association legitimates him as an epistemological point of origin, if not in Boas' time then certainly in ours. I will try and post a sentance or two soon but i dont have any research in front of me now and am working on other projects at the moment. If there are still questions about it then, i suggest we erase this section of the discussion page and begin anew. ~freddieresearch
Freddie (consider registering) I am not aware of Ladd's work, and I appreciate your mentioning it. Go ahead and make the changes you feel are appropriate, and be careful to cite Ladd and others as necessary. I think it would help a lot to discuss how anthropologists today use Heroditus (in the AAA pubs to which you refer) as well. I understand you can't now, but with time ... So -- no more questions about your concern and no need to delete discussion (by the way, the custom at Wikipedia is not to delete any discussion. If you come to regret what you wrote, use the "strike-out" code; moreover, we periodically archive old discussion). My only question for you is, do you foresee just ading a few lines to the "epistemological origins" section? If you feel strongly about this, and can insert it in a way that flows, I have no objection. But I can imagine other options. One is to create a new section called "Historical Antecedents." The other is to use Heroditus and Bourdieu to creat a new section on a different kind of relativism. See the above comment, "Notes on SLR's Expansions." Obviously my contribution to this article drew on the American tradition. But one could argue that there is also an English and a French form of cultural relativisim, with diffeent geneaologies and put to different uses (methodologicall, theoretically, politically, pedagogically, whatever). So maybe you could help create a new section on "French CR" and "British CR" (and in the process relable much of what now constitutes the article, "American CR." Again, I know you don't have time to do this now, but I just want to let you know that I think these are options you may find satisfying and I certainly would not take issue with. One last thing: there is always an issue of articles getting to long. If my national approach to CR appeals to you, perhaps the best thing to do would be to rename this article "American Cultural Relativism" and then have separate articles on French and Anglo CR &mdah; and then a disambiguation page (so that if someone looks for "cultural relativism" they are taken to a page with links to the three different articles. What do you think? Slrubenstein | Talk 00:15, 15 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I think perhaps dividing it up nationally might be confusing. In my experience (which is limited by the way, I am still looking for a grad school) cultural relativism is not so much a philosophy as it is an attitude or, as Geertz would have it, a lens. I don't think that it is interepreted in uniform ways depending on nationality so much as it is invoked in different ways by individual scholars. For me, i believe an ideal way to present cultural relativism would be a simple (though no doubt long) list of people who have invoked it specifically with perhaps two sentance describing what they said (maybe in a quote) and how they used it scholarly or practically. For instance i was always under the impression that Boas (is it Boaz or Boas?) used it specifically to combat racism in the greater academic and social world while later scholars like Spiro, Renteln and so on used it to clear up questions internally in the anthropological scholarly world. Forgive me for making this discussion so long but I just found a paragraph I wrote about Spiro in a college paper a couple years ago, maybe you'de like to give it a glance and include some of this stuff in the main article? I've found his delineation of "descriptive relativism" useful in my own efforts to defend relativism in human rights discourse and in classroom critiques of statments like Scheper-Hughes' that claim that "cultural relativism is no longer appropriate in the world in which we live" or somesuch nonsense. Anyway, it's too long to put here, can I email it to you? I'm at, send me your contact info if you're interested. The article i am referring to in the paragraph was used extensively by Renteln so I think its relevant. By the way, I think a short Historical Antecedants section would be a good idea, but I'm still unclear to how that is different from "Epistemological Origins".

Let's leave the issue of national traditions an open question. Jim Clifford, in his book The Predicament of Culture makes it clear that there are very important differences between the American and French traditions of anthropology; the last 2004 issue of American Anthropologist has an article that very very strongly contrasts the Boasian (yes, Boas)/American and Malinowskian/British approaches. I do not agree with you that "cultural relativism" is an attitude — although I would say that all anthropologists (American, British, French) do share an attitude that takes different forms, including different forms of cultural relativism. In fact, "cultural relativism" as such is very much an American phenomenon; the term was invented and promoted by American anthropologists in very specific ways. I agree completely that the British and French were able to achieve a very similar effect, but in different ways (and the more closely one studies anthropology, the more significant the differences become). So one can easily call Evans-Pritchard a "relativist" in the sence that in the end he (like Malinowski) was preaching to the world that in all societies people act in ways they believe are "reasonable." But the way he does this is still different from Boas. There are a variety of factors — as you say, an important (but NOT the only ) context for Boasian CR was the fight against racism. This was not an issue for the Brits, who were instead working in the context of their own complicity with the colonization of Africa. I do not want to make this article too complicated and I don't want to continue making these subtle distinctions, I just want you to see that there actually is some value in distinguishing national traditions. As to "historical antecedents" vs. "epistemological origins," I see too important distinctions. First, one is very self conscious of the epistemological origins, but one need not even know about the historical antecedents. Second, Kant was an epistemologist; Heroditus was not. I am no longer objecting to keeping Heroditus out, given your citation of sources, but I still wouldn't put him in the same section as Kant. And really, look for that last issue of 2004 AA. You will find the first three articles very interesting. Slrubenstein | Talk 01:03, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)


I reverted a recent edit to the Kluckholn paragraph, to remove "political correctness" which has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Even when Kluckhohn was writing many anthropologists were arguing that "savage" and "tribe" were not scientifically correct. K was using language popular at the time that most anthrologists at that time considered inappropriate. Slrubenstein | Talk 03:29, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

I edited the paragraph following the Kluckholn quote. Paragraph claimed that Kluckholn, in quote, was supporting the notion that there are no universal moral standards. I've only encountered Kluckholn briefly in my studies, so if he later supported moral relativism, I do apologize; but the quote given is EXTREMELY clear that Kluckholn was, at the time the quote was given, attempting to search for "moral absolutes" that have been applied throughout every culture. It is therefore far more factually accurate to say that he believes that moral relativity "is exactly what cultural relativity does not mean." To claim that he then has any doubts about the existence of the moral absolutes which he is attempting to determine in a quote in a paragraph following it is either soft-minded factual inaccuracy or blatant truthy bias. Paragraph now reads "Although Kluckholn was using language that was popular at the time (e.g. "savage tribe") but which is now considered antiquated and coarse by most anthropologists, his point was that although moral standards are rooted in one's culture, anthropological research reveals that the fact that people have moral standards is a universal. He was especially interested in deriving specific moral standards that are universal, although few if any anthropologists think that he was successful." I am not satisfied with this paragraph, because it makes Kluckholn sound far more relativistic than can be justified by his words; nevertheless, I do not have time to make it better, so I fold. (talk) 03:23, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

Is this a Wikipedia article?[edit]

At a quick read, much of this reads more like a polemic than a Wikipedia article. I'm incredibly busy right now, so it is a while till I am liable to get to it, but someone might want to take a real look at it: a lot of it is polemical and, while it cites primary sources, its interpretations of the implications of those sources strike me as amounting to either original research or editorializing. -- Jmabel | Talk 22:42, 20 November 2005 (UTC)

I second Jmabel. If I were not taking 5 credits this semester, I might have time to fix more things. (talk) 03:26, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

Relativist Fallacy[edit]

hey, does this article contain anything about the relativist fallacy? I remember it from my sociology class, it supposedly means that although we need to respect other cultures, we have to draw a line when accepting other people's cultures means that we will be violating human rights. My professor gave an example of societies that perform clitoridectomies, and whether we should stop them on account of a violation of human rights or let them continue because we need to be cultural relativists. I just also noticed that relativist fallacy is itself a Wikipedia article, and astonishingly, it mentions cultural relativism. Therefore, I think this article should at least give some reference to the Fallacy.

The arrticle addresses this debate. I think most people would say that there is nothing about cultural relativism that requires one to stand by and do nothing when human rights are being abused. But I think your sociology professor threw you a red herring. The real question (not for this article, but in the case to which you refer) is, how do we know that right x is a universal human right? How, exactly do you know that cliterodectimies are violations of human rights? This question has nothing to do with cultural relativism, but it is this question that needs to be answered (in the case you bring up) Slrubenstein | Talk 19:49, 25 January 2006 (UTC)

And what do you think SLR? How do you know that something is a UHR? Do you think cliterodectimies are OK in the context of the culture which performs them? Or is that not a question that should be addressed?MarkAnthonyBoyle 00:19, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

I think we should follow WP:NPOV and WP:NOR. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:42, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

This might be a useful addition to the criticism section, it's from the Australian Aboriginal leader, Noel Pearson:

cultural relativism should be rejected in favour of embracing modernity when it comes to the fundamental economic and social organisation of societies. It is natural for peoples to advance from hunting and gathering to agriculture to industrialism. What peoples retain is a matter of cultural and spiritual choice.

[[1]] He expands on this topic in a longer essay here [[2]], where he talks about white guilt and moral vanity.MarkAnthonyBoyle 14:44, 1 October 2007 (UTC)


I added categories to this article that I belive are right, however I am sure they could use some peer review -Ravedave 02:05, 26 January 2006 (UTC)

"Definition" of Cultural Relativism[edit]


I am not sure if the first line in the article is exactly accurate as written: "Cultural Relativism is the principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities should be interpreted in terms of his or her own culture."

I believe a more appropriate version should be "Cultural Relativism is not judging a culture, but trying to understand it on its own terms."

This is the definition that I have seen in many sociology books. This description is somewhat different then what is suggested by the current sentence.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks --Ndstate 03:23, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Do you have a verifiable source? Slrubenstein | Talk 10:30, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Complete change of section headers[edit]

I'm sorry to make such large changes to the section headers of this article, but they were very long and redundant (many of them containing the article title), and also didn't follow the custom of using the same "sentence style" of capitalization as article titles (i.e., not capitalized like the title of a book). I've fixed one section-specific link from the Sex tourism article that was noted in this article's wikitext and am willing to find and fix others as long as my changes will not be immediately reverted by another editor (discuss here if desired and I will be back in a couple of days to check on the status of my changes). Again, just to make this very clear: if you object to my changes, please do not use the excuse that links to specific sections will no longer work, because I am willing to fix such problems myself. Granted, section-specific links in the page history will no longer work, but I don't believe that's a sufficient reason to keep the previous section headers. (IMHO.) - dcljr (talk) 04:40, 18 September 2007 (UTC)


I tried to suggest a cleanup template for the citations (and lack thereof) in this article, but there were so many that might be relevant, I decided to list them here on the talk page instead... {{citation style}} In particular, I would prefer to see 'ref' style citations instead of Harvard style; the latter style just doesn't stand out enough, IMO. {{nofootnote}} Not a complete lack, just needs more. {{Original research}} As noted in a previous comment, above. - dcljr (talk) 05:07, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

 Done --Adoniscik(t, c) 21:57, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

This claim really needs a citation: "The philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that human beings are not capable of direct, unmediated knowledge of the world." (talk) 14:46, 8 January 2011 (UTC)Patrick Klinck

Link removed[edit]

Why was the Early infanticidal childrearing link of the "See also" section removed? Isn't this relevant enough? —Cesar Tort 19:28, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

Social determinism[edit]

A big part of cultural relativism seems to involve some kind of social determinism, in that social factors tend to pre-determine individual actions. In terms of philosophy, this view is controversial because it is dismissive of the notion of free will, the idea the people can freely make decisions in a fully conscientious way, without being secretly manipulated by secret cultural forces. ADM (talk) 16:09, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

Deterministm suggests a kind of predictability that no anthropologist claims. I know that there was once a God's will vs. free will debate, and then certain kinds of positivist materialist/social determinist arguments made during the Enlightenment, opposing free will. But I am not convinced that the alternative to free will is determinism. Are there only two choices? Can there not be several alternatives to free will besides determinism? I see anthropology as being like psychoanalysis in presenting a clear critique of the romantic notion of absolute free will. But that does not make psychoanalys or cultural anthropology determinists. Psychoanalysis says that through therapy a person can learn of their unconscious conflicts and address them. Anthropologists from Boas and Benedict on have argued that by better understanding culture, people can act more responsibly. Is this not a view that seeks to support human agency? Cultural anthropology is in the tradition of Kantian enlightenment, to emancipate one's self from self-imposed tutelage. People indeed often act unaware of the causes propelling one to act. But isn't the role of philosophy and science then to help educate the individual so that she may indeed act as a responsible and free individual? I certainly do not see this as opposed to free will! Slrubenstein | Talk 22:53, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

Cultural supremacism[edit]

I have noticed that critics of cultural relativism often make the charge that it can lead to a kind of cultural supremacism because it tends to disregard the valuable cultural traits that other tribes, nations and peoples may have. For instance, it has been said that the Nazis practiced a kind of cultural relativism by refusing to recognize the value of other races, ethnic groups and societies. Similar arguments have been made with regards to moral relativism , which are sometimes perceived as a forms of moral supremacism. ADM (talk) 07:03, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

You are confusing cultural relativism for ethnocentrism. There was nothing at all about the Nazis that made them "cultural relativists." They were in fact explicitly critical of cultural relativism as "Jew science." If you know of any critics of cultural relativism who have argued that the nazis were cultural relativists, and they are found in notable and reliable sources, please provide us with the citations. I have never heard this view before and it sounds like it is either a fringe view, or you were just misinformed. Slrubenstein | Talk 09:28, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Origin of the term[edit]

I deleted the unsourced claim in the article's first paragraph which said, "the first use of the term was in the journal American Anthropologist in 1948." Not only was the claim unsourced, but it's easily refuted: I found a journal article published in 1941 actually titled "Cultural Relativism and Science" (Grace A. de Laguna, in Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 15, pp. 141-166). Also, I added a "citation needed" tag to the unsourced claim that Boas did not coin the term. I'm inclined to say that he did. I found one source that actually says so: "The term cultural relativism...was actually cointed by Boas" (p. 40, Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Finn Sivert Nielsen, A History of Anthopology, Pluto Press, London 2001). Poluphemos (talk) 00:09, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

After a little research, I think that the term originates not with Boas but with Ruth Benedict. One source that confirms this: "'Cultural relativism' (or 'cultural relativity,' as she called it) was first used by Boas's student Ruth Benedict in her 1934 book Patterns of Culture..." (Dennis H. Wrong 1997, "Cultural Relativism as Ideology", Critical Review 11 (2), pp. 291-300). Poluphemos (talk) 00:56, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
Do you have the page number for where, in PoC, Benedict uses the phrase? I would reject any secondary source that claims anyone coined the term unless the also provide a citation of that person using the phrase. If you or anyone else can provide an example of Boas using the hrase "cultural relativism," great, let's add that. I certainly think your 1941 example is worth putting in the article, but I have to ask, is de Laguna using it in the same sense as other cultural anthropologists? If not, that should be mentioned as well. Slrubenstein | Talk 12:19, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
Okay, Benedict does not coin the term "cultural relativism." She does use the phrase "cultural relativity" on the last page of her book (278). So far, it sounds like de la Guna may be the first to use the term "cultural relativism." I've no doubt that the idea was in the air in Boas's classrooms, but until someone can provide me with a complete citation including a specific page number whenre Boas (or anyone) actually wrote "cultural relativism" I'd have to stick with your de Laguna paper as the first known use. Slrubenstein | Talk 12:29, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
I didn't mean to suggest that de Laguna's use of the term was the earliest. I was only trying to show how easy it is to show that the term was in use much earlier than 1948. In fact, since my original post on this subject, I've found the term in literature that's even older than de Laguna. For example, there was a paper titled "On Cultural Relativism in Ethics", by S. Kerby-Miller, delivered on 29 Dec 1936 (cited in the Journal of Philosophy 34 (1): p. 28). And Alain Locke used the term even earlier, in an essay titled "Values and Imperatives" (in American Philosophy Today and Tomorrow, ed. H. Kallen & S. Hook 1935, pp. 313-333): "Cultural relativism to my mind is the culminating phase of relativistic philosophy..." And, from these cases, it's pretty clear that the term was in fact very familiar and so probably very widely used by the time these were published. So not even these count as the earliest use of the term. Poluphemos (talk) 16:47, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
Look, I get your point. I do not see any reason why we have to stick with language like "the earlist use of the term ..." or "... was not used prior to XXXX." My point is that we shouldn't say that the term was first used by Franz Boas just because a secondary source says he invented the concept, without providing an actual citation that we can verify. The virtue of the earlier phrasing was that you were able to disprove it. That is way better than putting in some unverifiable phrase.
Have you read these articles? Does their use correspond to the way Boas or his students e.g. Benedict used the terms? This is important - the issue is whether the concept developed independently among philosophers and anthropologists, with different meanings, or were they sharing ideas? Do thse articles by philosophers cite any anthropologists?
It seems to me that we (er, you) could safely rewrite the introduction as something like "Among the earliest examples of use of the term are Locke and Kirbey-Miller ..."
But I still think the more important question is whether philosophers and anthropologists, at least in the 1930s, had two different discourses and traditions of work on "cultural relativism" (which would call for a major revision of at least the introduction to the article), or whether these philosophers were influenced by Boas and Benedict (or Sapir or whomever), or vice versa (which would call for a minor though significant revision of the introduction). But i have not read these essays by philosophers, you have. So, what do they say? How are they locating their discourse on cultural relativism? Slrubenstein | Talk 18:10, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
So as not to involve myself in the kind of original research you seem to be suggesting, I simply refer to what the OED says about the earliest (1924) use of the term "cultural relativism" by Alain Locke. Since it is in reference to Robert Lowie, one of Boas' prominent students, it seems like Locke was indeed using it to describe an anthropological view. Poluphemos (talk) 22:12, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
I was not suggesting any original research. Be that as it may, I agree with the edit you made to the article. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:08, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
Sorry for reverting I was too quick and didn't notice that the material was cited in the body and so doesn't need to be so in the lead.·Maunus·ƛ· 23:43, 9 March 2011 (UTC)


I restored an earlier version for two reasons. First, cultural relativism is not the cultural aspect of relativism; it is a phrase with a specific meaning. There are other phrases with the word "relativism" in it, used by people in other disciplines, but this does not mean that there is some gneral thing called "relativism" which has different aspects (like, color and shape are two aspects of an object). Cultural and moral relativism, for example, have distinct genealogies; they do not spring from the same well - or at least, I know of no mainstream source that claims they do. Second, cultural relativism is not a science. It is a concept developed and mostly used by a science, anthropology, but it is not a science. Slrubenstein | Talk 23:51, 9 March 2011 (UTC)

Cultural relativism is a scientific tool. Anthropology does not as a matter of theory deny the existence of moral absolutes. Rather, the use of the comparative method provides a scientific means of discovering such absolutes. (Emphasis mine.) Heuristics are a scientific tool: Philosophers of science have emphasized the importance of heuristics in creative thought and constructing scientific theories. Cultural relativism employs a philosophy of science— anthropological relativism on the one hand, and heuristics on the other hand to provide the mysterious objectivity that is necessary to counter ethnocentric fallacies. — CpiralCpiral 23:38, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Cultural relativism is an applied, or practical philosophy. Methodological relativism and philosophical relativism can exist independently from one another, but most anthropologists base their methodological relativism on that of the philosophical variety.CpiralCpiral 23:38, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
The best proof that relativism is a word applicable to inter-cultural concepts is the similar descriptions between the first paragraph of v:Historical_Introduction_to_Philosophy/Truth,_Objectivity,_and_Relativism#Relativism and the last paragraph of Cultural_relativism#Epistemological_origins. — CpiralCpiral 23:38, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
Geneologically, since morality is an aspect of ethics which is a branch of philosophy, we can stretch and say moral and cultural relativity are related: by a branch of philosophy called epistemology (how we know). The epistemology of science is empricism, and cultural relativism, seeking to avoid metaphysical judgments, and use empirical judgments instead, uses heuristics, very much an empirical device. So in a way science and heuristics are related by an empirical epistemology, just as philosophy and anthropology are, in a way, related by the philosophy of relativism and pluralism. (Pluralism is also employs relativism, just as cultural relativism does.) How we gauge the morality of other cultures is by using the philosophical aspect of relativism, and how we know is by making measurements and analysis heuristically in such a way that just works for everyone. (See the next section of this talk page.)— CpiralCpiral 23:38, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

Lead Two[edit]

I see that my earlier proposed lead was judged by editors to be largely incorrect. OK. Now I would like some feedback on the inclusion of the previous and following points with which we might build a new lead section. Thanks.

Cultural relativism is a relativistic methodology developed by anthropologist Franz Boaz to provide both universal and unique cultural traits for the purposes of a worldview that seeks an objective fairness in judgments based on geography, language, and biological traits. Ethnocentricity is thus not a factor in judgment, as it would be without the worldview provided by the work of anthropologists.

Who says it is objective and fair? Also, isn't this a tautology? Slrubenstein | Talk 01:23, 12 March 2011


That is the purpose: objective truth V.S. ethnocentric absolutes concerning judgments. If cultural relativism is a valid method, and apparently it is, they the anthropologists seem the purpose is served.
A tautology? No. Perhaps there is some confusion between the practitioners, and the uses of their work, i.e. who applies the relativism. It is not the person doing the behaving and believing that excuses themselves by claiming C.R., as the article seems to imply. The circularity of a tautology is a deductive error in a statement, not an orientation issue. I hope that helps. — CpiralCpiral 02:38, 12 March 2011 (UTC)

Cultural relativism as used by anthropologists also include a heuristic, or algorithm, for processing the cultural data—how to gather it by living within the culture, and how to analysis it by categorizing it in a way that seems most objective. Specifically individuals are observed doing whatever it is they do, and the culture is described that empirical way.

What is your source saying it is an algorithm? What does CR have to do with gathering data? "Doing whateve it is that they do ... described that empirical way" - what kind of hrasing is this? Empiricism is an epistemology and for some a kind of data, not a way of describing. Slrubenstein | Talk 01:23, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
They are synonyms: algorithm and heuristic. CR is a data gathering methodology. The heuristic is how to gather and process the data. The paragraph in question is:
Cultural relativism as used by anthropologists also include a heuristic, or algorithm, for processing the cultural data — how to gather it by living within the culture, and how to analysis it by categorizing it in a way that seems most objective. Specifically individuals are observed doing whatever it is they do, and the culture is described that empirical way.
I agree the phrase "doing whatever", could be improved, or the phrase "described that empirical way" could be improved. But phrasing is not in question here, truth is, WP:NOR is. What about this paragraph violates WP:NOR? — CpiralCpiral 02:38, 12 March 2011 (UTC)

Cultural relativism is an applied science and it is not a pure philosophy, but most adherents employ relativism as a matter of course in their fieldwork. Science is an amoral, relativistic philosophy, and ethics (judgments) are a main branch of every philosophy.

Source? Every anthropology textbook I own says CR is not an applied science. What is your source? Slrubenstein | Talk 01:23, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
My source was WP, where you can look at the science template, see Health sciences, and then social worker. But I believe you. — CpiralCpiral 02:38, 12 March 2011 (UTC)

Cultural relativism is usually formulated "what is right or good for one individual or society is not right or good for another, even if the situations are similar, meaning not merely that what is thought right or good by one is not thought right or good by another ... but that what is really right or good in one case is not so in another." (Emphases added.)[1]

No, I have never seen it formulated this way. You are writing a personal essay. What sources do you have to support this? Are they significant, mainstream sources? Slrubenstein | Talk 01:23, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
Never is a long time. It's just a quote from our very article. — CpiralCpiral 02:38, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
In my case, never is long enough for me to remember. You are referrering to another article which I never read until today. It is poorly sourced and poorly written and does not hold up well against our own policies. But I do not have time to fix it. Also, it appeares to be addressing a topic in philosophy on which I have no epertise, and have no time to go to a library and spend the few weeks it would take me to have enough expertise to write an encyclopedia article on it, so therefore, I will not edit it. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:35, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
Dear Novice Editor (citing you), until a page is an A class article, we well-read, folk editors have fun building articles from talk pages like this one. Please begin to have fun by considering the possibility that your experts are scum.— CpiralCpiral 16:22, 13 March 2011 (UTC)

Cultural relativism is a purely theoretical doctrine or code of professional conduct absolutely necessary for most anthropologists and judges. Fortunately, the ordinary day to day life of people does not require such a codified requirement when making cultural observations. The statements that come out of courtrooms and anthropology groups that are generated by the methods of cultural relativism are constructing social reality, and can serve to illuminate the curiously inclined person. Once the both of the opposing codes of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism are observed in practice, we are free to choose where we stand, or where we have stood between them. For example, the vernacular of cultural relativism most surely does not include the ordinary phrase we hear "primitive savage". The end result of a purely realized cultural relativism is "anything goes" behavior for everyone, and although this is what a growing number of judges and anthropologists apply on a case by case basis in the practice of their disciplines, historically, no culture has been discovered to be absent of a moral code, and thus it is unlikely to become an actual personal morality, just as it is unlikely that anyone could live any philosophy or religion perfectly accurately according to its complete cannon.

Who says this is necessary for judges? Source? "Fortunately" is editorializing. "we are free to choose where we stand" - source? "The end result of a purely realized cultural relativism is "anything goes" behavior for everyone," - source? In short, this is rubbish. Go to a chat room. None of this improves the article, it only degrades it. What sources are you using? Slrubenstein | Talk 01:23, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
It is fortunate that you and I are free to choose how we stand, you as a strong-minded person. Me, I say "more power" to you, absolutely, if you will. I cannot try to improve the article unless there is some empathy and consideration of alternate points of view. I was hoping for a turn, on your part, toward reasonableness. To say that it is editorializing is simply the wrong application of exactly what is being described as fortunate. It is not an opinion about CR, it is a true statement that others are helpful when they provide objectively compiled information. — CpiralCpiral 02:38, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
Your ability to improve the article has nothing to do with me. You can improve the article only if you have expertise in anthropology and our policies; you appear to have neither. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:35, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
Dear Novice Editor (citing you), until a page is an A class article, we well-read, folk editors have fun building articles from talk pages like this one. Please begin to have fun by considering the possibility that your experts are scum.— CpiralCpiral 16:22, 13 March 2011 (UTC)
Nothing you have written here shows any clue about cultural relaivism, so I really do not see how it is a worthwhile use of my time to give you any more feedback. Try writing articles on topics you are prepared do to serious research on. Slrubenstein | Talk 01:25, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
In my opinion, in terms of transactional analysis, you are a "parent" writing your unspecified, (truth) statements to me: "nothing you have" and "[completely] worthless". — CpiralCpiral 02:38, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
Projection. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:35, 12 March 2011 (UTC)


  1. ^ This is the the Benedictine-Herskovitz formulation philosophers usually quote.

Cultural relativity is related to moral relativity[edit]

Relativism#Descriptive_versus_normative_relativism relates anthropological relativity and moral relativism by normative relativism.

Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions

Claims about actual differences between groups play a central role in some arguments for normative relativism (for example, arguments for normative ethical relativism often begin with claims that different groups in fact have different moral codes or ideals). Finally, the anthropologist's descriptive account of relativism helps to separate the fixed aspects of human nature from those that can vary, and so a descriptive claim that some important aspect of experience or thought does (or does not) vary across groups of human beings tells us something important about human nature and the human condition.

Moral and cultural relativism go together.

Not a reliable source. Typical blogosphere claptrap. Slrubenstein | Talk 01:29, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
There's a good discussion of how moral and cultural relativism has been kept apart in anthropology in "The cultural Analysis of Kinship" by Feinberg and Ottenheimer page 15-17.[3]·Maunus·ƛ· 01:51, 12 March 2011 (UTC)

Please Remove Bias[edit]

The phrase "This principle was established as axiomatic in anthropological research by Franz Boas in the first few decades of the 20th century and later popularized by his students." is extremely misleading. Boas believed that cultural relativism should be axiomatic in anthropological research, but this is not a universally held belief among professional anthropologists. This article needs cleanup to remove bias. (talk) 03:51, 20 July 2011 (UTC)


How is the example of the inability to distinguish phonemes relevant to this topic? Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 02:58, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

One's perception of the phoneme reflects one's culture.People from different cultures (inc. speaking different languages) will perceive the sound spoken by the speaker differently. Thus, cultural relativism. Slrubenstein | Talk 11:08, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
I am unsure about this one. It is of course the original observation that lead to the formulation of the idea of cultural relativism, but it is really an example of linguistic relativity not cultural relativism.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 12:28, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
In any case that passage is not a very good explanation of the phenomenon, I think. I believe it can be clarified and I also think it should be cited to specific Boasian publications.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:44, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
I am sure that the passage can be clarified and yes, it should cite Boas's article on alternating sounds. But for cultural anthropologists linguistic relativity is just one example of cultural relativism - culture includes language, even if cultural anthropologists acknowledge the specialized training and expertise of linguists. Boas's point, which remains central to cultural relativism, is that it is about how one's socialization can determine how one perceives the phenomenal world. In other words, it is not just about the French like snails and the Germans like sausage, or some people consider insects tasy and others consider them ghastly. There were people (Herder, the theologians of the School of Salamanca) who recognized that people in different lands have different customs, looong before cultural anthropology. That one's perceptions of sounds and colors are culturally relative is essential to the anthropological meaning of "cultural relativism." I do not know whether linguists consider berlin and Kay to be an example of linguistic relativism also (since different words signifying non-isomorphic categories are assigned to the same wavelength of light in different languages) but even if this too is about language (I understand I am now refering to morphemes and not phonemes, but isn't the point the same?) it is also an example of what cultural anthropologists mean by cultural relativism. The example of sounds is important if general readers are to understand that this is not just "different folks, different strokes." Slrubenstein | Talk 20:00, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the replies; the remaining passage after Maunus' edit seems much better here. And yes, if a different specific example is to be included, I'd want to see inline-citations. Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 20:17, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
I have no objections to Maunus's elaboration, but I think it is important to provide one or two examples most readers will likely be personally familiar with. I realize no one example will cover most readers, but a couple should. I think without a familiar example or two, most readiers will miss the point. Slrubenstein | Talk 20:25, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

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Cultural Objectivism?[edit]

It logically follows that if "Cultural Relativism" exists, that "Cultural Objectivism" must also exist. But it does not, at least on Wikipedia, or any other place I've looked. It seems to get lost in the mish-mash of "Objectivism" and does not exist as a standalone contradiction to the idea of Cultural Relativism. Years ago, as a student at University, I remember a group had brought a speaker onto campus to discuss Cultural Objectism, so that I know that it does exist, in the minds of some people, somewhere. In these heavily censored and politicized times, it seems that there is a dearth of "reliable sources" on the topic, but it was thought that at least some mention to Cultural Relativism's counterpart, Cultural Objectivism, should be mentioned in this article, if possible.2605:6000:6947:AB00:8C34:C68F:6DED:25F5 (talk) 20:19, 1 April 2018 (UTC)

No, the opposite of relativcism is universalism and the opposite of cultural relativism is ethnocentrism.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 05:54, 2 April 2018 (UTC)

Who is James Lawrence Wray-Miller?[edit]

The article says he diffentiates between vertical and horizontal relativism. Unfortunately, this gentleman seems to be unknown to the internet. Wrong spelling? Information, please! — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2A02:1205:5004:7F50:3D3D:2B6A:399B:8D0C (talk) 13:26, 3 December 2018 (UTC)